Friday, September 8, 2023

A Few Little Things

I keep waiting for something to happen that calls for a blog post. Not a lot, it turns out. But several little things, I guess, are worthy of discussion.

  • One of my twin grandchildren, Kai, came to spend the weekend with us last month. They live in Spokane and are 23. For several years their job has required them to work some weekends, so their availability for a quick trip has been limited. They have a new job, though, with weekends off, so they came to Seattle on Friday night and went back home on Sunday late afternoon. I was concerned about driving in the dark to pick them up, but couldn't find a willing substitute. It turned out I missed the exit for the airport - after at least 100 trips over the last 20 years - and ended up in the next city over, on a detour, in the dark, with ridiculous traffic. Fortunately, the plane was late unloading passengers because they started standing up before the plane stopped at the gate and the flight attendants wouldn't let them get off until everyone had sat back down again. Next time I'll send younger eyes or sprint for Lyft or Uber.

Kai came for a weekend visit a year ago and was very quiet, spending a lot of time in their room. This year, they talked from the time they got in the car at the airport until I dropped them back off two days later. We went to see "Barbie" - the first time I've been in a theatre in over four years - and Art and Kai and I played a party game called "Do You Know Me?" Such a fun time! I found out that Kai tells their friends I'm their "cool" grandmother.

  • Slow improvement in the rehab of my new knee. I've taken just three walks in my neighborhood because if it's over 68 degrees I get too sweaty after a mile, and I'm not a morning person who gets out there when it's cooler. I have, however, started walking up and down the stairs between our lower deck and the upper one. Twelve cedar stairs with railings. At first I had to cling to the railings to pull myself up. Now I just use them as balance aids. Three times up and down the stairs, twice a day. My physical therapist says that is better for strengthening my legs than just walking, so I'm encouraged. 

I had my final PT session this morning. I got a few more exercises to loosen up my hips and strengthen my core and glute muscles. But I walked into the clinic, and back out, without trekking poles or a cane or a limp !!!!!! 

  • My once-every-ten-years colonoscopy came and went last week. Four days on low fiber food, two days of liquid only, the miserable prep, and a good outcome. The next day I made our flight reservations to Tucson for November 14. The weather is still good here in the Seattle area, but I expect increasing clouds and rain to be coming soon, so we'll be heading for our sunny winter place. Fortunately, son James lives upstairs so there will be someone at our house all winter. We decided not to rent out our apartment this year because it's more convenient just to pack up and go without having to box up everything for a tenant. Besides, we paid off our mortgage two months ago - YAY! - so we have a bit of extra cash.
  • I'm the business manager for my son James' remodeling business, now three years old. I am still learning new things about laws and contracts. This has been a great bonding experience for all the household residents. 
It's the little things, you know. And I am, as usual, grateful for all of them.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Our Weekend Away

Last month a friend of ours in Tucson passed away from ALS. When we got the email from his wife Joan giving us the sad news, I said to my husband Art, "Do you want to go to John's celebration of life?" He said, "Of course. We want to say goodbye to our dear friend." We'd last seen John and Joan in late April for a meal, just before we came back to Seattle for the summer. At that time John was just beginning display signs of his illness.

For this trip, I used frequent flyer miles, bought seats with extra legroom and requested wheelchair assistance at both the Seattle and Tucson airports. I'm nine weeks past my knee replacement and figured the airport walks would be arduous. I'm grateful we had the miles available and the money for the seats with extra legroom, and for wheelchair assistants.

We got up at 4:45 a.m. on Friday for an 8:00 a.m. flight. After comparison shopping for transportation to and from the airport from our Washington home, we'd decided to drive to the airport and park in one of the nearby lots. It's been 15 years since we've taken a short trip by plane, and in that time parking rates have increased significantly. But traffic was light and the shuttle from Master Park Lot C to the airport was efficient. 

Without wheelchair assist I would have been exhausted and ready for a nap by the time we got to the gate. I was a little embarrassed to be using the service, because I can walk, but I'm not yet comfortable with anything beyond a stroll, especially without my trekking poles. I took my cane because the poles didn't fit in my carryon.

After a smooth flight, we were picked up at the Tucson airport and delivered to our park model at the Voyager RV Resort, where we spend half the year. Our summer care guy Steve had turned on the hot water and set the A/C to 75 - since it was 105 when we arrived, that was a necessity. Art hooked up the battery to our Prius, and we were ready for our weekend.  Lunch and dinner at two of our favorite places. I'm grateful for our own place in Tucson and for the familiarity of restaurants there.

Saturday was the celebration of life for our friend John - a lovely progressive mass followed by a luncheon. And then a family party at the house. We said hello to John and Joan's children and grandchildren, a number of John and Joan's siblings, nieces and nephews, and a few other friends. I'm grateful that I have learned to have conversations with new people.

We left our place at 10:30 a.m. and got back home at 8:30 p.m. It was still 99 degrees at that time, after a high of 109 when we were leaving the church and walking across the asphalt parking lot. We were both very tired but glad and grateful for the day we'd spent with others mourning John's loss and celebrating his life. 

And Sunday we flew home. At Master Park Lot C the cashier asked if we had a discount coupon. I said, "No. Can you give me one?" He said yes! Three days of parking cost less than a Lyft would have for just one way. I'm grateful!

We stopped at our favorite Thai place in Mountlake Terrace, the next town over, and then drove home to greet our cat, Dutchy, who was glad to see us but annoyed we'd left her for three days. She'd been fed twice a day while we were gone, but ate two cans of food once we'd arrived home.

So now we're home, listening to the sounds of birds and the trickling water from the fountain just outside our door. 

So glad we went, so grateful we could.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

The long slog

In three days it will be six weeks since I had my left knee replaced. I have a final appointment with my ortho surgeon that day. Here are the questions I'll ask him: Can I go to the dentist, give blood, get Hep C and covid vaccines, ride a bicycle, do water exercise, fly on a plane?

I have finished up the antibiotics and assorted other meds prescribed for me immediately after the surgery. All the PT exercises given to me in the first month are easy now; most of the ones given in the last two weeks are hard. That's how it should be. My range of motion was 0 to 124 degrees four weeks after surgery, which is pretty good.  

In consultation with my physical therapist over the last month, I put away my walker, skipped the using-a-cane phase, started using trekking polls inside and on short walks outside, started sleeping on my side and stomach again, and resumed driving. Yesterday I picked raspberries in my yard and was able to set the trekking polls by the raised garden beds and stand among the canes to pick the berries.

Just in the last couple of weeks I've accepted invitations for lunch with friends. A group brunch and a concert at my church are coming up on my calendar in the next couple of weeks, and it's likely that I will really go. I've got increased energy now, and an actual interest in getting out there again as I'm able.

I've learned that recovering from the surgery is not a straight and upward line. It's more like a shallow, wavy one. Some days I feel like I'm coming along pretty well physically, but on others it seems I've regressed just a little with regard to pain or strength. 

And I hadn't expected the emotional and mental wave that's happened.  Part of that, I think, may be the amount of time I've spent at home, with just my husband Art or with no one. Everyone else is out in the world and I am not. I'm sure that's not the case, but in my moments of discouragement it seems like it.

One advantage of the increased time on my hands is that I've been able to spend chunks of time on things I've put off for months: revising our trust, getting our medical reimbursements taken care of, modifying our long-term care policies. This past week I sent a small check to pay off our mortgage. I may not be moving forward physically as much as I'd like, but it feels good to be more caught up on other things in life.

We are scheduled to fly to Budapest in three and a half months for a two-week river cruise. I'm hoping to have the stamina and strength to do that, rather than postponing the trip until next spring. 

Here's to a summer of recovery!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Ice and elevate

I've had my new left knee for 12 days now. Pretty much routine surgery and rehab so far.

For the first week, we had a friend or family member visit for a couple of hours each day, to give Art a break from his primary caregiver role. It was good to see every one of them.

I've been told PT is critical to regain full range of motion of my knee and strength in the surrounding muscles. I am resolved to be fully compliant and so far I have been. 

This is not fun. Granted, most of the surgical pain is gone. Most of the PT is working. I HATE heel slides. That's where you draw your bent knee back as far as you can, to increase the range of motion. It hurts. I do it anyway. 

Here's what I can do now that wasn't possible a week ago: lift my leg onto the bed from the floor; walk easily with a walker; shower by myself; dress myself; empty my own urinal (female version means I don't have to get myself to the bathroom at night - a fabulous invention); get my leg into the car to go to PT; eat at the table; pet my cat when she's lying on the floor; change out the frozen water bottles in the ice machine; get my coffee cup from the pot to the table.

I am tapering off oxycodone. So far, so good. Tylenol works pretty well.

The joint replacement and rehab is the only goal I have for the summer. I'm only two weeks in, with another 14 to go before fall. It looks like a long and boring road, but my expectation is that I'll be able to climb stairs - on alternating legs! - and maybe walk a couple of miles in my neighborhood. Oh, and we have a river cruise scheduled for late October. Maybe I'll be able to walk a couple of miles in some riverside town in Eastern Europe.

In the meantime, there is icing and elevating and physical therapy. And there are books to read, and movies to watch, and conversations to have with visitors. For now, that needs to be enough.

This photo was taken three days after the surgery.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Two weeks later, here's what I've noticed

We flew home from Tucson after our six-month stay. Here's what I've noticed:

  • It always feels weird to be back for about a week.
  • It is much quieter in our Brier apartment than it is in our Tucson place. Maybe because the lots are much larger. Maybe because most of our neighbors in Brier are at school or at work. In Tucson, our neighbors are mostly all retired, so they're usually around.
  • If you rent out your place to someone for the months you're gone, you have to put a lot of your stuff into storage to make it like an Airbnb for the tenant. And when you get back you have to spend several days putting all your stuff back. It's a lot of work. But you get to decide where you really want everything to go, and what you really don't need. That's a good thing.
  • If you think you'll get right back into your usual social activities, you may be mistaken. You may, instead, want to spend all your time indoors as you adjust to the change in your living space. Fortunately, in the second week you'll be interested in getting out of the house again and seeing a few people.
  • If you bring a new cat with you, the cat will explore immediately rather than hiding behind the dryer or under the bed like she did in Arizona. That's because she knows you now, so she can be curious rather than afraid.
  • If you know your new cat liked dogs where she lived before, you may be encouraged to think she will like the dog who lives upstairs. But if that dog, on its first visit downstairs, eats the cat's food, the cat will immediately take control and terrify the dog. Then, even in a heat wave, the dog will remain upstairs in the hot rooms rather than coming downstairs where it's cooler.
  • There is a noisy goose who lives across the street from you. The goose has lived there for the last three years. You wonder what the life expectancy of a goose is.
  • You will be surprised at how much greater the cost of living is in your Seattle suburb than in Tucson. The first time you order food from Door Dash, you will pay $60 for two Thai dinners and spring rolls. You only paid $45 two weeks ago for the same thing in Tucson.
  • You have been waiting for months to start the process of getting a knee replacement. You see your orthopedic doctor a week after you get home. He says there is a list you have to get in, but the scheduler will call you. Three days later you find out you are scheduled for May 31 - about a month earlier than you expected. That is very good news. You are excited to get your presurgical labs done and you are grateful that all the tests come back normal.
  • You have a Tucson Facebook group, and every day you can see what your Arizona friends are doing. Most of them have gone home for the summer like you have, but their faces all come to mind. You also have a Brier Facebook group and you know that now you'll be able to see their faces in person. It's all good!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Snowbirds going home tomorrow

This was our tenth year as snowbirds in Tucson. A few things made it less satisfying than usual:

  • Larisa, our Designer Cat, crossed the rainbow bridge on December 1. She was 17 and had been ailing for a couple of months. Being without that girl has been a big deal. We weren't ready for a new cat for almost three months. 
  • Dutchy, our new Siberian Forest cat, is also Designer Qualified. We drove five hours from Tucson to Kingman to pick her up on February 26. Nine weeks later, she has become part of the household, but so far, if I want to pet her, I have to bend over where she is lying stretched out on the floor. She won't share a chair or a couch with us yet. She ignores Art except at feeding time. Tomorrow she is going to take her first airplane ride.
  • Tucson had a cooler winter than usual, with more cloudy days. We kind of skipped spring, as the temps went from the 60s to the 80s just a few weeks ago. 
  • The resort swimming pools underwent maintenance for much of the season, so water exercise wasn't in the cards for me this year.
  • My left knee needs to be replaced. I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon on May 8. I didn't want to have surgery and then physical therapy in Washington's fall weather, or arthritis as I was recovering, so I bit the bullet and accepted the awkwardness and pain of bone on bone.
Still, a bunch of things were just fabulous:
  • I love playing handbells. The only times my busy mind is quiet is when playing bells or doing yoga. 
  • We painted all the cabinets in our park model. They'd been brown wood, and now they're a pale gray-green. The place looks bigger and lighter. I'd never even thought of paint until this, our ninth season.
  • My next door neighbor Sharon has a wonderful eye for decorating. This year we replaced the faux leather loveseat that came with the place with a new-to-us LazyBoy sleeper sofa, and the Ikea desk with a couple of Wayfair pieces that I would never have considered except for Sharon's recommendation. I love the new look.
  • We have a dinner group - eight people that go out to eat every Friday. We meet at a restaurant of choice at 4:30 and we're home by 6:45. Living the life! 
  • I led an online class through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Olli). Three 90-minute sessions in March. The class was called "Saying Yes to Life After Retirement - Making a Difference." It took time to prep for the class, and I was quite nervous during the planning part, but the class went well.
  • I still volunteer at The Inn of Southern Arizona, though in a different capacity than a few years ago when I worked a shift with asylum seekers in the basement of a Tucson church. Now I'm vice president of the Board, so I get to have input on both current issues and planning for the future. 
  • We spent four February days in Sedona. Five of our eight grown kids joined us. During the day they did all the adventurous things while Art and I hung out in our condo. Each evening we gathered for dinner, either in a restaurant or in a condo unit. We have some good cooks in our family!
  • We've decided not to bring a second car to Tucson next year - road trips aren't as fun as they were when we were younger and our bodies were more flexible - so we traded in our battered, high-mileage 2005 Prius for a 2009 model in better shape and with lower mileage. Art drives it now, but next year we will share.
We're ready to go home tomorrow, to the greener Pacific Northwest.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

March was quite a month!

 I thought I'd write all this down so I don't forget what happened in March.

  • First, of course, is our Dutchy. She's the most interesting cat I've ever owned. Follows me around. Brings catnip mice to the foot of my bed. Steals my recliner as soon as I get out of it. Has the zoomies every morning and every evening. Lies flat on the floor to be brushed or admired. Really a fun addition to our household! Next week we'll take her to the vet for a first checkup and to be chipped so we can find her if she ever gets out of the house.
  • One of the residents of our winter retirement community, Fran, was a cardiac nurse for many years. Since 2014 she has held three chest-compression CPR classes each season. First- or second-year medical students, sponsored by the Sarver Heart Center in Tucson, come to the Voyager to teach the procedure to residents. The Saturday after I took the class, Art had a cardiac arrest on the pickleball court, and I saved his life.

        I tell the story in my blog post dated January 26, 2014: CPR in the real world

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Fran asking if Art and I would be willing to talk to the class about our experience. Of course we said yes. I believe that storytelling is a powerful way to make a point; the immediacy of an actual experience is more compelling than a lecture or a set of PowerPoint slides. Art had a dentist appointment so he missed most of the talk.

The communications person at Sarver Health was unable to make it to the class, but came out two days later to interview Art and me about our experience. They plan to put the edited video on their webpage to let people know about this method of CPR. 

  • I had the opportunity to be a Study Group Leader for a three-session Olli (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) class on Zoom called Saying Yes to Life in Retirement - Making a Difference. I kind of got talked into it, and I worried about it for a couple of months before the actual dates. The last session was yesterday. Overall I'm happy with how it went.
  • Last Friday night Art and I went to a going-away party for a friend. The next morning, two of the attendees tested positive for covid. Art had sat next to one of them during the meal, and by Tuesday he tested positive.  I hadn't been close to either person, so I didn't get covid from the party; I got it on Thursday from Art. This is a second round for both of us. Fortunately, both of us have had mild cases so far. It has been a very long time since we have spent days in our pajamas. It will be good to get out of the house again.
We're beginning to make our going-back-to-Washington plans. We fly home on April 29.