Thursday, October 14, 2021

Road Trip

We were going to head north to see our son and daughter-in-law for a visit, so we decided to stop someplace new on the way there. We settled on going to Williamsburg, Virginia. Neither of us had been there before, so it was all new to us despite its old age. We enjoyed learning the history of the previous capital of the Virginia Colony. Founded in 1699, it was the location of the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World. Fortunately the rain held off and we were able to enjoy the self-guided walking tour. We also visited the College of William and Mary, which is the second oldest institute of higher learning in this country.

Williamsburg, Virginia

The next day we drove to Yorktown, Virginia. It is one of the eight original shires formed in Colonial Virginia in 1682. Yorktown is the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. We stopped at Colonial National Historic Park to pick up a driving map so that we could visit important locations for the siege that took place in the area.

Yorktown, Virginia

Following lunch in Yorktown we proceeded to our son's house. The next morning we went into D.C. proper. We walked the mall area, and enjoyed seeing the Eisenhower Memorial and the WWI Memorial. They are both new since our last visit to D.C. Saturday we visited a botanical garden and a winery. The weekend also included an early celebration of my birthday. It was a great trip!

Washington, DC





Sunday, October 3, 2021

Follow Up on the Booster Shot

We got the Pfizer booster shot last Wednesday, and the only side affects for us were a sore injection site arm and a little lethargy the next day. By Thursday evening I felt just fine, and that was that. I will certainly take those minor inconveniences versus getting Covid.

Yesterday our community had its first fall festival. Many volunteers worked for months to pull it together, and what a great job they did! It was a beautiful day, which was a blessing. We started the morning with a car/truck/motorcycle show along with coffee and donuts. People brought their unusual/unique/classic vehicles, and the Ford dealership provided a few new vehicles for display as well. We took Jim's Indian motorcycle and his 2007 Porsche 911 Carerra Cabriolet to the show. There were 15 vehicles in all, so that's not a bad start for a first time event.

In the afternoon there were about 30 booths for people to shop at or learn about local services. There were wine and beer vendors as well. One of our residents is a DJ, so he had the music going. There was also a food truck available. When the booths closed down, the live band started up. They were really good, and got a lot of people up and dancing. It was nice to have some outdoor fun, meet some new people who have moved in recently, and forget about Covid for awhile.

this morning's sunrise


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Getting a Boost

booster shot
Yesterday my husband and I received the Pfizer Covid-19 booster shot. As soon as we heard it was recommended and approved for those age 65 and over, we scheduled our appointments at Walgreens. We arrived a few minutes early, filled out the paperwork, and quickly received our shots. The pharmacist did a great job, and I barely felt the injection.

So far we are doing well. Neither one of us has a fever, but our injection arms are pretty sore today. I was thinking of the irony of the fact that my left arm was finally pain-free following my frozen shoulder surgery a couple months ago, and now it hurts due to the shot! I will definitely take a couple days of arm pain to avoid getting Covid, that's for sure. 

All these break through cases (vaccinated people who are getting the Delta variant of Covid despite their vaccines) are pretty nerve-wracking. I know that vaccinated folks are pretty unlikely to end up in the hospital or die from Covid, but I don't want to get it in the first place. Who knows what the long-term repercussions will be from having the virus in your system?

As of yesterday in the United States, 213,752,856 people or 65% of the population have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine. Overall, 185,265,610 people or 56% of the population have been fully vaccinated. We are still so far from the 70% vaccination rate goal.

In terms of the booster shot, over 2.8 million Americans had received the shot as of a couple days ago. Nearly 1 million have appointments scheduled to get their third dose. Keep in mind that as of right now, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for its booster. Those who received the Moderna series or the Johnson & Johnson single shot are still having to wait for government approval of boosters.

With so many people in the U.S. refusing to be vaccinated at all, despite the rising numbers of deaths in unvaccinated people, all we can do is take the steps to protect ourselves. Hopefully the third shot will help keep our defenses in place so that, in addition to good hygiene and mask wearing, we can remain virus-free.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

May the Mask be with You

As we roll into the last week of September I find myself busy once again making new face masks. My neighbors were looking for a mask with a filter holder to give them an additional layer of protection, so I volunteered to make them each one. While I was at it, I made myself one with a filter holder as well. We may be going on a flight in November (though who really knows with the way the Covid numbers are still rising), and I decided having a third layer would be a good idea for me as well. Then, since I was on a roll, I made a few other new ones for myself to change things up. If I need to wear a mask, it might as well be cute, right?

Looking back at my blog posts from last year, it was at the beginning of April, 2020 that I sewed my first pandemic face masks. I had no idea that I would still be making them nearly 18 months later. It's just crazy!

This morning we were awake early (as usual) so we decided to walk down to Sunflowers Point to watch the sun rise. It is a short distance from our house, which is nice, so we can take a towel to wipe the dew off the chairs and bring our tea/coffee along. It was a beautiful day, and we were joined by a blue heron in the cove. I cannot say enough times how blessed we are to live here! It was such a great decision to make our retirement move when we did. I can't imagine a better spot in which to weather a pandemic.

sunrise at Mountain Island Lake


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Covidcation

view of Grandfather Mountain from the condo

With the Covid-19 numbers still so grim, it is hard to decide if one should travel or not. We decided to take a three day trip to Banner Elk, NC to stay with some friends in their condo. It is only 2.5 hours from us, so there was no need to stop for gas or a meal. Located in Beech Mountain, the setting is beautiful, and the air is cooler and drier than here in the Charlotte area.

We had a wonderful time playing pickleball at the Beech Mountain Club, hiking in Roan Mountain, taking a walking tour of the town of Banner Elk, and enjoying the diverse landscape of the area. We made all but one of our meals in the condo, and the last night together we ate in town but dined outdoors. We were as safe as we could possibly be, and it was fun to catch up with our friends, play cards on the balcony and just enjoy the fabulous views. It was definitely a respite from the heat we have been having here at home.

Banner Elk area


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Labor Coviday

This past weekend we celebrated Labor Day weekend in the United States. Typically marking the end of summer in the eyes of many people, the weekend is normally packed with activities. Due to Covid, those activities were outdoors again this year. 

The weekend was pretty full with pickleball Friday morning followed by a street fest in downtown Mount Holly, complete with a live band and food trucks. It was a beautiful evening to sit in our chairs on Main Street. Saturday morning Jim and I put our kayaks in on Mountain Island Lake at 7:00. We wanted to catch the sunrise as well as the steam rising up off the water. We captured both, and had the lake pretty much to ourselves at that hour. It was my first time kayaking since my shoulder surgery, and it went well.

sunrise on Mountain Island Lake

Saturday night was the monthly game night with two other neighbors, and the weather was so nice that we were able to play outdoors on a patio. Sunday night was mixed doubles pickleball here on the community courts, and Monday night we attended an outdoor concert here.

The down side of the weekend was that we learned over a dozen members of our community currently have Covid. It appears to have come from a large indoor gathering held here last weekend, at which no one was masked. While our county does not have a mask mandate for indoor activities, the CDC has said people should wear a mask indoors if they are not able to socially distance. We do not attend any large events indoors, and even with small ones I always wear my mask. Because of a delay in relaying information about the outbreak, many more people have been exposed. It is unfortunate that no one was warned before the holiday weekend. It's too soon to tell how many residents will be impacted by this.

Speaking of Covid, things continue to get worse here and around the world. It seems like new variants pop up each week, and it sounds like the latest - MU - may be resistant to our vaccinations. The government is very close to recommending a booster shot beginning September 20th. I won't hesitate to get it. 

Here are the latest coronavirus numbers: North Carolina has had 1.26 million cases and 14,848 deaths. In the United States there have been 40.2 million cases and 650,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 219 million cases and 4.5 million deaths. The numbers are grim, there are still too many unvaccinated people in the US, and false information continues to be spread on social media. I'm not sure what it will take to get us to the goal of a 70% vaccination rate.



Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Welcome September

Today is the first of September, and we are on the downhill slide into Labor Day weekend. We finally had some much needed rain yesterday, but could certainly use some more. The better news is that the upper 90s is out of the forecast for awhile. It has been so hot and humid here, and while we had the same weather in the summer when we lived in St. Louis, this has been an unusually long stretch of uncomfortable temperatures and humidity.

Our weekend is pretty full with pickleball on Friday, game night with two other neighbors on Saturday, more pickleball Sunday night, and a concert in the community Monday evening. It should be a great weekend!

Today was my 12th physical therapy session. Andrew keeps pushing me with additional exercises, and it has really made a difference. My range of motion in the left arm is nearly as good as my right arm in a couple of raised positions, and all positions are much better than prior to surgery. I continue to do my own therapy at home once on the days I see the PT and twice on days when I don't. Beginning next week I will cut down to two times a week with Andrew, and his suggestion is just two weeks of that. As we might go visit friends the middle of September, the schedule may need to be juggled a bit. My shoulder is still achy, so I hope after a couple more weeks of therapy that will go away.

Mountain Island Lake sunrise


Thursday, August 19, 2021

2nd Covidversary

Well, I certainly never anticipated when I wrote the post "Covidversary" last August that we would still be talking about this a year later. Despite the availability of vaccines the U.S., and indeed the world, are still crippled by Covid-19. Counties and cities here are backpedalling, and mask mandates are going back in place. Suggestions that we will all need a third shot 8 months following our other two vaccines are being made. In fact a friend of mine in St. Louis has already received hers because her immune system is compromised.

Today is our 43rd wedding anniversary. Unlike last year we are not going to a restaurant for dinner because things are very up in the air right now. The county we live in and the one we shop/dine in do not require masks, so we do not feel safe eating inside a restaurant right now. Instead Jim is grilling steaks and we will enjoy a nice, safe dinner at home. Maybe once the masks go back in place and tables are again separated in restaurants we will dine inside again, but we are not there yet.

So far our community has been silent on the growing numbers of covid cases, including the breakthrough ones where fully vaccinated people are getting the virus. I am wearing a mask whenever I go into any of the buildings here if others are also inside. I don't care what anyone thinks about it. I'd rather err on the side of caution. I've managed to go 17 months without getting covid, and I'd like to keep it that way. I know the shots will keep me from getting so sick that I need to be hospitalized, but who wants to catch it in the first place? No one knows what the long-term consequences of the virus will be on our internal organs.

So where do things stand today? North Carolina has had 1.13 million cases and 13,969 deaths. In the United States there have been 37.3 million cases and 624,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 209 million cases and 4.4 million deaths.

While it can be easy to get discouraged in light of what's going on, at the end of the day I can only do my part to make things better. I'll still wear a mask, maintain social distance, and wash my hands often. And be grateful that I live where I do, because waking up to this in the morning certainly helps ease the frustration I have that others have not and are not doing their part.

Mountain Island Lake


Monday, August 16, 2021

Where's the Pot of Gold?

rainbow but no gold
We have been having some strange weather lately. Tropical Storm Fred to the south has been unpredictable, and the forecasters keep saying each day that we will be getting rain. And each day it gets cloudy, a little windy, and some thunder rolls in. But rainfall has been negligible. Following what little rain we got yesterday, this vibrant rainbow appeared in the northeastern sky. That was a consolation prize, I suppose.

While we need the rain, I really hope the forecast for today is wrong as it is so often. We are hosting two pickleball clinics tonight on our outdoor courts. The first hour at 7:00 is for beginners, and then my husband and I will take those 8 students to the tennis courts (which are also striped for pickleball). We will work with them on what they learned for an hour or so. At 8:00 the instructor will then work with 8 advanced beginners on the pickleball courts for an hour and a half to help them improve their skills. 

When the sign up was posted for the two clinics, they filled in a few hours. So we have a second set being offered next Monday, and those signups filled immediately as well. It's obvious we have a huge need (and desire) for these types of clinics here. I just hope we can get them in, because rescheduling could be incredibly difficult. Here's hoping that our pot of gold is filled with sunshine in a couple of hours!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Good News Day

This morning was my followup visit to the surgeon's office. Of course, I did not get to meet with the surgeon but instead with his physician assistant. He was really kind, answered all of my questions and checked on my range of motion. He also went over the photos we were given of the surgery itself. We had no idea what we were looking at, so it all made a lot of sense once he reviewed them with us. It was all quite interesting, and I could see why my rotation was so limited and where the pain was coming from. 

He stressed the need to keep the arm moving, to do exercises at home throughout the day, and he would like to see me in physical therapy five days a week. That is not going to happen for a number of reasons, but I will go three days a week for awhile in addition to doing my therapy at home. Most importantly, he released me for driving AND to play pickleball! As I was originally told I would be out 6-8 weeks, this was welcome news indeed. He said there is nothing I can hurt or screw up, so do whatever feels okay. He just doesn't want me lifting more than a case of water at this point. My followup appointment is in 6 weeks, and I suspect that will be the last time I have to see them.

This afternoon was my third physical therapy session. It went fine, though certain exercises hurt quite a bit. He is pleased with my progress and feels my range of motion has improved even since Monday's session. So all in all, it was a good news day.

gray treefrog
On another subject, the weirdest thing happened the other night. I went upstairs to close the windows, and as I walked past the bathroom something caught my eye. When I glanced in I could see there was something on the toilet that shouldn't be there. I flipped on the light to see two beady eyes staring at me from the toilet seat. My first thought was a mouse, and how in the world would it climb up a toilet. But then I realized it was a tree frog! And he had pooped on the toilet seat as well. Obviously he isn't toilet trained - ha! I have absolutely no idea how he got in the bathroom on the second floor. Could he have come in through the toilet? It was certainly not something you see every day. I called for my husband to come and take a look. He brought a plastic container, scooped the frog into it, and released him outside. Hopefully this is a one and done deal.

Monday, August 9, 2021

One Week Post Op

comfort food from a neighbor
It's been a week since my arthroscopic surgery on my left shoulder. I had my first physical therapy last Thursday afternoon, and it wasn't too bad. Mostly the therapist needed to do a bunch of measurements to see what my range of motion is currently. He did have me do four exercises, which I am to repeat once a day. What I love about this PT practice is that they have a patient portal which has short videos of each of my exercises so I can refresh myself on the correct positions of each. I can also log in my therapy to track what I'm doing. I have been doing the exercises twice a day as the pain is bearable when I do them.

My stomach has still been a little upset ever since surgery. I'm not sure if it is lingering remnants of the anesthesia or the three oxycodone pills I took. Or maybe a combination of both. So far today I feel pretty good, so hopefully I've turned the corner on that small complication. Otherwise, my arm has a dull ache similar to before surgery, and I feel the range of motion is no worse than before. I'm choosing to think that is a good thing since I would guess the surgery messed things up a little in there. I see the physical therapist again this afternoon, and my surgeon's physicians assistant on Wednesday, so I'll get a better read on where I should be after those appointments.

Assuming I feel okay, we will go to Lowe's after my appointment today. We want to look at curtain rods as my neighbor told me they have decent ones. We have nice pull down shades on all our windows, and we like the clean look of that. However, the front bedroom has a lot of light coming in at night from the streetlight. In hindsight, I wish we would have ordered the room darkening shade for that room like we did for our bedroom. But a room darkening curtain should do the trick to make it more comfortable for guests to sleep. We have company coming in a couple weeks, and more in September and October. Of course that's assuming everything doesn't get shut down again due to Covid-19 and the more transmittable Delta variant that's running rampant. With just 50% of the US population being fully vaccinated, it is hard to remain optimistic we will see the end of this any time soon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Unfrozen

ready for surgery
Yesterday was my arthroscopic surgery and manipulation to free up my frozen shoulder. I didn't get the call to tell me what time to arrive until 6:00 p.m. the night before. Wow, I guess none of us needs to plan our surgical day or anything. I was told to arrive at the surgery center by 8:00 a.m. That was actually a pretty good time slot since I was not allowed to eat or drink anything after 10:00 Monday night. I also had to shower with Hibiclens Monday night and again on Tuesday morning, so at least we didn't need to leave our house at 6 or anything.

It was raining, so we allowed 45 minutes to get to the center, arriving at 7:50. I had been told that Jim needed to be masked and stay in the waiting room the whole time. Surgery was scheduled for 9:30, and would take 1/2 hour, then I would be in recovery until 11:00. When we got into the waiting room, it quickly became apparent that the mask mandate was not being enforced. Some people had no mask, some wore them around their chin or under their noses, and a few were compliant. Jim looked around in dismay - as did I, frankly since I was having surgery. 

A couple sat across from us without their masks on. The man looked like he had on a long black skirt, and she had on a skirt with a slit so high it left nothing to the imagination. Including her cellulite. It was very unpleasant. My mask stayed firmly in place until I was taken in the back and they exchanged my cute smiley face mask with the generic hospital mask.

I was taken to the back on time, and gestured to Jim that there was an unoccupied, small consultation room that he could sit in to get away from the unmasked. I would have gone to wait in the car, as the registration lady said that was an option since they had his phone number. He was given a number so he could follow my progress, so he elected to stay in the waiting room.

In the back I was taken to the area where the surgical patients are prepped. I had my own cubby space with three walls and a curtain across the front. I was asked many questions, my temperature was taken, and then I was asked to put on a gown and some bootie slippers. As time went on, it was apparent they were running behind. I was thirsty, hungry and had a major headache from not sleeping much the night before. Fortunately, pre-surgery prep included two Tylenol - yay!

A nurse tried to insert a needle for the IV into a vein on my right hand, and she must have struck a nerve. I yelped and about came off the bed. I told her that hurt worse than my shoulder! She was so apologetic, and took the needle out, but had to press hard on the spot to stop the bleeding and to help prevent bruising. Then she tried for a second vein, which thankfully went much more smoothly. But to show how bad it was, she spent a long time cleaning the blood off my fingers and the floor.

I was able to keep my phone with me so I could text Jim with updates. He said he could see on the board that I was still in pre-op. I was able to let Jim know that unmasked black skirt guy got the cubby next to me. He was asked if he had a negative Covid test, which he did, and then asked if he had been vaccinated. Of course he hadn't!

Finally the anesthesiologist came in and explained that he would do a nerve block on the shoulder. I asked if I would be under when he did that - thinking how ugly the steroid shots are - and he said no, he needed me awake so I could answer questions. They did give me what they called a "margarita" through the IV, and honestly I never felt the nerve block at all. I didn't even realize he had done it until my hand started to go to sleep. Finally the surgeon came in and explained he would make two or possibly three holes in the shoulder, depending on what he saw when he got in there.

They finally wheeled me to surgery at 11:00. I helped shift myself from the bed onto the table, and the next thing I knew they were asking me to take deep breaths through the oxygen mask. I was woken up in recovery at 11:30, and was given some ginger ale. She said my mouth and throat might be sore. I said, "Oh, I guess I was intubated then." She shot me a quick glance and replied, "Where did you learn a big word like that?" I figured it wasn't the time or place to explain that I worked for a medical malpractice insurance company for 15 years. At the end of an hour I was helped to get dressed, put into a wheel chair and taken out to the lobby. They had already called Jim to let him know I was ready. In fact the doctor called him at 11:30 and the recovery nurses called him to let him know when I was there and how I was doing.

We got home and I first hydrated, and then tried a little soup and a few soda crackers. I repeated that for dinner, and was feeling okay. The nerve block was still very much in place, and I have to say having a dead arm is really weird. It's like grabbing the hand of a corpse, except the skin is warm not cold. Jim had gone out in the afternoon to get the two prescriptions they ordered. One was an anti nausea pill and the other a generic Percocet. They repeatedly advised to stay on top of the medicine the first few days, setting the alarm every four hours to take the pain pill. The anti nausea was only to be taken one every 8 hours. I took the first pills at 7:30 and felt okay. The second pill I took at 11:30, and that was okay but I just could not fall asleep. It was almost like it had caffeine instead of codeine in it. By the 3:30 alarm I was feeling sick to my stomach, so I took another anti nausea pill. I held out until 4:00 for the pain pill, hoping my stomach would be settled by then. I also had my first physical therapy (PT) scheduled for 10:00, so I wanted some pain medicine in me before I undertook that. But I continued to feel more and more nauseous, and was throwing up by 8:00.

Jim called the doctor's office as suggested if you felt dizzy or nauseated. It took forever for his call to be answered, only to be told that the doctor's assistant was with a patient and would call him back. In the meantime I was due for a pain pill at 8:00 (stay ahead of the pain, they emphasized) but there was no way I was putting another of the Percocets in me again. By 9:30 we still had no call back, so Jim phoned again, another holding period, and the assistant still wasn't free but would call him soon. I went ahead and called the PT office and said there was no way I could make a 10:00 appointment. I hated to give then so little notice, and I know how important it is to do PT the day after surgery. I was hoping they could get me in during the afternoon, but the best she could do was 2:00 tomorrow.

When the assistant finally called back, he said to just take 3 ibuprofen pills every 4 hours. I can alternate those with Tylenol if I want, which is what I am planning to do. The greatest thing is I can plan for 2 Tylenol PM tablets as my last for the night, so hopefully I can get a few hours of solid sleep tonight. Once the nerve block totally wore off, I removed the sling which has been on since the end of surgery. The doctor doesn't want me to wear it, instead he wants me to move the arm as often as possible. I will only wear the sling when I go out, mostly to let other people know to stay away from that arm. I've been icing the shoulder with the shoulder pad I bought as well to keep the swelling down.

So far the pain is bearable, and I've been doing some minor exercises and arm movements so it doesn't re-freeze. Hopefully this pill regimen will work and I won't need anything stronger for the pain. I'll find out after PT tomorrow!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Things are not Looking Good

Vax or Mask
Well, it appears as though the we have not turned the corner on Covid after all. Case numbers are going up, predominantly due to the Delta variant which is significantly more contagious and spreads faster than the other strains. Delta now accounts for 83% of the nation's Covid cases. The CDC is back-pedaling and suggesting that all people - vaccinated and unvaccinated - again wear masks inside crowded places. Duh! With less than 50% of the US population fully vaccinated, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that keeping masks on would be a good idea. 

For the first time I am seeing (and hearing) a ground swell of sentiment against the unvaccinated. It is due to them that we never reached herd immunity, and the Delta variant was able to take hold. Again, they claim it is a violation of their rights to force them to get a vaccination. But what about the violation of the rights of the vaccinated? Why should we be forced to wear masks again when we did the right thing by getting vaccinated? Until there are severe consequences to those who refuse the shot such as being let go from their jobs, not being allowed into public venues, not being able to board a plane or a ship, we will never convince them to be vaccinated so that we stand a chance or eradicating this deadly virus.

Here is an update on overall Covid statistics. North Carolina has had 1.05 million cases and 13,651 deaths. In the United States there have been 35 million cases (1 million more than I reported two weeks ago!) and 613,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 197 million cases and 4.2 million deaths. How can so many people just ignore these statistics?

It is certainly possible that more restrictions will be imposed on us in the near future. The results of behaving as if there was no pandemic for the past couple months is taking its toll. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Back to Masks?

While Los Angeles last week announced that masks will be mandatory when indoors regardless of vaccination status, other areas are beginning to follow suit. St. Louis County's new mandate goes into effect July 26th. All 50 states are experiencing a surge in Covid cases. We used to hear vax it OR mask it, but now it's vax it AND mask it.

The CDC has not publicly announced that they made a huge mistake in relaxing mask requirements back in May, but they really need to own up to the fact that they should not have stated that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask while in crowds. Expecting the unvaccinated population to do the right thing and mask up was just ridiculous. And the increasing numbers of cases and hospitalizations is proving the point. 

I made the comment to my neighbor, who is a physician, that I can get the shot and not have too much impact on anyone else's life but my own. But a person who refuses to get the vaccine can have a huge impact on my life. We all may have to go back into full masking requirements, if not total lockdown, because of the people who will not get vaccinated. There are about 1,000 counties in the U.S. with vaccination rates of less than 30%. Less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Without the numbers needed to create herd immunity, we will continue to see variants of the virus as evidenced by the one called delta. And now the first case of a mutation called lambda has been discovered in Texas. At some point, the existing vaccines may not protect us from these new variants. We really need the vast majority of the population to get vaccinated before we all end up in full lockdown again. Or worse.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Surgery is a go!

Finally I received a mailed letter from my insurance company stating that my shoulder surgery and the anesthesia has been approved. They then went on to say that they might not pay for it, however. Huh? The correspondence went on to give a laundry list all the reasons why they might not pay. I don't think any of their conditions apply to me, but sheesh. Way to make me feel confident in this situation - not! It's a good thing all I have to do is walk out into my backyard to find my inner peace again!

Mountain Island Lake


Friday, July 16, 2021

Coviditis

mask up!
It's been two months since the CDC (followed by most states) lifted the mask mandate in the United States. I expressed my concerns about this decision in my May 15th blog post. So now that some time has elapsed, what has happened with Covid numbers in this country?

Fueled by the new Delta variant of the virus, which is more easily transmittable, U.S. cases as well as deaths are up significantly in the past couple months. Experts have been quoted as saying that this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated as they account for 97% of the hospitalizations here. Cases are up in 49 states, despite the fact that 336 million doses of vaccines have been administered. Only 48.9% of our population has been fully vaccinated.

What has been the response to the rising case numbers? Los Angeles County in California is the first to take a step backwards and tighten restrictions. An indoor mask mandate has been put back in place, regardless of a person's vaccination status. Seven other California counties also issued mask mandates, despite the fact that California just lifted all restrictions on June 15th. Will other communities follow suit?

Here is an update on overall Covid statistics. North Carolina has had 1.02 million cases and 13,533 deaths. In the United States there have been 34 million cases and 608,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 189.2 million cases and over 4 million deaths.

My observation from being out and about is that people are acting as if there is no pandemic. They are crowding into restaurants, concerts, amusement parks, stores, etc. My husband and I are still wearing our masks when indoors, but we rarely see anyone else doing so. Can you imagine trying to get all these people to start wearing masks again? It will be like trying to stuff cats in a bag. Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Who Needs Anesthesia?

After my last post about being grateful for having health insurance to cover my upcoming shoulder surgery, a bizarre thing happened. I got a call from the surgeon's office advising me that the anesthesia group used by the surgery center I will be going to is not in the network of my medicare supplemental plan. That means the insurance company will pay the anesthesiologist the in network rate and I will be responsible for the difference. The anesthesia group sent me a form to sign that states I understand they are out of network. So wait - the surgeon is in network and the surgery center is in network, but the anesthesia group they use is not? That doesn't make any sense to me. The woman who called me suggested I call my insurance company and double check on the anesthesia group.

When I talked to the representative at the insurance company, on a phone call that lasted a total of 1 hour and 25 minutes, she advised me that there are no anesthesiologists within 100 miles of where I live who are in network. I should mention that I am in one of the largest medicare supplemental plans in the U.S., and I live in a metropolitan area with a population of 2.6 million people. How is this even possible? I told her it makes it pretty difficult to have surgery when they don't have any anesthesia groups in the plan. She put me on and off hold listening to the same craptastic song over and over while she was checking with various supervisors. The end result was being told that my case was being taken under review, and I would hear in two weeks whether they would consider the anesthesia to be in network or not.

In the meantime I called the broker who sold me the plan to let her know what was going on. She has over 600 medicare clients, and she has never heard of such a thing. She told me she would go further up the ladder in the insurance company than I did, and would have an answer for me within a couple days. Sure enough, two days later she called to tell me what she learned. Apparently this insurance company has a contract with the surgery center where they cover everything that happens at the surgery center under one payment to the center. Since anesthesia falls under that, it will be covered as being in network. Because she knows what she is doing, she got this in writing.

A few days ago a different person from my insurance plan called me asking for the anesthesia code. I have no idea how they will code this procedure, and they probably don't either at this point. So obviously I am still "under review" by the insurance company. I'm sure I haven't heard the end of this yet.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Frozen

Have you ever had a frozen shoulder? It is caused by a thickening or inflammation of the capsule containing tissue in the shoulder, which restricts movement and causes pain. Sometimes it comes on gradually and other times people wake up one morning unable to move their arm. 

Chair from Hell example
My right shoulder froze up over a few months in 2006, to the point where I could not raise my hand high enough to brush my teeth, among other things. I had a manipulation under anesthesia (MUA), where the orthopedic surgeon moved the should to break the capsule and scar tissue free while I was under anesthesia. The afternoon of surgery a Continuous Passive Motion Machine (AKA the Chair from Hell) was delivered to my house, and I spent hours each day putting my shoulder through all kinds of different motions aided by the mechanics of the chair. 

The day following surgery I began physical therapy, which lasted several weeks. There were also numerous exercises I performed at home each day as well. I felt like all I did each day was some sort of therapy. However, I had a pretty good outcome from all of that, gaining back about 90% range of motion in the shoulder.

In March of this year I began experiencing pain in my left shoulder. Even though it has been 15 years, I felt like I knew what was going on. The left shoulder was freezing up. My range of motion in the arm has continued to decrease, while the pain has increased. In reading through some articles and watching YouTube videos by physical therapists, I decided to see if I could do some exercises at home and at our gym here to try to break the shoulder free on my own. Unfortunately, the condition has worsened, so on June 23rd I went to see an orthopedist who specializes in shoulders. They took a few quick x-rays so he could rule out other causes for the pain/limited mobility, and he said everything looks really good there.

We discussed my prior experience, and my options for treatment. He advised that they rarely perform MUAs anymore as it is too easy to break the shoulder. Instead the preferred treatment is arthroscopic surgery, where he will go in and break the adhesions or scarring up. Again I would begin physical therapy the day after surgery, but they no longer prescribe the Chair from Hell, thank goodness. 

Because they are saying my recovery period will be 6-8 weeks, I scheduled the surgery for August 3rd after my pickleball women's league finishes up. There is no reason to rush the surgery as far as the doctor is concerned, so I figured I might as well complete something I really enjoy doing. Fortunately this is not my dominant arm, or I would not have been able to wait on having the procedure done. As for now, I'm having fun (not!) completing the pre-surgery forms and answering all the questions from the various people who will play a part in my care. I feel very fortunate to have the option of surgery due to good medical insurance, so I'm not complaining. Instead I'll work on getting all the things done that I won't be able to do for awhile following the procedure.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Imagery Shutterbugs Part 2

Last night our little photography group met to go over some of the photos we had taken on Saturday. We were short three people, so I'm not sure if they just couldn't make it or if they decided the workshop was not for them.

It was fun to see what captured the attention of the different photographers. In only one case did two of us have the exact same image. At the end of our session on Saturday I shot the blue sky and clouds through a window of the building we were meeting at. Another person saw me, looked up, and took the same shot. Unfortunately we both submitted them for review. But as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so no big deal.

After we went through all the photos we talked about places we would like to go as a group to take pictures. Several ideas were thrown out, and the workshop leader will now put together a calendar of events for the rest of the year.

Because these are not technical workshops, nor are the photo reviews meant to be critiques, I'll have to decide if I want to continue on with the group. There is a charge for each month, and if all we are going to do is take and look at pictures, I can certainly do that on my own for free. 

Here are a few of my favorites from Saturday morning.

photoshoot collage


Monday, June 28, 2021

Imagery Shutterbugs

daylily
A shutterbug is defined as an enthusiastic amateur photographer, so that seems an apt title for this post about a recent photography event in my community. While we had a small group of photographers here at Imagery who met a few times before Covid-19, it all sort of fell apart during the pandemic. 

Last month a representative of the Charlotte Art League came here to do a presentation, "Exploring Life Through Photography". He offered to work with our community through ongoing photography workshops. 

Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Jim and I attended the first meeting, entitled "Explore Your World Through Photography", with 11 residents in attendance. The goal is to keep the meeting to 15 or fewer people for the sake of field trips and photo review. We had a brief introduction, and then split up to go and photograph a defined area of our community. 

We met back up at noon to debrief, and we are each to send our workshop coordinator 10-15 of our favorite photos. He will put them together in a slide show, and we will meet again on the 30th at 6:30 p.m. to review the photos. The goal is not to critique the photos but rather to understand that while we all may be looking at pretty much the same things, we experience them in different ways.

I am very eager to see what everyone comes up with for this challenge. In looking at Jim's photos, while we both shot a few of the same items even though we weren't walking around together, what we focused on in each of the scenes was totally different. That is usually the case when we go out shooting together, so it didn't surprise me one bit. Will that prove to be the case with the rest of the group? It will be interesting to see!


Sunday, June 27, 2021

The City of Angels

Charlotte airport

Our daughter had a big birthday this year, and since she couldn't go on the adventure she had planned due to Covid-19, we decided to have a family vacation in the Los Angeles area to help her celebrate. It was the first time that I have flown in over two years. From the time we entered the airport in Charlotte until we got our bags in LA we were masked - so over eight hours straight. I have so much sympathy for people who routinely wear a mask for that amount of time (or more) due to their jobs. It's a challenge!

ocean view from the house
Our son and daughter-in-law arrived at LAX a little before us, so we met up and went to get the rental car before heading to pick up our daughter. The five of us shared an Airbnb in Malibu for a week. The house was perched on the side of a mountain, and offered mountain views as well as ocean views. It had a small outdoor gym, a hot tub, grill and outdoor tv on the deck, and a pool table inside as well as three bedrooms and two baths. It was perfect for our family.

While the temperatures were unseasonable hot (in the 90s) for a few of the days, we made the best of the situation by doing our sight-seeing in the morning to avoid the heat. We left the air conditioned spots for the afternoon, or just headed back to the house to play games or just hang out. Highlights of the trip included custom gin and tonics on a rooftop patio, the Getty Museum, Huntington Garden, Getty Villa, and a visit to a local wine shop. Face masks were required everywhere when indoors, and even outdoors if you hadn't been vaccinated or were walking to an outdoor table to eat and/or drink.

But of course the best part of the trip was being able to see all of our immediate family for an extended visit. Priceless!



Thursday, June 10, 2021

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

In December of 2019, Jim gave me a gift certificate to a workshop photographing the wild horses of the outer banks. Originally scheduled to meet the first week of June of 2020, it was canceled due to Covid-19. We rescheduled it for the same time this year. We have anticipated this trip for a year and a half, and on Tuesday, June 1st we took off for our Airbnb, located in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

Following a leisurely, if a little boring, drive from Mount Holly to the outer banks, we settled into our home away from home for the next six days. Located on Blount's Bay, the unit afforded nice sunrise photo ops - assuming the sun decided to show its pretty face. All along the forecast for the first few days we would be visiting called for rain, but we were hoping the forecasters would be wrong as they so often are. Unfortunately that did not end up to be the case.

While Wednesday morning dawned with a peek at the sun, the day grew more gloomy. We met up with our other two workshop attendees and the instructor at 3:30 that afternoon in Historic Corolla Park. He took us in his four wheel drive Land Rover Defender onto the beach to search for the horses. I was amazed by the number of cars, trucks, etc. that were traveling on the beach, and by the amount of commercial horse hunting vehicles that were in the area. In my mind, I expected this trip to be sparsely populated and not commercialized. This was a vastly different experience than our time shooting the wild horses of southern Missouri. Disappointing, really.


We were supposed to do sunset photography that evening, but of course there was too much cloud cover for that, and the rain started up again as well. Thursday morning we were to meet back in Corolla (about a 45 minute drive for us) at 5:00 AM to photograph the horses on the beach at sunrise. The instructor said he would text us at 3:45 AM to let us know if it was a go or not. The forecast called for a 90% chance of rain, and in fact the rain did not let up all night. But we diligently set out alarm for 3:30 and began to get ready just in case. At 3:45 the shoot was canceled. He said we would meet him back at the same park at 1:00 that afternoon instead. We were able to go back to sleep for a bit, and ended up doing a little exploring in the park until it was time to meet up with the group again.

By the time we got together it was raining pretty hard. He decided to take us out on the beach again anyway. While we did see two horses, it was not an enjoyable experience trying to photograph them. Not to mention the fact that none of us wanted to damage our camera equipment. Around 2:30 we decided to call it quits. The instructor suggested we meet up at a restaurant at 4:00 to maybe go over some photos and discuss them. While we did meet for dinner, no photos were brought out. And we canceled Friday mornings activities as the forecast was more of the same. So, our two and a half day workshop was condensed down to a handful of hours. As I said, very disappointing.

The rain continued all through the night and into the next morning. We had our place reserved until Monday morning, so we went out to have a nice breakfast and hopefully wait the storm out. When the weather broke we checked out the Wright Brothers Museum, the Outer Banks Arboretum, and the Monument to a Century of Flight.


Saturday and Sunday consisted of visiting the piers, lighthouses and preserves of the southern portion of the outer banks. That area is much less congested and way less touristy. While it was hot and humid, we at least had no more rain for the duration of our time there. Monday we headed for home, stopping at Lake Mattamuskee (the largest, natural fresh water lake in North Carolina), Bath (the oldest town in North Carolina), and Wilson (home of the largest whirligig collection in the US.


About 110 miles from home, an indicator light came on in the car that the drivetrain was experiencing a malfunction. We got off the highway and did a Google search on the problem. Everyone suggested that it was okay to carefully drive the car so we decided to limp home. Then we hit a huge rainstorm, and the transmission really struggled. But we made it back, took the car in the next day, and had it repaired. What an ending to what should have been a dream Christmas present! And I will add that although we wore our masks whenever we were inside (despite being double vaccinated), hardly anyone else including employees did so. Between that and the crowds, people seem to think there is no longer a pandemic. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Memorial Day Jefferson Barracks Cemetery
It's always interesting each year to see how many people truly understand the meaning of Memorial Day in the United States. I see many posts with people thanking those who are currently in the military (that is Armed Forces Day), or expressing appreciation to our veterans (that is Veterans Day). 

But Memorial Day was established to pay tribute to those who died while serving in the military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem, In Flanders Field by John McCrae.

The National Moment of Remembrance, which asks that Americans pause in silence to honor those who have died serving the U.S., takes place at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day. Here in our community we have an opportunity to listen to Glenn Proctor, a former Marine, Pulitzer Prize winning author and motivational speaker. I suspect he will inspire us to be better Americans as we reflect on those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Current Covid Data

In the last post I stated my concerns that the country has moved too quickly with regards to the mask mandate. In allowing vaccinated people to partake in activities indoors and out without a mask while expecting non-vaccinated people to be honest and continue to wear masks, the CDC and states are taking a huge leap of faith, in my opinion. So I wanted to lay out the current statistics in case this backfires, causing the number of cases to soar again.

To date North Carolina has had 999,000 cases and 12,915 deaths. In the United States there have been 33 million cases and 586,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 164.6 million cases and 3.4 million deaths.

social distance sign
Having said that, I was suprised to see that, nearly a week following the relaxing of the mask mandate, a fast food restaurant we went to today still had this sign on the door. All of the employees had their masks on, as did all the customers who came in - including us. It appears I am not the only one who is concerned about the latest recommendations.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Covid Update - From Zero to Sixty

face masks
On May 13th the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) did an about-face on their previous recommendations regarding Covid-19 and the wearing of masks. It announced that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice physical distancing in virtually all indoor and outdoor settings. The exception is that masks will still be required on buses, planes, and trains. The CDC suggests that unvaccinated people and those with a weakened immune system should still wear masks, however.

This announcement caught many people by surprise, considering that we had all been told that masks would be necessary until the country reached herd immunity through 70-85% of the population receiving vaccinations. The country as of May 14th stands at a 36.2% vaccination rate. So why the sudden turn around? There is no way to tell who has had a vaccine and who hasn't, and quite frankly the unvaccinated people were the ones less likely to wear masks in the first place. 

It did not take long for North Carolina Governor Cooper to follow suit. He has been more conservative than many of the other governors, so the fact that he immediately jumped on the CDC's bandwagon was surprising to me. On May 14th he announced that the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. 

It is true that North Carolina's vaccination rate is better than the US average. To date, the state has administered over 7.7 million doses. 51% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 46% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated. That is still a far cry from the number needed for herd immunity.

Again, time will tell if this is the right decision at this particular point in time. For now I will continue to wear a mask when going into crowds, whether indoors or out. And the irony will be that while I am vaccinated, it will appear to everyone else that I am not since I will be masked. Better safe than sorry. I've avoided Covid for this long - I want to keep it that way.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Out of Gas

Following a hack of the nation's largest fuel pipelines, right now 70% of the gas stations in the Charlotte area are out of gas. Fueled, if you'll pardon the pun, by the media making an even bigger deal of the situation, panicked drivers rushed to the stations whether they needed to fill up or not. The parallel to the run on toilet paper at the start of the pandemic cannot be ignored. 

I've no doubt that a number of people filled every available container (legal or otherwise) with gasoline while they could. Both of our cars are, of course, low on fuel. Jim was unsuccessful in finding gas today. Had we known yesterday, we were playing tourist in a couple of small towns somewhat close to us, and there was plenty of gas and no lines. We could have filled up then. A day late and a dollar short...We have nowhere we need to be, so we can sit tight for a bit. I feel sorry for people who do not have the option to wait it out.

I'm happy we were able to play tourist a bit yesterday before we knew there was going to be a fuel crisis. We went to Dallas, NC where they have the Gaston County Museum. We wanted to learn more about the county we now call home, and this was the perfect place. This whole area is heavily influenced by the mills that once operated here, and it was cool to see the equipment that was used. The museum also houses the largest collection of horse drawn carriages in North Carolina, and that was interesting as well. We had lunch in Dallas before heading to Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia. We took a nice hike around the lake to walk off some of our lunch. 

Dallas NC and Rankin Lake

We learned that there are 13 towns that make up Gaston County. We decided that it will be fun to explore each of them.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Motherless Mother's Day

Mountain Island Lake dawn
Mother's Day began bright and beautiful, which seemed a little wrong somehow. This was our first Mother's Day without Jim's mom, and my mom has been gone for 32 years now. It's hard not to be sad on a day that is meant to celebrate motherhood, especially when your own children are nowhere near.

Jim and I made the most of the weekend though. Saturday we went to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Charlotte. Moms were admitted free this weekend. We had to get the tickets ahead of time due to Covid. The day was beautiful, and we enjoyed the beauty of the garden, along with the lunch we purchased at the on-site food truck. It was wonderful to be in nature and take photographs again.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Sunday Jim got me flowers and donuts, and he hand-painted a card for me. That was followed by a pickleball lesson taught by a local pro. That afternoon we intended to have one of our neighbors over for dinner, but she was not feeling well so we took the meal to her. 

Mother's Day 2021

As a followup to my previous post, we are very pleased with how our recent remodeling job turned out. The patio door is lovely, and has really opened up our view of the lake from the kitchen and dining areas.

new patio door


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

New Home Improvement


Our current house is the first brand new home we have ever lived in, and actually only the third home we've purchased in 42 years of wedded bliss. It's not perfect since we had very limited options offered by the developer. For us it was all about the lot location anyway. The photo to the left was taken from our back yard a couple of nights ago, so that is the view that sold us on moving here.  We have made a few minor modifications, such as improved shelving in the laundry room, pantry and master closet.

Today we are embarking on a bigger change though. We are removing the two back windows in the dining area and replacing them with a sliding door. This will give us direct access to the patio area. But more importantly it will allow us to have an improved view of Mountain Island Lake while also letting more light into the house. With just the little bit of work that has been done so far, I can already tell that we will love it.

dining area remodel


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Covid Changes in North Carolina

 

Governor Cooper just conducted a press conference yesterday outlining his latest mandates regarding Covid in the state of North Carolina. Current restrictions are set to expire on Friday, so the new ones go into effect on that day. He is removing the mask mandate for outdoor activities (though it is still suggested that a mask be worn in large gatherings or when social distancing is not possible), but masks will still be required when gathering indoors in public places. The limit on indoor gatherings has been increased from 50 to 100, and on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 200. The governor anticipates further reductions in restrictions beginning June 1.

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated. Obviously we are nowhere near where we need to be with vaccinations in order for this pandemic to go away. People are still encouraged to practice the three Ws - wash your hands, wear a mask, and wait 6 feet away from others.

Here are the current Covid statistics: North Carolina has had 971,000 cases and 12,611 deaths. In the United States there have been 32.2 million cases and 573,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 149 million cases and 3.14 million deaths.

While I am relieved to see the numbers in North Carolina trending in an encouraging direction, I am concerned about not only the number of people who are refusing to be vaccinated but also those who seem to feel that if they have been vaccinated they can go back to life before the pandemic. There are still too many unknowns about this virus and its many mutations, as well as cases of people who have been vaccinated who are contracting Covid. The governor is right to encourage people to continue with the three Ws until most of the population is vaccinated.