December 23, 2011

Christmas Letter to Family and Friends

Season Greetings!

Before sitting down to write our annual Christmas letter, I reviewed last year’s letter to make sure I couldn’t just say “ditto 2010” and be done with it for this year, 2011. No such luck. Then I searched a website that prints submissions of the worst Christmas letters ever received just to make sure one of ours wasn’t sent in by someone on our mailing list. Thank you all for resisting that temptation.

2011 in review: We didn’t do anything as exciting as hike the Appalachian Trail---unless dreaming about it counts---or as pitiful as sitting propped in chairs with bibs around our necks---unless nightmares count. So I guess you could say those facts speak volumes about our ho-hum lives here in our villa where it was discovered that hammers come in handy for opening childproof caps and our conversations often sound like this:

"Windy, isn't it?" I say to Don and the dog.

"No," Don replies, "Thursday."

And Levi in dog-speak says, “Me too. When is someone going to fill my water dish?”

We did accomplish one noteworthy thing this year. We saved ourselves from the embarrassment of someday having our stuff featured on the TV program Storage Wars---that’s the show where they auction off the contents of storage units when someone falls behind on the rent. With the help of a good friend, Tim, we emptied out our storage unit that had been sitting untouched since Don’s stroke. This was no small weekend project. The unit was ten by twenty-five feet and Don campaigned to save just about every other item enclosed from going on e-Bay. Thankfully, he lost most of those “keep it/sell it” duel of words and we no longer qualify to be featured on the TV show Hoarders.

That was the highpoint of the year. As for the low point, this year will live in infamy for being the Year of the Chronic Hives. I’ve officially had the hives almost every single day of 2011. After a regiment of taking three different antihistamines daily, seeing four doctors, submitting my body and blood for umpteen tests, and getting a prescription that lists the main side-effect as “suicidal thoughts”---as if the hives don’t already make you want to slit your throat---I learned that Baby Oil Gel with Lavender and Camomile from the Dollar Tree store works best at taming the itching. Thank God for that discovery because a few times I’ve come close to ordering a gorilla suit to wear out shopping just so I’d be excused for scratching assorted body parts in public.

Aside from the above mentioned highs and lows, 2011 brought us a succession of ordinary-to-lovely days, the kind that make you happy to be alive and living in a place where you can write a silly Christmas letter to touch bases with family and friends. Wishing you all a joyful Christmas and a happy New Year!

With Love,

Jean with Don’s seal of approval

October 21, 2011

From the Caregiver Kitchen

The house is quite. For now. Within the hour Don will be up and he’ll be bellowing out, “Jean!” every few minutes. Can’t get his foot started in his pants. “Jean!” Got his arm caught in his shirt. “Jean!” Can’t put on his sock. “Jean!” Of course I could save myself a lot of walking back and forth if I just stayed by his side and helped him get dressed but that would enable him to be even more dependent and give me less opportunities to complain under my breath about my role as a caregiver/spouse. Somehow doing the latter seems to cancel out my fears of total dependency on his part. He does try his best before bellowing out like a cow overdue for milking.

When my husband finally comes rolling out of the bedroom he’ll pull up to the table and starting eating cereal from the bowl before putting the milk in. The carton will be sitting right next to his bowl, but no, I’ll have to pour it in or he’d eat the entire bowl of cereal dry. This, of course, annoys me to no end. It’s bad enough that he's served cereal for breakfast day after day but to eat it dry is an ultimate embarrassment to the kitchen staff---that would be me.

Preparing breakfast is not my forte but just this past week I fried bacon for the second time in my entire life. It only took me hours of watching the Food Network to get up the courage to try. The first time I fried bacon---56 years ago---grease spit at my face and burned my eye. Every since I’ve been buying my bacon served along side of scrambled eggs and toast. Is it any wonder that I consider bacon frying as the crowning achievement in my otherwise lack lust world of cutlery arts? I came. I conquered. I climbed the mountain. Where's my trophy?

When I was a teenager and my mother was trying to teach me to cook she’d often say, “You’d better marry a man rich enough to go to restaurants every night!” I was just not catching on. In my defense she was no Rachel Ray when it came to teaching technique. I learned more from watching chefs Anne and Robert’s TV show, Worst Cook in America, than in my mother’s kitchen. But I did follow Mom’s advice about finding a man who loved going out to restaurants, thus for decades I had a cooking-free kitchen until recent years when Don became wheelchair dependent. Now, I struggle to do what other women take for granted. Oh, well, I have a back up plan, if needed. I can always sign us up for Jenny Craig just so we can get three meals a day delivered to our doorstep. ©