Nesting With a Vengence

I’ve spent most of my adult life living in apartments with white walls, white kitchens, and beige carpet. You brighten things up with colorful art and accessories that you bring with you from place to place. Even the Emerald Bay house mostly had neutral walls and carpet, at least until I did some renovation. So that’s what I’m used to, even though I’m someone who loves color.

When I saw my Meadow Lake apartment in July 2021, I didn’t really compute that I could change things because, well, it was an apartment and you don’t change apartments. I moved in 3 weeks after seeing it, then spent 10 weeks in rehab before coming home almost exactly a year ago. I concentrated on functional things because it was necessary – but my home didn’t bring me a lot of visual pleasure. I did try to screen in the porch but that didn’t work right because the sides were done with solar screen that cut off my line of sight and blocked the light.

Well, things have certainly changed. I didn’t exactly do things in any planned order, but everything works. My floor was replaced with new luxury vinyl plank in a lighter wood stain than what was here before, which brightens everything. I bought a new couch and coffee table for the living room, with lots of bright print pillows. I’ve ordered a teal lift chair that should be here this week.

The kitchen was completely transformed. I replaced the granite with something brighter, and just had the cabinets painted off-white with a blue/green paint called “Swimming” on the walls, which makes the cabinets pop. I have black cabinet pulls that work with the black appliances and are easy for me to open using my grabber. Everything is fresh, clean, and bright – so bright! The kitchen feels twice as large and I love looking over at it from my chair.

And today my porch screen was fixed, with metal trim and bug screen replacing the dark stuff that was there. MUCH brighter and it opens my view and my world.

I’m really happy with the changes. It feels like me. It feels like home. I spend so much time home, especially in my chair, and I hadn’t realized how much the dark floor, cabinets, and blocked porch view impacted my mood. I plan to stay here for a long time and now that feels like a gift and not a sentence.

I’ve Been Home a Week

You probably noticed that I haven’t been writing a post a day the way I did in rehab. I’m in a different place with my recovery, getting settled with my new community, and sorting things out at home. And my world is shrinking – not forever, but at least for now.

I’m going to therapy three times a week but because my therapist was on vacation for part of last week, my three days were all in a row. I’m working with a new therapist who is using electrical stimulation (e-stim) on my leg muscles to help wake up the nerves as well as doing targeted seated leg exercises on the mat using weights, plus hand weights for arm work. Stim feels really weird but I’m glad we’re doing it. She has the stim up to full power on the lower right leg, which had the most damage from stenosis compression, and I can still barely feel it – but I can feel it, and that’s an improvement.

Yesterday at the end of my session, they created a little “teeter-totter” kind of deal with a weighted stick topped by a wooden sliding board on top for my foot. I was to push down with my toes, then pull the foot up to gauge movement in the ankle, which has been basically frozen for at least 18 months if not longer. Much to my surprise, I could see it move. Mostly it feels as though I’m moving those muscles but I haven’t been able to see anything, so this is promising.

I still can’t put on my shoes by myself, so I tootle around in my chair wearing my fuzzy blue gripper socks. My aide puts them on for me twice a week when she’s here, and I bring the shoes to therapy so they can put them on the other days. But I still have to find someone who could pop in to help. Lots of my neighbors here have helpers; I’m hoping one of them could spare a little time. But first I have to meet people, and I’m working on that.

Actually, the people here are very friendly and welcoming, and they all seem to know about the woman who was here 4 days then gone for 10 weeks. Last week there was a new resident orientation and delicious lunch, which was a great chance to visit with people as new as I am. Friday I went to happy hour and today is an amazing Sunday brunch. The food is amazing here, with generous portions that I’m splitting into two different meals so there’s very little cooking needed. I look at the stuff in my kitchen, already greatly pared down from my house, and wonder what on earth I’m going to do with it all. Life in a year could look very different, so I’m not going to let anything go just yet, but it does make me wonder.

Pictures finally went up on Friday and the apartment now looks like home. I’m slowly (very slowly) moving things around to make them work better. My wireless printer isn’t working properly which is annoying, since I’m a techie and figured this would be easy to do. Ha. I should have known better. Fortunately it’s not a top priority, so there’s time to get it sorted out. But everywhere I look I see piles of things that need to get put away or moved, and it frustrated me that I can’t just stand up and do it myself.

My world is shrinking, at least for now. I know that people with physical limitations travel, go to church, go out to eat, shop, visit friends, etc. But that’s not going to be true for me for a while, at least as long as I’m in the chair. I never really had any down time when I retired from Yale, moving straight from Connecticut to Texas to take care of my dad. I’ve been running hard ever since, and it actually feels good to just BE for a while without expectations except going to therapy. I’m tired and just wish I could sleep better but there’s always the chair with the cats wandering by to sit in my lap. Spending time with them, even in the middle of the night, makes me happy.

Escape from Rehab

I escaped for an hour today and hitched a ride down to the main building when I had a break from rehab. The nurses gave me permission so it wasn’t really an escape, but it felt like one. My girls were happy to see me and Ellie came running when she heard me instead of eyeing the wheelchair with suspicion. Emma of course was under the bed, but it didn’t take her long to come out. I gave them treats, cleaned out the litterbox, and brushed their furry little selves – and picked up a zillion cat toys that they’d gotten into and practically destroyed. Methinks more toys are in order. Then I could just throw out the nasty ones.

I didn’t skimp on rehab, though, and whisked back in good time for the afternoon OT session. PT was in the morning, and I walked to and most of the way back for 275 feet total. Between OT and PT, I did 30 “sit to stand” exercises from wheelchair to standing with the walker, which I’ll be doing a lot in real life, as well as bending practice. Other than that, it was the usual stuff. I’m doing much better at the standing leg exercises. The right foot still feels super heavy and it’s hard to lift it for marching (blech) or kicks, but I’m better than even last week.

I also did some Storyworth writing. At the end of my year of answering questions, they will send me a book of everything I’ve submitted, including photographs, which is pretty cool. Today I wrote about whether I had wanted to have children. I’ve been trying to get as many stories in as possible and this rehab time has messed up my schedule of trying to write one a week. Even so, I now have 56 stories that cover things from childhood homes to vacations to college years to work life and memories of my parents and grandparents. It’s been good to have a reason to think about some of these things. Remember, my reason to do this in the first place is to be a resource when my memory starts to fade. If you’re interested in reading any of my stories, let me know. Maybe it will spark something for you to do yourself, or to give to someone else as a gift. It’s definitely been worth it for me.

Image Credit: Photo 44651192 © Bowie15 |

Home visit – with cats!

I went back to my apartment today after seven weeks away. Okay, seven weeks and one day, not that I’m counting. Alas, I couldn’t stay; I was there with my physical therapist to do an assessment of how it will work for me when I do go home – what do I need to get, move, rearrange. That was the purpose but I was distracted by wanting to see and love on Ellie and Emma, who were not at all sure about the wheelchair but were lured by Mommy’s voice and familiar smell. It was hard to leave them.

The best part of the apartment is that there really isn’t that much that we have to do to get it ready for me. Some furniture rearrangement, moving rugs, seeing if we can get taller legs for two chairs so they are easier for me to transfer and get out of. Putting something under the recliner to keep it from moving when I’m getting up or down. The shower chair is good; I need a toilet lift with arms to help me get up, but not a drop down grab bar. Clothes in the closet need to be rearranged so frequently worn things are on lower bars. The kitchen is workable though the microwave over the stove might as well be in Siberia. I’ll talk to the PT tomorrow to see what I forgot and/or what she noticed that I didn’t, and what that means for what’s left of my recovery before the move. Of course, there will be continued work AFTER that, but it will happen in familiar territory.

What’s hard now is the open endedness of time here. In the hospital, it was clear that I’d be there until surgery, then a few days, then rehab. Olympic Center rehab gave me a defined discharge date at the end of the first week, so I knew how to factor the time. But this place just seems endless because there is no idea when I can leave, although I know it’s coming. It could be so much worse, I know. My next door neighbors are not in good shape and may not be getting better fast enough to stay longer than whatever Medicare decides is their alloted time – and she’s not sure where she will be going after that. Me, I know I have a great apartment with excellent adaptive design and two beautiful cats just waiting for me. So I’m going to try to stop complaining and just concentrate on getting stronger.

In OT today I had to step up on a shallow stair. Actually, not even step UP, just put my foot on the stair and put it back. It was impossibly hard and I cried at how hard it was to do something so simple that I took for granted two months ago. I think I’m doing well and then something like that just stops me in my tracks. I’ve come a long way but there is such a long way to go and I can’t give up just because it’s hard. I want to get back every bit of functionality that I can, which means working really hard all the time. It’s tiring.

In PT today, in addition to walking and leg exercises and the bike, I tried using a bright pink rollator walker. I see so many people use them but had no idea how very light they were to use and how FAST they go, which means using the brake to slow it down so it doesn’t fly away from me. I didn’t think I would be moving to a rollator at this point in my recovery – my walking isn’t that steady – and am not sure I’m comfortable with it, even while having a rollator would be a lot easier than a wheelchair and a folding walker. Well, it will be easier after I learn how to use it properly. One little spin in the hallway doesn’t do it by itself. But again, it’s a step. At least I don’t have to try to step up on it.

Checking in and Catching up

I forgot to get on the scale this morning. That sounds so small a thing to have thrown me off but it did. Almost every day since I started Noom in January 2020, I start the day by peeing and then getting on the scale. It’s gotten to just be habit, as a way to get information, instead of a judgment. But today I just forgot. I slept badly because of neck and arm pain and too many things parading through my head, and was awake before 4am. Instead of getting on the scale, I went right to the living room and started guzzling water while updating the scheduled church newsletter with something I remembered while in bed trying to sleep. And then it was 6am. After drinking 50 oz of liquid, there’s no way I’d get on the scale. But it threw me off.

It’s been a while since I checked in with my body. My right side is kind of a mess from top to bottom: neuropathy in the foot, torn MCL at the knee, sciatica, neck and arm pain. The left side has a weak hip and more sciatica, but that’s not much. Two days ago I went to the hospital for a steriod injection in my right SI joint and a right knee genicular nerve burn (neurotomy). The meds to help me relax and not remember what happens didn’t work as advertized; there was no relaxing and lots of remembering. The burn itself was a new kind of pressure/pain but if it makes the knee happier, it will be worth it.

Now that I have been fully vaccinated and am 3 weeks past my second shot, I’m starting to get out more. I ate out in a restaurant with a friend last Friday, the first time I’ve done that in a year. I got antsy from being around so many people after a year of limiting exposure, but the food was great and it was a window of normal after a very long time of isolation. This weekend I’m off to my brother’s house for a weekend, my first trip there in 9 months. As he said, it’s time to unbuckle the seatbelts and start to move around the cabin. I’m taking baby steps and we’ll see how it goes.

In other news, I bought an air fryer and have been having fun trying to figure out how to use it. Mostly so far this has been cooking frozen foods such as prepared chicken and salmon, egg rolls, or reheating leftovers. Tonight I’m trying a new air fryer recipe of marinated chicken thighs (remember, I found a whole bunch of those when I cleaned out the freezer). We’ll see. But so far I think it will be a good tool and will help me do my small-scale one-person cooking without heating up the whole oven every time.

I’m also planning additional work on the house. Two years ago it was replacing half the windows and my renovation. Last year it was replacing the other half of the windows. This year I’m hoping to replace all or most of my landscaping, swapping out a very dated set of “solid green wall hedge” style with something shorter, cleaner, and more spaced out. I’m excited about making some changes and having time to enjoy them, as well as adding value to the home. I hired someone to draw out a plan and come up with plant options that will work with me making final decisions. So many plants were killed in the long freeze in February that nurseries are having problems filling orders, so that may be a factor. But at least I have a plan.

And on the inside of the house, it’s time to get my air ducts cleaned out and the carpets cleaned. I have no idea when the ducts were cleaned last but know it’s been at least 10 years, and the cats throw up a lot trying to get rid of hairballs, so both cleanings are past due. This home ownership game is expensive.