Monday, December 31, 2012

We Made It to 2013

Christmas was wonderful.  We spent December 21st walking by the Gulf of Mexico, eating sea food, soaking up brilliant sunshine in 78 degree weather.  My soul was soothed.  Then we spent the rest of the time hugging and laughing and playing games -- for seven full days. 

 We wish each of you great joy -- perfect peace -- and abundant health -- in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And May All Your Christmases Be Bright!

Taking a little break until the New Year!  Until then . . .

Monday, December 17, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things

A few of my favorite holiday things:

1.  Memories.

Remembering the Christmas tree at Grandma's house with the presents piled high around it.  Walking up on Christmas morning knowing that Santa had left me a "special" gift but that also all the stockings for everybody in the family had been filled with silly little trinkets.  Daddy going off to work at the Kansas City Star and counting the minutes until he would get back home around two p.m. so we could finally have dinner.  And then -- PRESENTS under Granny's Christmas tree.  Granny's sister, Aunt Frances, coming from Laramie, Wyoming for the best week of the year. 

Me, Granny, Grandpa, Mother, and Dad -- Aunt Frances always took the pictures -- probably around 1960.

As an adult, the best Christmases have been at Wendy's house in Houston. We arrive at her home after an 800 mile drive to find the tree decorated and the nutcrackers all in place. As a family, we spend Christmas Eve wrapping the presents that have come from all over, laughing at the amount of gifts, even though every year we swear we are cutting back.  Hubby makes fruit salad and potato salad for Christmas dinner.  And after the presents and the Christmas food, we Go to the movies on Christmas night with Wendy's friend, Cynthia. 

2010 -- Nutcrackers in Houston

2.  Music.

I love singing Christmas carols.  For many years it was listening to Hubby sing the Messiah and going caroling with whichever choir he was directing.   Now we play Christmas CDs all the way across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas and have a marathon sing-a-long with the varied artists.  Wherever we visit in Houston, Wendy,. Hubby and I sing all the verses of whatever carols we can remember. 

Hubby is in the foreground -- directing; I'm 3rd from right with my head turned away from the camera -- 2004 at our Christmas pageant / play

3.  Christmas Eve.

There's something so wonderful about the expectations of the day/night before Christmas.  The anticipation makes it all the better believing that every dream might just come true.  As a kid, my mother always had Christmas Eve dinner and I could choose the menu.  It never varied -- meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, jello salad, Granny's nut bread made only on Christmas, and then we'd pass around the boxes of Christmas candy that each family made that year. Granny made fondant, Aunt Frances brought a nutty type fudge, and Mother made brittle covered in chocolate.  Plus we always had a variety of cookies.  And then -- the best dessert of all -- we'd serve up tiny plates of my father's family recipe of suet pudding covered in hard sauce, a true Welch delicacy.  After dinner we'd stuff the turkey and after the turkey was complete, we'd fill the stockings, mine among them -- but Santa's gift was always a surprise on Christmas morning. Granny, Grandpa, and I would end the evening at church with me singing in the youth choir of the year.  No carol is more lovely than Silent Night sung at midnight in candlelight. 

Christmas eve dinner at our house -- Dad has his back to the camera, to his right is his mother (she died in 1954), then mother's father, mother, Granny, me -- and people I remember so clearly but have no idea how we were related -- the Paterson family (Betty, Pat and his mother -- from Colorado); Aunt Frances is, of course, taking the picture. 
Now, we usually wrap the presents from KC on Christmas Eve.  Now-a-days, I buy the gifts on-line and have them mailed throughout the year to Houston.  Wendy loves beautiful wrapping and even has a room upstairs partially dedicated to wrapping implements.  I'm most likely to dump things in sacks or pre-wrapped boxes but we always manage quite an array under Wendy's tree.  

2010 -- gift and nutcracker array in Houston
Music, Christmas Eve wonder, and the memories piled up from my 66 holidays -- these are the treasure of my yuletide.  Our family may be very, very small -- but I'm eternally grateful that through all my years, I only had to survive one Christmas alone.  Presents, festive decorations, beautiful music and traditional foods are all wonderful things that make Christmas special.  But family is the glue that holds the Christmas album together in my memories. 

Wendy, Hubby, and Gussie getting ready to enjoy Christmas morning. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Greetings 2012

"I'm retired - goodbye tension, hello pension!" ~ Anonymous

When we wake up each morning, it is to give thanks:   to see another morning sunshine; to share another meal together, being able to eat it anytime we feel hungry; to hear two pups clamoring for “walkies” in the big park just a few blocks away, to be able to cocoon in our own home; to bank social security checks on a monthly basis; to hold hands when we venture to the movie matinees; to stay in contact with friends via social media on our Nooks, Kindles, laptop and desktop computers; to share vacations and holidays with beloved family. 

This was a year of change for me when I retired in June 1, 2012.  For 45 years I had left home in the early dawn hours to attend school; for 16 years I had gone to an “office” job, usually working huddled in a cubicle doing the bidding of other folks.  It was an amazing change to suddenly find myself free from lesson plans, multitasking, 20 minute lunch breaks, enforced schedules, bathroom breaks not on my body’s schedule but regulated by a bell system, and often meaningless tasks that did not contribute to the good of mankind.  

For Will this was a year of trying to rebuild strength and restore a healthier heart rhythm.  After two years of heart problems, leading to two frightening bouts of congestive heart failure, after ten years of failing joints due to egregious arthritis especially in his knees, and a general loss of agility and strength caused by the heart, the arthritis and aging in general, Will found himself unable to maintain the level of activity he had expected in his own senior years.  He tried to take the pain and inactivity in stride, but often found himself frustrated and cranky.  

In December we learned that he is a perfect candidate for a pacemaker which we have scheduled for a January 2 install.  We hope and pray that that his incredible team of doctors are correct in that this will give him renewed energy and stamina. For him the New Year promises to bring some of the happy changes I garnered in 2012 when I retired.

We traveled three times.  One was a short two day jaunt to Branson, MO to shop the outlet malls; we only stayed overnight and didn’t take in a single show.  In the autumn, we traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Will’s sister, Wendy, flew across country to meet us and we drove through the Chesapeake Bay area, finally landing back in Annapolis at Will’s brother-in-law’s wonderful beach house directly on the bay.  Unfortunately, Will’s dwindling health made the trip less successful than we had hoped, but we enjoyed the time together, watching ships sail past on the Bay while playing Hearts on the beach house veranda.  Soon we will take our third trip, the annual Christmas trek to Houston.  It wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t get to spend time with our favorite family member, Wendy.  

Sweet Gus, eight going on eighty, had all his teeth except three removed during 2012.  At first he was highly disgusted with both the vet and us for taking his gnawing canines, but eventually the lack of infection and pain in his mouth brought the gentle boy around.  Little Luie, the blind Schnauzer, continued to bump and romp his way through life, making sure both his papa and mama got plenty of park exercise, whether they wanted it or not.  

We met with many and varied doctors this year.  Twice Will was hospitalized in Research.  He underwent hundreds of tests.  I also got my own Medicare card and chose my advantage plan. We offered up huge thanks to the Medicare Gods that continue to fund all this medical mumbo-jumbo.  We joined the Research Medical Center Brookside Campus Health and Fitness Center.  Will had his own physical therapist while I participated in water aerobics three times a week in the best pool in the city (water temps are never below 86 degrees).   Most weeks we had at least one doctor’s appointments; often it was two or three.  Still, each time we were met with more information and a clearer picture of how we should proceed.   

The old pink Lincoln continued to run.  The bungalow on Lydia got a foundation boost and new siding, windows, and gutters.  We donated all our business clothes to the City Union Mission Thrift Store.  Will happily surrendered his chef’s hat while I labored to cook three meals a day without salt.  I continued to blog fairly regularly at Milly’s Muse and both Will and I have Facebook pages where we catch up with old and far-away friends.  We joined our KC friends in attending a few concerts but Will’s health prevented us from our usual enjoyment of the classical music season that has bloomed in our city with the opening of the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts.  

Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive during 2012 and we certainly owe them a huge “thank you” for all the love (and special dinners) they have offered up with open arms.  Our doctors have worked individually and as a team to see that our health concerns are both acknowledged and acted upon.  We feel incredibly lucky that we are able to go into retirement with hope that our future will be long, happy, and healthy.  

Blessings, peace, joy, and keep the faith –
Will, Melissa, Gus, and Luie

September 28, 2012 – Will, Wendy, Melissa celebrating Wendy’s birthday at High Tea in Annapolis, Maryland

Danger -- Revisited

This is the assault rifle used in the Newtown, CT holiday massacre.  This is a gun that was in the boy's home!

In 2007 I posted about sharing with my classroom what we would do if our high school was invaded by gunmen. 

Five years later, nothing has changed -- except we keep practicing "Code Blue" alerts in our schools -- stranger alerts to tell students that danger has invaded.

We don't actively worry about gun control.  We don't discuss it during political campaigns.  We allow the gun lobby to spread money through our political system to make sure we can have assault rifles and high powered hand guns in our homes and unstable people can easily gain access to them.   

And we continue to let children die.

Please reread -- and tremble -- at my 2007 post:

Friday, December 14, 2012


It feels so strange to go from living with a man who is IN CHARGE in a big way to one who suddenly becomes "helpless."

Case in point:

Last night Hubby came down with the 24 or 48 hour bug that has been going round and round and round again.  Nearly everyone has gotten it -- I had it right after Thanksgiving (or maybe it was at the start of November; time telescopes on me lately). 

Anyway, last night Hubby got all cold and had an "icky" feeling so he asked for a cup of hot tea, which I delivered.  Hubby no longer enters the kitchen unless I make a special request of him.  He did make a pot of spaghetti sauce this week after I'd sauteed the beef and onions and boiled the pasta.  He also helped me cut up some beef to freeze so we could take steaks to Wendy in Houston when we go later this month.  But that's the extent of his kitchen activities in December. 

A friend called, talked with Hubby for a bit and then was commiserating with me about the tub mishap when Hubby suddenly demanded, "Have you run me a hot bath?" 

What the heck?  The bathroom is less than 10 steps from the bedroom.  You can't run your own bath?  And it's so important to have one that I have to interrupt my one phone call this month directed especially to me to ask if I've run you a bath?  Of course, my friend quickly hung up the phone -- she never was a person to delay a needed warm bath -- and I dutifully ran a tub full of plenty of suds and even a good splash of Epsom Salts, for aches and pains. 

Out of his bath, back sitting on the bed, suddenly Hubby moans, "Pot." 

"What?  You want a pot?  In the bedroom?" 

More moaning.  "Pot!  Pot!  Pot!"

He's going to vomit --and he's not willing to walk the 10 steps to the bathroom to upchuck in the proper facility.  Now I kind of understand.  Vomiting can be a fairly strenuous activity and any activity sends his poor heart into a race that makes him feel scared and vulnerable.  Again, dutifully, I fetch the pot.

The normal 24 hour activity ensues in the pot -- but here's the killer for me.  Hubby puts the pot on the floor, crawls into bed, and ignores the mess he has made.

Now.  In the 40 years we have been together (come 2013) I HAVE NEVER ONCE ASKED HUBBY TO EMPTY OUT MY VOMIT.  NEVER!  There are just some things one has to do for oneself. 

In point of fact, if I get sick Hubby ignores it and me.  I can lay dying on the bed, rolling in agony, and Hubby will calmly go about his business as if I were not at death's door.  He doesn't offer soothing drinks or dry toast.  And he never cleans up a mess. 

And this is the man that expects me to empty that nasty pot he just threw up in? 

Here's where it gets really upsetting -- the pot wasn't going to empty itself and it did not smell pretty.  So I carried it -- as far away from my body as possible into the bathroom and emptied it; then into the kitchen and washed it out; and finally back into the bedroom to Hubby.  All the while I was fuming and my fury continued to grow. 

Lying pathetically in the bed, wrapped up and shivering in the quilt, his apparent illness suddenly had no affect on me. 

"You will never expect me to empty your vomit again.  You have NEVER done it for me -- and I'm never doing it for you again.  You throw up -- you clean it up just like you expect me to clean up my messes.  Got it?  GOT IT?"

Even the dogs quaked in the bed.  "Okay," he murmured quietly as I stormed off. 

This morning Hubby is still doing poorly.  I walked the dogs at 7 a.m. Then the hot tea and buttered toast were delivered. At the moment, he's in the bedroom moaning softy.  This helplessness has turned my strong, macho man into a poor baby.  If he throws up breakfast, he's cleaning up his own mess, helpless or not.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Blues

We got good news this week:  Hubby is the perfect candidate for a pacemaker and we scheduled his "out-patient" surgery for January 2 at 10:30.  We have to be at Research Hospital at 7:00 and they hope to get him in early but the current insertion time is 10:30 a.m.  He will not have to go off the Coumadin except for the day of the surgery.  He will need to stay overnight but the next morning, he goes home -- with a steady heartbeat for the first time in two years.  

I wasn't sure he would agree to the surgery because Hubby is not one to have "invasive" procedures on his "perfect" body (little sarcasm there) and he wasn't even willing, initially, to go in for the consult.  I had to keep saying, "We're only going to listen to what this new doctor has to offer; then we will have all options open to us." 

Hubby is at the limit of what meds can do.  He is NOT getting stronger or better.  The tests this fall showed he was in A-Fib over 50% of the time and his heart rate was always above 100, even when resting.  Exercise sent it sky high -- over 150.  He is never out of an exhausted state and our activities have been limited to watching him watch TV 24 / 7.

As the new doctor drew pictures of Hubby's heart and what they would do stop his own heart from beating so irregularly and quickly, Hubby was throwing "rolling eyeballs" at me the whole time.  However, we kept listening and finally the doctor uttered the magic words:  less meds, outpatient surgery, increased energy, longer lifespan, a less frightening existence.  And with the "increased energy" Hubby was all in -- ready to schedule his surgery the next day.  Outpatient surgery also signaled "not a big deal" and Hubby was even more enthusiastic. 

I've been waiting for the magic "bullet" to help us cross this gigantic canyon of lethargy, his inability to walk any distance, the frightening body coldness, the days on end in bed because both the blood pressure and the heart rate were so high he was incapable of movement, and my deep fear that every episode might be our last together.  So when the good news came that we were going to do something positive and all the signs pointed to a very real reprieve from the misery we were in, I initially hit a huge high. For about five hours.  Then, predictably, I swam down into a very real depression.  

The fall in the bathtub didn't help, of course.  My body is so sore that almost any movement on my part is uncomfortable.  The bruises on my back and feet are very ugly and painful.  Even laying in bed, if I turn wrong and hit one of the bruises, I'm in misery.  Walking dogs the past two mornings with temps in the teens and wind chills in the single digits made things worse.  I am continuing with my water aerobics but Tuesday was rather a half-hearted effort on my part.  I even tried sitting in the 100 degree hot tub to see if that would ease the joints but all it did was make me sweat. 

Probably trying to amp up for Christmas is playing a part in my "blue" mood.  I think about trying to pack up for the Houston jaunt and all I feel is inertia.  Really?  We leave in six days?  I need to find all those Christmas presents scattered around the house and put them in a central location so they can be packed.  The underwear needs to be laundered and damn, if walking down those steps to the basement doesn't just seem a Herculean task.  And then I get to drive 850 miles across Oklahoma and Texas?  Just the idea makes me feel exhausted. 

I know -- so don't leave the comments, please. Buck up!  The health news for the New Year is exceedingly good.  I'm retired -- and mostly, I love it.  It's just that I have to get through today and then tomorrow and then the day after that -- and the dogs have to be walked, and I've waited so long for good news for Hubby that, now it's here, it's just . . . .well, news. 

Tomorrow will be better . . . if I keep the faith. Christmas IS coming and we will be surrounded with people (well, at least, person) who loves up.  The New Year is very promising.  If today I can just keep the faith . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

There Was a Big Splash

It finally happened - what Hubby and I have feared for sometime -- falling in the tub.  Because of his poor knees I always thought it would be him.  Tonight, though, I lost traction with my right foot, it slipped under me and I jammed every toe all the way down the length of the tub, my body careened backward, I hit the faucets with a mighty jolt, and rolled over backwards. 

My pride was hurt.  My dignity was lost.  My back, which hit the old tub faucets, screamed.  My foot tried to right itself by having me do the splits.  My cursing was loud and obscene.

After the fall, while I tried to figure out how the heck to get out of the my splayed position, the house was silent.  By the time I had figured out how to get the right leg together with the left, Hubby had finally appeared in the bathroom to see just what stupidity I had achieved this time. 

His immediate reaction was to haul me out of the tub, but I was turned around now, facing the back wall, instead of on my knees, hefting my bulk upright and out onto the dry rug. 

We have shower doors on our tub which means that one side of the tub is always closed off.  I was now in the closed section and it took me a minute to realize that if I just opened the doors and pushed them the other way, I could eventually lift myself out onto dry land -- and not put Hubby into cardiac arrest.

Shoot.  Now I'm bruised and battered.  The foot is swelling while the spot on the back which hit the faucet is turning a lovely shade of purple / green.  And I'm shaking like a leaf.  Falling gracefully is so longer in my play book.  Luckily nothing is irretrievably broken except my self-esteem. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Why Do I Do It?

You have asked why, when I am NOT a morning person, do I crawl out of my nice warm quilts and toasty house, don underwear, yesterday's jeans and sweat shirts, coats, scarfs, mittens, and walking shoes and head out to the park -- all before 7:30 a.m.?  Why on earth don't I stay in bed until the reasonable time of ten o'clock, leisurely arise, sip some hot tea, take a bath, wash my hair, brush my teeth, don CLEAN clothes, and then leash up the boys?

Gussie is content to lay abed until 10 or 11 a.m. and never make a peep about going out doors for a little releasing of the body's contents.  Luie, however, like his dad, is up and at 'em as soon as the sun hits the horizon.  He knows that new smells have accumulated in the front yard, the car has gas in it and is ready to be warmed up, and this bladder needs to be emptied very quickly, followed almost immediately by his bowels.  "Let's go!" he fumes as he paces up and down beside the bed while running to the front door to see if it has magically opened. 

Also Hubby is awake, the TV is on to the morning news shows, and my own bladder says, "You'd better put those toes on the floor and make progress to the room next door -- or you'll be sorrreeee."

Once my feet hit the floor, all pandemonium breaks loose.  Luie is at the front door, jumping up and down and if that doesn't get our attention, he splatters a few "yaps" between the leaping.  Gus raises his head off the pillows and decides now is the perfect time to wash the sheets, and his little pink tongue comes out and he begins circles of spit all over the foot of my quilt. 

Hubby may have been dozing during the news but once I hit the light switch to hook up my bra (front hooks and I have to see them to get then snapped up right), everybody but me is alert and ready for the day.

I don't talk until I'm actually fully dressed, the hair is minimally combed, the teeth have been brushed, and the tea kettle set to boil while I'm out dog walking.  At the door, I tell Luie "up" and he stands on my thighs so I can leash him properly (blind dogs don't walk off leash in an open park) and then both dogs have to stand behind me while I open the door.  (I"ve been faithfully watching the "Dog Whisperer" during my six months of retirement). 

Today we changed the routine a bit -- because on really good days, if I ask Hubby if he wants to drive me over to the park, he'll say, "Sure," and we all go to the car together.

Today Hubby is feeling pretty perky because we were both able to talk to each other, instead of riding in stone silence, while the dogs hang at the windows hoping to see / smell the parkland.  I was showing Hubby a darling little treat bag I had gotten at lunch yesterday (Wendy, act surprised -- I'm putting it in your sock for Christmas so you can see how cute the patterns are -- you are much more talented at this stuff than me) and he reminisced about his Christmases when he was a boy.  The cabinet holding tea plates and cups that we had seen in Annapolis during the High Tea celebration reminded him of the one his family had piled high with sweets:  cakes, cookies, pies, buns, and candy.  He enjoyed regaling me with the stories of delicious tea cakes and coconut cakes, as well as the sweet potato pies. 

The conversation, though short, was a happy one.  The car felt warm with the little odd stories that only a close family can share. Even when you've heard the stories many times, it's nice to remember once more the joys that these events brought to the person remembering.  These are the moments that make getting up at dawn worth it. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


For the seventh month I've met with "The Ladies Who Lunch," all of us retired from Wyandotte High School.  When we started we needed a table for two and now we're up to a lovely complement of five. 

It's a fun afternoon, we eat either brunch or lunch, tell how we're coming along in our retirement activities, what our families are doing, and, if we know any, share the gossip about our old high school.

Today all but one of us was wearing Christmas attire.  One gave us literature and a sample of her new product that she is promoting for a little extra spending money, and three of us showed up with small Christmas favors to share.  You might have guessed that I was in the group wearing Christmas jewelry and was bearing small favors for each of the ladies, housed in funny little Christmas cards.

When we eat soul food in my neighborhood, we all dine on rich and spicy food.  But today we were in tony Johnson County, two of the ladies were keeping Weight Watcher points and one was merely dieting (the slimest of the group), so four of the ladies had salads.  I had a chicken breast with lemon sauce on fresh spinach and mashed potatoes.  If I'm going out to eat, I'm not having salad unless I really, really want that salad. 

We lingered after the meal, telling our upcoming travel plans and what our holiday menus would be.  We drank our diet cokes and ice water and had difficulty splitting the bill.  Instead of individual tickets which we usually get, one of the ladies had a $10 off coupon, so we put that toward the entire total.  We finally settled on a huge tip for the waiter because we had sat so long after eating. 

It was a very nice afternoon.  I never thought I'd be a "Lady Who Lunched" but I'm quite proud of earning the title.  Of course, we are nothing like the song (see below) -- except that we are retired from a profession that only allotted 20 minutes for a miserable little cold lunch -- and now we can linger over menus and chat over fresh food and sit at the table until we actually are ready to get up and go back home.  What a luxury! 


According to Wikipedia:

Ladies who lunch is a phrase often used to describe well-off, well-dressed women who meet for social luncheons, usually during the working week. Typically, the women involved are married and non-working. Normally the lunch is in a high-class restaurant, but could also take place in a department store during a shopping trip. Sometimes the lunch takes place under the pretext of raising money for charity.

The phrase "ladies who lunch" was popularized by a song of the same name in Stephen Sondheim's Company.


Here's to the ladies who lunch--
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they're fat.
And looking grim,
'Cause they've been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I'll drink to that.

And here's to the girls who play smart--
Aren't they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler's.
I'll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!

And here's to the girls who play wife--
Aren't they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of LIFE,
Just to keep in touch.
The ones who follow the rules,
And meet themselves at the schools,
Too busy to know that they're fools.
Aren't they a gem?
I'll drink to them!
Let's all drink to them!

And here's to the girls who just watch--
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
I'll drink to that.

So here's to the girls on the go--
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!

Elaine Stritch made the song popular.  You can see her singing it here: 

Ladies Who Lunch - Elaine Stritch