One hundred twenty-three days ago, I began the transition between teaching undergraduate biology at a small university town in Nebraska and being the dean of the college of science at a small university in Austin, Texas. This blog is my story, and my thoughts, 123 days in…
Things here alternate between rushing out of control and boredom. At work, with the start of classes, it’s like being in a whirlwind. I find myself signing things right and left, and trying to keep a grip on what they are. The students are eager, fresh and enthusiastic. And the people I work with are outstanding. My administrative assistant, Jenny, has been here for 6 months more than I have, so she knows the ropes (somewhat). Without her I’d be completely lost, though between the two of us, we probably know just enough to be dangerous. Fortunately, I have the “new dean” card to play when I mess up… and Don Chrisitan, the dean of the College of Business, assures me it won’t expire for quite a while.
At home, things move slowly. I have things to do, taking care of my husband after his hip replacement, but mostly, especially this last week, I’ve been sitting around.
You see, my knee is giving me a great deal of trouble.
With Craig’s hip getting so bad just before we moved from Nebraska, I did most of the getting ready to move by myself–and although the movers packed us up, there was still a lot to do–sorting through things and getting the house ready to rent. Then came the drive out here accompanied only by Justin and Heather, our ten- and nine-year-old grandchildren. Craig had gone on before. It took two very interesting days, including a night at the motel from hell, to get here. But once we arrived, the grandkids were a big help with the unpacking. In fact, their mother came out later with our thirteen-year-old granddaughter to help, and our sons and their families drove up from Houston (One weekend we had everyone here except Susan’s husband, Bob!) But it was still a lot to do. When the excitement died down, my knee was pretty sore.
I expected it to get better, but the campus, while beautiful, is large, and I have to walk the length of two large buildings, plus the distance between them, to get to my office each day. The knee got worse instead of better.
Craig’s surgery for his hip came up on Aug 1, and I took that day off, but was at work the next two days. He came home on the 4th, and I stayed home for a week taking care of him. It was a lot of work that week, because he couldn’t move much at all, and they had him drugged up pretty well. When I went back to work the next week, I was limping pretty badly. As always, movement was very painful at first and would ease off after about five minutes to where it wasn’t too bad.
When I came home at night, there was no chance to rest the leg because Craig still wasn’t moving too much. But he got better every day, and by 18 days after surgery, he was doing quite well.
I wasn’t. The knee was staying sore longer and easing up less. I wasn’t getting much sleep, because Craig woke up frequently during the night and, unlike him, I didn’t get to nap during the day. He was scheduled to go back for his three-week appointment last Tuesday. We both looked forward to the staples coming out of the incision–they were part of the discomfort that had him sleeping so poorly. But at 4am, Monday morning, Craig woke to find me in the living room, on the computer. When he asked what I was doing, I told him I needed to find a place to rent a wheelchair. I am embarrassed to admit I pretty much fell apart emotionally, and simply couldn’t face walking to my office one more time. The knee had worsened to the point where the pain was constant–not easing up appreciably at all. I’d pretty much been keeping it to myself, because he was in no shape to do anything about it. Anyway, I poured it all out on him (poor man) and he settled me down and convinced me to take some of the pain pills he had left over. The strong ones. They had moved him to weaker ones since his pain was much decreased. Well, I took those and the OTC anti-inflammatory meds he’d had recommended as a stop-gap when we couldn’t get his prescription for Celebrex filled right away.
It worked. Monday I was a tad woozy in the head, but essentially pain-free. You cannot believe what a relief that was!
I had Jenny come to all my meetings that day to take notes, because I knew on my own I wouldn’t remember the details of what went on. I could focus, and work, but I had to do one thing at a time–which I don’t often have the luxury of limiting myself to in this job. We made it through Monday. Tuesday, I’d transitioned to Craig’s weaker pills because we ran out of strong ones, but I was taking them a bit more often than called for. Still, they were working.
Tuesday afternoon, we went to see the surgeon. Craig had booked an appointment for me right after his. We thought we’d get a prescription for some drugs to keep the pain in check.
Craig’s visit went really well, staples out, great report all around. I got X-rays taken and sat down to talk to the doctor about controlling the pain until I could get time to have the knee replaced. I was thinking of having replacement surgery next summer, which had sort-of been our thought all along. Well, he told me the knee was a mess, which I knew already. He talked about how recovery from knee replacement was much rougher than from hip replacement and about how long I’d have to be out, and how essential it would be to make time to take care of the knee, especially if I went back to work. I told him I’d been taking Craig’s pills and that they were working quite well. I asked for a prescription. He said I should stop taking the narcotics because it would make it difficult to control the pain after surgery. He said he’d give me a prescription for a non-narcotic pain reliever, not as strong as the other, but enough to take the edge off. Then he left the room, and I started to cry.
Poor Craig! He didn’t expect that. Nor did I. It was just the thought of going back to the constant pain. Took me by surprise. Craig had the doctor come back in, but I couldn’t even talk to him. Craig had to tell him why I was so upset. It’s still embarrassing to remember. Anyway, the doctor said he would do the surgery any time I wanted, any day of the week, even on a Saturday morning. And he wrote a prescription for the narcotics, but he still told me not to take them unless I absolutely had to. So I am dealing with it by staying off my feet as much as possible when I am home. Fortunately, Craig is doing well enough that he is taking care of me more than I of him lately.
And the surgery? The plan is to have it done the last week of September. I’ll be home for three weeks, the doc says. But that is a fairly slow time for the deanship (so I’ve been told) and will catch one week of fall break.
And that is why the home part of my life right now is boring. I do a bit of shopping or working around on weekends, but then I have to sit for the rest of the day. I enjoyed working on the Christmas anthology story, but now that’s done. And it is hard to get myself to work on writing the blogs. There’s just so much thinking and learning to do during the week, my head has no interest in deep thought over the weekends.
(Craig doesn’t see this as a problem. He is happy because I’ve been spending so much time with him (near the television) instead of moving into the study and working. I haven’t done anything lately except revisions and formatting on the anthology story. Still, I think for the short term, at least, I need to focus on fiction. I am thinking of re-writing Sally’s story. I like the tone of the anthology piece and think Toss Up (my second romance novel) might be a little too explicit. But we’ll see what happens with that.)
As I adjust to the job, and health problems get cleared away, I plan to get back to more frequent posting here–though daily might still be a bit too much. Check out the big reveal in my revised ‘About’ page. And have a wonderful September.
Until next time…