Monday, May 10, 2021

Unexpected Transition

We live in Tucson between November and April, and in Brier, a Seattle suburb, from May to October. So there's a transition every year as we move between our little places.

Last summer we remodeled our daylight basement in Washington to create a no-stairs apartment for ourselves. The previous year I'd had trouble sometimes negotiating the stairs with a cranky knee. So Art designed a downstairs living space, and he worked with my son James on the remodel. It's a beautiful, warm and welcoming home for us, as well as being ADA compliant. Just what I'd hoped for.

We really thought the remodel was for me.

But last summer, while doing the wiring for the new apartment, Art strained his back. By fall he had to walk bent over to avoid the back pain he experienced when standing straight up. In late fall he had the first of three lumbar epidural injections. The last one, in early April, resulted in weakness in his right leg. Art fell several times. Two CT scans revealed multiple pinched nerves. The pain increased, requiring a trip to the emergency room in Tucson. He'd used a walker for several months to stabilize himself, but by May 1 he preferred a wheelchair. Two days after we returned to Washington we saw his primary care doc, who confirmed Art would need surgery. Four days after that, we met with the neurosurgeon. We're hoping surgery will happen by June.

We're adapting to Art's current disabled state. I'm doing the shopping and cooking, which Art has done for 25 years, plus most of the other tasks of living. Art is learning to maneuver in our apartment, becoming more self sufficient each day. And he has learned to stay ahead of the pain, with tylenol and ibuprofen and a prescription medication. 

We're getting great support from our family. Art's son Jason lives upstairs with his family; he brings the paper and the mail and spends time each day with his dad. His wife Kalei brings down food goodies. Son Peter is a nurse and went with us to see the neurologist, sending a summary email to everyone afterward. Daughter Melissa is a pharmacist and is a wonderful resource. Son Russ in Oregon is also a nurse, and has been very encouraging. Son James, who did the remodel, came over two days ago to install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet. My sister Alyx is a nurse as well, and she's been actively involved; her husband Virgil flew to Tucson to help Art close up our winter place and then fly home with him, while I drove with a friend for three days to bring the car back. 

Really glad for our new living space, for Art as well as for me.



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Hacked!

I'm an optimist by nature, but the last month has been a challenge.

On March 16, at 9:30 in the morning, I finished up my computer banking to look at my email. I had four messages from Facebook, sent within ten minutes of each other, while I was doing my banking.

(1) Someone had logged into my FB account using a confirmation code.

(2) Someone had changed my password.

(3) Someone had changed my email address from budsmom48@gmail.com to budsumommy48@hotmail.com.

I tried to get help from  Facebook for the next two weeks without success. I was apparently in some kind of loop, or at the end of a VERY long help queue. 

Then my brother-in-law created a new account for me from his computer. Five days later Facebook told me I had been deactivated for good for "violation of community standards". I have no idea what I did, and Facebook is not going to tell me.

I wish I hadn't lost 13 years of data, or 200 friends, but these things happen. And I wish I hadn't lost my 4500 completed levels of Candy Crush.

Now I am using my husband Art's Facebook account. His name has been changed to ArtLinda Myers. I'm spending much less time on Facebook now. There are a couple of groups I want to participate in. Especially the one in Brier, Washington, called "Buy Nothing Brier" where you can give things away to people in the community. I have a lot more downsizing to do over the summer, and I need that group!

I do wonder why some people hack into the accounts of other people. This one had nothing to do with money. My old account disappeared from Facebook on the 30th day after it was hacked. None of my friends were contacted by the hacker, and the day before the account disappeared there were no posts other than mine.

Oh, yes. I did send an email to budsumommy48@hotmail.com, asking the person to change the email account back so I could get into my account. That didn't happen.

Of course not.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Pop-up Sunday

From 2016 to 2018, I made five trips to Greece to volunteer at the Oinofyta refugee camp. I was usually the oldest volunteer by about 15 years. I didn't have the stamina of the younger people, but I had enough wisdom and life experience to be useful. Friends would say, "Why do you do that?" My response was, "We're all in this together, and I won't always be able to do it." That last phrase, "I won't always be able to do it," came from my brain, but part of me didn't really believe it.

I believe it now.

In the last couple of years my left knee and my right hip have begun to act up. The x-rays show bone-on-bone arthritis in my knee and a bunch of confused and compensating muscles and ligaments fighting each other in my right hip capsule. In spite of orthotics in my shoes, physical therapy, massage, and injections in my knee and hip, I'm sometimes walking like the elderly woman I never believed in my heart I would become. I do a lot of e-bike riding and some swimming, but no hiking and not a whole lot of walking for exercise.

Last year I read about the Arizona Department of Health Services. They were looking primarily for volunteer healthcare professionals but also for interested non-healthcare volunteers, to register in advance so they could rapidly identify and mobilize health care volunteers in emergencies.

I signed up and was accepted as a volunteer, and was contacted twice. Once was to work with a Covid screening project on a Native reservation. But at that time the vaccine wasn't available and, as a person over 65, I was in a high-risk group. Then, when Pima County (where we live, in Tucson, in the winter) opened large vaccine drive-through events, I was invited again. But the shifts were six hours long and I'd be on my feet most of the time, which those same feet would not be happy with. Remember "I won't always be able to do this"?

Then the county opened up pop-up vaccine events. By this time I'd gotten both Moderna shots. I was a January recipient of the first dose because I volunteer one day a week at a local health clinic, so I'm considered a healthcare worker. The pop-up events sounded more doable.

So on Sunday I volunteered for seven hours, from 7am to 2pm, at an elementary school near the airport.  No one had to sign up ahead of time;  they just had to be qualified according to the current Arizona status (anyone over 55, plus front-line workers: grocery store checkers, restaurant servers, etc). There was a drive-through and a walk-in. The venue was in an underserved area of Tucson. I'd say 85 percent of the vaccine seekers were Latinx. We had registration materials in Spanish and English. 


The other five volunteers at the walk-in venue were younger, so when I needed to give my feet a break I sanitized clipboards and pens and collated registration materials to put on the clipboards to send back out with the other volunteers. I'd colored part of my hair blue the day before; I figured I'd look more relevant to the younger people than if I just looked like an old grandma. That turned out to be a good idea!

My feet hurt A LOT at the end of the event, and I went straight home and fell soundly asleep for an hour. My whole body hurt until I went to bed that night. 

I may not always be able to do this!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

This week, next week

We're four days in to our annual visit to Sedona. This year my sons Russell and James were the only offspring who made it - but they're just about the only ones who've never been here before. Russ flew down from Eugene and James came from Seattle. They met up in Phoenix, rented a car and drove the two hours to our timeshare in uptown Sedona. They've been busy - climbed Bell Rock yesterday and hiked Cathedral Rock today. 

The four of us have shared several meals - the first dinner at Cafe Jose, a comfort food place nearby, and tonight, James grilled T-bone steaks, which we ate with a salad and baked potatoes. 

Meanwhile, Art and I are spending our time reading and napping. Art found a new author - Vince Flynn - in the resort library, and I downloaded and read the new Stephen King novel in a day and a half. We're in a single-story villa this year. It's on the second floor, but there's a lift along the stair railing so Art doesn't have to climb the stairs with his sciatica. He looks like an emperor!

Sedona has been a great place for our family to gather over the years. Just a few minutes ago James said, "From now on, Mom, when you're coming here, I'll be coming here too." That's what they all say!

Russ and James leave tomorrow, making a stop at Montezuma's Castle National Monument on the way back to the Phoenix airport. We'll be here for one more night, leaving early Saturday afternoon for our four-hour trip back to Tucson.

This week has been relaxing. Not so with next week's calendar.

Now that Art and I have had our second covid vaccines, and two weeks have passed, we can be more out and about in the world. The asylum seekers' shelter has reopened, and we will be volunteering in some fashion, whether providing meals for the guests or providing airport transportation. Strict covid safety measures are being implemented. I've been asked to join the board for The Inn, and am having breakfast on Monday with the board chair. Diane and I have been friends for a couple of years now, so our meetings are fun. Usually we have breakfast in her back yard, but Monday we'll be at a local restaurant with safely distanced tables.

While I'm at breakfast Art will get X-rays taken of his back. The pain clinic doc wants to a get a close look at what's going on in Art's lumbar spine as he plans next steps. 

In the afternoon the carpet cleaning man is coming, finally. Tucson is a dusty place and I rotate three area rugs in our living room. Right now they are all just about unpresentable. Fortunately, hardly anyone has been inside our place for nearly a year except for us.

Tuesday it's my turn at the pain clinic. I'm getting a shot in my left knee. Hopefully This course of action will prevent a knee replacement for a while. When I got my first shot a year and a half ago, I'd thought I'd pulled a muscle. The doc said, "Nope. Arthritis." It's taken a while, but I've adjusted to the idea that I'm old enough to have arthritis. For some reason I thought that would never happen to me.

Wednesday it's Larisa the Designer Cat's turn. She'll have her annual exam and the vet will probably say, "Well, she's 16, but she's looking pretty good." Over the last 40 years, all but one of my cats has lived a long life. 

Art sees the pain doc on Friday for a consultation. Usually I go with him to his medical appointments. I'm the question asker. These days, only the patient can go in. I've asked Art to call me when he's in the doc's office so I can hear what's going on and ask my questions.

Oh. Also next week each of us has a PT appointment, and each of us is getting a massage.

We're still taking online courses and two are scheduled next week for each of us. Zoom has been a good option for us during the pandemic.

This week, next week. One day at a time, right?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The chef and the concierge

For nearly all the 29 years Art and I have been together, he has been the food shopper and the cook. 

I was a single mom when we met, working full time and scrambling to get everything done. I had a pantry, but it was mostly empty because I bought groceries on the fly. When he first started spending time with us, he'd arrive with grocery bags full of canned goods, and within a few months he'd stocked the pantry shelves.

I'd been fixing meals for my elementary-school boys for six years by then, but they were simple affairs, dictated by the needs of the kids rather than by any enjoyment I had for cooking. Once Art's three youngest children started visiting (Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend), it was harder. One night his six-year-old son Peter said, "My mom is a better cook." I said, "I'll bet she is!" (She is!). So Art started preparing dinners for everyone, and he has done it ever since.

Art is a coupon clipper and sale shopper. Maybe it's because he was one of ten children in a working-class family. He'll go to five stores and pick up what's on sale that we need. I take my list and go to the closest place. He says, "You don't shop. You buy." So he has done almost all the grocery shopping for 25 years.

Last summer, Art did the electrical work for the remodel of the lower level of our house. He spent a lot of time on ladders, reaching up. He has spinal stenosis in his lower back, and it got aggravated. After three months of pain, he got an epidural cortisone injection, which helped, and then he overdid and reinjured himself. He has been waiting for three months to get another injection. In the meantime, he walks bent over, because that's the least painful position for walking.

For nearly all the years Art and I have been together I have been the person who does the paperwork, operates the computer and talks on the phone. He is a man of few words and I am not, he doesn't like computers at all and I like them enormously. It used to be easier, but now we are older and we need to contact health care providers for appointments and medications and Medicare coverage and coordination of benefits between Kaiser Permanente for the six months each year we live in Washington, and Banner Health for the six months we live in Tucson. 

Recently I've also been the person who gathers the trash to put it at the curb, who retrieves the newspaper most mornings, who changes the overhead lightbulbs on the porch, who rehangs the shower curtain after it's washed. Art hasn't got a lazy bone in his body, but he does have sciatic pain all the way down his legs since his back injury last summer. And, also recently, I've sometimes felt like he was taking advantage of the situation. 

Then I had an insight. I am serving as a concierge to Art. That sounds more positive. And, thinking about it, I acknowledge that he has been my personal shopper and chef for a very long time. Seems fair.

I feel better now that I know I'm a concierge!

Art gets his second epidural injection on Friday morning. It's about time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In the Costco parking lot

Sometimes when my husband Art and I are out together, he wants to go grocery shopping because he's seen good sales in the newspaper ads. He'll say, "We can make a quick stop at Costco. And purple grapes are on sale at Fry's." Sometimes I get annoyed because I have other plans afterwards, and he usually hasn't said anything about stopping until we've already left home.

This morning we went to Lot 49 at Tucson Medical Center so I could get my first shot of the Moderna vaccine (I volunteer at the clinic in our retirement community on Thursdays, so I'm considered a health care worker.) I'd invited Art to go along with me because his was scheduled for next week (he's over 75) and I wanted to show him how to get there. I'd Googled the travel instructions and I was pretty sure he'd miss Wyatt, the side street where he'd need to turn right.

The drive-through vaccine line was quite short and the site was well organized. When I got to the place where a young woman asked for my name, appointment time and ID, I said, "Would it be possible for my husband to get his shot today too, instead of coming back next week?" She asked her supervisor, and we were directed to a tent off to the side just in front of us. I asked again at the tent. "Sure, we can do that." I said, "You have made our day." "We try."

So I got my shot and Art got his, and we'll go back for our second dose on February 20. You never know unless you ask, right?

Then we stopped at Costco. I was still annoyed, because I hadn't brought my phone with me. I usually play Candy Crush while I'm waiting in parking lots for Art to shop. 

Sitting there in the parking lot, I thought for a few minutes about the physical therapy appointment I had yesterday. I got a cortisone shot in my right hip several weeks ago, and while the discomfort is much, much less, I want my right leg to get stronger so I can walk distances. And, I'm thinking, maybe if I get physical therapy the inflammation pain won't come back when the injection wears off. I told Andy, the physical therapist at my first appointment yesterday, what my goals were. He did a strength test and said, "Your glutes are atrophied." I said, "How can I have a big butt and atrophied glutes?" He laughed. He gave me two PT exercises that I'd never heard of. They were hard, but not painful. He told me not to overdue it. Twice a day, he said, and come back early next week. 

I was lucky, I thought, to have good insurance that would pay for two sessions a week for six weeks. 

The Costco parking lot wasn't very crowded at 10:00 a.m.  Maybe because today was the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I turned the radio on to NPR and Kamala was taking the oath of office. I turned the volume up. I opened my car window. I listened to Lady Gaga sing the national anthem. I listened to the commentary. Art was in Costco for half an hour, so I had all that time, alone in my car, to listen and reflect.

I felt full of relief. It was glorious to listen to hope again.

Hope.  What I have because Andy the physical therapist says he can help me. What I have because of the vaccine injected into my arm. What we all have because of our new national beginning.

I'm thinking of the last few lines of the poem spoken today by young Amanda Gorman: "For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it - if only we are brave enough to be it."

May it be so!

Friday, January 1, 2021

The gifts of 2020

Wow. What a year.

Many of us have been held captive by the news. Maybe even become news junkies, waiting for the next headline on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN or NPR to raise our blood pressure and our anxiety level. We may swear off and then be drawn back into the melee. That has been the case for me. I said I would only read the news when I first got up in the morning, but then an email would come in from the New York Times or the Washington Post and I'd feel compelled to read it.

In spite of my continued captivity to the news, there were gifts in this unforgettable year. These are mine:

1. We decided to convert the daylight basement of our family home in Brier, a northern Seattle suburb. We'd been talking for several years about making a change in our residence. After five years as snowbirds in Tucson, I was ready to move to Arizona full time, to our small (620 square feet) park model trailer in a retirement community. But Art was not. Born and raised in Seattle, he'd lived elsewhere only during his stint in the Marine Corps in the late 60s. He wasn't ready to make a permanent change. We considered renting apartments or buying a smaller one-story home, but Seattle housing is expensive, and if we were spending half our year in Tucson, the unused Seattle dwelling would be money wasted. Deciding to remodel the basement in our family home was the optimal solution.

2. We had the financial resources to do the remodel.

3. We hired my son James to do the work based mostly on faith that his work ethic would lead to success. We were right.

4. I saw James more often this summer than I have in the last 20 years. I realized that he is now a man of honor, which was a primary goal I had as a parent.

5. Everything in our new apartment was chosen by me, from furniture to teal accent pieces - none of it expensive. There are a LOT of unneeded things still in the garage! My preference for minimalism has a chance in this new place.

6. During the pandemic, I got to choose the degree of risk I was willing to take on. I always wear a mask in public as my contribution to the greater good. I almost always refrain from having any non-household member in my home or in my car. I think I've eaten inside a restaurant maybe three times since March. 

7. I used my first stimulus money to pay rent for an Afghan refugee now living in France. We had the financial resources to do that.

8. On Thanksgiving Day, we had a Zoom call with the kids in our blended family. Six out of eight of them turned up. For a few, it had been years since they had seen each other. I'm pretty sure one of them was watching a football game at the same time. 

9. On Christmas Day we invited two friends to join us for dinner. We set up a large table in the carport and, socially distanced, enjoyed a communal meal of ribeye steaks, cheesy potatoes, corn bread, and green bean casserole, with apple crumble for dessert.

10. On the third-to-last day of the year, I got an ultrasound-guided injection in my right hip. I am looking forward to more frequent walks and better sleep. 

When I look for the gifts, I can always find them.