First Day of 2022
New Year's Day can be depressing, if you drank too much the night before... or if your post-holiday-blues start to kick in... or if weather is gray.
But there was nothing depressing about this New Year's morning. We had this happy face to greet us. We had a cozy house, with the Rose Bowl Parade on TV and sun was pouring in the windows. Best of all, 2021 was over!
Less than Perfect Fortunes
We forgot to do resolutions last night, so this morning we cracked open some left over fortune cookies. I was ready to read something hopeful or fun.
That was not a bit fun. Our fortunes were all lousy. (they usually are) Mine was the worst.
New Year's Eve
Yesterday was our last day in Portland. The sun came out and we did some stroller walking. The chilly air felt refreshing. I lived in every moment.
I tried not to think about how hard it would be to head back to TX the next day. Now and then I slipped up and wondered, How can Don and I really put way over 2,000 miles, between ourselves and this grand baby?
Celebrating Last Night
But New Year's Eve was nice and cozy. At 7 pm Charlie started to head upstairs with her Mommy. We kissed her goodnight. "See you next year!"
Heidi was down before long, making us Hotel Nacional cocktails. She also made up a little "activity". What a busy mama and host.
We listed and discussed our predictions for the year ahead. Some were actually pretty amusing and others seemed quite possible. We'll see how close any of us get.
Then it was time to feast. Don gave some lessons on cooking filet mignon. We needed to end the year right.
We sat and feasted and I laughed to myself about something I never predicted a year ago. I wouldn't have guessed that Heidi and Jamie would stop being vegetarians, after so many years. There are so many things that I never guessed about 2021.
So today we said goodbye. It seemed extra hard, just like our good-by to Scott and Chali a couple days ago. This has been a special Christmas, at the end of a strange and often frustrating year.
But the drive was pretty and it felt so very different than our stressed drive over a week ago. During our drive out west, my head felt rushed and worried. What did we forget in our frantic packing? Would we be able to dodge winter storms? We drove 10-12 hour days, eating PB & Js to save time. Today, we took in the scenery and stopped at my sister's (and Kate's) to eat lunch! The drive felt safe and satisfying.
So, this is the photo that Jennifer took of Don and me today, on the first day of 2022. I think we look relaxed and ready for the new year.
Maybe today is the day I end this stupid complaining blog. Don is mostly mended from heart surgery. His broken back is still healing. My cancer seems to be far in the past. And the pandemic... well it's not over, but I'm tired of complaining.
The Good of 2021
It was a total year of Covid worries, with Don's additional heart and back issues, thrown in. But we really did accomplish a lot in 2021. Most of all, we managed some safe family gatherings and never got sick.
In June we had a good visit with my dad and most of my Springfield relatives.
In March and August, we had more outdoor gatherings with family.
In both California and Oregon, we had perfect weather for meeting up with our great nephews and their families.
Despite the distance, we saw lots of our own kids in the past year. We were in Portland, when Baby Charlie was born in February. We spent more time together in the summer.
We had visits with Scott and Chali in Sacramento, in January, March and July.
But the best of all, I got my wish. We all had Christmas together, in 2021!
I predict things will get better with the pandemic, before too long. And I predict little Charlie will get vaccinated, this year. I predict more reunions! We have a couple important relatives and numerous friends that we missed this year.
I say let's call this blog quits! At least for now.
Today is December 28. We woke to more beautiful snow.
It was hard to get excited about the pretty scenery, knowing that Scott and Chali had to hit the road, back to Sacramento. Our few days together went too fast.
Unc Scott and Aunt Cha
I hate good byes. I don't think Charlie wanted her uncle and aunt to leave. I didn't want them to head off either... on snowy roads.
But, what an amazing few days. I still can't believe we pulled off a Christmas gathering, despite the pandemic and weather worries. It was exactly a week ago, that we spent a miserable day, debating whether we should switch plans about the kids all coming to Texas. (the very next day) By late evening on December 21, it was decided. The kids would cancel flights and Don and I would somehow hit the road west, the next morning.
The 6 of Us
The last time we 6 were all together, was in 2020. That August, we rented a place and gathered in a safe pandemic bubble. 16 months later we finally gathered again, in wintery Oregon. Once again, the pandemic forced us to be cautious and isolated... mostly for our unvaccinated Charlie. But all we wanted to do was hang out and catch up and have some fun, anyway. We 6 "adult kids" wore Christmas popper-crowns and sunglasses, which were originally bought for the hot, sunny TX Christmas.
We cooked in classy aprons, sang karaoke, listened to Scott read "Texas Night Before Christmas and we walked in the snow and did some puzzling.
Playing with Charlie
16 months ago, we didn't have a little Charlie in our midst.
What a different kind of fun it was, to have this addition to our gang. 10 months is such a perfect age.
Festive Here or There
A week ago, I felt sad leaving our decorated house behind. The house felt so ready for the kids' arrival. But once we walked into Heidi & Jamie's, it was clear that it didn't really matter where we were. We were in giddy spirits to be all together.
Of course a few extra things helped make things extra fun and festive. There were good foods and drink. Lots of colorful clothes from vintage aprons to colorful jammies. The tree was lit and the windows gave us great snow views. And we finally had all 7 Christmas stockings in one place! The oldest was knitted in 1957. The newest, just completed a month ago.
I don't have many photos of gift opening. Mostly photos of Charlie, (who as expected) liked the wrapping and boxes, as much as any toy.
It took us 2 days to open all the gifts. I think we all overdid. Something about having to deal with a second pandemic Christmas, made us all a little overly generous. But I must say, I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts. Every gift seemed to have a story behind it!
Most Memorable Christmas
This will go down as one of the most unforgettable Christmas gatherings. We worked hard to make it happen.
In recent days, I've heard from more friends who are dealing with breakthrough Covid issues over their holidays.
I'm so glad we had a safe Christmas after all. We stayed well and Scott and Chali made it safely over the snowy pass to home. Don and I will stay a little longer before we head back on the road to Texas.
I hate that we all live so far apart, but I'm so glad we're a flexible family, willing to make things work out.
I woke in our quiet B&B at 5 this morning. I tiptoed to take a shower.
It was Christmas, but Don and I had to hit the road early. We couldn't hang around for the comp breakfast. But we did set up our little Covid testing lab, before we took off.
We both tested negative. Not surprised, but still relieved.
What exactly would we have done if we'd gotten a positive result?
Long Route to Portland
We'd decided yesterday to go ahead and drive the longer coastal route.
I'm not even sure if they ended up having all the expected snow on Siskiyou Summit. But we'll never know. We took the coastal route and enjoyed only a little rain.
A week ago, I never thought we'd being spending Christmas Day, driving for nearly 9 hours. I thought we'd be in Texas, gathered with the kids in the family room... wearing sunglasses while we opened gifts, while sun poured in the huge windows.
But today on Christmas, I stared out the window and smiled at the coast and a rainbow and the Redwoods and felt so happy that we'd almost completed this long journey. A lot of changes in a week. Our Texas Christmas turned into an Oregon Christmas. Our mountain drive turned into a coastal one.
By 4, we made it to Happy Valley! Baby Charlie was asleep and we 6 adults couldn't hug each other enough. We went to work unloading the car, jammed with gifts. (How did I do that myself 5 days ago?)
Suddenly Charlie was up and taking it all in. I can't believe we're here. I can't believe this little girl is 10 months!
The evening felt cozy, while Christmas music played and dinner cooked.
We have 3 days to celebrate Christmas, in our safe, cozy, family bubble.
Tonight we just enjoyed each other.
We'll start thinking about stockings and presents.
I can't believe we're here!
Christmas Eve 6:30 am
This is me EXACTLY 24 hours ago. It's Christmas today and we still have road travel ahead.
But yesterday I was a lot more anxious. I made Don take this photo of me in the Springhill Suites in Palm Desert before we departed. I was afraid this might be our most festive moment of the day.
Digging for Chains
We still weren't sure about which route to take. Huge snows were predicted at the mountain passes in Oregon. So we unloaded bags of gifts and hunted for tire chains.
We pulled out of the hotel lot and drove in drizzle and rain.
Then I did my studies. "How do we use these chains anyway?
And I studied maps and websites to determine weather. I texted with Scott who had driven the dangerous route the night before.
Then I studied the Covid rapid test instructions, since we had packed a few.
In Spanish!? That was extra confusing, but luckily I found another set in English. We'll need to take these right before we see the kids.
So for a few hours, we drove in "stressful-decision-making gloom". I'm so tired of making decisions about risk. Should we risk the kids flying and get Omicron? Should we drive the mountain pass in a snow storm and die in a car wreck?
We finally decided to take a 3-hour-longer, coastal route. It felt wonderful to make that safe decision. We celebrated with burgers from Carl's Jr.!
Magic In Ferndale
We had planned on staying at some Fairfield Inn, in Redding. Sick of these blah but pretty safe hotels. But our new route took us near Ferndale, CA.
I Googled and found a place called Gingerbread Mansion! They had a room!
We pulled into town at 7 and it looked magical!
Christmas Eve in a Gingerbread House!
Our host Angel, met us with a mask and showed us our room. She gave us some wine and we sipped a bit before heading out in a soft drizzle.
Never in a million years did I expect to be in a sweet colorful town on Christmas Eve. We headed back to our room with a fireplace and fell asleep with a fire nearby! Today we hit the road to see the kids!
Can't believe this! Merry Christmas!
Warm in Arizona
We had lovely weather on our drive yesterday. Made it to Palm Desert by 5.
We relaxed at our hotel and cheered that we'd made it half way!
Scott & Chali
Scott and Chali worked half days in Sacramento, then texted around noon that they'd gotten negative test results on their rapid tests and they were hitting the road!
I love knowing the 4 kids (and baby Charlie) will have a couple days together until we arrive!
Alarming Weather Predictions
Then we started getting seriously worried.
So it' 5:30 am on Christmas Eve, right now! We'll hit Siskayou Pass tomorrow. We have chains, buried under all this!
Ready to hit the road. Should we add a day and go the coastal route? Don't know.
Luckily I slept well last night. Yesterday my head was foggy as we traveled on my 5 hours of sleep. I was grumpy all day!
Today it helped that I woke up in a hotel in El Paso. Suddenly being away from our house, my focus was on getting to Portland to be with family. No more moping, "But what about playing carols around the piano and making s'mores around the fire pit!" On to new plans!
So we checked out before 7 am and stopped for gas.
This is how my day started. I shared it on Facebook.
Now we're in a hotel in Palm Desert, California and feeling excited. Two more days of travel. We'll be with the kids by Christmas, if snow doesn't interfere!
Christmas Lone Star?
I can't believe we're in El Paso, Texas tonight. I thought we'd be playing with our 10 month old granddaughter tonight, at our house in Sugar Land. She was going to take her first airplane ride. Today was going to be her first trip.
Instead, Don and I are on a trip. After about 11.5 hours of driving today, I spotted this white star on the edge of El Paso. Some kind of sign!?
Man, it takes a long time to drive across this state! But, it's good that Charlie and the rest of our family will be at less risk this holiday. No flying with Omicron, for any of us.
Earlier today, Don and I did some speed-packing and then a little Tetris Time, loading all the boxes. Unknown gifts that the kids had shipped to Texas, from CA and OR.
Don's puzzling eye guided me, with the boxes. Then it was time to load all the presents I've been wrapping for days.
By the time the back was filled with boxes and wrapped gifts, there was little room left for our usual traveling stuff. But for the first time I ever, I didn't worry about perfect packing. I just tossed some clothes in my smaller suitcase and didn't fret over having everything that I would possibly ever need. That was an unusual feeling, to not obsess over packing. I kind of liked that.
By the time we reached west Texas, there was a dramatic sky to enjoy. I'd had over 10 hours of just thinking. Don seemed content driving.
This has been a frustrating 24 hours. Omicron has invaded our holiday plans. But all this quiet time has reminded me that no one in our family has is sick. No one has died. There is no tragedy involved. We will actually all be together in a few days. I have a feeling tonight I will sleep well and I'll wake, ready to take on the celebration! Cheers to the peaceful big skies of Texas. So good for pondering.
December 2020 and Now
Last year we did our cozy Christmas at home for 2. There was a pandemic.
We understood and we planned for Christmas 2021.
These are 5 of our stockings, in the house now. Baby Charlie has a brand new stocking. Scott and Chali are... were bringing theirs. We've been planning this Texas Christmas for a long time.
It's December 22. I've been up for an hour. Heidi, Jamie and the baby were supposed to fly in, this evening. But all has changed.
We spent all of yesterday going back and forth on the phone with all the kids. Weighing the risks of traveling with a 10 month old with Omicron. We spoke with doctor relatives and I spoke with my most trusted nurse practitioner friend, who used to work with Dr. Fauci. Decisions are hard.
By 6 pm, after a day of phone calls and texts and few tears, the decision was made. The kids were going to cancel flights and not take the risk.
I left the house to get the mail and I could barely stand walking back to the house and seeing the lights, that the kids won't see.
I've been ridiculously manic for months, knowing our grand baby would be in our home. I found the old Christmas train in the attic and put it on the porch.
Charlie's really too young for the old Advent calendar, but I pulled it out of the box anyway.
And maybe she would have been creeped out by Rudolph in his little chair, but he was waiting for her.
I wanted to sit Charlie in the small green chair, that used to be at my grandmother's. Heidi posed with her great-grandmother's bears, when she was a baby.
All day yesterday, I vacuumed and prepped, in case we got some huge reassurance that all was good to travel.
I put fresh soaps and toothpaste in bathrooms and I set up the wrapping station for all the gifts the kids have shipped here. I smiled/cringed when I spotted things, like the silly ceramic tree that Scott loves and the basket of homemade ornaments that the kids made long ago. These are things i rarely drag out. And I pouted to look at the old "youth bed" that Charlie is too young for. But her "pack and play" for sleeping, will be going in that room.
Plans to Drive
By 9 pm, the decision was made, for Don and me to hop in the car and drive to Portland, tomorrow. We might make it by Christmas. Scott and Chali will drive up from Sacramento. Is this crazy?
Upstairs I gathered all their boxes. My own closet holds 7 shopping bags of wrapped gifts. Will this even fit in the car?
Sitting in the Dark
As I sit here in the dark, I feel embarrassed by all my manic prep, for this Christmas. All these doodads and silliness that I put out. It somehow makes me feel better to just snap photos and take the images along in my head.
I care less about the decorations, than I do about the stuff that was going to happen around those decorations. Tiki night was a plan. Reading Christmas books... drinking coffees and drinks from fun glasses and meals on Christmas plates that don't match.
And what about all that food that's stuffed into the fridge? We had planned so many fun cooking activities. Gingerbread houses, cookies... filet mignon. And the aprons? I bought those ugly Christmas aprons on Ebay!
And what about the old wagon that I got out of the garage and cleaned up, so we could take Charlie on wagon walks to see the neighborhood lights. And ping pong! I had new lights to put up for our festive night-time-drive-way-ping-pong time!
We can't take the piano, but I guess we could take some bells and hats.
We have no clue how long we'll stay in Portland, but I'm sure I won't be up for carols by the time we get back.
On the bookshelves near the piano, I'm sad to see these photos of our joined families. Chali's family! We were all together on Christmas in Thailand 4 years ago. Scott and Chali had their Thai wedding.
The photo with Jamie's family makes me sad. They were coming to our home after Christmas, to celebrate. Jamie's sister and Dad haven't even seen Charlie yet. This pandemic is making me so angry.
It's time to get moving. I haven't started packing clothes. Weather will be cold. Am I ready for this? As I've been sitting here, I've heard a couple clunks near the Christmas tree.
The drooping-dry tree branches are letting ornaments fall. I've just piled up some breakables. We'll let the rest tumble down while we're gone.
I feel better. I needed to pout and rant and now I'm ready to shower and pack.
We are a flexible family. This is our gang (with Chali's mom) on Christmas 2017. We made Christmas a whole different celebration that year. This year we'll have Charlie. It will be different in the most wonderful way. We might celebrate a day late, but we'll all be together. Onward!
Don finally got an appointment and headed off this morning to see a doc who specializes in back pain. He can't get in to see his orthopedic doc until March! Back to Sugar Land Methodist once again!
Yesterday, I had my annual check up, with my doc at Methodist. We've seen this place through a lot of seasons! My exam was quick and good, with simple advice. "Just do what you've been doing." Then I was told I needed to go to Lab Corps for my bloodwork. Their office lab was closed, because their main worker and assistant have Covid. What!? That freaked me out, but not as much as the long line at LabCorps. I drove over and saw the line heading down the hall. They were "short staffed". Forget it! Bloodwork can wait. I'm not putting myself at risk.
I swore I wouldn't watch the news. But I need to be educated about risk. I turned it on as I wrapped the last gifts.
Luckily the United Airlines CEO, said that they are seeing no rise in cases due to air travel. Hmm? Not sure how they really know that. I just hope the airports are being super strict about masks, with all the cranky travelers. I hate for our kids to be feeling all this air travel stress, in the next few days.
The stores are out of Antigen home rapid tests. I'm glad we got some on Sunday. We've got a few more ordered. Now I need to read up on the best strategy for using them.
And then there's the tree to complain about. Even though the holder is full of water, the needles continue to rain down.
I swept this morning. Now it's raining ornaments as well!
But, I'm going to be amused by this crazy "fresh" tree. The tree is so far down on my worry list! A bare tree, surrounded in a sea of needles and ornaments, could be a festive (and fitting) look for this year!
No Rudi Lechner's
The "kids" are coming in less than a week. We had plans for Christmas Eve at our favorite German restaurant. It's a tradition. Schnitzel and beer and polka dancing!
But a week ago, I talked to Heidi and it became clear that this wasn't a good idea. Baby Charlotte is not vaccinated. The world is getting crazy again. We cancelled dinner reservations and it made me so sad. When again will we all be together at Christmas, in Texas? I love our crazy tradition.
I cringed when I saw the news yesterday. Texas is bright red on this chart. Omicron is no longer in far away countries. It's no longer considered less severe than delta.
Broadway shows are closing. The Rockettes are closing their shows. NHL and NFL games have been postponed.
Searching for Rapid Tests
This morning Don and I headed to Target early, while most people were at church. As we hunted through the store with our masks, we heard the recorded voice, reminding people who weren't vaccinated, to wear masks. We got the last 2 boxes of tests on the shelf.
Then we headed to a CVS, where the sign asked ALL to wear masks. The woman at the pharmacy handed me a box with 2 tests. I asked for another box and she handed it over reluctantly. Now we have to figure out how to best make use of testing.
After lunch I sent an email to the kids with some Christmas planning ideas. We'll be back to celebrating in a safe bubble. No dining out. No museums. Just enjoying each other. Which is fine. But, then we talked with the kids on the phone.
We got down to the awful question. Should we really be doing this? As Omicron invades the country, do we allow our kids to fly across country to celebrate with us. Oh my heart is feeling heavy. I've been focusing on house and presents and fun. I've been avoiding news.
It was hard to hear the kids worrying over this decision. So much has changed in 2 weeks, or even one week. I'm looking at this ridiculously decorated house and cringing at the thought of canceling.
But we are doing a "wait and see" for now.
We're used to back and forth December temperatures, in Houston. But this is the warmest I remember. 80's almost every day.
I ran before the sun came up yesterday. It was so warm I had to cool off with my feet in the pool, afterwards. I drank water out of a Santa mug and stared at the pool. Fingers crossed that our pool guy will be able to get the part, for the broken hot tub. The kids are excited to make use, when they visit. But it will probably be too hot for the hot tub!
Shopping in Shorts
Don and I finally got out to look for a tree. Houston Garden Center had a lot, but they weren't lovely or cheap or tall. And I was wearing shorts! That seems so wrong.
I also wore gloves, because I'm the one doing all the lifting and moving junk these days.
The tree is only 6 feet. It holds about a quarter of the ornaments that we own. But I was pretty proud of myself for carrying the tree in and getting lights on, myself. Don's back did allow him a a minute with the chain saw, to cut off the bottom!
I am so happy to have this tree up. The needles are already falling like a gentle rain. (Who knows when this poor tree was actually cut down.) But I'm so happy to have the lights filling the room. And yes, it might be 80 degrees on Christmas. But the kids will be here. Baby Charlie will have her first trip... to see her grandparents and Aunt and Uncle!
My dad was 91 when this stupid pandemic started. He's 93 now and he's been isolated so much this time. I'm glad he's not living alone, but it sometimes seems like he is. His assisted living center in Missouri was under lockdown over Thanksgiving. It's a week to Christmas and there are new cases. Residents are confined to their rooms again. The new Omicron variant?
Over the years, Dad and I have spent little time chatting on the phone. But since the pandemic, we've talked almost every day. It's a good change that's come about. We've also squeezed in a couple complicated visits, during the pandemic. Back in November 2020, Don and I traveled cautiously to Springfield and they almost wouldn't let me take Dad from the building.
In June of 2021, Don and I made the trip again. We and Dad were vaccinated and feeling less stress. But the Delta variant had just hit Missouri and there were new concerns with outbreaks at the center. I had to talk my way in, showing vaccine cards, to a director who pretty much admitted she wasn't vaccinated. "Well, not everyone wants to get vaccinated." She said. "It sounds like you're not." She didn't answer, but she let me take Dad.
Shut In at Christmas
Now it's Christmas time 2021 and even boosters don't make us feel completely safe anymore. Residents at the center are back to having meals in their rooms. My sister and I are trying to find ways to make things more festive for Dad. I sent a small, light-up tree and cookies. How did we survive before speedy Amazon?
Jenni sent Dad some treats and 2 boxes of Christmas cards, along with stamps and addresses. We actually got a card from Dad this year! It was signed "Dick". That sort of made me laugh.
Piano for Dad
A couple days ago, I was playing piano and I thought, Why Not? I called Dad and told him I was putting the phone on speaker. I played a Christmas carol and Dad chuckled into the phone, "I can hear it loud and clear!"
I worried that maybe my choice of carols (Douglas Mountain) sounded sad and sentimental. But Dad seemed more amused than touched. He complimented in his own style. "Sounds like you've been practicing." I laughed and suddenly felt odd "performing" for Dad. Instead, I played Name That Tune. I clunked out a couple lines from carols and he named the ones he recognized.
Today we talked about Christmases from the past and all the coordination, with holiday travel. When I was small, we usually headed from Iowa to Missouri, to celebrate with relatives. I'm glad I was a kid and not in charge of packing up 4 kids, the dog and all the presents! Usually there was snow involved.
Then I dragged out my first diary and I read a bit about Christmas of 1968. I was 11 that year. I remember being giddy and excited about having Christmas in Springfield, before traveling abroad. But as I read to my dad, I suddenly had a new respect for my parents, I can't imagine how they planned for our Christmas travels, that year!
There was extra packing for that trip to Springfield, in 1968. But before our family of 6 loaded into the Ford Galaxy convertible, there was lots to do. The house needed to be cleaned and prepped for renters. We had to find homes for the dog and cats, for 6 months. Besides packing Christmas gifts, we had to pack all the clothes and belongings, that our family would need for our half year stay, in Italy. (Dad would be teaching abroad, with Florida State)
Of course Mom handled most everything. She rounded up school books, so she could teach us from home. She ordered a case of "Wash & Dry" packets, for our travel cleanliness. She packed endless art and writing supplies and piles of airmail stationary. She made sure we had travel transformers, (for those crazy European sockets) and Italian dictionaries and maps... She even collected Kennedy Half Dollars, thinking they would be nice gifts for the Italians we met.
It took longer than usual to drive from Tallahassee to (Grandma) Daw's, since had car trouble issues. Once in Springfield, we spent a few days seeing all our relatives and going to my uncles funeral. My dad and I had both forgotten that Uncle Morris died before Christmas.
We celebrated Christmas a day early and got on the road for New York, in the middle of an ice storm. At Kennedy Airport, my sister cut her finger, playing with the new Swiss Army Knife and she barely made it back from an emergency room visit, in time to board Alitalia.
My parents had no idea where we would be living for 6 months. There was no internet for assistance. But Mom had been trying to learn Italian and she knew we'd figure it out, when we got there. On top of it all, Mom was terrified of flying. But lucky for her, smoking was allowed on planes back then. She smoked a lot.
So that was a pretty fun and odd trip down memory lane, with Dad. We shared some songs and we shared some memories. Gee, think of all the entertainment I could come up with, if Dad would move up from his landline to a smartphone!
I've been taking Letrozol for 5 years. It's been cutting down my chances of cancer recurrence.
Yesterday, I took my last pill. Some breast cancer patients take it for 10 years, but my doc said 5 is good for me. This stupid pill has aged me faster. It's caused joint pain and it's aged my skin, among other things. Yesterday I swallowed that last pill and said Good riddance! I took no pill this morning and I felt like I should do a dance!
5 years ago today, I rang the bell after my last radiation treatment. That was a good memory.
I don't like having cancer in my medical history. But I'm okay with having cancer in my memories. This guy made breast cancer and those chemo & radiation treatments, a whole lot more tolerable. We made some good memories.
Yesterday marked 10 weeks, since Don's bypass. I said he should ring the old school bell. He laughed and said no. He's pretty much healed from surgery, but he hasn't been able to get an appointment with an orthopedic about his back. Okay, we'll wait.
But tonight we got the 6 foot tree up. Don guided me and I managed most on my own. Glad we didn't get a larger one.
Then I found a bell ornament. "Okay, I'm ringing this for both of us!"
Today we headed for our cabin for just one night. It's been 3 months since we've been able to come.
It felt so cozy inside. I've missed the cabin, where we entertain ourselves without TV. I wish we could stay longer.
The weather is gorgeous and we ate on the front porch.
Not the best photo of Don, with his mouth open. But he's wearing a mighty fine shirt and it's a good reminder, that 2 months ago he couldn't pull tee shirts on over his head.
We went walking and it was the first time he's dealt with real hills. I was having a hard time keeping up! I'm liking December so much more than October and November.
We're only here a night, to get the heat turned on. Too much to do back home. But oh it feels good to be back here, with no distractions. Lots of time to relax and think about how far Don's come in 10 weeks!
Don continues to walk twice a day.
When he walks in the morning, I stay home and have the house to myself.
Usually I go straight to the piano, when Don leaves. I stayed away from playing, for the first 2 months of Don's recovery. Of course music can be healing... I remember hearing my mom playing the piano, when I was sick in bed as a kid. It was soothing. I'm pretty darn sure that my piano playing would have an opposite effect on Don, 8 weeks ago.
I'm not too worried about annoying Don now, but I'd still rather play in an empty house, where no one hear's my mistakes.
Around 4:30, Don goes on his second walk. I have to push myself, but I always jump up to go along.
I still have tons of Christmas prep to do. I have to force myself, but I almost always drop what I'm doing.
Then we get outside and we walk along and look at the Christmas decorations and talk about our plans for when the kids come home in a couple weeks. I always feel more energized after we walk.
Walking in the Wind
It's been chilly and windy lately. Its' harder to make myself go along, when the weather isn't perfect. But it makes us walk faster. Man! I can't believe how fast Don walks now.
Today we noticed the wreath on the bridge had blown sideways. I couldn't reach that high, but Don stretched his arms up and fixed the wreath. Two months ago he wasn't allowed to raise his arms above his head.
Cheers to watching Don fix something that I can't do without a ladder!
Hard to Put Down
My sister sent this book to me recently and I finished it today. The book is more than a Mother-Daughter Story. It's about dealing with estrangement and Alzheimer's, abuse and loss. This is not exactly a holiday read!
But I couldn't put it down. It brought back so many memories, of dealing with Mom and her Alzheimer's.
I let the tears come as I finished the last pages. I haven't felt those complicated emotions in a while. Then I felt jolted, that I hadn't stopped to realize the timing of this read.
What's the date today? My stubborn brain jammed. What day did Mom die?
It was on December 2nd, 9 years ago, that I got the call. I was told that my mother had collapsed and they were doing CPR. They asked if they should continue. It was the worst phone call of my life... My mom signed papers long ago, so I would never have to answer that question.
Jenni, Mom & Me
I called Jenni and I told her I'd finished the book. We talked about Mom. We talked about the years before we moved her to Texas. How horribly difficult it was to convince Mom that she needed help.
We talked about those 7 years in Texas. Jenni constantly flew back and forth to help, with more moves and decisions. Mom's decline was wrenching, but the 3 of us evolved together and I actually cherish so many of those memories.
I miss Mom so much, especially at Christmas. But, I feel so lucky that I have a sister. Jenni supported me (and Mom) throughout those years. Our relationship has only grown stronger.
I've sent Christmas cards every year, since we were married, 42 years ago. But I'm giving myself a break this year and it feels wonderful. I can't believe how freeing this feels. Well... maybe I'll end up sending New Year's cards. ?
So I made that decision. But now, I'm thinking about certain people. I'm remembering that it's especially difficult during the holidays, when you've recently lost a parent or a spouse or a sibling. I'm thinking about friends and family members, dealing with illness, surgeries... and a special family, dealing with a most tragic loss this year. Okay, I am sending a very few cards this year.
This is me last year. It was just one of my trips to the post office. In 2020, I was so eager to wrap gifts and mail them personally. I didn't mind.
In 2020, Don and I had an isolated, pandemic Christmas. So did our kids and all my sibs and relatives, in far away states. I was happy to work extra hard, to make packages special.
This year I'm not fretting over perfect packages. I was able to fit all my packages into one bag. I simplified this year with online shopping and shipping.
Today, I entered the PO and felt relaxed. I wasn't even frustrated, that the 2 self-serve machines were broken. (Why are they always broken?) Waiting in line wasn't stressful. The usually grumpy woman behind the counter, even ended up laughing with me... when we both admitted we couldn't understand each other at all, though our masks.
I walked out feeling satisfied instead of giddy and gleeful, like most years. But I'm learning to cut a few corners here and there. I'm getting smarter in my old age.
After our Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans, I was ready to plunge in and get caught up! I'm excited that we have some new counters and floors and walls, upstairs and down. But there are 100 tiny jobs left. And we aren't able to rush the way I want to. We don't rush in this house.
Don's back will only allow him to do so much. He did manage to screw on the new switch plates in the kitchen! Yay! But he can only used the drill for a couple minutes at a time. We're working slowly to get towel rods installed. I've been scrubbing and caulking the old tile. That's fun.
Don instructed me on how to remove the old toilet seats. Now I understand how it feels to have an aching back.
I'm supposed to be shopping for Christmas presents, but I've been busy getting new shower curtains and rods and towels... hardware and paint.
Paint and Pictures
The new kitchen counters and backsplash look great, but the cabinets and walls need new paint. No time for that, but I have a can of touch up paint. There seems to be no end. Cabinets lead to windowsills. Windowsills lead to baseboards...
And then, there's all that framed art! I won't even reveal how long we've had these framed pieces sitting around the house, waiting for decisions. Now I'm decided and ready. I wish I could do this easily myself, but this is a teamwork thing. We have to spread these back-stressing jobs out over days.
So Don is up for doing a few pictures at a time. But the heavy framed piece over our bed, is too tricky for his back.
Yay! I got to do the drilling for a change. I actually love tools.
Don guided me in measuring and then he gave me some drilling tips. Getting that heavy thing up there was not easy. But it's up!
I've learned how to move a lot of furniture on my own. Pivoting... walking big pieces. I got Heidi's old antique bed taken apart and sold! Of course the couple who bought it, needed my help getting the mattress and box springs downstairs. The wife had a bad back.
Later, I sat on the floor where the bed had been and had Don read me the instructions, for the new bed frame. Actually that was the easiest job of all. New bed arriving soon!
We've made some discoveries, while shuffling furniture. I wouldn't let Don try to help move this old trunk. I had to empty it, to move it myself. I found a very odd black cap and cape made by Don's great aunt. Was it for mourning? I found a long hat pin. Don said his grandmother kept the decorative "weapon" in her hat, for protection on city bus rides!
We found Golden Anniversary photos, of Don's Polish grandparents! How is it possible, that we had no clue before of what was in this trunk? We have had a little fun with some of this work!
This has been a crazy first week of December and now my muscles are aching. I had a hot bath this morning and just soaked. No wine for me. Just water and light reading. What a treat.
But the bigger treat for me, is that Don is slowly able to pitch in, more and more. His "broken" back is obviously an issue, but he's involved and eager about getting things accomplished. Even if he's having to guide me to do some of the tasks that he enjoys doing.
Best of all, Don's been laughing with me as we go. Don's BACK issues aren't a bit funny, but Don's humor is BACK!
There was a time when my December calendar was packed with festive activities. Now all I see in the first 2 weeks are doctor's appointments.
No parties or holiday volunteer gigs this year. Just a bunch of random doctor's appointments, for Don and me. Before heading off for my exam on December 1st, I quickly searched for last year's Christmas themed face mask. Last December I never really thought we'd be wearing masks in December 2021.
The parking lots were jammed and I parked about a mile away. I sat in my car and checked in, with a text. When I got my call to come in for the appointment, I tried to cut though a building, but Covid restrictions made me walk around.
By the time I reached the office I was out of breath. Then the nurse was full of chatty questions while she took my blood pressure. I cringed and asked what it was, then felt giddy to know it was normal. How is that possible?
Don has more appointments than me in the first weeks of December. With good reason. His back continues to plague him, but at least he's been walking daily.
He had an MRI on Monday and when we were out walking on Wednesday, he got a call with results. Now he's trying to get an appointment to see an orthopedic with the news of a fracture. But, Dr. W is booked until March. That's crazy! That's an appointment he would have welcomed, this week.
This has been so challenging. After 4 weeks of healing from heart surgery, Don's had 4 weeks of crippling back issues. Why?
Don's pretty sure it all started with this bob sled activity, 20+ years ago! The kids and I thought the zigs and zags were exhilarating. Don claims his back has never been the same since.
Maybe he's right. Maybe it started 20 years ago. And 2 months ago, who knows what his body went through during 4 hours of surgery? After his bypass, he spent a month sleeping in odd positions, mostly sitting up. I guess this is all related. Please, let us not have to go from heart surgery to back surgery!
But for the first time in 2 months, Don did some cooking! He had to stop and stretch out his back now and then, but he cooked and it was good!
If Don can get an appointment with an orthopedic or a therapist, I'll be happy to see that on the calendar. But in the mean time, I'm looking ahead to December 22! That's when the kids arrive! I'm excited about that part of the month!
Holidays in Nola
Last night was our last dinner with the fam, in New Orleans. I'm so glad we came, despite a few obstacles.
As we headed back to our hotel, I insisted we pull over so I could take a photo of this house. Seeing these decorations, (including gators) I was reminded that Don and I have had a lot of fun holidays in this festive town.
2019 & 2020
It's odd to look back at the last 2 times we were in Nola. Don and I posed with the lit trees at the Roosevelt Hotel, on Christmas Day 2019.
Two months later, we celebrated Mardi Gras 2020. By the time we got back to Texas, New Orleans was suddenly in the news. We were shocked to realize that Covid 19 had hit the city about the time of our visit. Luckily we caught only beads.
Last spring after getting vaccines, we started planning a Thanksgiving visit with my siblings. It seemed a good bet that the city would feel safe in 9 months. We didn't know that there would be a new Delta variant. We didn't know that so many people would refuse vaccines and slow down progress. We didn't know that Don would have open heart surgery either.
But we kept our plans, when we learned that New Orleans started taking the pandemic seriously. Who would have guessed a city with so few rules, would crack down on safety.
Antoine's & Emeril's
So we've had a few wonderful days. I still can't believe we were able to enjoy a little epic dining, in some of Nola's most famous restaurants.
In Antoine's and Emeril's they checked our proof of vaccination cards, before we were seated.
I'm sure there are people who are enraged by Nola's strict decisions. But, it made all the difference to us, in how comfortable we felt about dining out.
Don and I didn't bother with anything touristy this time. We went on lots of walks and just focused on family. His bypass healing has gone well and his energy is much better. But that frustrating back wasn't up for much activity.
Don said no to the streetcar, but my sister and I put on our masks and caught a ride, just outside of our hotel. We were the only ones on board for a while.
Then it got crowded and I was glad they were strict about masks. I was surprised when the driver turned away a family, when they didn't have face coverings.
As we get ready to head back to Texas, I feel so grateful that Don was able to give this trip a try. After 2 months of being mostly homebound, it felt kind of like old times.
Don was able to join 2 dinner outings, with the help of a small pillow behind his back. I'm sure he was more uncomfortable than I will ever know, but he hung in there and seemed in good spirits throughout both.
Now we head back home. I feel like this trip shook things up and our routines will be different. It will be interesting to see how things progress at home. Fingers crossed that Don's MRI on Monday, gives us some answers.
Ready for more holidays!
I told my brother a couple days ago, that we should keep it simple and order pizza on Tuesday. I knew I couldn't enjoy Chris' company if he was busy in the kitchen, making Pasta Carbonara for 9. Cooking is work.
But he insisted and it was fabulous. He took on the cooking, which he loves. The rest of us relaxed and enjoyed catching up. Despite all his work, Chris did join us for a bit, before we sat to dinner!
Drinks and Dogs
While Chris prepped in the kitchen, Don and I enjoyed the fun distraction of being with family. I still can't believe that after 7 weeks of post surgery hunkering down, we're suddenly enjoying family and pets and food and drink, in a place besides our house.
I can't get enough of little Sylvie. Don looks more relaxed in this photo, than I've seen him in weeks. That Sazerac might have helped.
Kitchen Chaos on Thanksgiving
Today we gathered early at my brother and sister in law's house. There was a lot going on in the kitchen. Chef Chris again, did almost all the cooking. No one can make oyster dressing like Chris.
But Jenni, Kate and I finished up the foods we'd prepped in the hotel. We also managed to clean up dishes and pans without bumping into Chris. The photo above, doesn't quite reveal the craziness in the kitchen. We had a lot less space for cooking than we had in past gatherings. But the fun in today's kitchen, brought back 6 decades of kitchen memories.
In past years, we've had lots more people and lots more crazy, cooking chaos. I lied. I love cooking chaos.
Oh how I miss having our kids in the kitchen, this year. Our families are in 7 states now. It made me sad knowing the kids were in their own homes in OR and CA, cooking for themselves.
But at 2:00, Don and I sat on the porch and FaceTimed the young folk. There was a lot of playful whining. "Oh no fair! We want to be in New Orleans!"
But it was nice to see how excited they were about preparing their own feasts. We heard fun details. It's a lot easier having them so far away, when I know we'll see them all in December.
Dinner was ready at 6 and that's a record for Meyer gatherings. We had the 4 sibs and spouses, my nephew and 3 bulldogs. Food was on the table. Someone put a cushioned chair at the table for Don. We even opened a 1958 bottle of Carruades!
It was really no surprise that it smelled like moldy vinegar. Don's dad bought it long ago for $2.58. We did lots of laughing and toasting, and absolutely no sipping.
I'm so thankful that our gang could gather, despite worries over pandemic and bypass recovery issues. My family even humored me by going along with a crazy tradition. We belted out the Johnny Appleseed song, with some perfect and some awful harmonizing!
I don't think the food has ever tasted better. This Thanksgiving was a special one!
Last night we missed Don, at Antoine's. We also missed my sister in law, who wasn't feeling well.
And of course we're missing our kids. They've enjoyed a few Nola Thanksgiving gatherings, in past years. We toasted to all the family that we're missing.
Keeping it Simple
This morning we woke to beautiful weather. It was the perfect day to visit the French Quarter for beignets and people watching.
But this year, we've decided to keep it low key and stay put in Garden District. For only a moment it felt sad to miss out. And then it felt pretty wonderful to not be figuring out the logistics of getting down there and facing crowds.
So we're spending more time hanging around the hotel than usual. We're acting sort of like old people for a change. We lingered over coffee in the room, then went for a walk. But it's a nice change, not to rushing off.
The scenery on St. Charles Street, never gets old.
So today it has been exactly 7 weeks since surgery. Don's been doing his walking therapy since he was in the hospital. Even with crazy back issues, he's kept walking.
So today, we were back at it and it felt refreshing to walk some place different. We saw some gorgeous homes and some curious people... one on a bike draped with Spanish moss. We saw a TV show being filmed and we saw numerous streetcars, filled with masked riders.
It takes so little to please us! Just happy to be out and about. And tonight we'll eat at my brother and sister in law's! So happy!
On the Road
I can't believe we actually took off for New Orleans today. So many unknowns. How will Don hold up? Will we deal with holiday traffic? Is New Orleans a good place to go during the pandemic?
We headed off at 9. The only bad traffic we observed, was going the opposite way. Luckily Don's back seemed okay in the car. Even for 6 hours.
A week ago we weren't sure if we should go. Yesterday I scrambled to pack.
Packing for trips usually feels routine to us. Even when we packed during pre-vaccine-pandemic times. But everything felt different. Don couldn't do his usual lugging of bags. There were new things to add to the packing list... meds and heating pad... small pillow his back.
I packed food and dishes for our Thanksgiving contribution. And then we needed dress clothes, in hopes that Don might be up for dining out. Dressing up? I'm out of practice. I stared into my closet forever. And then we needed a couple pandemic items. Face masks and vaccine cards. Gotta love New Orleans! Restaurants require proof of vaccine!
On the Road
As the car left the driveway, I could feel a huge weight lift. For 7 weeks, I've hoped we could make this trip and be with my sibs and spouses for Thanksgiving.
As we hit I-10, I high-fived Don. "I can't believe we're really doing this!" I knew I was in danger of jinxing things, but I was thrilled. Don so deserves a positive change, after 7 weeks of up and down recovery!
As we hit Louisiana, we saw numerous glowing signs. I felt giddy. Yep, we're wearing our seatbelts and we've had our boosters. Ready to gather with family this year!
It was a nice surprise, (especially in Nola) to see the staff and almost all guests at the hotel, wearing masks. The last thing we need is a breakthrough case, after all this.
As we headed up in the elevator, Don got a call from the doctor's office with results from his X-ray. Compressed discs? They scheduled him for an MRI. Ugh. I thought we were escaping the medical focus.
But in minutes we were settled into our suite and Don was happy with his heating pad. I started unpacking all the junk we lugged. I love car travel because you get to pack way more than you need... like Thanksgiving decor for your hotel table.
Then the texts started coming in from my sibs, with logistics for getting to the French Quarter for dinner. Don didn't want to push his luck.
I'm so used to "hunkering down" with Don, that I was surprised when he encouraged me to go without him. He said he'd order DoorDash and rest up for tomorrow.
Off I Go
It seems sinful to take off on a dining adventure, without this guy. But Don looks so content, settling into a comfy chair with books, phone and remote control. He's ready to enjoy quiet time in a refreshing, new environment. I'm off to dinner with my sibs and spouses. This seems impossible! Impossibly nice.
Don's back is feeling a little better! After cutting back on his walking in the past couple weeks, he was finally able to take two decent walks today. I'm so happy to go with him.
Our morning walk was pleasant, except for all those ugly, discarded masks near the middle school. I counted 8. I still remember the first time I spotted a trashed mask, in the beginning of the pandemic, when masks were hard to come by. I never thought we'd be seeing mask-litter, 18 months later. A sad sign of the times.
When we crossed to the other side of the street, Don pointed out a fancy rock, he'd spotted on his last walk. It was tied with a ribbon, sitting on a low wall.
I spotted another, tucked in with some more rocks. What's the story? I remember pandemic surprises in 2020, when we started walking during lockdown. There were lots of surprises then. There were trees with ribbons hanging from branches. Other trees had stuffed animals, perched on limbs. Those little surprises made people smile and so did these rocks.
On our way back home, we spotted another surprise near the middle school. In the concrete sidewalk, we could barely make out the initials "SZ".
That gave us another thing to smile about. Those are our sons initials. Who knows who put those in the fresh cement, the year before Scott started middle school. Hmm?
Before we reached home, we stopped to admire this sweet bird. I had to stop and remind myself to appreciate the fact we were actually enjoying our walk.
Six weeks ago, Don couldn't really talk while he walked. He had to focus and breath and concentrate. He still has to stop and stretch his back along the way, but he's showing improvement! So happy for these little pleasures. So happy that these meds are showing some promise. Looks like we might need to get busy packing.
It's Friday and I'm hoping not to be trapped at home much longer. On Monday, Don and I are supposed to head for New Orleans. We've been planning for nearly a year, to spend Thanksgiving with all my sibs and spouses. We'll see.
For a while, it was a maybe for all of us, due to covid worries. Now it's only a maybe for us. Don's trying some new muscle relaxers and they aren't helping his back spasms. He can barely sit for 10 minutes at our own dinner table.
A Year Ago
If we end up not going, we'll do what we did last year. We'll Zoom with kids and family. Then by ourselves, we'll put the camera timer on and toast to all that we're thankful for.
We've had so much practice, getting through stuff together. We're a good team. But right now I'm craving family. I'm itchy to get out of this house. We're both ready to team up with others!
Trapped for 2 Weeks
Don's bypass recovery has kept us sort of trapped at home for over 6 weeks. For the past 2 weeks, we've been trapped in a different way. (I can't complain since it's remodeling stuff.) But after nearly 2 pandemic years, it's odd to be on duty in my home, while workmen come and go. Don's been keeping a low profile, so I'm the one dealing with the counter crew, the tile guys, painters and plumber. Grateful to get this work done, but the timing's bad.
Today they all finished up. The not so friendly tile guy finished and left me a lot of clean up. The painters were wonderful. They were quiet and hardworking and so appreciative when I offered snacks.
So now, we're waiting to see if Don's meds start to kick in and give him relief. No packing for Nola, yet. Instead, it's time to tackle some chores.
It's nice to have the house to ourselves, but the house is strewn with junk upstairs and down. Everything needs to be moved back to appropriate rooms, but there seems to be a powdery film over everything.
All the cleaning ahead makes me want to go back to the simple days... of being stuck at home for 2 weeks. Being trapped actually led to some good things. I got lots of online Christmas shopping done.
Maybe that's not a good thing. Ebay has some really hideous Christmas aprons. Aprons are much more useful, than tacky Christmas sweaters. I can't wait for the kids to come in December. We can all pick aprons and cook.
I'm already looking back on all I got done while workers were here. While they sawed and painted, I cleaned and sorted and pitched. When I unearthed the old sewing machine, I suddenly got crafty and made some fine gifts.
Who doesn't want a grocery bag holder for Christmas? Or a tacky apron? Maybe all this home time has gone to my head. I need to get out.
We're keeping fingers crossed that we can get in the car on Monday and join in the festivities with family.
It will be a treat to have my sibs and spouses all together for the first time since the pandemic. We gathered on Zoom last year. This year, I'm hoping we can all share some pie, in person.
I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast cancer and then I was done.
On March 13, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. Only this time, it was affecting more than me. I ranted for a year, until I got my vaccine in March 2021.
Coronary Artery Disease was the reason I restarted this blog on September 26, 2021. This time it was Don who was dealing with a worry that started with the letter "C".
Coronavirus and Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease! All are evil, but none can totally get me down... if I vent! I usually end up feeling a little more positive at the end of each post!