Scott's Last Morning
Today was Don's 4th day home and Scott's last day in Texas. There's not much Don is up for yet, but Scott suggested we watch the live coverage of the Blue Origin launch.
The rocket launch was a fun focus this morning. There was a bit of hoopla in West Texas, when William Shatner (at 90) became the oldest person to reach the edge of space.
Reminders of Past
It was refreshing to watch some news, that wasn't depressing or worrisome. These upbeat TV moments were so welcome during covid and cancer quarantines, last year and 5 years ago.
It was curious watching history being made out near Van Horn, TX! When the capsule returned to earth, the crew stepped out and the 3 younger passengers seemed jubilant. But William Shatner was joyful yet emotional, while he explained his experience. Don and I high-fived each other and I could see Don was moved.
I was surprised that I felt the power of the moment too. I'm sure SNL will spoof the Jeff Bezos event, this Saturday. And maybe Shatner was just using his acting skills to share the moment. But our family room seemed to appreciate and feel the drama of the moment. Are these post-surgery emotions? Seems the world is a little different now.
We made sure Don got in a walk, before I needed to drive Scott to the airport at noon. Scott did DJ-Duty and made Alexa play "Walk on the Wild Side" and Patsy Cline's, "Walkin' After Midnight".
It was perfect! The house felt playful and energized, for 7 minutes, before Don and Scott hugged good-bye. I think all 3 of us had moist eyes or throat lumps, as least. Why does everything feel so much more dramatic? I made everyone pose for my camera timer.
It was nice to have the long drive with Scott. We talked the whole way about how the week had gone. Scott said he was proud of his dad and that he was proud of me too.
At the airport we hugged twice and I felt like I wanted to boohoo... the exact feeling I had when we left him at college in 2008. Back then and now, I was so proud of him and so grateful. Sad to see him go, but glad for him to have his freedom... He was headed back to California, this time.
Don was doing just fine when I got back. I headed upstairs and saw that Scott had made the bed, just like he'd done the day we drove him to UT. I had to grin at that. Both days, I'd assumed he might be too rushed or distracted for that gesture. He doesn't exactly make his bed daily. But this was clearly done to please Mom.
One Week Since Surgery
Today is the one-week milestone, since Don's bypass. That's worth celebrating, but we forgot about it. A week ago was also Don's birthday. That celebration also got lost in the shuffle. Last night Don was finally up for opening some gifts.
What a mug! But Don will have to wait a while to use it, since he's not up for coffee yet. And he got a couple nice tee shirts, but he's limited with his arms right now. Buttons are better.
Don got a lot of books for his birthday. When Scott leaves and the house is quieter, maybe we'll both read a lot.
But Don said he can't concentrate on reading yet. Luckily he's not in a lot of pain and he hasn't taken any pain meds since we got home. But I read that concentration can be an issue, soon after heart surgery.
Don and I used to work on jigsaw puzzles and listen to podcasts when I dealt with cancer. We did the same, during lockdown days of the pandemic.
Don got a great tiki puzzle for his birthday. Scott put on a podcast and we spread the pieces on the dining room table. I know how much Don loves puzzles, so it made me sad that his back was cramping from trying to reach. Not being able to move during sleep, has been causing some daytime issues. Hopefully this will change, soon!
We talked about watching a movie or some of our favorite series. But again, Don wasn't motivated, because it's hard to concentrate on the TV screen. HGTV or sports sounded okay, but no tricky plots or annoying humor.
So I dug in the closet and found a DVD with footage from 1990. We three sat in the family room with the sun glaring on the TV and grinned and laughed and sighed at Baby Scott and 3-7ear-old Heidi.
The best medicine ever! Celebrating a little nostalgia!
Scott at Work
One week ago Don had a double bypass and today is his first full day, recovering at home. I'm so glad Scott was able to come home for a week. He's done a million little things like putting together a shower stool... something we never thought we'd need in this house.
Besides helping with a few chores, Scott has been a valuable buddy for Don. I don't exactly love watching sports, but these 2 watched some football last night. It was just what Don needed. They didn't hoot or cheer or drink beer. They just watched a little and gabbed a little. It was nice to watch them.
Using Scott's Muscles
I've selfishly made use of Scott. On Saturday, Scott carried our old area rug to the street, with a "Free" sign on it. Yay, because it found a new home.
The next day, Scott and I carried this mattress set to the street for "bulky trash pick up day". There's a much bigger story with that, but it's not being shared here. I was just so grateful to have Scott here, to help me with the stuff I can't do myself. And we'll always have the mattress story to laugh and cringe over, in the future!
Don is supposed to walk at least 5 minutes, 4 times a day. That sounds silly simple... unless you've just had open heart surgery. Scott has helped make his dad's walk sessions a little less tedious, with his creative DJ work.
Luckily we have a large, circular route in our downstairs, so Don doesn't get dizzy. This morning when Don stood up to walk, Scott spoke out to our pumpkin-holding-friend-on-the-counter, "Alexa, play 'Walk Like a Man". Don grinned as he moved in and out of the rooms, while music filled the downstairs. Man, I can't believe how many songs refer to walking. We have a long list now.
I feel sad that Scott's visit home, has been so limited. He's come so many miles... his first trip home in years. I wish we could pick up BBQ and sit in the backyard and have tiki drinks and swim. But it's too hot for Don outside and he's not even drinking coffee yet. Forget Happy Hour.
But Scott is genuinely glad to be here and support. He seems able to find a balance. He's available and helpful to Don and me. He's done a little work on his laptop. And he's exercised every day.
And he's made use of the pool a couple times. That made me happy!
Scary Being in Charge
I was excited for Don to come home from the hospital, today. But I was also a little nervous about taking care of him, without a buzzer connected to a nearby nurse!
Scott and I prepped the house a bit. I gathered pillows and Scott moved some chairs. We pondered where our patient would be comfortable. I grabbed the antique school bell. We have no buzzers in this house, but when I was a kid we sometimes rang the old school bell when we were sick. Silly, but oh well.
Scott is Responsible (and Negative!)
Scott left the hospital and headed home, while I got Don dressed and ready to be discharged.
Scott texted me from home, with the good news of a negative test. Four days before, he'd taken a rapid test after his flight arrived. Negative. Whew. He took another today, since an infection from travel, could take some days to show. Negative! I so appreciate having a responsible and vaccinated son, since Don's immune system is extra compromised, from open heart surgery.
Yikes! I'm not sure what we would have done, if the second test had been positive. But after 6 days of talking to Don through masks, it was a relief to know all 3 of us would see each others' faces at home!
It was around 5, when I rushed to get the car and meet Don at the curb in the wheelchair. He held the heart pillow over his chest, to remind himself not to use his arms. I held the backdoor open, like a chauffeur and helped him get in cautiously. I wonder how many patients refuse to follow the backseat rule? I mean what are the chances of us having an accident? But those airbags would definitely ruin all that surgical work. I don't want to think about that. I'm happy to follow rules right now.
So,I will be the driver for 4 to 6 weeks? I don't mind, but Don might. Right away he asked quietly, why I was turning right. "I'm going to take Sweetwater..." I began, then laughed. "So, you actually are a real backseat driver now!" I'm not sure he saw the humor, but he did realize it was his first time in that backseat.
Ribbon Clipping Ceremony
In this photo, Don is unshaven and his shirt is wrinkled, but he looks pretty darn good. We were home just a few minutes before Scott clipped off those plastic bracelets.
I was thrilled to see that Don needed no fancy chair with pillows. He was fine on the couch. He was able to get up and down without putting his wired ribs at risk. But he was exhausted and not hungry. Scott ran out and got him a milkshake for his aching throat. (Still hurting from tubes)
A week ago, we worried over the scary surgery that loomed ahead. Then for days, we focused on the tasks in the hospital. I hardly allowed myself to think ahead to the 8 weeks of recovery. I'm worried now about being in charge of Don's care, even though he's doing so well. I'm worried mostly, about facing the first night. Will he be able to sleep in our bed? But for this very moment, I'm relieved he's home and feeling incredibly proud of this guy!
Today is Don's 5th day in the hospital. I feel so lucky that Scott was able to come and help out with his dad... and me. I just wish we could be together, while we cheer Don on in his room.
Here we are today, doing a proper changing of the guards in the courtyard... Methodist Hospital Style. Pandemic protocol allows each patient to have only one guest in the building at a time. Guests must be masked and tagged with a bracelet. Yesterday we weren't the best rule followers. I was supposed to check out and get my tag snipped off, before Scott checked in. Oops! Ignorance was bliss yesterday, when did our tag-teaming (and waiting) in a quiet lounge area, just outside of Don's room.
This morning when I saw Don at 8 am, he looked much better than when I left him last night. Dr. A. came by 9 and gave us the good word, that Don would be discharged later in the day. I looked over at the flowers and grinned. They didn't even get a chance to wilt!
I was excited to get Don home so soon, without beeping machines and without the interruption of nurses. I was scared to get him home, where we had no beeping machines and interrupting nurses.
By 7 pm, I was still in the hospital. Once again, I said goodbye to Don when visiting hours ended. He wasn't ready to come home. He was back on an IV, with heart regulating meds. It could be a couple more days. Frustrating, but we were relieved that he was in good hands.
I felt more relaxed leaving Don on his 5th night. After 50+ hours in that hospital, I was finally feeling less anxious. Don seemed more like his old self. He had enjoyed watching football when Scott visited. When I spent time with Don, I listened to him chat with the nurse about Thai food and what she was going to do on her day off. It felt more relaxed. It was frustrating that we 3 couldn't be in the room together, but in some ways that probably worked better for Don.
As I headed downstairs, I looked at the empty cafe at 7:15. Was I the last visitor of the day? It looked eerie, all empty. I couldn't wait to get back to the house.
I headed home, feeling glad that Scott would be waiting at home. I've been grateful for his support. It's been nice having him home after 3.5 years, even if it's under these worrisome circumstances.
Flowers & Cookies
When I walked in the door, I saw that someone must have dropped off some goodies for Don.
"No, those are for you Mom." Scott smiled.
Sigh... I'm not sure yet, who is feeling most supported by Scott's visit. Don or me?
Don & Heidi
Don has been a dad for exactly 35 years. Today is Heidi's 35th birthday. I know it makes him sad that he can't just hop a plane and celebrate with her. But that wouldn't be happening anyway. Unfortunately, we're used to long distance birthdays.
Yesterday, Don's voice was finally strong enough to talk on the phone. (That darn sore throat from the breathing tube) He called Heidi last night to wish her an early Happy Birthday. I heard Heidi say, "You sound great Dad! I'm proud of you." It wasn't his usual voice. I'm sure she could tell. But her positive voice was the perfect medicine for her dad
Don and Scott
We live across country from both our kids and spouses. That's sad for birthdays, but it's also sad in times when we need to support from each other. Those Covid days... or cancer... or coronary bypass surgery days. Heidi was able to come home for my surgery 5 years ago. Scott insisted he come this time, to help with his dad.
It was so much easier when these kids were small and living at home. Wait a minute. It wasn't so much easier. But I still miss those times.
Airport Pick up
Yesterday, I left Don at 5:30, to pick up Scott. Don was having some issues and I was torn about abandoning him. Chills and shaky... heart palpitations.. The nurse assured me, but it felt wrong to leave.
Usually I hate the hour drive to Bush. But the skies were calming and it felt good to know I would see Scott. His first time back in Texas in over 3 years! We hugged with masks and drove with masks. What the heck is the protocol with visiting a loved one in the hospital, when you've flown and there's a pandemic????
Actually the first stop, was to pick up Torchy's Tacos. Scott's comfort food. Then we picked up rapid Covid tests. No one has told us how to handle this visit safely. We've all been vaccinated, but there's no perfect way to be safe, when you've traveled on a plane.
In 15 minutes, we cheered. We knew the negative test was not 100%. And we knew it was too early to feel cleared from the plane travel. But Scott had another test to do in a couple days.
This morning, I panicked a little when Don texted that he was on an IV again. I rushed over before Scott was up, but Don was fine.
We got him out walking the hall again. We watched some TV and enjoyed the weather through the window. All was fine, so I dashed home to pick up Scott.
Suddenly Scott and I were able to take turns with Don-time. I also knew there might be issues with how the 1 visitor rule worked. I suggested we not ask too many questions, or we might find out we weren't allowed to be in the building at the same time. We worked it out with the purple chairs outside Don's hallway. Our changing of the guard chairs.
I wish I'd been able to see Don's face when Scott walked in. I know it was a relief to see his boy. I relaxed on the purple chairs until Scott came out. That was usually when Don needed something that Nurse Beth was better qualified for. Helping him get in and out of bed or into adjusting all his pillows. It's all trickier than it sounds. But how wonderful to have our boy home for a week, to add a lift to our world. Literally. Scott's going to move some things around at home for us!
It's so much easier to heal when you have love and support from near and far. Don's not a Sad Dad right now.
It is Day 3 in the hospital for Don. He got moved out of ICU at 9 last night!
The room still feels dull, like a hospital and the view's not the most spectacular. But we can see the sunshine and trees. Better than the ICU window, that looked towards the windows of the COVID unit.
Flowers and Stuff
The room feels blank, with no color. But I was finally able to bring stuff from home.
It's no fair when you have surgery on your birthday and you can't have a card or flowers in your room. There was a comfy couch and a recliner, too!
Along with Don's birthday cards, I brought him a very fine sloth.
I ordered this sloth (holding a heart) on the internet, a few days ago. I thought he would be a cute mascot for Don. I didn't realize the hospital would give Don his own heart shaped pillow, just like the sloth.
Teaching the Sloth
Don had to show the sloth how to properly press the pillow against his chest, when he needs to cough.
Don is a very good teacher.
It's my second long day at the hospital. I'm feeling glad that Houston's Methodist Hospitals have vaccine mandates for staff. I'm glad they communicate their Covid protocol. When your hubby has just had a bypass, the last thing you want is covid in the family.
There are signs telling visitors to wear masks, but the signs are hardly needed. Every single person wears a mask in the hospital... because honestly, none of us want to be that person on the stretcher, being carried to the Covid ICU.
Communicating in Masks
I'm getting used to keeping my mask on for hours and hours, but sometimes communicating with masks is exhausting. Especially when accents are involved.
Going for a hall walk with 5 million tubes, is complicated enough. But trying to hear instructions through masks is extra stressful. And some staff are double masked!
But, thank goodness the ICU staff is the best. They have learned to speak loud and clear, through their masks. I just feel sorry for patients who are hard of hearing, or don't speak English.
Communicating with Friends and Family
The nurse yesterday told me to not fret over communicating with EVERYONE! She told me to designate one person, to share all the info. Well that works great if all your people are connected. Mine aren't and I've never liked group communication. I played the "Telephone Game" too many times as a kid. Stories change...
Yesterday, I just figured I'd let it be my job, to communicate with family and friends, while Don was in surgery. I grabbed my thermal coffee mug and stepped outside to make some phone calls.
Tip: Bring a really good thermal mug to the hospital and fill up at their Starbucks!
I did have one major communication failure. For two days, I've tried continuously, to reach my Dad. I spoken with him daily for 18 months, during the pandemic and I knew he was concerned about Don's surgery. Why wasn't he picking up? Added stress. My sister finally determined his landline was unplugged.
They booted me out of ICU at 7 tonight. Don had finally gotten his chest tubes out and was awaiting a hospital room. I had to leave him before transfer. It made me sad.
I got home and walked down to the mailbox. I stopped to see the sky and lake. I needed that. It's just my second night home alone and it still feels weird. Especially because I still have Don's cell phone. He's not really up for dealing with calls. It felt so odd not to be able to text him to see if he was okay. I forget how dependent we are, on our tech communication.
But as I settled into the quiet house, I thought back to yesterday's converstaion with Don, right after surgery. I grinned to myself, knowing I would tell him the funny things he said later, when he could appreciate.
"Did they get the number of the truck that ran over me? They really put me through the ringer... I've got strips on my gown. That's perfect for Sugar Land." "What?" "You know. The prison..."
I'll share with him later!
Birthday & Surgery Day
What do you say to you husband, when you both wake before 5 am on the morning of his heart surgery?
I said, "Happy Birthday" and we both softly chuckled. An hour later we were sitting in the waiting room at Sugar Land Methodist. The world felt too early and too serious, to push Don into wearing a birthday party hat.
I did convince Don to hold my donkey mascot, though. Ms. Donkey went with me to my lumpectomy surgery and chemo and radiation treatments, 5 years ago. Silly, but it worked for me. You do what you need to do. But what does Don want?
Don was a perfect nurse/buddy, during my months of cancer. But we're different people. Different needs. It's going to be tricky figuring out what Don wants in the way of support. Do I play cheerleader or tiptoe gently? I have to read him, I guess. And ask him. Did he read me all those months? He always seemed to know how much attention I needed. He handled my ups and downs beautifully. I worry about my role, with him.
It was so tough saying good-bye, when they wheeled Don away. But the nurse said they'd sing Happy Birthday to him in the operating room. I was skeptical.
It felt sad to have DON as the patient, the vulnerable one. He's hasn't spent a night in a hospital, in our 42 years together. It was scary to think about what actually would happen in that operating room. I headed to the waiting room and found a quiet and calm place corner, next to a fish tank.
I read and texted family, then I figured I should educate myself as his nurse. I read the paperwork about his procedure and I cringed and worried. I knew he had been worried, too. I felt relief, when I got a "hospital text" saying the surgery had begun. I knew he was asleep (for maybe 7 hours) and he was no longer worrying. Glad for that.
I reminded myself that I was lucky to be at the hospital and not waiting at home. In recent months, hospitals didn't allow family inside, due to Covid. I can't imagine dropping Don off and coming back to get him in 5 or 7 days.
After a couple hours of mask wearing, I took a break outside. It felt good to take my mask off and feel the fresh air. At 12:40, I got a text saying surgery was ending soon and the doctor would speak to me in the waiting room. Faster than I'd expected!
Don in ICU
By 1:00, I was in the waiting room, listening to a promising report from Don's surgeon. By 2, I was greeting my groggy hubby in ICU. So many tubes, so many beeping machines, so many nurses and assistants and doctors checking in on him. I asked, "Can I touch him?" I felt so new to this. I kissed him awkwardly in my mask and pulled up a chair next to his clunky bed.
I searched for a part of Don, that wasn't covered in tape or tubes. I sort of neurotically stroked that one part of his arm... then asked, "Am I annoying you?" I laughed awkwardly. "No." Don answered, with a voice I didn't recognize. I told him that was good, because it was really comforting to me.
I realized how hesitant I was with my new role. Should I stop talking and let him sleep? Am I in the nurse's way? Is someone going to tell me how long I can stay?
Eventually I settled in, feeling less worried about how right or wrong I was doing things. I conversed casually when Don was alert and I studied my surroundings when he dozed. What an amazing place. All these things and all these people, attending to my ole sweetheart Don.
And then there was that crazy pillow, with the veins and arteries. They showed Don how to clutch it to his chest, if he needed to cough.
As Don rested, the pillow sat looking sort of comical, beside his folded hands. The room was filled with complicated machines and pieces of equipment and here was this squishy little pillow, that I could have made at home. It amused me. I needed to see something simple, that I could understand.
Talking with Staff
I started getting used to all the people attending to Don. It made me feel safe to know he was in good hands. I asked how it had been in the past 18 months, during pandemic. Don's ICU nurse admitted it had been rough during the last surge, dealing with patients who filled the beds, but refused the vaccine. "A woman in nearby Beaumont was rushed here, because of a stomach issue. There were no ICU beds in Beaumont. She died because of the delay." He shook his head and added, "That's a Covid related death."
He reminded me that last week, there was only one ICU bed available at this hospital. Again I felt lucky that Don's surgery had not been delayed. At one point a nurse pointed out the window. (Don's view wasn't the best) The building directly across was the Covid ICU. I paused to process. Heart surgery is scary, but it's routine, when the patient is healthy. Covid is still a mystery. I am so glad Don is in this section of ICU.
I will try to be the best nurse I can be.
Tomorrow is Don's birthday.
He said, "Let's save these gifts for when I get home from the hospital." That made me sad. I hate when birthdays are tainted by illness or pandemics or accidents or surgeries...
FaceTime Party on Sunday
But on Sunday evening, we had a 2-hour birthday gathering, with our kids!
Before Covid, we never would have thought to do this! Thank you Pandemic, for teaching us how to connect with our faraway family! We had the best time talking and sharing and laughing... and yes, singing. Baby Charlie clapped along when we sang Happy Birthday.
Birthday Dinner on Sunday
Don was wise enough, to know he wouldn't much enjoy birthday dinner on Monday night... the night before his "birthday surgery".
So I made him spaghetti and meatballs for Sunday. Might as well. Who knows what diet restrictions will be in the future.
Don blew out his candles, while he wore his sushi shirt. I didn't ask him to tell me his wish.
I'm glad we celebrated a little on Sunday. Monday was blah as we anticipated Tuesday's surgery. Don went to pre-op. I met the plumbers at the house. We got all our other house renovations put on hold. That's what you do in times of Cancer, Covid, Coronary Bypass... You adjust and reschedule and refocus.
Tonight was quiet. Don watched a little Monday Night Football. We are both ready to get tomorrow behind us!
Meeting the Surgeon
Don and I met the surgeon the other day. The autumn wreath greeted us.
We headed in, knowing that we would probably leave with a decision. An angiogram a week earlier, showed that Don could go either way, stent or bypass. I saw that wreath and knew our fall focus would be pretty different, if we went the route of surgery. 8 weeks of recovery for that.
In the Office
Don and I showed up in masks. We showed our phones to the receptionist, so she could see we'd done our Covid questionnaire. I hate the idea of hospitals, in times of Covid.
We waited in the examining room together. We kept things light and even made jokes about the ugly heart model that decorated the counter. But we had a good and serious talk with Dr. A, for an hour. He penciled Don in for bypass surgery in a week. Don signed some papers and we both laughed nervously together. "I feel like we just sighed up for a timeshare." Dr A had made us feel relaxed and confident and convinced... but it all happened too fast.
Lucky for us, we have family that can help us with decisions. The next day, our nephew discussed the details of Don's case, with his cardiology team at Stanford.
Don and I are feeling much better, knowing that many people have weighed in and all are in agreement about the bypass decision. It's not what we planned this fall. We'll have to juggle the calendar and cancel a thing or two, but we feel grateful. Don looked pretty cheery last night, with this baby glass of wine.
Cheers to Don and cheers to living in one of the top medical communities in the world!
In March 2021, I ended this complaining blog, after I got my Covid vaccination. Things got brighter and the world felt more normal... for a while. But 6 months later, the world has gotten more complicated.
Fires continue in numerous states and hurricanes keep things crazy in our area. My brother's family evacuated here from Nola, before Ida hit. We headed to the cabin when Nicholas headed for Houston. We were all fine.
Latest on Sunday
Today the CBS Sunday Morning Show, reminded me of how far this pandemic has come, since I restarted the blog in March, 2020.
A year ago we couldn't wait for vaccines. Now all Americans have access, but the virus continues to spread. If everyone would just get on board with vaccinations, we could get back to normal. But we are back to cancelling trips and gym memberships and indoor dining, due to the Delta variant and breakthrough cases and lots and lots of "vaccine hesitancy". I put that as nicely as I can.
But honestly, climate and the covid concerns, are not at the top of my worry list right now. Once again, it's a disease that begins with C.
A few days ago, Don went in for an angiogram. We're suddenly dealing with a new term in our house. Coronary Artery Disease. There are options for treatment. Stent or Bypass? We're quickly getting educated. There's a lot to think about right now.
Back when I started this complaining blog for Cancer, I tried to add a light at the end of each post. I also tried to throw in some positives, during my months of Covid rants.
This is scary, bu now I am genuinely feeling grateful. Don may have a blocked artery, but besides that he is healthy and slim and positive and lots of other things that put him in the low risk group. Plus, it's so lucky that this was discovered. Yay for science!
Last Blog Post
Today is vaccine day!
I said I would stop this blog when I got vaccinated, so this is my last post.
This morning before getting excited over our 2:00 vaccine appointment, Don and I had to check out of our hotel and meet the plumber at the house. We've been gone 80 days and we have dead trees and busted pipes from the big Texas freeze last February.
We may have leak issues in the house, but it feels great to be back home and to see blooming azaleas! Don put on a mask and greeted our Hero/Plumber. A few neighbors stopped and chatted outside. It's been so long since we've talked comfortably face to face. It was cold and quiet and "pandemic-y" when we left in January. Now it seems like everyone, (including our plumber) has been vaccinated!
Don started in, assisting Kerry in the search for broken pipes. I moved soggy boxes from the garage to the sunny patio, beside the dead oleanders. Oh why didn't we sort through all those boxes of travel slides and files, during those lockdown days!
It began to look like our problems could take days to fix. We filled buckets of pool water for toilet flushing and we set up a washing station in the sink... kind of like the system that amused us when we stayed in Guatemala, a few years ago. I looked at our unopened suitcases and was glad we couldn't use the washing machine.
Don and Kerry worked together all morning. When Don was up in the attic I hollered reports to Kerry, in the garage.
At one point, Kerry cut a hole in the ceiling and disappeared. He found some treasures.
There were beer bottles, from a happy construction crew 23 years ago.
And there were 6 busted pipes.
But suddenly it was time to rush off for our vaccine appointments. It was almost too easy, walking into our doctor's office and going back into the examining room together. It only hurt for a moment and we rubbed vigorously, like we'd been told.
I can't believe how quick and safe it felt. I sort of regret that we didn't have the big, line up for a vaccine experience. After 12+ months of pandemic, it seemed like we should jump through more hoops for the shot. And we just have one shot with Johnson and Johnson! That seems like cheating. But that's okay! We are done and I can't believe it!
We don't need rewards. Being vaccinated is a gift and I'm grateful for that.
We did however, celebrate our vaccines with carryouts from Freddie's! We brought some back for Kerry, who worked all day... and will be returning tomorrow.
So, this house is a mess of unpacked bags and boxes. We still have no water. But I'm sleeping in my bed tonight and I am vaccinated.
I'm so grateful to be here today. I know my year has been an easy one compared to almost everyone I know. My rants have been silly at times, but they've helped me make it through the year.
I have no idea who has even seen this crazy blog. I do it for me, so it doesn't matter. But for anyone who ever runs across this Not So Happy blog, feel free to make a comment. Share a complaint or two and let me know how you're doing.
Cheers to the light at the end of the tunnel! I'm done!
One More Thing!
Okay, it's been 2 days since I posted and ended this blog. I said I was done, but I really want to end with a different focus.
Tonight, we celebrated on Zoom with "the kids". A year and 2 days ago, we 6 Zoomed for the first time, with a Tiki theme. Today, we Zoomed for the first time as a group of 7. Our theme was "Yay for Vaccines!" As of yesterday, we have all had shots!
I started this blog in 2016, with cancer complaints. I learned that patience and flexibility help a lot! Mostly I learned how to accept support from family and friends.
Just over a year ago, I restarted this blog, with complaints about the covid pandemic. I already knew how to isolate and adjust. I knew to appreciate my health and to work hard again, to stay healthy. But more than anything, the pandemic reminded me that communicating with those we love, is the most important and healing thing we can do.
Tonight, we toasted to vaccines and good health! We cheered for Baby Charlotte's 6-week birthday! I am so at peace knowing our family has become closer this year. I'm so grateful that we all have stayed healthy!
I stepped out of our cozy historic hotel and went on a morning run. I figured I could soak up the blissful scenery, to settle my nerves.
It was fun to see Bluebonnets this morning. I knew I was back in Texas. Sad we couldn't stay in our cabin last night, but we were too tired to deal with broken water pipes.
I trotted down to the lake and all was peaceful.
I bent down to see the dew on the bluebonnets!
I peeked at the hotel's 3 cabooses and remembered when Don and I stayed in one 6 years ago.
I jogged over by the red barn and I didn't get much exercise because I stopped so often. But I felt good. After I showered we checked out and I ignored the unmasked woman working behind the counter. I can't stress over her right now.
On the Road
We headed for Sugar Land and kept fingers crossed that our house would be okay, after the big Texas Freeze of February.
I smiled when we passed Pearl the Squirrel, on TX 71! Pearl is still wearing a mask (and carrying an Easter basket) even though the mask mandate was lifted in Texas.
Johnson and Johnson
Our best news this morning, was getting appointments for the J & J vaccine tomorrow! I called our doctor's office this morning and we will go in tomorrow afternoon! A part of me worries. Is this one-shot vaccine really as good as Modern and Pfizer??
So I used the traveling time to read some more. Some info was far above my head, but bottom line is... take it! It is not a "lesser vaccine". So instead of worrying over storm damage possibilities, I started getting giddy that tomorrow Don and I will be fully vaccinated!
Then we got home to Sugar Land. We had expected to see dead plants, but it was still startling to see brown palms and oleanders.
We headed inside and it felt odd to see the place, after 3 months. It actually looked cleaner than I remembered. It felt good to walk through the house.
I was eager to play the piano. That's one positive thing about the pandemic. I started playing again and I've missed it. But there wasn't time for playing.
So Don had a very calculated plan for turning our water back on. He suggested we not unpack, in case we had to stay in a hotel. That's negative thinking.
We opened up valves and faucets gradually. We shouted to each other from different bathrooms. At one point Don hollered, "Did you turn on the washing machine?" I didn't, but water was spewing in the laundry room! I ran to the garage to get beach towels, where I discovered water spraying down on our embarrassing pile of boxes.
Back to Hotel Living
I swore we were done with pandemic hotel stays, 2 days ago. I'm tired of cookie cutter Marriotts, but this is a new one down the road. We have become robots with our hotel routines.
We could have stayed at the house. We have a pool for toilet flushing water. But a hotel meant we could be showered for our vaccine appointments tomorrow. We need one night to just take a deep breath and plan how we'll do this no water thing. It's looking like we may not be able to get a plumber for a week.
So tonight we are NOT in our home. But we will be tomorrow, water or not. We will get our vaccines and sleep in our bed again and then I'll be done with this blog!
So Many Grandma Friends
Today while traveling, I sat in the passenger seat and selfishly entertained myself on Facebook. Scrolling through posts, I was quickly reminded that I have a lot of friends, who recently became grandmas. I would have preferred becoming a grandparent, without a pandemic. But, this pandemic club does bond us.
Heidi's First Friend
Heidi gave birth to Charlotte, this past Valentine's Day. Days later, my old friend from St. Louis reached out in a text and told me her daughter was also expecting a baby. Here I am with Patti and our little girls... long, long ago.
Today I noticed this bit of news, while peeking at social media.
Patti's daughter made the news! Haley received both doses of Moderna, before her baby was born. Tests show that her baby has high levels of antibodies! Great news!
As we drove along the highway, I had a good time thinking back to when Haley and Heidi were babies. Patti and I were pregnant together and we were so delighted when our little girls became such good buddies.
How curious that our daughters were born in 1986 and then both became mothers in 2021, during the pandemic... 10 days apart! I wish we weren't living in 4 states, or we 6 "girls" could get together!
More Pandemic Babies
We moved from St. Louis to Tulsa when Heidi was 4. We were thrilled when the Hart family moved in across the street. We spent 7 years running back and forth between houses. Heidi and Leigh Anne got in a tiny bit of mothering practice with their American Girl Dolls. Mostly they ran and played and laughed together, from age 4 to 11.
2+ decades later, both girls were married and expecting baby girls, during a pandemic. I'm so glad they've kept in touch. I'm so grateful that Leigh Anne's mom and I have also. It's been fun to cheer each other on from afar, as we've became grandmothers. We used to wonder what it would be like when our girls had babies... we never guessed that we'd not be able to be at the hospital, because of a pandemic! We never guessed our girls would have baby girls, just 3 months apart.
My mind wandered further back in time, today. I thought about the first friend I ever had, that became pregnant. Claire and I were college buddies... very silly college buddies. Her first child was born years before mine. She was a grandparent years before me.
We lost touch for years, but have communicated during the pandemic. Over a month ago, when we were still in Portland, I got a text from Claire. She was in Portland (from Utah) watching her grandchildren for a week. She knew I was in Portland, awaiting the arrival of a grand baby. We talked on the phone, cracking each other up, like the old days. I can't imagine how much fun it would be to see Claire as a grandma... paintbrushes and roller-skates! We were both pretty silly 40+ years ago and we still are. But we take our kids and grandkids seriously. Neither one of us wanted to risk getting together, even though a meet up would have been a very quick drive.
I'm glad that things are changing. Pregnant women are getting vaccines and maybe they won't have to wear masks during childbirth. Grandparents are getting vaccinated and finally seeing their grandkids. It's so nice to realize things will be different by the time I have another grandchild. Chances are good that we won't be in the midst of a pandemic!
From Las Cruces to El Paso
Today I felt like a horse racing home to the barn. We left our hotel in New Mexico. Yay! We would be at our TX cabin tonight and all done with hotels. This last one was being renovated, which added to the stress.
El Paso was glowing this morning. I love getting back to Texas, but I have concerns about how safe I'll feel in casual Texas, with the lifting of mask mandates. Don and I also have worries about our cabin and house. Did the big freeze damage pipes?
As we traveled through El Paso I looked to the right and studied Mexico.
Is today the day President Biden visits the border? Or yesterday? It seems odd to think that those beautiful mountains and all those buildings are in another country. It's incredibly sad that so many communities on both sides of the border, used to work together. Okay, that's another tangent.
Don and I had our last picnic! I'm sick of sandwiches on the road.
I can't wait to get back to our real kitchen. I'm ready for dishwashers and a stove and oven! Yay for home. Almost there!
The Cabin After Feb Freeze
We made it to our cabin before 5. We were greeted with dead palms and dead Rosemary bushes.
We entered with fingers crossed. Before turning on the water, we opened faucets. The water that was left in the pipes, showed us right away that we had a burst pipe upstairs. Just as we feared.
We didn't even question staying at the cabin. We've been in "make-do-camping-mode" for almost 80 days. We just headed for the closest hotel, which happened to be this charming place.
I walked in with my mask and the woman behind the desk looked startled. Are masks so rare here that she thought I was holding her up? She did put on a mask after we spoke for 5 minutes. She was just ready to close up, so we lucked out.
Our room was on the far right, with our own entrance.
No one above or below. No one next door. Yay for isolation!
Porch to Ourselves
It wasn't really pandemic isolation I was needing. I'm just tired of hotels. And tired of tiptoeing in an Airbnb, with very quiet owners living above.
Don and I took drinks to the front porch and watched the parking lot in front of the Grand Central Cafe. So many pick up trucks and happy Texans coming to dine.
We waited until the crowds died down and placed a carryout order. We ate in our hotel and laughed at ourselves. We really thought we were done with hotels for a while.
We'll drive on home to Sugar Land tomorrow. (Leave cabin repairs for later) Fingers crossed that the Texas Freeze of 2021, spared us issues at our house!
Passing Quartzsite, AZ
While driving through Arizona today, we saw the sign for Quartzsite. Last January when we passed this small town, we saw a sea of trailers and RVs. I thought it was temp housing, for families that have lost homes during the pandemic. Don knew better.
Don recognized the town from reading the book, Nomadland and he knew about the annual Rubber Tramp Rendezvous gathering. The giant swap meet (spotlighting gems and minerals) attracts 1.5 million. How curious!
Quartzsite in March
It was quiet in Quartzsite today. We stopped for gas as an excuse to get off the highway and peek around. I threw on my mask and ran into a gem/ souvenir shop. I bought some postcards and the sweet woman gave me the yellow camel pin.
I did a quick Google search and learned that this small desert town was once part of the US Camel Corps, before the Civil War. The Corps fizzled, but camels roamed the area until the 1940's. I love this stuff!
I spotted this green cafe and was giddy. Don and I have many memories of curious folks we've met, at small diners like this! I can only imagine what stories we might learn from some of the locals here.
I'm so tired of this kind of travel, which has nothing to do with the journey. So, I compromised. I masked up and ran inside to order 2 coffees, to go. It was fun to see the retro dining counter and travel trailer knickknacks on the wall. But I'm starting to wonder how my year of pandemic awareness, will change my carefree approach to dining in dives! We'll see.
We drove around a bit more and wondered about the small shops, especially those that were for sale. The pandemic has hurt almost every kind of business, but I wonder if the people in this area are more used to ups and downs and highs and lows. I wish I could chat and learn more.
I did get to see some saguaros. This long drive from OR to TX has been broken up with lots of good things, mostly visits with family. But seeing saguaros in Arizona, is always a treat!
On the Road
Last night, we said good-bye to Scott and Chali and checked into our Sacramento hotel. I glanced at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant, right next door and chuckled. A big reminder that we're headed to Texas. I thought to myself.
After just seeing the restaurant, we got to our room and I saw a news clip about the CEO of the TX Roadhouse chain. He had taken his life, due to Covid related symptoms. It was an awful and eerie reminder that the pandemic is still here, even though states are opening up and vaccines are becoming more available. Covid is still taking lives.
Shooter in Boulder
Tonight Don and I are in our hotel in Palm Desert. We're just trying to get back to Texas and be done with this pandemic travel. But right after checking in tonight, I got a text from my brother. "Active Shooter Boulder... Andy and Casey are holed up in their apt..."
For the rest of the evening, Don and I studied the TV in shock. Our nephew and his wife live across the street from the King Sooper's grocery store. Andy had just shopped there, yesterday. The news had few details, but we learned that a policeman was killed. It now looks like, 10 may have been killed. I can't stop thinking about these innocent people, who have lived through a year of pandemic stress, only to be killed by a gunman on a Monday afternoon.
Once again, Don and I sit in a hotel room, glued to our TV. Our trip west in January and our trip home in March, has been plagued with tragic news. On January 6, we began our trip, taking in the horrific happenings at the Capitol, as we drove west. The day we started the trip home, we learned of the mass shooting that included mostly Asian women, in Atlanta.
So today, we watch the news unfold about the the Boulder shooting. I wonder will this ever stop? When we look back on this 12 month pandemic period in the future, what will we remember? It won't just be about Covid-19.
Today, I'm going to think about all the green we saw on our drive today. What a contrast to all the sad news. I think I'll think about these beautiful scenes as I go to sleep.
Safe With Family
A year ago we cringed at the news of Spring Breakers, gathering as Covid numbers spiked. It just happens to be spring break now, as we travel home to TX. I'm so glad we can spend a couple days again, with Scott and Chali. They've been smart and safe during this long year. We feel so comfortable staying in their home.
Yesterday, we actually ventured out and went to an open air winery near Sacramento. While spring break crowds were being arrested in Miami, we ordered wine flights and took off our masks to sip. It felt almost normal.
But besides making the decision about getting out into this "normal world" after months of avoiding people... we had to make make a choice about seeing other family.
Our nephew and family offered to meet up with us. I suddenly realized how much more complicated life is going to be as we navigate this new world, where our cautious friends are becoming more social. So many decisions! Our doctor nephew and his scientist wife can certainly be trusted. It was actually nice to get some questions answered about the J & J vaccine and future air travel.
Plus, we got to see these sweet kiddos. We haven't seen them in 18 months.
Scott and Colden got to compare their Covid hair growth!
Today, we had one more day with Scott and Chali. They took us to the nearby town of Folsom, for an adventure.
It felt wonderful to be out on a beautiful day. The historic downtown area was buzzing with activity. People dined at tables on the sidewalk, while musicians played. It was still too crowded for my comfort.
I looked at this old hotel and the historic Hop Sing Palace Chinese Restaurant. I am craving the day that Don and I can get back to our favorite kind of exploring.
But we're not quite ready for navigating crowds. The 4 of us just wandered instead.
We hiked across the old truss bridge and watched kayaks and paddle boards glide beneath the Rainbow Bridge.
It felt like the good old days, posing like tourists.
Then the youngins did their own posing with these pretty painted wings!
Then it was back to the house to grill outside! I feel so lucky to have this time. Maybe next time we visit, we'll check out the prison where Johnny Cash spent time. There's an adventure.
Taking baby steps right now.
Spring in the Park
Yesterday, Don and I arrived in Sacramento. It was cool and cloudy when we peeked at the city park near Scott and Chali's home. We put on masks because the park was pretty busy,
A year ago, spring arrived and we were just beginning to wrap our heads around the pandemic. Little did we know, we'd be wearing masks in a park, a year later.
First Day of Spring Picnic
I feel so lucky that we were able to add a visit with Scott & Chali on our way home from Oregon. Today was the first day of spring and the sun was shining in William Land Park.
We found an open picnic table by this big tree, but spread out in the sunshine instead.
It felt like heaven after 2 chilly months in Oregon. We had a picnic from a nearby deli and soaked up some sunshine.
What a treat to enjoy the warmth and sun today. But mostly it was good to be with family. We FaceTimed with Heidi and Jamie and Baby Charlie, in Portland.
We cuddled with our grand-dog, Lola!
Tiki and Flowered Shirts!
Then we finished the Springtime celebration, with flowered shirts and tiki drinks! So fun and silly.
I can't thank our kids enough, for staying smart and safe, for this whole year. We've been able to navigate these visits, because we all trust each other.
Slow Getting News
On Wednesday, Don and I were away from news and TV as we packed and got on the road. Yesterday we checked into the Marriott, in Redding, CA. I grabbed this paper.
I am taken back to last year, when my heart ached for my Asian neighbors and the Asian businesses in Houston. Trump's language and behavior was outrageous. He was inviting hate and intolerance. China Virus... Kung Flu. It was ugly, then.
And here we are today! This is frightening to see. I am so angry and yet so grateful that we have a president who is going to Atlanta today, to offer support to the community. I spotted a flag at half mast this morning.
Today Don and I drive to Sacramento to spend 2 nights with Scott and Chali. My daughter-in-law is a strong and smart, Asian American Woman and I will give her the biggest hug ever. l hope Chali can help me understand what this means to her. There is so much I need to learn.
Just as the world was starting to feel safer...
Another Good Bye
Last night we spent the first night of our road trip home, with Jennifer and Kate! Today we had to say good-bye.
Last night, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day with beer (not green) on the deck. Fire and blooming trees and flowers! Wonderful.
We ate the most incredible feast inside. Best of all we dined and talked and carried on without masks!
We've been very very cautious with our recent visits. But J & K are both fully vaccinated now and life is getting better! Inside and no masks, is okay.
Kate made Don's favorite! Corned Beef & Cabbage... Carrots and Potatoes, plus Irish Soda Bread!
In the morning, we chatted more around Mom's old table while we ate Jennifer's corned beef hash and fried eggs! What a treat to have time to talk and laugh and share. We talked a lot about how the world is beginning to feel different, now. So much worry is lifting.
It's fun that the 4 of us are grandparents now. Don and I got a text from Heidi with this photo at one point. We shared with J & K and laughed over that cute bow.
Later, Heidi shared this photo. Melting heart. Now we 4 can share stories and pictures of our grandkids. And share the woes of not living close.
But the good news is... our good bye to Jenni and Kate was easy. We will be in Oregon much more often now!
This Morning in Clackamas
Today I woke on the 65th morning, of our Airbnb stay.
I sat on the couch in the dark as I have on many mornings and I thought about these last 2 months... helping with Heidi and Jamie's move, waiting on their new baby in the midst of an ice storm... and watching Baby Charlotte grow for a month!
I haven't run daily, In fact I've probably put on about 10 pounds during these months. I won't miss these hills or the drizzly, chilly runs. But I've enjoyed the changing scenery, as I've huffed and puffed. I'll kind of miss my phone call routine, too. I've stopped on most runs, to make a morning call to Dad in MO. Today, I told him we were leaving.
Today was probably the prettiest day of our stay. This is what I saw on my run! So crazy to leave, as the trees (that were once covered in ice) are beginning to bloom.
Before Hitting the Road
I made a dash to Walgreens to get a prescription around 9. Just today, they opened for vaccine appointments. I saw Just one older couple. Where were the crowds? It was odd to know there were vaccines chilling, behind that counter. This is the closest I've been to an actual vaccine!
It took all day to pack up our "suite". All the junk we brought with us originally... as well as all the things we've purchased online since... toaster, tv, coffee pot, puzzles... Living in this basement has felt more like pandemic lockdown living. It was nice to have a pretty day to make about 20 trips up those 34 stairs to the car!
The Worst Part of Leaving
Today it felt odd to be leaving the Clackamas/Happy Valley area. But last night was just sad. We had our last evening at Heidi and Jamie's. It was the day before St. Patrick's Day and I made sure we documented just one more holiday that this little Valentine Baby has experienced in 4.5 weeks.
I got in some good holding, while Charlie was alert. Then she got sleepy when it was time to enjoy our sushi feast. Perfect. By the time we headed to the door, she snoozed through all our good-bye hugs. Don and I stepped out into the chilly night and squeezed hands... one of us just might have sniffled a bit. That first good-bye is hard. We don't actually know when we'll be seeing these 3 next.
Those good-byes will only get harder, when Charlie is older and knows us. I remember feeling a lump in my throat as a kid, watching Daw wave goodbye. Our station wagon would pull out of her driveway, with all 6 of us waving out windows. I was always sad, but mostly because I knew Daw would be alone and missing us. Or was she happy to have her house to herself... that makes me laugh.
Mostly I remember the joy of going to visit Daw. This is what I am looking forward to as a grandmother now. Greetings and reunions are the best! And even better in post pandemic times! I can't wait!
We took Charlotte on a walk today. It was our last day and our last outing with this little one... for a long time...
She didn't see much, while she slept inside the buggy.
Charlie didn't see much when we went to the zoo the other day, either. When she's older, that "buggy" will become a stroller and she'll see all the animals.
But that wasn't the point. She wasn't there to see the animals... she was less than 4 weeks old. It was just a wonderful way for Charlie to get some fresh air and for her family to enjoy some tiny bit of normal.
Well it wasn't really that normal. Usually the zoo on a pretty day, would be jammed. But there were restrictions, which is why we felt safe going.
Tickets were limited. We got the latest reservation possible. We were the last in and we strolled slowly. It felt like we owned the zoo. I'll remember how peaceful and calm it felt to wander down the 1-way path, encountering close to no one. Maybe it's good Charlotte wasn't a 3-year-old, wondering why the carousel was closed and why she couldn't go in the petting zoo.
What to See?
There were also lots of animals that we couldn't see. Some were hibernating.
Some were moved, because of renovation projects. But we saw wonderful totem poles and blue sky and gorgeous, towering pines!
We adults took in the spring sunshine, when we stepped out of the shade. I loved watching Scott chatting with his sister and staring and his baby niece. I loved remembering when they were both kids and adored zoos trips.
Towards the end of our visit, we saw a few big favorites (giraffes and elephants) and encountered a few other zoo guests, who had slowed down to enjoy. They looked like nice families, all in masks and enjoying the day, just like us. For a moment, it made me miss other people. I like observing animals and I kind of love people watching at the zoo, too. This is an odd time.
But mostly I loved experiencing Charlotte's first zoo trip. She won't remember it, but I will.
"I Want a Vaccine" Club
Actually, I am in a club. I'm one of those people who wants a vaccine.
It's curious to see these charts. It's crazy that we have to have this political divide with vaccines. Shouldn't we all want it?
So those who don't want it, have different reasons. Most just want to wait and see. 47% are worried about side effects. I sort of get that. But I figure a lot of "wait and see" people, just want the rest of us to get it... so they can be safe.
Don and I head home tomorrow and it looks like we may be able to get the vaccine at our doctor's office, back in Texas.
I wish these 2 in Portland, could get the vaccine. If Charlotte had been due a month later, Heidi might have gotten vaccinated. Now pregnant women are higher on the list! Now she's just back to being in that younger, less risk group. All vaccinated in Oregon by July? Now they say sooner!
Today, Cha gets her vaccine. Her job as a social worker with IRC, has been tough to do virtually. I'm so glad she will be on her way to being fully vaccinated. Hopefully Scott won't be too far behind.
I'm so proud of the young people in our family, who have done everything possible to keep themselves and others safe for a year. This is a weird stage, of different rollouts in different states and counties. Now there are more vaccinated people, than people who have had the virus. (I'm not in either club) But it's still a world where some are and some aren't. How wonderful when all households that want to be vaccinated... just are!
Cancer - Covid
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.
Coronavirus and Cancer! Both are evil, but neither can totally get me down... if I vent! I hope with Covid, I run out of complaints before 200!