Saturday, January 26, 2013

Last Load Delivered

I wish I could report that we finally are settled in our new home.  There are times when I wonder if that will ever happen.  While the process of moving and settling is definitely not complete, I can report that we did complete last stage of our move.  It only took us four months to complete all the stages that we established to make our move a bit easier on us.  I can congratulate myself on only taking four months to move.  I might have left the things in our storage shed longer, but Jim reminded me that one month's rent on the storage shed would pay for a cleaning lady once a month.  That motivated me.  

Back in September, I wrote in my blog (read it here) that we had completed Stage One and Stage Two in preparation for our big move which was occur in October.  I reported that our first stage required that we "Sort through professional papers, books, notebooks, teaching materials and memorabilia from the classroom and our professions." Once we had completed this task, which took a lot of doing, we then went on to Stage Two:  Move the things we have left from the basement to a storage unit.  

Today, we hired a couple of guys to move all those boxes that has been stored in a storage unit for the past four months to our home.  These two very efficient, energetic guys seemed to move all these boxes from the storage unit, into a truck in no time at all.  They then drove to our new home, unloaded the truck, carried all the boxes to the basement, patiently waited for me to determine which box would remain in the family room and which box would go to our crawl space that we are using as a storage area, and then they moved each box to its appropriate place.  Youth is on their side.  All of this took no time at all.  

Just before the movers arrived, I snapped a photo of the new bookshelves we purchased to hold the books that were stored in the storage unit.  Was I naive when I thought these shelves would hold all the books we kept?  Yes, I think I was.  Either that, or I was forgetful.  I forgot I had all those books in the storage shed when I bought these shelves.  Oops, somehow, I forgot that even though we got rid of nearly 1,000 books all told, we also kept quite a few.  These books were in the storage shed.  I wonder how I forgot that.  Perhaps, it was wishful thinking.  Today, my son asked where we had all these books before the move.  My reply, "Mostly in boxes in the basement."  Before the move, we got rid of old books that were outdated and that we not longer were interested in keeping.  I think we will be culling once again.  

Here is the view of boxes of books as they begin to arrive from storage. 
I really don't think I can fit all the books from the boxes on these shelves.  What do you think?  This is a view of one end of the large family room in the basement.  Jim's desk in one corner of the room.  The bookshelves are by the desk.  

This is another view of  view of the opposite end of the family room.  We have our television in this area.  I am still trying to decide the best use of the space.  I am also trying to put odds and ends in place.  The couch and the old pink chair lived in our living room in the old house.  They have been relegated to the basement in this house.  The couch is still in excellent condition.  I just didn't want it in my living room anymore.  I will get this area decorated at some point, but in the meantime, it is the place where old furniture and odds and ends are being deposited.  The old green footstools do not match anything.  Old, and tattered, I decided to move them and will recover them soon I hope.
 Here is another view of this room.  It is large, very large.  One end is Jim's study.  That is his black recliner on the left of the photo and the bookshelves are on the other side.  I am standing by his desk to take the photo.  

At this angle, I am standing near the television looking toward Jim's desk.  Yesterday, I nearly had all the boxes out of this room.  Now, it is filled again.  

The Stuff I Could Not Throw Away

After reading the above mentioned blog which was posted on September 29, 2012, I was struck by several things.
  • I am amazed at how much stuff we have!  I thought we had gotten rid of so much.
  • I am looking through the same professional books and papers again!  I thought I had done a good job of getting rid of stuff in September.  I find I still cannot get rid of so many papers.  I have no idea why.  I've decided to save my professional books one more year.  If I haven't used them in one year, I promised myself I will donate them.  
  • I am struck by how much emotional attachment I have to things.  Somethings I just can't get rid of.  I found pillow cases embroidered by my grandmother.  They were turning yellow in a plastic container.  I decided the time is now.  Either I need to get rid of such things, or I should use them.  I decided they actually matched the duvet covers in the bedroom that the grandchildren use.  I will wash the pillowcases and put them on the twin beds in this room.  They will add a special touch.
  • I am also struck by how important my time in the classroom was to me.  I just can't seem to part with cards from students, memorabilia that the students gave me, lesson plan books, unit designs, rubrics, and curriculum guides still hold a place in my heart.  I know I will never use them again, but I can't throw them away.  Do other retired teachers feel this way?
  • Maybe I will have to hire a professional to help me get rid of all these papers.  
Just before we moved, I read a newspaper article about letting go of our 'stuff.'  I cut it out and put it on the refrigerator for reference.  I even saved the article!  I wonder where it is.  I remember that it said to save the stories about treasured items but get rid of the item itself.  I had such good intentions.  In the end, I just could not get rid of some things.  

At first, after I read the article, I decided I would not move the small table and chairs that my children used when they were growing up.  It sat in the kitchen next to the larger kitchen table when they were children.  It was the place where they sometimes ate their breakfast,  lunch, or a snack.  It was where they colored or played games.  When the children were grown, the small table and chairs went to the basement where it stayed until there was a family gathering.  Then, the chairs and table were toted upstairs for the grandchildren to use. 

I love this photo of the table.  Ok, really, I love the photo of Hannah using the table!  I just found it.  I would guess this was taken the day after a family Christmas party.  Hannah is enjoying one of those great cupcakes we used to always have for the kids.  Isn't she adorable?  Can you see why I could not give the table away?  It carries with it too many memories.

The photo below was snapped at a family Easter celebration.  Mason, Gillian, Hannah, and Atticus are all seated around the kids' table.  Julie, dressed in green, is leaning over the kitchen table.  This is just a quick snapshot of a family celebration, but now, at this date in time,  the photo captures a priceless memory of time gone by.  I notice the blanket no longer carried around by one of the grandchildren that is draped on my chair.  I notice Gillian is dressed in my apron and sitting on the pillow from my chair.  I see the cute little parkas the grandchildren wore flung on the hooks by the door.  

Now, the grandkids are grown up and the table is no longer needed.  
Mason and Gillian are teenagers.
They don't care about Easter baskets.
They would not fit in those chairs.
I have the stories.  
I have the photos.  

I kept the table.

It was in the last load delivered from the storage shed.  
It was placed in the crawl space.
I just could not get rid of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Man is Back

My title for this post may need some explaining.  My regular readers may be wondering where my man has been.  In fact, they may wonder where I have been since it has been over two weeks since I last posted.  So, let me fill you in on what has been happening around here.

Jim, my man, sometimes known as my main squeeze, did not actually go anywhere.  He just has not been himself for quite some time.  As some of you might recall, in December of 2011, my husband dodged a major heart attack when it was discovered that he had a 95% blockage of his LAD.  You can read about that health scare here: Nails Dodges the Big One.

After this major life event, my husband was able to bounce back with renewed energy.  He lost weight, ate a more healthy diet, exercised three or more times a week on the elliptical machine, and walked a couple of miles a day.  Just one month after this crisis with my husband's heart, I fell down our basement stairs and suffered a head injury.  This meant he became the caretaker for me.  He took care of all the household tasks and drove me everywhere I needed to go.  More than that, he supported me through a very rough time in my life as I tried to overcome a traumatic head injury, a vestibular disorder, and debilitating anxiety.  At the same time, we had a very challenging new puppy that did not respond well to training.  Nails, another nickname for my dear husband, proved how tough and determined a man he was once again during this difficult time in our lives.  At a time when he should have been recuperating, he took care of me, and trained a difficult pup while recovering from having a stent placed in his heart just a few months before.

Early this summer, just as I was finally getting better, Jim began to experience some health symptoms that were perplexing.  He was extremely tired, his energy level was very low.  He no longer had the energy to work out or walk.   He seemed to be nauseated on a constant basis.  He experienced body aches, and he became nearly unable to walk because of pain in his hip.  Not only that, but he also began to suffer from depression.  I would ask him to describe what he was feeling, and he would say, "I just feel like I have a general malaise."  At first, I feared that his heart was bothering him again, but he did not have any heart related symptoms.  Every afternoon, he and I would each go to our individual studies, sit in our easy chairs, and take long afternoon naps.  His exercise routine stopped.  He suffered a lot of pain in his hip which did not allow him to walk far.

In September, after a summer of seeing my husband's health steadily decline, we decided he needed to be checked out by his cardiologist just to see if we could get some answers to solve the mystery as to why he was suffering from this strange malaise.   It was an observant LPN at the cardiologist office that discovered that the calcium levels in his blood were very high.  We were referred back to  our internist.  She seemed to have an idea about what could be going on with him and sent him to the hospital for additional testing that included scans of his neck.  After all the testing was done, we were told that he had hyperparathyroidism.  My husband was then referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  Thankfully, we knew a great ENT, one we trusted and liked.  He reassured us that surgery would most likely solve his problems.

There is a mnemonic that our endocrinologist gave us to describe the hypercalcaemia that comes about because of hyperparathyroidism.  It goes like this:   Stones, bones, groans, thrones, and psychiatric overtones.  When one has hyperparathyroidism, there is a high level of calcium in the blood that causes these symptoms:
  • Stones (renal or biliary)
  • Bones (bone pain)
  • Groans (abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting)
  • Thrones (sit on throne - polyuria)
  • Psychiatric overtones (Depression 30-40%, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, insomnia, coma)* 

Needless to say, none of these symptoms are fun.  That is why we wanted to hurry up and have surgery to remove the offending parathyroid.  There was just one problem, Jim was on Plavix.  He had to be cleared by his cardiologist and taken off of Plavix before he could have surgery.  So, back to the cardiologist we went.  He said that he could not clear him because he was sticking with protocol and keeping him on the blood thinner at least until the one year date after the stent was placed in his heart.  One cannot argue with the wisdom of this decision even though it seemed that the hyperparathyroidism was filling my husband's daily life with other health challenges that made it so difficult for him.

Early in the morning of the Monday after Thanksgiving, I noticed my husband seemed to have a drooping mouth when I looked at him for the first time that day.  Stunned by this, I had him go through the FAST test.  He could smile, he could raise his arms, his speech was normal, but I decided that I was not convinced that he was not having an incident.  I had him take his blood pressure. It was incredibly high.  Wasting no time, I insisted he let me drive him to the hospital.

At the hospital, after getting an EKG, and after not performing too well on an initial neurological exam, he was admitted to the hospital where he spent two days being evaluated for stroke or TIA.  A stroke was ruled out, but it was determined, as it usually is with TIA, that the results were inconclusive as to whether or not he suffered a TIA.  He was told he was extremely at risk for stroke, and he was watched very carefully for those two days in the hospital.  Needless to say, that was a very scary time.

On December 6, 2012, exactly one year after the heart incident, Jim was able to go off Plavix.  We contemplated having his surgery done on December 20th.  He even scheduled it for that date.  Then, we decided we did not need to have the additional stress that surgery brings just days before Christmas. I'm glad we made this decision, even though Jim continued to not feel well and suffered from high blood pressure and other symptoms.

Finally, last Thursday, January 17, Jim had surgery to remove at least one of the parathyroids that had tumors.  It was unclear whether or not he had tumors on more than one because the scan clearly showed one and hinted at another.  He came through surgery with flying colors.

The next day, it seemed like I had my man back.  He was downstairs at his desk working and talking with friends on the phone with his old personality and sense of humor back in place.  He wanted to get out and go.  We went shopping.  He had a new bounce in his step.

The next day, he was tired from surgery, and he most likely overdid a bit the day before.  Everyday has shown improvement.  Today, he went in and had an epidural/steroid shot in his hip to alleviate the pain in his hip from spinal stenosis.  That procedure also went extremely well.

Despite this bout with bad health and pain, that is hopefully behind him, I have continued to be amazed by this dear man I had the good fortune to marry.  Each day, he has spent time with his beloved dog Boston. Each day, he cares for this dog by feeding him, walking him, continuing to train him, and spending quality time with him just sitting on the back deck admiring the mountain range behind us.   Boston is his good buddy and loyal companion.

Each evening, you will find my dearly beloved sitting in front of the fireplace reading.  He loves  reading those thrillers.  He never fails to remark how much he love our new home and how happy he is that we made this move.

He wants to get back to the gym and start tearing up the elliptical machine again.  He wants to get back to walking every day.  He has started doing Pilates on the reformer.  Yes, my man is back!  I am so grateful.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thoughts on Beginning a New Year

Mostly, on this day as I begin the new year, I am thinking how fortunate I am to be alive, well, and have a future before me.  In just the past few weeks, two women I knew quite well passed away from cancer.  One, I met when she first took a class from me as she hoped to teach English and English as a Second Language.  She also worked in the International Students Office at Colorado State University - Pueblo when I taught there in 2010.  She reached her goal of getting her English degree.  She was a great friend and support to so many in the International Program.  Cancer took her quickly when she was way too young.  

And then, the mother of one of my daugher Julie's best high school friends lost her battle with ovarian cancer day before yesterday.  She and her family moved to Pueblo when I first married Jim and also moved to Pueblo.  Her daughter and mine became such good friends.  When Julie died, it was SAS, along with other close friends who came to our home and helped us grieve well by remembering Julie.  Their laughter gave me hope.  

Now, this dear girl has lost her beautiful mother.  And, her mother was beautiful.  She was one of the most gracious women I have ever known.  I knew her as SAS's mom and as an educator.  There was something about her that was special.  She was soft spoken, but firm.  She was intelligent, competent, and hardworking.  She loved her students and her teachers.  Her elementary school was a Blue Ribbon School.  Her accomplishments were many, but it was her job as a mother that should have won awards.  She raised two of the most beautiful, thoughtful, kind, and accomplished young women I know.  She died way too young.  My heart breaks for all who worked closely with her and for her family.

I am humbled to think that I have the opportunity to begin a new year.  I do not take this for granted.  I hope to honor these two women  by carrying them in my heart as I endeavor live more fully each day that I am blessed with life and breath. 

I ponder this word as I move forward into 2013:

exordium ig-ZAWR-dee-uhm  

1.  The beginning of anything.2.  The introductory part of an oration, treatise, etc.
The word for today from seemed to strike a cord with me today.  The English teacher in me was awakened.  I thought deeply about just what this word means to me and why I chose it as the topic for a blog post on this the first day of 2013.
Perhaps blog posts that begin the year focusing on a word is a new tradition for me.  Last year, I focused on the word hitherto.(Click here to read that particular post.)  As I have gone back and read the blog post I wrote on January 1, 2012, I was struck by just how appropriate that word was for all the events that would follow throughout the year.  In fact, the very next day after I wrote this post, I fell down the stairs, hit my head, and began one of the great trials of my life as I dealt with the aftereffects of a head injury.  
In this post, I also referred to a scripture in the Bible where Samuel erected a stone to mark a place where the people could remember that up until this time, or hitherto, the Lord had helped them.  He called the stone Ebenezer or Stone of Help.  How many times have I touched that stone of help in the past year?  How many times did I need those reminders that up until this time, or hitherto the Lord has helped us?  I would posit that being able to remember this simple truth that I wrote about on January 1, 2012 is precisely what helped to carry me through the trials, challenges, fears, tears, and anxiety that would grip me through much of the year.
And so, here we are today, January 1, 2013, looking at the beginning of a new year.  I can only look behind me to know the journey I have been on.  I cannot predict the future, but I can walk confidently into it with great anticipation and hope.  That is exactly what I intend to do.
I find this word exordium the perfect word for a new year.  It is a simple word that means the beginning of anything.  Anything is a pronoun that is not specific.  Anything means that there are all kinds of possibilities and opportunities that could present themselves throughout this coming year.  For me personally, it means that I have a true new beginning. 
I am living in a new home, a new neighborhood, a new town, and that means I have lots and lots of new things to explore this year.  Just think, my year will be the year filled with new adventures, meeting new people, eating a new restaurants, and establishing new routines.  Truly, I am blessed in ways I could never imagined one year ago.
The word exordium deserves a closer look.  After all, I am retired English teacher.  If I were teaching this word for today, I would have the students look at its Latin roots.  As a former student of Latin, I would be very interested in the Latin root of this word which is ord which means "to begin."  The prefix -ex  is the part of the word that really intrigues me though because in this case it means "utterly."  Utterly, completely and without qualification,  to begin anything seems to be the best way to walk into a new year.
Beyond the thoughts that come to my mind concerning the first definition of exordium, I also gravitate toward this word and latch on to it because  the word can be applied to the definition of a portion of the construction of a document or a larger piece of work.  The word has expository and literary ties.  The synonyms of exordium include: preamble, prelude, prologue, and preface.  
I've promised myself that this will be the year that I write.  I hope to work more on the discipline of writing daily.  I hope to join a writing group.  I hope to begin work on a memoir, or perhaps a book about my daughter Julie.  I hope to read more blogs and write more blog posts.  
There are new patterns for my life that must be established.  There are benchmarks to meet.  There are goals that I hope to reach.  Dare I list them here?  Yes, I think I shall.  This will serve as a record.
New beginnings for 2013

  • Eat a more healthy diet simply because my health demands it.  I am pre-diabetic.  My numbers are not good.  The diet must change.  I like whole fresh foods best.  Why don't I eat them?  This must change.
  • Walk more.  I love to walk.  Do what I love.  Get out there and walk!
  • Love more.  I love people.  I have isolated myself too much in the last few years.  This year get out there and mix with people again!
  • Give more.  Give of myself and my finances to help those in need.  I am blessed with life experiences that can help others.  Serve those who need help!
  • Renew my teaching certificate.  I don't want to see it expire.  
  • Reconnect with my profession.  I miss the classroom.  Perhaps, I will venture back into teaching a bit this year too.  
  • Write, write, write.  I have a story to tell.  Maybe others would like to read it.
Well, that is a beginning.  

Happy New Year to you all!