Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Saturday, May 01, 2021
Outside and Inside
Here’s to a weekend that contained friends and tasks well done!

This week I got my own new Fitbit. I like having a real watch face and have found a nice analog clock in the Fitbit files which also shows my stats and the battery status. I chose the rose-gold (read: copper) Versa 2, which came with an insipid pale pink wristband. Luckily the Sam’s Club version also comes with a navy blue wristband as well, and before I set up the unit you can bet I changed the watchband! Fitbit has a pretty cocoa-brown leather band on sale for Mother’s Day, so I have ordered that.

Alas, I had a frog to kill this afternoon: I finally got the ambulance bill and it’s for about ten times more than I’m supposed to pay. I called Kaiser, who told me they already paid the ambulance company, gave me a payment number, and a phone number for the ambulance company to call if they argued with me. Kaiser thought they wouldn’t. I knew better, because I’ve dealt with this type of folks before. Sure enough, the ambulance company said they were only paid partially, and that they didn't take "arranged payments" or whatever they called it, and that she would have to contact her supervisor. I gave them the payment number and let them deal with. My agreement with Kaiser says I pay a set price. I’m not paying them any further. You guys fight about it.

Thursday we had to have James’ blood pressure retested because it was so high when he saw Dr. Mobley two weeks ago. A day later, when we saw Dr. Friedman, it was 30 points lower after James chilled out a few minutes, but apparently it didn’t count. So, once again, when we got there it was high. The nurse gave us ten minutes, James closed his eyes and just breathed deeply, and it went down over 20 points. Driving just makes his blood pressure go up! Then we did the rest of the grocery shopping, which makes my blood pressure go up (or it feels like it, anyway).

Friday we had a lovely lunch at Okinawa with Alice and Ken—the one on Dallas Highway because the one in Austell still isn’t open for dine-in—and then went on to do a little shopping: went by Hobby Lobby where James found model paint on a great discount; got poop bags for Tucker at Petco to make sure I got them, because we were completely out (they sell them at Bed, Bath & Beyond much cheaper, but I wasn't sure they'd be in stock); walked around Hobbytown just because James’ club meetings aren’t there anymore and he hadn’t been in a while; then finally bought new washcloths at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and did find three times the amount of poop bags for a dollar less than Petco! The obvious place is not always the cheapest.

For dessert we stopped by Dunkin Donuts (I refuse to call them “Dunkin”) and got a couple of doughnuts for dessert.

Today was the day of James’ club meeting, and after he left, I busied myself doing some chores I’d put off. Yesterday at Hobby Lobby I had picked up three garden decoration resin animals on sale: a rabbit, a hedgehog, and a generic bird. I gathered these up and brought them outside along with a garden dragon I had bought last year, put highlights on, and then left in my craft room. I put the dragon and the hedgehog out front underneath the firecracker bushes, and put the bunny and the bird under two of the trees in the back yard. (I’d planned to get a few more rabbits on sale at Hobby Lobby after Easter, but had ended up with the fever from the COVID vaccine and never went.)

Then I packed up the two boxes from the garage (one box of trousers and one of general “stuff”) and shuttled them to Goodwill. There’s a Dollar General in the Goodwill parking lot, so I stopped there as well and found two inexpensive “fairy homes” in the garden aisle. These also each went under a tree when I got home, but first I drove out to Austell to check out the new location of the Book House. This used to be on Veteran’s Memorial Highway near Ollie’s Discount Outlet, but they’ve relocated in an old gas station. Didn’t see anything I wanted. So many romance books! In every used bookstore they seem to outnumber everything else.

After relocating the fairy houses to the backyard, I did the vacuuming upstairs, and just in time, as the meeting broke up early and James was home at the unheard-of hour of 3 p.m. (Nothing wrong; everything just broke up early.) He spent the rest of the afternoon cooking his breakfasts for the week, and we just had leftovers for supper and watched the Britcoms and Father Brown.

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» Saturday, April 24, 2021
The Fun Before the Rainstorm
It was kind of a blah week. It still doesn't seem quite real that James' mom is gone. I keep thinking that he hasn't called her in a while and should give her a ring. James went back to work feeling more than a bit shell-shocked, and I spent most of it cleaning up from the weekend’s events–washing the clothes, sanitizing and then putting up the suitcases, etc.–and cooking daily dinners.

Thursday we went to Sam’s Club and James found something he wanted: a new Fitbit. Not only was his old “Bit” (the "Alta" that included a heart-rate monitor) quite beat up–he caught it in a door at least once and it had a big scratch across the screen–but he couldn’t read it in sunlight. Sam’s had Fitbit’s “Versa 2,” which is more of a smartwatch, and it has different home screens, some with real clock faces. So he bought it and I got severe Fitbit envy. Unfortunately they only had the black one at Sam’s, not the “rose gold” (read: “copper”) one. I ended up ordering one next day on

When we got home that afternoon, we started work on the closet project. Our bedroom closet is, frankly, full of junk. Because the kitchen is so small, we have to keep a lot of kitchen things in there, like the turkey platter, our electric skillet, some Corningware, etc. Plus there's lots of clothing James just doesn't wear anymore. His stuff is a mixed-up mess anyway: he has something like two dozen pairs of pants on a shelf rather than hung up, and he can never find a particular themed T-shirt he wants to wear. (I know why this is: most of them are either hung inside out or “backwards”–facing the back of the closet–or both!) So, Thursday we started with the pants. Most of them were too small for him, and about a third of those were not wearable due to patches. So the worn ones got thrown out and there is a stack of other pants to go to Goodwill. I will need to tackle the shirts next week.

Thursday we also finished up the grocery shopping with trips to Lidl and Publix, so Friday we could actually go out and have a little fun.

According to an old classmate of mine who thinks you can’t have fun without alcohol, this probably counted as minimal fun, but it was good enough for us! We had lunch at West Cobb Diner with Alice and Ken and Aubrey Spivey, and saw Mel and Phyllis Boros for the first time since our wonderful Christmas Eve that turned into trouble when James got the fever from the foot infection. They both were two weeks out from their second vaccination and finally felt safe enough to go out in public. Phyllis said it was so good to finally talk face-to-face with other people besides Mel and her daughter and son-in-law!

After a nice leisurely lunch, we stopped at Staples to hunt up the new set of Sharpie colors, which Alice tipped me off about, and then went to Barnes & Noble. I picked up the second of the Brontë sisters’ mysteries; still say with their new remodel there are not enough books in the stores! On the way home we stopped at Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. The weather was gorgeous both days, and we were quite satisfied.

The reason we wanted to get all our chores and fun done on Thursday and Friday was because it was supposed to pour fishbuckets on Saturday, 100 percent chance of rain all day. James decided he would use the bad weather to make some more burritos for quick breakfasts, as well as do his ground meat for the week. He gets a mixture of ground turkey, right now the “beyond beef” we got for $1.50 at Lidl, and TVP (soya) soaked in chicken/beef/vegetable broth, and cooks it up with carrots, celery, and onion minced fine in the food processor. Then he takes four servings of that and adds eggs to it to cook up for breakfasts on work days, adding different spices each day to individualize them.

While he cooked, I took advantage of a break in the rain (we'd had the hardest rain between four and eight, and by the time I went out the sun was struggling to get between the clouds) and went back to Sam’s Club, and of course on Saturday they had the copper Fitbits. Unfortunately my order had already processed through and I couldn’t cancel it; I’d just have to wait for my mail order to come on Tuesday. I did go to the Walmart across the way and bought two camisoles, a shirt to wear when dog-walking in the heat, new pants’ hangers and wire hangers, and a few other things. The hangers will help me continue the closet project. When I got home I did the vacuuming, and it did rain in the evening, with thunder and lightning, but nothing like what they'd predicted (which was good, because they were talking hail and possible tornadoes).

Saturday evening we started watching season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. The first episode had such a Star Wars vibe I wondered if we'd wandered into the wrong series. Goodness, Mary Wiseman (Tilly) looked so pale in the first episode. Had she been ill?

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» Sunday, April 18, 2021
Saying Farewell
If the news on Monday hadn't been bad enough, life threw us another curve on Wednesday (the 14th). James got up about 2 a.m. to use the bathroom, dozed off on the toilet, and once more pitched forward and hurt himself. I woke to him bellowing for help, and he had another lump on his right forehead, a bloody nose (he hit his nose this time), a scrape on his left arm near his elbow, and, of course, sore shoulders. It was 911 time again. This time it was a different group of firefighters, who got him off the floor, and two paramedics who got him in the ambulance to be taken to the hospital to be checked out. They suggested Kennestone because if he had a brain bleed due to the head injury it was the best place for him (they have the best trauma center around), and we didn't argue. They were allowing one visitor, so I got dressed and "saddled up" Butch and followed them there.

Thankfully, the CT scan showed no bleed, the x-ray showed no bones broken in the shoulders, and the nurse let me mop up the dried blood on his face. We got home about six in the morning and immediately decamped to the futon and ended up sleeping until ten. Hurrah for five hours of sleep instead of two. James called Kaiser and got a followup with Dr. Mobley on Thursday, and I washed the dog, packed some more, and by the time Jewel came for her weekly visit, we were sort of coherent.

Up to a few years ago, we went down to Warner Robins to visit James' mom and sister (earlier visiting his dad and sister Sabra and niece Nicki, too) fairly often, at the longest every couple of months, usually about once a month, which eventually dwindled to every six weeks. We'd visit Maggi and Clay for a couple of hours, too, and arrive home a few hours before bedtime, having caught up with what was going on. The drive took about an hour and forty minutes, and before James needed the power chair we would take the car. Twilight was a delight to drive long distances, even as the years wore on we would creak a little more emerging from the front seats.

The operative word here is "was." Initially the only traffic problem was near Southlake Mall, but as the mall died, you'd figure the traffic would get better, but no. More stores appeared around Southlake, and then there was the endless construction at the I-675 split down in Henry County. The "hour forty" became "hour forty five" and then "hour fifty" and got progressively worse, especially at times of the year (Christmas week, school winter and spring vacation weeks, and steamy, sucky, sizzly summer) when I-75 south was clotted with tourists descending on The House of Mouse.

Anyway, Friday morning we went to James' appointment at the podiatrist, then came home and loaded stuff in the truck until it was all down there except for the fids, came back upstairs and had lunch (chicken salad sandwiches), and then loaded up the kids (yes, it's actually easier to cope with Snowy because Tucker gets overexcited and will not be still) and were on our way about 1:15. This should get us in about check-in time at three.

Yeah, like that happened. Mystery traffic jams all the way down (the I-675 split excluded!) and it took us three bloody hours to get there—so long to get to the I-475 cutoff that we had to stop at the rest area so we could both use the bathroom.  Even I-75 northbound was backed up. Tucker finally settled down and lay quietly, and Snowy sang for a straight three hours as he attempted to mate with the bell toy in the carry box. Finally pulled into the La Quinta on Watson Boulevard about 4:15, towed all the stuff upstairs on a luggage cart, got Tucker set up in his crate, Snowy set up on his cage on the folding tray, and just collapsed on the bed to get the full effect of the air conditioning as one hundred miles south was a temperature difference of ten degrees more.

A bit later James got ahold of Sabra and we decided to meet for supper at Zen Japanese Steakhouse, which was right behind our hotel. This was a typical place like a Benihana, where they cook the meal on a grill in front of you, and the food was pretty good. I know the steak in my steak and scallops was meltingly tender! Sabra was there with her husband Lee, James' sister Sherii with husband Bobby, and Sherii and Bobby's two daughters Katie and Jessicca, and Jessicca's husband Tom. We chatted through dinner and then after dinner at the hotel everyone else was staying at, the Courtyard by Marriott.

When I was first in Warner Robins, GA, it was still a small city, and things pretty much ended once you got past the mall and Corder Road. In the last thirty-five years everything has built up west of the city going toward the freeway. The place our hotel is, heck the place where they eventually built the "old" Publix (the new Publix is near our hotel) on the corner of Houston Lake Road, was mostly country dotted with a few houses and some small businesses, and, going toward the freeway, lots and lots of peach and pecan orchards. Now Watson Boulevard is solid traffic from U.S. 41 about a mile west of the our La Quinta all the way to the old mall, which is now a health center. It's like Barrett Parkway up at Kennesaw, lined with restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, stores like Best Buy and Hobby Lobby. In fact, judging by the traffic this weekend, it's like Barrett at Christmastime. Good God.

We had a bonus at our La Quinta: there was a dog show, the Peach Blossom, a few miles south in Perry, at the fairgrounds and Agricenter. Every hotel in town that was pet friendly had dogs, and ours was not an exception. We saw lovely pooches everywhere: a smiling Samoyed, a boxer, a pair of Westies, a Corgi, two huge Swiss Mountain dogs (looks like a Bernese, but with a short coat), an Aussie, a couple of pugs. (According to the desk clerk on Sunday, we missed a beaut: he was brought here from Russia. Something called a Caucasian Shepherd Dog, originally bred to hunt bear in the Caucasian Mountains. Like a "St. Bernard on steroids" was how he described it; he could see the top of the dog's head as it walked by the check-in desk!!!)
I had not asked for a handicapped accessible room because none came up when I searched's listings, so we had to take it slow getting James in and out of the bathtub/shower. This hotel had the craziest diverter (the gadget that switches from the faucet to the shower) I've ever seen: it was the round spout where the water came out—you pulled it down to get the shower to turn on! Then I had to do treatment on the remaining blisters on his leg. No wonder we don't like to go anywhere anymore: we have to bring more and more medical supplies with us every time we go anywhere.
Saturday morning we got up in time for the breakfast buffet. This was back to being a normal buffet unlike the Country Inn and Suites for Atomicon: eggs and sausages, a waffle maker, a pancake maker, four kinds of juice, a toaster and several kinds of bread, bagels, muffins, and pastries, oatmeal and grits (packaged), several fruit choices, 2 percent milk in a dispenser, also skim milk, butter, margarine, cream cheese, and even cheese slices (which James really appreciated) in a fridge. Hot coffee and tea were available, too.
At this point we had nothing to do until the service, but neither of us had slept well—the pillows were like rocks and two were too many and one not enough, plus they keep the parking lot brilliantly lit so you won't feel like you'll get mugged, but the light completely overwhelms the white "blackout curtains" they have on the windows and glows all around them, and the bed is next to the window, so you can see how that goes. So we just sort of lolled there until we decided we'd better have lunch before the service. Guess what we had seen just down the road when we returned from the Courtyard last night: an Uncle Maddio's Pizza! We went down there and got individual pizzas to go, then ate until it was time to get dressed for the service. Dress was "nice casual," so I wore the black blouse I'd worn to Juanita's wedding with black work pants and my Mom's Trifari bird of paradise pin, which is the nicest piece of jewelry I own. James wore a blue Oxford cloth shirt over his Navy-plaid kilt, with a Trifari green- and clear rhinestone sword pin as a kilt pin, and just regular compression socks instead of the white socks that go with the kilt. I polished our shoes and put on a little blush, and we wore our hats, as it was sunny, warm, and clear with a brisk breeze. Traffic was terrible going back to Magnolia Park, so we weren't as early as we wanted to be. Clay and Maggi had just arrived, and we walked up to the marquee with them only to find out that Alice, Ken, Aubrey, and Juanita had driven down all the way from home to attend the service. I nearly cried. Terica and Ben, who live in town, came, too, but could not stay long as they had to get back to her father, who has dementia. Several friends of James' family were there, like Edwin, and James' Aunt Sandy and her daughter Crystal had also driven down from Kennesaw in that horrible traffic mess!

Sabra did the honors at the memorial ceremony. We were touched because she had asked James if there was anything he wanted read at the ceremony and he asked her to read the Henry Scott Holland piece that had been used in an episode of Remember WENN, a beautiful quotation that goes

"What is death? Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room, and I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other then, that we are still. Speak to me in the easy way that you always used, laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together, let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Life means all that it ever meant; there's absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I'm out of sight? I am waiting for you, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well."
Sabra liked it so well that she read it at the opening of the ceremony. Then she started to tell "Mom stories" that made us laugh and cry all at the same time. It was not a long ceremony, but very touching, and Mom's casket was surrounded by beautiful baskets of flowers, which she would have loved.

Sometime during the ceremony James' sister Candace showed up, having been driven up from Dublin, GA, by a friend. We have not seen her since she developed the terrible infection in her foot last year, and the wound got so bad that she had to have her leg amputated at the knee. She is now in a Veterans' Administration facility in Dublin, supposedly having therapy so that she will be strong enough to be transferred up to New Jersey where she can stay with her daughter Nicki and her grandsons and son-in-law. We know she has not been doing well there, but we were shocked by her appearance. She looks old before her time, thin and wan. I hope she can get out of there soon!

After the ceremony, we went with Alice, Ken, Aubrey, Juanita, Maggi, and Clay to the local Cracker Barrel to have a little snack and decompress. Juanita couldn't finish all her meal so I had a very nice pancake, and James had a slice of chocolate cake. Cracker Barrel is usually SRO, so I was shocked that we found a table almost right away. Then they went along home, and we went back to be with the fids. About seven o'clock we ordered some teriyaki wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and had them delivered to the hotel. They were good, but the sauce was rather salty.

We had a sort-of better night's sleep on Saturday night, were up in time for some packing and the breakfast buffet, then packed up the luggage, the crate, the cage, and finally the fids, got in the truck and got on the road. The GPS was saying a little over a two hour drive, to get us home a little after one, and we didn't do badly in traffic until I noticed James was blinking a lot and sounding tired as we approached McDonough, so we got off at exit 212, hoping to go to Chick-Fil-A, then remembering it was Sunday and they were closed. Sigh. I could have used the waffle fries. I told James we could go on if he wanted to, after using the bathroom at Books-a-Million, since they wouldn't let us go in at Wendy's, but he really needed to eat, so we went to McDonald's instead—at least they'd let us in to use the bathroom. James asked for a quarter pounder without cheese for me and a plain hamburger without cheese for Tucker, and guess what...cheese. Thanks for nothing, McDonald's. I still ate half. Tucker didn't care.
Yes, Snowy sang all the way home, too, but by the time we got close he was starting to look a bit exhausted!
Of course by the time we left McDonald's, the traffic at the I-675 split had built up. At one point the GPS took us off the freeway, a couple of miles on local roads, then back on the freeway. The shortest way home was through I-285, so around downtown Atlanta we went,  got home an hour later at a little after two, hauled stuff in and pretty much left stuff that didn't need to go upstairs downstairs, changed clothes, and took a bloody nap until James' furosimide alarm went off at four o'clock.

Spent the rest of the afternoon watching documentaries on Curiosity Stream: one on red pandas, one about the Magna Carta, and finally one called Sherlock Holmes Against Conan Doyle.
At last, back to feather pillows and a firm mattress and lights out.
Until we get an alternative safety method, I have pulled the two foam wedgies that we used to use on the old, non-adjustable bed to prop up our heads from the spare room closet and set them opposite the toilet in the master bathroom. God forbid if James falls forward again he will hit foam rubber.
Tonight it's My Grandfather's War and part three of Atlantic Crossing.

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» Sunday, April 11, 2021
James’ mom's condition continued to deteriorate this week. She was having difficulty breathing and they made the decision to put her on a ventilator and sedate her. Later in the week they withdrew the sedation, and were ready to take her off the ventilator when she regained consciousness. She has not yet come to. Late in the week the hospital called in hospice services.

So, it has not been a good week here. At least the side effect fever from the COVID vaccine is gone.

Well, at least that side effect went away. This weekend I had another. It didn't much matter.

At least we were able to have lunch on Friday with Alice and Ken.

[James' mom passed away Monday night, April 12, at 9 p.m.]

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» Saturday, April 03, 2021
Vaccine Fever
You know me, dentist phobia. So I figured I'd give the gums a good week's treatment before I called the dentist. This was really painful Monday and Tuesday. I had a low-grade fever both days and I had to quit using the water flosser because it hurt so much. Even my upper and lower palette swelled up and the salt rinses were painful; they made my sinuses hurt. My glands were swollen, too. Oddly, at no time did I have any type of toothache; I have had sore gums before, but it has always been associated with a toothache. Instead I flossed with regular floss, which was painful enough, and kept up with the salt rinses along with peroxide rinses (I looked at a $12 tooth rinse at the supermarket; the active ingredient was, guess what, peroxide! I figured to save $12 I could stand the bad taste.) Tuesday I was asleep most of the afternoon. Wednesday I felt better and the fever never came back.

Thursday morning, when I resolved I would call the dentist if things hadn't improved, the swelling was down almost everywhere, and brushing and rinsing didn't hurt much anymore, and by Friday everything was fine again. me. I didn't think peroxide and salt would take down real infection. I did remember my strange reaction to the Zostavax, though, and looked up reactions to tetanus vaccines online. And there were bleeding gums and swollen glands. Hmmmn.

The rest of the week went by smoothly for us, but not so for James' mother. On Monday she had a very mild heart attack, which I guess was linked to the slow heartbeat? We're getting the reports from James' sister, and she can only visit Mom on limited hours, so she doesn't know everything the doctors are doing.

Friday I did my usual quiet three hours between noon and three, reading the Mass readings for Good Friday, then listening to all six BBC Lent Talks for this year. This year's theme was "hope." I finished out the three hours with Madeleine L'Engle's And It Was Good, the first book in her Genesis trilogy in which she covers the creation through the almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Said prayers for Mom and hoped things will turn around.

And, finally, today, O finally!...I got my second vaccine! We made a day of it: I-285 was backed up at one in the afternoon, so after I was "shot" and waited the regulation thirty minutes reading Ben Aaronovitch's What Abigail Did That Summer, we drove home overland through (mostly) Holcomb Bridge Road. Had lunch at Zaxby's and stopped at Trader Joe's for chicken sausage and chocolate and other goodies.

Tonight I had a fever of 100.3. Why am I not surprised? They say it means you are building antibodies, so it's a good thing.

[The fever, incidentally, lasted through Sunday and Monday, and then vanished as if it had never arrived.]

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» Saturday, March 27, 2021
Needed: Leprechaun
If it wasn’t for bad luck, we might not have any at all.

Oh, some good stuff happened this week. I finally had the staples removed from my head–hurrah, I can brush my hair properly again!–and then the next day I went out in the yard and finally did the tidying I wanted to get done when it was cold: I used the Wolfgarten "lopper" connected with the extension pole and took down a bunch of tree branches before they leafed out, plus cleaned around Pidgie’s and Schuyler’s graves and tossed out some broken resin lawn ornaments.

And now it’s really spring: we’ve had the grass cut for the first time this year.

The nicest part of the week was going to Barnes & Noble.

The lousy surprise was going to Dr. Friedman on Friday and discovering James had a new blister on his foot–it wasn’t there last night! He’s at the point where his leg is almost well, but there’s always this one tiny little thing that keeps it from being back to where it was in December. Thankfully, the doctor didn't decided to put him back in the calamine unna boot.

The even worse surprise was James intending to call his mom for her birthday later on, and discovering she was in the hospital. She had bradycardia from high calcium; something is wrong with her parathyroid. I know that one; I remember the awful calcium drip I had to have when I had my thyroid out (since it messes with your parathyroid, which controls your calcium), and also the liquid supplement that the night nurse brought, and even after I left the hospital I had to have a special prep of it mixed up at Wender and Roberts, which was a real apothecary and not just a drugstore. It sounded as if she might need to have the parathyroid removed, but maybe there's some sort of medical therapy for it.

James also had to return the new (refurbed) laptop he’d bought because the wifi quit working. It was a crazy week for technology period, since one of my most-used phone apps stopped working completely and I had to reload it twice before it “took” again. Both phones seemed to have trouble connecting to the wifi for a couple of days; we even considered rebooting the router. But then it straightened up out of nowhere, so maybe it was the phones.

Anyway, I noticed when I brushed my teeth Friday night that my gums were very sore and bleeding. They’d been fine previously and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I immediately started myself on salt and water rinses, and even that hurt! By Saturday morning I could barely brush my teeth and I didn’t feel very well. As a precaution, I took my temperature before we went to Hair Day and it was 97.9℉, so I didn’t know what the problem was. Now, we were supposed to leave Hair Day at one to get to my appointment at the Kaiser Gwinnett office for my second vaccine. Instead about noon I asked James if we could go home so I could lie down for a half hour before we left for Gwinnett. The first thing I did upon getting inside was take my temperature again and it was 100.5! I took some ibuprofin and then kept taking my temp every ten minutes and it never got lower than 99.9. So I had to call Kaiser up and cancel the appointment again. [Later: I got an e-mail on Sunday and was able to reschedule it for April 3. What a pain in the neck!]

[Sunday my gums were still sore but…of course, no fever.]

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» Sunday, March 21, 2021
Well, the Morning Was Okay... (Atomicon, Day 4)
All good things must come to an end. But surprisingly, we had had another good night’s sleep, and were reasonably awake when we schlepped out of the room in slippers and hang-around clothing to get our breakfast, after starting to toss stuff into the suitcases and James packing up his C-PAP. We ate in the common room with a small crowd, and then people started wandering in after breakfast at Kami’s Place, and while James held the fort, I ran back in the room, packed up most of everything, portaged it into the common room, and checked out of the room promptly at eleven, after which we sat and gabbed a little longer. We were in no rush because we couldn’t pick up Tucker and Snowy until after 4 p.m. Finally we loaded up the truck and followed the group (Damien, Kristine, Aubrey, Ken, Alice, and Chris) that was going to Kami’s Place for lunch. The decor hasn’t changed and the food is still yummy: James had an omelet and I had a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese.

And then we were on our way home. When we got to Dawsonville we stopped at the North Georgia Premium outlets for a bathroom break as well as to stop at the Hanes store to buy underwear and socks for me and underwear and shirts for James. [Later: This turned out to be a bust for James–none the underwear he bought, even though it was his size, did not fit; they were labeled as briefs but were really low-rise briefs. We couldn’t even donate the unused ones because he had taken them all out of the packages. We had to throw them away.] Popped in the Yankee Candle outlet store but they don’t have the coffee-scented candles anymore.

This took long enough that we arrived at the vet after four, but had to wait forever for the other people picking up their pets so they could let us inside (they weren’t letting anyone else in, and they didn’t want to have to explain why they were letting either of us in to use the restroom and for me to put Snowy back in his carry box and empty all the water and seed out of his cage and get it wrapped up). Snowy came out singing his head off as I made a mess out of one of the exam rooms by spilling his seed everywhere, and soundly bit me when I put him into the carry cage.

And then the vet tech came out and said none of Tucker’s exam/bloodwork had been done! Dr. Mike examined Snowy and gave him his polyoma shot, but Tucker didn’t get his checkup or his labs or even his bath! She kept apologizing and said they owed him a free bath! And now we have to drag over to the other side of town again to get him a checkup!

So we dragged in home wayyyyyyy after five, whereupon I stuffed a load of laundry in the washer, then we had barbecue leftovers for supper and watched M*A*S*H and Star Trek, and later on an old film about a boy and his horse, The Red Stallion. It had the little dog “Daisy” in it who used to be in the “Blondie” films and who also played Jacob in National Velvet.

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» Saturday, March 20, 2021
Sweet and Sour, Pizza and Ribs (Atomicon, Day 3)
It was our last full day in Helen, so we celebrated by having a long, long breakfast with everyone. Hopefully next year we can go back to proper breakfasts and we won't have to juggle cereal bowls and cups over to the conference room; previous years they brought us eggs and sausage and we could use trays. (This year the tables used for breakfasts were covered in their extra inventory of paper products.) Luckily it was a little cooler today than yesterday, so the fact that we didn’t go out until almost noon was okay. Once again we traversed the back street and took the bridge over the Chattahoochee, and this time we did find the Olive Tree–it is now downtown on Main Street next to the coffee shop, in a terribly teeny space (I think it was formerly a T-shirt and sunglasses shop!), but we did manage. They didn’t have their sign out yet, so they had to keep shooing people in, though. (They can't leave the door open because the vinegar samples attract flies.) We already had a second bottle of the white peach balsamic vinegar, but we had loved the honey ginger as a finishing sauce for pork and chicken last year, so we got a larger bottle of that.

This time we walked all the way down to Hofer’s bakery and sandwich shop, where the nice broad sidewalk ends and turns into a narrower path not suitable for the power chair. James wanted a slice of German chocolate cake, but the ramp at Hofer's is not wide and kind of hard for him to navigate, so I went in to get it for him, and found a bonus: Ritter dark chocolate-covered peppermint cream bars. They were terribly expensive, but I got two as a treat. We used to find these all the time at Nam Dae Mun, then they quit carrying them, and I'd wondered if they had quit making them.

On the way back we peeked in the other stores on the opposite side of the street and I bought my yearly half-pound of almond bark from the Hansel and Gretel candy shop, and got James some sugar-free caramels as well. It was another lovely, breezy day, and we loitered under the overhangs of the different little shops, listened to the live music being played in the performance area, then walked/rolled under the bridge again, along the river, and wound through the parking lots through the back via Edelweiss Street.

Once again we had leftovers for lunch–James had the big chili bowl he didn’t expect last night at Bigg Daddy’s and I had the other half of my personal pizza. People wandered in and out, and we always had someone to talk with.

A big group went out for dinner tonight at Bodensee, the German place down the road, but it’s rather expensive, and Bodensee is not a large place. I was also kinda jonesing for barbecue. We found two likely places, both a few miles away in Cleveland, but one was going to close in a half hour. So James and I, plus Alice and Ken, and their former church pastor, Amy, went to a place just past the Walmart we went to yesterday, Rib Country BBQ. We had to wait about 20 minutes, but, boy, what great food and the service was terrific! I wanted ribs and James said “Let’s splurge!” and we got a dinner for two: a rack of ribs, a pound of barbecue, a pound of brisket, and half a barbecue chicken, plus french fries and I had applesauce on the side and he had baked beans. I ate every single rib except for the one I gave to James, he ate a little of everything, and we had two big containers of leftovers to take home. [Later: James used the fries to make eggs, Spam, and potato breakfasts, and we ate off the leftovers as well!]

By the time we got back, people were already playing games. Oreta had the new anniversary edition of Chronology, and she, Melinda, Shawn, and I played both versions. The new version has a lot more modern stuff and isn’t as “nerdy,” I think. She also showed us how the locked room mystery games work, but we didn’t play one. There were different “conversation pits,” and James partook of several, and we wandered sleepily off to bed sometime after midnight.

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» Friday, March 19, 2021
Where Did They Hide the Olives? (Atomicon, Day 2)
I don’t think there’s one vacation we’ve been on that we’ve actually slept well. You’re supposed to rest on vacation, so I understand, but we both feel it hard to get comfortable in a strange bed–and there’s always something that keeps us awake. If it isn’t the light between the curtains (which is why we now carry clips to keep them closed) or a light in the bathroom, it’s the mattress or the pillows (hotels use foam pillows, which give me headaches), or noise outside, or the air conditioner making funny noises (and we have had the A/C on in November to keep the air moving in the room). The one time we had the perfect mattress and perfect pillows–2013 in a cabin sixteen miles north of Gatlinburg–we both had headcolds and couldn’t sleep for not being able to breathe (we knew every drugstore on the strip in Pigeon Forge that year), which is typical of life, as February Callendar would say.

So it wasn’t surprising we didn’t sleep well last night. For some bizarre reason, instead of having nice standard-size pillows, Radisson hotels have these square things the size of sofa pillows. Two are too little, three are too much. At least the hotel has gotten rid of what I called “the 200 pound duvet” (it was like having a dead body covering you up) and gone for a lighter one. But we had a restless night, especially because the air conditioner sounded like a 18-wheeler truck cab starting up under our window, and then James had forgotten something. So we were quite yawny when we crawled out of the room for breakfast. Sadly, with the demise of the bar, the only “non-carb” item are packaged sausage biscuits, which James consumed along with juice and cereal. We collected some tea for him, but he ended up never drinking it. I had a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a double packet of oatmeal, and lots of milk, saving a glass for lunch. We ate our meal in the common room with a small group (the other crowd went to Kami’s Place, formerly Wendell’s, a few miles down the road–coronavirus dealt badly with Wendell’s, and then Wendell himself, in his 80s, got sick and couldn’t carry on). In a bit we ambled back to our room, got dressed, and went out for a morning walk.

There’s a back pathway from the hotel to “downtown” Helen where all the shops are, and we were walking/rolling on it presently. It was still chilly at this point and we had jackets on over flannel shirts over short sleeves. We went past the bar next to the hotel, then some rental “betsitter” type condos being built, and some other existing small rental condos decorated, of course, in the German/Bavarian theme of Helen, and then Bodensee, the German restaurant, before getting to the cross street and walking up to Helen’s main street. Our main mission this morning was to go to the Alpine Olive Tree, the olive oil and vinegar shop, to get another bottle of their honey ginger balsamic vinegar. James was quite taken by the flavor for use in cooking (tastes great with chicken and pork) and he wanted to get a larger bottle this time. The store is located in a building called “the Castle Inn” (the hotel is upstairs) on the opposite bank of the Chattahoochee River.

Or it was: when we got inside it said they had moved to Chattahoochee Street “next to the coffee shop.” Okay, so out we came (since the Christmas store wasn’t open yet) and continued down the street. Except for the life of us, we couldn’t find it. We went all the way down Chattahoochee Street to the back street that the locals use instead of taking Main Street, and no store. We wandered around the stores and the Cowboys and Angels restaurant set behind the Main Street stores, then came back to Main Street and walked a little further on to the park with the waterfall and then turned back. Where was the store? Finally, confused, we crossed the street, surveyed the shops there, and crossed over under the bridge along the river and walked back to Edelweiss Street (the back street just mentioned) and trudged back to the hotel. We will just need to phone them to see where they are!

What a difference from last year, though. Even before noon there were already a lot of people out, and as the day went by the traffic on Main Street started to back up all the way to our hotel. Life had come back to the city: there was a trout tournament scheduled for the next weekend, and also another gathering: an art exhibition.

Back at the hotel we loaded up the chair and drove to Cleveland, GA, to get the item James needed at the local Walmart. This was the strangest-laid-out Wallyworld I’ve ever seen. Instead of the pharmacy being against one of the front walls of the building like in every other Walmart I’ve seen, this one had the pharmacy in the middle of the store, with all the toiletries and medicines lined up in aisles leading to it. We picked up a plastic water bottle for James to mix up his medicine inside in the morning (he takes it as a slushee at home, but no blender here!) and also a bottle of cranberry juice to help wash it down.

On the way back we stopped at the Mt. Yonah bookstore. The proprietor there is so nice! She always remembers what weekend we come down and gives us a discount. James bought a history book about the M1 carbine and also a beautiful knob-topped wooden walking stick she was selling for the artist in her store. It’s big and heavy and we dubbed it “the shillelagh.” I bought a copy of the memoirs of a Maine country doctor that is equal parts medical, spiritual, and life story. Daisy the tortoiseshell-and-white cat (she of the vivid green eyes) rubbed against my leg, and we met Ronnie, the cat from the record shop next door.

On the way back we called the olive store-we couldn't find them because they had one more inspection late this afternoon until they could open and the storefront windows were still covered in kraft paper! If they pass the inspection they will be open tomorrow.

So we were a bit late in getting to our lunch, the leftover pad thai and beef noodle soup which we had with cookies and mandarin oranges (and me with a nice glass of milk saved from breakfast). Spent the rest of the afternoon talking while goofing off on the computer, until dinner time rolled around again. This time Bigg Daddy’s was the dinner choice du jour, eaten with the Lawsons and the Allens. There was quite a big crowd, and, sadly, we had something to watch part of the time during our wait: there is a motel across the alley from the restaurant and just as we arrived, an older lady had tripped and fallen walking toward the back entrance. She was not moving and everyone was anxiously watching until the ambulance arrived–it took a while because I think it had to come from Demorest, where James ended up in the emergency room two years ago.

Finally we got seated–and wouldn’t you know our seat was right next to the live performer for the night? He wasn’t a bad singer, but they had him amped up so loud that you could hear him clearly out in the parking lot, and he was singing a lot of loud country and rock. If I wanted to talk to Jerry next to me, I had to get within six inches of his face and bawl at the top of my lungs! WTF, people? I go to dinner to talk to my friends, not be deafened. It’s tiresome, not relaxing. The only time we could actually talk is when the singer took a break.

It took a while to be seated, but the service was fairly quick once we got our orders in. Since I’d had wings on Wednesday night, I had a personal pizza instead. (Disappointing–not a patch on Uncle Maddio’s!) James ordered some steak tacos, and, being hungry, also ordered what he thought would be a cup of chili. It was a huge soup bowl instead! So he took home chili for lunch tomorrow and I packed up half a pizza.

Then once again we went back to the hotel for more chat (and it was again almost nine o’clock!). We saw photos of Jessie and John’s new house. The present owner is a woodworker and is leaving behind a gorgeous workshop on the lower level. Jessie is going to use that for her printing room (she has a 3D printer). There’s also a big yard for their two big dogs. We found out Juanita not only had a heart ablation, but also another procedure that we had not known about. The latter was happily successful and she says she feels more relaxed than she has in years.

A few folks did play some games: the younger set (they’re in their 20s) were playing some type of survival game, and Oreta and John and Melinda attempted one of those escape-room games. But yet again we wandered to bed about midnight, and hoped we’d get some sleep!

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» Thursday, March 18, 2021
Home to the Hills (Atomicon, Day 1)
Last year at this time we had need to make a serious decision: did we want to go to Helen at all? Everything in Atlanta was closing down due to coronavirus, but the hotel had begged us to come, said that they were taking additional precautions and there would be pre-packaged breakfasts instead of the breakfast bar. And we were desperate to get away before being housebound, for how long we didn’t know. In the end, some people did drop out of the trip, but most of us went. Helen was surreal that weekend. The streets were nearly deserted and some places had already shut down. We had dinner at Spice 55 (Thai) and the very next day they closed for dine-in. Bigg Daddy’s was already social distancing with a vengeance the following night. Some restaurants were already closed, as was the place we usually went for ice cream. On the Sunday we left we took up a collection for the hotel staff , knowing they would have tough times ahead. Next day Helen closed down for business.

This year, prep was about the same: James worked on the phone and I worked packing, checked off lists, added more stuff, and then packed more, including seed for Snowy and a shirt of James’ for Tucker to sleep with at “camp.” We had to remember the charger for the chair, the chargers for the phones, the charger for the tablets… And then there were the cookies for the crowd.

But it was eventually all in the suitcases, then all in the truck, and we even found a proper plastic trash bag that the birdcage fit in. As always, Tucker was harder to load than Snowy, so the bird was the last one out of the house (twice, because I had to run back in for James’ glasses and his kangaroo bag). There happened to be three hawks overhead wheeling and calling out, Snowy spotted them with huge eyes, and he was jittery on the drive as we started. Thankfully they let me into the vet’s office–they’re still doing the damnable curbside service–to place Snowy in his cage and prep him to stay (food and water), although the rest of the arrangements were made over the phone as we stared into the office from the parking lot.

And then we were James and Linda again instead of pet-Mom and pet-Dad, and by then it was after lunch time. We crossed Jett Ferry to the Williamsburg shopping center and I ran into the East 48th Street Market to get us both Italian sandwiches, a couple of zeppoli (since tomorrow is St. Joseph’s Day), and of course I bought a pack of fusilli (twisted pasta) to bring home.

It was the warmest day of our four-day weekend, so we were able to drive to Helen with the windows down, eating half of our enormous sandwiches and sharing a couple of mandarin oranges in the cab of the truck. When we first started driving to Helen over twenty years ago, our route was mainly country. At least one shopping mall (North Point) in Alpharetta, a small outlet mall in Woodstock, and a huge outlet mall in Dawsonville have gone up since then, and we remember when the North Georgia Premium Outlets and a couple of restaurants were the only thing on the road in Dawsonville! Now there’s a Publix, a Kroger, a Walmart, nearly two dozen restaurants, and more nail places than you can shake a stick at. It’s only when you pass the last of the stores that you’re in the country again: horses grazing in pastures along the river, places selling boiled peanuts and baked goods, little antique stores, and of course, our favorite little bookstore, the Mt. Yonah Book Exchange. When we pulled into the Country Inn and Suites we were greeted by Alice and Aubrey. After setting up things in our room, we were able to finish our lunch in the common room, spread out our cookie contribution, and talk with folks as they wandered in. It was a good thing we ate so late because supper took forever.

This was at Spice 55, which has killer food, but man, the service was s-l-o-w Thursday night. I’m not sure if they were down some employees or they just weren’t prepared for a crowd on a Thursday night, but we got there at quarter to six and didn’t get out until after eight. This wouldn’t have been so bad had we been able to talk properly, but they had very loud music playing in the background, so people had to talk loudly to be heard over it, with the result that the cacophony was dreadful. The food was still killer–I have had pad thai in several Thai places (and they all seem to make it a little differently), but Spice 55’s pad thai is by far the best I’ve ever eaten, with a rich, deep wonderful flavorfulness, and you get a great portion with a lot of meat. I was able to take a third of it back to the hotel. Juanita ordered some beef noodle soup that was a whole meal unto itself, but she didn’t like the cinnamon flavoring they had put into it, so James was the happy recipient of the remainder. The heat of the day (and the light) had gone by the time we emerged, and the wind was delightfully cool.

Then it was back to the hotel for the best part of Atomicon: talking to each other! It was especially sweet this year when some of us had been separated for so long. Shari even managed to make it from Alabama this year. Some folks colored as they talked, and the subjects ranged from coronavirus to other events of the past year to television to books.

I remember the days when we stayed up until one or two in the morning playing games and talking, but except for the young ones these days, we mostly wandered off to bed around midnight, looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

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» Saturday, March 13, 2021
"Jill Fell Down and Broke Her Crown..."
Well, it was a week things got done.

Some of them I might have wanted to avoid.

Some of them I didn't. I did get to cancel Snowy's appointment with the new vet. I don't want to find a new vet for him without being able to check them out, and how can I do that if the vet is only doing curbside visits? I want to check out the office, see if it's clean, see how the workers act when they see customers, see how the animals react to them. Our vet says Snowy can be given a polyoma shot whenever he might come to board, he just can't get a checkup right now. So I am hoping he stays well until my current vet either gets a new avian vet or I can find one. There are none that I can find on this side of town; I can either drive forty-five minutes or more northeast, or go down into Buckhead (and with all the car break-ins in the latter place, why would I want to go to Buckhead?).

Did get more stuff thrown away, including ten-year-old "PC World" magazines James had in a file box under his bedroom window! What on earth...? I changed the bed. I shredded more stuff. I swapped out the old "pigtail" compact fluorescents in the front porch lanterns for real LEDs, with the help of the exterminator, who showed me how to get the tops off them. Over the weekend I finally got new cotton sheets to replace the dreadful microfiber ones we have now with the fitted bottom sheets that won't stay on the bed! I took down the winter decorations and put up the spring ones.

And I had just just finished putting away the winter decorations and sweeping the foyer. I was taking the broom back to the laundry room, preparatory to getting the dustpan and brush...and missed a step. I went backward, banged my back against a solid wood stool we keep outside the laundry room door, and whacked my head on the doorframe of the laundry room. Ow! My hand went to the bump already rising on my head and I immediately yelled out to James, "Come help me, I've fallen!" I heard him say to the customer he had on the phone, "I'm going to have to let the level two guy take this call; my wife just fell and I need to help her." Then I took my hand away from my head and it was covered in blood.

Well...crap. "James! You need to call 911! I'm bleeding here!"

So the rescue squad came and the firemen, too—it was too absurdly funny because the firemen remembered James from his fall in December and kept asking "You've got high blood pressure, right?" James said, "No, that's me." "You've got diabetes, right?" James again: "No, that's me, too." "You've got kidney trouble..." James: "No, that's me, too."—and they had to haul me off to Emory St. Joseph. It wasn't a bad trip and they didn't even test me for COVID, I just got popped in the back and waited a bit and finally the doctor came and said she was going to numb my head, clean the blood off, and put four staples in, then I'd have a tetanus shot because I couldn't remember when I had my last one, a CT scan just to make sure I hadn't busted any blood vessels in my brain, and an x-ray of my back, and then off I could go. They even sent someone in to bill me for the emergency room visit so I could go home as soon as they got done. Well, it's a pity they didn't numb my stupid lizard brain, too. The lidocaine and the staples were nothing, as was the x-ray, but when they laid me out flat on the CT scan platform and started raising me up, my eyes saw that ring getting closer and closer and scrambled off the platform at light speed and full freaked out panicked so badly that I drove my heart into palpitations. They finally took me back to my cubicle where my heart finally steadied down after fifteen minutes and they offered me some atavan to get through the CT scan, but I've had that before and it doesn't work on me when it comes to the claustrophobia reaction, and I spent the rest of the time there sobbing at my own stupidity. Several nurses tiptoed in telling me it was okay, that others had bad reactions like that, but I just felt dumb and vulnerable.

James finally got to pick me up at 8:30 and I went home feeling as stupid as I've ever felt. The lidocaine worked really well and even after it wore off, where they gave me the tetanus shot hurt worse than my head. James said if I couldn't sleep lying down he would sit up with me in the spare room like I sat up with him when he banged his head and hurt his shoulders, but the pain was no different lying down than sitting up, so we went back to bed.

I was so careful with that ladder and the stepstool replacing the bulbs on the porch and I went and missed a dumb stair! Argh.

And the worst of the whole thing was when it came time today for us to get our second COVID shot James was allowed to have his, but I couldn't have mine because of the tetanus vaccine. The doctor was afraid having two vaccines within four days of each other would spoil the effectiveness of one or both. So now we have to truck all the damn way out to Gwinnett County again at the end of the month!

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

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» Saturday, March 06, 2021
Disposing and Acquiring

Well, it's been a week.

To lead off with the good news, I took the special deal Paramount+ was offering for a discount year's membership (I was holding out until a date I could remember, just making it in before the cutoff of the special price). Later in the week when CBS All Access officially rolled over into Paramount+, we loaded it on the Roku stick and watched the first episode of the animated Star Trek series, Lower Decks, which follows four lower-ranked crewmen on the starship U.S.S. Cerritos. Some critics don't like it because it's a comedy, but it's actually sort of cute. Everyone can't be the captain, first officer, etc. in Starfleet; others have to be the little worker bees, after all.

The bad news was that James took another tumble on Monday; caught his foot on the vinyl carpet protector that goes under his desk chair. Got a minor cut on his hand, a tiny scrape on his knee, but he broke his little work table he uses in conjunction with his work desk. It was not repairable and I trashed it. Do not need all this drama, though.

Am doing that "give 40 things away each of the 40 days of Lent" challenge; in my case I'm more trashing than donating, but I'm enjoying it. Tossed out more old, too-salty items, and cleaned out a few things in our closet as well as on top of the DVD cases behind the sofa. I was aghast to find James' old papers from Northside Hospital from 2016 buried under a couple of books! Ended up doing a bunch of shredding as well.

So now we are back to the calamine unna boot being off again, removed by the podiatrist on Thursday. However, the skin on James' left leg is still very fragile, so there are still a few spot bandages. For a treat on Friday we went to Barnes & Noble, which was probably a bad idea as I committed book. A new "Noodle Shop" mystery had been released, plus I found the paperback of The Vanishing Bride, a mystery solved by the Brontë sisters. (I've never read any Brontë novels, not even the famous Jane Eyre, but after seeing the British play To Walk Invisible on PBS, it whetted my appetite for something written about the sisters. Also got two "buy one, get one 50 percent off" books, one about street names reflecting social status, and another called Women Rowing North, about aging. Unfortunately came home with a terrible headache because the pollen being so high already.

Saturday James went to his club meeting for the first time in a year! He enjoyed this very much, and I had some time to do a few things best done with the garage empty. I made chicken cacciatore but this time it came rather flat. I have to remember that the Sanderson Farms chicken thighs I get from Lidl are cheap, but boy, do they have excess skin! I thought I cut enough of it away, but evidently not, as the sauce was very thin from the chicken still being too fatty. From now on I will only leave a tiny portion on each thigh for the flavor (we don't eat it).

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» Saturday, February 27, 2021
Nothing Very Exciting (And We Like It That Way)
Spent the usual week doing the usual chores along with some extras. Did a financial "thing" to save up for future tax payments. Fixed a dresser drawer in the spare room so the rail was more firmly seated. Cleaned out the fall and winter magazines downstairs. And it was warm enough one day to air out the library.

We finally had a successful return trip to Sam's Club on Thursday, and brought home a free rotisserie chicken and two pounds of strawberries, which I hulled and cut up on Saturday. With some Reddi Whip they made two delightful desserts, no shortcake needed. Also took a long-overdue visit to Patak's Meat Market for more Italian sausage. I like theirs because the sausage flavoring is so mild it doesn't aggravate my acid reflux.

Alas, while the nurse took the calamine unna boot off James' leg on Tuesday, it went back on Friday—he had raw spots here and there on the leg. On the other hand we had lunch with both the Spiveys and the Boulers on Friday, so it still turned out to be a good day. The 6-ounce steak and green salad at O'Charley's hit the spot.

Saturday James had to prep his ground meat to use in his breakfasts, but we did get to have lunch at Tin Drum (I had an extra protein offer), and of course we had the yummy strawberries. Spent some of the afternoon watching old episodes of Decorating Cents on Discovery+. Those "hand-painted" kitchens and porches of the late 1990s look funny now, but some are much preferable to the cold plain things they have now. Some of these modern kitchens look like hospital rooms! I love the snug warm kitchens they show in the British magazines much more.

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» Saturday, February 20, 2021
Into Each Life a Little Sunshine Shall Fall
It was a mixed bag of a workweek after Jen’s joyful visit. I hit a couple of stores on Monday to get needed supplies (especially stocking up on Command Hooks at Hobby Lobby before they ditch the 40 percent off coupon). James had been wearing the compression sock again on his left leg, but Deborah (the visiting nurse) put him back into the calamine lotion unna boot after she saw the two small blisters on the arch of his foot. This seems like a setback, but I’m sure the leg can stand the extra moisture that the calamine brings. Sure was a downer, though, along with the fact that I had to make Snowy his annual appointment with a completely different vet. The avian vet we have had for years, Dr. Karolyn Akins, has quarantined herself during COVID, and the other avian vet at the office left. I had to call three vets before I could find one that would give Snowy a polyoma shot, which they require before he can board at our vet. And the vet we will be going to is still doing curbside pickup. I do not like that at all.

Wednesday I had to call our insurance agent to question why I can’t see both our auto and our home policy online. (The short answer is that the auto insurance is in my name and the house policy is in James’ name with mine as the secondary name. To be able to combine them, the agent needs to change my name to primary on the house insurance.) I haven’t called our agent since the Smallwoods retired, and I had a rather long, hilarious chat with the new guy, Bruce, who’s originally from Long Island. I also paid our house insurance through him. We received two communications from Nationwide, one that had the complete house policy in it and said “This is not a bill” and didn’t have a due date on it, and then the second that said “Hi, your payment was due February 3.” So I paid the bill on my credit card (yay! Amazon points) and then paid off the credit card.

Thursday was kind of a sweet and sour day. We went off in the car (because it was supposed to rain) and did the shopping at Publix, then at Kroger. This was a great experience at Publix (even if they didn’t have chicken and wild rice soup) and a not-so-great experience at Kroger because the only electric cart left squeaked like the dickens through our entire trip through the store. We got home expecting to find out how the Mars landing came out, but it turned out Perseverance wasn’t landing until 3:55 p.m. So we went out to Sam’s Club. They had five free items you could get if you used the coupon we'd received by the 20th. Our membership was expired, but we renewed it when we walked in, then hurried around getting the five items, and a few other things, only to get to the cashier, who told us we didn’t have memberships! It turned out the membership renewal takes a while to “register” on the computer. (I call bullshit. We have renewed our Sam’s membership and bought stuff immediately afterwards on previous years.) So because the computer didn’t register us as being members, we had to leave all the stuff we bought behind, including a rotisserie chicken and a frozen pizza, which of course would have to be thrown in the trash! What a waste! 😠

Friday was a better day. We had the nurse coming, but she showed up at ten (alas, still re-wrapping his left leg, as he had a raw spot on his lower leg near the thighbone) and, amazingly, we had the rest of the day for ourselves. It felt insane. We’ve had six straight weeks of having to be at a doctor’s office at least once, and sometimes three times, on Thursday and Friday, along with the inevitable grocery shopping, and here we had a free afternoon! And not only that, it wasn’t raining! It was bright and blue and just chilly enough to make you feel alive but not bone-chillingly cold. So we did it! We loaded up the power chair and went out! We drove up to Canton, a 30-minute drive (my commute to work used to be longer) and went to Uncle Maddio’s Pizza for lunch. The Uncle Maddio’s near us closed during the pandemic, and the next-closest one, out in Acworth, closed not soon after. The closest one is now in Canton. We walked in the door and I began salivating immediately at the wonderful scents. Amazingly, the manager was all by himself in the store, doing all the work (assembling, topping, putting in the oven, taking payment, bringing out the food). We left him a big tip! And it was so good to have a no-cheese bacon-black olive-basil pizza again!

Not only that, but the Uncle Maddio’s was one parking lot away from a big new shopping center (Canton Marketplace) that has a real, live full-size Books-a-Million! (I know, I’m sprinkling this with far too many exclamation points, but this was an exciting and wonderful day compared with our lives since December 24.) We went in and wandered about for over a delightful hour. I picked up three bargain books: Creating Sherlock Holmes (one of those oversized volumes illustrated with a lot of old photos), Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It (which is partially based on his podcast and partly a biography), and Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, which I never bought full-price because it was too expensive. The store was chock full of books (unlike good ol' Barnes & Noble), and the magazine rack was long and inviting. (I talked myself out of the magazine about the history of London, though.) James got a new “Cook’s Illustrated” and some game cards, and we drank peppermint hot chocolate at the Joe Muggs coffee bar. About three o’clock we came home happy and relaxed.

I’d dreaded Saturday, but it wasn’t too bad. It was another bright and blue day, and we were headed to the Kaiser facility in Gwinnett County to get the first of our two COVID-19 vaccine shots. Alice had called us on Thursday just as we pulled into Kroger saying she had gotten a text that appointments were available. By the time we got home from Kroger, the Friday appointments were gone but they still had ones for Saturday afternoon. So we braved the interstate—really, drivers are getting worse!—and arrived there with time to spare to use the rest room. Because I did that whole allergic thing with the Zostavax and James is on blood thinners, they made us wait 30 minutes after the shot instead of fifteen, but we just sat and read and it went by quickly.

By then it was nearly two o’clock and we were really wanting something to eat. The east side of Atlanta is a really good area for Asian markets and restaurants, and we found, less than a mile away, a Hibachi Grill buffet. They were still doing it as buffet, but they made you wear gloves and a mask to go to the bar to get food. This cost a bit more than the lunch buffet at our Hibachi Grill, but they had seafood all over the bar: at least two kind of shrimp, crab, crawfish, tilapia, etc. I wanted the crab so badly, but I didn’t dare after having the shot and not knowing how it would affect me. And for about a minute or two, I did feel a little strange while I was eating. I can’t even describe what it was. I didn’t have chest pain, or shortness of breath, or feel dizzy…just felt a little odd. I stopped eating and took a couple of breaths and was almost about to say something to James when it went away. It didn’t come back, and I went back to dinner. Amazingly, they had ice cream cups in a freezer up front and instead of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, they had strawberry, vanilla, and coffee! Enjoyed having a coffee ice cream cup!

On the way home we stopped at Costco for gasoline (we’d tried to stop at the Costco on that side of town, but the line was out into the street). The only bad thing about the day was seeing a “carbeque” on I-85 North. Somewhere there is a dead red Mazda now in a junkyard. We could see the smoke from quite a distance, then it turned from white to grey to black, and as we came by the car we could see the flames involving the whole engine compartment and burning underneath. I hope no one was hurt.

The other thing we did this weekend was turn on Hulu and watch the first four episodes of the new Animaniacs. I was…underwhelmed. Really, the best joke in the first four episodes was the promo they showed for the series where they parodied Jurassic Park. There were a couple of good bits: Donald Trump as the Cyclops in the takeoff on “The Odyssey” was a good laugh, and there were some good bits in a “Pinky and the Brain” sequence that paralleled the McCarthy hearings. They were trying too hard to be clever most of the time. I found most of the skits dull.

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