Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our Christmas Week

As with Thanksgiving, we did things just a bit differently this year for the Christmas holiday.  With Beverly no longer with us, we were free to celebrate with friends.  Bill's little "sister", Cindy, invited us to spend Christmas Eve with her family.  She invited us along her dad, brother and sister-in-law, and nieces to a quiche and ham buffet dinner.  I really wanted for Chris to join us but unfortunately, Cindy provided the wrong address on her invitation and I didn't think to look to see if it was correct.  Chris went in his own car ahead of us and ended up getting very lost with the incorrect address and got frustrated so he went home.  Bill and I had a lovely time though.  And we did a bit of a white elephant gift exchange and the little girls opened their presents from Aunty Cindy.  It was fun to be around the joy of young children at Christmas.  It has been awhile since I had experienced that.

Christmas Day was fairly quiet during the day.  That night we went to our friend Diana's home for dinner.  She had invited quite a few people over for a buffet potluck dinner and a night of "Battle of the Sexes".  The food was so good.  Lots of wonderful crab legs, sauteed shrimp, tri-tip, and other yummy things.  It was so nice to be included in the celebration of others and have a nice change to what we have done for the last several years.

Tom and Maddy celebrated Christmas Day in Wichita.  They were able to get leave on the 27th and flew into Seattle.  They got up early Sunday morning to travel here and spend our family Christmas together.  We had some breakfast and then did our gift opening.  

The Packers and Lions game wasn't going to be on local TV so we decided we were going to go to Big Al's to watch the game.  It was a big one with playoff implications so Tom, Maddy and I really wanted to see it.  Maddy wore her brand new Jordy Nelson jersey that Tom got her for Christmas.  Chris came along for the ride and to enjoy some beer and food.  He didn't care about the game so he read a book and took notes while we were there-takes after Bill in that respect.  Neither one of them cares about football so it was nice to have Tom and Maddy here to share it with me.  Even Ariel has a Packer scarf to get into the spirit of the game.  The game was a good one and stayed pretty close.  The Packers won so they are the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs and have a bye week.  And Jordy Nelson beat Robert Brooks' record for most receiving yards in a season so Maddy was pretty happy about that.  And we were all happy that the Packers won and are in a good position for the playoffs.

After the game, we came home to cook our traditional prime rib Christmas dinner.  It was a great day and great to have my entire family with me and under one roof.

Bill wanted to do something fun while Tom and Maddy were here.  We thought it might be fun to go to the Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville.  Since Ariel couldn't get in, Chris decided to stay home to dog sit and get some quality time with her.  We found a nice little bistro in Dundee to stop and have lunch.  Then we went to the museum.  Tom whipped out his military ID thinking he would get some sort of benefit.  Little did we know that his active duty military ID would get all four of us in the museum for free.  That was such a nice surprise.  Since we didn't have to pay admission, we decided to take a few additional tours.  Tom wanted to see the inside of the B-17 bomber.  He was hoping to see the navigator station to see how a WWII nav station compared to today.  Unfortunately, we could only go into the back of the plane and not up front where that was.  We also decided that we would splurge and get a tour of the Spruce Goose cockpit.  That was so worth doing.  It was Maddy's first visit to the museum.  The rest of us have been there several times but it was the first time that Tom and I saw the new space museum and it was definitely the first time that any of us had been in the Spruce Goose cockpit.  We could have spent more time there but Maddy also wanted to do some winetasting.  So we left in time to stop at one nearby winery--Stoller Vineyards.  Spent a pleasant hour tasting wine and then headed home.

Tuesday was spent working on wedding planning of sorts.  Bill and Chris needed to get their wedding attire.  We went to Men's Wearhouse and found that it is a lot more complicated process than one would think.  None of the items that they needed were in stock there and they were having some difficulty finding which stores to order things from.  Chris' wasn't so hard but getting things for Bill were much more difficult.  Hopefully it will all work out eventually.  Now we have to start looking for some cowboy boots for them.

Early Wednesday morning (New Years Eve), they left to go back to Kirkland to spend the next few days with Maddy's parents.  It was a very nice visit.  Looking forward to seeing them again in June when we have their wedding.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Christmas Miracle

Sunday started out to be such a good day.  Chuck was here for the weekend to pack up what he wanted out of Bev's condo and to help us get it ready to sell.   We were looking forward to an evening with friends at the Tony Starlight Christmas Show.  It was going to be such a good day.  I talked to Tom and Maddy to ask what small appliances they might have wanted out of Grandma's pantry.  They were getting ready to go to a restaurant/bar to watch the Packers game and I was going to watch as I was packing up things.  Not long after, I got a call from Maddy's mom.  The kids had gotten into a very serious car accident.  Maddy seemed to be okay but Tom was hurt.  Maddy was able to update her parents and they would call or text me to let me know what she had to say.  It was a scary several hours while we waited to hear if Tom was seriously hurt or not.

On the way to the restaurant, Tom and Maddy were getting off the highway, hydroplaned and lost control of the car.  They rolled the car and the roof of the car collapsed 18" on top of Tom's head.  They weren't able to get out of the car so they had to break a window to crawl out.  Tom was able to crawl out on his own but his neck and shoulder hurt really badly. Pete and Marian could hear the medics working with Tom when Maddy called them.  They put him on a back board and in a neck collar to mobilize his spine.  Maddy was also taken to the hospital by ambulance so that she could get checked out.  She had cuts and whiplash.  I kept getting updates from Pete and Marian--Maddy's phone worked at the hospital but Tom's didn't.  Once Maddy was discharged from the ER, she was able to go see Tom and she put Tom on the phone with me.  He still hadn't gotten the results from his CT scan so he was very upset and worried still.  He could move his arms and legs and had no numbness so I tried to calm him down with the fact that he was still alive and that was all very good news.  That he was probably fine.  But this momma so wanted to be there with them.  Fortunately, the results of the CT scan were negative and they released him shortly afterward.

They have both been very sore all week.  The car was totaled but we are so fortunate that they weren't hurt anymore than they were.  We are considering it our Christmas miracle.  I am so looking forward to giving them both a big bear hug next weekend when they get here to celebrate the holidays with us.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saying Goodbye and Celebrating Our Love

Beverly passed away four weeks ago and we had a private ceremony for the family shortly after she died.  We had planned to have her public memorial service and internment for December 5th.  It was well attended by her church family, PEO sisters, bridge partners, DAR friends and a few of Bill's friends.  Chuck and Suzanne came up for the service and both Bill and Chuck spoke at it.  We had a reception afterward in the church basement.  And then we went to the cemetery to have her interned in the urn garden.
Saturday was the 28th anniversary of our military wedding.  We spent a little bit of time going through some of Beverly's things to see what Chuck and Suzanne wanted for themselves.  Once we filled the trash can and the recycling bin and made a few decisions about things, we headed out to the Columbia River Gorge to do some wine tasting.  We went to Cascade Cliffs which was as wonderful as we remembered from our last visit there.  Chuck and Suzanne were very impressed with their wines.  The manager at Cascade Cliffs recommended that we head to Jacob Williams Winery down the road which was another small winery.  They had some very nice wines as well.  Our last stop was at Maryhill Winery which is more corporate based.  But it was quiet there on Saturday so we got a fair amount of attention from the pourer.  We came back to Vancouver and ate a celebratory dinner at La Bottega which was also wonderful.  I can't really remember ever celebrating our anniversary with anyone other than Bev or the kids so it was fun to have our best man and his wife here to help us celebrate.

It was a bittersweet weekend.  Fun to have Chuck and Suzanne here with us but it was hard saying goodbye to Beverly.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our Thanksgiving Weekend


For the first time in several years, we were on our own for a holiday.  We used to always spend our holidays in a quiet way before we lived near family.  Occasionally we would travel to Denver or someone would come visit us to spend a holiday with us but that was pretty rare.  And occasionally we would celebrate with friends.  But with Beverly passing away, we were faced with our first holiday without her.  We have spent all our holidays with her these past 14 years--mostly cooking at her house.  We kept thinking about how we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  We wanted to do something that would get us out of the house.  When our friend, Diana, invited us to her house, we were thrilled.

The only thing she wanted was for me to make a dessert so I made some pumpkin bread and a chocolate pecan pie.  She was making the rest.  What a wonderfully decadent and elegant meal it was.  After dining in such an elegant way, it was quite the contrast to play Redneck Life after dinner.  Oh My God!  What a fun game!  We laughed so hard.  The goal of the game is to have as many teeth left as possible.  You get married and have younguns--not necessarily in that order.  You get married and buy a car or cars depending on how many younguns you have and have to replace them in you blow them up.  You get divorced and remarried and take on a lot of stepkids.  And you are constantly getting into situations that you lose teeth.  I managed to have no teeth and was still in debt at the end of the game.  I did better than Chris though.  He lost 17 teeth more than he had to start with.

Diana made a whole extra turkey for us to take home.  Plus leftovers so we are set for food for a few days.


The Vancouver Rotary Festival of Trees is always Thanksgiving weekend and Bill is always in charge of judging.  We bought several raffle tickets this year but we didn't win a tree.  So I will be putting up the new one that I bought at the after Christmas sales last year.


Jeff and Julie usually do a dinner for veterans on Veterans Day Weekend but they decided to go to Florida for a veterans event down there this year.  So we celebrated a little later this year--November 30th.  We went to a different location this year too--Langdon Farms Golf Course down in Aurora. There were 10 of us this year.  Ernie brought his brother, Bob, who was also a pilot during WWII. They went to flight school together.  Jeff's parents were also there as well as another couple that we hadn't met before.  It was a very nice evening with friends and meeting new ones.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rest in Peace Dear Beverly

The past six months have been extremely difficult for our family.  Out of respect for Beverly's privacy, I haven't publicly talked about our struggles.  We have been caring for Beverly for the past three and a half years since her open heart surgery and stroke.  But miraculously, she recovered to a point that she could mostly take care of herself, live alone and even drive.  She still needed caregivers to come in the morning and we went to see her every night and cooked her meals for her.  But otherwise, she was relatively self sufficient.  That all changed earlier this year.

She started to struggle with her mobility more and we needed to pick up more of her tasks and care like getting her groceries, going to the library for her and getting her mail.  Things were just getting more difficult for her to do.  In the spring, a couple of things happened to make things even more difficult.  She developed ulcers on one of her heels and ankles and she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Despite going to a wound specialty clinic, her ulcers just kept getting worse instead of better.  And because of her already frail condition, radiation was her only treatment option for her cancer.  Up to this point, she was still driving to her doctor appointments and church.  She was determined to stay as independent as possible for as long as she could even though it was painful to watch how difficult it was for her to do so.

Before she could even start her cancer treatment, she became severely ill in July.  She was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and did end up starting her radiation therapy while she was there.  But she was in no condition to return home.  She needed to go to a skilled nursing facility with the hope that she could go home.  She hated it there so that made things really hard for us all.  She pushed and pushed to get out even though she really wasn't ready.  I think she would have signed out against medical advice if the doctors hadn't signed for her to get out.  She was that unhappy there.  So despite my reservations, we took her home.

As it turned out, she really wasn't well enough to be home without a significant amount of help.  Her home care nurses, therapists and social workers as well as others tried to convince her that she needed to be in assisted living or some other living situation where she would have more supervision but she was dead set against it.  As any of us would want--she wanted to stay in her home.  So we did the best we could to keep her as safe as possible but were in constant worry that we would be called again for another fall and she was making a lot of unsafe decisions.  She was home for a month before she became severely ill again and would never return home again.  She needed to be discharged to a skilled nursing facility again--which she at first refused but fortunately we found a much nicer place with a private room and she was much happier there.  Less than a month later she was back in the hospital and it was obvious that she was close to the end of her days.  A heart condition and complications from her lung cancer lead to no more treatment options and end of life decisions needed to be made.

The last week of her life was a whirlwind at times and agonizingly slow at others.  After five days of trying to treat her pneumonia, congestive heart failure and tachycardia, we were given the news that tests showed that her tumor had grown to be very large--doubled the size in a month and it was a big tumor to begin with.  Her lung was collapsed.  None of the treatments helped her breathing difficulties.  She was miserable.  Tom was hoping to see her at Christmas.  He hadn't seen her in over two years and he was anxious to see her one last time.  We realized that if he didn't come now that he wasn't going to get a chance.  Fortunately his command allowed him to come home immediately.  Chuck also came right away.  We picked up Chris on Thursday night because she was desperate to see him before she started taking the steps toward dying.

We had great conversations with her those last few days.  She was totally with it and making all her own decisions up to the very last 24 hours.  She was visited by palliative care and hospice nurses and told that she could start refusing any treatments or medications that she didn't want to take anymore.  Tom and Chuck would crack jokes to keep her spirits up.  And we had an incredible nurse on day shift taking care of her the last three days that was just perfect.  We couldn't have asked for anyone better.  She kept us laughing as well and really looked out for us as a family that last day.  By Thursday afternoon, Beverly was ready to get on with it.  Bill went to Bellingham to pick Chris up on Thursday because the soonest he would get home by train or plane would have been on Friday.  She kept asking every half hour all afternoon and evening--"Where is Chris?" or "Where is Bill?"  She wanted to see them so badly. 

All five of us went to the hospital early Friday morning.  We saw the doctor and he wanted to move her to hospice house.  She had already been on comfort care measures for awhile and wasn't really showing any signs that she was going to die anytime soon.  And it is hospital policy that if you need comfort measures for more than 24 hours, you need to go home, hospice house or some other facility that is willing to do hospice.  She was refusing.  She didn't want to be moved.  And honestly, I think she was disappointed that she didn't die Thursday night.  When the doctor said she needed to move, she said "do I really need to go through this for another day?"  Fortunately the doctor said we could stay one more day and reevaluate Saturday morning.  And the hospice nurse was so helpful in talking Beverly into giving up her oxygen.  She was afraid to give it up because of how much she had needed it to stay alive.  But she wanted to die more so we gradually lowered her oxygen, started giving her medications every hour to help with her pain and discomfort, and totally took the oxygen away early Friday afternoon.  A few hours later, she was totally unresponsive.

Because she was sleeping so much and finally unconscious, we as a family had been completely silent all day Friday--so unlike the two days before when we were trying to keep spirits up.  We knew the time was near and were in our own thoughts and reflections.  Chris was so nervous and had a hard time with waiting and keeping still.  It was very difficult to sit there and wonder--when is it going to happen?  When is she going to stop breathing?  When is all her pain and suffering going to come to an end?  At one point, I tried playing some classical music on my phone but Pandora has commercial interruptions so the guys decided to turn it off.  At 8:00 p.m. that night, Chris took it upon himself to do something.  He pulled out Beverly's Bible that she kept at her side at all times those last few months.  He started reading the Book of John to her.  When he ran out of voice and steam, Chuck picked up the torch and continued reading.  Over the next two hours, all four guys took turns reading the entire Book of John to her as well as several Psalms and passages that were meaningful to her.  It really was a moving experience to me that Chris chose to hold her hand and read to her--something that she really would have enjoyed and I am hoping that she could hear them in her unconscious state and took joy in it.

At about midnight, the nurse told us that it could take all night for death to finally come.  Tom and I did go home to sleep for a few hours but Bill, Chuck and Chris wanted to remain at her side.  I went back to the hospital at 6 a.m.  We knew it was getting close but not how close so we decided we needed some breakfast and Bill, Tom and I went to pickup some bagels.  Chris and Chuck stayed with her.  While we were waiting for our food, Chris let us know that she had passed away while we were gone.  She had gotten her wish.  She died before she was asked to leave the hospital again.

We had a private family service at her church Monday morning so that the boys could go.  Suzanne, Gregory, and Suzanne's sister and brother-in-law flew up from California for just long enough to attend the service and have lunch before they returned home.  Unfortunately, Timothy lives in Boston and wasn't able to come.  It was good to have them here for the service and to go to the Grant House, Beverly's favorite restaurant in Vancouver, to have a lunch in her honor.  We had a long sharing time of our memories of her at church and continued at the restaurant.   

We are going to miss her.  She has been so much a part of our lives here in Vancouver.  We were so happy when she moved here so that we would have family nearby.  It was something that we had been missing up until the point that she came--especially for me having grown up with all my family nearby.  It was so wonderful for the boys to grow up being able to get to know her so well and have such a great relationship with her.  I look ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas and wonder how we are going to celebrate this year.  We have always celebrated and cooked at her house.  We won't be doing that anymore.  But I also feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Being her caregiver all these years and especially these last six months has been so physically and emotionally draining.  So much time commitment to doctor appointments (usually two, three or more in a week), physically caring for her, and still trying to work full time.  Caring for her was becoming a full time job.  We are so happy she is no longer suffering.  It has been so difficult to watch her go downhill so quickly these last several years and months.

It was so nice to have both my boys home.  Tom left yesterday and Chris and Chuck left today.  I miss them all so much already.  Bill and I are alone again to try to figure out the next steps of clearing out her home, getting it ready to sell, etc.  It is a new transition in our lives but it will be okay.  Life does and must go on.

Rest in peace Beverly!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Carmen and Fort McCoy


In a weak moment, I promised Bill I would go to see "Carmen" with him yesterday.  We took our friend, Pat Jollata, along because she loves to go see opera with Bill.  It has been about three years since I last went to The Met: Live in HD with Bill.  I swore never to go again.  I really dislike opera.  But I know that "Carmen" is supposed to be one of those wonderful operas that everyone loves.  So I did say yes.  It was okay.   I certainly recognized some of the music from popular culture.  But it was opera.  To me--classical music is spoiled by the addition of operatic voices.  But as always--it is definitely fascinating to see the behind the scenes action when they are changing the sets around and hearing the interviews with the singers between sets and acts.

I had heard about the movie "Fort McCoy" a few months ago when it was getting ready to premier in theaters.  It was filmed on Fort McCoy which is near my hometown as well as in LaCrosse and Coon Valley.  Some of the filming was also done in California.  I have been interested in seeing it because of it being about a historical period in my hometown--prisoners of war being held at Camp McCoy.  My only exposure up to this point was seeing the trailer.  And I was pretty outraged that they called it "Fort McCoy" because that wasn't what it was called during WWII.  It was called Camp McCoy at that time.  I just recently heard that I could probably find it on Comcast Pay per View and so I watched it last night.

I have to admit--I was disappointed.  It was really cool seeing the buildings on Fort McCoy and the Wisconsin farmland and landscapes.  But the screenplay wasn't very well done.  The actress that played the wife was also the director and screenplay writer.  She played the role of her great grandmother in the movie.  The screenplay was written in a way that was fairly superficial.  I'm sure she wrote is as she heard the stories growing up.  She didn't know the characters so she didn't know how to develop them and what happened to them very well. 

I found a review after I watched it that pretty much summed up what Bill and I had thought about the movie.  Some of the reviews were a little more kind to the movie than this one.  But I think this was pretty spot on.  "Fort McCoy" review


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kansas

It has been close to a year since we saw Tom and Maddy.  I had put in for vacation time a long time ago.  When Tom got deployed, we kept trying to figure out how long he was going to be gone and whether he would be back before our visit.  Luckily he got home about a week before we got there so it was perfect timing.

Our trip was mostly aviation and space related based on the museums we went to.  And fortunately Tom had the whole time off so we could really enjoy spending time with him.  The day after we arrived, Tom wanted to go to the Cosmosphere Space Museum in Hutchinson.  It was a bit of a drive out there but well worth it.  There was so much to see.  We could have easily spent the whole day there but really only spent about 3-4 hours and didn't get to see everything.  Tom was really interested in all the rocket exhibits and spent a lot of time reading the display explanations. We went to a planetarium show too.  What I really liked best was a demo lab where they demonstrated rocket science and were blowing things up all the time.  We had a whole room full of kids on a field trip with us so it was fun to see it with children. 

On Friday, we decided to to to the Kansas Aviation Museum which is right on the airfield at McConnell Air Force Base.  It is located in the old airline terminal that was used in the 30's and 40's so it had a neat art deco design with lots of airplane features in the design.  After we went to the air museum, we headed to Old Town and saw the Museum of World Treasures which was a pretty interesting but eclectic museum with a lot of different kinds of things.

Thursday evening before we made dinner, we headed to downtown Wichita to see the Keeper of the Plains.  It is located on the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers.  There are beautiful walkways along the rivers and lots of art, sculptures and memorials to look at as you are walking.

And Friday night before dinner, we headed out to Burns to go to the Walters' Pumpkin Patch.  It was a pretty amazing place.   They charge an entrance fee which I thought was a little much for what we wanted to do--just get some pumpkins and maybe go through the corn maze.  But for kids--what a great place to spend a fall day or afternoon.  Tons of fun activities for kids to do.  We did play a little bit of Pumpkinland (think a big version of Candyland) besides going through the corn maze and going in search of the perfect pumpkins. 

After the pumpkin patch, we headed to Chester's--a really nice steakhouse.  One of those places that you get everything ala carte and it is really expensive.  But we were celebrating Tom and Maddy's engagement so we treated it as a really nice celebration dinner.  Bill was really looking forward to getting a good Kansas steak so he and Tom had steak.  Maddy had salmon and I had scallops.  Everything was very good.

Saturday Tom took us to the base and showed us his squadron and office.  Then we went to see "Gone Girl" at a theater in Old Town.  I had read the book and the movie followed pretty well with how the book went.  But you sure get made all over again at the main character and how she planned to "screw" her husband.