Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Lee's Kidney, Kirby, and The IRS

I didn't want to write about this until I knew how it all turned out. Any of you reading about this for the first time please be reassured that the story has a happy ending, even the part about the IRS!

November 18th

About a month ago Lee had some blood in his urine. Last Friday he went to see a urologist. They did a sigmoidoscopy and by Sunday he had a fever and was having trouble peeing. He went to urgent care and they did a culture and put in a catheter. The catheter is a bummer but that’s not the half of it. It took until yesterday to get at least partial results from the culture. Yes he has an infection so he’s now on amoxicillin. Also yesterday he had a CT scan and when they called with the results it turns out he has a kidney tumor. 

Of course we are freaked out; its probably cancer, they almost always are cancerous. We have a consult with the urologist on Friday when we will know more. We know he will have surgery probably pretty soon, to get the tumor out. They don’t think its spread, which is of course good news. The most common sorts of kidney cancers have a 90-95% survival rate, so that is also good. 

My worried mind is of course venturing into the worst possible outcomes but I’m not that much of a wreck as yet. I wonder how soon the surgery will take place, and then of course, I wonder what they will find and what our course of action will be. I worry about the logistics; the holidays, babysitting for Leo and Kirby, Lee’s recovery and possible treatments.

I’ll write more about all of this after Friday.

November 20th

We met with the urologist today. First they took out the catheter. Lee was able to pee and felt better almost immediately. They gave him some self-Caths just in case, but he really hopes to not need them.

Then we talked to the urologist. He said the scan shows that the tumor is about 2.5” in diameter, so not tiny, but not huge either. It appears to be localized, which is very very good, but because of where it is located in the kidney they are going to remove his entire kidney, plus the fatty tissue around it, and the neighboring lymph nodes. Then they’ll biopsy it. It’s almost certainly cancerous, 90% of kidney tumors are. But if it hasn’t spread, and it’s not a high grade, no other treatment will be required. They will just continue to monitor him.

The surgery will be scheduled for sometime in the first half of December. The surgery will take a couple of hours. They will go in laparoscopically, but they’ll also go in by hand to actually remove the kidney cause it’s too big to fit in through a little cut. He’ll be in the hospital for probably 2 days. Because of Covid it is unclear whether I will be able to be there or not. He will have a Covid test before surgery, and if that test is negative he won’t have to quarantine when he comes out of the hospital.

So that’s all very good news. Now we just wait to get the surgery scheduled and hope that the results are good once the kidney comes out.

Interesting tidbit. The event that started all of this, the blood in his urine, is actually fairly unusual. Most kidney tumors cause no symptoms so this one appears to have been caught rather early. We can hope!

November 28th

The surgery is scheduled for December 18th. Lee will have a physical and a covid test on the 14th and after that he will have to self-isolate. The paperwork from the hospital says I should self-isolate too. It also says he will go home the next day. It also doesn’t say that I can’t be in the hospital but I’m still assuming that’s the case.

December 7

We are starting to watch Kirby off and on on Monday’s and Friday’s. Suzanne is watching him on Wednesdays too. At 8 months he has gotten increasingly mobile which makes it pretty hard to watch him and work. It’s not forever but we can help them now and I’m glad to be able to do it.

Kirby is a great baby. He’s really good natured, seldom fussy. It’s pretty easy to figure out what he wants. He takes 2-3 naps a day. Sarah comes over around 9, we play for a little bit, and then he takes his first nap around 9:30-10. When he gets up he’s hungry. He’ll eat baby food and finger food. Today it was Cheerios and bananas.

Now he’s playing on the floor. I have a blanket spread out. I put him on his tummy and put his toys at the 4 corners of the blanket. On his tummy he goes in a circle, but soon he has flipped himself on to his back and then he really moves! He ooches across the floor using his legs and his head and back and just keeps going until he reaches a wall or gets wedged somewhere. I’ve ordered a playpen because otherwise there’s no telling where he’ll end up!

Sarah works here on the days she brings Kirby cause he’s still nursing several times a day and it’s easier than pumping. Unlike Leo he has no trouble taking a bottle and he will probably take one after his second nap, around 1 pm.

He says dadadaDADADA! He coos, blows bubbles, and periodically lets go with some ear piercing shrieks, like some wild animal in the zoo. He is quite pleased with all the noise he can make.

As I get more familiar with him he’s really easy to figure out. He gets a little fussy if he’s hungry or has a messy diaper. When he’s sleepy he’s start yawning and sucking his thumb.

He is a baby that needs to burp, so if he’s fussy and it’s not naptime or time to eat, that’s probably what’s going on. 

Also the dogs, especially Harper, are enamored with him. Harper wants to be near him, and watches him contentedly. 

This won’t last forever. Sometime in the next 6 to 9 months at least Lee and I will be able to get a vaccine, and then I would expect that the kids will go back to daycare. I really can’t imagine what the next phase will look like. 

December 12

We watched Kirby again yesterday. It was a nice day. Sarah got here around 9:00. I set up the playpen and put Kirby in it. He is intrigued by the new bright blue somewhat slippery surface. He can’t get quite as much traction when he tries to oooch on his back so he gets a little frustrated. He’ll just have to figure out how to crawl the proper way!

His morning nap wasn’t very long, maybe 30 minutes. Then he ate some cheerios and banana and an entire pouch of baby food, AND he nursed. I put him in his bouncer and he enjoyed playing with toys and throwing things overboard. He has a chew toy that is a rubber giraffe that squeaks and Harper WANTS that toy! If Kirby throws it I have to be on top of it otherwise Harper will abscond with it in a second.

In the afternoon he took a LONG nap. He went down at 1 and didn’t wake up until 3:30. No need for a third nap! He nursed again and then I gave him a teething cracker. Its so funny to watch him eat it. His hand coordination is still a work in progress and the dogs seem to know this and circle his chair, watching intently. I watched too, so that nothing fell on the floor (or not much anyway).

When that was over we had some one on one time. He loves Patty Cake, and Hoppa Hoppa Rida, an old German rhyme that involves bouncing on my knee and pretending to fall off the horse at the end. If he could say MORE he would! He’s got the best laugh.

Then we walked around the house, making sure all the Christmas lights were on and before too long he and Sarah were on their way home. 

I’m still crocheting like mad. My December kit was delayed at the post office so I did the 2nd afghan first, since the instructions and the video show up online before the actual kit arrives. I finished blocks 10-12 and the kit STILL hadn’t arrived so I checked my yarn amounts and decided I probably had enough to start a THIRD afghan too, so I did. Its kind of fun to go back and do the first blocks again, that caused me so much trouble at the beginning.  Three afghans at the same time are enough, however. No more now until at least one is finished!

December 18th

Well today was the big day, the day of the surgery. Lee was on a liquid diet yesterday afternoon and then had to do a prep. Nothing by mouth after midnight. Neither of us slept very well last night. I got up at 4 am, ate some oatmeal, took a shower, got ready. I wasn’t sure how long I would be at the hospital, so I brought lots of reading material, my crochet work of course, and a snack. We fed the dogs early and put them in their pen. Sarah would come over and spend the morning with them while she worked.  She could feed them lunch if I wasn’t home by then.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the hospital. It wasn’t that hard to find, I only took one wrong turn. We parked, went in, and followed instructions. First we went to the check in area. We waited there for a little bit and then they took us to pre-op. We waited there for almost an hour before they finally came to get him. That’s the last I saw of him. I followed these blue arrows on the floor to the surgical waiting room.  They set me up with a text messaging service that let me know how his operation was progressing. It was pretty cool, they told me when it started, when they were closing him up, when they were finished and the surgeon would come talk to me.

They had said it would be around 2 hours, but it didn’t actually take that long, maybe an hour and a half, at most. The surgeon said it was very localized and he thought it went very well! We have to wait for the pathology report and that could take awhile, but things are looking good. I tried not to think about what could go wrong, but you know it was in the back of my mind. I was relieved!

They told me it could take hours before he could go to his room, so I decided to go home. Even if I waited I would only get to see him fleetingly as they rolled him down the hall. 

I was glad to be home. I hugged the dogs, took it easy for the rest of the morning. I’m pretty tired, like I haven’t slept, and maybe I haven’t. I did take the dogs for a long walk around 2:30. I’m going to have pizza and a salad for dinner and I’m going to bed early.

And its a good thing I didn’t wait around. Its almost 4 and he’s still in recovery. No rooms. 

December 21

The shortest day of the year. Lee finally got a room. By 9 am the next day he was off his IV and catheter and walking around. They discharged him around 3. I stopped at Home Depot and picked up an elevated toilet seat and then picked him up. He was sore but on drugs so not in a lot of pain. He basically came home and went to bed.

The next day, yesterday, he migrated to his chair in the living room, and spent the day there. He hadn’t farted yet. The gas in his stomach cavity from the surgery was really uncomfortable but we were concerned about getting his bowels moving so he stopped the oxycodone and tried dealing with the pain with just tylenol. I did some research and got him a mild laxative and some sugarless gum and he tried both of those, plus a little walking and a heating pad. Late in the afternoon he farted a little bit, so things were starting to move at last.

That afternoon at 4 pm we had a zoom birthday party for Joanne. It was lots of fun, and nice to see everyone. He sat on the couch next to me and stayed alert and participated in the call, but by the end he was really tired. He tried to eat some beef noodle soup but just wasn’t hungry. He went to bed at 6 but started having a lot of pain so he ended up taking the oxy a few times last night after all. 

In the middle of the night I heard him fart several times, and this morning too. I think maybe his bowels have turned the corner and he’ll start to feel better.

Meanwhile we have something crazy going on with the IRS that I need to deal with today. They think we owe $120,000+ in taxes on the sale of the house in New Hampshire in 2018! It can’t be right but its hard to know where to start. The title company that reported the sale? The IRS? Turbotax? I guess I’ll tell the IRS we don’t agree first and then take it from there. I may have to get an accountant or a lawyer to help us. I got the letter from the IRS on the day of the surgery, of all things. Lee is usually the one that does our taxes so this is a big deal for me, but he just doesn’t have the strength to deal with this right now. Ugh!

On a brighter note we’re supposed to get the food from the Personal Chef that Sarah ordered us today. The company is called Annie's Home Cooking and her company got it for her when Leo was born and she really liked it.  I’m looking forward to it, but I wish Lee had more of an appetite. Sigh.

December 22

Yesterday, with a little help from Lee, I dealt with the IRS. First I called the title company in New Hampshire that had reported the sale of the house and made sure they hadn’t done anything squirrelly. They hadn’t. I tried calling the IRS but the wait time to talk to a person was between 30 minutes and an hour so I decided not to bother with that just yet. Lee does our taxes with Turbo Tax and he pays a little extra so that we have access to their accountants in case we need help. This turned out to be a VERY good use of our money!

He got into their program and after a little confusion, figured out how to call them. The CPA we got was WONDERFUL! I talked to her, since Lee just doesn’t have the stamina yet. Turns out for some reason when we filed our taxes for 2018 we didn’t file a form that reports the sale of a house, probably because we didn’t owe any taxes on that sale. Anyway, she walked me through the steps involved in filing an amended return that produced the form (Schedule D and Form 8949 if anyone cares). Of course when we filled out the form we didn’t owe anything, but I printed it out and attached it to the document we needed to send to the IRS saying that we disputed their claim.

She told me to mail it certified mail, receipt requested, and I lost no time doing just that. She said the IRS is so backlogged that it could be months before this gets resolved, but it will. She said its possible that we will get another letter from them before they are able to process our documents and if that happens I have to call them and possibly fax the documents to them, but we’ll cross that bridge if it happens.

I’m so, so grateful to Turbo Tax! I NEVER deal with our taxes, that’s always been Lee’s domain, but they were very helpful and were able to help even a total neophyte like me.

In other news, Lee feels a little better today, and is able to eat a little bit more. He had a half a peanut butter and banana sandwich this morning and didn’t feel too terrible afterwards. Slow progress.

And the surgeon called yesterday. That tumor was growing fast. It was Stage II so up to 7 cm! It had started to invade the fatty tissue surrounding the kidney but the edges were very clean and he's sure they got it all. No other treatment will be needed except CT scans every 6 months for awhile. That was very, very good news. I did think about my friends that have been in similar situations with husbands diagnosed with some terrible disease, and their outcomes were not good. I found myself not thinking about it very much. At one point while we were waiting for December 18th to roll around Lee wanted to talk about what I should do with the house if something happened to him, but I didn't really want to think about it. It wasn't that I was thinking positive thoughts, I didn't want to think at all. I was basically just putting one foot in front of the other and going from one moment to the next. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Coronavirus Diaries Mid to Late October and All of November

October 13

This morning Leo and I went to Gale Woods Farm. It’s a working farm that is part of the Three Rivers Park System. We went there about a year ago for a toddler activity and picked strawberries and watered plants, but this time we just went on our own, to see animals and hike around in the woods and fields.

I didn’t think there would be many people there but we brought our masks, just in case.

When we got there, however, there were bunches of people and school buses! There was a Cross Country meet going on! At first I though oh we’ll have to leave and go do something else. But Gale Woods is a pretty big place, so we just headed away from the area where the meet was being held and walked over to see the sheep.

There were sheep, goats, and even a llama in a big field. We watched them for awhile, butting heads, eating, pooping. Then we walked over to the barn and saw the chickens. The rooster crowed, cookadoodledoo! That was entertaining. We wandered by a greenhouse and down a road to a cow. One of the workers told us it’s name was Aurora. We talked to Aurora for quite some time but couldn’t convince to come closer so we could pet her.

We saw the racers from afar, but I found that a lot more interesting than Leo did. He did like the race cones, however! Most of the adults watching the meet were wearing masks; very few of the teenagers were. I thought about putting mine on, but I could remain socially distant easily and it was cold and windy I really didn’t think there was much to worry about,

We sat at a picnic table and had a snack, grapes and apple bread. We walked over to see another cow but it wasn’t nearly as friendly as Aurora. Then it was time to walk back to the car and go home for lunch.

We walked about a mile and enjoyed ourselves. Maybe we’ll go back sometime when there isn’t a meet going on and we can explore more of the farm.

October 14 - Crochet and bladder update

So I had my 3 week checkup with the pelvic floor PT person yesterday. She says I’m doing well. I need to do the kegel exercises with more frequency, and I really need to try to drink more water, because believe it or not, diluted urine is less irritating and reduces the urge to go. Other than that just be patient. I’m up to waiting an hour and 50 minutes before I pee. Today is weird. I really haven’t had a big urge to pee today. But some days it seems like I spend most of the day wanting to go to the bathroom. Once I get to say 2.5 hours between pees, I’m going to start not timing myself every single day. 

The crocheting is going well. I need to work on making my stitches a bit tighter so that my squares are closer to the correct size but most of the time I’m not that far off. I’m on block number 4, which is all half double crochet. I decided to make two Afghans at the same time so I’ve bought yarn in blue and gray shades and I’m making 2 blocks at a time. I need the practice, and I’m a little obsessed right now, so it helps fill the time until the next kit arrives. It’s exciting when they come, I can’t wait to see what stitches I'm going to learn next!

It’s going to drop down into the 30’s every night this week and by the weekend we might even see some snow. My dormant bare root plants are supposed to arrive today, which means I’m going to be spending the next few days getting them in the ground. Solomon seal in the back shade garden, columbine in the sunny Buddha garden, Monarda in the wildflower garden and maybe some in the rain garden too. I’ll have to mark them carefully so that I can find them in the spring and make sure they survived. 

I also dug up the rosemary and thyme and potted them. Maybe I can get them to survive the winter indoors. It usually doesn’t work but I’ll give it a shot.

October 17

I’ve been thinking about this for several days now. It’s the way in which Covid has become one more thing I use to make judgements about other people, and about myself. Some people I know are being more careful than we are; some people are being less careful. So when I talk to a friend and she tells me that they quarantine for 14 days after any doctor appointment, I wonder if I should be doing something similar. And when I talk to another friend and she tells me how much they enjoyed having visitors at their lake home this summer I wonder if that’s a safe thing to do?

I make my judgements about what is best for me and for my loved ones on the best information we have right now and how much risk I am comfortable with and also to be frank, just how badly I want to do something. It’s a balancing act for sure. 

So going to a store for a brief amount of time wearing a mask seems relatively low risk. But I have a gift card to Total Wine that can only be used in the store, so I have to figure out a way to reduce the amount of time it usually takes me to pick out wine before I go use it.

I really miss racing, and there are a few small races showing up now locally. But it makes me uneasy because I’m just not 100% sure about maintaining the proper social distance during the race, and whether I can trust all participants to wear masks like they’re supposed to. So I’m sticking to short virtual races for now. I’m supposed to sign up for Grandma’s Marathon now, but I just don’t have any confidence that things will be much better by next June, so I’m waffling. Note: I did sign up. Leap of faith!

Do I think it’s necessary to self quarantine after a doctor’s visit? I don’t think so, not for us, not in Minnesota. Everyone is masked and screened here, and their ventilation systems are good. But the friend that does that lives in a state where there isn’t a mask mandate and people are less careful, so I understand her concern.

As for the friend that had visitors this summer, I really shouldn’t judge. We had visitors, it’s just that I was sure that our visitors were following the same procedures as we were. Maybe her visitors were doing the same. I don’t know, and you know what? It’s none of my business!

But this winter when (if) we take the RV to California there are some things we will do, and some things we won’t. When we are traveling south, through states that are careless, we will keep to ourselves as much as possible. As much as we would love to, we won’t be visiting friends in California, we will just hang out with Daniel and Kelsey at the Airbnb. 

Some day this will all be over, and hopefully the members of our bubble will come through it unscathed. And that’s the biggest thing. Whatever decisions we make about risk don’t just affect ourselves, they affect our entire bubble. So when I think about racing it’s not just that I don’t want to get Covid, it’s that I don’t want to expose anyone else to it either. In some ways this makes it a lot easier to stay safe, cause it’s not just about me.

October 21

Yesterday we had a massive snowstorm. On October 20th. This is not normal, even in Minnesota. It snowed hard all day. We have Leo on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and by mid afternoon on Tuesday it was looking like he might have to spend the night. The roads were terrible, and we didn’t mind, so that’s what we decided to do.

When he woke up from his nap it was still snowing. We decided to go outside and shovel the driveway and the sidewalks. Lee found a small snow shovel that he used to keep in his car for Leo to use. He didn’t have snow pants, and his boots were too small, but he had a warm coat, hat and gloves so he was set.

He had a great time moving snow around and bossing us around too. When it was time to come in he didn’t want to stop and had a fit, but that’s just part of the trials of being almost three. His pants and socks were soaked and his feet were blocks of ice but he didn’t care. It was just so much fun being out in the snow.

He helped Lee make a frittata for dinner, and he ate a lot of it too. After dinner he had a bubble bath and then watched a little TV before it was time for bed.

Like some of the rest of us Leo sometimes has a hard time settling down and going to sleep. At first he was upset because his room was too dark, but we turned on the bathroom light and left his door ajar and then he was ok. But he sang and talked to himself for a long time before he finally drifted off.

In the morning he was raring to go. He loves breakfast and had oatmeal, part of a bagel, half a banana, and orange juice. Then he helped Lee take the dogs for a walk. Since then he’s been playing, sometimes by himself, and sometimes with Lee. He really loves his grampa right now. I don’t think Lee minds it much at all, although I know he would like me to take over sometimes, if Leo would only allow it! I’m not as much of a pushover as grampa, however, at least most of the time.

October 29

Leo and I carved pumpkins today. Since it’s too cold to carve them outside I cleared off the island and put black plastic on the floor. Then I put aprons on both of us and got to work.

First we chose the best side for a face. Leo said to make the first pumpkin a happy one. He helped me draw the eyes, nose and a smiley mouth. Then I welded the knife since it is very sharp.

First I cut the lid. Leo lifted it off. Then we scooped out all the stuff in the middle and put it a bowl so we could roast the pumpkin seeds later. We took turns scooping out the stuff, first with our hands and then with a spoon. Then I cut out the eyes nose and mouth. Leo helped me pop each one out after it was cut.

We did two pumpkins. The second one had a frowny face. 

Then it was time to roast the pumpkin seeds. We separated the seeds from the goop in the middle as best we could, putting the seeds in a colander and the goop in the trash. Well mostly in the trash! Turns out that black plastic was a good idea!

Then we headed to the sink to rinse the rest of the goop off the seeds. Leo loves to play with water so he directed the spigot and I picked the remaining goop out of the seeds. We rolled the seeds up in a dish towel to dry them. Then we put them in a clean bowl.

We preheated the oven to 350. We added olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to the seeds and stirred them. Then we spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. I stirred them every 5 minutes, and let them cook until they were brown and crispy. We sampled them, they we pretty good! They will make a good halloween snack!

Lee has been attending a conference online this week so he hasn’t been able to hang out with Leo as much as he would like, and I’m tired. But the conference is over today so I’m getting a break.

October 31

So Halloween. We were going over to Sarah’s for chili and to see Leo and Kirby in their costumes. Before we left we put a bowl with plastic bags with candy out by the street, with a couple of pumpkins and a sign that said Happy Halloween. Then we were on our way.

Leo was dressed as Fireman Sam, a popular children’s cartoon character. Kirby was Sam’s little dog Radar, dressed in his dalmation costume. Leo’s costume was pretty amazing. Suzanne made him a Fireman Sam’s jacket. Sarah got him a fireman hat, a toy walkie talkie, a plastic axe and a toy hose. Erik  made Fireman Sam logos to stick on Leo’s jacket. He really looked wonderful.

Kirby was adorable in his black and white spotted PJs, with a little white cap that Sarah and sewn floppy ears onto, and cut out felt spots and stuck them on.

Leo was really into his costume.  Various adults would find “fires” and Sam would carefully put on his hat and put them out with the axe and the hose. Then he would take off the hat, and sing the Fireman Sam song, just like it was the end of the show.  Multiple times.

Kirby was tired, and hungry. He is trying to give up his third nap which is a difficult transition. We mixed up a little oatmeal and baby food and stuck him in his high chair. He opens his mouth just like a little baby bird. But he also sticks his thumb in his mouth while he’s eating so things can get a little messy sometimes. And he was so tired! He started yawning and crying as he was still eating. Poor baby! 

As we were getting ready to go outside and get candy from a few of the neighbors the lights flickered, and flickered again, and then went totally out. At first Leo was pretty alarmed. He didn’t seem scared but he was pretty agitated, talking a blue streak about the electricity. He was picking up on what the adults were saying but not really understanding what was going on. We looked at the outage map for Xcel Energy and there were like 300 houses in Plymouth that were affected so hopefully they were on it and it wouldn’t be out for too long.

We went ahead and went outside to get pictures of Fireman Sam and his little dog. While we were outside I told Leo to look up at the electricity lines. I told him that somewhere one of those lines had broken and that the men that fixed that sort of thing had to find the broken line and fix it. Then he had a way to understand what was happening and he stopped fixating on it.

Sarah put poor Kirby to bed and we ate dinner by candlelight. The chili was delicious and so was the cornbread. Before too long Lee and I decided we want to go ahead and get home since it was time to feed the dogs.

Fortunately our neighborhood’s power was on. Unfortunately someone decided to stead all our candy, including the bowl. Just another example of how much 2020 sucks. Note: the next day Lee found the empty bowl down the street. We'll never know if it just blew away after someone took all the candy, or someone tossed the bowl away. 

November 8th

Last night we had a celebration. We had planned this for a couple weeks, not knowing that it would take so long to get the election results, or knowing what the results would be for that matter. We were looking at the weather, which has been uncommonly good for November in Minnesota. Warm temps and sunny skies made us want to do one more picnic outside on on the screened porch, and one more marshmallow roast around the fire pit.

All of our quarantine pod came over except for Kris, who had a previous engagement. Sarah and Erik brought a cake and a bottle of champagne. We had hot dogs and potato salad. Suzanne brought a fruit salad. We were set.

The back door was open, and Lee and Leo went out to start a fire. It was pretty windy so we were careful. Sarah poured us all a glass of champagne and we toasted the new administration and the end of Trump. We sat on the porch and ate our hot dogs and watched Leo’s shenanigans and passed Kirby around until it was his bedtime. He is learning to eat cheerios and its pretty hilarious to watch him seriously gumming them up.

Leo and Erik found a wooly caterpillar trying to make its way into the house. Somehow Erik got the caterpillar to climb onto Leo’s hand and they carefully took it outside. Then Leo spent about 20 minutes climbing in and out of the dog door looking for the caterpillar. We tried to determine if it’s stripes indicated that winter would be a hard or easy one but the results were indeterminate. It will be easier in one respect, however. By January 21st, Trump will no longer be president. Thank God!

November 15

The rise in Covid cases is alarming. Several states are putting shelter in place and/or quarantine orders out. I’m sick at heart thinking that Daniel and Kelsey may not be able to come for Christmas. We won’t do anything unsafe, and we won’t break the rules either. Right now they could come, but they would have to quarantine when they returned to Cally. Note: We made the decision and they aren't coming. They will join us via zoom for Christmas, and I will be sending Daniel some Christmas ornaments.

And as for our trip to California in February/March, we’ll we’ll just have to wait and see. Right now we couldn’t go; we couldn’t even travel through New Mexico, let alone quarantine once we got to CA. But things could change, that’s 3 months off.

It’s cold here, and snowy. I’ve run a couple of virtual 5ks, just to have some goals and something to focus on. They are pretty slow, I’m not sure why. I’ve been slow in general ever since the virtual marathon back in July. Oh well, I’ll just keep plugging away. 

I’m still hunting for a fat bike. No luck so far finding one my size in my price range. But I’d still like one, I just need to keep looking.


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I made the pies, cherry, pecan and a vegan pumpkin that’s just as good, if not better, than the regular kind. I decided to make vegan sourdough rolls too. I’d been trying to bring my sourdough starter back to life for several days but it was really slow to get going, even with using the proof box Lee made me, so when I mixed up the dough Wednesday afternoon I added a little bit of active dry yeast to it as well as the starter.

Thanksgiving morning I ran a virtual 5k Turkey Trot. It was the 3rd virtual 5k I’ve run this fall, and it went a lot better than the first 2. I’ve really been struggling with running but I had my head on straight for this run, focused, and left pretty good about it.

The dough for the rolls sat in the fridge overnight. After the turkey trot I brought it out and formed the rolls. I put them back in the proof box and let them rise for about 4 hours. The rolls turned out great; the vegan recipe we found is definitely a keeper.

Thanksgiving was quiet, just our bubble. Way too much food, of course. We had Sarah and Erik and the kids come over early so that Leo could take his nap here, and we could eat as soon as he woke up. He knew something was up, but not exactly what. He was mainly confused because BOTH his parents came to peepah’s house! Sarah put him down but at first he was playing and yelling loudly. I went upstairs to tell him to hush. “I want mommy.” “oh, you’re ok,” I said. “Lay down, its time to take a nap.” I shut the door, and he lost it. Sarah had to go upstair and comfort him. He’s very sensitive right now; any little thing can set him off! Its hard being almost 3! Its also hard only having a bunch of old people to play with.

When Leo and Kirby woke up from their naps we sat down to eat. Kirby has 2 little teeth and is VERY interested in any and all food. Anything you put on his tray goes in his mouth. Any baby food you place on a spoon causes his mouth to open like a little bird’s. He’s also taking a bottle without any trouble AND he’s still nursing! He has lots of beautiful chubby folds in his arms and legs, and a continuous happy smile. He is trying to sit up, and he can for a little bit as long as someone is nearby to catch him when he starts to list….

Leo ate the cranberry sorbet, of course, just like last year, then wanted to go straight to the pies. He had 6 grownups urging him to eat, kind of ridiculous. Of course eventually he got some pie and scarfed that right down. He liked them all!

The next day we made lep cookies. We only made a 1/2 batch, so about 350 cookies total. I don’t know if Lee and I have ever made them without Joanne or Cathy there to help, but Suzanne came over and she was a big help. Sarah, Leo and Kirby came over too. Leo “helped”. We got out his little rolling pin and his toddler knife, and he made a spectacular mess of minced lep cookie dough. It was impressive. 

By yesterday afternoon Lee and I were both tired. We both just sat around and didn’t do much of anything. I ran 6 miles this morning and generally have a little more energy.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Grand Marais and the North Shore and other Odds and Ends from the Beginning of October


At the beginning of October we drove the RV up to the North Shore of Lake Superior for a few days of camping, hiking and hanging out. This was before the virus spiked like it has been doing for the past couple of weeks. We were in Cook County, Minnesota, which is very rural and sparsely populated. At the time when we were there they had only had 7 cases of Covid since the start of the pandemic. Here is my report on our trip.

October 1st:

We drove up to the North Shore today. We are staying in an RV Park in Grand Marias. It’s beautiful up here, and COLD! We are right on Lake Superior. I will have more to tell about this in the coming days.

Last week I suddenly cam down with a case of shin splints. I have never had a real running injury. I have had injuries but they’ve been from falling, either while on my bike or while running. So this is new.

I actually don’t know what caused it. Maybe ramping up my mileage too quickly after the virtual marathon in July. But one day while gardening I noticed it was sore and the next day it hurt while walking the dogs. I went for a run and it got worse as I ran so that wasn’t good. I’ve reasearched stretches and I’ve started doing them religiously and that’s helping. It’s been a week and short walks don’t hurt anymore but longer ones still do. It’s hard to be patient but part of me is a bit relieved. I’ve been pretty burnt out on running and now when I start back up I plan to take it very slow and easy.

I took Leo back to the arboretum on Tuesday. We went on a little hike and he had a great time, looking at leaves and rocks and flowers and pretending to read the nature signs. 

My bladder training seems to be working. I’m slowly extending the time between going to the toilet. Last week I aimed for one hour and 35 minutes. This week my goal is one hour and 40 minutes. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s really hard, but staying calm and going to the toilet slowly and without hurrying really helps. No accidents!

I forgot to mention that on Wednesday Trump attended a fundraiser in Shorewood and his motorcade went right down Eureka. Any other president and I would have been excited and out there but I won’t give that man the satisfaction of any sort of attention so I stayed away.

I did make a few signs however. One Biden/Harris 2020 with “Will you just shut up man?!!!” Across the bottom. One ByeDon 2020. One 200,000+ Dead, and Counting. One $750? What did YOU Pay in Taxes Last Year? 

Eureka was periodically blocked off. We put the truck on Mann so we could get out if we needed to. We had Leo and the road was blocked off first right around 4 pm. At first Lee and Leo (with a yogurt popsicle for his afternoon snack) went outside to watch the cars go by, but Leo got cold and bored waiting so he was off playing when they went by. I walked the dogs instead.

When the road opened up I took Leo home. I had a pretty tight window to get him home and then get back to our house before the road closed again when Trump left. I made it, barely.

Now today (10/2) he’s tested positive for the virus (Trump I mean). Can’t help thinking of all the people he has probably infected by his irresponsible behavior. Including all those rich SOB’s at that fundraiser. Hmph. 

October 2

Today we explored Grand Marias, within the limits of the coronavirus. In the morning we walked to the lighthouse with the dogs. Fun, and cold. On the way back we stopped at the Food Coop and the hardware store, because that’s what we do. Almost everyone was wearing masks, even outside, especially downtown, anywhere it was hard to stay socially distant. Maybe compliance is easier when it’s cold!

Went back to the RV for lunch; Lee made meatball subs. In the afternoon we took a drive, up the Gunflint Trail to Pincushion Mountain and took in the view. Lots of trails to hike up there. Then down through some back roads and over to look at Five Mile Rock, a big rock sticking up in the lake. Then back to Grand Marias. Parked the truck, left the dogs and walked back into town for coffee. 

That’s it for today. Tomorrow we’ll pick a state park and go exploring. We have wood to make a fire, but it’s pretty cold.....I don’t think I have enough clothes to ride a bike up here either.

October 3

In the morning we hike up Sweetheart’s Bluff, a short hike right by the campground with nice views and a lot rocks to scramble up. The dogs love it, although I do have to carry Heather up one steep cliff. We get to the top and the views are great, but we can’t figure out where the path back down is so we end up back tracking. I might go back sometime and try again. It’s got to be there somewhere!

In the afternoon we drive about 8 miles north of Grand Marias and do a short hike along a riverbed to a falls. Pretty! Once again the dogs are gung-ho, but by the end they are tired, and so are we. We leave them in the RV and walk into town for coffee. This time I get one of the World Famous Donuts too, cinnamon sugar. The town is buzzing cause it’s Saturday, but 99% of the people are wearing masks, both inside and out. It’s great. I feel so much better when people comply.

We have to wait for the donuts, and then again for the coffee, so Lee leaves me in line and runs to the Food Coop for some supplies, and a steak for dinner.

After all this walking my shin is a little sore. Not bad though.

October 4

Bright and sunny today, and a little warmer. Upper 40’s anyway, but windy.

In the morning we drive to Magney State Park and hike to Devil’s Kettle, a double waterfall where one side disappears into a hole. It took them years to figure out where the water that went into the hole came out. Turns out it rejoins the main stream farther down.

It’s not far, less than a mile, but steep and rocky and lots and lots of steps. Actually compared to Hong Kong no big deal, but still. The Westie’s scamper up, even Heather. I’m very proud of her with her short little legs. We look at Devil's Kettle and then hike back down and stop at another waterfall, called the Upper Falls, even though it’s below Devil's Kettle. 

My shin feels fine today, just a teeny bit sore.

In the late afternoon we light a fire. It’s chilly but nice. I wrap myself in a Westie Blanket and put Harper in my lap. When the sun starts to go down it gets colder and we go inside.

October 5

We decided to be lazy in the morning. After lunch we drive to Oberg Mountain near Lutsen and hike the loop, about two miles. Beautiful views, nice hike. 

Stopped for coffee in Lutsen on the way back. Reading the signs at the coffee shop and realized this area was devastated when Covid hit this spring. It runs on tourism and when they were shut down there was no work for anyone. They started a special brand of coffee called SISU to help people that were impacted by the shutdown. Things are open now but still. I think they’re worried about the winter. How are people going to sit on chairlifts and stay socially distant when they go skiing? One person or family at a time? I guess.

It’s warm this afternoon, we actually have the screen door of the RV open. Later we’ll do another fire.

October 6

We did a fire again last night. It was very nice. It wasn’t as cold and it was windy so it burned like fury without a lot of trouble. We had wood left over so we brought it home to use in the fire pit.

We drove back and we were pretty tired by the time we got the RV unloaded, but we did make time to go get my car at the repair shop. We had a lot of fun, but it’s good to be home.


I'm glad we were able to take this little trip before the virus slammed us all again. Who knows how long this current surge will last, and when it will feel safe to go out and about again.


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