Is one’s first cane a milestone? My HurryCane story

Is it a milestone when one first acquires a cane? There’s no blank to enter that data point in my baby book. Should infirmity be an addendum to my wedding album?

Purple aluminum HurryCane walking stick freestanding on a wood floorWhat I wouldn’t give for the event in question to be possession of the sword cane—yes, exactly that object of awesomeness you are imagining, where a bona fide sword emerges from a carved wooden stick!—handed down from my paternal grandmother’s second husband’s estate to my parents…

But—alas!—no, the cane I’ve acquired is a modern aluminum number. I needed it because my knee simply would Not. Stop. Giving. Out. One minute, we’re taking steps as always, the next: a lucky catch at the top of the stairs that left my heart pounding.

Thanks for the excitement, autoimmune disease!

I opted for a HurryCane (Model HCANE-PR-C2) because it was the only purple option available for immediate delivery from the nearest chain pharmacy. With the heretofore reliable knee deciding to dictate for itself whether it would bear weight or not, I didn’t have time to wait for delivery by UPS or another common carrier.

Not even Amazon-speed delivery would do! I needed support ten minutes ago.HurryCane folds for carrying or storage

With effectively zero knowledge of canes aside from a firm grounding on correct usage on the side opposite the bad joint—thank you, television reruns of House plus sitting in on a single one of Dad’s PT sessions after total knee replacement—I worried that a collapsible cane would be wobbly or otherwise not sturdy.

This fear was unfounded. Once the elastic strap releases the HurryCane’s three sections and each narrow end slots into its wider receptacle, the interior elastic pulls the entire stick firmly together, and my not particularly insignificant weight is borne with ease.

There’s no wobble to my HurryCane.

Weighing in at exactly 1 lb (455 g), the HurryCane is less stressful on my generally tender wrists than I feared a stick might be.

Historically, I’d wondered if a walking stick might make getting around easier, yet I feared stress on my small joints from carrying one. My large joints have tended to behave themselves more often than my tiny ones. This week’s experience of sudden failure was a novel one. My fingers or my toes typically give out first.

I thought toting a stick would add to my hands’ burden. Since I can dangle it from a wrist by its strap—or leave the HurryCane standing alone on a firm, flat floor—it has been perfectly fine to use around my house. Until I take it on my upcoming trip, I won’t have any commentary about using it outdoors or on uneven ground.screen shot of delivery order showing Walgreens knee compression sleeve and HurryCane for $39.95

If I’d had time to wait for Amazon delivery, I could’ve spent a mere $34 there for my HurryCane (±$2 for alternate colors), whereas Walgreens charged $39.95 regardless of the choice of black, purple, blue, or red.

Ordering direct, the official list price is given as $69.95, but the actual direct sale price is also $39.95; they do sell limited edition colors and discounted bundles at HurryCane’s own site, so check there first if your favorite color isn’t one of the four standards or you if plan to buy in bulk and color coordinate your cane to all your outfits.

A knee compression sleeve was my doctor’s advice, and I couldn’t wait two days for that to arrive, either.

I did end up ordering a second knee compression brace from Amazon that fit much better than the simple black neoprene tube my pharmacy stocked… once the adjustable one arrived.

Since it cost $20 more than the basic Walgreens model, I’m very glad that it did exhibit superior performance. Following the doctor’s advice to use compression on the affected joint was the most important factor in healing my knee, however, and the Walgreens garment did do the job with an occasional need to tug it back up sooner than the mail order one ever could.Amazon sales page for Neenca knee brace costing $27.99 for size XL

If you have a heavy thigh and a distinct size difference between the leg above and below your knee, you might also prefer the Neenca velcro knee compression sleeve. The Neenca wears somewhat cooler during a heatwave than the tube style Walgreens brace, but both felt hot when temps topped 90º F. Suffering begets more suffering!

When a body part as integral to movement as a knee acts up, any immediate solution is often more useful than the late-arriving ideal one. I was darn near delighted to see the DoorDash driver pull up with my pharmacy package that day.

There’s little more to say about the HurryCane beyond it’s timeliness when I needed it and its suitability to my needs. I do enjoy the ridiculous wordplay of its nomenclature.

As if any aluminum stick has the power to turn those of us who need one back into a Tasmanian Devil style tsunami of energy and motion!HurryCane next to ruler showing it is a few inches beyond 12" long folded

Then, too, the HurryCane does come with a rather minimal “carrying case; I suppose that’s worth a mention. It’s a thin poly or nylon pouch, “secured” shut by an inch of Velcro on the open end. There’s no handle or drawstring for the pouch.

After a few days’ use, I feel confident I will soon toss the useless sack, but the wrist strap attached to the cane itself works well enough to drag the stick along if I’m not actively leaning on it. Between the compression brace and the cane, my knee did seem to recover quickly over the following few days, and I did not need to report to the doctor for a steroid injection this time.

Folded up, the HurryCane measures about 15″ long. The base is wide enough to stand on its own on even surfaces; its three points form an equilateral triangle about 4″ on a side. The handle is 5 long, feels ergonomically curved in my hand, and is more rigid than giving or spongy.

Standing about 5′ 3 tall, I use the HurryCane at its lowest setting. It turns out most female users of canes use the wrong size. Follow sizing directions on the packaging or online using this WikiHow article or get help from a physical therapist if using a stick for support for the first time.

Many people use the wrong size cane, and I read somewhere that women are more likely to fall with an overly long cane than without any assistive device at all though that appears to be an open question.

Speaking for myself, putting a compression sleeve on my recalcitrant knee and offloading some of my walking weight to an aluminum cane seemed to give my complaining joint the support it needed to heal. I hope I won’t need my HurryCane again for a long time, but I’ll find a place for it in my closet.

Autoimmune disease offers nothing so readily as new ways to be baffled by one’s own body.

In truth, my dad did use the sword cane to get around for a brief period after each of his knee surgeries. I lived in fear, because I was pretty darn sure going to the grocery store with a concealed sword is not legal in this day and age. Fortunately, Dad’s an introvert, like me, so he was happy for me to do all the shopping, and he didn’t take the cane/weapon outside the house much.

It is probable that Dad was just amusing himself with my horror at the idea of him using the sword cane in public. He’s an attorney, so more aware of the law than most, and that sounds like something he’d find funny.

The cane stands easily with no fiddly adjustment necessary on hardwood and tile. It will usually balance on the low pile carpet we have in a few rooms, but generally tips over on my plusher bedroom carpeting. In the bedroom, I hang it over the knob on the back of a chair to keep it in a convenient and useful position when I go to sleep.

Cheer a grumpy Christmas by stacking tiny bricks of gratitude

2020 hasn’t been a normal year. This won’t be an average Christmas.

Xmas tree - 1Many of us are heeding public health advice and avoiding travel. Some of us are still grieving lost loved ones whose presence defined* special holidays. Ignoring these very real sources of pain is neither healthy, nor possible in the long term.

But does acknowledging the bumps in life’s road mean choosing between being a humbug or a Grinch? I hope to prove otherwise.

I’m afraid I’m having a Very Grumpy Christmas. While I wish for better for every reader, I suspect my miseries enjoy plenty of company.

When I’m in this kind of snit—so easily degenerating into a full on funk—about the only remedy is the doing of good or the counting of blessings.

As I took advantage of an un-rushed school vacation week morning today by staying in bed for an extra hour with my book, I was grateful for not yet having reached the end of the last series of novels my mother will ever recommend to me.

She bugged me for months to pick up the first one. Why did I resist until after she was gone? I wish with every page that I could tell her how much I’m enjoying them…

Comforting myself with this small thing for which I could give thanks, I realized each little blessing is a brick. If I stack up enough of them, I’ll have built a sizable structure. One brick won’t do a person much good against an invading army, but enough humble chunks of masonry suffice for The Great Wall of China.

Thanksgiving give thanks - 1So perhaps I’m not playing so well with others, today. I’m hardly a Sugar Plum Fairy. I’ll be a builder, though, of my own Great Wall of Gratitude.

I think it will hold.

QC city walls

Here are a few more trivialities I’ve found to be thankful for today:

  • My husband went back to the too busy, too crowded day-before-holiday bakery when they forgot to include my favorite cinnamon buns in the pre-packed bag he went out for at dawn.
  • My teenager told me he loves me… without me prompting him by saying it first.
  • My younger one never hesitates to show me affection, not even when his friends can see him doing it.
  • My kids can collaborate on a project and produce something great without adult supervision.
  • My pantry is full; I’m not afraid for how I will feed my family.

Readers, please feel free to share in the comments what you can find to be grateful for this topsy-turvy holiday season. Your smallest joy would be a Really Wonderful gift to me.

* I can’t look at a Christmas decoration without being reminded of my mother, who died of cancer in 2019. On the other hand, to ignore her favorite holiday would be the most disrespectful possible thing as far as honoring her memory goes.

Today’s post is brought to you in memory of Mother Christmas.

Mom decorates Christmas tree with ornament

That would be the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. Find them listed in order here; I’ve made it to book 13, Glass Houses. You definitely do want to read these in chronological order if you opt to give them a try. They’re decorous enough for readers of cozy mysteries (Mom), but complex enough for those of us who like to pretend we’re exercising our minds with our choice of literature.

Be warned, however: If you get into these mid-pandemic, you’ll be cross that you can’t make a visit to Quebec, which Penny paints as paradise… if you can get past the political intrigues and frequent murders!

Mail a greeting card in 2020 to uplift lonely holidays

Even if you don’t usually send Christmas cards or other holiday greetings, this year might deserve to be an exception. So many people are lonely and missing far-flung families due to the pandemic; getting a hand-written note in the mail may be the most human connection in a person’s day. That is well worth 55 ¢ in postage and a few minutes of your time.

greeting cards on desk blotter with pen and stampsI send cards sometimes; other years, I don’t get around to it.

I have written Hanukkah greetings, Christmas cards, acknowledgements of the Winter Solstice, and best wishes for happy New Years. I send the message I think the recipient would most appreciate; my religion* in no way dictates the blessing I offer a friend of a different persuasion.

My family hung the same red felt banners on the entry hall wall every year of my life. They went up early in December, empty canvasses, ready to receive holiday missives as they arrived. The oldest was made by my mother’s mother and features pockets and a waving Santa at the top; Mom had to craft another when I was little to accommodate the deluge of communiques that her sociability and dedication to friendship and public service inspired. Cards were pinned or stapled to that display.

In 2019, my mother died.

Somehow, that year also saw a huge reduction in the number of Christmas cards my widowed father received. In years past, every inch of these many yards of felt was hidden by the volume of cards and letters; last year, only one banner ended up even partially covered.

Torn black felt heart pinned to garment to signify grief and k'riah

I don’t believe that people were intentionally ignoring my dad in the absence of Mom, though her enthusiasm** for Christmas did put that of other, mere mortals to shame. I received fewer cards last year, too. The dentist and the auto body shop we used only once historically sent pre-printed cards, untouched by even a secretary’s hand. A lot of that has stopped. I suppose it’s a sign of the growing reliance on electronic communication, and I don’t miss impersonal mailings from businesses too much.

Dad’s passing comment about getting so few cards, however, was like a punch in the gut to me. It was already such a hard year for him; I grieved again to see him feeling forgotten. What a dreadful time for the world to decide to save a tree and skip a mailed paper greeting!

I’m going to be sending at least a few cards this year, myself. I’m prioritizing older relatives, and those who live alone. Even if you never send cards, hate to write, or don’t celebrate any of the winter holidays, this may be a year to reach out in the spirit of warmth, light, and joy—just because.

There’s no real deadline, either, in case you’re worried about the already overburdened postal system. Send Warm Winter Wishes in January, if that feels more appropriate. After the happiest of holidays, that month can be a real let-down. After a grim, lonely season you believe should have been festive? January could be gruesome.

Our shared humanity is reason enough. Care for others is the animating gift of all societies. Winter is dark and feels too long in the good years; 2020 has not been a particularly good year for most. Pandemic winter is an enemy to us all, but a terrorizing monster to the isolated and the lonely.

Reach out, if you’ve got a few minutes, an envelope, a stamp. You’ll be making the world just that little bit better for someone else. I’m willing to bet it will brighten your day, too.

I might even argue that the very definition of faith makes the fear of someone else’s difference a rather fundamental failing of it…

** Mom liked to say that Christmas was the reason the rest of the year exists. She called herself Mother Christmas, and Dad had a song commissioned for her about that by a talented musician friend. My parents’ over-the-top outdoor decorations were so spectacular, their house was featured in a television public service announcement in the 1990’s. Mom had a unique holiday outfit for every day between Thanksgiving and Epiphany, reckoning the arrival of the Wise Men was the true end of the Christmas season.

I wouldn’t turn back the clock to more paper spam either. This is not an argument that we return to physical documents for conducting most business.

That said, I do notice, enjoy, and appreciate the personalized greetings sent by some institutions, such as my son’s school and my former personal trainer who takes the time to hand write all of his cards.

Children, First Class, disability & who “deserves” to sit where in an airplane

Because I at least try to be a considerate and thoughtful traveler, I regularly look up phrases to suggest “the best way” of doing things. One such example? Parents traveling in First Class whilst their children trail along in steerage a lesser service category.

What I find most fascinating about the search results is the concurrent expression of two opinions that lead inexorably to parent shaming without a solution:

  1. Children don’t belong in First Class unilaterally!, while
  2. Parents who “abandon” their kids in Economy while riding up front themselves are monstrous jerks who should be drawn and quartered (or at least shot.)

Essentially, the sum of those two arguments leads to the conclusion that parents ought never travel in First Class while their children are under age.

Here’s where I’ll swing back around to a point I’ve stressed on this blog before: I often purchase tickets in premium cabins because of my health. Chronic autoimmune illness makes that option more comfortable—but also safer and healthier—for me.

I live with chronic pain.

Every day, I probably ache in at least a few joints. Travel—otherwise one of my great joys—can make my symptoms worse. A larger, more adaptable seat does help. More room, easier access to a lavatory, and the simple comfort of a foot rest or extensible leg support makes the difference between a successful trip and a multi-hour torture chamber.

Note that the acquisition of a more comfortable seat is something I do in addition to taking the most powerful opioid painkillers I’ve got. In transit, I will still suffer more pain than my daily average with these interventions. I choose the world-expanding possibilities of travel in spite of the cost, but the calculus for any given trip can be complex.

If there were legal protections on a minimum amount of space per passenger on a plane, the actionable facts in this argument could be different. If I were guaranteed a seat in Coach that provided enough room to shift position and freedom from being kicked and elbowed by even a plus-sized seat mate, I’d be open to debating the courtesies of keeping younger travelers out of the pointy end of the plane.

Since that is a pipe dream, however, the traveling public is going to have to tolerate my presence in Premium Economy and better, when I can afford it. And, where I go, there also will travel my children when I deem it desirable that they join me.

Given these facts, which option is preferable to the segment of society that objects to children in First Class and kids seated away from their folks?

My own choice is usually dictated by my finances.

When I score an awesome cheap fare up front, I typically book my little guy (middle school aged, so not so terribly tiny) in the seat next to me. He is delighted by the idea of a luxury trip, though modern domestic First Class is a far cry from gold-plated splendor. I prefer having his company to sitting alone.

Then again, I do actively discourage any sense of entitlement to this, my more peer-influenceable child. He has also known the joys of sleeping in a cramped Economy seat on a too-long/too-short transatlantic flight, and he knows full well how to wait his turn in the interminable queue to board, settle quickly into his seat and stow his own carry on, and then keep himself to himself en route to make the uncomfortable as tolerable as possible for everyone else aboard the jet.

The older teen would rather sit on his own regardless because he’s way too cool to be seen with me, so he’s stowed in steerage unless a really high Coach fare is actually a poor value compared with the mileage earning and family togetherness opportunities of a bargain up front.

Don’t gasp–it does happen! Leisure travelers who covet rock bottom fares and business travelers whose companies pay top dollar tend to prefer flights on different days and times.

Always check fares in all classes before booking! You may find First Class for less than Coach. It’s rare, but I have seen it* myself.

This summer, I’m accompanying my husband to a conference in the UK and we’re bringing the little guy along. On the way out, his ticket, purchased with frequent flier miles, is in Comfort+ (i.e., Premium Economy) while his father will be four rows ahead but behind the magic curtain in Delta One.

My own flight, also bought with miles, will be on a different date, itinerary, and airline entirely. We don’t have that many miles on any given airline at one time. Also, I often depart ahead of time to allow a day (or more) of recovery before entering full “tourist mode” and because I enjoy travel so much more than DH does. He rarely takes even a single day off concurrent with his business trips.

It’s a transatlantic redeye, so the kid is expected to sit, settle, and sleep. His “solo” presence is unlikely be a bother to anyone at all under these circumstances, even offering his adjacent seatmate a bit more space due to his small stature. Purchasing the equivalent to his dad’s company-paid Business Class seat was simply out of our reach.

To be clear: I, personally, am not talking about abandoning a toddler 40 rows back from his responsible adult companion. Perhaps non-parents need to be told, too, that there is no single age when every child will be ready to sit alone. As with staying home alone without direct supervision, I’d judge the right age to be over six years at a minimum and by the age of 13 for almost everyone.

Our return to the US presents a completely different set of circumstances. The lo-o-o-ong nonstop flight from Ireland to the Pacific Northwest should see the boy wide awake and therefore more likely to want or need something from a parent, if only to ask if my usual strict limit of one sweet drink per flight could be adjusted, “just this once.” I also found a relatively low fare in a premium cabin whereas Economy on the direct flight I wanted was rather high. In this scenario, I’m opting to pay to seat my child up front next to me.

It’s been argued that children don’t appreciate the “best parts” of the premium cabin experience. For many travelers, that appears to be getting drunk! True, my son won’t be sipping champagne, and he isn’t overly inconvenienced by the cramped conditions in the cheapest seats so the extra room is “wasted” on him.

Both of us will enjoy easier access to the lavatory, however, and the better service offered by less harried flight attendants. My younger son is outgoing and friendly; he will appreciate plenty about traveling with a more gracious level of service. The fact that different elements of Business Class will tickle his pre-teen fancy doesn’t make his experience count for less.

Where will my teen be during this jaunt? Well, he would rather fly alone to visit his grandparents sooner and leave the UK to the rest of us. Somehow, I’ve produced offspring that aren’t as interested in foreign travel as I am. After a bit of practice sitting in Coach 20 rows behind me, he graduated to a solo flight with Unaccompanied Minor service around age 12. Now, though still in high school and underage, he’s old enough to manage his own passage through the security gauntlet and onto a direct flight without paying for the airline’s hand-holding.

My solo teen might also annoy those who like to complain, but he’s not an intrusive passenger with his slim build and quiet habits. On his last trip to visit Grandma, he texted me joyfully upon landing from his ultra cheap middle seat that the guy by the window didn’t need to pee even once. Never having to get up once makes a great flight by his metrics.

Glasses of wine and water on airplane tray tableFeel free to compare that behavior to the tipsy adult who spills his third drink all over you and your laptop. The guy may offer to pay for your dry cleaning, but you’ll be wearing stained and sticky pants for the next half a day regardless.

*This actually seems to be most likely around holidays when families travel to be together. What a great way to treat yourself if clan gatherings are a source of great stress as well as joy for you.

If there were a way to get him booked into a hotel without an adult in the event of delays or flight cancellations, I would trust him to make connections, too. The boy is downright competent!