Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Rehab

Moving Day

I am still in the same hospital but have moved into acute rehab.

I've been out of bed several times now. The serious pain is localized in my stapled sutures. My leg muscle is weak and a bit crampy, but I suspect that will go away quickly if my system works the way it usually does. 

Horses and kitties at home are all doing just fine. Debbie is an absolute treasure the way she cares for things. 

My new room is a little smaller with a view of the hospital roof instead of green hills and trees. There are plenty of forested areas behind the building, though, so I am not nature deprived. 

Now I just need to get myself back in shape. One more challenge to overcome in life. 


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Long Story

Better Told Later

Wifi access in hospital kind of iffy, so post will be short.

My left hip is broken. I had surgery and am recovering well.

Apparently it was from the fall off Tucker. First Xrays did not show the break so it might have been an invisible stress fracture. Finally gave way on Monday night.

Had to call 911 for ambulance.

Super wonderful hospital. Beautiful room with picture window and good care. Here for recovery and later some rehab.

Horsesitter and neighbor taking care of critter, house, etc. Well watched out for.

More details later when I have better computer access.

Love you all!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Handy Tools in More Ways Than One

Sad to say, I am still using my crutches to get around and my hip still hurts like the devil....well sometimes.

I've hired a Horsesitter to do two feeds a day and I'm still doing the late night snacks for the Boys.

I've been rather amazed at how extra careful the Boys have been around me and my crutches. Even Tucker, who can be rather "in your face" if you don't demand respect, has been giving me extra space. And, when he forgets for a moment, a crutch is a great way to get him to back off. With a rubber tip on the bottom, it can give a gentle push on his shoulder, to remind him to keep his place.

I have to laugh a bit at how patient the Boys need to be as I dole out the feed. It takes me "forever" to get down the 30' barn aisle with the feed buckets. But, aside from a bit of head shaking from every expressive Tucker, the horses just wait, despite the fact that they would much rather be fed "right now!!!!"

In the outside world, my ventures out on crutches also have had some interesting responses. In WaWa, the other day, when I bought a sandwich and needed to fish out thirteen extra cents for the tax, a kind guy in front of me handed the cashier the change and refused to let me pay him back. I had the change in my wallet, but he wanted to gift me instead. On the way into the store, a woman went out of her way to open the doors for me.

Today at church the Christian spirit was is full sway with everyone offering to help me by carrying my music, opening doors, making sure I was safe on the stairs, and doing everything possible to assure that I was OK.

There were three of us lame people in the diner we went to after church. One lady was in a wheelchair with a broken foot, another had her foot/ankle in a walking brace, and there I was as well. We had a bit of fun sharing some stories about "how it happened" and "didn't the weather today make things hurt more," making the whole thing into a social experience.  Better yet, we were able to laugh most of it off, a good skill to learn when you are in pain.

Which reminds me of an Internet article I just read about the most important skill in life. The author insisted it was to be able to control you emotions and to keep yourself on the happy side. (Not the best summary, but the essential premise.)  Except for those moments when a stab of pain shoots through my hip, I've stayed on the optimistic, "laugh it off" side. When I had my knee replacements, I found that keeping a determined and positive outlook made my recovery faster. As an added bonus, I was able to cheer up and encourage a lot of other patients in rehab.

It's probably easy to let yourself mope into your misery, but I don't think it does much to help heal your body.

So I'll end with my humorous perspective on the whole accident that MAY have started my hip problem.

The day Tucker bucked me off into the tree branch--or the tree branch whiplashed me off Tucker--or whatever, and I landed with a heavy "plop" on the ground, I went out to dinner with my friends from choir.

We are all senior citizens, mind you, and I am just a month away from the magic age 65.  There I sat, somewhat sore, my face scratched, and my nose just shy of another nosebleed.  I had just finished telling my first friend the details of the accident and how Tucker had bolted off to leave me lying in the woods when my second friend arrived.

She looked as lovely and put together as always and had a big smile. "I just got back from the Senior Citizens group at church," she said. "We had a wonderful luncheon and afterwards a really wonderful talk on Ukranian Easter eggs. They were really beautiful. How was your day?"


Did you ever get the feeling you were living in another dimension?

Think about it. It's worth a giggle or two.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Now I Am Worried

Watching the Weather

OK, so Spring is here. Big deal. It's nice today but.....

There is the chance of a major snowstorm next week. It could be the worst one of all.

Normally, I'd shrug my shoulders and say, "So what? I have the tractor, I have the snowblower, and I have a good shovel"

Trouble is, right now, I only have one good leg. I'm still not sure what's wrong--although my chiropractor will look at my Xrays today to see what might be going on--but my left hip hurts like the devil. In fact, I am just still just about getting around on crutches.

Again, so what? I have plenty of food in the house and as long as the power stays on, all I'd have to do is sit inside until it melts.

But, I have the horses and they need food and care. Getting out to the barn on crutches through a snowstorm would not be an easy task.  I'm not sure I could shovel my way out. The tractor is out there too but I'm not even sure I could climb on.

I do have a mounting block out there, so I suppose I can put it by the tractor. Or, if the storm does promise to come in, I could drive the tractor over to the house, cover it with a lot of ripped horse blankets and then plow drive my way out to the barn.  Aha! This IS a plan!!

So, what I have to do is watch the forecasts and hope for the best. The storm may go out to sea--best case scenario. But if it's going to hit, I will have most of Sunday to put the plan into action.

Once again, I guess crisis brings ingenuity.  Or is that desperation???

My X-rays did not show any bone/joint injury. Apparently it's all muscle and tendon. We can't quite figure out why, either. It may be an indirect result of the fall.  But it's on the other side of my body from where I landed. Could be the hip joint was over compensating. Who knows?

I called the Horsesitter to come out for a week to take care of the Boys for the two main feedings. I will do the late night. That eases the stress on my hip quite a bit. Debbie is a great person and super responsible. She'll have a little extra work to start as the stalls are rather a mess, but then it will ease off.  I'll do the meds as needed at the late feed, so she won't have to bother with that.

Oh yes, and my other blood word came back A-OK too. So I am a picture of health--except that I can't walk. *G*

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


But No Laughing

I am using my crutches. My left hip/leg hurts like the devil.

My chiropractor is pretty sure it's still the aftermath of my fall off Tucker. It probably is, but that was a week ago, so it took a while. My L3 vertebra was out and he adjusted me, but as the day went on, the pain went from the outside of my hip to the inside.  I'm going back today for another treatment.

Hopefully I will feel better soon. I can get around the house OK on the crutches, but taking care of the Boys is another story altogether.

Thing is, working with any kind of disability makes a person very creative. I, for one, figure out all kinds of ways to do things. The biggest challenge is the hay.  My feed room has a step up, step down. I cart the hay from the carport to the barn door via a little cart. So far, not so bad, but I think today I may put a bale in the car and drive it over for later. Anyhow, instead of carrying the flakes to the Boys in one trip, I throw the flakes I need across the feedroom to the step down into the barn aisle. Then I cart them, one by one to each Boy's stall. Takes twice as long, but gets the job done.

I tried carrying water to the water tub by bucket since the hose was frozen....again!!! But that proved to be too much of a challenge. There was water in the tub to hold the Boys for the morning, so I am waiting to see of the hose thaws out. If not, I will hang the coil hose over my neck and limp out to the barn with it to fill the tub. It will be awkward, but I'll manage.

I keep telling Tucker it's all his fault, trying to impress him with the concept that his bucking me off was not a good thing to do.

Not sure if Tucker is the true culprit, but my back wasn't a serious issue until the toss off. Hopefully it will heal soon.

In the meantime, I am learning to be inventive.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Long Lining on a Sunny Day

JJ Asks, "Do I Have To?" 

And the answer is, "Yes!!"

Since my chiropractor told me I couldn't ride until at least the middle of the week, I was worried that JJ, my Arab buddy, would not be fit enough to do the competitive ride we have scheduled for the end of the month.

Now, let me say this. I come from a long lot of training for eventing and my trainer back then was really big on fitness for our horses.  When I was preparing for a horse trial, I worked my horse 5-6 days a week and work meant exactly that. There was lots of trotting and cantering as well as dressage training and jumping exercises. I know nothing about getting an endurance horse fit for an opening season 10 mile ride, but my brain tends to think in event mode, so I want to give JJ at least a modicum of fitness in that direction.

I'm sure Chris will steer me in the right direction as far as that's concerned, but for now, I'll kind of plan on giving JJ some good trot work to build him up.

The footing out on our trails is still not great, so doing some arena work will have to suffice. And, since I can't ride at the moment, long lining is a good option.

But the first obstacle is getting the horse to understand the concept, then to buy into it and finally do it. Turns out Chris had long lined JJ in the past, so he was not a total novice. That has its plusses and minuses. The plus is that he will go around me on a circle while I hold the lines. This is the only real way I can trot a horse on the lines. When I first learned to long line some 30+ years ago with Lockie Richards, we started off behind the horse, ground driving. However, when I asked for trot and had to run along behind, my hands began to bounce.  At that point, Lockie gave me a choice. I either had to ask the my Russell to trot really slowly so I could just walk behind him or I'd have to work him on a circle.

I have since opted for the circle and can pretty adequately get my horses to walk, trot, canter, and reverse on the lines without too much trouble.  I will also work them on straight lines by walking alongside and can get shoulder in and a little leg yield as well.

JJ and I aren't there yet. We did master the trotting circle for the most part, but here's where the minus comes in. At some point before Chris got him, someone taught JJ to stop and face his handler.  I know there are people who teach this when lunging. They ask for a halt and then want the horse to turn and face them.

To me, this poses a significant training issue. Once the horse is facing me, it's virtually impossible to ask him to go forward again on the circle since the hind end I need to drive forward is away from me.  When I teach my horses to lunge or long line, when I halt them, I want them to stay facing the same direction on the circle. I used a command to "come in" if I want them to come to me, but otherwise, they need to stay on that circle. Then I can do reinbacks, transitions, etc. and never lose the ability to drive them forward again.

Now, JJ is a very bright fellow and figured out pretty quickly that if he stopped and turned to face me, I was going to have to give him a break as I maneuvered my way around to his hind end--trying not to tangle the lines as I did so--and then send him on again, usually on a nice small circle around me at the walk until I could urge him back out on the circle perimeter to do some more real work.  I lost count of the number of times he pulled this little trick on me. Here are some pictures of those moments.  Still a good boy, but just a little tricky to get behind him.

The look of interested innocence on his face each time was adorable. He looked right at me as if to say, "This is what you wanted, isn't it? I'm being good looking at you like this, aren't I?"  (JJ uses good grammar, by the way.)  Only once did he kick out his heels in a protest as I moved him on again, so in general, he at least made an effort to be a good boy.

These pictures taken by Chris. Hope it is OK to post them.

The cool thing was when he finally offered to stretch down into the bit and use his back. He looked super!  I'd like to do some more work with him to encourage him to go like that from the start when I ride him. He usually will relax like that during a ride, but it can take a while and if he does get excited---well, he has now and then then I've ridden him--his head goes up and his back inverts. I would think if he would keep his back round, not only would any tension disappear but he'd feel a heck of a lot better carrying a rider.

Anyhow, I probably should have looked at my watch to see how long I was working him, but JJ certainly let me know when he'd had enough. "Stop and face" showed up on every circle. So I insisted he complete one full circle until I asked him to stop, and I made sure we didn't finish that final circle by the ever magnetic gate.

JJ really is fun to work. You can see his brain engage and disengage as he's trotting around. When it engages and his body joins the fun, it's a beautiful thing to see. Next time I line him, I'm going to start him off to the right as it's his more difficult side. That way, if he can master it, (And I can master it) going to the left will be a cinch.

It's really cool being able to work a horse I did not train in the lines. It's ever fascinating to try to establish the lines (both literally and figuratively) of communication to a new mind. It also teaches me to think about what works and what doesn't and forces me to adjust and refine my skills and techniques in order to get good results.

Taking a tumble off Tucker wasn't the best thing that ever happened to me, but in this case, it actually had some benefits.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


And a Sore Back

Considering Tucker's erratic behavior, I am more than suspicious that his ulcer issue is acting up again. This is not an excuse for his behavior yesterday with the buck, but rather an explanation.

I will treat him with a month of omeprazole and see if that changes his overall demeanor. He is sensitive to be touched in the barn and pushy about his feed. His overall attitude borders on the aggressive side, but I don't really have a problem handling him. But he has been a much kinder boy in the past, so it could well be something is bothering him physically.

He will never be one of those "anyone can ride him" kind of horses. It's not in his nature. But he has been better than this in the past. You'd think at 14 he should have grown up a bit. No such luck. Guess he's one of those perpetual juveniles.

It's OK. I'm a retired high school teacher. I'm used to it.

I went to the chiropractor this morning. It was no surprise to find out my back was pretty messed up. The upper back was worse, actually, probably due to the whiplash impact when I hit the branch. My sacroilliac is sore, probably from the landing. Suffice it to say there were more vertebrae that needed adjusting than ones that were fine.

I'm feeling quite a bit better now.  My nose is rather sore and I have scratches on my face here and there. I'm a bit surprised there is no gigantic bruise and consider myself lucky nothing hit me near my eyes. My riding helmet may have helped that.  Once again, I advocate riding with a helmet at all times, and this accident was proof positive of why it can be so important. A blow to the naked head with a tree branch would have been far more serious.

Tomorrow it's supposed to again be bitter cold. It's just as well, since that means I won't be interested in riding.

Friday, I have a follow up at the chiropractor, so that's a good thing too. Another adjustment, some icing, and therapy may be just what I need.

Hopefully I'll be able to ride on the weekend when the weather promises to return to the road to Spring.

I will not take Tucker out on the trail.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Tale of Two Rides

Well, Almost

I rode with Chris again today. She was on Nordisk and I was on JJ.  This time we went adventuring.

About a mile down the road, across the NJ Turnpike is Jamesburg Park. It is a fully forested area with many sections of pines, much like the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. It's a super place to ride, but getting there is a bit of a trick.

First is the mile long journey along the road. Not so bad until you reach the bridge over the NJ Turnpike. Wisely, we dismounted and led the horses across. It didn't help that at the first side there was a huge bulldozer scraping dirt in the lane on our side. Needless to say, that was rather distracting to Nordie who'd never seen anything like that before. But he was a good boy and settled down for the leading part of the trip.
I hate going across those bridges in anything but my car or truck, and NJ drivers don't seem to understand that according to the law, if a horse is present, they are supposed to slow down to 25 mph. Despite lots of very expressive gestures on both my part and Chris's part, only a handful of cars did slow down to pass us.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the other side to remount in the grassy areas in front of the first warehouses. Well, "remount" is a rather loose term here as I cannot mount a horse from the ground, so Chris had to give me a leg up. What a klutz I am at the moment. I managed to get my body over the saddle, but trying to swing my leg over the cantle was a whole 'nother matter. Let's put it this way, it would have made a viral video on youTube,

The next part of the ride was along the warehouse district with trucks banging and back up beepers beeping and all kinds of manhole covers and silly things to challenge Nordisk's novice trail skills. He was on edge about things, but actually very sensible, especially since he was leading and my JJ was in his usual casual pace behind.

Then we crossed Cranbury Road at the traffic light--a feat not for the fainthearted, even in a car--and entered the peace and solitude of the Parkland. I'd never been in there before and it really is nice. There are lots of trails and sandy paths to ride on. Chris is rather an adventurer and we did some trail blazing as well. There are tons of trees down blocking paths so we had to do a lot of bushwhacking to get through. Nordisk was once again a star, bravely leading the way, while JJ just took his time following.

After and hour or so, we headed back, made the traffic light crossing again and started for home. That's when near disaster struck. There was a flag of yellow plastic tape in a tree I passes and it must have had some kind of wire attached. That got caught on JJ and flapped over towards Nordisk. He spooked and for a brief moment, I thought all was lost. But the tape pulled free and JJ was completely calm about the whole thing which, I suspect reassured Nordie who settled right back down. Amazing for a young horse like that.

We dismounted again for the bridge crossing home and had some more entertainment calling the passing drivers all kinds of names when they simply could not manage to slow down for us, no matter what kind of hand signals we gave them. The ones who did slow, got big thank yous and smiles. The others....well, let's just say their lives are cursed for many days to come.

About two and a half hours later, we were back in the barn and the two Arabians were settled down to their dinner.

But there was lots of daylight left.

And is was a really warm day.

I figured, no time like the present to try Tucker out on the trail again. My goal was to get farther along in the saddle than I had yesterday.

Well, I did.

At the spot where he'd acted up yesterday, Tucker started fussing again. This time, I stayed on. He was dancing, but controllable. It wasn't the calmest ride, but I made it all the way to the short trail through the woods heading for home.

The trail goes uphill slightly, so I let him jog a little. Then it happened.

There is low hanging tree branch that sticks out over the trail. It's got all kinds of pieces sticking out. At the very moment I tried to duck to avoid it, Tucker decided to buck. Now, mind you, this was a crowhop kind of buck, not a big nasty one. It was almost a canter stride. But, the problem was, it was a buck up, just at the moment when I wanted to be down under the branch.

Crunch! My face hit the branch square on, whiplashing me back and Tucker went foward and I went tumbling off to the right, kind of flipping over so I landed right on my back. The wind was knocked out of me and my loyal steed took off in a gallop for home.

As I lay there, I felt the warm trickle of blood from my nose. Yippee! Wounded.

It took me a moment to gather my wits and a nearby clump of snow to apply to the nosebleed. I wisely had a tissue in my pocket, to I blotted up the blood and my wounded pride with that and managed to get to my feet.

Tucker the magnificent was waiting at the gate. He seemed totally unconcerned.

Ah well. It had to happen sooner or later. The frustrating part is that if it hadn't been for the tree branch, I am sure I would have stayed on just fine. It really was not a huge buck, just a most unfortunate one. That doesn't mean it was OK, but I could have ridden it out.

Guess I'll stick to the arena for a while with him. At least there aren't any tree branches in there to do me in.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Three Trail Rides, but Only Two Completions

Back in the Saddle Again

Things have thawed out enough that the trails are again passable. They are not perfect due to quite a bit of mud, but they are rideable.

Yesterday, Chris, Larry, and I went out on the three Arabians. Since the plan is to ride a competition at the end of the month, the horses need the work and I certainly do as well.

We were out for close to two hours, mostly at the walk with just a little trotting here and there when the ground afforded it. JJ was a little more energetic than he's been in the past when I've ridden him and we actually had two spooks. Nothing too dramatic, but just enough to remind me he's alive and well. *G*

The funny part was that when we arrived at the barn and brought the boys in from the paddock, JJ and Nordisk had rolled to a fare thee well in the mud. They were both coated eartip to tail.  Juan, on the other hand, the white boy was almost pristine. It took Larry about 5 minutes to brush him off so he could tack up. Meanwhile, Chris and I were currying and brushing away. I left a pretty good pile of dirt in the barn aisle by the time I was done and I can't say JJ looked more than moderately clean when I was done. Nothing like trying to clean up a winter haired horse after a nice roll in the spring mud.

My Boys, at home, were wearing sheets, so when I went out to ride today, I had minimal brushing to do.

But that benefit was short lived success when it came to completing rides on everyone.

Tucker was up first. The arena was more than half thawed with one side dry with good footing and the other wet with a bit of snow left. I trotted around a little, just to see how Tucker was feeling since I hadn't ridden him since....December????  He wasn't very interested in arena work and made it clear he wanted some adventure. So, putting my courage to the sticking place, we ventured into the woods.

So this is one of the non-completion trail rides in the title.  The footing in the woods was a little dicey, with some slippy spots and snow. I am going to let Tucker use that as an excuse.  For the first half of the ride he was OK, but was doing a little dancing in the footing. Then, he threw a bit of a hissy fit. He lifted his front end a bit off the ground and struck with his forelegs, squealing at the same time.  It really did feel as if he was frustrated, and after that wanted to jig and not settle back down.

I'll admit, it. I'm a coward. I got him to stand and dismounted. I led him along the trail for the second half of the outing. We may well have been able to settle down again, but at that point the trail was really tricky with all kinds of switchback "go arounds" of all the fallen trees, and if he had acted up it would have been dangerous. I would like to be braver, but I'm not, so I copped out.  At least I got some exercise leading him along and he got to be out and about.

Then I saddled Chance. The ground has been so bad for so long, I've not been able to check on his soundness.  Failed trail ride #2.  He was very lame. I'm confused about it. He felt really bad, but it's hard to tell for sure if it's the hind end.  I will be calling the vet out for spring shots this week, and if I can be sure the footing in the arena will be OK, I will have a soundness exam.  At this point, I just don't know what's wrong. He's had two months off, but horrible footing the whole time, so that just might have made things worse, or not. We'll just have to wait and see.

Fortunately, at 24, Toby is sound as can be and, once bribed with a carrot, quite eager to go out on a ride. The trouble was that as I led him into the arena, Tucker barged through the gate and made it nearly impossible for me to get out the woods gate and lock it behind us. I finally had to dismount, chase Tucker off with a tree branch, remount and finally go out.

We had a lovely ride. Toby was forward and happy the whole time. The woods footing didn't seem to bother him at all and we took the middle trail to make the ride just a little longer.

Thank heavens for my old fellow.  He ended the afternoon at Follywoods on a high note.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

New Approach to the Knees

Now It's My Back

So, after two total knee replacements, I still have knee pain.

As noted before, I finally went to the sports medicine doctor who kept me going on my old bad knees for years more than I should have been able to go.  He has been treating me for nerve pain from the replacement surgery for several months now.

I hit some kind of pain plateau over the last month, so the doctor had me go for an MRI of my lower back.

I've been going to a good chiropractor for years and that's always helped, but I was not surprised to find out that there is some degeneration in my spine and some issues with my discs.  My sports doctor has now concluded that my knee pain may be coming from nerve pressure in my spine, where those nerves actually start in the body.

So today, instead of injecting my knees, he recommended a spinal injection.  The theory is the same. The solution is not a steroid or a pain killer. Instead, it triggers the nerves that are trapped by pressure.

It was a decidedly interesting experience. There was a bit of pain, a bit of pressure, and for a while a very slight burning sensation as the medicine traveled up my spinal column.  I was up and about immediately afterward, so it was no big deal--just strange.

Hard to say for sure if there are any positive results. I think my knees are less stiff and achy. Then again, is it psychological or physical?  Often when you think something should be better, it actually is, so I will have to wait a few days to see if there is any real difference. Where nerves are concerned, it can take a little time for changes to set in.

None of the discomfort has stopped me from doing most of what I like to do, including riding and swimming. But having constant pain does get wearing after a while. And I still have not been able to run or do exercises that demand lots of leg use. Going up stairs is not as easy as I'd like, either. Painwise, I have not been tremendously better than before the knee replacements. On the more positive side, I no longer feel as if my knees will give out with me when I am doing things--like pushing the wheelbarrow, or unloading hay or grain. (Gee, see where my priorities lie.)  So, overall, I have been much better off since the replacements.

Now, if I can just get rid of the annoying discomfort, I will be a happy camper. Maybe this new approach will do it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Still Waiting

What Do You Do?

Not much on the horse front due to this darn weather. The ground is still frozen solid where it's bare and covered with an ice and snow mix everywhere else.  I honestly to not remember a winter where the first snowfalls from December lasted until March, at least not here in New Jersey.

I'm pretty sure the Boys are bored.  I haven't seen them playing too much at all, and no wonder. With this footing, frolicking is not at option. They do wander about the paddocks and pasture. With my setup, there is a bit of variety both in terrain and view, so at least there is something to do out there. I've seen them sort of travel with the sun, basking in its rays by moving from place to place during the day. 

I've been soaking their regular feed in hot water nearly every time I feed--three times a day--and they seem to be drinking quite a bit of water as I have to refill the water tub every morning about the same as I do in summer. 

Meantime, somewhat housebound, I've been doing a bit of much needed cleaning. I  have a ton more to do yet, of course.  Somehow the house has gotten entirely out of control. It's not the first time, so I'm well aware of the major project I have created for myself. What I need to do is get rid of a lot of stuff. 

That led me to revive my eldest desktop computer to see what files I might want to keep before I get rid of it.  Windows 98, ancient now, still worked just fine with the newer keyboard and monitor, but the mouse??? No such luck. If you've ever tried to work in Windows without a mouse, you know the dilemma I faced.  Every mouse I had was USB and optical, and my old dinosaur did not have the drivers to work them.  And, to top it off, I could not find my Windows 98 CD which might have had some on it. 

Blessing be, my friend--my choir director--is a real computer geek from way back and he had some old serial mice with the track balls in them, and a Windows 98 CD.  I borrowed all and was soon up and running. 

The next challenge was trying to find a way to transfer files I wanted. The old computer would not recognize a flash drive, and even the CD did not have drivers for that. I used to save all my stuff on floppy disks, but the new computer does not have a floppy drive. (I've ordered an external 3.5" floppy drive from eBay since I have dozens and dozens of floppy disks with pictures and files on them I might want, but it's not here yet.)
That left me with one alternative, and fortunately I was prepared. The old computer had a writable CD drive and the software installed, so I managed to burn a CD of most of the filed I wanted. 

Apparently there is a way to hook up one computer to another via a USB cable, but none of the stores I visited over the last two days has the proper cable in stock. Back to eBay, I guess.  Meantime,  I found the floppy disks with the files I needed so if that external drive works, I should be able to recover them that way. 

Mind you, the files are my fantasy novels--three of them, each over 1000 pages long. (Double spaced--don't be too impressed.)  My intention is to format them for some kind of web publishing. That will take some time as I also have to proofread them again.  That should keep me busy for months.

---working at the computer, of course---

Now do you  understand why the house is a mess?