Thursday, February 28, 2013

Notes in Passing

We've had over two feet of snow fall at our house in the past week; most of it still on the ground.  The second round of snow was much heavier than the first.  We do have a path to the driveway and from the driveway to the street but we have not felt up to leaving the house for the past three days.  The car is ice covered anyway. 

The last news report claimed that over 100,000 people lost power in this area due to the heavy snow on the trees.  We had our lights flicker just briefly but they never went out completely.  In every other storm where power was lost in the city (the 1970's, the 1980's, and the early 2000's) we lost power every time.  The last time we were down for nine days so we were very grateful to be missed in this storm. 

Yesterday I walked the boys in the street and Luie was able to navigate well enough to do his business; Gussie had a much harder time of it.  I'm resigning myself to paper towel pick up in the living room and then heavily deodorizing the carpet. I didn't bother to walk them today.  Hubby has been putting them on their leashes and letting them go as far as they're able, while he stands patiently watching from the front door.  They are coping pretty well but all of us desperately want to have an outing soon. 

The new Masie Dobbs novel and the new Alex Delaware mystery were delivered to my Kindle / Fire.  I've had my fill of TV but Hubby is still locked into his 1960's - 1980's TV reruns.  Yuck.

I did watch and enjoy the Academy Awards on Sunday night.  Hubby relinquished the TV while he played computer games.  He tried to watch for an hour of red carpet reports but that was all he could take.  Though the show was panned by many critics, I enjoyed it very much -- more than usual.  I thought the musical numbers were really good and especially enjoyed the Les Miz tribute.  Why everyone thinks Russell Crowe is so awful is beyond my ken.  I think he sings very well;  he's no Alfie Boe -- but Hugh Jackson is no Alfie Boe either.

Periodically I get some kind of strange allergic reaction to .. . well, I don't know what it is.  The result is that my lips swell to enormous proportions and burn like crazy, then crack and bleed and peel.  The first time it happened I could actually see my lips by just looking downward.  That time I ended up in the emergency room.  The second time I simply walked into my doctor's office and they shot me full of  an antihistamine.  Now I just take an over the counter allergy med and wait awhile and eventually the lips resume normal size.  It think it's a reaction to the Celebrex and some of my other meds so I lay off the pain meds for a while and things work out without paying for a doctor's visit.  I do look pretty funny for a day or so, though.  On Tuesday the lips started to swell and it took six doses of Bennedril before I finally began to look like myself again.  Now I'm struggling to cope with the bleeding, peeling areas just above and below my lip line. 

Hubby got a scare when his heart rate zoomed up from his normal 65 to 95 but on calling the cardiologist we found out that his rate has been set to go between 60 and 95 and he need not worry.  Wish we'd been told that earlier.  We did do the first reading of his pacemaker and sent it off by phone line to the doctor's office.  We have to do this every three - six months.

Hubby made a macaroni / hamburger casserole at the start of the second huge winter storm.  That has lasted us through most of the evening meals but today I had to concoct a tuna salad which Hubby ate completely in one sitting.  I think we're going to have to actually do a store run this weekend.

That's pretty much all the news from the Heartland.  There was a lot of snow. There still is a lot of snow.  There will be a heaping lot of snow until the weather warms up. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oops! #3

The dogs must be walked.  They are both too short to find a spot where their eliminations can occur on park land simply because the snow is still way too deep.  All the parts that do the eliminations are buried in snow that has been laid over with a coating of ice.

Hubby's frozen larynx means he cannot tolerate the cold air outside, plus he is in rehab to try and re-establish some of the balance he has lost because of his lousy knees.

That leaves me.  I have never been graceful or coordinated; some days it's a challenge for me to remain upright (even in our own house) and I have learned that I fall like a tree in the forest -- straight down on my kisser, nothing delicate or ladylike about it.

At the Oscar's last night, Jennifer Lawrence took a tumble, tripping over her voluminous gown trying to go up the stairs to the stage.  She did it quite prettily and I thought to myself, "Yes, that's how to fall in public; just float down in a circle of satin and lace, land like a tumbling autumn leaf on the stairs, wait a moment, and then rise swanlike and continue onward.  The next time I fall down I'm going down like Jennifer Lawrence."

I have been walking the dogs down the middle of our street which was plowed but still had a packed snow cover.  Yesterday was a fairly nice day, the sun shone, the temps were above freezing.  It was really easy to walk the boys down the street, cut over if they were not doing their business fast enough, and then head back home after a couple of blocks.  Both boys understood the need to "go" in strange places and did their business with alacrity.

Last night the freezing cold set back in and the melting on the streets and our sidewalk turned to black ice.  My very expensive winter dog walking shoes coped with the snow just fine but on the ice they turn into frozen soled ski boots and shoot right out from under me, while I wobble around trying to retain balance like a drunken clown on stilts.

This morning I hook up Luie, who enjoys walking in the snow (or the ice or the subterranean heat -- any time, any place, any weather conditions)  and we start out the front door with Gussie watching.  I'm not stupid enough to try and walk both dogs together in this kind of weather.  We go one at a time.  Luie is careful, he skirts the first ice spot on the walk by leaping into a drift of snow and powering through. I navigate the first spot but the second catches me unawares and the left foot slides out into the air, leaving me balance on the right which is skating precariously forward, pitching me, boobs first into the sidewalk.

It's a slow motion comedy routine.  I'm sure, if Luie could have seen it he would have laughed out loud (remember, Luie's blind).  The lease flies from my grip, my hands bust out to cushion the ongoing fall, the knees bend and I'm down.

The ice is unforgiving.  It will not let me get up.  I'm on my hands and knees and I try to find purchase on the slick ice but it's a no-go.  I slide forward, then back, then I'm on my butt.  I roll over and try again, calling to Lu who is now free and running down the driveway toward the street. I roll into the snow drift and try to use the cold, ice covered snow to get me upright.  I sink into the drift and fall sideways. 

I roll back over and try again to get upright but neither foot can find a spot that doesn't just propel me backward or sideways but never up.  Luie, now realizing that something is wrong is standing stock still in the driveway, waiting to see what his crazy human is going to try next.

I roll back onto my knees and begin crawling over the ice and pavement to the front steps, where blessedly the ice has not formed.  Once my palms find purchase on the steps, I can pull myself upright.  I can hear Luie's leash knock, knock, knocking on the driveway but I'm not sure if he's heading for the freedom of the street or back to help me.

The neighbor across the street opens her upstairs window to call out.  "Do you need help?" she queries. "Are you hurt?"

I'm banged up a bit, the bruises from the last fall have not yet healed and now they ache worse, but I'm really not hurt in any discernible way.  There is no blood, just scraped palms and a jarring feeling to my shoulders and back that promise a dull ache that will continue for a couple of days.  The bruised knee took most of the fall and will certainly bruise more heavily but clearly nothing is broken.

"Just got to get the dog," I call back.  Gus is standing at the door, bouncing up and down, hoping I'm coming back for him so he can join in the fun.  Then I see little Luie clomping back towards me, dragging his retractable lease, coming to find out what all the fuss is about.

Luie and I resume our walk but we don't go far before I realize the street has turned into a skating rink and I'm not up for doing arabesques this morning.  We head back for the safety of our own house and Luie, in a spate of deep animal sympathico, hastily does his business right in our own front yard.  Gusie is even quicker as I lease him up.  We get down the drive, into the parking area, and he manages to squat without first examining every twig, ice lump, snow bump, and discarded paper cup along the way.  Soon enough we are back in the house, safe and warm.  

Clearly I do not have osteoporosis and my bones can withstand a whole lot of bumps and bangs.  That's the good news.  The awful news is that another huge storm is headed our way with 100% chance of a huge snow event -- 15 or more inches of snow to fall on what is already here and warnings of power outages to accompany it.  I dread to think what walking the dogs on Tuesday and Wednesday may be like. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snow Day

The snow started yesterday morning early.  By 7:30 it was blizzarding down so we donned our cold weather gear and got the pups to the park post haste. We walked in near white out conditions, then sped home to warm ourselves with toast and cocoa.

The snow continued all through the day, with small respites until late night.  Now we are completely snowed in -- the most snow we can remember in the last 20 (?) years.

Age and heart conditions have meant that Hubby has not been snow shoveling for several years -- thus, we no can no longer find a shovel in our garage.  The snow is too deep to broom it away from the stoop.  In fact, we had real trouble opening the storm door because of the snow depth.

Finally, at 9:00 this morning I put on the heavy winter clothing and waded out through the garage, hoping to blaze a path for the doggies, who have been patiently "holding" since yesterday morning.  Last night we did kick them off the stoop into a small path beside the side of the house where both doggies eventually gave up and some "business."  Luie was braver than Gussie but then Luie is quite a bit taller. 

Poor little Gus is simply out of luck.  He is just way too short, too stubby, and too old to cope in this snow.  There is a layer of freezing rain on top of the snow that causes him to sink below the surface with little crackling sounds all around him and then he disappears into the drifts and can't make progress going forward.  Luie is braver, taller, and more agile, so I could pull him into the pathway that I tried to blaze from the front door to the tree in our front yard.  Being blind, though, he flailed around, sinking deeper into the surrounding snow, getting colder and colder until we finally had to give up, and crash our way through the snow that was almost knee deep back into the house. 

Hubby has not ventured outside at all.  He has tried to call in the troops to come shovel and snowplow us out but his main crew has twice been snowplowed by the city crews into non-operational mode.

We have a super warming furnace, we have a good roof over our heads, we have plenty of snacks and healthy foods -- we just don't have a way to get the boys outside. The driveway is impassible, the car is buried, and we can only stand on our front stoop and look out at the white world encasing us.   This may become a long, stinky weekend. 


Addendum:  You know, I thought that being snowed in would be okay.  We have all our physical needs met and we should be able to cocoon ourselves into pleasant dreams.   It isn't like that, though, when you have two doggies who sit longingly, staring out the screen door, or dancing on your belly in the bed, wanting to go outside and do their business and smell the business of the other animals in the neighborhood.  By 3 p.m. Friday we were experiencing a strong bout of cabin fever.  Hubby, however, knows folks in the 'hood.  We may not own a snow shovel and neither of us is in physical condition to run the snow blower (not in 15+ inch drifts) but eventually the crew showed up at the door.  Well, it was one man, but he had a shovel and was able to clear off the stoop, the small walkway to the drive, and the driveway.  We are now, once again, mobile (the old pink Lincoln can steer to the street) and I'm ever so grateful.  It took a couple of calls deeper into the 'hood to get the guy here, but Hubby's garage buddies (every African American neighborhood has the garage where the old codgers sit and chin and send out the youngsters to tow in the old wrecks we all drive) came through.  We have been rescued!  Thank the Lord and AMEN. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oops! I've Done It Again

Not my arm -- but very close -- stole this image from the web
 Clumsy me.  Yesterday afternoon, not looking where I was going, on entering the computer room and not realizing that the dog's pillow was waiting to wrap around my scruffy sandals, down I went, face first, right onto the nubby carpet.  Right foot twisted into the pillow, left arm scraped the bookcase all the way down, right knee took the blunt force of the fall.  Chin crashed into the carpet with quite the thud.

There I lay, spread eagle on the carpet, with only a "sh*t" breathed out.  Because it was the carpet, even the dogs didn't stir.  But the body said, "Nope, not gonna get up.  You're down for the count this time, kid"  -- except, of course, I really wasn't.  Nothing was broken, just carpet burned and bruised.  Ugly, purple, and pink bruises on the soft tissue, strange sky blue on the boney parts.

It did take me a little bit to figure out how to get myself upright.  The soft tissue swelled and showed a rainbow of colors immediately.  The boney parts took a bit longer but hurt much worse.  And the indignity of it all was my own stupidity at not realizing the pillow was sitting out in the middle of the floor -- where I'd move it when I hung my coat up in the closet.  At least this time, like a tree falling in the forest with no one around, nobody was the wiser. Until Hubby got a gander at the left arm and asked, quite rightly, "How the heck did you manage THAT?"

So we missed out on water aerobics last night.  Today it feels like both arms were wrenched from their sockets, I have to remember not to crawl into bed on my knees like I usually do, but go all the way around and sit down on it like a lady, and getting out of the tub now, even with it's handicapped bars, is quite the treat.  I did manage an Epsom salts bath  at 2:30 a.m. when the pain I was experiences was so sharp it was no longer a deterrent from the pain I expected on getting out of that darned tub. 

The last couple of weeks have been really hard on me.  I've felt -- well, I'm not sure how to describe it -- not quite right.  In fact, that's been an understatement -- except I've not had any symptoms one could actually call a doctor and ask for help with.  Getting up and doing "anything" had left me winded, cold, and sweaty.  My stomach has been constantly "achy" -- not exactly upset but "just wrong."  My energy levels have hovered between three and zero on a scale of 1 - 10 with ten being high.  I even opted out of a doctor's appointment with Hubby because I just couldn't imagine sitting around for an hour in a hard chair.

Finally, this past Sunday things began to get marginally better though I began to wonder if what I was experiencing was depression.  On Tuesday I met two dear friends from my past life in business at the #3 Telephone Company and that perked me up considerably.  Until I came home and fell flat on my kisser. 

Weird times. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

No More Spills

After my autumn fall in the tub, Hubby decided it was finally time to act.  This week he had the regular old water saving toilet removed and the elongated "comfort high" toilet installed in its place.  The problem was finding a toilet seat that would work and not leave spaces of porcelain exposed for either one's thighs or bottom.  After several tries we finally found one I could live with, though it still exposes a bit of porcelain on the inside, just not on the outside. 

I have to admit I've not yet adjusted to the fact that the toilet meets me way sooner than I'm expecting and I'm surprised by every single visit to the loo.  Yet when rising from the johnny, I find my knees are uttering words of thanks for the extra inches they no longer have to rise. 

For the tub, Hubby installed two safety handle bars.  One is perfect and it really does help in getting out of the tub.  The second one, though, he put too far down and it knocks against the back of my head when I sit upright.  I have to sit catty-whampus to not get a concussion and kind of slough down into a half prone position.  Of course, both bars are toggle bolted to the walls so changing the second one may present a problem.  We're still under discussion about it.

I guess as we add safety features to our home to accommodate our dottering conditions I must finally admit we have passed into old codger status.  At least, in the bathroom we're going to be safer and more comfortable. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

We just got the final bill total for Hubby's pacemaker surgery.  Gee whiz!

Outpatient surgery visit:  $225.00 -- this was our first out-of-pocket expense and had to be paid when we checked into the hospital. 

Insurance total payments:  $15,920.72 -- this is what the Medicare Advantage company kicked in

Contractual adjustments:  $111,062 -- the surgery actually costs $126,757.72!  This is what you pay if you don't have Medicare!  Think you can survive without it?  Think again!  $111,062 was deducted from our bill by agreement to charge only $15,400.31 for the pacemaker installation. 

Due from patient now:  $295.41

So the surgeon / hospital costs us $520.41 in total, which admittedly blows the budget for January and February.  We've also had the co-pays for $30 a visit to all the specialists and the extra costs of the sleep apnea C-pap machine all throughout January -- we're going to be eating a lot of macaroni this spring.  But again the Medicare insurance picked up the biggest portion of all those costs, including the C-pap machine that we now own (and Hubby is using regularly).  

Without having the government step in and make arrangements for hospital and surgical costs to remain reasonable (and $15,550 is really reasonable for surgery on one's heart) Hubby could NOT have afforded to have his heart mended.  The right wingers and the Mitt Romney's  can talk all they want about being on government dole -- but when your life depends on fair treatment (and you have worked all your adult life to  pay into the system) you hope and pray that the government and the medical institutions are there to offer support. 

By the way, Hubby's heart rate is now a steady 65 -- every day, all day.  That's down from 110 to 160+ all day every day.