Monday, December 16, 2013

The Journey Continues.....

Our First Snow From the Condo Sun Porch
November 27, 2013

To my Blog Friends who are digging out from the weekend snow, this doesn't look like much, but it was significant for a couple of reasons.  November 27 is VERY early for us here in East Tennessee to have snow at all, much less enough that can actually be seen laying on the ground. It was fun for us because it was the first snow since we moved into our condo.  Unfortunately, it was the day before Thanksgiving also known as the heaviest travel day of the year, so while we were enjoying our little skiff of snow, our neighbors to the west, north and northeast were either cursing the weather or getting ready to curse it over the next 24 hours!  

Speaking of enjoying the snow from our condo Sun Porch, I am starting this post with very happy news.  Unless something goes horribly wrong between now and 2 p.m., this picture says it all........

Our old house is SOLD!  We close today at 2 p.m.  We will once again be the owners of only one residence!  In the end, it took less than six months for the house to sell which, in today's market, is a fact for which we should be grateful.  However, given all we've been through in that six months, it has seemed like an absolute eternity!  Driving through the neighborhood, there are a plethora of houses for sale (many of which were for sale long before ours) and I saw no other SOLD signs except for the one in our yard. 

We never questioned the move and continue to fall more in love with our condo and its location with each passing day.  In fact, I'm not sure we've ever seen more clearly the hand of God working behind the scenes weaving the tapestry of our lives in the way that best prepared us for the journey we were about to begin!  But in the weaving, there's sure been some lessons learned about what is important, what is NOT important and how we plan to live our lives for the remainder of the time we have on this earth. 

Bill's Chemo journey is over.  Round Three was very difficult as we expected.  We were told very candidly that the effects of chemo are cumulative and we found that to be true.  Thankfully, he is now three weeks out and for the first time in nine weeks, we begin a week in which he DOESN'T have to go in for a treatment and we can truly begin to see him recover.  His appetite is returning slowly, food is tasting good again although he has to eat very slowly as the food takes awhile to work its way down a very irritated (from the chemo) path to his stomach.   But that has even seen a noticeable improvement over the past couple of days.  The fatigue is still a factor.  He sleeps at least 10 hours each night and takes one or two naps each afternoon.  We have to be mindful of the fact that he has just completed the semester at school and is ALWAYS tired on this week of the year.  We are confident that this week will see much improvement all the way around.

The doctor was very happy with Bill's response to the Chemo.  The swelling in his neck has completely disappeared and he is no longer able to feel the knot that was the tumor.  However, the next PET Scan scheduled for December 30th will show us what, if anything, is still going on inside.  Unfortunately, he was told that he would likely be facing radiation after the first of the year.  This was a huge downer for us as we weren't expecting it.  And certainly not the number of radiation treatments that was thrown out.  We've been doing lots of research and will have lots of questions for the doctor.  

But for now, we are rejoicing that the chemo is over and that Bill is beginning to rebound.  He is far from the Energizer Bunny Bill I'm used to, but I see glimpses and my heart soars with gratitude.  We have learned so much about life, time, love, commitment and all those things people who have been married for 36 1/2 years MIGHT have begun to take for granted.  I expect you'll be hearing about many of those things after the first of the year.

I am not taking any sort of formal Blogging "break," but please know that my posting may be sporadic through the end of the year (as if it already hasn't been!  LOL!).  My focus is totally on what is right in front of me here at home.  With Bill feeling slightly better, we are working on finding balance between the friends and family who've missed us and want to spend time with us and keeping Bill rested and more importantly, WELL.   

But then who knows.....I've enjoyed writing this post so much, I may write another one!  There is so much to tell.  I am so grateful for the joy this blog has brought into my life and the friends I've made.

What are your Christmas plans?  Will you travel?  Are you ready?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Down, One To Go!

Little River Trail - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
November 19, 2013

I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods, but the frigid winter air with a stiff north wind accompanying it arrived in East Tennessee with a vengeance!  We went from mild, autumn like temps with calm breezes (perfect walking weather) to low 20s with wind chills in the teens OVERNIGHT!!  Yesterday was clear with brilliant sunshine, but somehow you could just tell by looking out the windows that the sunshine was deceiving!  

We had the most wonderful weekend!  Bill has had an excellent "recovery" week following round two of his chemotherapy treatments.  His appetite and taste buds returned, he regained some weight and his energy level, although obviously compromised, has allowed him to do some things he enjoyed.  One of which was decorating our home for Christmas.  We traditionally decorate on the Friday following Thanksgiving (which should tell you exactly how we feel about Black Friday), but given this year will be totally different, we decided to go ahead and decorate while Bill was feeling good.  Since we have a whole new place to decorate, we wanted the time to be really special.  And it was.  We got started Friday evening, took a break on Saturday and finished up on Sunday afternoon.  The condo looks beautiful and it is amazing how lovely our decorations look and fit in the new spaces.  The only thing we had to buy was a wreath for the front door.  The only thing we can't use are the giant wreaths which we always placed on the front windows of our 70-year old Cape Cod we moved out of!  I am so glad we got this done.  It will bring Bill a great deal of comfort next week when he is feeling so miserable!

On Saturday, we enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving feast with our families!  Who says it HAS to be on Thursday?  The only "tradition" we didn't get to do was watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday and we have followed traditions established 36 years ago when we first got married.  When his treatment plan was set, Bill almost immediately recognized that Thanksgiving Day would fall during his lowest part of round three and he'd be unable to go anywhere, see anyone or do anything!  It was a tough pill to swallow, but after making it through round one and seeing that there truly is a "recovery" period, it was his idea to celebrate our Thanksgiving on the Saturday before when he would feel his best.  It was a wonderful day of thanksgiving and celebration.  Yes, Thursday will still be tough, but we'll be o.k.

Thanks to dear friends, Gene and Judi Curp, I was able to hike in my beloved mountains last Tuesday.  On a spectacular autumn day in the Smokies, we did the five mile Cucumber Gap Loop, and as always, I was reminded that there is no better therapy than doing what you love with friends who love you!  How eternally grateful I will always be for the friends I have met through writing this blog!  

Yes, Round Three is tomorrow and yes, we wish it were behind us.  Because of the holiday, this round is a tiny bit different.  The med which is continuously infused through a pump will come off on Wednesday instead of Friday shortening it by 48 hours and halving the amount of the drug he will receive.  His oncologist has been very pleased with Bill's progress and says this will be "enough."  We believe this is the med that has made him the sickest over the longest period of time, so we are in hopes that the shorter infusion time might make a difference in how sick he is and might allow him to "recover" a bit earlier!  However, we are also a bit nervous as the holiday weekend also means we will be without the "lifeline" of our doctor's office from Wednesday evening through Monday morning.  Yes, they are available and a doctor is on call, but it still isn't the same as being able to reach them immediately.  Should Bill become dehydrated, he'd have to go to ER rather than to the office for fluids!  So please keep us in your thoughts this week and specifically, that he will be able to drink enough fluids on his own to stay hydrated and the shortened infusion period will allow him to recover quicker!

I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving.  Please, PLEASE take time to celebrate every blessing you've been given.  Live every moment to its fullest potential never forgetting that everything can change in an instant!  And in the midst of your Thanksgiving, find someone who might NOT be feeling "blessed" right now and using the resources you have, see if you can't make a difference in their day.  

Thank You for the Blessing of Your Friendship!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Round Two Is Behind Us!

Covered Bridge near Tellico Plains, TN
November 3, 2013

I am so thankful to report that yes, Chemo Treatment Round Two is behind us.  Bill has entered the "recovery" period and will have a week of reprieve before his third and last treatment on Monday, November 25.  In many ways, round two was a bit easier as we were able to make some adjustments in meds based on the things we learned from round one.  As we'd been told, round two was similar to round one in the timing of how specific side effects hit.  But there were many things that were different and with the nausea better controlled, it seems a couple of other unpleasant side effects took center stage.  His "recovery" period actually was a full day later in getting here.  We weren't expecting that!  The cumulative effects are more evident as he is still quite fatigued, has lost more weight and just doesn't have the stamina he'd hoped for.  He is doing a terrific job managing his activity and trying his best to eat food that will provide nourishment even though those aren't necessarily the things which sound the best to him.  He is sleeping well and that, in itself is a blessing. 

How am I coping?  That's a good question.  Some days I feel like I'm doing great - other days, not so much!  Some days, this all still seems like a dream and I'll wake up with everything being as it was except that I'll have a renewed appreciation for the strengths of my husband and the stability he has always brought to our marriage.  We've talked a lot over the past few weeks about how neither of us feel we've ever taken the other for granted, but when faced with having to handle EVERYTHING, you suddenly realize how much your spouse does on a daily basis that he just did and you never thought twice about it.  Most days, I'm well aware that this is no dream and we have a long way to go before our life will be "normal" again.  I also believe that our "normal" will look very different.  We are both changed people (for the better, I hope).  Another topic of conversation has been ways in which we will live differently with priorities that might be a bit kinder, gentler and less self-centered. I expect there will be a lot more about that in upcoming blog posts!

There are a few things I have managed to do quite well and I think that has been advantageous to my overall ability to cope.  I have faithfully exercised with very few days that I have not recorded at least 10,000 steps on my pedometer.  When Bill has been so sick, I've been unable to eat either, so yes, I've lost weight, but during his recovery week, we eat well and therefore, my weight balances out.  During the most stressful period I've ever experienced, I'm managing to maintain an exercise routine AND maintain my weight.  That tells me I've learned something through the years that is able to run on auto-pilot when it has to.  My dear friend, Debby, wrote a post over the weekend that really spoke to me and said some of these same things.  She's been doing some thinking too!  Here's a link to that post.

The thing which seems to be most evident of my stress is my inability to concentrate.  I can't settle down to read, I have no desire to cook, even sitting down to write takes a lot of effort.  I leave one room to get something out of another and when I get there, I can't remember what I needed.  I've learned that leaving the house without a detailed, specific list of where I'm going and what I need from each store is futile.  Bill doesn't seem to be having this problem - I'm the one who seems to have Chemo brain!

When you read this, I will either be heading out to my beloved mountains to hike or already be there.  Thanks to wonderful friends who have said, just let us know when you can go, we've planned a short hike to accommodate the fact that I'm way out of shape, but it will get me in the woods and on a trail.  Right now, I can't think of anything more therapeutic.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Seasons Come, Seasons Go........

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Foothills Parkway
November 3, 2013

The autumn season has come and gone here in the mountains of East Tennessee and I have largely missed observing it.   I'm learning a lot of valuable lessons about seasons of life as they come.  I hope and pray that I will be a better person who applies these life lessons as this difficult season passes.  I'm sure I'll be writing about some of the things I've learned as time goes by, but for today, I just want to show you a few pictures we took last Sunday (a week ago) on Bill's last day of "recovery" before chemo treatment round two began Monday.  

We just wanted to see some of fall foliage without the headache of traffic and thankfully, we are natives of this area and know exactly where to go to avoid the nightmares of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  We headed toward the Foothills Parkway in Blount County and this is what we found.

Mile after mile of stunning yellow, red and orange trees with stunning vistas of the mountains in the background.  And just look at that road up ahead totally free of traffic.  At that hour of the morning, most tourists were in one of the many Pancake Houses back in the towns!

After exiting the parkway, we made our way out of the park and headed across some backroads few people know about and into the Cherokee National Forest to get a look at Bald River Falls.     We knew the falls would be crowded on a Sunday afternoon and would be at less than optimal flow in the dry season of early November, but took the risk anyway.

Bald River Falls - Cherokee National Forest
November 3, 2013

Remember, I am no photographer and I've posted pics of this waterfall before, but always taken in the early morning as I began the hike that runs alongside the waterfall for several miles.  I don't think I've ever seen the falls with this little water.  Normally the flow covers the rocks and I've see it tumbling ferociously during the rainy season.  And yes, we found the crowds here so we didn't linger.  Besides we were hungry and knew just where we were going...........

Don't come to the Tellico Beach Drive-In expecting anything fancy.  In fact, what you see in these pics is pretty much what you get as far as atmosphere, plus there is that big sign by the window that says, "no credit cards" and "no public restrooms!"  Waiting in line is guaranteed and believe me, they get in no hurry.  What you WILL get is a hamburger or hot dog made to order like they USED to make them before fast food joints ruined everything and crinkle cut french fries to die for.  

Fine waterfront dining at the Tellico Beach Drive-In
November 3, 2013

After our delicious lunch, we headed home.  Bill tires very easily and we'd been gone since early morning.  We were so thankful that he felt good and we were able to spend his last day before starting all over again out enjoying this autumn season as we watch it go!

We aren't real good with selfies, but I thought this one came out pretty good!
He looks normal to me since I'm used to him wearing a hat - who would know there's no hair under there?

Chemo treatment round two began one week ago today.  It's effects on Bill have been similar to round one, but we did learn some things and his doctor helped us with some ideas for managing the horrible nausea a little better this time.  But there are no two ways around it, chemo is awful for the person receiving the treatment and difficult for the caregiver to watch someone they love suffer so.  You would do ANYTHING to take away the sickness.  If this round continues to progress as the last one did, he will enter into his "recovery" period on Thursday and then have 1 1/2 weeks before treatment number three on November 25.  

Your kind words  have helped me tremendously and Bill is simply awed by so much support from folks who don't even know him!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers!

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Day In The Woods

Backcountry Campsite #18 - West Prong Trail
GSMNP - October 28, 2013

I honestly can't remember which of us discovered the blog of the other first, but Pam @ Nomadic Newfies and I have been reading each other's blogs for well over a year.  Pam and her husband live in Wisconsin and are still employed, but do a good bit of traveling each year in their RV.  I love seeing a state with which I'm unfamiliar through the eyes of someone who lives there, so I truly enjoy reading Pam's blog.  I've known for many months that they were planning to spend a couple of weeks in the Smokies during October and we both looked forward to meeting and doing some hiking together.  First, the government shutdown appeared as if it were going to derail their plans and then I got sidetracked with Bill's illness and treatment schedule.  It just didn't look like it was going to happen and I was so disappointed.  Thankfully, things stabilized here and we were finally able to get together on one of their last days in Tennessee.

Being sorely out of hiking shape and Pam still a bit intimidated by her midwestern, flatland hiking options at home, we chose a combination of two trails that are favorites of mine, yet very easy by Smokies standards.  The total hike was right at six miles which was perfect.  The easy and gentle terrain making it comfortable for us to talk while we enjoyed our surroundings.  As is the case with every single person I've met via this blog, Pam is delightful and I can only hope that there are more opportunities for us to hike again in the future.

I was happy to notice that at the lower elevation at which we were hiking, the trees had barely begun to change although here and there, we'd come across something stunning......

 I am hoping that Bill will feel well enough at some point during round two that we might at least be able to get out and enjoy some fall foliage, something that is normally a huge part of our year, but this year has simply been forgotten.  The hike yesterday reminded me that life does go on, seasons change and while things in nature will lie dormant for awhile, new life is just waiting to spring forth in a few months.  Hmmmmm, surely there is something in there that I need to embrace!

Thanks, Pam!  It was a wonderfully therapeutic day for me.  I hope for more just like it in the future!

Bill has enjoyed a good week in which he has felt almost "normal."  His appetite returned quickly with a few odd exceptions of things that still taste like metal, but thankfully he has eaten well and regained much of the weight he lost those horrible nine days after round one.

He begins round two today.  We have spent a good bit of time with his Oncologist and talked about ways we think his nausea can be better managed this time, so we are hopeful that this round will go a little smoother than last.  But there are no two ways about it, chemo is rough and Bill's specific treatment protocol is agressive, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers over the next several days.  At least we know there is a reprieve and the worst will have passed in about nine days.

Our fall foliage is just about at peak here in the East Tennessee valley and with Bill feeling well, we have covered lots of ground looking at leaves the past couple of days.  I'll share some pictures in my next post along with an update as to how round two is going.

One last shot of my hike with Pam that I can't resist posting.  Pam enjoys photography and seems to me to be pretty good at it, but one thing is for sure.....she'll do most anything to get the shot she wants.  I loved this is so HER!!

 All for the shot of a Sassafras Tree
(which apparently aren't found in Wisconsin)

Since I'll have lots of quiet time this week while caring for Bill, tell me what's happening in your life that I can keep in my heart and thoughts!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Round One Is Behind Us

View From Bote Mountain Trail - GSMNP
October 28, 2013

For my precious blog friends who know me well enough to notice the date on the picture, YES, I did indeed, take that picture myself which means one thing.....I WENT HIKING YESTERDAY!  But that report will have to come later because too much else has happened in between my last post and yesterday.  But please know before you read on, that Bill's "recovery" period between chemo treatments did finally occur and the fact that I was able to hike yesterday means for the moment, things are going well!

I cannot thank you enough for your positive thoughts and well wishes from my last post. It was hard to write and the question always comes up regarding how much you REALLY want to share on a blog.  For me, the answer to that is found is the title of this blog.  I write about the gains and I write about the losses!  Thank you for staying with me through both!

There is no way to sugar-coat the fact that cancer is evil and chemo is hell!  We went through nine days of a misery neither of us have ever experienced and one that no one could adequately anticipate or prepare for.  We learned many things and it is our prayer (please make it yours as well) that those lessons will help during round two.  There is simply no need to go into a lot of detail here, but one thing we do know is that our love and support for anyone going through chemo or facing it has changed.  If you EVER, for as long as you read this blog or are in my life, have questions or have to face this, please know that I will be here to help in any way I can.  I will call you, I will email you, I will come to you if I can.   The good news for now is that we also know a "recovery" period does come.  We had our doubts those last couple of days when Bill was so ill.  And just as the doctor said,  it turns around quickly and the recovery period kicks in.  It really was as instant as being so sick he could hardly raise his head off the pillow to waking up the following morning, looking around and saying, "I feel different."  He will have had a week's reprieve before his next treatment period begins.

Having said all that, we've also learned much about chemo treatment itself.  There are currently more than 50 medications used as part of chemo "cocktails."  Every person is different, every patient is different, there is a different protocol for every type of malignancy.  We've heard many testimonies of people who were never sick, didn't lose their hair, never missed a beat and flew through the whole treatment process with flying colors.  Should you or a family member ever have to go through this, we would hope and pray that your treatment combination would be one with those kinds of results.  We were told from the beginning that Bill's treatment was considered one of the most aggressive, that his malignancy was better attacked with a "blast" and therefore, his side effects would be greater.  As of yesterday, he has lost his hair which we knew was a sure thing, but wasn't expected until sometime during round two.  Now that it has happened, we've both realized we were dreading how and when that would happen, so having it happen so quickly became a blessing in disguise.  It's over, it took me about five seconds to decide he looks kind of cute with the Mr. Clean thing going on and I cannot say enough about the stylist at his hair salon who wasn't phased when we flew in yesterday afternoon saying, "help!"

As for me, yes it was hard!  I did my crying while he was sleeping, but I make no bones about the pain of watching someone you love suffer so.  Many of you understand that feeling of knowing you'd trade places with them in a heartbeat if you could eliminate their pain.  I did lose weight - obviously, not in the correct way, but while he was so sick, I couldn't stomach the thoughts of eating anything myself plus doing anything that created an aroma was out of the question.  Fortunately, once his appetite returned, mine did as well.  Just wish he could gain the weight he lost as quickly as I've gained back the weight I lost.   Ahhh, but as we know, some things never change!

Thank you again for your comments and emails!  I will update as I can.  I thought I'd have more time to write and I probably did.  But I found that having the time to do it and finding the motivation to do it were two totally different things!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A New Journey Begins!

Big Creek Trail - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
April, 2013

Since no human has visited the GSMNP (legally, that is) since October 1, I bet there's a family of big black bears that have taken over this amazing lunch spot my hiking bud and I enjoyed last April.  It was a perfect day as the hike was worth every step and enabled me to mark another trail off my map that I'd been wanting to do for a long time.

This post brings answers to questions and news I'd hoped I wouldn't have to tell.  My sweet Bill has been diagnosed with a malignancy in his neck.  Because his explanation to a group of his friends is so much better than mine, I am going to copy and paste it below.  It is lengthy and if you choose not to read any further, please know that I understand completely.  The blogging community is unique in that we find each other through a common interest and develop a friendship from there.  You came to this blog looking for a weight loss/healthy living source of encouragement.  Some came because they enjoyed reading about our travels and my hiking.  Some came because you are our personal friends and for some odd reason, get a kick out of reading the stuff on my mind that comes out through my fingers. I am acutely aware that NONE of you came to read about a journey through cancer treatment.  I can't promise what this blog will be from this point forward.  I will be honored if you choose to stay no matter how much or how little I post, but I do understand if you choose otherwise.

Having said that, here is Bill's summary IN HIS OWN WORDS...............

I got sick, a tracheal irritation, the weekend of Labor Day from removing old 
carpet in our house that we are selling. The complications from this episode led 
the doctors to find a malignant growth in the right side of my neck. The two are 
not related. The coughing from the irritation burst some blood vessels in my 
neck on the right side and in treating this we found the tumor. My voice loss is 
due to the swelling from the blood and now from the tumor which was aggravated 
by the whole episode. These are pressing on the nerve to the vocal chord and it 
is temporarily paralyzed. The doctors assure me it will be totally functional 
when the tumor shrinks.

The prognosis is very positive for this type of malignancy and is totally 
curable when caught this early. I will begin chemo on Monday which will consist 
of three aggressive treatments over a nine week period. The tumor is expected to 
completely dissolve but if not then surgery to remove any remaining cells. 
Radiation will follow for good measure. The oncologist is working with me to 
keep me working and has graciously scheduled the treatments to allow me to be 
good to go for all of the performances with my college groups between now and 
the end of the semester. I really need to be able to work and continue with my 
passion through all of this!

I want you to know this because you are so dear to me and I know you will send 
good thoughts and prayers our way as we travel this road for the next few 
months. Don't be sad but rather rejoice with me that this is fixable. I am 
acutely aware that many, many people do not get this positive an outlook. How 
can I keep from singing!

What amazes me is these words are completely honest and sincere.  To say we are both stunned is putting it mildly.  No way did we EVER expect this and there was no indication of any problem.  We believe nothing happens by chance and we certainly believe that circumstances were orchestrated so that this would be found before it grew any more.  

Yes, we have both had complete meltdowns, but they don't last long and for the most part, we are just simply taking one day at a time, anxious to get his treatment started to see how he responds and looking forward to the excellent results we are told should happen.

In the way that works for your own faith journey, please remember Bill in these two very specific ways.  1) First and foremost, that the treatment works, and 2) that he is able to tolerate the chemo and continue to work.  This will be a solace for him and will keep him motivated.  He loves his work, he loves the students he teaches and he is at his finest when he is making music!  

I have no intentions of abandoning the blog, but neither do I make any promises of how often I will post.  It is quite possible I will use this as a means to document our journey down this road.  We will just have to see.  You have been here for me and have been a source of encouragement on so many levels for 3 1/2 years now.  How could I think this will be any different?



Monday, September 30, 2013

Playing The Waiting Game!

Morning View from Uncle Pete's Cabin at Rockhaven Farms
Mt. Juliet, Tennessee - September 22, 2013


Thanks so much from both of us to those who have written asking about Bill's health.  I am not surprised at the outpouring of support from the blog community, but Bill's surprise and appreciation has been fun to observe as he is not quite as deeply involved in this community as I have been for the past 3 1/2 years and he still is amazed at the bonds developed among people who have never even met in person.  I don't intend to devote this entire post to an update, but here is what we know at this point.  Basically, nothing!  The swelling in his neck has begun to decrease and doctors still believe that it is complications from coughing and that the laryngitis is a result of the swelling pressing on his right vocal chord.  We are assured that this is treatable and fixable.  But the question remains that the whole issue is very, VERY odd and they want to be absolutely certain that nothing else is going on in there.  He has had several tests, a CT Scan and is facing more testing this week since the results of the original tests were "inconclusive."  (Don't you just love that word?)  Thus, more waiting and more time without his voice.  Again, doctor assures us that attempting to use his voice as much as he can will NOT hurt and might possibly even be helpful.  But his voice is very hoarse and raspy with little volume and sometimes attempting to use it brings on more coughing, so he mostly whispers.  His incredible patience and grace throughout this ordeal is such an inspiration to me.  We've both had a couple of complete meltdowns, but sadly, it's more often been HIM encouraging me rather than the other way around.  

But there is so much value to be found in the process of waiting and I often wonder if that isn't one of main reasons these periods of adversity come our way.  Bill's kids at school have been so caring, patient and concerned.  The faculty and staff have been amazing.  As for me, I think I can safely say you'll never hear me complain again about Bill talking to much or dominating conversations.  Those of you who've met us, know that he is a total extrovert who simply loves people, loves a group and loves TO TALK!  Some of our most intense conversations arguments over the past 36 1/2 years have been my saying something to the effect of, "wouldn't it have been nice if someone else could've had a chance to say something?"  Right now, I don't care if anyone else ever has a chance to say something - I just want to hear HIS voice.  So for me, there has been value in reminding myself to take nothing for granted and appreciate every moment to the very fullest.  

IN THE MEANTIME............

Last weekend, we had to be in Nashville for Bill to attend a required meeting relating to his annual Travel Abroad program.  Long before he became ill, we had made reservations for the weekend in our favorite cabin, Uncle Pete's, at Rockhaven Farms in nearby Mt. Juliet.  Today's picture is an early morning view from the large picture window in Uncle Pete's and I've written many times before about what a haven this place has become for us.  While Bill attended his meeting in Nashville, my sister (who lives nearby) came over to the cabin for some sister time.  Our intent was some walking at the wonderful Long Hunter State Park which is just a few miles away, but mother nature had other ideas.  It had rained all night and the rain continued to pour, so we spent the entire time sitting on Uncle Pete's front porch...................

 September 21, 2013

..............enjoying the longest uninterrupted sister time I can ever remember since we've been adults.  It was glorious!   Between our parents (who live close to me) and her two daughters (who love their Aunt Sharon and Uncle Bill), suffice it to say, spending time just the two of us has been next to impossible.  We vowed to try and make it happen more often.  

This past weekend, Bill has felt better and his coughing seems to be improving, so we've enjoyed a couple of almost "normal" days.  Saturday found us dining al fresco at Mimi's Cafe for a decadent breakfast (on his part, I had my usual oatmeal) and to the hospital to visit a friend.  Both of these events are significant in that it has been weeks since we would have considered either because of Bill's constant coughing.  Following that, we visited a nearby nursery for more fall flowers and to Trader Joe's for some dinner fixings!  It was a wonderful Saturday!  

Sunday was spent quietly watching our church service broadcast and enjoying pizza with friends who we knew wouldn't mind an occasional bout of coughing.  Thankfully, these are becoming much, MUCH less frequent.  These are special friends who despite being on vacation all week last week, called or texted every single day to check on Bill.  

Before I close out this incredibly long (too long) post, please let me ask once again for your patience in neglecting YOU during this ordeal.  I've blogged long enough now that my long time blog friends know my routine and know that during hectic times, I tend to read blogs quickly just to keep up and not comment as often or as thoroughly.  But lately, I've picked up a few new "followers" (I prefer to call you friends) that I haven't even acknowledged and must confess I haven't even been around to visit YOUR blogs.  This is not my usual style and I promise to catch up as soon as I can.  I thank you so much for reading and making the commitment to read often by becoming a follower.  I do appreciate it and will visit you soon.

It would encourage me if you'd share a time you found value in a period of waiting! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One Day At A Time!

Forney Ridge Trail - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
September 7, 2013

Someone asked a few weeks ago, if I had stopped hiking.   The answer to that is no and yes!   I have never been much of a summer hiker.  Between the heat, overgrown trails and abundant wildlife (the kind I DONT wish to see), it's just somethng I've mostly enjoyed in the fall, winter and spring.  Last summer was somewhat of an exception as I found myself with a myriad of hiking partners who were available thanks to unforeseen circumstances.  But the fact still remained that I was happy when fall rolled around and I had to drag out long sleeves for early morning hikes.  

I have also learned over this summer with no hiking that my body was tired.  My joints were screaming for relief and once I stopped hiking 1-3 times a week, my whole physical being began to feel better.  I'm not quite sure what to do with that information just yet, but I was able to put it to the test a couple of Saturdays ago when one of my favorite hiking buds asked if I was available for a "short" hike.  We chose a hike in the upper elevations that was less than four miles total distance, but included a steep descent along a very rocky trail.  It was a great day and so good for my soul to be back out in the woods, but yes, I was sore the next day particularly my wrists.  I had suspected that the pounding of the poles was causing my rheumatoid arthritis to flare in my wrists and this hike pretty much confirmed that.  Yet the poles are an almost necessity to minimize stress on a hiker's knees.  So I'm anxious for fall to arrive and do some more testing to find the balance between hiking these trails I love so much, yet not overdoing.  At the very least, I think my hiking range is shrinking and that's o.k.  These mountains offer hiking opportunities for EVERY range and most of my favorites are mileages that will be comfortable.

Love those long sleeves!!
September 7, 2013

Our lives continues to be stress-filled.  Please continue to remember Bill in your thoughts and prayers.  He is not bouncing back from his illness like we hoped.  The stress of trying to do the work he so loves with laryngitis and a hacking cough has affected him mentally and physically.  Technically, it has only been 2 1/2 weeks, but it feels like an eternity.  

We thought our house was sold, but the deal fell through.  This all happened over a short period of time, so here was a few days of total excitement followed by a let-down of monumental proportions.  To say we are struggling is putting it mildly.  Yet I've always promised honesty on the blog so there you have it.  

We know these struggles will pass, but when in the midst of them, sometimes it's almost too difficult to even try determining what the NEXT best step should be.  We simply keep reminding ourselves how much we love our condo and how certain we are that we made the right decision.

It has been awhile since I mentioned anything about my weight loss journey and since that's the subject on which this blog was founded, it's time for an update.  In many ways, it's the kind of update I love to give because there's not much to say.  No, I am not at goal and yes, I have gained a few pounds.  It began somewhere around the time we returned from our Summer Trip to New York.  For now, I am o.k. with this because although I hover 8-10 pounds above goal, I have actually maintained that weight easily for almost four months now.  That includes the time leading up to and through our move to the condo when many days, meals were either brought to us, grabbed from somewhere convenient or thrown together with whatever could be found in the pantry, fridge or freezer.  And through all of that, I maintained.  Fall is the time I've done my best work in losing weight and I suspect this year will be no different.  For now, all is well.  I'm relaxed with my weight, I can wear all my clothes and I am eating a healthy balanced diet.  

What's happening in your world? 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Day I Sorely Needed!

Norris Dam - Norris Dam State Park
Norris, TN - August 29, 2013

My last post was a hard one to write.  Following my third trip in one week to the Toyota Dealership where I purchased my RAV4 18 months ago, I headed to Norris Dam State Park.  It is close by and I knew on a Thursday afternoon, I'd find the peace and solitude I so desparately needed.  I planned to let the remainder of the day unfold in front of me.  

After three weeks of what seemed like one illness, accident or calamity after another, I stood at the foot of that dam, a place I've been coming to (or brought to) since I was baby, and looked up at that massive wall.  It is much taller than it appears in this picture.  What I knew that you don't, is that just on the other side of that wall lies one of the most beautiful lakes you can possibly imagine.  Gorgeous blue water surrounded by hills and on a clear day, the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau visible off in the distance.  It reminded me that despite some weeks of pretty rough sailing, with perhaps some climbing yet to be done, there is another side to this very gray wall.  I've seen it and it is spectacular.  

I sat here at the foot of the dam for awhile and enjoyed a snack before heading over to that other side and spending some time there as well.  Then I drove on up to the very nice overlook where I pondered the idea that from there, it is easy to see BOTH sides and understand how neither can work properly without the other!  The meaning of all that for me right now may be lost among the words, but it was an extremely poignant moment for me.  (Sorry no pic of the overlook - it never crossed my mind)

Following my instincts of what to do next, I chose to take the old road back to Knoxville.  In the early 1950's, my father's parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio for my grandfather to find work in one of the many car factories where jobs were plentiful.  My dad was already finishing high school so he remained in Tennessee.  As a child, I can remember that once a year (normally around Christmas), we would make the long trip to Cleveland for a visit.  This was pre-interstate, so the trip was very difficult and took two days of driving.  My parents would put my sister and I to bed and then sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I remember being picked up and laid in the back seat of our already warm car.  Now laugh if you must, but some things never change.  Even then, if you put me in a car and think I'm going to sleep, think again.  Heavens NO, I might miss something.  I remember peeking up and out the window as little towns in Tennessee and Kentucky rolled by complete with Christmas decorations I can recall to this very day.  My favorite wasn't far out of our home in Oak Ridge at the Blue Haven Motel in Lake City, TN.  Because it was there that I couldn't wait every year to see Santa Claus diving off the board into the swimming pool at the Blue Haven.  Lake City has changed since those days in the not so good way that has affected small towns all over the US when an interstate comes through, but on my ride through last Thursday, there sitting just as it was more than 50 years ago, was the Blue Haven Motel.  It's September, so Santa isn't diving yet, but my memory is whetted and it's on my calendar to check back sometime in December!  (I even remember that he wore red,white and blue swim trunks)

Driving on through Lake City toward Clinton, I had an "ah-ha" moment.  This would be a perfect day to visit the Green-McAdoo Cultural Museum, something I'd been wanting to do for a long time.  It is not likely that you've heard of the Clinton 12 or know their place in history.  Here is a small tidbit taken from their web page, but please take a moment to delve deeper.  It's an important story and so fitting given that we've just celebrated the 50th anniversary of MLK's "I have a dream!"

On August 27, 1956, twelve young people in Clinton, Tennessee walked into history and changed the world. They were the first students to desegregate a state-supported high school in the south. Clinton High School holds the honor of having the first Black to graduate from a public high school in the South. It was a great victory for the Civil Rights Movement.  The events of that school year and the years that followed are to be commemorated on the 5oth anniversary with the opening of the Green McAdoo Cultural Center on August 26, 2006.

The school/museum is located high on a hill above Clinton, TN.  It is a short five miles from Oak Ridge, TN where I was born.   I was 1 year and 1 month old when the Clinton 12 entered the high school for the first time.  I was alone in the museum which is incredibly well done starting with a video in what was the main classroom of the school followed by exhibits which meander through what was the auditorium and gymnasium.  I was mesmerized, moved and extremely emotional as I read about those events which occurred so close to me, yet of which I was totally unaware.  I was loved, I was sheltered from unpleasant things and I grew up with every opportunity made available to me.  So many things have changed since 1956, so many things have not!  My time at the Green McAdoo Cultural Museum was time well spent.

Memorial to the Clinton 12 at the Green McAdoo Cultural Center
Clinton, TN - August 29, 2013

It was a valuable day in so many ways.  I spent time in solitude.  I spent time in nature.  I wallowed in precious memories of love and family.  I can still feel the warmth of being picked up by my dad and carried amidst all those blankets to our car where it was assumed I'd sleep at least through Tennessee and Kentucky.  Instead I was peeking over the car seat waiting to see Santa at the Blue Haven!  I felt my conscious pricked as I saw the pain, embarrassment and injustice heaped upon those 12 high school students just because they wanted an opportunity for an equal education, something I'd have and take for granted.  And I felt abundantly grateful for the time, energy and desire to just let a day unfold and have it turn out with so many lessons.

 From the Green McAdoo Cultural Center overlooking Clinton, TN
August 29, 2103

Somehow having to make three trips in one week to the Toyota Dealership didn't seem so bad after all!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Norris Dam State Park - Norris, TN
August 29, 2013

I wish this were a post about fish (see title), but it isn't.  It is one of two posts which I'm writing back to back and have finally decided to post the less positive one first.  I'd love to always be able to write about the wonderful things that are happening in and around my life.  Thankfully, the weeks leading up to and through our move into the condo went flawlessly.  Almost too much so........

Since the day we moved in, we have experienced almost non-stop problems.  Not with the condo - no, everything there is wonderful and we absolutely love it and our new neighborhood.  It just seems as if the forces of evil have said, "ok, you're all settled now, let's see what I can throw at you."  

So in the interest of the honesty I've put forth by calling my blog, "Gains and Losses: LIFE Through Sharon's Eyes," today, it's all about the losses.  Unfortunately, the first thing that happened, I am not at liberty to share on the blog, but it was significant and occurred on the Friday after we moved.  We've helped the person involved work through the details of that and hopefully, have moved on, but it was extremely stressful and put a damper on our excitement.

Would you believe on the Monday following our move, my mother fell on the golf course and broke her wrist.  She is doing as well as could be expected and I can't tell you how proud I am of both her and daddy's response to this.  They are very active folks and I expect this to get old quickly, but for now, she's doing o.k.  We met last week when I took my car in for service (yes, that's part of litany) and had a salesperson snap this picture of us as we were leaving.  Like I said, I am so proud them!

August 26, 2013

We have been disappointed so far in the movement on our old house.  There have been several showings, but doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm.   We consented early last week to have carpet removed in the old living/dining room as we knew there were hardwood floors underneath.  The carpet was outdated and had worked for us, but we could see that it likely wasn't impressive to most buyers.  The carpet was 100% wool and original to the house.  Needless to say, the dust, dirt and grime left by the carpet removers was unbelievable.  Really makes you understand why no one who suffers from allergies should have carpet in their homes!!  Rather than have the floors professionally cleaned, Bill chose to do it himself resulting in most likely a much more thorough job of cleaning, BUT breathing all of that has left him extremely ill.  This has been going on for a week starting with a hacking cough that has morphed into something much worse including total laryngitis.  Not good for a college professor.  He is heartbroken as this is the first full week of classes, a time which he normally can't wait to arrive.  It breaks my heart to watch him struggle.  Please remember him in your thoughts and prayers.  He is very ill.  

And then there are the things which under normal circumstances, would be rather humorous, but interspersed with these more serious things that involve people I love, I'm finding it hard to see any humor.  It's more like I wake up each morning wondering what today's calamity will be.  And that is not at all my nature.  For starters, I broke the sensor on the garage door opener at the condo and my new RAV4 developed some serious issues resulting in numerous trips back to the dealership.

Are we second guessing our decision to buy the condo?  With the exception of my mom breaking her wrist and a couple of the more minor issues, it is likely none of these things would've happened had we not moved, nor would we be in the position of needing our house to sell to get our finances back in the order we've worked so hard to establish.  But we have no doubts and a great deal of faith that all will work out.  Most reward involves a good deal of risk.  We believe the reward is just around the corner and our responsibility is to learn all that we can in the meantime.  

Those who have been blog friends with me for a long time are well aware that Bill returning to school each year always poses a few weeks of challenge for me.  We enjoy each other and utilize his summer breaks to the fullest.  It is always an adjustment for me when he returns - I don't mind admitting that I just plain miss him!  Unfortunately, those feelings have coincided with all these other things and sending him off to school each morning with that dejected look because he can't talk or stop coughing is breaking my heart.  

So there you have it!  I have been writing this post since last Wednesday wondering whether or not I'd actually post it.  But you know what?  It's real!  And it's the way things are for me right now.  So yes, I'm going to post it.  And hope that rather than feeling sorry for me (there's no reason to), it will encourage you to be "real" on your own blogs.  I happen to know that there are people reading this who care about me and because it's through words that we share our lives with each other, you want to know how it really is!

Towards the end of last week, I did have a day I sorely needed.  It was during that time that I took today's picture of a tranquil and serene, yet very foggy Norris Lake just below the dam.  I watched the fog lift and realized that the same would happen for me.  The fog will lift and all will be clear. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Pause For Celebration Of A Different Sort!

Cades Cove Loop Road - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
July 30, 2013

You could look at it in one of two different ways.   You could say that Bill bought me a condo for my birthday or you could say that we stopped in the middle of an extremely stressful week to celebrate my birthday which almost went unnoticed in all the hoopla!  In either case, we did decide on the morning of my birthday that we would do NOTHING related to moving to the condo and simply celebrate in one of the places I love most.  

We were up and out the door very early because we wanted to be at the entrance to the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop road when they opened the gates at sunrise.  Early morning or dusk is known as the best time for viewing wildlife and we were not disappointed.   Literally hundreds of deer were grazing in the morning sun.

The mist was stunning as it slowly lifted revealing those mountain ridges along which I have spent many a day hiking.

We were very fortunate because I can assure you that it is quite rare to ever drive this road and see this far ahead of you with no other vehicle in sight.....................

We made it to the backside of the loop before coming upon what we were REALLY looking for.  She was a mama with an absolutely adorable little cub.  And we were so lucky in that we were the second vehicle to spot her, so we enjoyed about 3-4 minutes of watching them play before other cars started coming up from behind.

Before we knew it, the tourists had arrived in droves and my car was being hemmed in with idiots tourists literally pushing their children forward so they could get in the picture with the bears.  It blows my mind and the best thing for me to do is get out of dodge.  Even that was a challenge as people refused to move to let me out.  Being the extreme claustrophobic that I am, I was headed towards a full blown panic attack, but was finally able to maneuver away from the crowd.  So sad - simply a mom playing with her cub.  Why, oh why, can't we just watch and appreciate rather than antagonize. End of rant!  (And I realize you've heard this rant before.  Sorry!)

After completing the loop, we drove back to our favorite breakfast spot in Townsend, the Firefly Cafe where we enjoyed a quiet, peaceful breakfast as we were the only patrons in the place. This is rare as it is a VERY popular spot.

And then we drove home the long way across the mountain stopping to enjoy the beautiful streams and rivers I love so much. 

As I mentioned, we took the day off from any physical labor related to moving, but that didn't stop us from talking about it.  It was the perfect day and a most wonderful time of birthday celebration. Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Coming Up For Air!

My Sun Porch - August 11, 2013

It was Bill's idea to put our "mamaw" and "papaw" recliners on the sun porch and it was brilliant.  The recliner facing towards this way is mine and as I write this, I am listening to the rain and trying real hard to keep my eyes open.  I couldn't be more content!  

We are moved and considering the fact that our furniture came only five days ago, we are amazingly settled.  As we come up for air, it's incredible to realize how much we've done in just over a week.  This was all part of the plan and for once, the plan has worked itself out perfectly.  Bill returns to school for fall semester on Wednesday and we hoped to have the condo comfortable and cozy by then.  We've accomplished that even down to having pictures hung with a couple of days to spare!  And the thing is, yes, we've worked like dogs, but have managed to pace ourselves enough that we aren't exhausted.  Mostly we are just grateful and 100% certain that we've done the right thing.  This already feels very much like "home" and returning to our old house yesterday for a few minutes didn't trigger the strong emotions for either of us that we thought it might.  That might change somewhat when we leave it for the last time once it sells, but for now, we just look forward to handing over the keys to someone who will love it for a season like we did!  

The closing on August 1 went off flawlessly.  We arrived at the closing looking like the Clampett's because we were in both cars and they looked somewhat like this......

My RAV4 has sure come in handy.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we elected to move dishes, hanging clothing, pictures, lamps and technology ourselves.  It saved us a bundle of money plus allowed us to have all those things moved and either in place or at least in the room it belonged BEFORE the furniture came.  That decision proved even more brilliant than we knew and was the key to our being this far along in the process.  I have some work left to do in my office once Bill returns to school and there is still some shuffling to do in the garage, but the condo itself is ready for entertaining.  Come on over....................

Thought you might enjoy a few before and after pictures.   Remember I make no claim to being a good photographer.  Some of these don't accurately reflect color or light, but you'll get the gist of it.

 Dining Room

Great Room (the Sun Porch is through the two windows)

Don't have any before pictures of the master bedroom, so here are a couple of "afters."  

My office...................

And what we are calling our "little den."
 The "little den" is the one room in the condo that is less than HALF the size of our den in the old house.  This furniture is HUGE and fairly new.  We love it and didn't want to part with either the sofa or the love seat unless it looked simply horrid in the "little den."  We admit it is a tad crowded, but actually looks better than we thought possible and is simply a cozy little room where we will watch TV, movies, and where I will likely do a lot of reading.  It works and we are very happy with it.

And last, but not least, our kitchen................

I've mentioned several times how excited I am about our kitchen.  It is bigger, brighter and has more counter space than I have ever had.  We love the little breakfast area and then the sun porch is out the door to the right of the breakfast set. That sun porch has already become our sanctuary and our haven.  It is private, it is quiet, it is peaceful.  

Please forgive my lack of support to each of you over the past couple of weeks.  Significant things have happened in many of your lives and I've failed to acknowledge them.  I spent a good deal of time today trying to catch up with some of you and hopefully, I can get back on a better schedule of posting this week.  My birthday passed with little fanfare on July 30, but we did take the day off from anything related to moving and celebrated the day in my beloved Smoky Mountains.  I'll tell you all about that in my next post.  And after that, we'll have some very frank discussion about moving, stress and weight maintenance!

Thanks for YOUR support over the past few weeks!
I appreciate it more than you know.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Change Is Never Easy!

Sprague Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park
June, 2011

It's hard to believe that less than one month ago, my plans had me likely taking in this very view (minus the snow) on Monday, July 29, 2013.  The Sprague Lake trail is an easy, flat one-mile trail around the lake just inside Rocky Mountain National Park.  It's a great way to start the altitude acclimation process while drinking in the incredible vista.  We have two regrets about having to postpone the Colorado trip.  The first being the chance to visit during wildflower season.  That will be easily remedied at another time.  The second regret, however, has some finality to it.  For the third time (2009, 2011, 2013), we had rented Riverbend Retreat in Estes Park for our two week stay.  This wonderful cabin just feet from the Thompson River and an easy walk into downtown Estes Park (yet far away from the crowds) became "home" to us and we looked forward to many visits over the years.  But we learned earlier this summer that the owners had made the decision to sell the cabin and it has been purchased by someone who plans to make it their permanent home.  Existing reservations were to be honored, but we knew when bought the condo and cancelled our Colorado trip reservations, that our days at Riverbend were now just memories.   We love Colorado and still have much to explore there, but not this year.  

Finding and purchasing the condo all happened so quickly, I think we are both still a tiny bit shell-shocked!  Don't get me wrong - there are absolutely NO regrets.  I'm not sure when either of us have felt so strongly that we'd made a great decision.  But in the midst of purging, packing, establishing the vision of what will go where and working out a plan to make it all go smoothly, yesterday we just needed a break!   Bill took a long, long nap and I spent the afternoon catching up on some much needed blog reading time.  We are so grateful for the gift of time in this move.  I have to be so very, very careful not to lift too many boxes or work to long at one interval or I pay dearly the next day either in the form of complete exhaustion or very painful joints.  I'm trying to pace myself and stagger the activity between packing boxes for awhile and then sitting at the desk handling the business part of moving which can be totally overwhelming all by itself!

So here is the moving schedule.   Closing is set for Thursday morning at 9:30.  The remainder of Thursday and part of Friday will be for painting, cleaning and carpet cleaning.  We will have Friday through Monday to move and hopefully put away the things we have chosen to move ourselves.  Electing to move dishes, hanging clothing, computer equipment/tv, pictures and lamps is saving us a bundle of money and I feel more comfortable moving those things myself anyway.  The movers will arrive bright and early on Tuesday, the 6th to move all the furniture.  We will then have one full week to get settled in before Bill returns to school on the 14th.  The timing could not have worked out any better and we are so, so grateful for that!

We have only encountered one glitch I was not expecting and that is the fact that our landline telephone number had to change.  I had my suspicions from the beginning because our landline prefix is associated with a particular area of town that is a long way from the area we are moving.  Yet I kept reading info saying that if you remained within the same area code, you should be able to keep the number.  But it was not to be....FCC just would not allow that number to port to the area we are moving.  We tried everything and I've accepted it, but you know how it is.  We've had this number since 1984 and it's going to be tough for this old bird to learn a new one.  Unfortunately, we just aren't quite ready to go the cell phone only route just yet.  So communicating my new address AND new phone number info to all our friends, family and business contacts should keep me at that desk for quite some time.  On the other hand, with a new number, maybe it'll take some of these goofball salespeople awhile to find me again!  Oddly enough, I actually LIKE the new number.  It's catchy and easy to remember!

It'll likely be a couple of weeks before you hear from me again.  Once all this gets underway, I may not even be able to FIND my computer, much less turn it on and have internet!    In the meantime, enjoy a couple of additional pictures of my new digs.

 From my sun porch looking to the left is a lovely forested area.  To the right is a large meadow that eventually slopes down to the road.  I like both vantage points and expect I'll be spending a good bit of time staring one way or the other!