Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fixing a Broken Heart

As most of you know, Hubby is NOT well.  I have been plenty frightened and, I think, so has he.  The pain from the knee and back problems is not abating -- and everything he does to try and fix those problems (like build up strength and muscle in the problem areas) leave him totally exhausted.  In fact, any activity, leaves him stretched out on the bed, pale, out of breath, and in need of sleep.  Sometimes after just driving the car, he must sit and rest for 10 minutes before he can exit. 

We've been in this predicament since the start of May (or maybe longer, I've lost track of time here).  Our first attempt to fix the problems started with appointments with our GP -- a man I really like and trust, but will be leaving us for new ventures in the next four weeks.  He has helped with the knee and back pains, the arthritis and diabetes problems (pain caused Hubby to go back to eating ice cream daily and we had to combat that -- without totally eliminating the ice cream which the doctor understood).  He has also met with Hubby's new doctor and explained that Hubby "can be a difficult patient, especially if he doesn't like or trust you."  Hubby came away laughing at that -- but it is SO true.  In fact the GP explained that he had met with the whole clinic staff about Hubby and his "difficult" disposition.  I guess they are glad when I show up for appointments -- I know they talk primarily to me when I'm there. 

But Hubby IS trying to manage our current problems.  On his own he made an appointment with his cardiologist.  I tentatively asked this morning if I could drag along -- sometimes my presence just makes Hubby more cantankerous.  I got a resounding "YES" which said to me that Hubby actually wanted me to run interference -- and speak up about our current problems. 

I had met the cardiologist, Dr. Dwyer, during the bout with congestive heart failure in the hospital -- but I do not remember ever going to his office -- if I did it was over a year ago.  I know we requested him to be our physician because he was thorough, willing to discuss problems at length, and would talk to both of us - not just me. 

Our appointment was for 9:45 and we got to the office early.  We were in an exam room by 9:45 and Dr. Dwyer was in the room with us immediately following the EKG.  He asked Hubby how he was and Hubby did the normal "Fine" routine.  So I spoke up and said, "No, we are not fine.  Hubby is in terrible pain.  He has no energy.  He hates how he feels and he's depressed and angry."

Dr. Dwyer's response was heaven sent.  "Yes,  I can see that.  I can also see from his EKG that his heart rate is WAY TOO FAST.  We know the heart is not damaged yet but we do have the irregular beat.  And now, since you've explained about the pain, the adrenaline caused by the pain is sending his heart rate sky high.  His meds are way too low to fix the problem.  We will fix it now."

Then we got a long explanation about how the heart pumps and what is happening.  We did not change meds because the ones we have are good -- we are to just doubled and tripled doses. 

"Do we get new prescriptions?" I queried while taking notes.   "Nope.  Use what you have (90 day supply) and I'll see you in a month.  You will be tired for the next couple of days until the pills take effect.  Then you will begin to get your old energy back.  You will exercise again."

Both of us were immediately and immensely relieved.  We had been told his heart was pumping well.  It's only the output that is showing damage from the a-fib.  His lungs are clear -- no sign of congestive heart failure.  His blood pressure is well within the normal range.  We CAN fix all the problems we are currently experiencing -- with time and meds -- but we're going to fix things.

The icing on the cake -- we were at the Research Medical Center in the heart of the center city, surrounded by the neighborhood deemed most dangerous of all of KCMO.  Most of the clientele is minority.  But the doctor's building we were in actually provides FREE valet parking -- an older gent gets you out of your car, arranges for wheel chair transport if you need it -- or a walker, and parks your car for you while you saunter into the beautifully maintained center.  Now this is Kansas City -- not Chicago, Houston, New York.  And we got FREE valet parking in the hood.  Cool!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


It's strange to have this interior feeling that I need to be doing something worthwhile -- something that I don't HAVE to do but should do anyway.  I was smart enough to realized I needed to take chores small bits at a time or I would be overwhelmed by all the stuff we hadn't gotten to in the last six years (or more).  Yesterday I ignored these feelings and read a book.   It was a silly little mystery that I'd had on my Kindle for over a year (something I downloaded really cheap) but I did enjoy it.  I also read the daily paper (sometimes I let them pile in stacks on the Kindle -- maybe a week or more before I get through them, but currently I'm keeping up day to day) and I started the new John Irving novel (one of my favorite authors).  His last, the saw mill novel, was the first Irving I've not been able to read cover to cover.  This new one, however, is much more back to Irving style and I'm growing more enthused with every page. 

I have also been reading email and accessing Facebook more than at any time in my life.  I'm beginning to see the addiction to Facebook.  You can actually find out what people are doing real time and NOT talk to them (even Hubby, I recently discovered). 

We are taking the PC in for service this afternoon.  It's slowed to a horrible crawl -- and I think that the Windows operating system may be damaged slightly and it probably has viruses hidden in its depths.  Plus we NEED to figure out how to finally go wireless.  The PC was really limping at the end of the school year, but at least it hung on until I had all the awards for the end of school designed and printed (148 awards were printed).  Publisher, only available on a PC, is really great for massive print jobs.  The MAC programs, unless hideously expensive, not so much. 

Today I cleaned a corner of the bathroom.  Just one little entrance corner.  Down on my knees, I discovered just how vulnerable this arthritic body really is.  Thank god I had the vanity on one side and the tub on the other to help me get back up.  I don't think the boys (Gus and Luie) would have been much help if I had gotten stuck on the floor.  The kneeling for more than ten minutes is really painful. 

I think I've satisfied my ambition to do something worthwhile today.  Now it's just average chores -- unload the dishwasher, fix lunch / dinner, feed the dogs, watch some TV, read a bit more of the Irving book, scan the newspaper (especially the obits -- does that tell just HOW old we've gotten?), and unhook the PC for repair.

Lordy, this blog is really going to get boring!  I may have to start inventing stories. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Peaceful Memorial Weekend

We had a pretty quiet holiday weekend.  I did the wash.  I did the dishes.  We baked some thick pork chops.  We made macaroni salad.  We ate pork chops and macaroni salad.  We went to the movies.

Today we took in Dark Shadows today.  On Friday we saw Men in Black.  Neither were as funny as previews had promised.  We were entertained but we didn't laugh out loud.

On Saturday, though, we went to the 3D version of The Avengers.  Now that is a movie!  Hunky men doing insane things -- some in minimal clothing.  A really cool villain -- who was sexy handsome in the mix.  And laugh out loud funny moments.  Just when your brain would tell you, "Oh for pity's sake, the Hulk wouldn't just take out the bad guys -- he would clobber everybody in the room," suddenly Dr. Banner (aka the Hulk) would reach out and punch Captain America across the room.  Yeah! This was the best movie we have seen in ages.  No wonder it has topped the box office for so many weeks.

Hubby is struggling to go to the movies - but he's trying his best.  He parks the car, walks in huffing and puffing -- and I go get the car and bring it to him at the end of the show.  It's a struggle, I can see that clearly, and sometimes he get really grumpy what with the intense pain, but he is trying.  He made the mac salad and baked the pork chops.  I did the clean-up and plating.  He is walking the dogs at least once a day but little Luie is getting pretty antsy because he's just not getting out every day like before. 

We still get up awfully early, usually around 4:30 but if things go well, I manage to get back to sleep around 7 and get in another hour or so.  I haven't had to take a nap since school ended.  I laughed today when the morning news talked about Memorial Day Monday being a bonus day.  Every day is a bonus day from here on out. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Anticlimax of It All

It's over.  I'm through.  I walked away for the last time. 

Hubby, pointing to the dogs, on picking me up from school:  Should we take the boys home and I'll treat you to dinner?  Or do you just want to follow through on my plan and get Gates barbecue and we go home and take a nap?

Me:  The nap sounds really good.  I'd like the nap.  A long nap.  This nap might actually extend into tomorrow. 

We got the "beef on a bun" platter for two and came home and shared with the boys.  I took off my clothes and put on my nightgown.  I read the daily paper on the Kindle.  I read my email and Facebook messages. 

I looked at the bathroom and thought:  tomorrow I can clean this mess up.  Or not.  Maybe not.  At least not tomorrow -- after all it will be my 66th birthday.  Maybe it's unlucky to clean the bathroom on your 66th birthday.  So, yeah, probably not. 

Tomorrow I can plan to hang up the seven (YES! seven) certificates I received to commemorate my retirement.  NOT!   Why in the world do organizations think you WANT plaques and certificates when you retire?  Nobody wants these things on their living room / den walls.  Plaques and framed certificates go in offices -- and we just QUIT working in offices.  Crazy.  My last week of work was truly nuts, in more ways than being gifted with SEVEN big plaques and framed certificates. 

So now I'm going to take that nap.  After all, retirement is supposed to be a time to fully enjoy the benefits from a lifetime of work.  Before the enjoyment begins, one must rest up to have the strength to play all day long. 

It really is over.  I kept the faith (in my own idiosyncratic way) -- and it finally paid off.  It still feels so unreal.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hahahahaha! It's Tuesday

Things that made me laugh out loud today:

You Will Never Be This Happy!

Back Seat Drivers Don't Bother Her Anymore!

 The blog:  Fetch My Flying Monkeys  (read today's entry -- the whole blog is great, but today's entry is really good)

Some people are just way too smart for their own good (like a lot of people who claim to be educated).  Take this good old joke, for instance:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip.  After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night, and go to sleep.

Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes” replies Watson.

“And what do you deduce from that?”

Watson ponders for a minute.  “Well,

  • Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
  • Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.
  • Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
  • Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
  • Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe.

But what does it tell you, Holmes?”

Holmes is silent for a moment. 

“Watson, you idiot!” he says.  “Someone has stolen our tent!”

It could only happen in  the US:

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300°C.

The Russians used a pencil.

And finally -- given enough time in retirement phase, I might become the philosopher:

A scientist and a philosopher were being chased by a hungry lion. The scientist made some quick calculations, he said “it's no good trying to outrun it; it's catching up”.

The philosopher kept a little ahead and replied “I am not trying to outrun the lion, I am trying to outrun you !”

Monday, May 21, 2012


On Friday morning for the very first time in my adult life I will wake up to no "organized" responsibility.

But, MillyWilly, you query -- "Didn't you quit teaching in 1990 to start a new life and on the day after Paseo High School closed for the final time, didn't you wake up that morning with no schedule, no work, nothing to do but laze around?"

That, my friends, is a resounding "N O!"  That summer we were still trying desperately to save the old high school and my summer was a round of 7 a.m. meetings with lawyers, J.E. Dunn (boo!), architects, and students I was responsible for carting all over the darned city while we created beautiful plans to restore a historic structure -- plans at which no one really looked but those of us working to save the school.  And then in the fall I got violently ill, had surgery, recovered, and immediately had to find a job.

But this Friday I will get up and face no concrete plans.  No schedule I have to follow.  Nobody to account to for my time.  Even better a small but regular social security check will arrive in the mail every 4th Wednesday of the month -- hopefully providing enough to keep us feed, housed, and clothed for the duration. 

I started school when I was five and graduated college at 21.  The summers were pretty much mine until I went to college -- then I usually attended summer school.  At 21 I got a job teaching and if you think teachers have the summer off, think again.  Every summer involved either re-education for me, workshops, or summer school for kids. I earned my master's degree during the summers -- and then 36 hours beyond my masters.  When I left teaching in 1990 I worked 12 months out of the year in business.  Back to teaching in 2006 and I went to summer school or wrote curriculum for the district every June and July.  In August these days teachers start school at the beginning of the month.  

Friday in simply unimaginable.  I can't really believe I'm finally going to be free.  I will be able to choose what I do and when I do it.  I may not have a big pile of extra money to choose to do everything I'm dreaming of (like adding a bathroom to the house or moving the washer / dryer upstairs), but I will have my freedom and no schedule to maintain.  I keep repeating it -- it's simply unimaginable.  Freedom finally comes this Friday.  What will it be like?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The doctors' visit yesterday was less than conclusive -- at least for Hubby.  In my mind, it was a "done deal" -- but I've been on favoring knee replacement surgery for the last four years.

The Baker's Cyst is gone -- probably broken into tiny pieces by Hubby's insistence on exercising through this whole ordeal.  At least that's what the doctor thinks has happened.  But the left knee is still incredibly swollen, he has terrific back pain, and he's a limping heap of utter misery. 

Our favorite intern (Hubby goes to a clinic with student doctors but everything is run past "the big guns") brought in the senior physicians to look at Hubby, then they went and found the doctor who had already had two knee replacements himself.  The doctor flexed the knees, jumped up and down, said, "This surgery has had really great success and has been improved on yearly.  DO IT!" 

Initially Hubby gave a "N O !  NEVER!" response.  After 20 minutes of discussion his head was on his chest, the stubborn look was still in his face, but he agreed, reluctantly, to think about the surgery. 

The choices at this stage are simple:  replace the knees or live on high dosages of pain medication that will turn him into an addict.  That's it.  Choose. 

Then we were turned over to the X-ray technicians and the vampires who draw vials of blood.  We were there for five boringly long hours. 

Next up -- orthopedic surgeon appointments.  Whether or not Hubby will commit to this surgery remains up in the air.  I'm a strong advocate but I don't know what may be final decision.  Hubby has to go into this with a positive attitude.  I've said, "It can''t get worse, can it?  You're utterly miserable.  You can't walk now -- the only thing that could happen is that after the surgery you can't walk at all.  No change.  Or you could die.  That's a possibility, but not likely.  In this worst case, do you want to live like you are now?"  And the answer for him is a resounding "No!"

If we choose the surgery, then all the meds will have to change -- especially the Warfarin.  But the doctor has already explained what the alternatives will be for a time and I think we can successfully do it. 

Meanwhile, I continue to haul trash, do the shopping, walk the dogs, and feel entirely put upon.  I want a functioning Hubby back in good form.  

What fun the future of retirement holds . . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Meat Loaf Eases Pain

Sunday evening we were invited to our dear friends', Debby and Lou's, house for a meat loaf dinner.  Debby claims that her meatloaf is nothing special -- just hamburger, onion soup mix, and oatmeal.  However, what comes out of her pan every single time is VERY special -- I'm not sure if it's the love she puts into the loaf pans or the way she bakes them so the meatloaves come out of the oven with this perfect blend of crispy outside and savory, tender inside -- but her meatloaf is the best I've ever eaten.

Meatloaf is one of my most favorite foods, but as I age I find it hard to come across a good meatloaf.  My own never comes quite up to snuff.  Debby claims it's because I have to make it for myself.  I just can't seem to get the right crispy versus tender combination.  Hubby invents a new meatloaf every time he makes one. They are good -- but they just don't have Debby's touch that makes hers the food of the gods.

Hubby is still in enormous pain.  I can tell because he has become evil, cross, uncommunicative, and downright obtuse.  Now he has been all these things in the past -- but never all at once.  Living with him has become a real challenge -- especially since I'm having my own traumas facing retirement for eternity in 11 days time.  We are not currently a very pleasant household to be around.  I'm super stressed and he's super evil, which, even though I know is caused by the pain, I'm taking personally. 

Debby served up the meatloaf, along with macaroni and cheese, some fresh cantaloupe with lovely blueberries, and then -- to totally please Hubby, topped it all off with Hagen Daas ice cream.  I opted for a second (or was it third?) piece of meatloaf instead of the ice cream.  Slowly, as we consumed every last morsel on our plates we began to mellow out.  The pain was still bad, my exhaustion and stress were still there -- but it all seemed a bit farther away, less intense, more manageable.

And then, to top off a really lovely evening of conversation and food, Debby sent us home with an entire meatloaf of our own, to snack and dine on for the week.

We have a doctor's appointment at 1 p.m this afternoon.  I'm bowing out of school early to go with Hubby so he won't just sit there and tell the doctor that he's "fine" and he won't be able to leave the doctor's office and then tell me that "nothing happened."  We've got to find a way to make this pain more manageable, even if the recovery time is going to be prolonged.  And when we get home from out medical foray, we will each have a huge meatloaf sandwich.  Good friends really do help ease your load.

Monday, May 07, 2012

No Progress

Hubby is doing very poorly with his bad leg / bad back.  We got him out of the house on Saturday morning to pick up breakfast from Sonic but then he wasn't out of the bed and dressed for the rest of the weekend.  He did hobble to the computer room once but sitting up made him sick to his stomach and gave him chills (too many pain meds?). He's watched a whole lot of TV and read every current magazine in the house. 

I'm beginning to be seriously worried.  I'm so not used to him just "lying around in bed."  He has given up any form of cooking, including putting up my lunch.  Last night he asked, "So what are we going to do about lunches this week?" and I was astonished that he had given up hope that he would be mobile sometime during the week.   Last week he was still making sandwiches and cutting up fruit.  This week he's not even trying. 

If you talk with him, as did his Louisiana friend on Sunday morning, he tells this strange story about his "bad back" and that it seems that "every two years something goes horribly wrong in my body."  He doesn't acknowledge the knee / leg problem at all -- or that he can't walk, except for a few hobbling steps. 

We don't have a doctor's appointment until the 15th -- because the doctor warned this would take a while to recover from (the Baker's Cyst).  I honestly don't know if we can hold our that long.  I'm beginning to have a very quivery feeling in the base of my stomach that something more seriously is amiss than what we at first assumed. 

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012

Thankful for Friday

It is finally May and it is Friday.  I am grateful.  First, I'm grateful that this is my last month before retirement.  I am exhausted.  No amount of sleep right now seems to be enough.  I come home from school and I fall into bed.  Hubby may or may not wake me for dinner.  Usually around 7 p.m. I wake up for a bit. Then I'm asleep again until 1 or 2 a.m. -- and it usually takes an hour of reading to put me back to sleep until 4:30, when we turn on the TV and try to find the energy to start the day.

I am grateful this is Friday, the end of the first week of May.  I have two days ahead in which I don't have to get up by 5 a.m. and try to function.  I have two days to get the washing completed and the toilet scrubbed.  I have time to grocery shop in the daylight.

I am grateful at the end of this week that Hubby is NOT having heart problems and that he has enough serious pain meds to see him through this incredibly painful bout of knee / leg / back problems.  He has tried a walker but found he hated it. After spending $90 to purchase one and then trying to use it for 24 hours, he has relegated it to the coat closet. He has tried acupuncture which at least made him sleep most of Thursday.  He has been massaged and adjusted by his chiropractor.  Nothing has helped yet but the doctor warned we had at least two weeks of misery ahead.  If you ask him how his knee is doing, he replies, "It's fine."  If you ask if the pain is getting better than where it was on Monday, he admits, "No, it's the same."

I am grateful that the dogs are cooperating with me while I walk them.  Hubby has resumed most of the walking chores, though -- and I doubly grateful for that.  I still have to do all the cooking and carrying and cleaning -- but at least one chore which must be done early in the morning and late at night is no longer mine alone.

I am grateful to my advisory class which made a delightful card for Hubby once they learned he had paid a visit to the ER on Monday morning.  Every kid wrote him a note -- and though one freshman simply wrote, "I like cheese" and signed his name, the others all sent him best wishes for good heath, told him how much they enjoyed his cooking when he sent treats and what they liked best (his spaghetti) and how much they appreciated having me as their teacher.  We were both incredibly touched.

I am grateful that I have a wonderful student who has been my teacher's aid this last semester.  She has made my life much easier, running errands and organizing my final departure from the building.  I don't know what I'd do without her help -- except reach a point of exhaustion that might be deadly.  Today she helped me find all the books that I had checked out from the SPED library and that had to be returned before I could "officially" retire.  They are now boxed and ready to be sent back to the central office.  You have no idea how grateful I am that this chore is completed. 

The school announced their retirement celebration -- only four of us are leaving my building -- to the district and to our staff -- it is scheduled for next Wednesday, May 9th.  I'm NOT going.  I hate that type of thing.  I can't imagine having to sit before the faculty and have people talk about me -- people who really know next to nothing about me at all.  I did have the decency to tell them I wouldn't go -- and the stunned looks on people's faces were hilarious.  "Oh, no, not really.  Really?  REALLY?  But we want to honor you!"  Yeah, right -- honor me by giving me a day off -- not by having a party AFTER school which people have to attend on their own time.  That's just nuts. But I'm grateful that I actually have the option of not attending -- and that the party can cheerfully go on without me. 

I am grateful that only three more weeks of early mornings and collaborative teaching are in my future.  I am grateful I had the six years here at this beautiful school -- and now I'm grateful as all heck to be leaving.  I'm very grateful that I actually have this option of real retirement ahead of me.  If the money and our health will only hold out . . .

Tuesday, May 01, 2012