Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Brioche Triumph

Dear John,
 
I've had a slow day. Ben was supposed to come by on his way home from his parents' house, so I stayed home. I haven't heard from him, so I don't expect to see him.
 
Staying home was frustrating but probably for the best. I've been having trouble with numbness in my left hand and arm for a few months, and last night it progressed to pain and kept me up half the night. I may have to actually see a doctor about it. It's not cardiac - it's positional, not exertional. It isn't a circulatory problem - color, temperature, and capillary refill are unchanged. It has to be pressure on a nerve. And since I have a torn rotator cuff in that shoulder and that was the clavicle that got smashed in the accident, I have plenty of reason for nerve problems. Anyway, it's getting annoying and disturbing my sleep. So I should probably call Joe
 
I had a knitting triumph today - I finally figured out the brioche stitch. I found instructions on the internet, but they were for a scarf, which is knitting across, and I'm making a sock, which is knitting in the round. So I went to YouTube and found a tutorial on brioche socks. It's taken me most of the weekend to get this sock going, but going it is, and I like the stitch. Things should go smoothly from here on out.
 
Meanwhile, I have managed to avoid Black Friday and I'll be at work on Cyber Monday. I'm not buying any Christmas presents this year anyway, I'm making all of them. I went to Goshen yesterday, but just to the farmers market, co-op, and yarn shop - not exactly hotbeds of Christmas commerce. I remember I went shopping on Black Friday one time about twenty-five years ago, and decided I'd never do that again as long as I live. I'm having my own quiet little holiday season.
 
Sometime this week I'll put up the tree and decorate. I'm looking forward to it a little bit this year. We'll see how it goes as Christmas gets closer. Prayers would be appreciated. Or you could just come home for Christmas!
 
Wanting you under my Christmas tree,
Joan.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Of Yarn & Yogurt

Dear John,
 
We went to Tiffany's for breakfast before Jim and Irene headed home. Tiffany's has a breakfast haystack now, so I ate too much and enjoyed every bite. Bless Jim - while I was at work yesterday he insulated the north side of the garage and put up pegboard on about half of it. Have I told you lately that I love your family?
 
I went to Goshen after they left. I got cheese and lettuce at the Farmers Market, and bread and toothpaste at the co-op. I couldn't get yogurt - their refrigeration is out of order. I'm so spoiled to Brown Cow yogurt that I didn't even consider getting another kind somewhere else. Once you eat organic yogurt, there's no going back.
 
On the way out of town I felt like I should go to the yarn shop. And you know how hard it always is to get me to go to a yarn shop! I'm glad I did - I found the yarn and pattern for Jen's Christmas socks. I hadn't been able to find something that was just right, and now I have. I also picked up some sock yarn just for me. After Christmas, I may actually knit something for myself. Such self-indulgence!
 
You taught me lots of wonderful things. One of them was that if I find yarn or fabric that I fall in love with, I should buy it because it won't be there again. You were right. I always find the perfect thing to use it for, too. Thank you again for being a yarn enabler. I promise to avoid the road to yarn-addiction recovery and continue to frequent yarn shops!
 
Love you more than yarn,
Joan.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Everybody Gives Thanks for Me

Dear John,
 
Today, by decree of Congress, the country took a holiday and everybody gave thanks for me. I do love it when my birthday comes on Thanksgiving Day. It seems appropriate that there's so much turkey involved.
 
We had a good day. Irene brought curry, condiments, and cookies, and I fixed applesauce salad, rice, bell peppers, and cake. And we had a feast! Jim puttered around the house for me, which I appreciate no end. Jen and Bob and the kids came by and brought me a Key lime pie and a Steelers yard flag, bless them! Jen has a knack for finding the perfect gift. The cats hid all day, Jethro had a great time playing with his Uncle Jim, and I knitted in front of football. We watched Drowning Mona - as I expected, they liked it. It was a good day.
 
Now it's after 9:00,and I'm in bed with the dog while the cats rampage around the house. I'll be up at 5:30 for work so I need to get to sleep. While I'm at work, Jim plans to get that last set of new closet doors put up. Then we'll all crash and eat Irene's corn chowder. Saturday morning we'll meet for breakfast, and maybe the farmers market, before they leave for home. It's a been a good Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for.
 
Still the most thankful for you,
Joan.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Pismire Predicament

Dear John,
 
I read yesterday that there are one million ants for every human on the planet. What am I supposed to be doing with my share of ants? Should I get a large magnifying glass, make them burst into flames like guys did when I was a kid, and incur the wrath of PETA? Should I cover them with chocolate and have a protein feast? Should I feed and water them? Do I have to build an ant farm big enough to house all of them? I am unsure what my responsibility is in this situation. I am experiencing a pismire predicament. Maybe I should get an anteater, like Salvadore Dali.
 
Meanwhile, at work, we were having a normal Wednesday until 11:15 when it turned into a Friday. The plants that weren't closed all week, closed early and gave out paychecks. I had almost 180 transactions and I only sat down for lunch. After 11:15 I had a line of cars almost all the time. I'm glad I have tomorrow off to recover from today. Friday should be slow - there are no more paychecks out there to cash.
 
Jim and Irene got into town a little while ago, and came by to drop off food and tools. Jim wants to do some work around the house for me, bless him. We'll have fun tomorrow. It would be more fun with you, but that's true of everything. Think about us here, eating curry and watching football. I have so much to be thankful for! But most of all, I'm thankful for you. And that my one million ants are somewhere else.
 
Love you huge amounts,
Joan.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Good, the Bad, & the Gratuitous

Dear John,
 
The good news is that we have heat again. The house only got down to 55 last night - not bad for being without heat for 36 hours. It was chilly when I got up, so I dusted and vacuumed while I was waiting for the repairman. We're nice and warm and happy tonight.
 
The bad news is that the furnace worked perfectly for him. He did a thorough check on it, and cleaned the burners and igniter. So far, so good.
 
The completely gratuitous excitement was that the repairman accidentally let Jethro out the front door. I needed to get to work as soon as possible, of course. He didn't come when I called, so I got the leash and took off walking toward some barking, and here came Jethro charging around the corner of Adam's house. He ran up and I put him on the leash, and he took it in his mouth and dragged me home. I suppose he was cold and he missed his kitties. Bless him, he never goes far.
 
People have been very nice to me, offering space heaters and being concerned about me being cold. Everybody wonders how I can stand having the house at 64 all winter, but that feels comfortable to me. If it was any warmer, I wouldn't be able to wear winter clothes. And I refuse to pay more than I have to for gas. It's much more sensible to wear warm clothes and pay less for heat. And, as I've pointed out, I sleep with four heating pads.
 
So don't worry about us. We have heat, and most of the cleaning is done for Thanksgiving. All I have left to do is clean bathrooms and cook. I did the last of the grocery shopping after work today. I wish you could be here for your family and chicken curry. We'll miss you. But we'll eat too much and watch football and enjoy spending the holiday together. The thing I am most thankful for is the years I had with you. I have a lot of years to give thanks for!
 
Still in love with you,
Joan.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Entertainment Provided by the Weather

Dear John,
 
Let me take this chronologically.
 
You know I was hurting when I went to bed last night. Hunter always knows when I don't feel good. When I lay down, Jethro was at the foot of your side of the bed, Abby was on my feet, and Maggie was on my left side. Then here came Hunter and curled up around my head, and kneaded my forehead with his paws. He stayed there until I woke up and midnight and got up.
 
I got up at midnight because I realized the furnace wasn't working. I could hear the heating element  trying to come on and failing. I went downstairs and tried turning the furnace off and on again, to no avail this time. So I turned off the power to the furnace and thermostat and went back to bed. I called NIPSCO first thing this morning. The company they contract out to couldn't get here today but is scheduled to come at 8:00 in the morning. I'll get to work late, but Ellie will work for me until I get there.
 
I worked from 9:00 to 1:00 today. The entertainment was provided by the weather. The wind was howling - still is - and there have been lots of power outages. Topeka's went out twice this morning. It came back on after three seconds, thanks to the fact that we have lines from two substations. But each time it was long enough to shut down all of the computers and make us work off-line until 1:00. I spent the morning helping with the night drops and business deposits. It was a nice, busy day except for the power problems.
 
Now we're all hunkered down for the night. This house is so well insulated that the temperature inside has only dropped from 64 to 61. I've had several offers of space heaters, but I won't need them unless the furnace can't be fixed tomorrow. Don't worry - I won't hesitate to borrow them if I need to. It will be in the 20s tonight and tomorrow, so it's not a bad time to have to go without the heat.
 
On the other hand, we wouldn't mind having you here to pile up with us tonight. We'll be happy to make room for you any time at all. You were always so nice and warm to cuddle up with! Now I have four little heating pads, but they can't take your place. So come and help keep us warm. You know where the key is!
 
Leaving the light on,
Joan.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's Raining, it's Pouring

Dear John,
 
I've had a slow day. I woke up with fibro pain and excruciating jaw pain, so I spent the day on the heating pad. I watched and slept through football. I didn't even knit because of the arm and shoulder pain. That tells you that it's severe.
 
It's rained all day. Jethro has had a lovely time going outside and digging in the mud. This dog is certainly a dedicated digger. And he's happy because it is warm enough that this is rain and not snow. He doesn't like the cold at all, poor baby. But he loves rain.
 
I love rainy days, too, but getting one when I'm already fighting the fibro is not especially pleasant. I will do as the meme says - go to bed, take pain meds, and hope it all feels better in the morning. I get to go to sleep listening to the rain, and that is wonderful. All that's missing is you - which could be said of the entirety of my existence. But I still miss you most at night, miss curling up with my head on your shoulder and your arms around me. Could you come and rub my shoulders tonight? The cats knead them, but they don't have your upper body strength. As has been said, they're wonderful but they can't replace you.
 
Missing you on this rainy night,
Joan.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

TMJ + Almonds = Regret

Dear John,
 
I'm tired. We're all piled up in bed (except Abby, who is under it) - Jethro is asleep, Hunter grooming himself, and Maggie torturing a felt mouse. And I'm trying to stay awake.
 
Friday was very long and very busy. I stayed until 6:00, doing my 11-hour day. I didn't sleep much last night, between fibro pain and jaw pain. Did I tell you about my jaw? It's the left side of course, the one that was out of joint when I was born. I was eating an almond last week, chewed wrong, and it popped out again. It's back in joint most of the time now, but there's still a lot of swelling and pain. I'm eating soft food and taking Motrin.
 
Today was a bit slower. We had freezing rain this morning and the roads were dicey, so the drive-up wasn't as busy as on a usual Saturday. I came home, ate lunch, and involuntarily slept through the first quarter of the Notre Dame game. I should have slept through the fourth quarter, too. Their season started off so well and is ending so badly. I don't recommend watching the game. It was ugly.
 
This is one of those night that I really miss you. Maybe it's the rain, maybe that I'm hurting all over - between the rain and the overtime, I'm at the mercy of the fibro tonight. Or maybe it's just that I love you and wish you were here. As much as I love the animals, they're a poor substitute for you. If you can, reach down and hold my hand tonight.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Joy of Socks

Dear John,
 
The snow went north of us and the weather advisory was cancelled. We should be in the clear until the freezing rain arrives on Saturday.
 
I went to my half-day of training in LaGrange, came home for lunch, and went to Walmart for a major trip. It's been over a month since I did major grocery shopping. I had to  walk the aisles to be sure I didn't miss anything.
 
The fun part was buying socks. They're knee highs, now called boot socks, and I found them in all kinds of delightful colors and patterns like they used to be. You'd love it. I remember about ten years ago you said how much you liked my wild, crazy knee socks and you wondered why I'd stopped wearing them, and I told you that I'd worn them all to shreds and they weren't making them anymore. Well, they're making them now. I bought a bunch today and will start wearing them tomorrow. So come visit me at work and look at my wild and wonderful socks!
 
Everything old really is new again, isn't it? I told you in the 1980s that bellbottoms would come back in style. You disagreed, but I was right - they just called them boot cut when they came back. Turquoise came back after a forty-year absence. And now knee socks are back. I am content.
 
See what you're missing? My knee sock resurgence, growing my hair out long, and having three cats in the house! This is what you get for leaving and forgetting to take me with you. Of course, you're welcome back any time you like. Like Robert Johnson said, you've got a home as long as I have mine.
 
Saving home for you,
Joan.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Birthday Cake in Heaven

Dear John,
 
We had another slow day at work. This town is sensible - people stay home when it's snowing and the wind chill is below zero. Our Winter Storm Watch has turned into a Winter Weather Advisory, now calling for less snow and more wind. I hope tomorrow isn't bad  - I have to spend my day off in LaGrange for mandatory training. Everybody from all the branches has to go, and our branch doesn't have the staff right now to be able to send us on working days. So we'll all be in LaGrange for classes on our days off this week. Imagine our excitement.
 
Normally I'd rather not have slow days, but this week is an exception. I'm just back from being sick, I'm working my day off which makes six days in a row, and I picked up some overtime on Friday staying late. So I'll take all the slow, easy days that I can! We're expecting freezing rain on Saturday. I just hope the town doesn't decide to do a whole week's worth of banking on Friday. That much entertainment I don't need.
 
And a quick reminder - today is Becky's birthday, so go hunt up Kyle and have a piece of birthday cake together! I remember so well how surprised she and I were to end up roommates our senior year. We were having to take dorm pot-luck; the odds were overwhelmingly against us ending up with each other. It was certainly divinely ordained. We enjoyed that year, and we're still enjoying our friendship. It has turned out to be one of the most important in my life.
 
You guys be sure to get some ice cream to go with that birthday cake. And know that your wives are looking after each other. Who knows - we may end up roommates again, if we can find that lighthouse to live in!
 
Love to you, Kyle, and all the guys,
Joan.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Batteries, Storms, & Flannel

Dear John,
 
The car is back up and running. Bless his heart, Bob called a little before 7:00 this morning, and came right over and replaced the battery. I appreciate him so much. He has new tires for me; I'll schedule getting the car in next week when the weather is supposed to be better for walking around town. I can't complain about the battery - the car is a 2008, and it was the original battery that died. I believe it was entitled.
 
The wind chill did get above zero today, however briefly. We're under a Winter Storm Watch tonight and tomorrow. The lake is going to drop a boatload of snow somewhere; we'll see if it comes toward us. But I have a car to drive to work, so I don't have to walk if I don't want to. And the furnace is running perfectly. So all is well in my little world.
 
Meanwhile, the cats continue to lie between the curtains and the windows, the dog still hates the cold, and I'm curled up in bed wearing a flannel nightgown. You had no idea how amazing it was to me that you liked me in flannel. You didn't want me to look like a model in fancy lingerie. You wanted me to be me - warm and comfortable, wearing something sensible and practical. And maybe soft and cuddly, too, for you to snuggle up with. It was another way that you loved me, really me, just like I am. I never had to be anything but myself with you. I miss that complete ease, having somebody to totally relax around. I miss the unconditional love you always gave me.
 
But I know that your love for me hasn't ended or gone away. For now, I take it on faith. Some day I will see it all again. And when that day comes, this waiting period will seem so short. Are there flannel nightgowns in Heaven? Maybe I should bring one with me, just for you.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hail! The Comquering Heroine Comes on Foot

Dear John,
 
I think this has been a day about triumphs. But I'm not sure.
 
The day started early when I woke up at 3:30 and the house smelled funny. The furnace fan was running constantly and blowing out cold air. The thermostat said 64, which is where I had it set, so nothing should have been running. I went downstairs, found the main power switch for the furnace, and turned it off for a minute. It seems to have just needed re-booting. It's run fine ever since. I'll keep an eye on it in case the igniter is going out. But so far, so good.
 
The next adventure was at 7:15 when I tried to leave for work and discovered the car battery was dead. I left the garage door opener out for Bob and walked to work. I called his place after they'd opened and asked Ryan to have him to look at the battery, but he didn't get here today. The message may have gotten lost or mangled between Bob and Ryan. I'll call again in the morning. It's not urgent.
 
And I finally figured out that heel pattern. After dinner I sat down and concentrated on it and got it done. I must have been too tired yesterday. That heel is done and I'm ready to knit the top of the sock. Even in Fair Isle, that's much simpler.
 
I think that's about it for today. I'm tired, and no wonder after being up for an hour in the middle of the night fixing the furnace. But I'm proud of myself - I fixed the furnace, handled getting the car looked at, and even got the hang of a wrapped-stitch heel. I am widow - hear me roar!
 
Now it's late and the wind is howling out of the west. I'm still up because the Steelers and Titans are on television, but I'm only seeing about a quarter of it because the wind is messing with the reception. Snow is blowing down the street and the wind sounds like a freight train. I have the curtains closed for insulation - the wind chill is well below zero - and the cats are all lying between the curtains and the windows. Jethro is asleep at my feet, and I may be asleep soon. I doubt that I'll make it past halftime.
 
Thank you for wanting an independent, capable wife. Now you have an independent, capable widow. Widow, wife, it's all the same thing. I'm yours, no matter what. There's no getting away from me!
 
Forever yours,
Joan.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fair Isle & Flannel Sheets

Dear John,
 
I know - I'm a day late. After working yesterday and doing housework, I was so tired at bedtime that I couldn't have been coherent. You've put up with enough incoherent communications from me over the years. I decided to spare you.
 
I'm off prednisone and doing okay. I'm still tired, but that's to be expected. I didn't do much today and took a two-hour nap. Tomorrow morning I'll start a stretch of working six days in a row, during which time I'm planning to ignore the dust and dog hair.
 
I had more sock adventures this afternoon. I'm working on a pair of Fair Isle socks, and I haven't done Fair Isle knitting in well over twenty years. I'm back in the rhythm of it and enjoying myself; today's struggle was with the heel. The pattern calls for a heel turn technique that I've never done before. It doesn't look difficult, but knitting anything in fingering-weight black yarn is a bit challenging - you can't see anything. After a good bit of wrestling, I decided to just use another type of heel. There's no need to make this any more complex than necessary.
 
We're on our way to an expected two inches of snow tonight. South Bend got over a foot of lake-effect snow last week, but all we've had here so far is a coating. It's beautiful outside, with the streetlights on the snow. We're expecting highs in the 20s this week - I'll be dressing warm to work the drive-up. Tonight I closed the curtains, much to the dismay of the cats. But it's nice and warm and cozy inside. In a few minutes I'll turn out the lights and we'll all pile up together in the bed. I'll have flannel sheets, a dog, and three cats to keep me warm tonight. I'd rather have you, but we'll make do here. Sleep well, and dream of me and flannel sheets.
 
Cozy in the cold,
Joan.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jethro's Fantasy

Dear John,
 
I had a good day at work. It was Friday, but not a crazy Friday. Everybody was glad to have me back, and Charley was even concerned that I'd come back too soon, bless him. A few regular customers had been concerned since they hadn't seen me for a week. I enjoyed it. It's good to be back.
 
Jethro's fantasy
Tonight I'm tired and should sleep well. I'll work tomorrow morning, and probably come home and crash. There's plenty to do around here. But I'm working six days in a row next week so I'll try to be sensible. We have training in LaGrange on my day off, so no day off. But I'll get paid overtime for it, and that's good.
 
That's interesting. For a reason which escapes me, the dog just stuck his head inside the pillowcase. He's lying on the bed with his head stuck all the way into the pillowcase. I have no clue why. That isn't unusual with Jethro. But this is a first.
 
Sorry to be so brief tonight, but I'm falling asleep talking to you. I wish I could really fall asleep with you, head on your shoulder, your arms around me. And maybe even Jethro's head inside your pillowcase. Go to sleep tonight thinking about that!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ankle-Deep Animal Hair

Dear John,
 
It will be just a short note tonight. I have to get up for work in a little over eight hours, so I need to get to sleep.
 
I'm feeling some better. I'm breathing about the same as I was before the IV steroids, so the inflammation is still considerable. I hope adrenaline kicks in tomorrow and helps - there's always plenty of adrenaline on Fridays. I vacuumed today, in slow-motion, and was still standing at the end. And I got lunch to go from Tiffany's again. Other than that, I knitted. I wanted to push myself some today, but not too much. I was considering dusting, but was too shaky at the end of vacuuming to be trusted handling small, fragile objects. And least the hair balls are gone from the floor.
 
And that's the encouraging part - I finally felt good enough that having ankle-deep animal hair everywhere was bothering me. And I'm wanting to go back to work. Until yesterday, I felt too bad to want to. Those are good signs. Shelly and I are scheduled for the drive-up tomorrow, so I should be in the second window. That's probably the best place for me to come back to. To sum up: I'm looking forward to going back, but a bit concerned about my breathing. We'll see. At least I'll be getting paid!
 
It's wonderful to have a job that makes me look forward to going to work. You know what that's like - you felt that way about working at Panera. I remember that day that Melinda and I went shopping in South Bend, and decided to stop at Panera for iced green tea. In the entry I saw a "hiring" sign with the application website. I came home and told you about it, you put your app in that night, and they snapped you up. What a gift that job was, for both of us! And this job is a gift for me. It will be good to be back tomorrow. I'll let you know how my lungs feel about it!
 
Your oxygen-dependent wife,
Joan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Mighty Hunters

Dear John,
 
We had adventures today - I actually left the house for something other than going to the doctor. I picked up a week's worth of mail, paid the water bill, bought cheese, and got lunch to go from Tiffany's. I realized that I haven't been eating as well as I need to. I'm eating meat, too - I need to suspend fasting if I want to get well. Father will be proud of me for figuring that out. I've felt better as the day has gone on. I may be turning the corner.
 
Suddenly I have a house full of mighty hunters. You know Abby has always been a bit shy and skittish. I've been working on giving her more self-confidence by teaching her to hunt, using interactive toys and a laser light for her to chase. Two days ago I told you that she was torturing a felt mouse - that was a first for her. Early this morning, here she came up into the bed to bring me another felt mouse that she caught. She was so proud of herself, and I made a fuss over her. Jethro must have wanted in on the praise, because an hour later I found him curled up in the bed, sound asleep, with another felt mouse between his paws.
 
It is doing good things for Abby. She's much less skittish, more self-confident, more assertive with Maggie. She seems happy and comfortable in her home. She still pines for Jethro, always wanting more attention from him than he wants to give. But she's coming to me more, and I'm happy to cuddle with her any time she wants.
 
All in all, you have an amazingly happy and well-adjusted family. And not a living mouse in sight. Or a bug, or spider, or fly. Might hunters, all!
 
Adore you,
Joan.
 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Heaven: Where There are no Fans or Sweaty Wives

Dear John,
 
I saw Barb this morning. By the time I got there, I felt the worst I had since all of this started. I was aching all over, wheezing, my chest wall hurt, and I felt like I was breathing through mud. She listened to my lungs and said they sounded much worse. It seems to be the usual gravity thing - it may start out in my sinuses, but until I learn to live upside down, it will eventually run downhill into my lungs.
 
So I got 125 mg of IV Solumedrol and immediately felt better. I had some errands to run, and decided I'd better do it while the steroids were carrying me. I picked up cat food and litter, then I went to UP Mall and got a hotdog at Five Guys, a Sudoku book at B&N, and two pairs of knee socks in the mall. They're being called "boot socks" now, but they're the same thing as 1960s knee socks. And I'm delighted - if they're getting popular to wear with boots, they'll be available again! I have these few pairs that I've been babying for decades. I like to wear skirts, and I much prefer knee socks to tights or stockings. On the way home I made a stop at the co-op for bread, cereal, and yogurt. And I got a cupcake to celebrate breathing.
 
Barb and I had some time to talk while I got the IV, and it's not surprising that we're still talking about you. She's still processing, I think, putting together what she saw and the parts she didn't see. She worried for years that there was something undiagnosed going on with you, and she was right - it was CHF due to the myocarditis you had with mono, that the doctors didn't believe you'd had until they got you on the cath table in Indy and found the evidence. (I KNEW I was right.) Of course, there was nothing to be done about it no matter who had known what when. And I take great comfort in that. In all of this, I am so very thankful that I never have to wonder if there was something else that could have been done. The only thing I have to reproach myself for is not giving you meatloaf and mashed potatoes every single day of our marriage. I can live with that.
 
Now I'm ready for bed and struggling to breathe again. So I took 20 mg of prednisone and hope I'm better in the morning. If not, I'll be calling Barb again and it may be time for a chest x-ray. I got out the incentive spirometer - thinking, of course, about atelectasis - and I'm easily moving 2 1/2 liters. So there's no problem there. And I feel quite sentimental about sharing that incentive spirometer with you.
 
Think about me tonight, and please pray for a resolution to this. I'm afraid it's way too late for a quick resolution. Barb wants me off tomorrow and I'm scheduled off Thursday, so I'm doing my best to be back for Friday and Saturday. You wouldn't want to sleep with me tonight - after this much steroids I always drove you crazy because I put out so much heat. I'd be in a summer nightgown sleeping on top of the blankets and wanting the windows open. I've been in that summer nightgown all this week on Prednisone, and have even had the fan on a couple of night. So go to sleep in peace with no fans or sweaty wives anywhere in sight. Ah, the sweetness of Heaven!
 
Adore, adore, adore you,
Joan.
 
PS - I also found our new 2015 wall calendar, the first we ever had that your mother didn't get for us. It's a Grumpy Cat calendar. Highly appropriate, don't you think?  Sleep good!

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Growth & Getting On

Dear John,
 
Feast your eyes on SoluMedrol . . .
Home again today, with the encouragement of management to not worry about it and take care of myself, and all due expressions of sympathy. (Have I mentioned that I love this job?) I'm gong to see Barb again tomorrow. I think I'm due for IV steroids. The original infection seems to be clearing up nicely. But, as is usual with me, the lingering airway inflammation is the problem. When I used to get severe infections like this, they learned that I would not clear up without IV steroids. I predict SoluMedrol in my future.
 
So I didn't go to work today. I was awake until 6:00 this morning, partly dealing with prednisone and partly trying to breathe. I talked to Jen on the phone for a while this evening, and was exhausted and short of breath after ten minutes. Even she could hear it. So I knitted all day - imagine that - and did manage to get two small loads of laundry done. I was almost out of undies.
 
I was thinking tonight about the people who have told my widowfriends and me that we need to "get on with our lives." I've never heard an actual widow say anything of the sort. But it's a common directive from the muggles. Now I'm wondering who and/or what is doing the actual getting on. I haven't gotten on with anything, but my life has certainly gone on, and it's dragging me along with it. It's the world that gets on with life. We follow out of necessity, not choice. No matter how convinced you are that the cosmos must grind to an immediate halt at the moment of death, the cosmos refuses to cooperate. Life goes on. The sun comes up and goes down, seasons changes, the dreaded holidays appear, couples fall in love and marry, children are born, and  other people die.
 
We do eventually catch up to the idea that we and our lives are inexorably changing. We cannot dig in our heels and halt the passage of time. I am older than when you last saw me, thinner, with longer hair. There are three cats who sleep in your bed, new drapes over your couch, new sheets on the bed, new towels in your bathroom. Your wife is a bank teller now. And I'm more independent that you ever knew me - I handle everything around here by myself now. I have people I can consult when I'm in a quandary, but I'm the sole owner and maintainer of house, land, car, investments, insurance. That has changed me.
 
At first I saw myself as shrunken by your death, reduced to less than a whole person. Now I'm realizing that I have grown more than I've shrunk. I've expanded to fill the gap you left behind. I'm learning a completely new career in my late 50s. I'm meeting new people and making new friends. I'm carrying new responsibilities and commitments. I am completely responsible for myself and my life now. There is much growth there.
 
And I've grown in ways of the heart, too. It is true that suffering makes you kinder and more compassionate, and I relate to other people differently. I'm much gentler now, more understanding, better able to relate to the pain of others. I'm more tenderhearted than I was. I'm much more patient than I've ever been - that one amazes me. And I know I've brought this up before, but I don't stress and worry like I used to. When the worst thing that can ever happen to you has happened, your perspective is forever altered. Not much gets you worked up.
 
But the biggest change in me is one of the soul. I used to have a survival instinct.  Now I can't imagine what I was thinking. If you're a Christian, why on earth would you ever want to survive? Heaven awaits - why shillyshally? It's not that I particularly want to die; it's more that I don't especially care if I live any longer. I'm easy - whatever is fine with me. I don't feel the attachment to this life that I did before. Living no longer seems to be the greatest good. I'm quite ready to lay it down happily when the time comes. There is no attachment anymore.
 
Well, that's a long dissertation on getting on, isn't it? I'm better end here - my appointment with Barb is early so I'll be up at 6:30. I hope to sleep tonight - you might pray about that if you don't mind. And any of my scrambled and muddled thought that strike you as cause for concern! I'll report in tomorrow about the appointment.
 
Your fuddled, muddled wife,
Joan.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wi-Fi & Upside-Down Socks

Dear John,
 
Have I ever told you how much I love the internet? The animals and I are piled up in bed and I just finished paying bills. How wonderful is that? I save a fortune on checks, stamps and envelopes, and don't have to worry about when the mail is going to get something to its destination. I get irrationally irritated over the few bills that I still have to pay by check. And I owe any remaining sanity to the internet. I can't imagine having gone through these last three years without it. It has kept me in touch with family and friends when I couldn't bear to do it any other way, has kept me company in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn't bear to turn the light off alone, and has given me my widowfriends. All that remains is to get Wi-Fi in Heaven. So get to work!
 
This is what my day was like. I knitted two-thirds of a sock for Elyssa, always with one or more cats in my lap. The sock has been an adventure, my first one knitted from the toe up. The directions assumed you were doing Magic Loop - using two circular needles intertwined in a ridiculously complicated manner. I like to use double pointed needles on socks, as you well know. So I resorted to that inexhaustible source of knowledge, YouTube. I found a tutorial and went from there. I wish I could show you how the Turkish Cast-On works. It's fascinating.
 
I've been a football jinx all weekend. Everybody I cheered for lost. The Saints almost came back and won this afternoon; they ended up losing to the 49ers in overtime, in what's probably the most exciting game I've seen all season. But I jinxed everybody - UK, Notre Dame, Saints, and Steelers. I'm not staying up for the Green Bay game tonight, but no doubt they'll lose, too. I'll try to do better next weekend. And here's your trivia for the night: The last time the Saints and 49ers met in overtime, the quarterbacks were Joe Montana and Archie Manning.
 
Go to sleep now, picturing that game! And think of me, knitting socks with cats in my lap and a dog at my feet. And, for goodness' sake, get to work on this Wi-Fi issue!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Quintessentiality & Purple Cats

Dear John,
 
I didn't make it to work this morning. I did better last night, but still couldn't say a word without uncontrollable coughing. Of course, I woke up at 5:15 and couldn't get back to sleep. Tonight around 7:00 I finally started feeling better. My lungs aren't back to normal, though they are improving. But systemically I feel much better. Progress is happening. I gave Danielle a laugh this morning when I texted her. I told her that every time I fell asleep last night, I dreamed I was processing night drops in Store Forward. And I was enjoying it. It appears that this job is right for me.
 
We had one of those quintessential family moments this afternoon. I wish you'd been here to see it. It probably should have been photographed. I was on the couch knitting and watching football, Hunter was on the back of the couch curled up asleep against my shoulder, Abby was in the corner torturing a felt mouse, and Jethro and Maggie were in the middle of the floor playing. It was almost ostentatiously peaceful and domestic. And it was quintessentially your little family. We were all doing things so typical of us. It was a special moment, one to remember. I hope somebody in Heaven took a photograph.
 
We're all piled up in bed now and Jethro is anxious for me to turn out the light. After all, I had them up at 5:15 this morning. Sleep well tonight. Your little family is fine. And I finished another sock, so two out of five pairs are finished. And I made the biggest ones first. So I'm over halfway through the Christmas socks. Tomorrow I'll start on Elyssa's little purple ones with cats on them.
 
Sleep well, and dream of purple cats!
Joan.

Friday, November 7, 2014

I Do the Unthinkable then Knit Half a Sock

Dear John,
 
I did the unthinkable. I called in on a Friday. I had so much trouble breathing last night, and by morning had devolved into constant coughing and wheezing. Working was clearly impossible. So I texted Danielle and Margaret, then loaded up on every applicable drug. Shortly thereafter I was drowsy and wired at the same time - the result of combining steroids with narcotics - making further sleep impossible. But I did get in a two-hour nap this afternoon.
 
Bless Danielle, she is wise beyond her years. I was so apologetic, and she said to not worry, it was not under my control. And she was so right. That was just what I needed to hear. So I haven't beaten myself up too badly today. I love my job and the people I work with. I have hopes of working tomorrow. But asthma is always its worst at night when your body's catecholamine level drops. So we'll see in the morning. I'm already maxed out on meds - now I just have to give it time for the lung inflammation to decrease.
 
The good news is that today produced half a sock. I'm finishing the heel flap. And I actually put on real clothes today instead of your lounging pajamas. Still no make-up, but clothes. That has to count as progress.
 
Sleeping tonight may be a challenge. I've been taking my second prednisone around 6:00 in the evening so that it doesn't keep me awake all night. Tonight I took it at bedtime, hoping it will get me through the night better. It's no worse to be up all night because of prednisone than to be up because of coughing and wheezing. We'll see how it works. I was coughing so bad this morning, and the Phenergan-&-codeine cough syrup wasn't touching it, that I resorted to hydrocodone, which took care of it nicely. (That's what comes of being a nurse. We know all kinds of ways to self-medicate with off-label uses of things. And we don't hesitate to do it. Real badass stuff, huh?) 
 
I will try to sleep soon. Wish me luck. All prayers appreciated. I hope I can work tomorrow, but won't set myself back doing it. Being healthy next week is more important. See, I'm learning how to take care of myself without you being here to keep me in line. And it's even more important now since I'm living alone and supporting myself. I will be sensible. And if I can't work tomorrow, there are plenty more socks to knit.
 
Love you, miss you,
Joan.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Another Day, Another Sock

Dear John,
 
I took my day off today and stayed home. I was up until 4:00 this morning coughing. I took cough syrup at 8:00 and went to bed, then woke up at midnight. It took four hours to get the coughing and wheezing under control. Then I slept until 9:00 when I got a text that woke up the animals.
 
I will work tomorrow - it's Friday, and I can only call in dead on a Friday. I'll ask to work the second window at the drive-up because I can't talk much without starting the whole cough-wheeze cycle all over again. I'll take mentholyptus, cough syrup, and my inhaler to work with me. I'll also wear short sleeves, due to prednisone on top of hot flashes.
 
I didn't do much today, mostly just knitted and rested. I did finish the third Christmas sock. And I managed a badly-needed shower. I also called your sister today about plans for Thanksgiving dinner here. She's bringing curry, I have rice, I'm making applesauce salad, I'm up for bell peppers, she'll bring the rest of the curry condiments and snacks, and I'll fix dessert. She will bring two fewer cans of fried onions since you won't be here. Jim will still get his own can. I'm looking forward to having them here for the holiday.
 
I remember when I first encountered your family's Thanksgiving dinner tradition of chicken curry. It was my first curry, and I fell in love with it. Didn't Irene get the recipe from a college friend? It's better than the usual stuff people have, and it's much easier on the cook. It's even healthy. And now it's my holiday tradition, too. The three of us will carry it on together this year without you, your brother, and your mother. But there will still be curry and chex mix and football and a loving family. I am blessed. Thank you for all the treasures you left me!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Better Living Through Prednisone

Dear John,
 
I forgot to tell you yesterday: I have bronchitis. I called in yesterday and went to the doctor. I'm on antibiotics, prednisone, and Phenergan-&-Codeine cough syrup. This morning I started coughing up green stuff, so I missed work again today. It's been years since I did this. It's a nuisance. I'm glad I didn't do this during horse sale week. I wonder if working all six days of horse sale week was a contributing factor.
 
The alarm went off at 5:45 this morning. I got up to see how I felt, coughed up the aforesaid green stuff, and called in. Being on prednisone - and having my four animals - there was no possibility of going back to sleep. I said morning prayers, checked out cyberspace, and got up. I wasn't been able to take naps today because of the prednisone, so I knitted and watched an NCIS marathon.
 
Today I learned what the critters do while I'm at work. They romp around the house. There was lots of noise and commotion, a good bit of wrestling and chasing (all in fun), and a good time was had by all. Jethro dragged all of them around by the neck while they lay there and purred. Hunter was seen to slap Jethro on the rear with his paw to get it started. They had toys out, too, but they mostly played with each other. I opened the windows when the temperature reached 55, and everybody piled up in the window sills and enjoyed it. They seemed to like having me home - even shy Abby spent some time in my lap.
 
Tonight I've been listening to Pandora for the first time in several weeks. It still hurts sometimes - I cried a little during Wedding Song - but not as bad as it did before. I am healing. I can hear good memories in most of the music now instead of being eviscerated. Leather and Lace made me feel wistful instead of suicidal. That's progress. Sometimes this progress makes me feel guilty, but I know that's silly. I'm being normal. I'm doing a pretty good job of feeling what I feel, of observing rather than judging it. We WFFs are learning together - if several of us are doing it, we declare it to be normal. So there. How's that for the scientific method?
 
I'm going to bed early again tonight. If I feel good enough in the morning I'll text Danielle and see if they need me for part of the day (it's my normal day off). Don't worry - if I'm feeling bad I'll stay home. I need to get over this. I'm working my long day at the drive-up on Friday, my 11-hour day, and I'm back in on Saturday. I won't take chances. You and Mama would gang up on me if I did that. I'm doing a much better job of keeping food in the house just in case, so I'm not starving. We're all fine here.
 
Sleep good tonight! Know that we love and miss you, but don't worry about us. We have dog and cat food, soup, turkey pies, eggs, and a gallon of milk. If you think about it, you can bring me some Brown Cow Yogurt when you come by tonight. That was a hint. :)
 
Love you so, so much,
Joan.
 
 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

WFFs Take a Field Trip

Dear John,
 
It's field trip time! The Widow Friends Forever have been on a field trip. None of us left home, but we're together anyway. We're dreaming about all of you. And our recent dreams have been remarkably similar.
 
We keep dreaming that you're back somehow, but still dead. Our reactions to that can make us feel bad. We may tell you to go back to Heaven or be angry with you for leaving. And in the dreams we're worrying over the practical ramifications of this. In my dreams, the IRS limits how much money a dead person can earn, so you have to be careful about getting a job. Some people are having to buy clothes and things again, since those were given away. Social Security, Homeland Security, the IRS, and goodness-knows-who-else is involved. Kyle and Becky are dating to see if they want to marry again. (Silly question!) Sometimes you're back to stay and sometimes for a specific length of time. If you have to leave again, the overwhelming issue is whether we can leave with you or have to stay here and grieve all over again.
 
These dreams must be a normal part of processing the finality of bereavement. It is good that we're on this field trip together so that we can know that these strange dreams are normal. Once again, Becky is our barometer - if she has these dreams after over 20 years, we know this is normal! It is so good to have friends and companions on this journey. I can't imagine doing this without my WFFs.
 
I remember right after I passed the one-year mark. I had a dream about you and told a friend. She was extremely concerned, told me that if I was dreaming about you after a whole year, I had a serious psychiatric disorder and was in urgent need of counseling. I, of course paid no attention to that, knowing that your mother was still dreaming about your father. It's perfectly normal. Even Pooh and Piglet know that. And I know that, too, but nothing replaces going on a field trip with friends.
 
So, tonight I'm thankful for my widow-friends, and to all of you for getting us together. Hug all the guys for me and tell them how much we appreciate it. And tell them that I pray for all of us and all of them every day. Thank you for coming to us in our dreams. Even though we may worry over them sometimes, they are good. We enjoy every second we can spend with you. Get everybody together and come tonight - plan something fun for us and come for a visit!
 
Leaving the light on,
Joan.
 



Monday, November 3, 2014

Unbusy Busyness

Dear John,
 
Today was a normal Monday at work. Mondays are busy, but after the draft horse sale last week, busy feels so unbusy. It's nice to get back to normal. The sale is great for the town, but I'm not sorry when it's over. The re-paving of North Main Street continues. I respect the customers who negotiated the obstacle course today to get to the drive-up.
 
I was right - I'm sick. Shelly must have breathed on me last week. I have a sore throat, cough, runny nose, junk in my lungs. I'm hoping I can get by without pharmacological intervention. I'm going to go to bed early, take Mucinex, and see how I feel in the morning. I'll keep you posted.
 
I forgot to show you this picture yesterday. I put up cat shelves at the office and bedroom windows. They don't need shelves in the living room because the couch is under the windows. They all love lying in the window sills in the summer; now they can do it all year. The shelves are a big hit with Hunter and Abby. Maggie is still too small to jump that high, but she won't be for long. The way she's eating, there's a growth spurt on the way.
 
That's all that's going on here - the town has returned to normal and I'm sick. Ta-da! How do we handle so much excitement? And where are you when I don't feel good? I do think you could get a hall pass when I'm sick. I'd like soft-boiled eggs at bedtime, please.
 
Actually, I don't want anything except you. Love you with all my heart,
Joan.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

In a Good Place Spiritually, Ecumenically, Gramatically

Dear John,
 
I'm certain that you know what movie I watched today. Only Johnny Depp could pull off that line. It still makes me laugh out loud.
 
I've done very little today. With the world on God's time intead of government time, the sun woke us all up around 7:00 this morning. I sat in the bed for morning prayers and a look at Facebook. I texted Father and told him that I wasn't sick, just beyond exhausted. I worked like a draft horse all week, including working my day off. I may be getting sick, though. As the day has gone on, my lungs are tight and burning, and I feel like there's stuff in them. We'll see. I've increased my inhaler use to the maximum and am hoping for the best.
 
This morning I was thinking about old Greenville General Hospital, may its memory be eternal. Mama started volunteering there the winter between my summer as a nurses' aide and my summer externship in ICU. It was the mid-70s, so when people saw "Maggie" on her name tag, they started calling her Maggie Mae. Completely oblivious to the Rod Stewart reference, her response was, "Maggie may, and then again, Maggie may not!"
 
I heard about this when I was home for Thanksgiving break. When I came back for Christmas, I brought her a copy of the 45 and played it for her. She laughed so hard to think that people were thinking of her in that way. She was almost the age I am now. She told everybody that she had been unaware of the compliment they were paying her.
 
She was wonderful at being on the giving and receiving ends of good-natured teasing. Teasing was one of the little intimate expressions of love in my family. You adapted to that so effortlessly. I suppose the youngest child gets used to teasing. But you fit well into that dynamic in my family, and my mother especially appreciated that about you. She so enjoyed teasing you. She loved you so much, you know.
 
I'm sure you do know now, if you didn't before. Please pass this letter on to her and reminder her of Maggie Mae. She'll get a laugh out of it. My last summer working there was so special because she worked there, too. We commuted together and tried to meet for lunch. Years later she could keep me apprised of what was going on there with the people I knew and places I worked. We both loved that hospital. And we loved working there together.
 
So give Mama my love tonight. I've especially missed both of you today, maybe because I don't feel good. I'm even going to bed before the Steelers game starts. I have a busy day ahead, I'm not feeling good, and sleep has to be the priority. I'll try to catch a replay on line tomorrow.
 
Sleep well tonight! Love you more than life,
Joan.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Woman, Invincible, Tired

Dear John,
 
Whew!
 
That's all. Just, whew.
 
This past week has all run together in my mind. I can't remember what happened which day. I suppose that comes from working six days in a row. And every day was the same - massive merchant deposits to process, crowds of people, traffic jams, cold weather, tired feet, and a sore back. It was completely exhausting and vastly entertaining. I wouldn't have missed a minute of it. We'll be talking about this week until the next draft horse sale comes in the spring.
 
Tonight I'm just tired. I'm sitting on the couch in my flannel pajamas watching Notre Dame play Navy. After work I washed sheets, knitted, and took naps voluntary and involuntary. I really don't care how much dust is on the furniture or animal hair on the floor. I don't care if I do nothing at all between now and Monday morning. I have clean clothes, milk in the fridge, and plenty of left-overs to eat. Eat, sleep, knit. That's enough.
 
So, come hibernate with me! We can watch football and eat brownies. You can rub my feet and tell me all about your life in Heaven. It would rest and renew me to just sit quietly with you. It always did - just to be near you, to have you here warm and good and sweet and in love with me. I miss drawing strength from your presence. If you can, come and sit with me tomorrow. I'll save your spot on the couch.
 
Miss you,
Joan.