Category Archives: Hip Resurfacing

Every Day Matters

“There are many subjects which, on first glimpse, are ugly and mundane, but inspiration can be found everywhere, if only we stop and look.” – Caroline Johnson

Last week, I came across a Freshly Pressed blog post, “Shut Up and Draw.  It’s Good for You!“, which, not only includes some fantastic sketches, but also references Danny Gregory, a creative director at a New York ad agency, an artist, and an author, who is following a drawing challenge called Every Day Matters.  Based on a list created and updated by artist, Karen Winters, the EDM Challenge encourages daily drawing, focusing on subjects from everyday life.  EDM forces you to practice and to tackle subjects you might otherwise ignore or not feel comfortable drawing.  In so doing, the EDM Challenge reminds you to appreciate simple things or moments that we often take for granted.

Some of my past sketches, like the two above, qualify as EDM.  But after reading “Shut Up and Draw.  It’s Good for You!,” and perusing Danny Gregory’s website and blog, I was inspired, and below are some of my EDM sketches:

I doubt I will follow the EDM Challenge as religiously as Danny Gregory, but at least I know I won’t run out of ideas for things to draw.

“I’m just a guy who loves to take advantage of his free time to draw.  I like to draw everyday things, because I think if you look hard enough, you can find a source of daydreaming in the very simple things that are right in front of your eyes.” – Martin Etienne

P.S. Although August 10th was the first anniversary of The Hipping Post, today is the first anniversary of my hip resurfacing surgery.  I’m grateful that I can now chase my kids around the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and I can sit and draw a cramped US Airways plane seat without feeling any discomfort – thanks Dr. Vail.

Coola

The trouble with visiting Vancouver, the city I grew up in, is that I never have enough time to see all of the people I want to see, and do all of the things I want to do.  But on our recent vacation to Vancouver, Stacie, the boys, and I packed in a bunch of activities, including (thanks to my cousin) a trip to the top of Grouse Mountain, where we saw birds of prey, a lumberjack show, and two grizzly bears that live in a specially designed refuge.  We had a great time on Grouse, but I found it unnerving that the only thing separating us from two 700+ pound grizzlies were three electric wires and a deer fence.  Fortunately, the bears were more interested in strolling through their stream than they were in the hundreds of people trying to take photos of them.  Had the bears escaped, then at least I would have understood why my kids were constantly yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”

With beautiful natural landscapes combined with unique urban architecture, Vancouver has an endless amount of sketching subjects.  I didn’t have time to draw much while on vacation, but on the plane ride home, I sketched Coola, the bigger of the two grizzlies (I used an image from the Grouse Mountain brochure as a basis for this sketch).  I have a lot more images on my camera that I look forward to drawing and painting, now that we are home.

PS.  Today is the one year anniversary of The Hipping Post.  When I started blogging, I didn’t think I would write about topics unrelated to my hip surgery.  But somewhere during my 58 posts, 23,000+ words, and 33 drawings and sketches, this blog took a turn in an unforeseen direction.  The Hipping Post sparked some creative energy that I had not tapped in many years.  THP may change, but as long as I’m having fun, I’m going to continue this experiment.  I also want to say thanks to everyone who has stopped by to check out what I’m up to, particularly those who have been following since this time last year.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.  San Francisco has many popular attractions, like Fisherman’s Warf and Alcatraz, but none symbolizes the Bay Area quite like the Golden Gate Bridge.

In 1999, when I moved to San Francisco, I lived in an apartment in Russian Hill, and from the roof of my building, I had a clear view of the Bridge.  Many Fridays after work, I would stand on the rooftop, drink a beer, and watch the fog pour over the Presidio and envelope the Bridge.

After our engagement, Stacie and I moved into an apartment just around the corner from my first apartment.  From our kitchen window, we had the same spectacular view that I had from my old rooftop.  There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning than sharing a cup of coffee with your new bride while staring at the Golden Gate Bridge.  But when we found out we were having twins, Stacie and I traded our three-story walk up, two bedroom apartment for a house in the East Bay, and we said good-bye to the Bridge.

I still work in the city, and our family often drives in on the weekends.  One of the activities my boys like best is to go to Crissy Field, play in the sand, and run away from the water as the waves roll up the beach.  Sometimes the weather is warm, and sometimes it’s cool.  Sometimes it’s sunny and other times foggy.  But always, the Golden Gate Bridge is our magnificent backdrop.

I am thankful to the city for much of the happiness in my life.  I met Stacie here, all of our kids were born in San Francisco, and I have made many great friends in the Bay Area.  A team of amazing doctors, nurses and support staff at UCSF gave me a new lease on life.  The Hipping Post would not have been the same without them.

The city is in the midst of a day-long celebration.  According to the official 75th Anniversary website, the festivities are “designed not only to commemorate the Bridge but also to celebrate its unsurpassed setting and unique place in the hearts and minds of Bay Area residents and fans from around the world.”  That sounds right to me.  The Golden Gate Bridge symbolizes San Francisco, and reminds me of all that is good in life: my family, my friends, and my health.

Happy 75th Anniversary, Golden Gate Bridge!

P.S. I did the above sketch, using only my finger, on Stacie’s iPad, in an app called Paper by FiftyThree.  It’s a great way to keep a sketch journal, but be careful, it’s addictive.

My Teeth Too

Today was my seven month follow-up appointment with Dr. Vail, my hip surgeon, and yesterday was my semi-annual checkup with my dentist.  When I saw these calendar items nestled side-by-side in the monthly view of Outlook, I realized that I have two doctors advising me on two different prostheses.

When I was seven, a dog attacked me.  I was at my friend’s house, where my friend and I spent the afternoon playing with his 18-month old golden retriever.  Shortly after my mom arrived to pick me up, the dog lost patience with me, and I ended up spending the next five days in the hospital.  If turning my cheeks into torn curtains of flesh wasn’t bad enough, the dog also knocked out my new adult front teeth.

A plastic surgeon used 118 stitches to repair my face, and a dental surgeon replanted my teeth.  Although the dentist hoped my roots would reattach, after a couple of years, it was clear that my front teeth were dying.  The dentist replaced my natural teeth with fake teeth fixed to a retainer, a device that resembled a small plastic rabbit.  The scars have faded, but dentures still fill the hole in my smile.

As a kid, I enjoyed having false teeth.  I took out my teeth to make my vampire and rugby player Halloween costumes more realistic.  I impressed my friends by flicking my teeth in and out of my mouth without using my hands, just my tongue.  I didn’t need tooth picks.  I used the edges of my retainer to pick out the food that got caught between my teeth.  The added benefit of doing this at the dinner table was that it drove my brother crazy.  “Stop doing that!  You’re disgusting!”  I’m sure it annoyed my mom too, but she saw the dog attack me, so she rarely asked me not to play with my teeth.

Now that I’m older, the novelty of dentures has worn off.  My kids love it when I take my teeth out, but I’m teaching them manners, so I try not to pick my teeth at the table anymore.  Prior to my hip resurfacing, I considered having my dentist install a permanent bridge that would attach to my incisors.  Alternatively, my dentist could implant permanent teeth by drilling stems into my skull.  I would have to spend over six months in braces to realign my upper teeth before the implants could be installed, so I nixed that option.  But now that my hip surgery is behind me, I am once again thinking about replacing my dentures with a bridge.

With removable teeth and a metal hip, I feel like Mr. Potato Head.  A friend pointed out that I’m just like all the celebrities in California.  I didn’t think Kim Kardashian and I had much in common, but as my friend said, we each have “lots of replacement parts.”

Although it’s time I retired my dentures, unlike the Kardashians, I am in no rush to undergo another surgery.  My dentist explained that installing a permanent bridge is not a complicated procedure.  It can’t be harder than replacing a hip, but the follow up appointments will be more stressful than those with Dr. Vail.  Dr. Vail doesn’t lecture me about flossing.

PS. My friend, Stu, took the above photo after he and I jumped out of a plane.  I was afraid that during the free fall my front teeth might end up somewhere off the coast of Hawaii, so I left them in the car.

Focus on the Execution

“You cannot fail if you focus on the execution and not the result.” – Orel Hershiser

Three years ago, I decided to learn to play the guitar.  I had just been to an AC/DC concert (second row center).  When you see Angus Young playing from that close, you can’t help but be inspired.  A few weeks after the concert, my brother-in-law, Mike, and his family visited us.  Mike plays the guitar, so I dragged him to a Guitar Center to help me pick out an instrument.  When we arrived, instead of helping me, Mike walked straight to the acoustic section, picked up a beautiful 6-string Taylor, and strummed the opening notes to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive.”  He was good, and I said, “I want to play that.”

Mike said, “You will.  You just have to practice.”

When we arrived home with my new Fender, I told Mike that I had a plan for learning to play.  Given my long commute to and from work, I said that practicing during the week would be difficult, but that I could dedicate some quality time on the weekend.

Mike said, “That’s not going to work.”

I said, “Why not?”

He said, “You have to practice every day.  You may only be able to practice a few hours per week, but 20 minutes per day is much better than two hours straight on Saturday or Sunday.  If you want to learn to play, you have to be committed.”

I had a sinking feeling that my guitar playing days were already numbered.  I couldn’t wait to crank out “Thunderstruck” on a Gibson SG, but I was focused on the result, not the execution.  AC/DC warned me that “it’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll,” but I wasn’t committed.  My guitar now sits in the corner of my closet and only gets played when Mike visits.

During the first few months after my hip resurfacing, I was dedicated to my recovery.  I was diligent about physical therapy, and I regained strength and flexibility quickly.  My friend, who had a hip resurfacing, warned me that I would feel dramatic improvements in the first few months, but that I should not take them for granted.  He said I shouldn’t expect a full recovery until a year after my surgery.

I feel good, so I have been thinking about skiing, climbing Mt. Diablo on my bike, and even studying karate again.  But lately, I have not been diligent with my exercises, and my visions of grandeur will prove elusive if I don’t focus on getting stronger.

The guitar in my closet now reminds me to focus on daily exercise, and not on the activities I plan to do.  I need to practice before I can play.  It’s time for the hard work.  It’s time to “stand up and be counted.”

PS – I think the reason for AC/DC’s success, is that they enjoy practice more than performance.  In a 2008 Rolling Stone article, “AC/DC and the Gospel of Rock & Roll,” Angus Young said, “For me, this is probably the best time, playing and rehearsing.  I can sit and enjoy the build up with everyone else.”  Angus Young literally sits when he practices.  He is a 5’2’’ tornado on stage, but he sits during rehearsals and recordings because he wants “the music to be right first.”  When Angus and Malcolm Young started AC/DC in 1973 they probably didn’t think they would sell more than 200 million albums, worldwide.  They just wanted to play rock & roll.  They focused on the execution, but I bet they are happy with the result.

Don’t Forget

In the next paragraph, I give away the ending to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  If you have not read the last two books in the Harry Potter series, and you intend to, please stop reading.

Two weeks ago, I read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the last book in the Harry Potter series.  I read all of J.K. Rowling’s previous books, but I forgot that at the end of the sixth book, Severus Snape killed Albus Dumbledore.  I double-checked my list of “read books” to ensure that I had read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – I had, but I had forgot that Dumbledore died.

I am not a forgetful person, but I have memory lapses.  I have a mental block that prevents me from remembering garbage day.  It is Friday night, so I can safely say that garbage day was today.  But next Thursday, I will forget.  Stacie has stopped reminding me, and now she puts out the garbage and recycling bins.  The kids often help her, so my forgetfulness has helped teach my boys about household chores, but it has also irritated my wife.

I am not alone in forgetting.  A few weeks ago, I drove behind a car with an open gas cap cover.  The gas cap was bouncing around on its cord, so the driver must have forgotten to put the cap back on before leaving the gas station.  I told a friend this story, and he confided that he had done much worse.  Not only had he forgotten to put the gas cap back on, he had also driven away from the station with the hose still connected to his car.  My friend said, “I’ve done that three times.”

Forgetting to put the garbage out or to screw your gas cap back on has minor consequences.  When doctors forget, the costs are high.  Atul Gawande, the author of Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, explains that in the U.S., two million patients a year get infections during their hospital stay.  Ninety thousand of those patients die.  The primary cause is that doctors forget to wash their hands.  We think doctors should be perfect, but they are not.  They are human, and they also forget.

Fortunately, we have tools to help us remember.  I use Microsoft Outlook to keep track of appointments.  I also create daily “to do” lists.  I always carry a pen and a notebook, so when I think of an idea for The Hipping Post, I can jot it down.

Even doctors have tools.  As Atul Gawande explains in his essay, “The Checklist”, Dr. Peter Pronovost, of Johns Hopkins Hospital, asked doctors and nurses to use a simple checklist in the I.C.U. to help prevent line infections in patients.  Intensive care physicians work in complex environments, so they are bound to forget certain procedures, like washing their hands.  But by following Dr. Pronovost’s checklist, line infection rates dropped from eleven percent to zero.

I don’t know if Dr. Vail used a checklist, but before my surgery, his chief resident signed my left leg with a Sharpie – it was a crude, but effective reminder for Dr. Vail to operate on my left hip, and not my right.

Checklists and “to do” lists are helpful, but my favorite memory aids are stories.  I started The Hipping Post to share my hip resurfacing story.  The scar on my left butt cheek is a permanent reminder that I have a prosthetic hip.  But I did not want to forget the details of my pain before the surgery, or my support and struggles during my recovery.

I read my kids stories that remind them to respect others, to think for themselves, and to stay healthy.  I wish I had a story that would remind my sons to flush the toilet and to turn off the bathroom light.  When I get together with my friends, we tell the same stories over and over, not only to remind us of our shared history, but also to strengthen the bonds between us.  Some stories I wish I could forget, but those stories are my friends’ favorites.

I don’t mind that I forgot Snape killed Dumbledore.  I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, but J.K. Rowling’s stories are not important to me.  The stories that matter most to me are retold over and over by my friends and family.  Those stories make me laugh, keep me humble, and remind me of life’s lessons.

So if you drive away from the gas station with the hose attached to your car, don’t worry.  It makes for a great story, and if you have good friends, they won’t let you forget.

Winter

Growing up in Vancouver, winter was my favorite season.  Although Vancouver has milder winters than the rest of Canada, I had my share of white Christmases.  My memories of skiing at Whistler with my friends are some of my best.  My memories of New Year’s Eve at Whistler with my friends are not as clear, but we shared some good times.  Whether it was skiing, skating, or sledding, I enjoyed playing outside in the cold.  But the San Francisco Bay Area does not have a real winter, and after living here for eleven years, I fear that I have been affected.

Last week, I took my kids for a walk to see our neighbors’ Christmas lights.  It was 40 degrees (for my Canadian friends, that’s 4 degrees Celsius), but I wore a thick wool jacket and a toque (for my American friends, that warm hat you wear while skiing is a toque).  I justified wearing the toque because more heat escapes from my head now that I am losing my hair, but maybe I was just afraid of being cold.

The week before last, I picked up my kids from school.  Before leaving, they dropped their backpacks on the ground, lay down, and started swinging their arms and legs through a pile of leaves.

I said, “What are you doing?”

My son said, “We are making leaf angels.”

I cringed when his twin brother said, “Daddy, when are you going to take us to see snow?”

I am embarrassed to admit that despite my love of winter activities, my sons have yet to play in the snow.  Three summers ago, our family went to Whistler, and Stacie and I took the twins up the gondola to see the glacier.  Technically, a glacier is snow, but a glacier-man is a poor substitute for a snowman.  I also refuse to admit that my twins’ first snowball fight was in July while wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Winter wasn’t always pleasant.  The first time I skied, I tore a ligament in my knee.  Other times skiing, I broke my thumb, hyper-extended my elbow, and split open my eyebrow.  In my early 20s, I got four stitches when I wiped out, and my ski hit my head.  During Christmas break when I was seven, I got my first migraine.  I repeatedly barfed in my bed, covering the stuffed Smurf that my parents had just given me.  I still get migraines, and when I do, I think of that winter night and my damaged Smurf.  But we are shaped as much by our scars as by our successes, and the winter is when I received many of mine.

Stacie says I should appreciate the Bay Area winters.  She spent several years in Minnesota and argues that a white Christmas isn’t worth the months of freezing cold thereafter.  I spent four years in Montreal, so I have also experienced harsh temperatures.  I wouldn’t trade San Francisco for Montreal in February, but winter is part of me.  I am Canadian, and winter is when we are at our best.

So, this winter, I plan to escape the Bay Area to introduce my boys to their inner northern half.  We’ll head to the mountains to build snowmen, make snow angels, and have a real snowball fight.  My hip may not be ready for skiing and skating, but my boys better be ready for their first face wash.

But first, I need to buy them some jackets.