Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Just Us Chickens"

"Just us Chickens" .... that's what Skip and I call a day when no one is coming to the house. No aids, no nurses, no other people invading our space. Honestly, the people who do come are helping both of us immensely. Everything they do for me or Skip is something I don't have to do. And, Skip gets a change of company, someone to visit and chat with other than me while having her wants and needs met.

I wouldn't want to go more than one day in a row without assistance, but for that one, it's a real pleasure. Nine out of 10 Mondays are "just us chickens" days. Almost always, it's a peaceful and loving day, where we're both in excellent moods and spend our time together quite companionably. For some reason, even with the extra work, I rarely get angry on Mondays.

Skip is in the process of gaining approval for a state-funded Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program. This will give her a certain number of hours each week to allocate to her care and we get to hire and schedule the folks who do the work. We're still planning on leaving Mondays just as they are -- with just the two of us together at home.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pics of the Place

Found my camera and took some pics of our condo the other day. I've omitted the 2 bedrooms. One is still filled with junk in boxes that I am slowly but surely selling off. The other had unmade beds in it.
This is a view of our front door. Our chalkboard is a wonderful device. I add appts there,  have a spot to record random items we need to buy so I don't forget them when making a list, and our punch list of things to do around the house. For Thanksgiving, it was a big help tracking menu items and task lists.

When you come down the hall from the front door, this is the view to the left or our LR/DR/kitchen. You can see our 2 dachshunds relaxing along with my sister's Shih Tzu Dakini who is visiting us. She probably spends about half her time with us and half with my sister. She's much better behaved than our dogs, because my sister actually trained her, though she is prone to bouts of anxiety, especially when there's heavy weather outside.

Take a right past the chalkboard and you enter the large hallway leading to our bedroom. To the left is a little alcove that we've set up with bookshelves on one side and an immense Ikea wardrobe on the other.

The aforementioned wardrobe. This is where we store Skip's chair when she's in bed.

Turning back down the hallway, you can see our main room.

The view of the main room standing at the other end. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fun, But a Lot of Work

The title, in a nutshell, describes Thanksgiving day (and the day after, when the cleanup was completed).

I was happy to provide a place for my whole family to celebrate the holiday together. We had 3 generations present and only one person from the youngest generation was missing (one of the older twins of my sister - who has 2 sets of twins - is enjoying a semester at sea, so couldn't join us). Everything I cooked was pretty straightforward to prepare, so the challenges of the day were primarily about timing - which task to do when.

It certainly is different having a party here in our condo than in our old house. For one thing, we were all in the same room rather than split up with some in the kitchen, some in the living room. Here, it's all one big room, so I was never by myself in the kitchen prepping or cleaning up. Also, we lived in our house for 23 years, so I knew where everything was, had routines established for parties and had lots of storage so we had tons of serving dishes and such. I gave away or sold a lot of things when we moved, so I wasn't quite sure what serving pieces we had. Fortunately, the huge platter, big enough for a 24 lb turkey, was still around. And, I found enough pieces we'd kept to put out hors d'oeuvres and serve the myriad of dishes I prepared. And now, we've made it through the first big shindig so it'll be that much easier the next time.

Monday, November 19, 2012


We're hosting Thanksgiving at our condo. By this, I mean, we'll be joined by my immediate family that day. There'll be 14 of us. It will be a good chance to show off our new home, especially to my mom, who hasn't seen it yet. I do actually enjoy hosting parties, and we haven't had a party in our home for years. I plan to enjoy myself a lot. It's always energizing to host a party.

I had a vision of a party that would include an easy clean-up. You know, paper plates and plastic silverware. Only because, honestly, our regular dishes have place settings for 12 and our flatware the same, so there wouldn't be enough for 14 folks.

Well, when I was driving my mother down to Connecticut on Friday to see her 92-year old sister, she took the long drive as an opportunity to quiz me concerning dishes, flatware, tablecloths, tables, napkins, etc. that we'd use for the meal. Too funny! When I made noises about paper plates and plastic silverware, it was quite clear that wouldn't do! She reminded me that she'd given me a set of sterling silver flatware when she moved out of her house, so we could combine them with our stainless. And, I have other one-off dinner plates packed away somewhere that we can use.

So, now I realize we've signed on for a fancy shindig. And suddenly it occurred to me that I don't know where many of the rarely used serving pieces and such are. Where did they get put away in the new kitchen? Did I actually give away all our platters before we moved or do I still have one somewhere to hold that 24 pound turkey I'm cooking? And, shades of my youth when my mother had me polish silver before any big party, tomorrow MW and I will be doing a bit of polishing ourselves, assuming I can find the serving pieces. 

Regardless of what pieces we mix and match to make up the place settings, I know we'll all have a lot of fun on Thursday. I'm really looking forward to it, and especially to showing off our new place. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Caregiver Aids #17: Combination Door Lock

So you're a caregiver. So you have people coming to your home to help your loved one. Sometimes you're not there when they arrive and your loved one can't answer the door. Do you leave your door unlocked for all to enter, whether wanted or not? Do you hide a key somewhere, like under the doormat?

This handy little deadbolt with a combination lock can be the answer to all your troubles.

You can assign up to 19 4-digit codes to unlock the door. This way, each person that comes to the house can have his/her own code. When that person is no longer a part of the "caregiving team" you can delete the code. 

In our case, during those rare times when we're both out of the house, we can lock the doorknob and that will stop access by those who have a combination to open the deadbolt. 

There are lots of other relatively inexpensive home access options, including locks that can be wirelessly controlled. I didn't entertain using those for Skip because she has so much trouble with her hands, operating a remote entry system wouldn't have worked for her. This gives us what we need without Skip's hands having to be part of the solution.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunkered Down in The Woo

Yep, we're hunkered down in Worcester, affectionately known as "The Woo" to many. We've been buffeted with much rain and wind today as we sit on the outer edge of Hurricane Sandy's reach. Fortunately, we haven't lost power nor seen much impact from Sandy. 

Many of you will recall that last year, just about this time, we had an October Nor'easter that dropped a lot of snow in these parts. We lost power for more than 3 days and ended up spending 2 nights in a hotel and 2 nights at my mother's home on Cape Cod. 

Although widespread power outages were expected, I was cautiously optimistic we'd avoid last year's fate. First off, no snow was forecast here. It was the heavy, wet snow on trees still full of leaves that brought down so many power lines last year. Second, the utility companies must have figured out it cost more to go around repairing lines after storms like last year's than policing the limbs and trees overhanging their wires, so much pruning has occurred since last year, reducing the likelihood of power outages from limbs and trees falling on lines. Lastly, we live on a street with no power lines or telephone poles, so no falling trees would impact this neighborhood, power-wise.

"Expect the unexpected and unexpected never happens," said Norton Juster in The Phantom Tollbooth. Following his maxim, I spent most of yesterday preparing for a possible outage, even one severe enough to force us out of the house and into a hotel. Retrieved Skip's manual wheelchair from storage and cleaned it off. Charged up the power chair, the hoyer lift we'd need if we decamped and every other chargeable thing in the place. Gassed up the car, got cash, etc. etc. 

At first, I was mostly preparing for us to leave with an outage, as we had last year. But as time wore on, I realized we'd probably be able to stay at home if we lost power. The key difference between this year and last is: cold. Our house got down to about 60 degrees within hours of the outage, and then kept dropping, far too cold to comfortably stay there. Here, it's been in the 50s all day and now the temp is climbing with tomorrow projected to hit 70. I only heard the heat come on a time or two today it's been so mild. 

Happily, all the preparations were unnecessary as we've not lost power and the worst of the storm has passed. It rained all day. We experienced winds gusting up to 55mph. Now the winds are about 20mph with gusts up to the high 30s. We could still lose power ... MW just sent a text about 20 minutes ago saying that they'd just lost theirs ... but it becomes less likely with each passing minute. 

I'd say the biggest effect of the day has been caused by the low pressure. Apparently, the pressure is phenomenally low and it set some kind of record. The low pressure has given me a hellacious headache and caused all sorts of problems with my inner ears. I've been feeling a bit of vertigo and queasiness, so I took Zovran and Meclizine, my one-two punch of drugs to minimize the effects of my Meniere's disease. (Speaking of which, 2 weeks ago, I had a whopper Meniere's attack and had Skip call 911 to have an ambulance take me to the ER. I couldn't stand a 10-hour attack of vertigo and vomiting with the ground heaving like I was on a ship in a choppy sea. The EMT gave me Zovran and, voila, the nausea stopped! I'd never had Zovran before, but you better believe I got a prescription for it the day after my ER visit.)

So, the stress of pre-storm worry and today's waiting out the storm has taken its toll and I'm feeling pooped. Skip's already in bed. I just have to finish the dishes and take the dogs out then I, too, shall head to bed. When I wake up tomorrow, I hope for continued electricity and a return to normal air pressure. 

Hope you are all safe and snuggled in your homes tonight!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Where Do I Begin?

Greetings! Yes, it's been a long time since posting here. Almost 3 months. Lots of stuff to catch up on ...

  • The new digs: we love our new place. We're 90%+ settled in. I still have clutter around because I'm always prepping stuff to sell, either on eBay or in one of my spots at multi-dealer shops. But, other than stuff to sell that's still boxed up, all the boxes are emptied. Paintings are up. Routines are established. It's all good. 
  • Condo living: I love having neighbors in the building. I've gotten to know a number of dog owners as we often encounter each other when out with our pups. I'm a bit saddened by the coming cold weather as it'll have us all spending the minimum time outside with our dogs rather than hanging around in the outside warmth and giving the dogs more running time while we jibber jabber with one another. Sunday night, we had dinner in the unit of the woman who lives next door. It gave us a chance to get to know her better, eat her great food, visit with some other guests and just have an excellent time for ourselves. 
  • City living: there is a downside to the city -- the noise. As the summer heat waned and the evenings grew cooler, I started opening one of the windows in the bedroom at night. The loud trucks and other street noise disturbed Skip's sleep (not mine, I'm a log-like sleeper), so we've stopped leaving it open at night. But, there are far more upsides. Everything is so close! Within a mile of our home, there are over 40 restaurants! Trader Joe's, CVS, Starbucks, the dry cleaners and jillions of other stores are all a hop skip and jump from here. There are cultural things to take advantage of in the city as well -- museums, theaters and such. We haven't taken any of them in yet, but I know we will eventually.
  • The pups: Ruby adapted quickly to the new home. After all, she's pretty much of a couch potato and only wants to go outside to "do her business." Then, it's right back in for the closest couch or other soft spot for relaxing. She got used to being carried up/down the few stairs out to the dog spot very quickly. Addy, on the other, being more high-strung, found the change a bit distressing at first. In the beginning, I kept her on a leash most of the time outside because I didn't trust her to stay in the yard. She did not want to pee while on a leash and once went more than 24 hours without peeing. Searching online, I discovered this can happen with some dogs when there's a change or other stressor in their lives. She eventually built new routines, and now she's acclimated to the new way of life. One nice things is she's met a handful of dogs with whom she can play, so that's very good for her.
  • Crankiness: I admit it, I still get cranky. Nighttime is an especially difficult time for me, and when putting Skip to bed, it is easy for me to find something trivial to trigger a crankiness attack. We often go out on Fridays for dinner with my family, who now live very close by, or on Sundays for little excursions out into the city, so those evenings were the most problematic. Because when Skip is fully dressed for going out, it requires the most effort to put her to bed. Through one of Skip's aides, we found a woman, JL, who used to work as an aide and isn't working while she goes to nursing school, who now comes on Friday and Saturday nights and handles putting Skip to bed. It takes her about 45 minutes ... 45 minutes that used to be my responsibility. We've been doing this now for about a month. Skip didn't like it at first; she's always most comfortable with me helping. But now she and JL get along famously and she enjoys having her come for the visit. I still get cranky, but not on Friday and Sunday nights!
  • Work: I tried doing some sales work for a company owned by an old boss, whom I worked with successfully for 11 years. I have now found that pure sales work is not my cup of tea. I did a lot of sales work as a consultant -- getting new business was a key part of the job -- but it was only a portion of the work, not the whole magilla. The door is open if I want to go back and give it another try. For now, I'm going to put my focus, such as it is, into buying and selling antiques and collectables. Rather than buying abandoned storage units to get inventory, I'll concentrate on auctions, estate sales and garage sales. This way, I can ensure I buy only what I want rather than have to deal with the randomness and volume of a storage unit. This is something I enjoy very much, so that's half the battle, isn't it? It'll be a lot easier to maintain motivation when I like what I'm doing.
  • Gary: I met Gary, the Crafty Southpaw, and Josie through their respective blogs. We met in person at Foxwoods to play poker a few times and also went to a Red Sox game together in the spring. On October 2nd, Gary had a stroke! He's so young, far too young to have such a thing befall him. Josie doesn't drive and lives more than an hour from Gary's rehab hospital. I offered to give her a ride down to see him, giving me a chance to visit and do a good deed at the same time. We set last Wednesday as the date. JL came over to stay with Skip and I headed into Boston to pick up Josie. We slogged through the rush hour traffic and eventually got to Gary's about 5:30. What a brat! He pretended to be "strokey boy," slurring his speech, showing little affect and basically trying to freak me out. I admit I was surprised at his demeanor as I'd thought he was in better shape. Fortunately, he could only fake it for a minute or two, then he reverted to his Gary-ness and we joked and laughed for 2 or 3 hours. I got to meet Gary's wife, and, like Gary, she is smart and funny. It seems she also has a strong personality, which one needs when living with someone with as big a personality as Gary's. The best news of all about Gary is that he's steadily improving, regaining lost functionality and is strongly motivated to work hard to get the rest of it back. 
Well, that's about it for now. Two of Skip's brothers and one sister-in-law are coming over to see our new place at the end of next week. So, I'll have to spruce up the place and get better control of my stuff sale that's scattered around. That'll be a good time to take pics and, if I get my act together, I'll post some of them to record our new home's beauteousness.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Caregiver Aids #16: DayLite Sling

When I was perusing the Surehands site (I believe it's called Handimove) in advance of purchasing our newest lift system, I noticed they had a new kind of sling which they call the DayLite Sling. It's specifically designed for people who spend a lot of time sitting on their sling, which admittedly happens to Skip. Her regular sling that she uses day in and day out cannot be removed once she's seated in her chair. I've always suspected sitting on the mesh sling reduces the effectiveness of the uber-fancy Roho cushion she has. Roho cushions are filled with little air bladders that give more pressure relief than your average wheelchair cushion.
I was intrigued by the DayLite sling and the salesguy who came to check out our new place brought one with him for me to look at. The key differences between this sling and conventional slings are:
  • It uses parachute fabric which is light and smooth. Also wicks away sweat from the skin. Typical slings are made with a none-too-soft mesh or a sueded fabric.
  • The sling has extremely flat seams so there's less possibility that a sore could develop where a seam meets the skin.
  • It's made in a split leg design so it can be easily removed from under the patient if desired.
  • The sling features batting in the legs so there's less likelihood of bunching when placed under the patient's thighs.
Let me just say I was taken aback by the cost of this item -- $450! However, if it delivered on its promise, I figured it would be much better for Skip to use it day in and day out.
Amazingly, it delivers! It is the best sling I've ever used by far. By a mile. I've always hated using split leg slings. Skip has only used them in the past when she was going out and wanted to be sling-free in her chair. Putting the sling back under her before transferring from wheelchair to bed was somewhat of an ordeal and often resulted in less than smooth transfers. In fact, once the transfer went so wrong, I had to call the fire department to come over and help me get Skip from the half-in, half-out position she once got caught in with a split leg transfer gone wrong. With the DayLite Sling, the legs easily slide under Skip for correct placement due to the slippery fabric. The sling legs do not bunch and provide good support under her thighs.
I still can't believe how much it cost but I rationalize the expense by reminding myself how much better this design is for Skip and how long it's expected to last. I expect we'll still be using this particular sling when we see 2022.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Surehands Installation

My very first Caregiver Aids post was about the Surehands lift we had installed in our old home. It served us very well and proved a safe and convenient transfer method for the last 4 or 5 years. When we moved to our new home, I knew we'd want to get a new one installed as quickly as possible.

I set up a time for the salesperson from the Surehands distributor/installer to come to the condo even before we were fully moved in. He took measurements, reviewed options, discussed equipment we had that could be reused and/or traded in. Within a couple days, he sent us quotes for 3 different installation options. In one case, we could use our old motor and track and pay only for installation. In the other 2 options, we'd upgrade to the new motor. We decided to get a new motor since the one we were using we'd purchased used and was getting a bit old.

As it turned out, the ceiling in our bedroom is almost 12' high. A bit lower and they'd have installed the Surehands track directly onto the ceiling. At that height, though, they needed to install sturdy bars, like rebar, that hang down about 2' and then suspend the track from these bars.

We set up a 10am appointment for last Wednesday. The installers showed up right on schedule and got to work. It took the installer quite a while to find joists in the ceiling. His last ditch effort was to cut a hole in the ceiling to find them. If he hadn't been able to find them, we'd have had to go to Plan B - with a wall-installed motor or a bridge going up the walls and across the ceiling to hold the motor and track. Neither had appeal (certainly, the bridge is more expensive) and would have delayed the installation by quite a bit. Fortunately, he found what he needed after cutting the hole and they were finally underway.

Well, the whole thing took a long time -- 9 hours! They occasionally grumbled to the effect ... "they told us it was an easy job -- only 2 or 3 hours," but managed to soldier on and get the whole thing completely installed for us.

You can see in the ceiling where the hole was replaced and mudded, along with filling the many test holes drilled before the hole was cut. In reality, they hardly show and I don't see any point in repainting them.

If you look at the photo from our last home, Skip used a body support for lifting when it was first installed. She switched to a sling a few years ago. The spreader bar that hangs from the motor has 4 spots to hold the 4 straps for lifting the sling.
Here's a photo of a sling in action from the Surehands site. Skip does not smile like this when being transferred!

Soon after the installers left, we gave the lift its first run. Worked like a charm! All around, the system is working beautifully. I would prefer a wireless remote for operating the motor, but that would have added over $1000 to the system and I just couldn't rationalize the cost.

Happily, this was the only modification we needed to make to the condo due to Skip's disability.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Post Move Pics

We've been in our new home since 7/3. Lots of progress in the unpacking, but still far to go ...

Looking at the main room as you first see it when you enter from the front hall

On Wednesday, we got all the stereo components hooked up so we can now fill the shelves in the entertainment center. The glass front cabinet is new. We bought it at a teak place that's going out of business.

My office has become a box dumping ground. The office chair arm was a casualty of the move. Can't use a rolling chair, though, at my desk. The floor is sloped so the chair rolls away from the desk when you sit down!

This room was once the main entrance to the school. The gray wall covers the double doors that were once there. It's home to paintings for now. We're getting an IKEA wardrobe for the right-hand wall. I picked up that teak wall unit off of Craigs list just before we moved.

The Hoyer lift we used for transferring Skip until we had the lift installed on Wednesday (yay!).

Long, skinny storage room. We're going to put 2 more courses of shelves above these for things we hardly ever use.

Skip's spot in the living room. She can back her chair in. It's a great spot, at the intersection of the two a/c vents blowing air into the room from about 10' up. The dogs can get up on the bed on the table to the right. There's a ramp going up to it from behind.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

There's Unpacking to Do!

The main room (LR/DR/Kitchen combo) from our new condo looked at it from 2 different perspectives. You can't tell much about it except we've got lots of windows and lots of boxes.

The move went very smoothly. It was beastly hot, but we had no rain, which is key for a successful move.

Our new washer and dryer is coming in the morning; cable guy arrives in the afternoon. Also, the Surehands representative is coming in the afternoon to assess the possibility of installing the lift in our bedroom ceiling. We should be able to use the equipment we have here in the bedroom today, which will save us mucho dinero, versus having to buy a new motor and track.

I'm hoping to get a fair amount of unpacking done tomorrow afternoon. I need to clear some space in the main room for Skip's wheelchair so she can get around.

And what the hell are we going to call the main room?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's Really Here

In the morning, my brother, BW and 2 other strong guys are arriving at 9. Bro and BW are coming in a 24' UHaul truck. They're going to load up almost everything in the house, except for things we need to live here for 2 more days. After we load up, it's off to Worcester for the unloading and initial setup.

All the boxes going tomorrow are staged in the living room upstairs (shown here) and the playroom downstairs

This house has an incredible amount of storage. These built-in pine shelves are in the playroom. The paneling in the room was milled from trees we cut down to clear the lot for the house.

We better not forget the few wine bottles in the cellar. We bought those bottle on a trip to Northern California with my parents 10 years ago. We don't drink much!
Skip and I will sleep in our new home on Tuesday night, just in time to see the Worcester fireworks. Apparently, we'll be able to see them from our condo. We're using Monday to do more prep both in Worcester and here so the place is a bit more settled when Skip and the pups roll into town.

Let the moving begin!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Home Stretch

Hard to believe this, but in less than a week, we'll be living in our condo.

As anyone who has ever worked with me knows, I'm a last minute kind of gal. Very deadline-driven. In the case of moving, though, I've been working at it steadily since the house sold. I've had my friend BW helping me. For a few weeks, he came once a week, then twice a week, and now he's here 5 days a week. I'm so lucky to have him. He's the hardest worker I've ever had the pleasure to do this kind of project with. He comes at 8 and stays until 4 and hardly ever stops. He's independent and full of great ideas. My biggest challenge working with him is keeping a few steps ahead in the sorting process so I can have things ready for him to pack.

Up until today, we focused our sorting and packing efforts on things that wouldn't impact Skip's and my day-to-day living. Since I only have BW until Friday and our first moving day is Sunday, I figured I couldn't postpone packing up the kitchen, master bath bedroom any longer.

Up until now, I haven't felt much emotion going through the endless array of stuff needing to be handled. Sheepish at the sheer volume of it all. Confidence as we've steadily worked through it all, knowing we'd be ready in time for the move. A tinge of sadness at all the things I'm saying goodbye to - books I'll never have time to read again, records I'll never listen to again, clothes that no longer fit since I've regained so much of the 100 lbs I lost 10 years ago. Now that I'm packing up dishes and spices and food, emptying out the kitchen, it's really hitting me: very soon, this house will no longer be ours. The home of my youth, the house my parents built, the place where I really became a responsible adult (after we moved back here 23 years ago) ... soon that home will belong to a young family that can't wait to send their kids off to the town's wonderful school system. Funny that packing floss and deodorant and bandaids can be such a sad exercise.

I'm sure the last time I see this house, when I close the door behind me, I'll feel a deep sadness. But I know this move is the right one for us, so that sadness will be tempered by the happiness of moving into our new home, settling in there, and beginning to take advantage of all that Worcester will offer us.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Expiration Dates

When I was a kid, back in the Paleolithic Era, milk didn't last for very long before it went sour. My mother went grocery shopping once a week and milk didn't last that long, so a milkman delivered it during the week, too. Everyone had the milkman deliver when I was a kid.

I can't believe how long milk lasts now. At least a couple of weeks. Cream even longer, well over a month.

When something I'm looking forward to is coming up, I am always glad when the expiration date of the cream I buy occurs on or after that event. This was especially true of vacations. I'd always be excited to know vacation was so soon our cream would still be good when we headed out.

Earlier this week, I bought cream that'll expire after we've moved. That means we're really, really close.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Caregiver Aids #15: Panic Pendant

"Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!" That's how many of us were first introduced to panic pendants. Basically, it's a device that hangs around the user's neck (or is clipped somewhere convenient) that can be used to notify a monitoring service that you're in trouble.

The one we have today is pretty limited, with no ability to speak to a rep. All it does is alert the security folks that Skip needs help and contacts the police to come to our house. We've had it for about 3 years and she's never used it, fortunately.

The 5Star Responder

Moving, I figured we'd look at a more up to date device that, at a minimum, included the ability to converse with the call center. The Jitterbug folks, who market a cell phone that's easy for seniors to use, have just introduced the 5Star Urgent Responder. It's basically the size of a folding cell phone and works without a base station. It has a big button on it. You press the button to reach a rep or, if you press it for a long time, it'll call 911 directly. Because it comes installed with a GPS and isn't tethered to a base station, it's usable pretty much anywhere, not just inside our home. The gadget costs about $50 with an activation fee of $35 and a monthly service fee of $15. The monthly service fee is about half of what other services typically cost, though most of those services give you all the equipment without additional charge. We'll break even by paying for the equipment in about 6 months and, of course, we'll need this service for far longer than that.

Like a cell phone, this will need to be charged regularly. It goes for about 3 days without recharging. I can just charge this when I'm at home and make sure it's back with Skip before I go gallivanting off to do something outside, like take the dogs out to pee.

I'm thinking we'll give this one a try.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Best Chair Ever

Skip got a new wheelchair yesterday. She had a pretty cool one before, but this new one has every bell and whisle imaginable. It's a mid-wheel drive machine, so it has a tighter turning radius that her previous chair, which had rear wheel drive. It's got all sorts of power features, primarily designed to help the user change pressure points to head off development of pressure sores. It tilts. It reclines. The legs can be raised up. The best feature? You can raise the seat up a full 12". This will be great for Skip, especially in social settings, where she can be more at eye level when speaking to people who are standing. It's just completely cool.

At rest - cool body color, eh?

With the seat elevated

The seat fully reclined and the legs lifted

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Caregiver Aids #14: Video Baby Monitor

Why didn't I think of this before?

Skip spends a lot of time in the bedroom. I am in there with her quite a bit, but am often elsewhere in the house or garage. And, now that I've started my new part-time job, I'm working downstairs (here and there) in the family room, so I can close the door and cut off the sound of dog barking while I'm on the phone. Basically, I'm often out of earshot. When Skip wants something, I hear mumble, mumble, mumble, occasionally catching a word or two. Sometimes she calls my cell phone. So, I have to go into the bedroom to find out what Skip needs. The call out for assistance (that I perceive as a "come here now" demand) followed by the need to perform the task, which I often view as trivial (but face it, Skip can't get it done without my assistance), can trigger crankiness. I'm wondering why this isn't listed as a cranky reason.

When I was still employed full-time, we briefly tried a walkie talkie to communicate between rooms. Unfortunately, Skip's hands don't work well enough to operate the buttons so the experiment was a failure. I resigned myself to being summoned by mumble, mumble, mumble for the years to come.

There's a jewelry store ad running on tv that uses a video baby monitor as a prop in the story. I knew there were audio baby monitors, which I assumed only communicated one-way, but never thought that there were video ones. I took a brief look on Amazon to find a huge array of video monitors, but didn't make a decision on which to purchase. Skip and I talked about how she could signal me by waving her hand so, even if I was on the phone, I'd know she needed me. Last night, we watched an episode of The Mentalist on the DVR and saw a baby video monitor used as a plot device. This time, I saw it included 2-way communication, which I didn't realize existed, but which makes sense if I'd thought about it.

So, today I ordered the setup above on Amazon. It's got all the features I'm interested in plus a few we'll never use. Interesting features: 2.8" video monitor, mute on my end, wireless connection up to 600', secure connection to protect privacy, 2-way communication. Unnecessary features that parents will like: infrared camera for night visibility, in-room temperature monitor and 5 pre-loaded lullabys. The info on Amazon said you can use the 2-way communication to sing or speak to your baby. I've already warned Skip she'll be hearing my singing soon! Best feature of all: it's returnable for up to 365 days, as Amazon has a special return deal for baby items. So, if it turns out not to meet our needs, we can return it and try a different one.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

At the Pahk

Gary and Josie

G&J with the lovely Skip during the 10 minutes she wore this hoodie. Then she got too hot.

We went off to Fenway Park on Sunday to meet up with my brother, Josie and Gary to take in a Red Sox game. Some impressions from the day:
  • We got up nice and early (can you say 6am?) as we had to be out of the house by noon.
  • The weather turned out to be nicer than I'd expected. Neither Josie nor I ended up using the throws I brought.
  • Skip got quite a sunburn on her face, arms, neck and upper chest. I got a minor one on the right side of my face only. Stylish!
  • The tables at the right field roof box (under the Budweiser sign for those familiar with the Pahk) are great for visiting with friends but not so great for watching the game. That was okay with me, as my intentions were 75% socializing and 25% game watching.
  • The Red Sox suck! Clay Bucholz gave up a home run in the first and we knew the game was over. Spotting the Orioles a 5-1 lead, the Sox did score a grand slam in the 4th (I think) to tie things up. We finally left at the start of the 13th inning and watched the Sox lose in the 17th when both teams had position players pitching since they'd used up all the pitchers.
  • This was a chance to get to know Gary and Josie better and I enjoyed myself with them immensely. My brother and Gary spent time talking about tracking the game (Gary had a pad for scoring) ... adventures in geekland! Skip is shy meeting new folks but enjoyed herself as well.
  • It was great having some time out with Skip. She doesn't get out much, mostly just for quick shopping trips and the like. We had time outside, time with new friends, a no-stress outing.
One last thought ... the Red Sox organization has been claiming a sold out streak of many years duration. Unless "sold out" means 90% of the seats in the park are sold, I think their claim is bunk. We saw whole rows in the upper bleachers completely vacant. Seemed to be more open in general than I recall from years past. I noticed the handicapped accessible seats down by the ball boy on the first base line that cost $250 each in 2004 were all vacant. I wonder when they finally admit the park isn't sold out?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fun and Remembrance

Tomorrow, May 6th, I'm going to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Orioles. By coincidence, it's also the second anniversary of my dad's death.

Skip and I are meeting up with my brother, Josie and Gary at Fenway. We're up on the right field roof box, a relatively new area in the park, with table seating and waitress service. This has become our go-to spot for Red Sox games. You're pretty far away from the game, but the setting is great for socializing.

We started going to games at Fenway, taking advantage of wheelchair seating, in 2004 (great timing, eh?). Turns out the park has a lot of excellent wheelchair seating and it's relatively easy to buy these tickets. For instance, we wanted to go to opening day 2005 to see the ring ceremony and the rest of the celebration for the Red Sox' win of the 2004 World Series. We got those tickets, first row of the bleachers, at face value by calling the Sox ticket office. When I met Gary at Foxwoods a while back, he mentioned he'd bought tickets, horrible last row of the bleachers tickets, for that game so he and his dad could take in the excitement and he paid a huge sum of money for them in the aftermarket. So far, this is one of the only silver linings I've found to Skip's wheelchair usage. (Other examples are handicapped parking and getting on the rides at Disney World by skipping ahead in line.)

This year, the Red Sox are heartily sucking and the weather is only going to hit the mid 60's tomorrow. However, I am sure we'll have a wonderful time because the company is going to be wonderful. I plan to laugh all day. Win or lose, it'll be a winner day for me on the Fens.

I only went to Fenway once with my dad. It was my first visit there, back in 1967. I did suggest taking him when he was in his late 70s or early 80s, but we never worked out the plan. It would have been fun. He was smart and observant and open to new experiences. I'd have enjoyed a chance to see the park and experience the game through his eyes, as he shared his observations.

My dad was an impressive guy. Good at everything he did, active in the town and our church and incredibly handy around the house. Difficult to be his daughter while I was growing up, especially as a teen and young adult. In my teens, especially, we tangled frequently. As I became increasingly responsible as an adult, his respect for me grew and it was wonderful to have him in my court as a source of support. In his last few years, I became a regular (twice a month, on average) visitor to my parents' house on the Cape to help pay the bills and (supposedly) balance the checkbook (at which I'm not very good). But, really, it was mostly about the visit.

A lot has changed since the old boy died. My mom tried out one assisted living place that wasn't a good fit, sold her house on the Cape and moved into another assisted living place that's working out beautifully for her. I got laid off. I took stock of what my life had been like pre-layoff, with all the demands of my job combined with all the demands of caregiving, and realized I never, never, never wanted to go back to that kind of life. I always had an endless to-do list, I was always behind and under stress. I felt some satisfaction from my job, but not enough to make it soul-satisfying.

If we were entering a new financial reality where we'd no longer enjoy a nice paycheck in exchange for that demanding job, our circumstances would have to align with that reality. Downsizing to a much less expensive home is a key part of aligning our lifestyle with our finances. So, soon we'll be saying goodbye to the first house my parents designed and built together. My dad betrayed a strong streak of sentimentality in his later years, so I'm sure he'd be sad to see this house leave our family, just as I will. But, he was a practical yankee and will applaud our hard-headed sensibility that sees us embarking on a new phase of life, in our new condo in Worcester.

And, now that I've made myself feel thoroughly sentimental, I shall sign off. Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It was a long weekend, waiting for negotiations to wrap up on the condo we chose to buy, but it all came to a happy conclusion last night.

As I mentioned in my last post, we decided to take a road trip on Thursday so Skip could get inside our top two options and see them for herself. We first went to the loft in Worcester. She was able to get around as well as I expected. Those schoolroom hallways are WIDE. She was concerned about the lack of a private deck, the need for me to take stairs to take out the dogs (I found on this visit that it's only 6 stairs out, no need to take an elevator) and the lack of storage in the place. On the way into the building, we met a tenant who clearly loves the place and talked about how the patio out in front of the building gets a lot of use on warm and sunny weekend days.

On the way out, I asked the developer, who had let us in, if we'd be able to park pods in the parking lot when we moved in, if we bought there. I explained we'd be moving out of our home a few days before moving in so would have to briefly store our belongings in pods. He said if the tenants move out (he's been renting to tenants at will for a while) by June 30, we could move in before actually buying the place. This would save us a ton of dough for a hotel, for pod rentals and for extra moving effort!

Then we went on to the exurb where we were looking at the 55+ condo. Skip really liked the private deck, though didn't like that it was one story off the ground and thought that'd be an issue when Addy was out there with us ... she'd be trying to find a way off of it. She liked the size of the main living area, which is a bit bigger than in Worcester, and the amount of storage, especially since it has a full basement. She really didn't like the counters or appliances in the kitchen, though they don't bother me much ... just quite dull.

We chatted for a bit in the master bedroom about the two options. How should we proceed? Skip was clearly torn. She liked both places for different reasons. Then, I had a flash of inspiration. 55+ condos have sprung up all over the place, they're a dime a dozen. This loft is unique and we won't have many opportunities to get a place like it if we let it pass us by. That decided it. We chose the loft. If, as we age, we feel a suburban setting at a 55+ place makes more sense, we can always find something suitable and move into one then.

We are very excited! Now, if I could just get a home inspector to call me back so I can set up the inspection ...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Be Safe and Practical or Take a Chance and be Adventurous?

The house sale is moving on in an orderly fashion. The home inspection has occurred, the warts fully exposed. Fortunately, no warts are too scary for the buyers. The P&S is in draft mode and should be finalized today.

Our attentions have turned to buying our next home. I've gone on two tours of multiple properties with my realtors (two women that work in a team). We've focused our search on the following:
  • condos, so a lot of the ongoing responsibilities for exterior and grounds maintenance is assumed by someone else
  • properties that will accommodate Skip's wheelchair, with no stairs outside or in (except to get down to a basement, which she won't need to do), wider doorways (desirable but not a must-have). This has eliminated a huge number of condos that have multiple living levels. In fact, just about every non-55+ condo in our preferred area has been eliminated due to disabled needs.
  • central Massachusetts, in and around Worcester. Property values are lower here than where we currently live, so we get more for our money. Also, it puts us closer to where my mom lives and the shops where I sell stuff.
  • Two bedroom homes so I have an office.
Having seen about 10 places in person, we've narrowed our search down to two places that are very different. We are having a helluva time trying to decide which one to go with.
  • Safe and Practical: This is a 1400 sq ft ranch-style attached condo in a 55+ community. Two bedrooms; the master is a bit larger than our current one, which I had hoped for. Two car garage, with 2 steps into the house from the garage, which can easily be replaced by a ramp. It's 9 years old, in impeccable condition. The bedrooms have wall to wall carpet that we'd replace with hardwood floors. The ramp and the flooring are the only mods I'd make. The community has a lot of green space, our unit is at the end of a long row of homes and would look out over lots of woods, has a deck on the back where Skip could look out at those woods and the critters living in them. Taking the dogs out would be a snap -- attach leashes and step out the front door. We met the husband of the couple that lives next door. He seems like a really nice guy. So what's wrong with it? Well, everyone in the community will be old! It's bringing out my ageist side. Also, the housing stock in the neighborhood is really beige and generic. Quite a change from our contemporary home.
  • Adventurous: this is a 1450 sq ft condo in a converted schoolhouse in Worcester. The schoolhouse was built in the 1890s and converted to condos about 6 years ago. The unit has a lot of WOW factor. Huge 4' x 7' windows, 11' high ceilings, some features leftover from the schoolhouse days including exposed brick and a chalkboard. The bedrooms are the same size or a little bit smaller than our current one. Taking the dogs out will be a bit of a hassle -- taking an elevator and then half a flight of steps (these are mini-dachshunds who don't do stairs) out the back to the designated dog spot. There's designated parking in the lot but no garage. The unit is set up beautifully if we ever wanted to hire live-in help. There are 9 colleges in Worcester, providing a great supply of young people needing a place to live and I could see it being relatively easy to trade housing for labor. The two bedrooms are at opposite ends of the space, a good 30 or 40 feet away. The master bedroom, bathroom and study are all separated from the main part of the unit by a huge old schoolroom door. The kitchen/dining room/living room space is an excellent size. Storage isn't the best in the place, so we'd buy some wooden armoire/cabinets for that. The schoolhouse is located right off the "restaurant row" of Worcester, with tons of options for eating and takeout. The neighborhood is well-maintained.
In re-reading my write-up, the 55+ condo sounds like a better option, but the schoolhouse condo still calls to me. Why? The space is beautiful. I like the lack of cookie-cutter sameness. It is definitely unique. I like city living. I was living in Boston when Skip and I met and we lived in Boston and a few surrounding cities until my parents made us an offer we couldn't refuse to move out to the suburbs to our current home, the house I grew up in. When visiting Boston for meals out or to attend theater or sporting events, we've often commented how we'd love to move back. To me, a city is more lively and is walkable. You don't need to get into your car for everything, even the simplest errand. I'm not sure we'll really have a more walkable setting in Worcester, but it's certainly more walkable than the 55+ community out in the exurbs. I just checked the walkability scores on Zillow. Our current home is an 11 - car dependent. The Worcester location is a 60 and the exurb is a 9.

We've decided to go back to our two favorites one more time tomorrow afternoon (well, honestly, Skip hasn't seen inside them, only done drivebys, so this'll be her first view of the interior). Following that, we're going to settle on one, even if it's by eenie-meenie-miny-mo, and make an offer. Either place will be a lovely next stop for the 2 humans and 2 dogs that comprise our immediate family.

Wish us luck tomorrow -- that we can happily settle on one or the other.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Well, I haven't signed the P&S yet, but, for all intents and purposes, the house is sold!

Yesterday's open house was from 1-3. When we pulled out of the driveway at 12:45, there was a car parked on the street waiting for the open house, and another pulled onto our street as we were chatting with the realtor for a minute before leaving the neighborhood. Both those early birds made offers, along with 2 other couples.

In total, there were about 20 people/families who came by to see the house. A number of them didn't like the layout of the bedrooms for their kids, since there are 2 bedrooms upstairs and 2 downstairs. But the ones who did like it, as the realtors told us, were just in love with the place. With the beautiful wood, the contemporary design, the wonderful natural setting of the lot, the cul de sac street and our McMansion neighbors.

So, I guess I don't have to worry about how we're going to handle viewings, with all the challenges for Skip to get out of the house, because there won't be any. And, I don't have to worry about the process dragging on for months, because it only took 4 days to sell the place. We will have a July closing, so I don't have to worry too much about finding our next home, but it does need to move to the front burner.

Yesterday, Skip and I drove around Worcester, a mid-sized city in central Massachusetts, doing drivebys of about 6 condos we're interested in. I even got to go inside one 55+ condo townhouse because the next door neighbor offered to show us around. Right now, we can't decide if we want a 55+ condo built within the last few years (surrounded by green space, but very "beige"), a loft in a reclaimed mill (truly mid-city, a setting we haven't been in for over 25 years) or a regular condo beside water (will this place really be accessible without major work?). I'm going on a field trip with one of our realtors (they work in a pair) on Wednesday to actually look at some of these places and see if I fall in love with any of them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Open House Today

Skip, the girls and I are heading out of here at 12:30 to make way for our first open house. I'm hoping it's an active time for the realtors. If the action around our house the last few days is any indicator, I suspect a lot of visitors will tramp through the house.

On Friday, when I was out of the house, someone knocked on the door. MW answered, and a stranger stood there, saying he was looking to buy a house in our town. He asked about exits and handicapped accessibility. MW directed him to today's open house and he went on his way. Yesterday morning, we saw people out on the street peering through the trees at the house. Then in the late afternoon, someone drove up the driveway and quickly turned around and left.

I try to be realistic and recognize that waiting for your house to sell is typically a waiting game, requiring a good amount of patience, something I don't possess in abundance. So, I alternate between talking myself into a patient state and then bouncing back into a happy, hopeful state -- that we've priced the place attractively and get an offer right away.

Can't wait to hear the feedback from the realtors later this afternoon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's a Go!

Today, our house goes on the market. We have an open house scheduled for this Sunday.

We live in a community west of Boston. When my parents moved here in !958, it was quite rural. Now, it's a very, very expensive town without many open spaces for building left. I just did a search on MLS (real estate listing service) and there are about 150 single family homes for sale in our town. Forty of them are listed at $1 million plus! The most expensive place is offered at over $3 million. You have to get about two-thirds of the way through the list to get to houses in our price range. Sadly, a house lot is listed for about the same price as our house!

There's a lot of houses now that are bought and torn down and replaced with the biggest McMansion the lot can support. Many homes here in town are split levels at about 1500 square feet, similar to the first place my parents bought here 50+ years ago. These are instant tear-downs. So, some neighborhoods are now a patchwork of brand-new monsters surrounded by half-century old homes in a bit of disrepair. After all, why bother to do any work on your house if you know the minute it's turned over, it's plowed under?

Fortunately, our house does not fall into the tear-down category. It's a unique house, architect designed. Also, it's a contemporary. I checked the MLS listings. Right now, it's the only contemporary in town on the market. Every other house is a colonial. Our realtors tell us that contemporaries are "destination" houses. They attract their own pool of buyers. So, we've got some good things going for us. In addition to the contemporary design, the most important feature is that we're "reasonably" priced in a town where home prices are typically stratopheric.

So, here's hoping someone falls in love with our house soon. It's exciting to finally be in the market.

Below are some pics ... We've got the place pretty spruced up. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures of the front of the house, but here are a few to show off how cleaned up and cleared out we are. The first 4 are different views of the living room. The fireplace is made from an old stone wall in town. The screen in the fourth picture separates the living room from the foyer. The patio is all cleaned up and the bridge for Skip's wheelchair between garage and house is newly stained. The yard, while it doesn't have much grass, is all cleaned up and the fence has been stained. The dining room abuts the living room and the fireplace is open to it as well as the living room.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

25 Random Things

If you're a Facebook user, you may recall a lot of your friends in 2009 posted lists of "25 random things" about themselves as a Facebook note. A friend of mine, Gary, recently posted his list from that era and suggested others do the same. I think this is a great idea and I'd love to read others' lists if they're up for posting them.

I dug mine up and post it here. Of course I would, as it states in #1, I'm my own favorite subject, so I'm happy for the option to share this stuff about me. In rereading the list, I see that a lot has changed in the 3 years since I wrote this. My Dad and my favorite dog ever, Sally, have both died. Sally just over 2 years ago. My Dad in May of 2010. I no longer have a job (yay!).

Without further ado, my 2009 25 random things ....

  1. I am my own favorite subject (so this kind of exercise is really fun!).
  2. Because of #1, I often share too much information about my personal life to those I know only professionally or as casual acquaintances.
  3. In my best moments, I wonder how Skip (my wife) has been able to put up with me for almost 28 years.
  4. Even at 52, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. By this, I mean I have never found a job that aligned with the things I’m passionate about. And, I also have trouble figuring out my passions.
  5. I have an excellent vocabulary and love to use it to good effect. While I think this provides greater clarity in my speaking and writing, I suspect it often has the opposite effect, as the words I use are not always understood by my audience.
  6. At times, I try to focus on what’s really important, such as the love of others and loving them in return. But, it’s really, really easy for me to get mired in the crap of daily life and forget how privileged I actually am.
  7. My parents never thought I’d graduate from high school. I flunked 5 of my 6 classes freshman year (passed algebra with a D-). After I got suspended 7 times in my sophomore year for cutting classes, my parents sent me to private school. For some reason, I excelled there and managed to graduate when I was 16.
  8. I live in the house I grew up in. For the first 10 years we lived here, that was totally intimidating to me, as my parents were frequent visitors and I worried what they thought of how we maintained it. I eventually grew out of that mindset and now mentally “own” it. We’ve now been here 20 years.
  9. We have two dogs, piebald mini dachshunds. I always related to dogs as dogs, not pseudo-people. However, all that has changed with one of them, Sally, about whom I am absolutely besotted.
  10. 2008 was the worst year of my life. Too many bad things happened to me and those around me; worst of all were my reactions to those occurrences. I look forward to the return of my resiliency in 2009.
  11. Sad to say but my musical tastes pretty much calcified when I was in college.
  12. I have huge respect for my dad, who is a real renaissance man. Now in his 80’s, with significant health issues, my respect continues to grow as I see how he grapples with those issues.
  13. Speaking of health issues, I am continuously impressed with how Skip deals with her MS. She’s had it for over 20 years and it has robbed her of so much, yet she manages a positive outlook most of the time. In her shoes, I suspect I’d not deal with it with such grace.
  14. I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on.
  15. My parents didn’t own a TV from the time I was 8 or 9 until I was in college. I think this helped me develop the love of reading that I have to this day.
  16. I am at my best in the early morning. It’s strictly downhill from there.
  17. My ears have been ringing for 30 years and my hearing, left ear especially, is not so great. Ironically, the cable box in the bedroom makes a low hum that I can hear and find quite annoying while Skip can’t hear it.
  18. I have passed out from the violence in two movies, and almost passed out from a third. They are Le Chien Andelou, The Piano and the almost was Catch-22. I have a reputation for squeamishness about movies that is not entirely deserved as one of my favorite movies is Fargo, which has a lot of violence. However, I am very careful about screening movies for this before viewing them and find it’s best to watch a questionable movie at home, so I can easily stop it.
  19. I am fortunate to have a job where I can work from home. To date, the most extreme thing that’s happened while I’ve been working at home was the time Skip fell out of her wheelchair and turned her ankle 180 degrees, breaking it in 3 places. When she called out to me for help, I was on a conference call that I was facilitating. Through instant messaging, I got a colleague to carry on and went to help Skip. When I got back on, no one knew I’d been away.
  20. My mother thinks I’m too conservative.
  21. I am a huge Red Sox fan, but perhaps don’t have the right temperament for baseball fandom. Even a good season usually has about 60 or 70 losses and each one is hard for me to take.
  22. I have been fat since I was 5 or 6. I figure it’s in my genes. My mother’s father weighed 400 pounds and I’m distantly related to America’s fattest president. Lots of other fat folks in my family tree.
  23. Starting in my teens, I developed the perspective that my size wasn’t a problem, instead it was society’s reaction to it that was a problem. My mantra: being fat isn’t inherently unhealthy, you can be fat and lead a healthy lifestyle. In my early 40s I had an epiphany: I was eating unhealthfully, my weight was creeping up year after year and decided I’d better shape up or I’d start feeling the effects on my health. Lost 98 pounds. Put a good portion of it back on in the last 6 years, but still working on the healthy lifestyle.
  24. My favorite personality type to work with? Curmudgeons. You always know where you stand with them.
  25. I’m a true child of the 1960s; I still have problems dealing with authority figures or being told what to do.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Cranky Reason #4: It Never Ends

I'll tell you what makes me cranky pretty much every day. The caregiving never ends. Never is there a point where I do something in caring for Skip and I say to myself, "well, that's done then."

And the demands have increased over time and will increase as the years go by. Unlike kids, who grow up and become independent (yeah, yeah I know they're always your kids, but the active care for them day in day out ends in the vast majority of cases).

It's important for me to get breaks from the demands of caregiving. Without them, my ability to approach caregiving in good humor diminishes to almost nothing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Out and About With Skip

For those of you who don't live in New England, you may not be aware that we're having the freakiest week of March weather ever in these parts. Continuing the trend of mild weather we had all winter, March has been very warm, with temps in the 70s on Wednesday. Thursday is forecast to hit the mid 80s, over 10 degrees above the previous record high.

Skip and I had to take advantage of this weather, and get her out and about. Sadly, she has not been out with me in the car since dinner with friends on January 12th, the night before her flap surgery. The other day, she made a foray out onto the patio for a bit of fresh air and sun. Besides that, she's been truly housebound this winter.

We had planned to take in a movie, but there really wasn't one thing showing at nearby theaters that interested us. So, a late lunch out at Legal Seafoods was followed by a drive around to two 55+ condo communities that I wanted to see.

Legal Seafoods is a chain that started as a fish market then single restaurant in Cambridge, Mass about 50 years ago. Now, they're a chain that, I believe, has locations up and down the eastern seaboard. It's our favorite place for fish and Skip was hankering for one of their lobster rolls. We got there around 3. Our waiter greeted us warmly. He's seen us every few months for a meal there for years and years. Skip got her lobster roll and I decided to try a crab roll. I'm too embarrassed to list all the sides we had. Suffice it say it was a feast!

Eating out at off hours is good for us. Skip's hands are so weak now that, even with her specially adapted silverware, she can really struggle eating. What often happens is she'll start off eating on her own but as the meal progresses that becomes harder and harder as her hand gets weaker. I eat faster than she does, so when I'm done with my own meal, I take over and feed her. A quiet restaurant with only a few other patrons is a much easier setting for Skip as she's embarrassed by having someone else feed her. I say, screw it, don't worry about the other folks, but of course I have no idea how I'd feel were I the one in her shoes.

After rolling out of Legal's, we went off to scout out two condo communities that are limited to 55+ and have units for sale in our price range. The first consists of 150 2-story townhouses that are built out in little clusters of 8-10 units per street. In the listings online, they show a second story, but the units only have a very large loft room there, both bedrooms are located on the first floor. This community is appealing because it's in our preferred area and the housing stock consists of townhouses, but all the units are larger than I'd like - in the 1700-1800 sq ft range. I am more interested in 1100-1200 sq ft. At that size, though, the units you find are typically more like apartments in mid-rise buildings. Which, coincidentally, was the configuration of the other condo community we drove by.

Driving through the first community, I tried not to sing "Little Boxes," by Malvina Reynolds. The chorus goes something like, "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same ...." All the houses were all tan, some had two garages, some had one. Some had walk out basements if they were built on a slope, some did not. But, they all looked virtually the same. I could live with that, though I'd prefer a bit of individuality. What surprised me a bit was that each entry had 2 steps up to a small landing and then a step up from there into the house. Aren't these places built for old folks with limited mobility? It makes me wonder if there are steps from the garage into the house. And, is a single car garage wide enough for us to lower the ramp out the side in The Toaster and for Skip to wheel in and out of the car? These and other questions will be answered when my realtors and I go for a tour of some units there

We then drove over to the other community, which has a couple of units available now at the bottom of our price rangeThis place is a recently built 3 story building with about 20 units. It looked nice, with a low row of garages across the street from it. Behind the building looks treed, and there's water in the name of the place, so maybe there are walking trails by a river there. It's surrounded by townhomes that I expect are also 55+ but are probably outside of our price range. Also, they looked to have the bedrooms on the second floor, which is clearly an impossible setup for us. Also in this complex, there's an "Inn." Inn is a euphemism for an assisted living place with an Alzheimer's unit attached. I was offended that they couldn't be more honest in their naming.

As I drove home, I mused over the possibility of staying in our current home. That says to me neither community, from the outside, knocked my socks off. I really hope those little houses on the hillside knock them off when I get to see their insides.

One other thing I was musing about on the drive home. The weather felt like early summer, but it's just the second day of spring and there isn't a leaf on a tree anywhere. It's a very strange combination to have: this wonderful balmy weather without the usual green leafy trees and bright green yards everywhere.

I'm glad Skip and I got to spend time out together. Great meal. Good data gathering. It's nice to see her getting back to a bit of normalcy. Now, if only a good movie hits the big screen, we can head out to a weekday matinee.