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» Sunday, April 11, 2021Loss
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.]
» Saturday, April 03, 2021Vaccine 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. So...beats 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.]
» Saturday, March 27, 2021Needed: 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.]
» Sunday, March 21, 2021Well, 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.
» Saturday, March 20, 2021Sweet 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.
» Friday, March 19, 2021Where 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!
» Thursday, March 18, 2021Home 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.
» 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.”
» Saturday, March 06, 2021Disposing and Acquiring
Well, it's been a week.
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).
» Saturday, February 27, 2021Nothing 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.
» Saturday, February 20, 2021Into 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.
» Sunday, February 14, 2021A Very Special Valentine Visit!
It was an eventful week, starting with a successful clean-up campaign. I have been needing to clean up the drawers in and the space under the vanity of the sinks. I tossed out 10-year-old peroxide, old everything else, concatenated other things, and made lots more room down there. I also cleaned off James' dresser, which was, frankly, looking like a bomb went off on it. There were old grocery receipts, pens, bits of models, pocketknives, loose coins, a remote control helicopter, a bottle of paint, and other things that didn't belong. It's now all clean and pretty, and I washed all three bureau scarves to boot. As an encore, I cleaned out all the appliance/electronic manuals and threw a bunch away (like the one for the stove we no longer have), and followed it up by rearranging the books in the spare room. "Viola" and all that.
We had another doctory weekend. Thursday we were up at six so James could be at the dentist at eight. (I drove him because it was raining and he couldn't take the power chair.) I finally bought some dental insurance (his work canceled the one we had when they reorganized), so he went to have his teeth checked. He needs several fillings and other work, and the dental insurance will not cover it for six months. At least we know how much it will cost. Eeek! Since the dentist is next to Kroger, we went there next, and then to Publix, and got the shopping done, and were home in time for me to take a nap. I am not a morning person.
And then...ta-da!...we went back to the infusion clinic and they removed the PICC line! His last intravenous treatment was yesterday. We are crossing fingers that everything is well internally. When I got home I got all the infusion stuff out of the way: the tray I did the prep on, the infusion pole, and all the supplies. Tossed out some, kept some useful stuff like the plastic gloves and saline, and recycled the heparin at Kaiser on Friday.
Friday we were up at seven for James' dermatologist appointment. He has them regularly to examine for skin cancer. She froze a troublesome wart on his right forefinger and also looked at his leg. She said the skin looked well and he could go back to wearing the compression socks!
You guessed it: we got home and I had another nap, at least until it was time to join Alice and Ken at The BBQ Place for lunch. We followed that up with a trip to Lidl.
We sorta got a chance to sleep later on Saturday, but had to get up at nine for Hair Day. This was fun. This month I remembered the Christmas gifts I forgot on the January Hair Day, and I gave out Valentine cards. It was so nice to see everyone. I don't miss going to a lot of stores, but I sure miss bigger Friday lunches and game nights. We came home so James could prep his breakfasts for the week and I could do some laundry and the vacuuming.
When we got ready for bed I noticed I had a message on my phone, and, holy cow, it was a great one! Our friend Jen, who lives in Oklahoma, was driving south from North Carolina (she had hand-delivered some paintings and then visited relatives) and wanted to stop by for lunch on Sunday! To say that we were thrilled was not the half of it. Valentine's Day or not, James was still working, but I was making chicken cacciatore as a special dinner for his lunch hour. So on Valentine's Day we had four hours of wonderful talk with Jen along with chicken cacciatore, elbow macaroni, a cucumber salad, and dark chocolate Oreos for dessert. It was so nice to see her. She was driving home via a couple of museums and is then going to have to prep to be deployed—she's in the Air Force—to the UAE from April to August. Oh, man, the Middle East in summer! I don't envy her that assignment!
The house was very lonesome when she left.
(Oh, yeah, and I managed to do all my Sunday chores, too! Yay me! (Tired me!)
» Saturday, February 06, 2021Homestretch?
It was quite a week!
It began with the cold, the first time this year it's really felt like winter. Monday it was 25 degrees with the wind chill and it was almost as cold on Tuesday. I kept warm Monday updating the copyrights on my web pages; usually I do this on New Year's Day after the Rose Parade, but I had other things on my mind. 😞 In the late afternoon I went out to the mailbox and discovered the last document we needed for our taxes, so I sat down and did them. We owe the Feds a small amount, but do have a refund from the state.
It was also a bit annoying because I was feeling rather blah at the beginning of the week and it nagged on for days, even into our weekend. Thursday was the usual trip to the infusion clinic. They told us unless they received orders to the contrary, they'd be removing the PICC line next Thursday, so next Wednesday is James' last infusion! I sure hope there are no contrary orders and they indeed think he is well; it would be such a blessing.
Friday when we went to the podiatrist we got even better news. I was still worried about the leg because he has a few little spots that, even with the medi-honey, are not healing but instead are being irritated by the edges of the non-stick gauze that's covering it, even though the arch of his foot is looking almost perfect, with only some thick hard skin remaining from the blister left on it. The podiatrist peeled most of that off, took a look at those pesky, tiny raw spots, and finally, finally dredged out a calamine unna boot kit and wrapped up his leg in it and told us to let the nurse remove it on Tuesday. 😀 I am crossing fingers this will do the final trick.
Oh, the other thing is that James is out of the walking boot and the thick sock and into a regular sock, so he could wear a complete pair of shoes this weekend! He said he was tired of feeling like the villain in "Ship of Spies" (on Get Smart) who walked with a "clip-clop" noise. Plus today his new slippers arrived; these are the Velcro kind that fit around your feet. So he doesn't need to "clip-clop" any longer, and he was very pleased with this development because he was planning to go to the IPMS meeting on Saturday. It is now being held in a larger venue than previously and he would wear his mask during the meeting, so it seemed safe for him to attend. Came Saturday morning and all the forecasts said it would be pouring that afternoon, so he did the Zoom meeting instead.
So, of course, it never rained. Typical.
» Saturday, January 30, 2021Be Careful What You Complain About
The infusion routine, especially now that James is on the ertepenem and he only gets that once a day, has gotten commonplace. My main concern is still, as always, keeping sanitary enough not to piggyback another infection through the PICC line. So multiple handwashings are mandatory, and the skin on my hands are bearing the brunt of the routine. Sometimes I'm awakened in the middle of the night with them aching because the skin is so cracked, and I have to rub hand lotion into them before I can get back to sleep. Sometimes I just give in and use the gloves Coram (the infusion folks) sent, and continuously wipe them off with alcohol wipes. (Bless you, Clark Howard, for posting about ordering alcohol wipes from Staples so I had them in the house!)
During the week I have been still discarding junk and I finally dealt with the Christmas gift bags that would leap out at me when I went into the spare room closet to get the vacuum cleaner. Like stampeding cattle they have now been corralled.
James had three doctors' appointments scheduled this week and we also had a nurse visit scheduled on Friday and by the time we had two down on Thursday evening we were both feeling a bit Fed Up with this obscene routine of four days of work, two days of doctors' appointments, and a half a day Saturday where James has to prep breakfasts to eat before work. It seems all we have done for the past two months is work or sit on our fannies in doctors' waiting rooms.
Friday morning we had to get up at seven to get James' six month checkup at dermatology. I didn't sleep well and had to quick-foot it to the hall bath as James was still doing his morning ablutions in our bathroom. I headed out of the hall bath thinking "the first thing I do is take my pill" (the pantoprazole, so I can eat for the day without getting sick). I opened the pill container, looked at the four pills, and popped them in my mouth and swallowed.
And then realized what in the hell I did: the extra Claritin, fenofibrate, levothroid—not a problem, but within nine hours of each other, I had taken two atenolol, my heart medication, which, when taken too close together, can cause bradycardia, which slows your heartbeat to under 50 beats per minute and is bad news.
Yes, of course I panicked. I was already half-asleep, which is how I'd done such a damnfool thing in the first place. Since I've been walking most mornings, my resting heart rate is usually in the high 50s. It wouldn't take much to put me under. I got on the phone to the advice nurse. James cancelled his appointment. The advice nurse told me that basically I was on a new day, that all I really needed to do was keep moving and not take another dose tonight, but if I couldn't stay awake or my heart rate went under 50 to call someone immediately. I therefore spent a miserable four hours (on the toilet, of course, because I'd given myself a panic attack) of dizziness, sleepiness, and general ickiness constantly monitoring myself with the pulse oximeter (I did get down to 50) until I pushed past the grogginess caused by the combination of the atenolol and the allergy meds. We were able to have lunch with the Spiveys, get through the nurse visit, and even go to Publix.
Saturday, thankfully, was much calmer. All we did was clean out James' to-be-read pile, and I vacuumed and wrote a delayed Christmas letter to a friend who's not on Facebook (or actually much on the internet).