Another reason

Due to the unrelenting damage from multiple head injuries over the past couple of years, I have had to ‘retire’ from my volunteer position with the local food bank.  I would get trained on some new feature or technology in their accounting system, and manage to use it successfully for a short while.  If I wasn’t in for another week or two, I would sit down at the computer, rest my fingers on the keyboard, and …….all I could see was a huge blank wall.  My neurologist assures me that this isn’t unusual for head injuries, but somehow that is cold comfort.

I now just have the ONE volunteer role, at the Santa Clara Senior’s Center, monitoring the use and attendance at the gym.  I have made so many friends in this role, of all ages.  Even though it is technically a “seniors facility”, it also welcomes disabled citizens of Santa Clara as well.  Plus, since our gym is considered one of the BEST in the (San Francisco) Bay area, residents of other cities can join too, but they have to pay a small fee, whereas locals are FREE!

Since I’ve been around home more, I’m enjoying the opportunity to rest more, read more, and have coffee with neighbors.  Lacey likes me to work out in the backyard in the garden, so I try to do that at least once a week, assuming its not pouring rain!  We have had over 300% of our normal precipitation levels in the past six weeks!  The drought is officially CANCELLED, at least in this area!

SOMEHOW the local Volunteer bureau got hold of my name, but I suspect this is from when we first arrived here in California.  On March 25th (his 55th birthday!) Glenn headed off for his first day at Apple.  Suddenly I was alone in a foreign country, far from friends and family.  WHAT was I going to do with myself??  My first reaction was to go online, and search under VOLUNTEER.  That’s when I found my current role at the Seniors Center.

I should know better than to open unsolicited emails, but apparently I didn’t.  This one  really piqued my interest:  a registered charity that started in the times of hurricane Katrina, by providing baby clothes for the victims of hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Now they are focussing their efforts on the children of abject poverty, and have narrowed their intakes to just include baby sizes up to 12 months.   The potential recipients are usually single women, making less that $16000 per year.  They are referred by social workers, hospitals, clinics or local agencies.  Each baby receives approximately 75 items of clothing up to 12 months in size, including hats, booties, bibs, blankets, sleepers, diaper shirts.  Board books are welcomed as well!  The moms will receive an educational ‘new parent’ kit.

WHAT TYPE OF ITEMS DOES LOVED TWICE ACCEPT?

We distribute baby clothes in sizes up to 12 months ONLY. Small baby blankets, hats, socks, bibs and board books are welcome too.
WHAT TYPE OF ITEMS DOES LOVED TWICE NOT ACCEPT?
Baby clothes are given to new mothers as they leave the hospital. Due to space constraints, hospitals and our organization are not in a position to distribute items such as: car seats, strollers, cribs, baby bottles, maternity clothes, formula, clothing larger than 12 months, Boppy pillows, toys, baby bedding, diapers, bumpers, mobiles, etc… We realize your heart may be in the right place to donate these items, but to keep our mission focused we kindly request that you do not donate these items to our organization. Doing so takes up valuable time that our volunteers could be spending packing the much needed new baby boxes.
Their ad on the internet was intended to recruit people to help sort donated clothes into size and sex, to ensure balanced distribution of items.  Reading about their mandate, I had a better idea for how I could help.  I spend a lot of time checking out the racks in Children’s departments at various retailers here, so I know where the best sales are, and when they are likely to be found!  I volunteer to shop, and buy things with my own money, for donation to the charity, in exchange for tax receipts.
The response from the lady that started this group was fast and enthusiastic.

I am so incredibly grateful for your potential help bringing in baby clothes. I founded this nonprofit 11 years ago and am amazed at the incredible people like you who are helping. Thank you!
We have an ongoing need for baby blankets, sock, hats and clean bibs. If you ever see any at a discount a thrift shop – it would be great to give them to keep homeless babies warm. Just last week, I dropped off to an agency where a new mom bought her baby in to attend a parenting class and the baby had nothing to keep warm. They had boxes from Loved Twice, so now that baby has clothes for the first year of life. Your impact will help babies like little Angela.

Finally feeling human again

Finally feeling human again

Antibiotics were finished in five days, but deep lying congestion remained.  I have been told to stay on my steroid inhaler indefinitely.  I guess that implies COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), without verbal acknowledgement from the doctor.  On my chart, it is no longer called COPD, It’s called COLD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease), or something like that.

I may be wrong:  how many different words can you fit in that acronym?  How about Chocolate Onion Liver Delight?  Or Constipated Old Lady Darling?  Or Crying Over Lousy Dinner!

I digress.  I worked out in the back garden today, since we were granted a few hours of sunshine after another morning of pounding rain.  The past few days rain was emphasized by howling winds, making those last few autumn leaves finally desert their branches.  Caught in the downdraught of the storm, these fragments of botanica were found too frail to win this last skirmish.  Their pieces lay scattered, becoming part of puddles, acceding to the circle that was their itinerary.

Now that we’ve both overcome our Christmas viruses, we are feeling like we deserve medals of honor.  Being between projects at work, Glenn is keen to take a little break while the hectic lifestyle of tech is pausing for breath.  Being post holidays, money is definitely a factor influencing our choices.  Having flown back and forth to Canada several times in the past year, we are well aware of that expense!  For both of us, it would be close to two thousand dollars, so clearly that’s not an option.  The cost of crossing the border, I guess.

We then discovered that flights WITHIN the USA were substantially cheaper.  We have an outstanding invitation for visit Mary Lou and Hutch, at their winter condo, in Florida.  It is on  Hutchinson Island, on the Atlantic coast.  The closest commute city is Fort Meyers, but the easiest place to fly to is still Orlando.

When they found out we were coming, Hutch sent us a couple of pics, just to seal the deal.img_0495This is the view from their balcony, on their fourth floor unit.  There is a heated pool and a hot tub, with the ocean is just  a  few yards away.  Of course, the only people that swim in the ocean at this time of year are Canadians:   they have  been primed by the cold lakes at home!

If that sumptuous view wasn’t enough, you can always get west-coasters with a shot of a beautiful sunrise.img_0501

Mea Culpa!

Mea Culpa!

I have started a diatribe a couple of times lately, but then I have wandered off and not finished it.  Why?  I have been sick:  VERY SICK, with the virus that Willa left us with at the end of her Christmas visit.  That poor little doll arrived here with a souvenir of air travel that no one would want.

Despite feeling somewhat miserable, I sincerely hope that Willa enjoyed her Christmas with  us.  Everyone agreed that THE most fun was had at the Children’s Discovery Center, aka The Purple Museum.  Absolutely everything was sized for kids, and the variety of exhibits assured no one would ever hear, “I’m bored…”.  THE most fun was had at the structure formed completely from duct tape.  The kids ran , laughed and slid on this slick silver slip N slide. img_0665 Sadly, it was a time limited offering due to the fragility of the exhibit.  Regular maintenance was required, so it was only open for 90 minutes at a time.

img_0667Glenn developed the sniffles and sneezes immediately after the family left, on the 26th.  Of course, with my lame immune system, I chose to take a head cold to epic proportions, developing not only bronchitis but effectively disabling my pulmonary musculature.

“Take a deep breath, “, says the doctor.  I do as I’m told, over and over, until she steps back.

“Well, despite the fever, I don’t hear any rattles, or wheezing…..”, she says, brows furrowed.

Well, maybe that’s because I CAN’T BREATHE!  To me, it felt frightening, like my lungs weren’t expanding, not due to congestion so much as they just WOULDN’T!

I felt absolutely horrid at this point, on New Year’s Day.  Until now,  I had chosen to battle this bug using good ol’ home remedies, like drinking lots, resting, and meditating.  Clearly, it was time to acquiesce, and call the doctor.

An antibiotic was prescribed, due to the presence of a fever, and a steroid laden inhaler, to reduce the obvious inflammation in my lungs.  Ten days later, I am feeling MUCH better, thank you!

I was puzzling what caused this ‘inflammation’ to begin with, and mentioned it to my fellow MS’er, Karen.  Unable to come up with a satisfactory explanation, she contacted her nurse rep with neurologist Dr Dunn, whom we both see.  Still unable to explain this inflammation, Jen Li said she would contact the company that manufactures my MS medication, Gilenya, as she recalled that there was a lung side effect disclosed in the associated warnings for this drug.  She promised to get back to me once this had happened.

Tomorrow is my recheck with the doctor, to ensure my lungs are behaving better, as well as Glenn’s chance to discuss his ongoing shoulder issues.  He seems to have developed Frozen Shoulder on his left side, probably originally due to falling on it several years ago.  To clarify, his first experience at curling was his last.  Wearing only sneakers, he slipped on the ice at the rink, and broke his right ankle in two places, and tore the tendon.   With his foot in a cast, he had to use crutches to get around , so a slippery driveway was the recipe for a perfect storm.  To reassure you, the crutch wasn’t injured.

 

Losing crumbs

Every once in a while, I surprise myself, but not in a good way.  I’ve always been good with basic math skills, so this was a shock AND a reality check

I was in the midst of one of my favorite past times, making muffins using the oranges I had processed and frozen last summer.  Since I usually freeze the juice and ground fruit in doubles, this means that the recipe ingredients also need to be doubled.

With some of my recipes, I will annotate the larger quantities beside the single amounts.  I hadn’t done this for this recipe, basically because I’ve only been making these muffins for a year.  Having had the generous old orange tree in the yard of our rental home was what inspired me to find a use for this windfall of fruit.

Today I was doubling my quantities while I was actually making the muffins, multitasking if you will.  The recipe as written calls for one and three quarters cups flout, but to accommodate the double quantity of fruit, I need to also double the dry ingredients.  So that means, one and three quarters doubled, which is one plus one and three quarters plus three quarters.  That is the same as saying 1 3/4 + 1 3/4.  So, 2 plus …….  3/4+3/4, or….6/8?  No, that’s not right!

I took a step back from the mixer.  What the HELL!?  This SO not me!  Since when can I not do simple little crumbs of math?  keep breath, relax.  Is this MS messing with me?  Or what?  I’ll ask my neurologist on Tuesday at my appointment to discuss what my 3-Tesla MRI showed.  Maybe that will have some answers for me.

When I was at my volunteer job at the senior’s gym this week, one of our members brought in a copious amount of oranges, as well as everyone’s favorite Meyer lemons.  James does this every year, since he fears that if the fruit isn’t picked, the trees will figure that it isn’t appreciated.  As a result, he picks every single piece of fruit, puts it in boxes the size of shoeboxes, and brings them in.  He is a character, James is, and he has been known to talk the ears off of many a gym member.

So for the short term, I’ve got to get into the gym for my shifts, and scoop up as many oranges as I can!  While we were in the rental home, I probably should have put more effort into processing orange for the freezer, but we didn’t realize how soon we would be wanting to leave!

The diagnosis?

As the hockey game murmurs excitedly on the television, I am coaxing my consciousness to curl up in the simple comfort of my coloring program.  It truly is a struggle not to dwell upon what is happening back in Ottawa.  There is nothing, NOTHING, I can do from here.  In reality, there’s nothing I could do, even if I was there.  I feel so powerless, nearly four thousand miles away from home, or at least, that which USED TO BE home.  Honestly, I’m not really sure where home is anymore.  But I do know that I can’t help but think that I could make a difference.

After phoning her repeatedly for two days without getting an answer, my anxiety slowly rose and crested on Thursday afternoon. I finally got connected to her phone, back in Ottawa.  Her son, Steve, answered the phone, sounding world weary, his emotional stress palpable.  He quickly explained what was going on, and my fears were confirmed.  On Tuesday morning, she decided to call her doctor, after having spent a virtually sleepless night, due to a persistent tickle cough.  Upon arriving at her office, the doctor immediately slipped a PulseOx meter on her fingertip.  It didn’t take long to sound the alarm bells, once the reading for her blood oxygen saturation was displayed.  After listening to her chest, and detecting a telltale crackle, the diagnosis was clear.  

She was instructed to immediately head to the emergency department at the nearby Montfort Hospital.  Her oxygen saturation was dangerously low!  Diane demurred, saying she really didn’t want to go, would rather just go home and rest.  Luckily, the doc didn’t allow that.  She could either do as she was told, or she would call an ambulance to escort her there!  Given those options, she relented, and headed off to Montfort.  Not surprisingly, she was quickly admitted, and given a nasal cannula to provide the desperately needed oxygen.  That was Tuesday morning this week.  She is still there, and will stay put for the weekend.

Tests indicated that she has “hardening of the left ventricle of the heart”, according to Steve.  He seemed a bit hesitant with the exact particulars of the findings, but if it is indeed what I think he said it was, the proper term for it is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  From the bit of information I have read thus far, this is most often a genetic condition, which I suppose is why siblings and children of the affected individual are supposed to be checked out for this malady.  I’m not going to go into any more detail about this condition for now.  

Honestly, I’m not panicking yet, if ever.  Mistakes happen, so I’ll wait until I have more definite information.  In other words, researching the condion that might NOT be the final diagnosis is just adding more stress to an already worrisome situation.  

It’s been WAY TOO LONG!

SO…my official excuse is that the  retina specialist at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA messed up my eyes REAL bad.  With the honorable intentions of checking on the health of my retinas, three different types of eye drops were used to dilate my retinas.  OUCH!  Why is it that those particular drops feel like a mix of sand and acid?  Never mind, rhetorical.  Worse than the drops was the exam itself!  The specialist promptly shone a super bright light directly into my eyes, while instructing me to look up, down, right, left.  Each direction hurt worse than the last.

………oh, my poor eyes……..

The good news is that they are fine:  no damage from my rowdy blood sugar levels, so far.  I guess I dodged a bullet this time.  Especially considering the wonderful time I had at Evan’s wedding reception…  but enough said.  If my blood sugar is a wee bit wonky right now, it’s understandable.  I’m not sure exactly how many glasses of wine I had, but suffice it to say, it was a VERY special occasion.  Of course, I wasn’t alone:  my sister-in-law, my daughter-in law, and my mother-in-law were all there, keeping up with me.

Meanwhile, my eyes are still sore, but at least I am starting to be able to focus.  Bright light has never been a friend of mine, but has been especially challenging in the past several months.  I have really GOT to get some darker lenses on my ultra cheap sunglasses, but I suspect that this many be an oxymoron.  Glenn suggests that I get Evan to order me some Oakley glasses, with an assortment of the darker interchangeable lenses. Ev has a business account with them, through his paint ball company.   I also like Blu Blockers, so add that to my list as well, please….

This evening marks the end of the week that Glenn has been home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Thanks, Apple!  It certainly wasn’t an idle week, as we have used the time to help clear a massive to do list.  We have been cleaning up in preparation for clearing out some old excess furniture that has worn out its welcome.  The immediate end goal was to make room in the guest room for a bunk bed.  This means that the queen bed that is/was in there originally, must GO.  The queen is not a new bed by a long stretch, but was originally an expensive mattress.  We bought it in Ottawa, just before we moved down to Waterloo.  That’s how good a deal we got:  we paid to move it 500 miles south!  The store was going out of business, so the deals were quite amazing.

Now, back to the present.  When Evan and Claire told us that they planned to spend Christmas with us, we knew we had some work to do, and some unloading of excess.  This means that the large desk that we had originally put in the guest room is going to have to find a new home.  So far, he has cleared it off, taken pictures, and advertised it on our local website, part of the Nextdoor chain.  He priced it at $50 (after having paid $300), but so far it has been there for a week, with nary a nibble.  We will give it another week or so, but after that, it will go to Habitat for Humanity, since they will pick it up, AND give us a tax receipt.  Along with it we will send the queen bed frame, but not the mattress.  Nobody wants used mattresses, at least, nobody in an agency!

We have finally treated ourselves to a beautiful new sofa, with a divan on one end, making it a sectional.  We chose a vivid bright turquoise, and it will be delivered next week.  That means that we have to part with our old brown leather love seat, that is falling apart under the seat cushions.  We bought it when we first moved to Waterloo, so it has had a good long life with us.

This will require a call to 1-800-Got-Junk.  My buddy Karen has recently had to do a major sort and purge, since her daughter and son-in-law recently sold their home and moved back in with her parents!  In most cases, this would be a huge disadvantage for a couple like Karen and Robert, but so far it has proven very advantageous.  Karen’s MS has been making her life very difficult, so having extra help around the house has been appreciated.  Plus, since their daughter Emily enjoys cooking, that has taken a huge load off a gal that really can’t spend much time on her feet.

As well as all this sorting and shifting, we have been painting, installing cupboard door handles in the kitchen, installing plumbing fixtures in the two bathrooms, and sorting out our massive collection of queen sized bedding.  We have a queen, but we really don’t need six sets of sheets!  Since this is our smallest house yet, space is at a premium.  So it looks like Habitat may benefit from some bedding to go with that bed frame!

The other items I’m considering passing on the Habitat is a high chair, crib, mattress and 2 sets of crib bedding.  But first, I’ll need to run it by Claire, since they are constantly trying to give Willa a sibling, but Claire’s health issues are proving a challenge for their goals.

 

Election Eve

It is now 7pm.  Polls across the country have closed, with two exceptions.  If a line up still exists at a poll, anyone in line by 8pm will be allowed to vote no matter how long this takes.  Not all polls have closed due to the current time as well.  Pacific Time Zone polls are open for another two hours.  Washington state, Oregon, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and California still have time on their hands.  

Polls in the eastern part of the country are long closed, and are still tallying up numbers, in some cases.  We have heard that the race is pretty evenly split in some of those states, so it is still too close to call.  During my usual 3 hour shift at the Santa Clara seniors’ gym, I was asked several times if I had voted yet.  Although most members already know me, some newer joiners didn’t know that I am a die-hard Canuck.  Usually, my response was to smile, and quietly explain that I could not vote, due to all the maple syrup in my blood.  Quizzical looks were soon replaced by friendly nudges from long time gym members, who hastily explained my curious response.

Truthfully, I am just as glad to sit this one out.  Politics here is a blood-borne passion, often acompanied by an excess of vitriol, expressed at an elevated volume, and accompanied by rather pungent vocabulary.  Sweat flows freely with sputtering spit, as devout believers stamp and threaten.  Tears are inevitably conjured up as the unwitting exclamation points in political discussions.  Trust me, this event us much more palatable from the observation deck than the front row of the coliseum.

Like most expatriates, I’m nervous about the outcome of this contest.  Trump being the blowhard he is, has caused those of us that here on invitation only as in the work visas are feeling quite unsettled.  He has sworn up down and sideways that employment visas will all be retracted under his rule, leaving these jobs for the deserving American workers.  You can imagine that the dozens of technology firms here in Silicon Valley will be feeling distinctly uncomfortable right now!  Given the  millions, or billions, that these companies have spent recruiting the ‘best of the best’ in engineering and scienctific minds, their frustration could be understood!

Luckily, Canada will welcome us back, with open arms.  But where would this leave us, in a financial sense?  We have purchased a home here mere months ago, and currently there is a glut of homes like ours for sale in our neighborhood.  Currently, the Dow Jones is down 700 points, undoubtedly due to the total unease surrounding this colossal event.  Rather unsettling, to put it mildly.

The true ramifications won’t really be known until the final ballots are counted, and dawn has breached horizons across the country.  Then, we’ll awaken to the havoc that our votes, or our fellow citizens’ votes, have wrought.