Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday Musings

Today I had my long awaited cardiology follow up.  I was supposed to see this doc in mid-December, but her scheduling staff said, "No can do until February 25."  I stomped my feet, I used  my considerable power, but nothing worked.  When I saw her today, I let her know I felt abandoned at a critical juncture in my care.  She, and the cardiologist who came in with her, were very apologetic.  Whatever.
why the fuck am I smiling?

For those who don't know the scoop, I have been put through the medical ringer since May of 2018.  I was diagnosed with excessive PVCs (look it up) and the subsequent testing revealed my heart has a birth defect which is causing the PVCs.

I endured some pretty traumatic procedures for which I could not be anesthetized because it they needed to see my heart work without me being unconscious.  Being unconscious, apparently, makes the problem go away.  And I can't stay unconscious 24/7, obviously

I had my worst procedure at the end of October, and I swore I'd never step foot into the hospital again.  I had nightmares about it for weeks.  They were inside my heart, mapping the damn thing, and blasting it with radio waves.  Seven  hours on a hard metal table, fully conscious. I'll say no more.

So, there's been considerable back and forth with cardiologists up here, and cardiologists at UCLA medical center, and the gist of it is, no more procedures due to my heart defect.  Further blasting with radio waves could cause a perforation of the heart.  We're talking death, dearies.  They also gauged, from all the testing and procedures, that my congenital heart defect is minor to moderate and they will not/cannot treat it.  Well, that's actually a relief.  So, the funky electrical activity will continue.

In the interim, I've been on meds that make me extremely tired.  Like, extremely.  And, as was revealed today, they're not doing me much good so I am going off them.  We'll see what happens.  I'm glad to be going off of it, 1.) because it makes me tire and 2.) it has nasty long term side effects for other body systems, like the lungs.

So, now I'm feeling used to all the news, no longer in a panic that I'm going to drop dead any time soon.  I've got to eliminate caffeine and alcohol which exacerbate the excessive electrical activity, but that seems a small price to pay.  I'll follow up in three months. 

I've adopted a fairly casual attitude about it, because really, what can you do?  My husband and I booked a three week trip to France in April and I'm glad we went ahead and did it.  I figured if I need more procedures, they could wait until after a vacation.  And now I don't need them, so halle-fucking-lujah.

When I left the office today, I did so with yet another Holter monitor attached to me, which, believe you me, is the least of what they've done to me.  I'll endure the itching skin, the electrodes and the wires for 24 hours and then remove it.

I'm relieved.  Really I am.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, February 22, 2019


We received a very civilized scolding this week by our campus director and activity director.  We have been 'reported' by fellow residents for 1.) letting the big dog run off-leash and 2.) neglecting to pick up a tiny poo in the interior hallway left by the five pound dog.  All our fault, of course, but still.  We've been letting them off-leash less frequently lately because we know the on-leash policy, but apparently a neighbor reported us on Saturday for the dog being some feet away from Steve.  And the poo incident?  Steve took Lucy down to the Memory Care Unit to participate in our regular "Meet and Greet" with residents and dogs, for therapeutic purposes.  While at the reception desk, Lucy had to go.  Steve cleaned it up immediately.  But, apparently somewhere in our own hallway on the way home something dropped off her bottom unbeknownst to Steve.  We later found a note on our front door with a doggy bag attached "For your dog poo in the hallway."  We searched the hallway, no poo to be found.

Frankly, I wish whomever left the note and just knocked on our door to give us a heads up, instead of reporting it to the director.  Apparently they think we are out of control over here at Chez Barbour of the First Floor East.  We would have shuddered in horror, as would be appropriate, grabbed a dog bag and followed them to the scene of the crime.  Mind you, her poops are the size of an almond.  Now we search our hall-mates faces, wondering who was so offended they felt they had to report us.  We've been here a year next month, and this is the first 'poo infraction.'  We a friendly bunch here, so I'm mystified why they didn't feel free to approach us directly.

There was also a complaint that we weren't picking up the poops outside.  Absolutely untrue.  We go outside armed with dozens of bags which we use assiduously.  Seems we're going to get tagged with every violation now that we obviously can't be trusted to follow the rules.

Can you tell I'm a little defensive?

So, we committed to keep the dogs on-leash at all times, and keep the dogs to the approved areas inside the building.  It's only right and fair, after all.  Our actions did spur some updates to the dog policy, and a new rule for new residents with dogs: they will be assigned a host specifically who is trained in the policy who can thoroughly and adequately explain it.  The thing I really hate is that now we are the subject of conversation.

Last Sunday drove the dogs back to their old running grounds at Sycamore Park.  We had a break in the rain and took advantage of it.  The dogs were in doggy heaven, running all over the park and literally leaping with the joy of freedom.  We reminisced about how wonderful it used to be to open our back gate and let the dogs run wild in the park.  We passed by the old house and I noticed a bag of soil leaning up against a pine tree: exactly where I left it a year ago.  We miss the house, the yard, the park but we are simply not up to keeping up with it.  Such is life.

I spent the week licking my wounds, and I think I'm over it now.  I resisted the urge to email our doggy group to assure them we had a serious and thorough meeting with the powers-that-be and that we would be good little dog owners from here on out.

Onward and upward, kiddos.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday Musings

These things:

  • Donny Boy, Jr., calling America's teachers "losers" in a speech last week.
  • Former Assistant Director Andrew McCabe on 60 Minutes last night.
  • POTUS tweeting that he wishes he could do away with entertainers who mock him.

McCabe has a book to sell, okay, but the story is compelling.  I was saying to my husband last night that considering my views on the FBI in the 1970s and 1980s (not very good), I'm amazed that I can now be in full support of their efforts to do their jobs faithfully and adhere to our Constitution and not the POS POTUS we now have.   My dad, who used to be a law and order FBI supporter, now says that there are "some crooked guys in the FBI."  My dad and I have switched places entirely.  These are the crazy times we live in.

Pivoting quickly now, my grand daughter had her first hair cut yesterday, just shy of her second birthday.  I had a quick video call with her after the deed and she was happily playing with a balloon.  This hair-cutting place for kids has it all: play structures, toys and balloons.  The kids can even watch videos while stylists are working on their hair.  Kids have a plush life these days.

I'm glad her family is out of the spotlight.  After seeing POTUS' tweet, Alec Baldwin openly wondered if he was now at risk of retaliation, and by extension, his wife and kids.  It's doesn't strain the imagination to think that some deranged red-hatted nut would harm Baldwin and/or his family.

These are the crazy times we are living in.

Friday, February 15, 2019


I'm reading Michelle Obama's book, Becoming.  It started off a little stiff, but halfway through it I am now enthralled.  One of the most beautiful passages is about the death of her father at 55, from MS.  Her description of his last days in the hospital are incredibly sad and sweet.  The kissing of her hands, over and over, because he could no longer speak.  Each kiss telling her a story of his love for her and his family.  After his death in the middle of the night, the family faced the strange new reality to be navigated while planning a funeral and grieving deeply.  There is a funny bit there, too, wherein mother, brother and Michelle were sitting at the kitchen table after coming home from the funeral parlor to choose a casket.  They were weeping copiously, and her mom said something in a wry little way, "Look at us."  This led, slowly, to peels of laughter.  Such is the emotional roller coaster of death.

That passage reminded me of one of own experiences with death, which was grim, and then jovial. One can only take so much sadness.  My former life-partner, Lynn, and I, watched as her alcoholic father slowly died of throat cancer back in the late 1990s.  A heavy smoker and drinker his entire adult life, he could not fathom why he had contracted this cancer.  He was in denial, an alcoholic's most stalwart trait.  Throughout his surgery, chemo and radiation, he was convinced he was going to beat this thing, despite his obvious and shocking decline. Lynn's parents told the oncologist they did not want to hear the prognosis.  They preferred not knowing.  Lynn and I, however, wanted the information and so we knew how dire things were at the end of that year.

We had been visiting for Christmas, his last, and returned home from Seattle to Santa Cruz.  A week later we received the call that he has died during the night.  We boarded a plane hours later and arrived in time to be with his body for awhile before he was carried away.  It was one of the few times I had visited a dead body, and his eyes were still open.  I gently closed them.  I slipped a note from my then 8-year-old daughter into the pocket of his pajamas, and I held his lifeless hand.  No one in the family had touched him.  Such was the Christiansen family. All the while, Lynn's mother was preparing lunch and she called us to the kitchen table.  Everyone's eyes were red and puffy and we were a somber bunch.  Lynn's brother Steve and sister Janet had been at the family home for hours, and their exhaustion showed in their disheveled hair and clothes and the way they shuffled slowly to the table.  We began to eat (I can't even remember what).  Brother Steve looked over to the living room where dad was lying in his hospital bed, deader than a door-nail, and started a small, hysterical giggle.  

"How weird is it that he is a few feet away, gone from this world, and here we are chowing down on hot food and cold beer?"  Steve asked.

Here we were, around the old family kitchen table, everyone but Dad.  We began to wave in his direction.  

"Hi Dad! We're having our lunch!"  

"Hey dad, come on over here, the food's great!"  

"Dad -- you want mustard with that?"

We were laughing uncontrollably at this point. The absurdity having a normal family meal seemed, totally bizarre.  Our reality had been flipped onto its back, desperate legs and arms flailing to right itself.  Laughter was seeing us through the initial shock.

When the mortuary came to take his body away, there was a clutch in my heart.  The finality of it was a jolt to my system.  They gently loaded him into the van while we stood around on the gravel driveway.  When the door shut on the back of the van, Lynn's mom began to wave good-bye.  It was something that Dad had done each time the kids or guests drove away: he'd stand there in the driveway, in all kinds of weather, and raise his had with a gentle left to right wave and a smile on his face.  He'd stand there until the car was out of sight.  Then he'd sigh and slowly walk into the house. Following his example, we stood shoulder to shoulder, doing the "Dad wave" until the van slipped out of sight over the hill.  We then sighed, and collectively turned left to walk into the house, crunching over the gravel on a cold January day, with the low gunmetal sky of Seattle punctuated with the dark empty branches of winter trees.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Friday, February 8, 2019



Worst. News. Ever.  I have to give up coffee (all caffeine) and alcohol.  WHAT?!  I'm mourning here, folks, truly.  One gets me up in the morning, the other mellows me out at the end of the day, goes well with food, and tastes damn good.

The reasons are two-fold: my heart and my stomach health.  Both drinks are stomach irritants for me, and both are not good for my heart condition.  Okay, so, I've know this for awhile, but now it's getting to be crunch time.  Cutting back slowly has not exactly worked.  Now it's time to bite the bullet.  I really have to wonder, though, is there life after eliminating these basic food groups?

In order to cope, I am arming myself with information.  The truth is, there are a lot of good reasons to give up both these drinks.  Forget about the fact that abstaining will make me a social freak and a subject of derision.  Oh, the shame.  The horror.

I'm surprised by how emotional I am over this.  It's like losing a loved one.  Or a limb.  They've been a constant in my life for 35 years.  We're going to France in April, and I want to be able to have cafe in a cute little bistro in the morning, and wine with lunch and dinner.  That's what you do in France, after all.

Sigh.  All for the sake of health.  Of a longer life.  I hope I can look back a year from now and know that this was the best thing I did in a long while.


Suggestions for substitutes welcome.  Cannot be carbonated or high in sugar.

Double damn.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Monday Musings

I'm home after a week in Colorado with the grand kids.  Both were sick at various points during the week, and the baby was especially ill with a fever for a couple of days.  I forget what a drag it was to have a sick child -- having to take time off of work (much to the dismay of your employer) and tend to an irritable child who simply will not be comforted.  And the snot...oh, the snot.  My hat's off to parents.

My son-in-law was in Wisconsin on business so I helped out by taking the kids into daycare and school, and picking them up.  The baby went at 6:30  in the morning in freezing temperatures -- 7 degrees one day and 11 the next.  The third day was a balmy 26 degrees and I actually drove my grandson to school in my pajamas!  How quickly we acclimate.

When I picked up the boy from school, all the parents were bundled up tight while the kids ran out of their classrooms in short sleeved t-shirts!  It is quite a circus when that bell rings and the doors fly open to release these pent-up children.  They jump and holler and fist bump each other; they run down the grassy hills and pick up pine cones under the trees to throw at each other.

They've got heavy backpacks on, and art projects made of paper clutched in their hands.  They wave their masterpieces in the air, calling "Look! Look!" to their parents.  Some things never change.
Speaking of things that never change: my grand kids love to have books read to them.  The baby will pull books out of the lower shelf and bring them to you, put them on your lap and hold her arms up so that you will lift her onto your lap.

My grandson is reading now in first grade, and I helped him sound out the words to unlock the stories.  It was hard work for him, but mostly he worked it out and was quite proud of himself for getting through an entire book in one sitting.  His reading team at school won first prize for reading the most books.  He was pretty proud of that, too.  I don't remember, but I do know from my report cards, that I had a very difficult time reading aloud in first grade.  My teacher was very distressed about it and suggested to my parents that we read more at home, which is funny because I remember reading regularly with my parents.

The baby is quite enamored of her big brother and follows him around holding his hand.  He mostly tolerates it but does get tired of the adulation.  They roughhouse together and they get quite physical. so I'm surprised that no damage is done.

It was a good week, interspersed with running errands, stopping for meals and morning coffee.  I even saw a movie one afternoon and I managed to fit in two massages during the week (my back had been causing me some pain).  Due to the high altitude I am normally pretty wiped out when I first arrive, but this week was the easiest yet.

So, back to the routine at Chez Crowley-Barbour.  Adieu, dear babies.  Until next time.

Yellow Cottage, Part 2

I have a dear friend who I met in my Creative Writing class my freshman year in college.  I sent the poem to her for her comments and edits ...