Saturday, January 23, 2010

Moments of a Christmas Past

It's taken a bit of time to sort through our Christmas.  In fact, sometimes I thought maybe I would just move on.  Wait for next year.  But then my mind would return- and I'd look at the pictures again.  CHRISTMAS is such a BIG EVENT! And so often seems rather overwhelming- with preparations that surely start in November- and here it is late in January and still I'm trying to sort the pieces- at least trying.
But there are lots of pieces to be sorted...

Last year- 2008- when we returned from California we gave Christmas only a cursory glance- I actually went back to the blog from last year and Christmas isn't even mentioned.  But we are home now- and we were ready. This was so our HOMECOMING YEAR.

BUT THEN LIFE HAPPENS! And suddenly I'm not even sure I recalled that we even had plans.  But maybe I should explain.  Remember we had this GRAND AND GLORIOUS THANKSGIVING ( with family and friends for our Cincinnati homecoming.  So we were off to an amazing start- certainly an earlier start for me-and Christmas. 

But let me begin again- or maybe rather try to begin- at the beginning- or maybe at least try...

Christmas started with setting up the Nativities!  Don and I never really started out to have a collection of nativities.  I brought one with me from Oklahoma to Ohio.  But I have a magical relationship with the story of this young family- and all their representations.  So Don and I just started "noticing" all the possibilities.  And the next thing you know- we had a collection.  And then the collection was large enough that I got tired of cleaning off a whole bookcase- lugging the books upstairs to get them out of the way- and then back again in January- so Don built a platform and we tucked them under the grand piano- much easier to put up and take down.  But POSSIBILITY FOR FUN- now that never occured to me.  Then maybe I just didn't imagine all the POSSIBILITIES that imaginative grandchildren bring to your life.  This year that possibility was realized with the imagination of our granddaughter, Reeder.  It was absolutely the most fun I could imagine.  So I watched as my beautiful granddaughter sorted- and counted- and organized each of the 22 sets complete with the Baby Jesus- and his Mommy and his Daddy- and all the animals- and of course the angels- and then all the wise men bringing presents- to this Baby Jesus' Birthday Party...

And then we had a wonderful time with Marianne et al and Sarah et al.. at the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo.

So we were off to a really good start.  We made plans.  We finished most  of our shopping. 

Each year our church home ( ) has an amazing music concert series over the holiday season.  We weren't going to miss one this year.  The first was on a Tuesday (December 15) at noon- and we both scheduled days off from work so we could spend the day downtown- walking among the lights- visiting the train exhibit- lunching out- and then a little shopping for those last gifts for grandbabies.

For me it started not quite so eventful- Don brought me coffee in bed (now I know for most, coffee in bed does seem eventful- but you see in our house Don brings me coffee in bed every single morning-  yes I know that most of you are going so, so, so like WOW- For me I know some folks are lucky enough to win the lottery- but for me my win was bigger- I won Don!)
But then Don said- "I don't feel so well"- And I was suddenly very, very awake.  You've got to understand- if the very center of your life wakes you up like Don did on November 3, 2005 at 5 am with crushing chest pain- and the terror that accompanies the trip to the ER, CATH LAB, CCU so you stare face to face with the BIG ONE any time he now says  "I don't feel so well" I revisit that terror- and hold my breath all over again. You're just never the same again.  You always live just one step this side of panic.  You start breathing fast if he's gone to long in the garage- or naps too often- or stays too long at the hardward store.  Or for that matter, coughs a few times, or feels a little tired after raking the yard, or just isn't in a jolly mood, or any other action that might not mean going 100%, then suddenly I'm getting my blood pressure taken, and my pulse taken and my temperature taken and quizzed about my heart. 

But I have EQUIPMENT (I will never be able to retire- because I'll always have to have the EQUIPMENT-my nursing bag waiting in the room next door).  So I connect Don to my EQUIPMENT- and his pulse hovers between 35-40.  We find the insurance card- and make our way to the ER where we spend the day.  Seems Don (who has had a pacemaker for better than 11 years) was in a rhythm called ventricular bigeminy- and though his heart was beating at 70-80- only 1/2 were actually circulating blood- so he was so breathless that he had to have a long rest just walking over about 10 feet.  And for the next 10 days he continued this same rhythm- and this same breathlessness- and exhaustion.  Our first thought was that the pacemaker just wasn't working right because it is supposed to keep my heart beating no slower than 60 bpm.  But the pacemaker was working just fine.  It detects the beats of my heart and responds to keep the rate steady, but for some reason my left ventricle was also compressing right after a real beat but there was no blood yet to push out.  So the pacemaker detected that beat and decided to wait another second to beat again. 

So the next day it was the trip to his cardiologist- and then back again for a cardiac stress test which he did so poorly on they had to discontinue the test. 
And schedule the cardiac cath for an angiogram.
We get some perspective on the whole experience when we look back and realize our very best day- our very best day in all the 10+ days we were sick (did I mention I shared the underlying "respiratory" or "H1N1" or whatever that was eventually determined to so derail Don's heart rhythm and Christmas)- But our very best day was the day we spent in the hospital for Don's cardiac cath.   Don't think I'll ever think of cardiac caths in the same light.  What a nice day it was- we got out of the house a bit- somebody else (other nurses not me) waited on both of us- and the results were good news.  The circulation in Don's heart is actually better than it was on that infamous day in 2005.  This was good news since one of the causes of my arrhythmia could have been coronary artery disease, but since my arteries were all clear, that was ruled out.  So good news my arteries are in good shape, bad news that we still didn't know why it was happening and when or if it would ever get back to normal.

So those next two weeks were essentially spent either in bed, laying on the couch, or trying to eat something, usually soup.  Sinuses were totally clogged, breathing was challenging, cough was awful, temperature was often up around 101, but never higher, eyes burned, one ear drum ruptured and sleep was constantly necessary.  The Christmas tree was up and we spent hours in our new sun room looking at that tree and watching the Christmas season go by.

But then I said this was about Christmas- and it is.  You see- at first I was going to just move on and not write this- get past it all- there's always next year.
But I kept returning to the moments that did happen.
And that's what this is about- the MOMENTS- THE BLESSED MOMENTS- of this Christmas Past.  See it is those moments- oh don't worry- I'll never stay far from panic when it comes to Don and his heart. But for this Christmas- it is really about the moments- and how in the contrast to all the sick and terror and exhaustion... it is really those moments I keep returning to again and again and again. 

So bear with me- I want you to see the wonderful moments as well.

We went to the Nutcracker on the 23rd with Sarah and Deseree and Reeder (Don's not in the picture- he was actually taking the picture- so he was there):  It was doubtful at first, I wasn't sure if my coughing was going to start again, or if I could really walk up all those steps to our seats, but I was actually on the mend and my heart rate seemed to be slowly getting back to normal.

And my most handsome son came to visit. See we were so, so, so, so sick.  But we don't get to have our Marine son very often- and next Christmas he is scheduled to be in Afghanistan- and he and his family were to come on Christmas Day- but we were so sick for so long we didn't know if we could do it.  But LIFE IS GOOD.  We were feeling better every day...

And I saw my LITTLE ANGEL at the Christmas Eve Mass..

With her Daddy...

And of course you can't have Christmas without gifts...Even though they were dispensed well after the fact, that didn't reduce the joy of giving or receiving.

It was a big year for Thomas the Train.  Both Anthony and Hayes are very much into Thomas.

It was so nice to finally get family together even though it was already January...

Reeder became Princess Ariel!

And always the shopping trip for gifts during the post Christmas SALES...We learned long ago that in some cases the best gifts are ones that can be chosen together on a shopping trip.  Taking Sarah to New York & Co. is one of my favorite shopping trips.  We had a great time and found her some wonderful new "school clothes".

Of course Amber and Max had to try out the new outlet mall just north of Cincinnati.  Needless to say, it was a big success for both Amber and the mall.



And of course there was food (great helper- princess Ariel)...

Christmas with those we love...

Don and his goddaughter Elizabeth!
And her parents!

Amber and her big Brute...


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Day of School!

We used to take pictures the first day of school- with the kids- and the backpack.  If you go back to Facebook on page:
you'll see the post from Deseree's first day here in Wyoming Middle School.

But this "First Day" is a much, much, much BIGGER "First Day"!  Sarah began her college education- to career- to independence- to a whole world awaiting her.  It will take a couple of years, but those will be years well spent and she will be ready and able to spread her wings and fly.  It couldn't be better!!

So we actually didn't get the picture on this Monday- January 4, 2010 when Sarah started. Don "staged" the shot last week, because of course for Sarah's first day there was no time for pictures on the porch- not with Deseree to get off to Middle School- and then Anthony to Pre-School.  But we are so proud!

And of course there was school shopping!  Don and Sarah came home with many bargains in anticipation of the big day. 

And did we ever hit the sales at New York & Company and the Loft.  It was a combination of Christmas and School clothes,  Everything was 30% to 50% off plus another 15% off for reactivating a charge card and even another 15% off for being a AAA member.  Who would have thought that AAA would provide a discount at the mall?

But just want to YELL REAL LOUD how very proud we are- and how very excited at this Sarah's "First Day"!