Thursday, November 29, 2007

Flu Blues

I've had the flu.

It started on Tuesday when I woke up with a headache that just wouldn't go away. I felt fine otherwise, but no matter what I tried, the headache lingered.

That night I had the chills and a fever. The night was full of nightmares, groans, aches and pains. I worried about getting up to let the dogs out, I couldn't get warm, I was too hot. Horrible monsters chased me in dreams (so much for the "thriller" book I am reading - it came to life that night). Wednesday was spent in my jammies, thick socks, slippers, a bathrobe, blankets and since no matter what I did I couldn't get my hands warm, gloves. I was never up for more than an hour. I piled blankets on the bed, drink lots of liquids (mostly warm) and waited it out. I must admit, I have never slept in gloves before. I hope I never feel the necessity to do so again.

Phil was out of town and couldn't be with me. I knew he was worried. He had the same bugga bugga a few days before, so he had a pretty good idea of how miserable I was.

This morning was better. A shower is a wonderful thing! All of my bedding got washed and I felt a little more human. Phil came up for a few hours and gave me some much needed TLC. Tonight I am almost back to normal (whatever that is!).

Back to work tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let Me Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is here and I am filled with gratitude for so many things in my life. I am blessed with so much. When I think of all I am grateful for, my heart swells. So, I decided to count my blessings. And, although there are many more then listed below, here are a few.

  • Philip. What can I say about this wonderful man? I've waited a lifetime and he is well worth the wait. He makes my heart sing. He is my greatest blessing.

  • My family. Parents who truly loved me and did their best, which was pretty darn good. Two sisters who are loving and supportive. A small extended family that I try to keep up with. My "greats:" Aaron, Coggan, Cadyn and Shannon. How wonderful are they?
  • My home. After 8 years it is still my place of safety and security and love. Every single day when I leave it or come home to it, I look at it with pride. I own a home.

  • My dogs. They have taught me unconditional love and to take responsibility for a life other than mine. They make me laugh every day. Some people say dogs don't have souls. I beg to differ. Not only do they have souls, but they have helped me find mine.
  • Friends. From Vicki, Beth and Shelley whom I have known since grade school to new friends I've made over the years. My church ladies, who are always an email away. Over the years I truly don't know what I would have done with them. Anne-Marie, who lives in another country yet we remain close. Friends I've made through my various work locations, like Nancy and Terri. Sally, my traveling gal pal and one of the few people I can talk to about anything and everything. Thank all of you for being there and hanging in there with me.

  • Books. I love books. One of the greatest things about the United States is the library system. My life would be so empty without books. I can't remember not reading and appreciate the gifts of all the writers of every book in the world.

  • A job I love. I can't say all of my almost 30-year career with the City of Milwaukee has been great, but I have never had to ask for a raise, I've had great health care and have had a very wide and varied amount of experiences. I've learned a lot. And, right now I have the best job I've ever had. I work with great, hard working dedicated people. All of whom I really appreciate.

  • The ability to enjoy nature and all of Her beauty. I love my flowers and the birds at my feeders. I love seeing the sun rise over the roof tops and bell tower of St. Augustine's. I have seen and experienced Natures beauty from different parts of the world. The Earth's beauty is a great blessing for all of us, if we would just open our eyes and look.

I'm sure I will be adding to this list over the next few days. Some blessings I will keep to myself, though and continue to say a quiet prayer of thanks.

May all of you have the opportunity to sit down, be still, and count your blessings. I think you'll be surprised at how many you have.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blessings and Chocolate Shakes

Every other Sunday I go to visit my Dad, who resides in a nursing home. Dad has Alzheimer's. Sometimes he remembers me, sometimes he doesn't. But, that's OK - he is well cared for, the home is outstanding and he is happy and cheerful. He is always glad to see me, and on a good day remembers who I am after a few minutes.

Dad's roommate is Don. I don't know much about Don. He has Parkinson's and has great difficulty talking. I know from the pictures on his wall that he has kids, but I have never seen him with a visitor.

Don, as well as all the other residents, love it when I bring my dog, Gracie, to see Dad. He also enjoys children and was thrilled when my nephew brought Dad's great-granddaughter, Shannon, to visit as a baby a year ago. I took Shannon, just a few weeks old, to Don and he gently touched her and smiled and laughed. He could not take his eye's off of her.

My sister, Sue, discovered last summer that Don loves chocolate and sweets in general. She had stopped at LeDucs (in Wales, WI) frozen custard stand and brought both Dad and Don a shake. Don was thrilled.

I go see Dad on Sundays in the morning, right before he goes to lunch. I plan it so that we have 45-60 minutes together before his lunch. When I go to see Dad I try to make the time to stop first at LeDucs. Sometimes I am pushing to get there before lunch and don't make the time to stop. Sometimes I forget. But today I remembered, gave myself enough time, and got a chocolate shake for Don and a strawberry shake for Dad.

Dad was sitting in his wheelchair in the hall when I arrived. Obviously, he didn't know who I was, but he smiled and agreed to sit in the sun room with me. I left him for a minute, walked down the hall and found Don nodding off in their room.

I lightly touched Don's shoulder and he looked up. I told him who I was and that I had a surprise for him. He smiled a little. I held up the white LeDuc's bag.

For a split second, for a tiny moment in time, I didn't see Don as an elderly man, in a wheel chair, ravished by Parkinson's, but as a 7 year old Don on Christmas morning or maybe seeing the best birthday present a 7 year old could imagine. His whole face changed, he smiled and beamed.

I pulled out the shake and he reached out for it before I had time to put the straw in it. I added the straw and I teased him by saying, "Don, the nurse might not like you having a shake before lunch - you'll ruin your lunch. He frowned a little and I continued, "But, I won't tell if you don't tell!" He beamed and I left him to enjoy it. He whispered a faint, "Thank you!"

I wheeled Dad to the sun room and give him his shake. After a couple of sips he said it was wonderful, but made him cold, so I went back to the room for a sweater. Don was totally enjoying his shake, his eyes shining.

Dad and I had a nice visit and I think that if he could, he would have happily licked the plastic cup the shake came in! He remembered who I was - at least for a few minutes. I wheeled him into the dining room for lunch and kissed him good bye. As I looked over, there was Don at another table struggling to eat jello. I went over to him and gave him a little hug and asked which flavor I should bring next time. He whispered, "strawberry."

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes in our busy lives, it is hard to see them. But, they are always there, probably more then we realize. Today for a blink in time I saw a 80+ year frial old man turn back into a 7 year old boy. All it took was a chocolate shake. Now that was a true blessing.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Phil and I are looking for houses.

Not a house to share immediately, but a house we will retire to and live in for years and years to come.

Since I live in Milwaukee and he lives outside of Chicago and we are looking in the southeastern states, this can get confusing!

We have some specific criteria about the area we want to live in. It has to be in a golf community. It needs be on or near water. We need to be close to a major airport. The community at large should be progressive. There should be a mixture of "mature adults" and young families. We want things to do besides look at the water and golf, so we want it to be located close to a college or university and it should be a community that offers activities, clubs, events, etc.
We have some specific criteria regarding the type of house we want. Phil wants a large home, big enough for entertaining, something we both enjoy. I want everything I need all on one floor - with other bedrooms and guest areas away from the master bedroom. We won't be "downsizing" that's for sure! We want it to have a casual feel, with open space, windows that let lots of light in and a feeling that our guests can walk in, sit down and put their feet up. A large kitchen that we can both work in (since we enjoy cooking together) as well as others who want to help and a formal dining area in which to share these meals. A designated office space for Phil, an area of quiet space for me. Plenty of bathrooms and a large, social area for guests to enjoy on their own, away from the public area of the house. Whoosh! That's a lot, and not all. The lot has to be large enough for the dogs and for me to do serious gardening. Phil would like a pool (a pool on lake property?), and not too close to neighbors.

So far we have seriously considered the Asheville, NC area. While I love this area, Asheville and the mountains, Phil would like to be near water. His concern is that it might get too cold for me in the winter months (one more criteria - not months and months of cold, but a 4 season area).

I have just returned from Hilton Head with my friends Terri and Sally. It is a beautiful area. I looked at houses in the Hilton Head area including Wexford , Palmetta Dunes and Spanish Wells. While an ocean view would be great (saw 2 we could afford with beautiful views that would include dolphins swimming by), I worry about hurricanes and alligators (more inland). I fear that in the peak tourist months, Hilton Head would be like living in Wisconsin Dells or Door County. Too many people and too much traffic.

We seem to be gravitating towards southeast Georgia. We have found a large golf community, on a lake, within 75 minutes of the Atlanta airport. The people are very friendly, there is a lot to do within the plantation (a name these communities are called down south, which I really dislike). There are restaurants and stores all nearby. There are books clubs, golf clubs, discussion groups - a million different things to become involved with and the community promotes participation in several volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. There is ample shopping and medical centers close, a movie theater and it is close to several great small towns as well as Atlanta, Athens and Macon. Hilton Head is a drivable 3 1/2 hours away. Most important for Phil is that there are 5 golf courses within the plantation and more coming, as well as many more courses in the general area.

This is a big decision for us. With retirement just over 2 years away for Phil and just under 3 years for me, maintaining yet a 3rd house (at last for the next year or so) seems a little nuts. And, this is a HUGE commitment for both of us.

Yet, the closer we get to narrowing down the exact house we want, the more excited we become. We were down exploring this community over Labor Day Weekend and looked at a 6 or 7 houses. I went down during a visit to my sister's in Atlanta in October and looked at a 6 or 7 more homes, returning to one in particular.

Phil and I just returned from "President's Weekend" where potential buyers are invited down for a fully comped weekend. This was a very low key sales pitch event and we were treated extremely well, including 2 nights at the Ritz-Carleton. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. We looked at a few houses, 2 of which we have both seen before and seem to be zeroing in on one in particular. We met some great people and seemed to have developed a very good friendship with our real estate agent and his wife, as well as a couple of their friends. It seems like it will be a good fit. I will be in Atlanta with family over Thanksgiving and will return to the house we like once again to check out the some of the furnishing included with the house.
And despite finding one house we both like, I have plans spread out on my dining room table, just in case we decide to build!

What will we decide? Well, time will tell. The important thing is is that Phil and I are continuing to grow in our relationship and to building a life together. We are planning a home that is welcoming and a good space to be in. It will be filled with love and laughter and it will be a place we can turn to in times of need. It won't be my home in Milwaukee or his home in Chicago, but our home. How wonderful is that?