RIDING IT OUT – Marilyn Armstrong

For almost two years, I’ve barely used the chair lift. I was glad it was there and it was useful for hauling groceries and suitcases upstairs and that was good for both of us. But lately, I’ve started using it. I realized there was absolutely nothing to be gained by dragging myself up two staircases, gasping, wheezing, with heart pounding.

Although I can —  and do — get up and down the stairs, it’s slow and getting slower. It’s more than a bit nerve-wracking too. It takes me a while to take that first downward step (up is easier) and I’m always sure I’m going to fall. I have fallen a lot over the years, including when I was younger. I can’t seem to find my balance going down.

One step at a time and carrying packages, stairs are impossible and dangerous. Riding up and down the stairs takes the fear and pain out of the process of getting in and out of the house. I’m okay walking on the sidewalk and the floors, but the stairs put such a strain on my lower spine and hips, I went from feeling okay to feeling ready to collapse.

It was time to actually use the chair lift.

Not only is it a way to get upstairs not on my feet, but it ‘s also possible to get someone in a wheelchair into the house and up to our living level. Before that, we’ve had to tell anyone with disabilities that our house was unready for them.

I reached the end of assuming that I’m going to get better and the stairs won’t be as difficult. Asthma is worse, probably because it’s untreated and my spine is worse, especially at the S1 juncture which was never fused — unlike the three discs above it. The pressure on the spinal cord is serious and unlikely to improve. There’s no exercise that will improve it.

It’s my final nod to the realities of my life, the “giving in” to the pain as something that won’t get better. The new drugs I’m taking help quite a bit — as long as I walk on relatively flat ground. I can climb a little bit if I am very careful. I can cook and clean in the house and if the ground is not rough, I’m mobile. To a point.

When I’m tired, I have to take it seriously. I need to stop and rest. When I do that, I don’t fall apart and I stay reasonably well. No amount of goodwill, determination, or optimism will change the condition of my spine. I think not hauling myself up and downstairs will probably marginally improve my mobility.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this isn’t what I envisioned for my life as a senior. I was planning to be a dashing senior. Like in the movies. Gray and wise, but ready to do it all.

Sometimes giving in is the right thing to do. I wanted to force myself to be that snazzy senior I imagined. Overall, I think it’s better if I stay alive and able to move!


RDP Tuesday: Balance

I have trouble going downstairs. I have problems going up too, but the ones going down are more difficult to manage because they are a matter of balance. And because I am more likely to fall down the stairs than up.

I have fallen up, but I don’t go far. Down, on the other hand, can be an ugly event involving broken bones and bruises that don’t heal for weeks.

If you don’t think this is really narrow, try hauling a bag of groceries up past the lift chair!

The thing is, Garry is also unbalanced, leading me to the not unreasonable (but possibly entirely wrong) conclusion that whatever is bothering me is also bothering him. It’s the downside of relationships. We pass — back and forth –whatever one person has to the other and occasionally have completely pointless discussions of who gave what to who or if it was someone who dropped by.

I’m headachy and hoarse and have laryngitis I can’t get rid of. Not only does it make it hard for Garry to hear me, but laryngitis also makes it hard for me to talk at all. I try anyway, but it doesn’t get me very far.

The new tests reveal the iron deficiency I had in October has gotten worse. Dizziness, imbalance, and a headache are symptomatic of anemia … but are also symptomatic of everything else. Anemia symptoms include chronic tiredness (who isn’t chronically tired?) and insomnia (show me someone my age who sleeps well). It’s all vague symptoms, but at least tests indicate I do have something I should take care of. Anemia isn’t nothing, though I keep acting like it is. Because I don’t want to deal with it.

If I had veins, I wouldn’t mind. It turns out, veins have a variety of uses. Carrying blood from here to there is only one of them.

Garry is distinctly unbalanced. Wobbly. We can’t BOTH be anemic, can we?

Meanwhile, the hospital doesn’t want me in there if I am sick because the Hematology Unit is part of the Oncology Department. They don’t need sick people hanging out with people who already have cancer, a point to which I can relate.

Of course, we were at the lab yesterday. At least three people were coughing. That waiting room is tiny, so you can’t miss someone’s cough droplets. Oh goody.

We do well if no one is sick or if we don’t go any place where sick people hang out. Like the grocery store. Doctors’ offices. Hospitals. Laboratories. All the places you go for health assessment are perfect for picking up something new and exciting.


I know it’s out of style, but the old days of doctors coming to see sick people probably made sense in terms of keeping the spread of illness down — unless you happened to be the doctor, in which case I have to assume you were always sick with something. So maybe you were the one spreading disease.

Who knows? It’s a mystery, for sure.

So to go — or not to go — to tomorrow’s appointment. I promised the office manager I would call early in the morning and let her know. Neither of us knows whether or not I am actually sick (like with a bacterial or viral ailment) or I’m suffering from a thing for which I need to go see that particular doctor.

It could be a chronic stomach thing which Garry and I have been passing to and fro — or — we each have something completely different and unrelated. Or we are just old and need to spend more time watching television.

No way to know.

New Scissors

You’ll be happy to know that the new pair of scissors — $30 cheaper than the missing ones — have been delivered. The heavy snow they promised for today has turned out to be another day of leaden gray skies and low temperatures with just enough dampness to make your bones ache.

The birds are busy at the feeder, though today it’s all Juncos, Nuthatches, and Chickadees. Nothing exotic. I need to order some of the cheap food again and mix it with more expensive food. A lot of the little birds actually seem to prefer the cheap food which is mostly smaller seeds. Right now, it’s almost entirely big black sunflower seeds that only the bigger birds can eat — woodpeckers, cardinals — and the nuthatches who will eat anything.

Ladderback with Redhead Woodpecker – First photos I’ve gotten of this bird!

I have certainly learned a whole lot about bird feeding patterns. And that only Chickadees leap from the feeder with their wings closed in full diving mode. I laugh hysterically every time I see them fling themselves off a branch or the feeder. I swear the practice seeing how far they can free fall before they need to use their wings.

This, I believe, is what we call “Bird Fun” and does not require strapping on a parachute. It makes me really want to be a bird except for the whole shivering in the outside cold thing.


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – February 2, 2018

This Which Way challenge is all about capturing the roads, walks, trails, rails, steps, signs, etc. we move from one place to another on. You can walk on them, climb them, drive them, ride on them, as long as the specific way is visible. Any angle of a bridge is acceptable as are any signs.

Photo: Garry Armstrong 

By the Mumford – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Snow on steps

Road to the lake

The corner by the barber shop – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Dam across the Mumford


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – November 17, 2017

Owen installed the chair stair life with nary a snarled curse in the air. Not only did he install it, but he never looked at the instructions until he got the electrical stuff and wanted to make sure he was attaching the connections correctly.

“How can you remember all that stuff?” I asked.

I am awed because I still can’t figure out how to put the ink cartridge in my printer — and have actually never known how. Printers are beyond me. And if that sounds ridiculous, don’t judge me. We all have limits.

Bonnie and Gibbs watching the chair lift in action. They were fascinated by that moving chair and especially, what possibly I could be doing in it. Duke ran up and down the stairs … and Bonnie and Gibbs just stood there, watching me and trying, apparently, to figure out what this means. They don’t have any interest in the chair, unless I’m in it. And I was just testing it. It’s sort of like having a carnival ride that goes really slowly … and it was GREAT putting that 40 lb. bag of dog food on it and watching it ride up without our help!

My son put together the entire stair lift from pieces. He remembered how it had looked before he took it apart. All of it. Where the screws and bolts went. Where the switches needed to be placed. “I took it apart,” he pointed out.

“Taking it apart and then remembering how to put it back together — without even referring to the directions — is … amazing.”

I don’t think he sees it as amazing. He’s always been able to do that. Therein lies the difference in the way our brains are wired. I remember concepts. Ideas. I connect them. He remember how things work. And how to connect them. If we are all abandoned on a desert island, I’m pretty sure his abilities will be of far more use than mine.


Yesterday, my son called to tell me he’d made a really good deal — if I could manage the cash — for a stair chair lift.

Although I can —  and do — get up and down the stairs, it’s slow and getting slower and more than a little nerve-wracking. I’m not only slow to do it, I live in constant fear of falling. Surprisingly, that’s not a new thing because I have fallen downstairs quite a few times over the years, including when I was a lot younger. There’s something about looking down that makes me just a little bit loopy.

One step at a time and carrying packages, stairs are pretty much impossible. This deal was as good as it was ever going to get — and it looks as if these were never previously installed. I took the deal. Owen says he knows how to install them having recently done a set for a friend. I said it was a “go” — as long as this is something that will happen and not become another thing waiting in the basement for an installation “event” to occur.

The stairs are the opposite of “strutting.” I call it “sitting.” I’m very good at sitting and linguistically, it is similar to strutting, but with the “r” and “u” replaced by an “i.” Maybe, if you say it very quickly, it might sound almost the same.

It is just one unit — for the upper staircase. These will take someone from the front entryway to our living level. I will happily forget about strutting. This is a world-altering event for me and might mean we can continue to live in this house.

Not only is it a way to get upstairs not on our feet, it means it ‘s possible to get someone in a wheelchair into the house. Before that, we’ve had to tell anyone in a wheelchair our house is non-navigable. No entryway without at least 6 steps. The chair can also carry packages, so you can walk up while the chair hauls the boxes, crates, bags, and suitcases.

This is a big win here, though it reduces our limited remaining “savings” to a new low. Regardless, I was would have had to deal with this. Those 6 steps seemed like nothing 18 years ago. They feel a lot steeper these days.

It’s the official end of strutting. Sitting is good. I can sit. I’m a strong sitter. It’s also the final “giving in” to reality thing, the recognition that no amount of good will, determination, or optimism will change the number of stairs. I cannot begin to tell you how much this isn’t what I envisioned for my life as a senior. I was planning to be a dashing senior. Like in the movies. Gray and wise, but still ready to do it all … maybe slower … but otherwise, no problem.

I had no idea how much life would change in the decade following my 60th birthday. We sometimes think one decade is like another, but it turns out … not necessarily. This particular decade has been humbling. And yet — I’m still here and so many others are not. So before I get all maudlin about this, I may need help with stairs, but I’m alive. As far as I can tell, likely to stay that way for a while.

This is huge. Bigger than Trump’s stupid wall and the Mexicans don’t have to contribute a single penny to the project. We’re just winning all over the place!