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 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".