Follow by Email

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Singing Again

During our years in South Bend, I sang in our church choir which tended to meet only during Advent or Lent--and then often, I accompanied them.  I sang for one year or so in the SB Symphonic Choir and then I did a Notre Dame conducting class in which we were there for the student conductors to practice on.   Oh, and the Collegium for a year or two under Daniel Stowe--the Renaissance music choir--very challenging--and we did perform each semester.  But there was no long-term choir commitment during those years.

However in the last few weeks I have joined two choirs of very different sorts.  The Grace Notes Choir is made up of retirees--or at least older folk like me.  I wondered how bad it might sound--but we sound pretty good  I think.  Our director Noel Werner chooses appropriate music and rehearses us well.   This week we sang advent music for a communion service at Stonebridge, a senior citizen community.  It was a wonderful worshipful service and I was very glad to be a part of it.

I also have gone to two rehearsals on Wednesday evening of the Nassau Presbyterian Church Choir also led by Noel Werner.  Now, this one is a challenge.   Last week we sang a Rachmaninoff anthem in Church Slavonic for the Sunday service.  We are learning Bach's Christmas Oratorio and several anthems ranging from medieval to very contemporary styles.  It is two hours of absolute concentration and challenge.   To my great pleasure, the alto section leader said "You've sung the Bach Oratorio before"  and was surprised when I said I was sight reading.

I was assigned a choir robe and it probably was the first time in 29 years that I was robed--since we left White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. 

I am commited to sing for at least the month of December and that may make our decision easier about which church to join.  I do already feel that the choir would make a good "small group" in such a big church--much like it was at WMPC.  I hope I can be alert enough to sing for a 10 pm Christmas Eve service.

This morning I wrote Noel to thank him and praise him for his work.  I boldly attached the "hymn testimony" I gave at our South Bend Church last spring and he wrote back to say he was going to file my email and attachment away for when he needed encouragement.  I was so glad I followed my impulse to email him--and to send the attachment.  Once again I was reminded that even those who are real pros in their fields can use a word of praise.   I may need to include my "hymn testimony" as a separate blog because it does tell how important music is to me and to my faith.

In this time of too many medical issues that are making me very anxious, it has been a gift to be able to be distracted and challenged by singing.

Jim no longer has to be the responsible parent like he was the many Sunday mornings I sang in Raleigh but he has been the designated driver dropping me off for rehearsals, going to the seminary or university library, and then picking me up afterward. And he is the appreciative spouse after the singing both at church and at the senior community. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

An ER Visit

When we complained about how many doctors we have seen since moving to Princeton, Susan (our daughter-in-law) said that at least we had not been introduced to Princeton Medical Center's ER.  Well, now we have.

We were at the Princeton High School Jazz Cafe Friday night where Michael was playing his trombone with his band.   It was hot, Jim was standing up for an hour and had not removed his coat, he had golfed that day and not remembered his water, and he started to feel bad.   We got him seated but it was clear he was fast fading from us.

Jeff called around for help from a doctor--and a couple of parents who were medical personnel wanted him on the floor in the hall.  At that point, it was very clear he was out of it.  I felt for his pulse on his neck and felt his breath so I knew he didn't need CPR.

Susan was quickly calling 911.   Cathleen, a nurse, asked if I was his wife and told me to try to get him to respond to me.  I sat down next to him and by that time, I think, he was saying that he was feeling better. 

Two EMT fellows came and brought him to the ER over his objections but with our blessing.  Jeff and I followed in his car.  We spent the next 3 1/2 hours there and Jim was admitted, again over his objections, for observation.

All tests--bloodwork, CAT scan, and EKG, were fine.  It's not the first time Jim has fainted when dehydrated--which was probably the cause.  Syncopy for unknown causes--the diagnosis.

I spent the night at Jeff and Susan's lest I need to go back to the hospital.  In the morning, I picked Jim up and we were home by noon.

It was all very frightening and I find that now, almost a week later, I can close my eyes and not see the blank look on his face.  I had a few moments of thinking that it was Good-bye right there in the halls of Princeton High School.

Jim will remember to drink water.  He was told he could add more salt to his diet-while I try to eliminate it from mine!  He doesn't need to see a cardiologist unless it happens again.   Maybe it won't.  But it was pretty scary when it did--for me and for Jeff and Susan. 

Saturday night we sat in our living room, quietly watching football with a fire going in the gas fireplace.

It was time to be treasured--far better than Room 07 in ER or PO 20 in the hospital--even if everyone we met was very kind and competent.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


I have not been in a blogging mood.  It has been a difficult month as we have begun to live with the big C word--Cancer.

Our PCP did a routine blood test for Jim and included a PSA test which our doctor in South Bend would not have done for anyone over the age of 70.  The score was high so Jim saw a urologist and had a biopsy.  The biopsy showed cancer in enough sites and with a high enough Gleason rating that he recommended radiation.  We saw a radiation oncologist at a site dedicated to prostate cancer and Jim will most likely begin eight weeks of daily radiation in February.  Everyone seemed to agree it was fine to postpone it until then so we could go on our planned two week holiday in St. Pete Beach, Florida in January.

So, November 6, the day the urologist gave us the biopsy results,  is the day that marks a new "season of our lives" as Pastor Sharyl Dixon labeled it when i asked her to meet with me.   I feel angry with the PCP for doing a test without asking our permission and she did apologize saying everyone always said Yes when she asked.  Maybe Jim would have; maybe I would not have done so because I knew it was not advised for men over 70.  The "cure" can be more life changing than the disease because it is slow progressing usually and many older men have it but die of other causes.

But it is done and we are on a new journey in our lives.  44 treatments--but we do not have the pressure of work so that is not the problem.  And Jim has every hope of it not having spread.  The urologist pointed out that men live longer these days so it is more worth treating.  I just hope the side effects are not too hard for Jim.  One scary one is that he has to give up his RA miracle drug methotrexate for the duration and I hope that doesn't mean pain from RA again.

 Cancer is a scary word and we have to accept the idea that we are aging and our bodies are aging and that we are not going to live forever.  Jim is pretty cool about all of this.  I was very anxious before the biopsy results but at least now we know where we are and what has to be done.

I have my own issues and difficulties with the PCP and that cause me more stress.  I hope to find another one after I get results from the last test I have done.  I need someone who doesn't make me feel like I am a bad person because I have insomnia, drink a glass of wine with supper, and get stressed.  She thinks Jim is a "best patient" but I left her in tears the last time.  I know I need to be told to eat fewer carbs etc. but of all the doctors we have met here, and there have been many, she is the only one to make me feel  so bad and to send me out with five other things to do.

To be continued.   May the next blog be more upbeat!   I hesitated to write this one but I think my limited amount of readers already know about this episode in our lives and have supported me already through their emails and calls.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Moving into 231 State Road

We moved into Jeff and Susan's on Friday, October 25 after they left for a ten day trip to Durham, NC and then on to Honolulu, Hawaii for a conference for Susan and a few vacation days.  I am so glad they can do this and that they trust us with Michael who is very self-sufficient but needs transportation and his food allergies do add a certain worry to our supervision of him.  I don't want to accidentally expose him to eggs or dairy although we reviewed the use of an epipen and the need to call 911 afterward.

This morning was typical.  Jim set an alarm, got up first, and reminded M to get going.  Jim made sure I was awake but because I was fasting to do blood work, it didn't take long to get ready.  We dropped M off at Princeton High School and joined the hundreds of others on the roads.  I called the doctor's office to say we were stuck in traffic but they seemed unconcerned and of course, I still had to wait to give my blood.    Afterwards, we headed up State Road 206 to Burger King to treat ourselves to French toast sticks for Jim and a sausage-egg biscuit for me.  We missed it and got caught in endless traffic heading back between the three traffic lights along the way.  But the breakfast was delicious after a fast in particular.  We avoided the detour signs for road closings on SR 518 and went to our apartment for mail, laundry and showers.   I took the car back into Kingston to practice the organ for an hour  at Kingston Presbyterian Church.   Jim worked in his study. 

We had lunch--even if the milk was sour and the chips bags were down to scraps.  We don't have the hang of living in two places and find what we need (shaver, hair dryer, t-shirts) are often at the other place!   I think in some ways, it is easier to pack for a 700 mile trip than a 4 mile trip!

Next on the agenda for the day is to get milk and veggies at McCaffrey's, pick up M at 3:30, have supper with him and then get him to band practice at PHS at 6:30 with pick up time TBD.  The 7th World Series game should provide some entertainment for the evening.  So life is not very strenuous yet there is a certain confusion to it.   Seeing the happy faces of Jeff and Susan on one of their Hawaii photos on Facebook makes me very happy and Michael seems to tolerate his grandparents easily enough.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


One of the difficult things about moving was leaving the doctors we had used over many years.  Our dentist made it easier by retiring.  Our family practitioner was cutting back some hours.  Jim, however, saw several specialists which complicated matters.

It also made our decisions urgent when Jim broke a tooth almost immediately upon our arrival in New Jersey.  We found a local dentist--very local.  She practices in an old house in nearby Kingston and doesn't always have assistants and certainly does not have modern x-ray technology.  After several appointments, Jim has his new crown and all is well.

Also complicating matters was that our AARP plan changed from a PPO to an HMO.   We asked family and friends and found an internist, Dr. Chattha.    She began with new patient visits and follow-ups and now we both see her for complete physicals next week.  What that involves we do not know.   It may  mean that we can skip the insulting Medicare competency questions which always make me so stressed that I do feel and may appear incompetent.

I got out my laptop and from Dr. Chattha's list tried to find specialists that would take our insurance.  Jim has now seen an opthamalogist and a rheumatologist.  We have both seen a nurse practitioner at the dermatologist's office and then had follow-up visits with the doctor himself.  Jim has two more visits scheduled with him for procedures and one more with the rheumatologist.  He has had a bone scan for the first time--never was asked to do it before.

I have followed up with Dr. Chattha because of my recurring insomnia.  She sent me to a cardiologist who is scheduling two more tests--a stress test and a calcium scan--but also got me started on a new (old, actually) drug that has already lowered my heart rate after one dose.  Dr. Chattha may ask for more tests and another referral.   I am going to cancel the gastroenterologist referral because a colonoscopy is more than I can deal with right now.

Is this what it is like to be 73?  I hope it all settles down soon as we get into regular routine appointments instead of all these consultations and follow-ups.  I know we need to be thankful that there are doctors here for us and we can still make decisions as to what we choose to do or what we choose not to do.  For the most part we have found the doctors to be caring and competent.

So now I will have the drink of wine my internist forbade but the cardiologist said was just fine.  I prefer her recommendation!

Thursday, September 12, 2019


One of the first things we did upon arriving in Princeton was to get library cards at the Princeton Public Library located very near Palmer Square and just off the busy Nassau Street bordering the university.   Parking is free in the Spring Street parking deck where you usually have to drive up to the top floors to find a space. I do not like parking decks!

To my surprise, I learned that 508 Barclay Square may have a Princeton postal address but it actually is located in Plainsboro, New Jersey.  I had to pay $75 to get a library card--a bargain at the senior rate.  I was happy enough to do so and the gentleman who helped me was very enthusiastic telling me all the benefits I would get for membership.

That may have been the first and last time I checked out books at the Princeton Public Library.  If we  live in Plainsboro, we decided we should find the Plainsboro Library.  It is a four mile drive from our apartment about the same distance as the Princeton Library.   Parking is easy in a large adjacent lot.   A library card is free and if the library does not have the book I want, I can use an interlibrary loan service that will find the book at one of about 30 libraries in Middlesex County.

  It is not high tech.  The librarian at the counter checks out books for you.  There are no electronic chips in the books to facilitate the process as we had in the St. Joseph Library in Indiana.  In fact, I was told they just stopped stamping the due dates in the back of books and are now using printed receipts.

Last week I began volunteering to assist the interlibrary process.  This involves unpacking books from those 30 libraries and sorting them into two categories--those being returned to Plainsboro and those requested from elsewhere for local patrons.  Then my job is to sort all the returned books into 30 piles--one for each library in the system--and pack them into bags or boxes.   It is not a difficult job but after an hour my back was hurting from bending over the array of books.  There were literally hundreds of books to be processed.

Just as in South Bend, I need to thank our libraries by volunteering.  At least here, no one made me take a drug test and no one is insisting I wear closed toe shoes.  Tomorrow I will go in and try to make it for two hours of work but I will also leave with a book on hold for me and another one I hope to find in the stacks.  How grateful I am for our libraries!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Apartment Living Part 2

We have been in our apartment for seven weeks.  There are still four paintings to be hung and five boxes of books to be given away and garage shelving to be assembled.  But the car can fit in the garage now and the place looks and feels like home.

We have delighted in being able to call maintenance a few times and let them fix minor problems easily instead of them being major problems to us.  The smoke alarm went off one day with a voice saying over and over "Fire. Fire"  There was no fire.  Alonso came immediately and changed the battery--although he said it should have been a new one.  One of the faucets dripped; another one leaked.  Another maintenance man came a few hours after we posted the problem on the tenant portal and cheerfully fixed both.  We hear the mowers and the leaf blowers and the grounds are not our responsibility!

This week I have begun using the stationary bike in the exercise room.  I have had the room to myself at 9:30 am and can choose my own TV channels.  I haven't used the piano for a few weeks but I will again soon.  Eboni in the office has helped us with faxes a couple of times.  We can make copies in the business center.

We have ridden our bikes to the towpath a couple of times and will enjoy doing that many times in the weeks to come.  We walk to the mail room in the main building and to the recyclable bins and trash compactor almost daily.  Walking down the sidewalk along Mapleton Avenue at sunset has given us views of the most beautiful sky over the trees.

We are on the far end of the complex which turned out to be a great location.  We look at trees from our living room and bedroom windows.  We can hear traffic faintly in the distance. Our neighbors are quiet.  And we are far enough away from the smelly and noisy trash compactor which we would not have even considered to be a problem when we signed the lease.

We are not sorry about our choice of Barclay Square and Princeton itself.