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.
A Little Remodeling
It took a pandemic to motivate Don and me, (and millions of others) into getting some overdue projects done around the house.
Last summer we got disgusted looking at our worn out house. We made the big step (big for us) and picked out some tile and paint.
Long before Don's surgery, we made plans for new counters and backsplash. Then Don's bypass was scheduled. We were clueless about the recovery and also clueless about dealing with remodeling projects.
However, we had enough common sense to realize Don might not want to recover in a home buzzing with dust and noise. We postponed until Don was 5 weeks from surgery. So, last week we were upstairs in the game room for 2 days, while the new counters came in and old backsplash was removed.
Hiding Out Upstairs
Actually it was sort of an adventure. I carried loads upstairs. Don's heating pad and books and lunch fixings... I set up our coffee station in the bathroom. It was kind of a nice change to be in a different space, knowing that exciting changes were happening downstairs.
At the end of the second day, I wasn't all that surprised when there was glitch. The worker showed us the flawed tile. I guess I didn't expect everything to run smoothly. We reordered and we'll avoid our kitchen for who knows how long.
This week, our 2 upstairs bathrooms are getting some attention. The coffee station moved from the upstairs bath, to our master bath downstairs. The wallpaper removal is taking 3 days. Lord!
But the reordered tile came in yesterday and the workman arrived an hour ago, just before Don left to see the doctor.
So I've found a place out of the way, while painters work upstairs and the tile guy works in the kitchen, with his mariachi music playing softly.
I usually can't stand it when people are working in the house. But, I'm feeling positive. I just went in to have a peek and I'm excited to get this done. I'm also relieved that Don is finally seeing the doctor. I'm keeping fingers crossed that he will come home, with some solution for his back pains.
I feel like this day will end well!
Half Dozen Weeks
Six weeks ago, Don had open heart surgery. He's been the perfect patient. His cardiologist praised his progress at his post op, two weeks ago.
On October 5, I took this photo right before they wheeled Don away to have his surgery. I remember thinking, that in a few hours, surgery would be over and it would be all about the healing. I was eager to get started on that. I expected ups and downs, but these past 2 weeks have been tough.
The first month felt like 6 months to me. Probably a year to Don. But we got into routines. I attempted to play nurse. I got very good at taking Don's blood pressures. I could pop up and down and assist cheerily, even in the middle of the night.
But there's only so much I could really do to help. That was actually pretty frustrating. Don was a trooper though. He used the crazy plastic breathing thing, to exercise his lungs. He got up to walking 3 miles a day. It was nice that I could do that part with him.
Staying Healthy for Him
While Don dealt with a million post op issues (coughing, sore throat, dizziness, chest pain and spasms) I brought him whatever I could to help. He rarely complained. I tried not to annoy with all the questions I wanted to ask.
I worried and wondered how patients recover from this surgery, when they live alone. Or when their partner is sick or working. I raced to Walgreens, (wearing my mask) and got my flu shot. I need to stay healthy, so Don can get well faster!
The day after Don's 4-week check up, Don's back went wonky. Back spasms. He was just starting to feel normal. He was doing better with sleep and walking twice daily.
He took a break from walking one day. Then it became clear that even brushing his teeth caused back pain. I tried to focus my nursing skills on back massage. I studied this image, in hopes of understanding what was going on under that skin. It's actually nice to have something concrete that I can help with, now.
Not sure how these back issues could be related to heart surgery, but everything seems to be related. Don reached out to the cardiologist. "If I hadn't just had this surgery, I would have guessed I had a broken rib." Don's cardiologist told him to see his primary care doctor. I hate that kind of answer.
I'm glad Don had his surgery in 2021 and not 1951. Yay for specialists who have done the same surgery a million times. But, I wanted more guidance from a doctor who really understands the surgery. I hate when doctors pass their patients to someone else. I miss the good old days. A little bit.
So it's been 2 weeks since the back started. Don sees our primary care doctor tomorrow. In the mean time, Don will spend a little more time resting against this heating pad. And I'm perfecting my massage therapy skills.
Cooking for a Month
I've been the cook at home for over a month. That is the lamest of gripes, when most people I know, cook daily.
No complaining really. Just communicating that it's been odd. Don is the main cook in our house and I took over, 2 days before his surgery. He wasn't very hungry that night, but I made one of his favorite comfort foods. It didn't taste that good to either of us.
The first week home, I made some soups and offered some pudding. Don's throat was sore and nothing much appealed to him.
By the second week, Don still had little interest in food. I waited until week 3, to do anything as spicy as ravioli and Caesar salad. Not that great.
Then we forgot to cancel Blue Apron delivery, so suddenly I was fumbling with the recipe cards and and ingredients, by myself. Again, not a big deal problem. But, these silly food kits are more fun with 2 cooks. They were a source of entertainment and camaraderie, during covid lockdown days. I kind of miss those days.
We'd crank up the music and I'd chop while Don sizzled foods in the skillet. Sometimes, I'd complete my duty and let Don finish up, while I practiced my juggling or danced with oven mitts on my feet. I miss team cooking as well as entertaining the cook.
But I was surprised when I realized it was a nice treat to quietly cook, while Don sat with the heating pad on the couch. It was kind of enjoyable, focussing on a little meal prep, on my own. Just not forever please!
Coffee Table Dinner
We've been eating every lunch and dinner at the table. Norman Rockwell old-fashioned dinner, on placemats. Don isn't comfortable long in chairs these days, but the move to the table is healthy for the body and soul.
However, we recently had a wonderful snack night at the coffee table and it started to feel like "old times". Even if we were having water instead of wine.
Carryouts and Door Dash
Now Don's appetite is pretty much back. We had our first sushi a few days ago. I remember the treat of sushi, after months of cancer treatments and waiting for the immune system to return to normal.
I don't think June Cleaver ever served carryout sushi, on disposable trays. I also don't believe she would have allowed a jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table. But finally Don has gotten interested in puzzles again. The kitchen table is the only place he's half comfortable, for a little puzzling. Yay for this new step!
Cooking on Hold
Now my cooking is suddenly on hold. We've had 2 days with workmen in the kitchen. We had to put our counter & backsplash project off a couple times, due to the surgery. Now the project has started and it's a nice distraction.
However, we have a little setback. The backsplash was supposed to go up today. Turns out, our tile is defective. The project is on hold and new tile has been ordered. Who knows when work will start up again?
But we learned how to be flexible during the pandemic. Dining out won't work for us right now, but cheers for DoorDash delivery!
Don and I haven't gone to any events or parties, since the pandemic started. Today I attended a wedding.
The bridal couple cautiously postponed their wedding a year ago. But here we are still dealing with a pandemic, a year later.
Vaccine or Mask Required
The couple requested that guests be vaccinated or wear masks.
I'm vaccinated, but I still felt a little bit anxious. Should I wear a mask anyway? Is Don still extra vulnerable after his bypass, 4+ weeks ago?
It felt odd going through my closet looking for something to wear, after dressing casually for 19 months. It felt odd leaving Don behind and driving myself to the venue out in the county.
I reminded Don before leaving, that the last time I went solo to a wedding, I caught the bouquet and got married a year later. I remember feeling totally confident, when I went alone to Claire's wedding at age 21, why was I feeling uncomfortable at 64?
It was a beautiful evening and the ceremony was outside. Still, I felt awkward sitting next to people that I don't know, during a pandemic. I actually know a few people who have gotten break through cases while attending weddings. There seemed to be enough space, so I left a chair between myself and the stranger. (I didn't see a mask anywhere, btw)
Once seated, I could enjoy watching J & N exchange vows. Finally! They've postponed twice during this crazy pandemic. The pandemic is also the reason why my daughter wasn't watching her dear friend get married. They've known each other since 6th grade. Heidi had hoped to fly from Portland, but worries over travel with an unvaccinated baby...
After the ceremony, there was time to mingle outside before the meal. I'm usually totally capable of handling myself without being a "couple". I was surprised at how awkward I felt. Am I just out of practice? Was I feeling worried about leaving Don for the first time since surgery? But, luckily there were a few familiar faces.
I got to hug the sweet bride and chat with 4 other friends of Heidi's and their hubbies. Weddings always make me feel sentimental, but these past 19 months have made us all feel so much more grateful for one another.
Since these girls graduated from High School in 2005, there have been numerous weddings and quite a few babies.
Don and I have been lucky to see quite of few of these girls get married. I missed having Don with me. He was actually really sad, not being able to attend.
Before long we were invited to find a seat. I pick my own? Assigned seating is a relief when you're by yourself. But suddenly I felt like the new kid in the school lunchroom. Where do I go? The tables were set for 8 and the 4 couples I knew, fit nicely at one table. They graciously assured me they could grab another plate and chair and squeeze me in.
I assured them I was fine and moved towards a nearby table. Suddenly it became clear to me that all guests were seated and I was ready to dine alone. I sort of chuckled to myself and moved over to a table with 4 guests and invited myself to join. The women were busy talking to each other and the 2 men in short sleeved shirts, talked about having to miss the first day of deer hunting season. I was glad to have empty chairs between us, but it made conversing hard. I was suddenly happy to have food and toasts to focus on.
Before long, we were invited to the terrace, for the bride and groom's First Dance. Would it be okay to quietly slip out and head home? I had a long drive and a healing hubby at home. Did I need an excuse? Would someone notice me leaving early?
Even though I'd felt awkward a couple times during the evening, I knew the spotlight had never really been on me. I reminded myself of Don's favorite "nobody cares" advice. It sounds mean, but it's true that nobody is as worried about you and what you say or do, as you are yourself.
So, while the guests followed the couple to the deck, I headed for the dark parking lot. My cellphone flashlight helped me find my car. I sat in the car and felt cozy and happy. I'm so glad I got to see sweet Jessie get married. I'll remember that it was a beautiful night and beautiful setting and she will maybe remember that I was there.
I sat in the car and texted Heidi some photos. I texted Don that I should be home in 40 minutes. He told me to drive safely. And when I got home, Don was fine and hardly needed me a bit. But I was happy to play nurse again.
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. This time it was the invasion of COVID and it affected every person. I ranted for a year, until I got my COVID vaccine in March 2021.
CORONARY Artery Disease was the reason I restarted this blog on September 26, 2021. This time it was my hubby 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!
Navigating This Mess!
The most recent post is at the top, from coronary posts in 2022, back to cancer posts in 2016.
To find past posts, look below the "Archives" section, to find "Categories".