Archive for2016-10 through 2017-05 – Winter wonderland in Florida

We’re on the road

It’s raining.

We’ve hoped for rain for months now because so much of Florida is a high risk for fires because of the lack of rain. Here we are nearly to the Georgia border and it’s raining pretty hard. Not helping the driving situation.

Traffic isn’t too bad. We hope to get to Marietta, GA, which is north of Atlanta. Atlanta is always a bear to drive through but might be easier on the weekend. We have found that the traffic into Atlanta is unbelievable in the morning so we’ll miss that. Then tomorrow we’d like to get to Dayton/Miamisburg, Ohio so we’re past Cincinnati for the same reason.

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Almost Ready to Leave

John had the endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy on Wednesday, May 3rd. The results weren’t officially given to him until Tuesday, the 9th. Thank heavens the news was the best we could hope for. The “tumor” ended up being a good-sized benign pseudocyst which was aspirated (drained) and now we just have to “watch it” to make sure it doesn’t regrow. He’ll have another ct scan in four weeks. Hopefully he’ll be fine.

The whole pancreatius and biopsy experience has drained his energy.

We’re packing to leave tomorrow, Saturday. It’s always tough to pack and with his weakened condition, it’s been especially tough. The heat hasn’t helped.

And then there’s been the problem with our Florida car, the Jaguar. When I had to drive him home from Tampa, we had major brake problems. Without brakes, it was even more frightening than it would have been. I was white knuckled but got us home and we are getting the brakes fixed now. (We should be able to pick up the car later today.)

We hope to take off early.

We haven’t been having much “fun” this winter/spring. On May the 4th, we did go to a party at the North Club Gazebo hosted by the Ringenbacks, the Michigan Club Kentuck Derby Party May 6th, and I attended a birthday for Caroline Cooper on May 8th at Little Harbor.



Things just aren’t going our way. We got in the car so we could go pick up our Jag (it was having the brakes worked on) and the truck battery was dead. It wouldn’t start – battery was dead! Recharged it but John’ll go get a new battery. What else!!?

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If something awful happened

Last night it hit me, I am not close to anyone except John. If something happened to him, who would I call?

I used to feel I had Linda Conklin who I knew would respond anytime I needed her, but now that she’s moved away, and I haven’t spent time with “the girls” because I’ve been so busy watching after John’s health.

What if I lost John? What would I do? Who would I call?

Sweet Florida friends who have offered assistance come to mind:
Caroline Cooper
Marilyn Enge
Edie Cronin
Paul Hunt
Linda Ringenback
Sharon Nead
Valerie Whipkey
Shelly Brooks
Cindy Baker
Judy Reintsema
Ann Marie Long (neighbor)

But if I was in Michigan, who?
My brother, Denny
Uncle Martin

To be honest, I’m not very close to any of the above mentioned folks and since many of them head north part of the year, it would be hard to pinpoint any of them. I wish I’d cultivated deeper friendships. Calling someone with a serious, personal problem would be tough with any of them. I’m sure they don’t feel that personally involved with me.

Hopefully there is still time to grow closer to someone. But who? Who has really reached out to me and wanted to be closer? Probably Edie and Paul. Who do I feel most compatible with? Maybe Caroline and Marilyn. Who would be here whenever I needed them? Marilyn, Linda, Sharon, Valerie, Shelly and Judy are all “full time” Florida folks.

It’s just not in my nature to try to get close to someone for my own purposes.

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Life goes on

John has been feeling somewhat stronger.

Tomorrow he’ll have the endoscopic ultrasound at Moffitt Cancer Treatment Center. We won’t get the results for a week. Hope the outcome is positive and we can think about heading north.

Nothing has changed there. It’s warmed up some but there has been more rain. Hopefully there won’t be any mold or foul smells. We need to clear out the stuff in the garage and what’s left in the basement. At least John consented to having the yard mowed so when we get back it should look better.

I’d love to put the Saginaw place up for sale, but the way it is now, and with the present economy in that area, selling our house would be impossible. We’ll do what we can. I think even John is seeing that limiting our northern commitments would be a good move!

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More Headaches

This morning we went to Moffitt for an 8:00am appointment so we were up very early and when we got home, we were dead tired. We both fell asleep.

Late afternoon, John got a call from Moffitt. Apparently the cardiologists won’t clear him for the procedure, Wednesday, unless they see him. (We thought he was good to go because he passed a stress test and lots of heart exams while in the hospital.)

Here it was Friday late afternoon and offices about to close so we hopped on our golf cart and went rushing over to the office to make sure he’d be able to have the esophigeal ultrasound on schedule. Our golf cart died on the way.

He was so weak! And with heat at 90+ plus degrees and John decided to walk the remaining distance (about 3 city blocks) while I stayed with the cart. I called the cart shop to have the cart hauled in.

He did make it to his doctor’s office but in the meanwhile a lovely lady stopped and wanted to help. She drove her cart to the doctor’s office and picked him up. He’d already made an appointment for Monday which was all we could do. When they got back to the cart, I explained that the cart shop was coming. She took John home to get our car and I stayed behind.

The cart shop arrived. Batteries were dry because of a broken water line.

John came after me.

What more can go wrong?

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They sent him home Tuesday but then….

Tuesday John was released from South Shore Hospital but the doctors had spotted something on his pancreatus requiring more follow-up. The next day, Wednesday, we had a previously scheduled appointment in Tampa to see his pulmonologist (Dr. Clum). Thursday he went to Moffitt Cancer Center to see a G.I. specialist (Dr. Hodul) about the “something” on his pancreatus. She has scheduled him for an esophigeal ultrasound which is done under anesthesia by inserting a tube in his mouth to his stomach. They’ll do a biopsy of the “something” which is about an inch in size. (It is either a tumor or a cyst.) If it’s not malignant, it could still cause reoccurring pancreatius. Ideally you’d remove it, but with his health as it is, they are concerned that it’s too much for him. At 8 a.m. today we had to be back at Moffitt to meet with the anestheologists so they’ll understand John’s health status before sedating him. Wednesday we’ll be there again and he’ll have the procedure. He’ll return for a review of what was discovered on May 9th. Depending on the proposed treatment, we’ll either head to Michigan or hang around until he has been cleared.

The doctor says it looks like it’s a cyst without the mass of a tumor but we won’t be sure until after May 9th.

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John’s in the South Bay Hospital

This morning John had a minor surgical procedure (small lesion removed) and came home at about 9 a.m. feeling fine.

An hour later, I found him on the bed writhing with admoninal pain. He said it felt like the pancreatius had survived last August. I convinced him to go to the hospital (but he wouldn’t go by ambulance). I drove him.

In the E.R., he was examined and found to have very high lipase numbers which indicates pancreatius. In a healthy individual, a normal lipase level is 0-160 U/L. Last summer his was 9,000. Today it was 750. (Still way too high.)

He was admitted. His heart beats per minute were very low. (In the 30’s.) They fed him about a quart of dye for a contrast CT scan and afterward he “tossed his cookies” and it all came up. The elimination of that substance helped him a little.

He’s still not feeling good, but better. He’s worn out!! Hopefully with the meds they’re pouring into him, he’ll quickly recover.

He was tired so I left him sleeping.

He was worn out and so was I.

The small Sun City Center hospital (South Bay) treated him well. He got excellent care. His room is brand new, huge, and well appointed. Sure glad this happened while we are here rather than on our way home or even in Saginaw. His primary care doctor and cardiac doctors are all here. When I went home, he still had a gastroenterologist yet to come in tonight.

Hope they let him rest. He needs it!

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Working at a Distance

We’ve been working with a restoration company to clean up our basement. I dread going back to Michigan, but it is probably better that we are not there now. I can only imagine the mold and mildew smells which neither of us can tolerate.

Yesterday we decided to move our departure date from Sunday, May 7th to Saturday, April 29th. John didn’t realize how much work it is to change reservations that I’d already set up. It took about four hours to change hotel, mail, newspaper, car insurance, and other date-sensitive previously made arrangements but everything is now ready for us to leave April 29th.

I’m really sorry we won’t make it to the Michigan Club Kentucky Derby Party but we were able to re-sell our tickets so that kinda cinched the change.

We’ll be ready.

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Floating away

What a day!  We got a call from our Michigan neighbor, Charlie, who wanted to know if we would like him to check Michigan place again since the water table had risen. 

We’d had had a problem with our basement sump pump a few weeks ago and Charlie had checked but we felt we’d be okay.  The water was over-running the sump hole, but with a block retaining wall, we felt we wouldn’t have any actual flooding beyond the sump hole.  But today the water in the basement was about a foot deep.  Our cluttered basement was a mess!  We’ve been planning to clean it out, but John’s poor health and my wrist problems the past few years have limited what we could do.  Instead of cleaning, we’d added to the mess. 

After Charlie said we have a problem we called a disaster recovery company and, after installing a new sump pump, they have started to drain the foot of water.

The company sent us a few sickening photos.  We can see an upright bass in a case (still standing but probably wet).  There’s one hammered dulcimer floating past and lots of saturated boxes. 

After the water’s drained away, they’ll move our car out of the garage and put all of the stuff in the garage to dry.  Maybe some will be salvageable.  We wanted a total purge, but not this way!!!

We’ve contacted our furnace and water heater company to see if they will need work before being restarted.


When we first discovered the problem, we actually thought about heading north four weeks early, but we have company (my daughter from California) and we are expecting our good friends from Mexico next week.  We figure that even if we were home, we’d have to hire help.  It’s not easy to do it by phone, but so far we’ve been successful.

Thank heavens I can access our Simplisafe system so we can turn our security off and when we want the place to be secure we can relock it.  In other works the workers can come in but we can “lock it back up” so we’ll be notified if anyone opens a door.

Wish us luck!

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Timetable of condo changes

My 54-year old daughter, Kelly, will be flying in from California on Thursday (the 6th).

I’ve been trying to reconstruct the timetable of our condo improvements and her visits. I’m trying to remember what she’s seen and what will be new to her.

We bought our condo in October 2008. Early in 2009, we replaced the plain white ceiling fans with two that are much nicer palm fron-style. We added tiffany-style dining room and foyer light fixtures. With a nice light fixture and dimmer, we created a real “dining room.”

Kelly came to visit us with her friend, Dotty, in March of 2009. I remember it was cold (drafty) and our place needed lots of improving.

In April 2010, we had crown molding installed in the great room and dining room and the wall color in those areas went from stark white to a light tan-brown with a darker shade on one wall.

January 2011, we had the kitchen renovated, installing new cabinets and over-the-range fan/microwave. We also replaced the refrigerator with one that’s a Samsung stainless french-door.

We replaced our very old Toyota with a 2005 Jaguar in October 2011.

November 2011 we had ceramic floor tile installed throughout the condo and our bathroom shower was tiled. We also had the lanai tiled. The builders’ grade off-white carpet was only left in the master bedroom.

Kelly’s second visit here was in November 2012. Things looked definitely better.

In December 2012, our great room was changed drastically with the addition of the 9′ sliders, a nice side window, an addition to the lanai, and the new patio off the great room. Since the addition to the roof-line of the lanai gave us protection over the side window, were able to eliminate the ugly metal awning that had protected that window from the golfers. The new windows not only changed the view but also eliminated the draft and wind whistling.

In December, 2013, we got a new Samsung 65″ TV and new TV stand. The older flat screen went in our bedroom.

I headed to California in January 2014 for my grandson’s wedding. Although we talk often, I haven’t seen Kelly since then.

Jerry, John’s brother and his wife, Marie, visited us, I believe in April 2014. March 2015, Gwyn Besner stayed overnight and the next day Bill & Ann Robinson used our guest room.

November 2015, we had the granite put down in the kitchen and guest bathroom. The fancy vessel sink and new mirror and light fixture made a real change.

This year we got rid of the broken-down living room sofa and loveseat. We added new sofa, loveseat, chair and curtains. The whole place looks brighter and more open.

Of course there have been some other minor changes like getting rid of the guest room bed and replacing it with a futon. A small table and two stylish chairs were added in the corner of the greatroom and we added an attractive loveseat in the area near the sliders. The lanai and patio are nicely furnished. The lanai has four comfortable well-padded chairs, and the patio two dark brown wicker lounge chairs and a new dark brown umbrella. We have new tableware and cookware.

It’s all very comfortable and attractive. I hope Kelly loves it!

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Where we’ve been

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Getting ready for company

Next week, my daughter, Kelly, will arrive for a nine-day visit. I’m really going to enjoy our time together.

But part of her visit will be serious. You see, I know she’s who I’d have to depend on if I didn’t have John. I hope I have things set up so she’d never really have to “care” for me, but there still has to be someone who will speak on my behalf if I can’t do it. If something happened to John, I’d have to rely on her. For that reason, it’s important that we go over things so she understands how finances would work, what resources would be available and how she could handle my “estate.”

Kelly will visit from Thursday, April 6th, until Saturday, April 15th. When she leaves on Saturday, Wayne and Linda Conklin will arrive and stay with us for a week. They’ll leave April 24th.

I don’t think the Conklins are planning to be “here” much. They are moving to Mexico so they’re going to use this time to clean out their storage area. Apparently it’s a big job.

I wish I could change the Conklins’ minds about moving. I feel like I’m losing a very special friendship. It’s funny but when I was writing the second paragraph of this post, about how I’d count on Kelly if something happened to John, I realized that, if I didn’t have John, Linda Conklin would be right up there as someone I’d lean on. Maybe they won’t stay in Mexico forever, but I fear they are expecting to live out their lives in a more luxurious style in Mexico. Of course, if something happened to Wayne, I’m sure Linda would want to be in the U.S. but probably closer to their children. Linda is a very special, giving, friend!

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I’m listed in the Social Security Death Master File

This weekend I discovered there is a Social Security Death Master File which includes the Social Security numbers of most folks who are deceased.

I found my parents and lots of John’s relatives by looking up last names. Apparently after death Social Security numbers aren’t of any use and can legally be distributed.

There’s also an alternate search method using the deceased’s birth date.

Out of curiosity I looked up my birthdate: March 4, 1942. And was shocked to find that I am listed in the Social Security Death Master File. I’m only in the “by birthdate” list and my Social Security number is NOT included.
Believe me, it’s kind of a shock to see your name in the Death Master File!

If you need convincing, here’s the website: and you can find me when you scroll down to Sharon Elaine Skaryd

Strangely the “by name list” is by first name and then last because females would be hard to locate. To use the by birthdate list, you find the date (year then day). Then do your search to find the first name. Yup, I’m there.

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A friend of mine had read an article about Shirley MacLaine who wants to write her own obituary. My friend said, “I realized I felt the same way. I do not want to leave that task to others; heaven only knows what they would say about me!”

I feel that way too. There’s a lot about me that I’d down-play. I will therefore prepare a complimentary obituary and make it available for my daughter to post after I’ve departed.

That prompted me to think about Kathryn Rummel, who lived in Frankenmuth, MI.

Kathy knew for quite a while that her breast cancer would take her life. She planned carefully for her passing.

After her death in 1984, many friends and family members received letters mailed by her husband. These personal thank you letters hand-written by Kathy expressed her gratitude for their contribution to her life. She signed them from “Kathy in Heaven.” (I understood they went to teachers, friends, and acquaintances she felt had contributed to her quality of life.)

I think it’s a beautiful idea. I can see writing a beautiful love-letter to John my husband telling him how much happiness he brought me, a letter of appreciation to my daughter (Kelly), a letter of hope to my lost daughter (Tammy).

I will definitely add this to my “to-do” list.

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Half a bubble off

I haven’t been feeling up to par. It hit me about three or four days ago so I’ve been taking it easy. Haven’t done much. Skipped all activities and just rested. Wish I could say I’ve bounced back, but I still feel yucky.

I do have plans to go to tai chi today at noon. I need to stop by a friend (Linda’s) place prior to that and pay her for some dance tickets.

John’s been more active. Yesterday he installed a safety bar for the master bath shower. I am really glad to have it. I was always afraid of falling. Washing my feet was especially difficult. Now I with the bar and I’m much more secure.

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What is “old school”?

In my last posting, I mentioned the lovely joint party that the Reintsemas had for John and me Friday. It was huge with adult beverages and birthday cakes. (All of the guests brought hors devours so there was plenty to eat.)

How do you thank someone for such a grand gesture?

I went “old school.” Since I don’t have stationary, I made a lovely “card” with a pretty floral Hallmark design on the cover and blank inside. I filled in the interior with a “from the heart” message to Bob and Judy. That’s “old school.” I didn’t use a computer to write the thank you. It’s in its hand-addressed envelope with a stamp (yes, you can still buy stamps). It’s ready to go.

Betcha Bob and Judy don’t get that many hand-written messages but I hope they know how special they made our birthdays.

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Two birthdays

John’s birthday was Wednesday; mine Saturday (yesterday). Our friends had a party for us Friday. It was a huge crowd and we all had a really good time! I felt the love!

This photo showed us before we opened our cards. It was all lots of fun.

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Shopping for furniture

Ten years ago we bought a reclining couch and loveseat. They were purchased when we lived in Mom’s condo and after she died, we bought them to our current condo and have continued to use them. They have served us well, but the fiber filled arms and seat have worn out and they’ve become very uncomfortable. In fact, if you sit down hard, you can bruise your tailbone or arm (which has happened to both of us). Obviously it’s time to replace these furniture pieces. We’ve considered buying several different styles.

We thought we knew what we wanted: a sofa and loveseat or oversized chair with recliners in both pieces. With photos and notes, we planned to make our final decisions. While working with the dimensions, I discovered that our favorite two pieces won’t work together in our great room. (When reclined, they will bump into each other). We sorta had to start over. I think we’ve finally concluded that a sofa with power recliners and power headrest will be our best bet (in a neutral beige).

chair We finally zeroed in on a sofa in a “transformer” style which isn’t something I thought we would have ever considered. It’ll be of an off-white color with two recliners and powered headrest. There is seating for three. It’ll be delivered Monday the 6th.

We also ordered a small swivel chair in a pretty lime green. We need to get a new rug with some lime to tie it all together.

We should receive the chair the same day the sofa is delivered.

The old sofa and loveseat will be picked up by Habitat for Humanity.

Hope we like the new stuff. Maybe we should have purchased where we could return it, if we don’t like it.

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The hard work paid off

I posted this prior to the Kings Point Pizza Party last night: “Since John and I don’t have as many music related commitments, I’m sure many folks think we can now be totally lazy but they’re wrong! Today is the Kings Point Michigan Club Pizza Party and guess who is chairman? Yup, me. It’ll be held in the huge Kings Point Theater/ballroom. We are expecting 240 guests, 84 pizzas, 6 ponys of beer, salad for everyone, 240 cupcakes, a deejay, and a banjo band for entertainment. Thank heavens a lot of good workers have volunteered to help especially with set-up and clean-up. John has two guys to help him with the beer keg-o-rator and I have 12-15 of the cutest ladies to help and act as “servers.” It’s a massive undertaking, but with all the help, it’ll be fun. (I’ve been the chairman since 2011.)”

It went fairly smoothly. Both of us were totally exhausted when it was over.

The keg-o-rator didn’t want to work correctly. (Pitchers would end up with 3/4’s foam.) With lots of effort, several workers including John, poured off the foam, and everyone was happy. My crew sat up everything and then cleaned up. I certainly appreciated their efforts.

John worked too hard and I worried about him all evening. Today he’s better than I would have expected.

The deejay (Tony) was a hit. He really knew how to get the group dancing and the major complaint I heard was that I should have skipped the banjo band and just used Tony. The whole party wrapped up at about 8:30. Clean-up had the place spic and span by 9:00.

I was so tired that sleeping was difficult and today I’m stuck with a headache. Oh, well…

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Still taking it easy

We went to the Kings Point Lip Sync show last night and had a good time. Thank heavens for fairly close-by parking in a handicapped slot. John took his time walking in. The show was a couple hours long, but we were able to take it easy so it was a good evening.

We’re both feeling better than we did for the past couple of weeks, but this morning, John’s a little worn out.

Tuesday of next week (the 21st), I’m the chairman of the Michigan Club pizza party so we’ll be busy that day. We’re always exhausted so I’m concerned that it could negatively impact us. We do need to do a little shopping today or tomorrow. The more we do before Tuesday, the less we’ll have to do then.

When the pizza party is behind us, we can relax until we need to prep for my daughter Kelly’s visit in April.

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Out and about

We were totally inactive for a week or two. John’s bronchitis knocked him for a loop. I developed a sinus problem that has hung on for about a week. Without any energy, we were both forced to spend most of our time on the couch vegging.

Friday we decided to use tickets we’d purchased weeks ago and we headed to the Baby Boomers’ Valentine’s party. We only stayed about 90 minutes, but at least we got out of the house and saw friends.

Saturday we attended an afternoon wine and cheese party offered by the Home Owners’ Association. It’s always a fun time.

Unlike the other parties we attend, we intentionally avoid sitting with people who are close friends. Instead we invite strangers to join us. I always suggest writing down the names of those at the table. With these “cheat sheets,” it’s easier to get acquainted.

We had a nice time and devoured five bottles of wine between seven of us.

Tonight there’s an Oldies but Goodies dance but I doubt we’ll try to make it three parties in a row. We’re recovering slowly but not really “feeling good.” John’s health is fragile. He needs to take it easy.

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He’s Still Sick

I can’t begin to tell you how worried I’ve been about John’s health. He’s been really, really sick. It’s not bad enough that he has pulmonary fibrosis, and other complications, but this latest problem (bronchitis) knocked him for a loop. After a miserable week, he may be a little better now, but still a long way from being well. He’s been sleeping a lot (which is the best thing for him).

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John’s sick

Friday John complained that he felt like he was coming down with a cold. By Saturday and Sunday, he was truly sick. He had a horrid cough, chills and fever, headache, and felt lousy. Yesterday (Monday) he had an appointment with Dr. Marquez, his primary care physician. I was sure he had developed pneumonia again and was certain he’d end up in the hospital, but Dr. Marquez felt it’s bronchitis and he’ll recover with a strong antibiotic.

24 hours later, he does feel better, but not much. He’s grumpy and sound-sensitive. He hasn’t eaten much, although I did fix him a nice lunch (chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich). Right now he’s in bed, sleeping.

It’s hard to have him suffering with this additional problem on top of all he’s been through. He said today that he doesn’t know if he can continue to make it if things keep piling on.

I am trying to help him, but he’s very touchy and grumpy which is understandable. I feel like most anything I do will provoke him and I sure don’t want to make him more uncomfortable by doing stuff that makes him feel worse. It’s difficult to know how to help him. He understands that he’s difficult. He’s trying but he can’t help it.

There is nothing worse than trying to deal with a patient who is over-tired, uncomfortable, and unwilling to comply with basic care concerns. That’s John. Hopefully he’ll let me be his care-giver and make him comfortable.

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Nice weather

The temps have ranged from afternoon highs in the mid 70’s to low 80’s and at night down to the 50’s.

We went to Busch Gardens today and enjoyed the 1950’s four-some, “The Diamonds.” They did an a capella version of “Surfer Girl” that I loved.

On the way home from Busch Gardens we were shocked by a near accident. We were on I-75 south. As we passed Big Bend Road, John let out a yell. He’d just witnessed a collision in his rear view mirror Thank heavens we’d just passed the scene so we weren’t involved. Apparently a car decided too late to exit and he t-boned the car beside him. Even in the mirror, John could tell it was really bad. (We were too far past to stop.) I called 911 and no one had reported it so I told them what John had witnessed. John was shook, and so was I.

Checking with Waze traffic app showed “Major Accident” with miles of back up on I-75. Channel 10’s traffic report said “injuries reported.” If we had been a second later, we could have been involved. I thank God we we had just passed that spot.

Shakes you when you realize that what just happened behind you could have involved you. John’s an excellent driver, but when a car whips from one lane to another and you’re in the way, it would be nearly impossible to avoid. I tried but wasn’t able to learn how badly hurt the victims were but I did read that there were injuries.

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Slowing down isn’t all bad

I’ve slowed down, but in a way it’s a blessing because, since John has a severe lung condition, I have easily adjusted to the limitations John’s health problems have presented without feeling deprived in any way. I don’t need to be moving all the time. I’m content to be here, cozied up on my couch, reading a book or watching TV. Life is good.

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Burrrrr! Winter in Florida occurred January 8, 2017

We are surviving “winter 2017” in Florida. This was reported on TV to be the coldest day in a couple years.

When we got up, the outside temperature was 36.4 at our condo. With the heat on, it’s now a cozy 74 inside and 44.6 outside.

I always bring a couple pair of warm sweat pants back and forth to Florida and Michigan. Right now I have on fleecy pants with a loose heavy cotton top. Truly comfortable!

The sun’s out but it’s kinda windy. A short while ago, a pair of sandhill cranes were by the pond. (Maybe the pond water had held the heat.) They’ve moved on, probably looking for a warmer spot.

I will stay inside today. I didn’t get the mail yesterday, but trekking to the mailbox in 45 degree temps doesn’t appeal to me.

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Managing “the system”

We are realizing that, when someone has a major health condition (like John), it is almost a full-time job to keep everything straight. In addition to his Saginaw pulmonologist, John has three Tampa General department head specialists (pulmonary, cardiology, and rheumatology). (Not to mention the three specialists that he had previously.) There is also his primary care physician and a dermatologist.

His appointments and medical tests are scheduled at least once or twice a week. Tampa General appointments are always in Tampa (either downtown across from the hospital or on the Moresani campus).

This morning I got a notice that his blood test results were available on his Tampa General “patient portal.” So I checked. Thank heavens I try to stay on top of things. He’d gone to the Sun City Center Quest Laboratory to have the blood sample taken Tuesday but since it was prescribed by a Tampa General physician, the results are always posted on the “TGH portal.” One test was available, but not the most important liver enzyme test which allows him to continue on the new medication. (That’s the medicine which would cost us $18,000 a month if he wasn’t able to get a grant so we definitely need to stick to the qualifying instructions.)

I tried for almost two hours to get through to Quest. John said on Tuesday he’d asked if they had his “on-going” prescription but none was in his Quest file. That meant that there’d been a mix-up so it was likely that the blood test hadn’t been run. I called the doctor who had prescribed the liver enzyme blood work and his office faxed the prescription to Quest.

Since we couldn’t call the lab (the phone system was just a revolving trap where you could never reach a human), we drove to Quest and sure enough the test hadn’t been done, but they had just received the new prescription so he was able to have it drawn.

What a mess!! John wouldn’t have known, if I hadn’t checked.

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Sorry I’ve been neglectful

I promised I’d post more often, but sadly I haven’t since before Christmas.

Let me catch you up with happenings in our life here in Kings Point, Sun City Center.

On December 20th we attended the Michigan Club Christmas Party. We had a nice time. Funny thing was that in the gift exchange, I got back the trays I’d given away in the same exchange last year.

The 22nd, we went to a Christmas party at the home of Paul and Bunny Hunt, two of our favorite friends. Paul always plans a glorious spread and this year’s was typically wonderful. I felt badly that I hadn’t volunteered to help them set up. Bunny wasn’t feeling well, and although I did what I could, I wish I’d arrived an hour or so earlier to help her.

Christmas Eve we gathered at the home of Canadian friends. This was the first year in many that we hadn’t held a huge gathering at our condo but the party we attend was a great time!

Our Christmas dinner was a simple one for just the two of us: ham, sweet potato casserole, scalloped potatoes, cranberry salad and pie for dessert. It wasn’t like all our previous Christmases with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy and all the trimmings, but we were comfortably full and it was a lot easier.

There weren’t many activities scheduled between Christmas and the first of the year but we had two parties New Years Eve evening. The first was at the lovely home of the Coopers (Stephen and Caroline). Food and beverages were excellent. Since that party was from 5:30-7:30, most of the attendees were headed to other New Year’s Eve parties afterward. When we left the Cooper’s we headed to the KP North Club where friends, Jan and Kathy Haynes, had reserved the Studio for a party. In the Studio, there was a gathering of about 30 friendly folks. While we were there, most played cards and again the food was super. We were running out of steam so we headed home before 9:00. At midnight, woke up long enough to wish each other a happy New Year.

2016 wasn’t the best year because of John’s health, but I love being with him even when our activities are limited.

Here it is January 4th. Tomorrow night our country music friends will gather at the clubhouse for some dancing. Although we don’t dance much, we’ll be there enjoying the company. Maybe we’ll stay later for Rockin Rendezvous.

During December John had appointments with various Tampa General medical specialists: pulmonologist, cardiologist, and rheumatologist. I wish he had these high quality specialists in Michigan, but he’ll see them just before we leave in May and have appointments as soon as possible when we get back in October. He does have a good pulmonologist in Saginaw.

He has gained a little strength and endurance, but he’s a long way from where he was a year ago. His oxygen is no longer optional but necessary. When we’re shopping he uses mobility carts, when available. He bought a small one for himself. (He plans to use it when we go to Busch Gardens during the Real Music Series performances from January 16-February 25.)

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Christmas Week

We have quite a bit going on this week: exercise classes x 2, hair appointment this morning, Michigan Club party tonight, house party on our way home from the Michigan Club party, tomorrow a couple of appointments and John has a sportsman’s club meeting. Thursday a dinner party at Paul Hunt’s house. Friday John has an appointment in Tampa with his rheumatologist. Saturday is Christmas Eve day and we’ll go to the home of some Canadian friends.

The two of us aren’t exchanging gifts and I shipped cards with checks included for Kelly and my grandsons so shopping was fairly easy. We will be getting a new couch as our joint Christmas present and we also bought the new golf cart.

For us Christmas has long since passed the “anxious for gifts” stage. There’s nothing we want except better health for John. That is in God’s hands; not ours.

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Our Christmas Tree

For many years, we’ve put up this 7.5 ft. artificial Christmas tree in our condo. This is how it looked last year. It got harder and harder. Not only was it heavy, but many of the pre-lit lights no longer worked so we had to use extra strings of lights to fill-in. John just can’t handle it any longer, so I wanted a small, light tree that I can manage. I’d have been happy with one about 6′ tall but John wasn’t interested. He kept saying he’d get the big one down (for the last time). We’d put it up and then get rid of it after the season.

I mentioned it a few times, but it was getting closer and closer to Christmas and still no decorations.

I remembered that there were two old, small trees in the attic so he went up there today but couldn’t find them. He did find the topmost section of the bigger tree. The top by itself is about two feet tall. We’re using that top as our tree. It’s on a tiny table so the whole thing is about 4.5 feet tall. I put all of our pretty handmade crocheted ornaments on it and a handmade angel on top. It’s kind of pathetic, but it’s better than no tree at all.

My mother had one of those vintage ceramic trees which I put on the lanai and tomorrow I’ll put out some red flood lights. We also have a wreath on the door.

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas.

Yesterday I made and printed our Christmas cards. We don’t send out many (just to our siblings and close family) but it still took quite a while to address them and add personal notes.

We aren’t going to have our traditional Christmas turkey dinner. It’s just too much for the two of us to do (especially since John is always the chief cook and he doesn’t have the energy.) Instead we’ll have a ham, salads, probably sweet potatoes, and other yummy stuff. It’ll be way too much food for two people, but I love sharing a dinner with my guy!

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Doctor Appointments

Today John saw his “new” Tampa General pulmonologist for the second time (Dr. Clum). We are very impressed with him.

Can you imagine a doctor who says, “You’re color is better. When I saw you last month, you didn’t look as good as you do now.”

How could he remember John that specifically?

He had John do some tests and vows to keep John from deteriorating further. Those tests are the benchmarks. We’re all working toward a goal of keeping him from getting worse. He explained to us that it may take a year to recover from John’s August pancreatitis and gall bladder problems. The double pneumonia is also slow recovery problem.

John’s oxygen equipment wasn’t working correctly last night. He couldn’t get his oxygen numbers up to acceptable levels. This morning, we took off for Tampa and when he arrived at the office building next to Tampa General, he nearly collapsed. (He was using the same regulator that he’d used last night.) His oxygen was really low. We switched him to a better regulator and he’s doing fine.

This next month he has appointments with a new cardiologist and also a new rheumatologist. Hopefully together they’ll all keep him doing ok.

So glad we found Dr. Clum. We’ll be back to see him in a month.

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All the critters

We’ve been watching a pair of sandhill cranes for a couple hours. They’ve nibbled the grass, and dived for grubs. At one point the larger one became quite noisy, but for the most point, they were just providing interesting scenery.

And a while ago, some kind of a critter move through the grass between two ponds at opposite end of our building. At that distance, and in the grass, we were’t sure what it was. Maybe a very large turtle… but as it moved (quite swiftly) we realized it was too long and narrow to be a turtle. It was a small ‘gator. I got my camera out but by the time I got to the pond, he’d disappeared.

A little later, I looked back toward the pond he’d left, and realized there was about a five food mama ‘gator on the bank.

The sun’s glare was so bright that I couldn’t see the gator as I took the photo. I just pointed the camera and clicked. Not the sharpest, but you can tell it was definitely an alligator.

The sandhills have left. Don’t think they’d want to mess with mama.

Between the sandhills, the many white and black water birds, the occasional hawks, and all the other wild life, there’s lots to view. It’s all fascinating.

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John’s health

I wish I could report that he’s doing better but he’s continuing to get a little worse all the time.

I’m doing what I can for him. My hope is to keep his quality of life up and enjoy our together time!

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It’s working

The hard drive I mentioned in my last post arrived. It was easy to set up and it now does a back up of the whole hard drive twice a day. Restoring would mean reloading ALL the files in one sweep, not individual files. “All” would mean a huge re-load. (That would be great if I lost everything, but sometimes you just want to see the previous version of a single file.)

Since the drive is so large, I am also saving copies of each of the files individual and dating those archive versions. That way, if I want just one file, I can restore it.

So I’m all set. I have all the files including photos. I save the individual files at least once a week, and the whole drive twice a day.

It is $75 well spent. I sleep better.

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Restoring all my data

Today I’m expecting the delivery of a new 2TB external Seagate hard drive. Back on August 22, I wrote a post that said I was getting a Western Digital 1TB HD and would be backing up my Lenovo computer before I sent it in for repair. Well, that small WD (Western Digital) HD didn’t work. Instead I backed up everything to the wireless Black Armor 2TB HD I’ve used for years. Since I didn’t trust the Black Armor, I also created a slew of thumb drives to get a second backup I could piece together but I didn’t have enough space to copy everything.

When I got my Lenovo computer back, the Black Armor hard drive wasn’t accessible using the Windows 10 version that was re-installed. Thank heavens I had those thumb drives. I’ve limped along but kept trying to think of a way I could get into the old Black Armor. Many of my photos and a lot of extra files were only on that HD.

But a couple days ago, I discovered that my old Viao computer, which we’d left here over the summer, can access the old Black Armor hard drive. I can copy the back ups I made of my computer before it was sent in for repair. All the files are there. (YEAH!)

All I need is a way to transfer the files and photos to my Lenovo computer. That’s where the 2TB Seagate HD drive comes in. I’ll copy from the Black Armor to the new Seagate, and then I’ll move the new Seagate USB HD to the Lenovo. Voilà I should be able to have all the files, including all my photos, on my Lenovo.

Of course I’ll keep an updated backups of the whole Lenovo computer. I’ll ditch the Black Armor. It’ll be wonderful to have an easy way and reliable way to keep backups of everything. No more dozens of small thumb drives. No more inaccessible Black Armor. The new Seagate should be reliable and fast, and with 2TB of space, I should be able to use it for all backups.

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Thanksgiving was nice

Our friends have been doing a lot together but we’ve passed on a lot of the activities. Actually I love being home with John so it hasn’t been a hardship at all. We have enough on our calendar. I have no desire to be constantly on the go.

We went to Shelly and Richard Brook’s for Thanksgiving. They’ve hosted this event for several years but this year it was much smaller than normally. There were only eight of us.

Dinner was really good. Tonight we’re going to have the left-over turkey Shelly sent home with us. It was really good! We had contributed a large dish of from-scratch dressing. It really turned out much better than we could have hoped.

It was a fun evening.

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Living Donor

Yesterday I suggested something to John that I think surprised him.

John needs a lung transplant. At 78 he’s considered too old for the procedure. It’s reported that younger recipients do better and therefore the older patients aren’t considered.

My suggestion: if I’m compatible I’d donate one of my lungs to him.

After reading up on the topic, I found that in order for a living donor to donate, there need to be two donors who are matches. Each would contribute half a lobe.

So let’s say I could do it and one of John’s siblings or children would contribute. His survival would still be risky and according to statistics 40% of those with transplants die within the first two years. (Note: It’s also a risk to the donor.)

Looks like I just need to take good care of him because I’m sure he’ll survive longer than two years with the lung function he has left.

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The election’s over and Trump is our president-elect

Yesterday I did a blog post covering our time here in Florida since arriving October 15th. (It’s below.)

You will notice that I skipped the election results.

As I said on Facebook, “I’m sad and frightened. Our landscape with a ‘wall’ will obstruct the view I had of freedom.)

I can’t see someone with Trump’s personality in charge of our country. Hopefully he’ll surprise me.

John was for Trump (or more accurately, he didn’t want Hillary). I was a Clinton supporter (but actually I didn’t like her but didn’t want Trump under any circumstance.)

We were gentle with each other. We both had reservations after the outcome was announced.

I’m very fearful. Trump’s finger on the button alarms me.

I don’t look at the election as a victory for Trump. I think of it as a loss for the nation.

I was in a massive funk Wednesday. But it didn’t take long to realize that I can’t give in to the emotions I felt immediately after the election. John’s health is too fragile and being “down” would hurt him. John needs to live in the presence of an upbeat attitude and I will do the best I can to be supportive and show hope. Negativity is not going to help anything and it would definitely impact my husband’s health.

I’m still disappointed, but I’m avoiding critiques of the situation we find ourselves in. I’m concentrating on helping John and making our lives as great as possible.

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November in Kings Point

We’re enjoying our leisure time here in Kings Point. Not that we have had a lot of leisure. John’s been going to doctors since he arrived which is helping him have a better understanding of his health condition.

October 26th he had an appointment with his primary care physician who basically said that he’s doing as good as he can expect. He’ll see John again in March or April.

November 2nd, he went to a new pulmonologist at the University of South Florida. He assessed John’s situation and put him on another medicine which is intended to keep his lungs from deteriorating. It may have side effects so we’re holding our breaths.

Wednesday of this week, on the 9th, went to Brandon to meet with his cardiologist. The best part of the past month medically was that he was told that he probably no longer suffers from congestive heart failure so he is now off a couple of his medications. One was lowering his blood pressure to dangerous levels, so he will probably feel more secure when standing up and walking. The low blood pressure was causing him dizziness.

Wednesday he also went to University of South Florida in Tampa for a chest CT scan.

Since June, John had been trying to get a portable oxygen concentrator from his oxygen provider (Lincare). I can’t begin to tell you how much time we spent calling Lincare, evaluating different units on line, and talking with sales people on the phone.

A couple weeks ago Lincare finally delivered a portable concentrator but it was heavy and bulky. After all that waiting, he returned it. That unit wouldn’t work for him. It wasn’t sensitive enough. If he breathed through his mouth, no oxygen was generated.

He had been checking on a unit made by Inogen. He ended up buying one (with our money). It was an expensive purchase but has a 30-day return policy with a “rental” provision. We’ll probably rent it for a month and return it so he can get most of his $$ back. Hopefully he’ll eventually get a similar unit from Lincare (same low weight and other provisions under a different model name. (If Lincare supplies it, Medicare will pay for it.)

The portable concentrator frees him to do a lot more than he can do when hauling heavy, bulky tanks. The concentrator does require batteries that last only about 2 1/2 hours each but he has three of them so he could get by on them for 7 1/2 hours. (With the car battery charger, he can charge while driving.)

The oxygen generator wasn’t the only big item we needed to spend money on this month. When we got down here our golf cart wouldn’t charge. We finally worked with the cart repair places and got it charging but we could see that the batteries weren’t really up-to-snuff, so we shopped for another golf cart. We ended up buying a custom Club Car with a large (fast) engine, a rear seat, fancy side curtains, and all the bells and whistles we felt we’d like.

We took delivery Tuesday. There are a few items that still need to be finished or replaced: side curtains aren’t done (so they put a temporary top with sides on it), seats are the wrong style (we ordered shaped seats, and got regular bench seats) and the pin-stripe/decorating guy hasn’t done the fancy stuff yet to make it even prettier. It has a red body with black trim, black with gray and red strip seats and the side curtains will also be black with gray and red stripes. The top is black. On the cherry red, the black and gold pin stripes, will look great when it all comes together.

On Monday, before we got the new cart, we were driving our old one to town and a lady in her golf cart turned into us. We were totally innocent so she paid for all damages. Since our tie-rod was broken, the cart had to be hauled to the place where we were getting our new one. The old one had $300 damage. I’m sure it’s been fixed and someone is enjoying it. Thank heavens the new one was on order so we could get it quickly.

Let’s see, what fun stuff has happened since we’ve been down here?

We attended the Michigan Club Welcome Back Party and a Baby Boomers Halloween Party. We went to an Oldies but Goodies Dance with a great band, Lattitude. November 4th, I went with about 20 girlfriends to a 75th birthday luncheon for friend, Judy Reintsema.

Three times, we’ve attended country couples hour on Thursdays before Rockin Rendezvous at the clubhouse.

So that’s a review of our past 27 days here in paradise.

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On the ball…

I’m posting again after an extended absence. I hope I haven’t lost all my “followers.” I know Terre likes to follow my posts and I’ll soon be seeing her. I have to get “on the ball.”

Despite his need for constant oxygen, John even danced a few steps tonight at the “pre-Rockin Rondezvous hour” which is lead by Bill and Donna Markland. Tomorrow night we’ll try again at the Baby Boomers party and Sunday night hopefully we can try more at Oldies but Goodies party. If we can make little progress each evening, it will encourage us. We need to practice a little so it’s not so foreign. We’d forgotten everything we knew when we started out tonight, but it was just coming back when John ran out of breath and we had to stop. We’ll practice a little and be ready for the opportunities which will come up tomorrow night (Friday) and at the Oldies But Goodies party (Sunday).

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We’re in Paradise!

We arrived in Florida on October 15th so we’ve been here a little over a week. Not much has happened. We’ve passed on a couple of get-togethers so John could recover from our trip down here.

Actually come to think of it, we have accomplished quite a bit. We unpacked our truck and put it in storage, cleaned up the place, John went to a sportsman’s club meeting, and we went to the pre-Rockin Rendezvous get-together last Thursday. We’ve gone to two “Sit and Get Fit” exercise classes. John’s been to his primary care doctor, we met with our financial advisor, I’ve been to my eye doctor, and after shopping for several days we ordered a new custom golf cart (which should be ready early next week). We’ve rearranged our great room and tried to get organized. Tonight we went to a great Michigan Club Welcome Back Wine and Cheese party.

That’s not bad for eleven days.

What I have realized is that we have a real support system here. Folks care about us.

Today while shopping at “Nearly New (resale shop)” I mentioned to a couple caring sales people (who I’ve come to know), that John’s fragile health has really been a challenge for both of us. These ladies have been through situations with their husbands that are similar to John’s. Their advice a insight was welcome. So many folks down here understand what we’re facing. ou’re not going through it alone. They have already faced the fears and challenges and they show me that we can also do it.

I’m glad to be here.

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