The List

Are you a list person? I really wasn’t/aren’t, but after almost 42 years of marriage, it’s a skill I am starting to understand, thanks to the love of my life, my Susie!

Susan Lynn Johnson D’Elia is most definitely a list person, and has been from the first day I met her way back in 1977. I don’t know if this is something that comes from her former life as a Registered Nurse, or something borne out of her slight OCD tendencies, but my wife has been a huge proponent of making lists for as long as I can remember. She loves making lists of things that need to be done, and then gets great enjoyment when she can cross completed items off that list. There are two steadfast rules, however for Susie’s lists. #1 is that nobody but she can place items on her lists (and most surely not me with my chicken scratch penmanship), and almost as important, NOBODY but Susie crosses things off one of her lists!

Over the years, there have been many, many lists. I don’t recall if I knew it at the time, but I’m pretty sure there was a list pertaining to our wedding. I’m sure she had a packing list for our honeymoon, and I know for a fact, we have long had a list for the things we were going to do when we win the lottery! Now that list has changed over the years (like we no longer have to have “Buy a House in Ocean City” on our wish list), but you best believe that there still is a list! Once the kids were able to write, she started them on Christmas Lists, which she still asks them for today!

Of course, there are the day to day lists, like our weekly meal planning, our grocery shopping lists (which Susie has organized by the aisle in our local Shoprite, so we zip through the store), jobs around the house, and that sort. There still are the long range lists too, like projects we want to do around the house, but not things we can accomplish right now. As always, she feels very accomplished when she crosses things off the “To Do” lists, and even more so when she gets to rip a completed page off her clip board, and throw it away!

Oh yes, Susie has a dedicated LIST clipboard. It’s a small 5 by 7 clipboard that is loaded with the mini size legal pads, and thanks for our Cousin Walt’s gift, always has a pen at the ready. As I write this, the lists on the clipboard include our meals list, a shopping list (two really…one for Shoprite and one for Costco), her long term to do list, and a list of various things we want to do this week, broken down by days. My wife is nothing if not organized!

But I have to agree, she is 100% right about lists. They help you stay organized, make sure you get done the things you want to get done, help you stay focused during a project, and at our age, help you remember that thing you just had on your mind, but forgot by the time you go to do it! She has even got me making lists, and I have to agree that there is a great sense of accomplishment when you can cross an item off! Sometimes, I even tell her to write a task we’ve completed on a list, that wasn’t on the list, so we can have the pleasure of crossing it off the list!!

This whole discussion of lists was started because on September 14th I am having my second knee replaced. Two years ago, my left knee was replaced, and in September it will be my right knee’s turn. I mentioned to Susie the other day, that I felt much more organized two years ago, and that I didn’t feel that I had as good a handle on the tasks I must accomplish before the surgery this time around. Her answer, “Make a list of the tasks, put them in order, and cross them off when you’ve taken care of them.” She was right! Sitting down, going through the paperwork from Dr Zabinski, writing tasks down, and putting them in order was the perfect way to wrap my head around the tasks. Lists are a great way to get organized and to really feel like you are prepared, and now on the fridge is a nicely printed out list with 13 things that MUST be done before September 14th! I feel organized now, have a handle on what I have to do when, and even have 4 items checked off already!

Thanks Susie for your lists! They do work…

In Defense of Spam

Lately it seems to me that more and more, I see people taking pot shots at Spam.  Be it on Facebook, or on the Internet, I see people call it names, and folks saying that they’ve never eaten it, and never would!  The real slap in the face, is when these same people pick Scrapple over a true American Hero, Spam!

Spam was introduced by the Hormel Corporation in 1937.  Spam’s basic ingredients are pork with ham added, salt, water, modified potato starch (as a binder) sugar, and sodium nitrate (as a preservative).  By the last turn of the century, Spam was sold worldwide  in 41 countries, on six continents, and trademarked in over 100 countries.  It is a traditional food in places as far flung as the United Kingdom and Mainland China.  In our 50th State, Hawaii, residents have the highest per capita consumption of Spam in the United States, it is sold at both McDonalds and Burger King, and is so popular that it is sometimes referred to as “The Hawaiian Steak”!

Of course, Spam’s big heroic moment was World War II, when it became the answer to getting fresh meat to soldiers on the front lines.   Before the war ended, over 150 million pounds of Spam had been bought by the United States government.  As American solders moved across the world, Spam followed, and its popularity spread, which is the prime reason it is used in so many different food cultures around the world.  Local people took this canned “ham” and made it their own!   That’s why in Hawaii there is a dish called Spam Musubi, in Puerto Rico a local dish called Sandwich de Mezcla containing Spam, in Japan it’s a staple ingredient in the traditional Okinawan dish chanpurū, and in South Korea there’s Spam kimbap (rice and vegetable filled seaweed roll) .  If you’d like to read more about Spam’s history and worldwide appeal, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article about it….. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(food) .

Susie’s and my Dad were both in the United States Army in World War II, and I guess in a way, they brought Spam home from the war.  We were exposed to it early in life,  as it was a staple in both our houses when we were growing up.  I will always associate it with Susie’s Mom, when she made her great dinner combo of Potato Pancakes and Fried Spam.  I remember my Dad telling WWII stories of him convincing the cook of their unit to try making it the Italian way (Spam Parmigiana?), and always remember it being in our house.  

As to how we use it in our house…for years we’ve made a great Spam and Pineapple Fried Rice, and we’ve used it as the protein in Pasta Dishes.  Of course, it has a real place in our breakfast portfolio as an ingredient in an egg scramble or as an accompaniment to fried or scrambled eggs.  We’ve also discovered that the Spam that is packaged in the “SPAM Single” size, is cut a bit bigger, but thinner than the canned version, and is the perfect thing to brown and slide into a grilled cheese sandwich!  

When we went to Hawaii in 2013, we were so amazed at the many varieties of Spam we found in the grocery store that we’d never seen before.  As one of its biggest markets, Hormel makes several flavors exclusively for the Hawaiian Islands.  We were so impressed, we bought a number of cans of Spam unknown to us, packed it in a Post Office Flat Rate box, and sent them home.

Our collection of Hawaiian Spam and a typical Hawaiian “Plate Lunch” featuring deep fried Spam

Did you know that there’s also a Spam Museum?  We do, because we’ve been there!  Austin, Minnesota was where Hormel was founded, and it is also the home of the Spam Museum.  The museum was one of our first sightseeing stops on our Bucket List Trip in 2016 after I joined Susie in retirement.  The museum has displays showing Spam’s place in history, the many places around the world where Spam is sold, and some of the many varieties that Hormel produces.  It also sells “Spam Gifts” of which we bought a few!

So there you have it, our interaction with an American Classic, and my defense of this heroic American canned meat product.  The versatile product, that’s good hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!  And  to all the Spam haters out there who love their Scrapple, I leave you with this quote from Wikipedia,  “Scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other trimmings, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth.”  Just Saying!  Good Eating!

Plus Networks

If you’re of a certain age (ie…old…like me), you’ll remember TV before Cable. Back in the days when your only option was to receive the signal over the air from a local broadcasting station. If you remember that, you’ll also remember “rabbit ear” antennas, the good that liberal use of tinfoil could have on TV reception, and how standing in a certain place in relation to the TV could also improve reception.

It may be hard to believe, but Cable TV originated in 1948, in an effort to get TV reception in the mountainous areas of Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, yet when Susie and I got married in 1979, and moved to 1 Firwood Road in the Manorhaven section of Port Washington, Cablevision had yet to wire the neighborhood. That means that we did our best to get a signal from NYC stations via a Radio Shack powered TV antenna, that resided in the top of our coat closet.

In 1981, when we bought our first house in New Hyde Park, the area had been wired by Cablevision, and we became cable customers for the first time! Nowhere near as sophisticated as what would follow, our cable box was two boxes, tethered together with about 20 feet of cord between. One box lived at the TV, and the other changed channels, though a series of push buttons. That was the beginning of our relationship with Cable TV, a relationship that continues to the present, with our monthly subscription to Comcast’s Xfinity service, here in Ocean City.

Over the years, that cable coming from the pole to your house has brought you more than just TV shows. After years of dial-up internet, and even DSL service via the phone company, the fastest and most dependable Internet service most of us get, is via the local cable provider. As the internet speed and quality delivered to your house improved, we learned about “streaming” movies and TV shows, and the various ways you get to watch movies. One of the earliest options in that regard was a service called Netflix.

Netflix was launched in 1997 as the world’s first online DVD-rental store, and in February 2007, the company delivered its billionth DVD via the mail, but at the same time, it’s business began to change shape. The move was away from delivery of DVDs via the USPS, and to on-demand viewing via the Internet. As the sales of DVDs fell, Netflix’s digital delivery business grew.

Over the years, as many consumers tried to cut back on the costs associated with Cable TV, another term was coined…”Cord Cutting”. Defined as, “The process of cancelling a cable or satellite subscription and getting TV shows and movies by other means. This typically involves switching to video streaming services that are accessed through the internet”. If you were willing to work a little more at your TV viewing, you could save some serious money over your existing cable bill.

One of those streaming services mentioned in the definition was our old friend Netflix. In the beginning, as a “Cord Cutter” it was easy, as so much was included in your monthly Netflix subscription. It was by no means the only option, but in it’s heyday, it had millions of TV titles and movies, and was exactly what the “Cord Cutter” needed. I know that when our daughter Krissi first moved to Astoria, with a line of sight view of the broadcast antenna atop the Empire State Building, a cheap Radio Shack antenna, a cable internet feed, and a Netflix subscription was all she needed to be part of the cord cutter revolution.

But times change, and in recent years, more and more titles have been removed from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and others. Have you noticed the new trend in cable network’s marketing to cord cutters? I’m calling it Plus Networks, but it goes by many different names. HBO Max, Peacock, Hulu, Crackle, and the pluses…Disney+, Paramount+, Discovery+, ESPN +, etc. As more people abandoned Cable TV and just payed for an Internet connection every month, the cable networks perceived there was money to be made in streaming services. Where once you could pretty much see everything you wanted with a Netflix subscription, now you needed a phone book of subscriptions to see everything!

And how much exactly does having multiple subscriptions cost you? When I Googled that question, I found that there were literally hundreds of streaming services around. While there are a lot that seem to be very narrow focused, here’s a listing of the general services I recognized, and their cost:

Netflix ($8.99 to $15.99 per month)
Amazon Prime Video ($119 per year)
Hulu ($5.99 all the way up to $15.99 per month)
Apple TV+ ($4.99 per month)
Disney+ ($6.99 per month)
ESPN+ ($4,99 per month)
Peacock $4.99 per month)
CBS All Access – about to rebrand as Paramount+ ($5.99 per month)
Discovery+ ($4.99 per month)
HBO Max ($14.99 per month)

All of that is fine for the cord cutters among us, but what of us dinosaurs that still have a full Cable TV package?? I currently pay Comcast $286 for my Xfinity service. This includes Internet access, telephone, and cable service. I used to be able to watch HBO and other services that I paid for, via an app on my phone. I also used to be able to use the services on other Smart TVs or via an Amazon Fire or Roku device. At that point, having an Amazon Prime subscription and Netflix were icing on the cake, assuring me that I could watch virtually anything I wanted, anywhere I was. That’s now changing.

The cable channels have obviously found that there is money to be made even from people who do not pay for cable TV. Disney, CBS, NBC, and others, have decided that the profit from their programing belongs in their pockets, rather than Netflix or Amazon Prime’s, so much of the content that was available on these services originally is now available exclusively on their own streaming service. As I see it, two things are happening here. #1 – Those of us who are still paying for traditional cable TV, are now not seeing content that is being produced by the very channels that are part of our service we pay for. #2 – Folks who have already, or will soon join the Cord Cutters of the world, will no longer be able to get by with one or two generic streaming services, but will have to pay for a laundry list of new streaming services if they want to be able to approach the content that cable TV provides. How much money will they really be saving in the end?

In addition, as I guess an incentive to get people to sign up for the service, virtually every one of the new pay services is featuring “Exclusive Content” that is not available elsewhere. The CBS service features many original titles including The Good Wife continuation show, The Good Fight, and their library of Star Trek themed shows. ESPN+ advertises exclusive content including UFC events, MLB and NHL games, Boxing, International Soccer, as well as a number of original series. Over on Disney+ you get to see a virtual roster of Disney movies, behind the scenes shows, and many original series. One of the newest, Discover+, features exclusive content from their many networks including HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and even the new Magnolia Network with Chip and Joana Gaines. Lots of things that you’ll only see with a subscription to one of the services.

And what are consumers saying? Here’s a sampling of replies on a recent Facebook post by Food Network Chef Robert Irvine, promoting a new episode of his show Restaurant Impossible that’s only available on Discovery+:

“Well, I can’t watch them because I already pay for Food Network through cable and I’m not going to pay for it again through Discovery+”

“Never missed your show, even watch reruns, but not paying extra for Discovery+”

“It sucks that what used to be part of my cable package has now moved to a new platform. No Thank You. I hope Discovery goes bankrupt.”

“Buh-bye! No Discovery+ here. The value of Food Network, HGTV, DIY and others dropped last year when fewer new shows were produced, and our cable costs still went up. Now with a subscription scheme they want even more money from us.”

“Will miss the show. Not paying extra for Discovery+ just to watch it.”

“Miss being able to watch you. Ridiculous that we have to pay for another streaming service! Not your fault, but this is asking a lot from your fans.”

and finally….

“Sorry not watching. Viewers being played big time here! Food Network or whoever is behind this Discovery+ must think we are all awfully stupid. You will lose viewers over this.”

Hmmm…they don’t sound happy.

You just knew it was a matter of time before the folks behind so many cable channels found a way to make more money off their current subscribers, and to find new customers as well. Welcome to the confusing world of home TV viewing in 2021!

2020…Year in Review – Part Three

Here’s the final part of our look back at the year that was the most different of our lifetimes!

Hurricane Isaias

Early in August, the hurricane with the almost unpronounceable name came to Ocean City to visit! There was rain and wind…a lot of wind…and a tornado was sighted just west of Ocean City and cut a path of destruction up through Marmora, our neighbor town to the west of 34th Street. It did damage in OC too, taking the steeple off a small church on 32nd Street and Central Avenue, blowing small structures over, knocking over porch furniture and destroying awnings all over town.

At our house, it tossed about the furniture on the porch pretty good, even upending the couch. Then there was a knock on the front door…it was our neighbor Meade telling us that our Gazebo was now next to his house! Although it was staked down in the back yard, and had seemed fine every time Susie or I had checked on it that morning, at some point a gust of wind was more than it could take! Not only did the wind take it down, but it carried it over the cottage next door, and slammed it into the side of Patty and Meade’s house! With the help from some renters, we carried it away from their house and into our garage, where Susie and I proceeded to take it apart, as the canvas was ripped, and many of the uprights were bent. In short, the Gazebo was no more!

In the entire month of August I wrote one blog! This one was about our Sunday Traditions and how we were trying to maintain them, even in this crazy year! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/08/27/delia-family-sunday-traditions/

Oasis II

After the very casual way Isaias had torn apart our backyard Oasis, we were determined that we needed to make a statement that it might be different, but was still there! We bought a couple of tables from Amazon, strung some new lights, and we were back in business! It wasn’t the same, but we were confident that our new Oasis would withstand whatever Mother Nature threw at her! Early in the fall, we even added a fire pit to the mix!

Family Visit

At the end of August, needing a release from being cooped up in their house with their two teenage children, our son-in-law Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe rented our neighbor Neen’s rental property around the corner on Third Street. Once the rest of the family found out about it, our daughter Krissi thought it might be a great way to have a “Socially Distanced” visit to the old folks. Krissi and Mike got a room with points at a nearby Hampton Inn (Mike would make it a “work trip” by visiting some local liquor stores….Mike works for a wine distributor), and Mike’s folks, Jerry and Paula, got a place at a local Ocean City Bed and Breakfast!

We socially distanced in our garage, in the backyard and our new Oasis, and on the Pennlyn Place Beach! It was different, but it was great to see some family again!!

September and October

We continued our lives in our little seaside community as well as we could considering the year we were in. There was time at the beach, relaxing on our porch, our dinners out at Angelo’s and Charlie’s, and a take-out meal here and there. Rather than real life visits, there were pictures and Facetimes from Billy’s family where we got to see and interact with our Grandkids. There were phone calls and Facetimes keeping in touch with our twins in Astoria and Florida. Having been without wheels since they arrived in Florida, in the beginning of October, Kenny and Chris bought a used car…a 2014 Mazda 2. As the weather got colder, we enjoyed the heaters at Angelo’s and time at our fire pit in our backyard! We continued our weekly traditions and began to play cards every afternoon at 4 for at least an hour!

In September, it appeared I had been bitten by the writing bug again. I wrote 3 blogs! The first was about Susie’s Free Table, which she uses a couple of times a year to get rid of things we no longer want (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/07/the-free-table/ ), then one called ‘Atsa My Boat where I talk about our much earlier Nautical Activities (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/09/atsa-my-boat/ ), and finally one about our 41st anniversary called 9/29/2020 (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/29/9-29-2020/ ). Obviously, I may have been bitten by the writing bug again, but it was a small bite, as in October, I wrote but one blog. This one called My Dad and his Family (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/10/06/my-dad-and-his-family/)

November

In November, as the weather continued to cool off, we enjoyed our last outdoor meal at Angelo’s in AC. Going forward it was take-out or home cooking for us. As many restaurants (including Charlie’s and Angelo’s) had opened for 25% indoor dining, we were not comfortable eating inside, so we didn’t.

The boys decided to come up and spend Thanksgiving with us, and after getting negative Covid tests, they got in their little car and drove up! I wrote a rather extensive blog about their visit, our Twins’ Birthday, our Thanksgiving celebration, and putting up our Christmas Tree with Kenny and Chris. If you want to re-visit that, you’ll find it here…

https://rnewadventures.com/2020/11/29/family-holiday-traditions/

December

After the boys headed back to Florida, we continued our preparation for Christmas. Although, it was only going to be the two of us, for the first time in our married life of 41 Christmases, we did our usual. I wrote about it in a blog called Christmas 2020 Cancelled??
https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/20/christmas-2020-canceled/

Susie and I enjoyed our different Christmas, and although we missed our kids and Grandkids, I wouldn’t say we suffered in any other way. We used Facetime and saw Kenny and Chris in Florida, Krissi and Mike in New York, and Billy and Lori and the kids open gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. We stayed in our PJs all day, and watched Christmas movies. We also got to partake in one of those D’Elia Family Traditions, as we took drives to look at Santa Lights in Ocean City! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/22/santa-lights/

Between Christmas and New Year, and my January 2nd birthday, we continued our quest to watch as many Christmas movies as possible, to continue to eat the wrong food, and to enjoy the holiday season. All in all, different, but not bad.

And that takes us to the end of the year known as 2020! It was by no means a normal year, but our family was lucky in that we got through it better than many. As I write this, we are looking forward to a new year with a lot more promise. Hopefully the vaccine will roll out better than it has in the early stages, people will realize that wearing a mask is not an impingement of their freedom, but rather a medically smart thing to do, and before 2021 is over, we can get back to some semblance of the life we left behind!

Susie and I send our best wishes for health and happiness to you and yours, and look forward to you joining us as we march through the next 12 months!!

2020…Year in Review – Part Two

Here’s Part Two of our look back at 2020!

Susie’s Birthday

As the calendar turned to May, the weather turned better, and a major beach replenishment started in the North End of Ocean City! Seems like 2020 was the year of renewals, and we now have more beach sand, but it did take most of the summer. May is, also, of course, the month of Susie’s birthday, and we looked forward to a celebration at Angelo’s because, like mine in January, Susie’s May 28th birthday also fell on our regular Thursday night Angelo’s night! Alas, Covid changed the plans, so we substituted an Angelo’s take out meal and a cake made specially by her boys!

BLM

Late May and early June also brought protests all across our country regarding what many thought was the out of control behavior of many Police Departments towards our black citizens. The phrase Black Lives Mater was heard across the country, and even in our little beach town on the Jersey Shore! After a march in nearby Atlantic City had turned to destruction, there were fears that a similar thing could happen here when a march to Ocean City was planned, but our community and Police Department kept the action level headed and on target. It was a day to be proud of our community!

Summer Weather

June also brought beach weather, and since our porch was completed and in great shape again, a lot of beach and porch time. It’s what living at the shore is all about, and we made sure to take advantage. Susie and I always like going to the beach early in the day, and we continued doing that this year, which made it very easy to not get too close to our fellow beach goers!

The Oasis

Let’s just admit something here…”Our Boys” (Kenny and Chris) were bored! Sitting on the beach or sitting on the front porch reading was not their cup of tea! They did exercises, walked the beach and neighborhood, but really needed a project! One day, Chris came in and told us that Doc got a new backyard grill and that he’d said that Chris could take his old one. Suddenly we had a grill and the boys had a project! The Oasis was born!

As we share a backyard with our co-owners, the first task was creating a private area on our side and easing access to the back yard. We headed over to Lowes and purchased pavers to make a walkway to the back, and some palm trees for a little privacy. The boys now had a project! Neighbors across the street were throwing out some old small wicker tables, and Chris had another project…repaint them! Then Susie saw a gazebo structure online at Lowes, and we went back and purchased that. Another project…build the gazebo! The Oasis was well on the way! Then a set back…suddenly one day, as steaks were grilling, flames came out of the firebox and started the control panel on fire! Oh Boy!! The fire was put out, Doc’s old grill went to the curb, and we went back to Lowes and purchased a brand new grill. Stools were ordered, lights were strung, and the Oasis was in great shape! The boys had enjoyed the project, and we had a new backyard feature!

Outdoor Dining

The last time Susie and I had eaten in a restaurant was back in March, at a Cracker Barrel on our way home from Florida! We’d done take-out, and a lot of cooking, but we missed our Tuesdays at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and our Thursdays at Angelo’s in AC with all our Thursday Angelo’s friends! Early in June, many places started outdoor dining, and we were lucky enough that two of them were our weekly favorites!

Angelo’s converted their parking lot to outdoor dining. They had an extensive waiting area, a beautiful outdoor bar, a free-standing bathroom, and a very nice “dining room”, not under a tent, but covered by colorful sails! All our regular Thursday friends were back, and it was great to be back in the fold! We missed sitting at the bar with our friend Michael, but many times, Michael was our waiter. At other times it was our friends Theresa, or Rhonda, or Patty who’d serve us a couple of Grey Goose Martinis and a selection of the food we loved!!

Charlies took half of their parking lot and erected a tent, and although they were not open on our usual Tuesday due to staffing issues, and were serving a limited menu, we went Wednesdays when our friend Sue (or her daughter Carlye) was the hostess, and other friends like Jessie and Brett were delivering food! It was good to have two of our favorite weekly anchors back in place!

The Boys Head to Florida

Late in July, Kenny and Chris made good on their plan to move to Florida! Entertainment was gone, the cruise industry was closed down, and they needed to move on to their next adventure. Chris had been studying for months to take his Florida real estate broker license, and they’d found a nice Air B&B in St. Pete’s beach and paid for 6 months rent up front. It was time to leave Mom and Dad, after being locked up in the house with us for 4+ months at this point! After a couple of “Good-Bye” Dinners, it was time.

The boys rented a mini van, loaded as much as they could into it, and headed out! Once down in Florida, Chris continued his studies, took the test, and was now a licensed Florida Real Estate Broker – – color us proud! Kenny is now taking the same online course that Chris did!

Please stay tuned as we finish up our look back at 2020 in 2020…Year in Review – Part Three

2020…Year in Review – Part One

The 2020 version of Susie’s Christmas Letter started this way:

“I ended last year’s letter with, “ I wonder what the next year will bring.” Well, to say it’s been a doozy is an understatement! I’m sure we can all agree it’s been a very trying year.”

As the clock approached midnight on December 31st, 2019, 2020 appeared to be shaping up to be another good year for the D’Elia Family! Our kids were all married and healthy. A third Grandchild had joined our family in 2019. The boys had been with us for Christmas, Billy, Lori and our 3 Grandkids had visited us right after Christmas and we were looking forward to 2020, including our plans to spend several months of the winter in Florida!

in January, we celebrated my 70th Birthday! First with the boys at Angelo’s because January 2nd fell on our usual Angelo’s night of Thursday!

Then a week later, the twins and their spouses (Krissi, Mike, Kenny and Chris) surprised me with a birthday weekend at Harrahs in Atlantic City!

It was a great way to celebrate my 70th trip around the sun and the kids totally surprised me!

The next weekend, Kenny and Chris started their new job of flying to various cities around the country and officiating at Dance Competitions. All expenses were paid, they got frequent flyer miles, and working 4 days a week, they made what they’d have made in a regular job. It was a lot of work, with long hours, but they seemed to be enjoying it. Meanwhile, Susie and I were putting Christmas, 2019 back in tubs and transporting it to our storage place. We were also packing and getting ready for our trip to Florida at the end of the month! On January 30th, we left Ocean City, with our first stop at Billy and Lori’s brand new house in Wake Forest, North Carolina! Little did we know that would be the last time we saw them in 2020!

You can follow along on our trip to North Carolina and our trip to Indian Rocks Beach in our blog, Florida, Here we come! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/02/01/florida-here-we-come/

Our rental condo in Indian Rocks Beach was right on the Gulf of Mexico, and ours for the entire month of February! See our Blog Week One In Florida for more….https://rnewadventures.com/2020/02/11/week-one-in-florida/ for the rest of the story!

Then, towards the end of the month, Kenny and Chris had a weekend off from their job, and came down and spent mid-week to mid-week with us! It was great showing them a place we liked a lot, and they liked it too! They loved going to the beach, exploring the town on foot, and checking out several great restaurants

The last week of February, on the 25th, Susie got a call that her Mom had died. She was 95, had been in full on dementia for a while, and had been in a Nursing Home on Long Island for several years. We were very happy that we’d had a great visit with her in January before heading down to Florida, but now the problem of the boys and us being in Florida and planning and getting to a funeral that was taking place that weekend on Long Island.

I wrote an extensive blog about it back in early March. Life Happens will give you more details. https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/03/life-happens/

The morning after the funeral, Kenny and Chris drove back to Ocean City, Billy caught his flight out of JFK, and that afternoon at 4:15, Susie and I were on another Delta flight, heading back to Florida (where our car was waiting for us at the long term parking at the airport), and what we thought was going to be our second month in the Sunshine State! After a brief overnight at a Hampton Inn near the airport, we were off to six wonderful nights at the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach! To say we love being at Hilton’s Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach Florida would be an understatement..see what I mean in this blog! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/12/doubletree-resort-hollywood-beach-florida/

I think the morning we drove away from the Doubletree’s Valet Parking, was the last time that Susie and I thought that 2020 was going to be a normal year in our lives! Our next stop was at my cousin Jeanne and Walt’s in Barefoot Bay, Florida. Just above Sebastian on the East Coast of Florida, we’d stayed with Jeanne and Walt several times in the past, but this year was going to be different. A couple of days after we arrived, Jeanne and Walt were heading to Hawaii, and Susie and I were going to be residents of Barefoot Bay for the rest of March! “Were Going to Be” are the operative word of that sentence!

If you want to know what transpired, I wrote a blog post called A Very Strange 6 Weeks that detailed our Florida visit 2020, and how it ended! .https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/19/a-very-strange-6-weeks/)

Two days later, on Monday the 16th, the boys returned from what would be the last weekend of their new Dance Competition job. Susie and I wondered if we should go to Charlie’s the next day for St. Patricks at the back bar with our friend Sue. We didn’t have to make the decision, as Charlie’s and most of the rest of our Jersey Shore Community closed down! One week later I wrote another blog about a Strange Time…little did I know!
https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/21/a-strange-time/

Honestly, most of 2020 has been a blur that went by way too fast. I wrote one blog post early in April (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/04/) and then nothing again till August! In the midst of all this, I just didn’t feel like writing. I started a couple of blogs, but they just never went anywhere! Therefore, my plan for the rest of this Review of 2020 is to look back at the calendar and some of our pictures, and try to recreate the “high” spots of the next 9 months!

The Front Porch Gets Rebuilt

April brought the start of major work on our house’s front porch. We had an issue in the front right corner, figured that we had some rot, and made arrangements for OC Fiberglass to start work when we came back from Florida.. Of course, nothing could be determined till it was opened up, and when they did open it up, there was much more damage than we imagined. Turned out we had to have the 4 front columns replaced, the entire outer structure of the porch, and it involved our upstairs neighbors too! Because of the supply issues with Covid, and Mother Nature, what should have taken a couple of weeks took well into mid May! A lot of time, and you don’t want to know what it cost us!

We’ll pick up with May in 2020…Year in Review – Part Two…stay tuned!

The Free Table

Have you ever hosted a garage sale? In the almost 41 years that Susie and I have been married, she has hosted a couple of Garage Sales at our house. She did them in combination with her Mom and her Sister, and largely without my help. Why you may ask without my help? Because I am not a big fan of Garage Sales. In fact, I think my feeling about them mostly falls on the hate side. The idea of people picking through your stuff, trying to tell you that your $2 price really should be 50 cents, and doing their best to beat you down, and get the things for pennies on the dollar, really doesn’t seem like fun to me. And let’s not even begin to talk about the folks that try and show up before you’re ready to open and then become belligerent when you say no! Nope, not for me! I’m sorry but the amount of money you gain in holding one of these sales, just doesn’t seem to me to be worth the work and the aggravation!

When we sold our house of 30+ years in Mineola in 2017, and consolidated two houses we’d had since 2005, many people would have had a garage sale to rid themselves of excess items they no longer needed, but we didn’t. First dibs went to our kids. All three of them took items that were in our house and that they’d grown up with. Next we donated lots of items to the Vietnam Veterans Association, and other worthwhile charities in the area. Furniture that nobody wanted (too many of the Baby Boomer Generation are downsizing) went to needy families that could really use it. For the couple of high ticket items we wanted to get rid of, we turned to eBay, getting them sold the clean and simple way! But what, you may ask, does the preceding two paragraphs have to do with the title of this blog…The Free Table? Read on, and you will see!

Now that we call Ocean City our full time and only home, we love the fact that we have downsized our number of “things”. Frankly, the lifestyle we now want to live, in the house we now live in, just doesn’t lend itself to the way of the hoarder. Things like my complete set of High School Yearbooks or Susie’s extensive Cookbook Collection, just don’t have a place at the shore house. But, as the days, weeks, months, and years go by, we still manage to accumulate “things” that eventually just don’t have a place in our lives. Now the question is, what to do with these “things”?

Rather than throw out things that you no longer have a need for, but that somebody else may be able to use, Susie has taken an idea from our neighbors up Pennlyn Place, Jane and John Griffith. A couple of times a year, usually on a busy beach Saturday or Sunday, Susie places a table by the curb with a big sign on it that says

HELP YOURSELF

FREE

EXCEPT TABLE


Yesterday was her second Free Table of the Summer of 2020, and it was very successful! In fact, it was more like a community Free Table, as our next door neighbor Doc contributed two wicker stools to the effort, and our new across the street neighbor Heather contributed a toaster to Susie’s Free Table! For her part, Susie’s items included excess ball caps, an old game system Kenny and Chris had left here, little knick knicks we’d picked up, a hand food processor, beach towel clips, old night lights, a hair dryer, some DVDs, a pair of new windshield wipers from a car we no longer own, a couple of bags, a grill pan, and a few other items. By the time Susie folded up the table, and put it back in the garage yesterday afternoon, all that was left was Doc’s two stools!

Susie was happy, folks who picked things up were happy (like our other neighbor Patti who took Heather’s excess toaster), and Susie got rid of a tub of “things” Win – Win all around…except for Doc with his stools! Oh, and we really owe a debt of gratitude to this lady who helped herself to a lot of “things” and who was caught on film by Heather!

I wish we knew her address…we’d just deliver the items to her in the future!

Bees Knees #4 – The Final Chapter

Yesterday was a banner day for my new left knee! First, I was released from PT! Grady, my Physical Therapist, said there was nothing more he could do for me, as he’d given me all the exercises and I was doing them with zero problem! That was nice to hear! An hour later, I had my 5+ week post surgery appointment with Dr Zabinski. I had three X-rays taken, and Dr. Zabinski is thrilled with what he saw, with the way my scar is healing, and with the progress I am making! He even agreed with our time table of having the right knee done when we return from Florida in April! Like I said, a banner day all around!

So, as a way to wrap up this journey, thought I’d write one more blog and look back on our experiences (make no mistake about it, Susie was as much or even more involved in this procedure than I was!). Things that I worried about up front, that retrospectively I wasted time worrying about!

Any time you embark on something you’ve never experienced before, there is always an element of fear involving the unknown. I mean, they are going to cut open my leg, remove the knee I’d had since birth, and replace it with a man-made implant! Now that was certainly something I’d never experienced before!

I guess the number one fear was, “Would I survive?” Even in simple surgeries, things happen and the unthinkable becomes reality. I will freely admit that there were a couple of days pre-surgery when these kinds of fears did enter into my brain. Perhaps it was a stupid path to take, but rather than dwell on it, I used the fear to a good end. I spent a good part of one day collecting all of our bank account information, including banking websites and sign-ons. I did the same thing with Susie and my Life Insurance policies, creating a document called Money and Insurance. The next day I started to write another document called Paying Bills. In this one, I noted all the different ways I paid bills every month, including a step by step checklist, that if followed, should allow the user to do everything I do every month. In creating these two documents I gave myself peace of mind that should something happen, Susie would know what to do. It was a good exercise, a good use of the fear, and in the end, totally unnecessary!

I also had some worries about the anesthesia. When you put someone under General Anesthesia, there is always the possibility that there will be complications. When going to Pre-Op Testing at the hospital, we were told however, that they did the operation under a Spinal Block, and a Nerve Block, and that you were in an induced Twilight state during the surgery. The day I found that out, another of my fears came off the table!

So, they put in a brand new knee…would I be able to walk the stairs? There are 14 steps from the sidewalk to our front porch. Was I going to be able to get up to our front door the day after surgery? Piece of cake! Another stupid thing to unnecessarily worry about!

Was it going to hurt? I am definitely one of those folks that has an issue with Opioid drugs. No, its not that I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to them, it’s that I know they stop-up my plumbing! So let’s make this a double headed fear…Managing Pain and Constipation! I came home with 2 prescriptions, and did take them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I also didn’t go to the bathroom. Now, on the pain front, with the exception of the first day or so, I wasn’t really in pain. It was more discomfort, so it was pretty easy for me to transition from the Opioids to Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Susie did have to call out the big guns in the fight for regularity, but after one dose of Dulcolax, I was back in regular action. Scratch a double-headed concern!

In so much of your pre-op orientation, they make a huge thing of Preventing Infection and Swelling, so you can’t help but have that in your mind. The act of inserting the knee prosthetic into your body, has become so matter of fact, that the biggest concern they have post-surgery is preventing infection and swelling. We did everything pre-surgery we were instructed to do, and after the surgery, Susie made sure that I religiously elevated it (your leg above your heart), iced it, and that we kept the environment clean. The end result is that this issue, which we really think was more of the scare tactics they employ pre-surgery, than our own mental state, never came to pass!

Other things lower down the fear/concern ladder, included PT and the horror stories we both had heard! My Physical Therapist Grady was the absolute best, and at no time was there even the slightest issue with either my home, or at the facility PT! Another area was sleep…would I? Honestly, I’m not the best sleeper when I don’t have a new knee, and Grady had told us before the operation that I’d probably be sleeping on and off most of the day, because you just don’t sleep that well at night. And that was it..

I told Susie going into this, and I will say it anytime I’m asked, we are rule followers, and that’s exactly why we did what we did, and why my recovery was so successful! We bought everything we were instructed to do up front. I took the prescribed vitamins pre and post surgery. We had the house set up as per our instructions. When I came home from the hospital, we kept my leg elevated above my heart for the 20-22 hours a day we were instructed to do. Susie made sure to apply ice as instructed. The bottom line is that we did what we were told to do, and that’s why, along with Dr. Zabinski’s excellent work, Grady’s perfect PT for me, and being married to the world’s best caregiver, this knee replacement was as successful as it was!

And what did this all cost, you may wonder. Well, by the time you add up the Hospital Costs, the Doctors’ bills, the cost of Physical Therapy, as well as the cost of everything we had to buy pre-surgery, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s very close to $100,000. I mean the cost for the actual implant that now lives where formerly my left knee was, cost a whopping $22,028 and the Operating Room for the 2 hours or so it was dedicated to my knee was just over $24,000! Thank God we have great insurance, and in the end, if I’m responsible for anything, it will probably be pennies! Wonder what the Six Million Dollar Man would cost in 2019 dollars??

My final take? I sit here 5 weeks and 4 days after having a Left Total Knee Replacement ready, and willing, to have my right knee replaced next Spring! I have no fear that it won’t be as successful as the left one was, and no concern that Susie and I aren’t up to the task! Thank God we live in a time when operations like this, and so many others are common procedures that give us our mobility and our life back! Anyone who’s reading this, please don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from getting the help you need to return to the life you were meant to lead! I’m looking forward to chasing my Grandchildren Layla, Henry, and Anna down the boardwalk! Life is too short!

Bees Knees #3

Milestones

We are 5 days post operative as I start to write this. I think it is an appropriate time to start talking about Milestones, as there indeed have been several!

#1 – WALKING – This one didn’t take long at all! Barely 5 hours, after coming out of surgery, the PT folks at Shore Medical Center, had me off my back, and on my feet, with the help of a walker! I know that it sounds crazy and rather incredible, but that’s the way it happens in 2019! Susie has read that there are no restrictions on weight bearing for the new knee. It appears that from the moment they sew your leg up, it is ready to be used! Crazy, huh?

#2 – Pain Meds – I came home from the hospital with two prescriptions for pain meds. One for Percocet and another for Tramadon. I’m still not totally clear what the difference is between them, but for the first couple of days, I used both of them. Now, speaking about pain, while there has indeed been some, I can’t say that it had been outrageous or intolerable. The pain has been from the incision, and some muscular pain, but that’s it! There are things that I’ve had to do, that are a pain and some that cause me pain, but not from walking or sitting or exercise. I’m sure a side effect of both of these “pain meds” are strange, almost hallucination like dreams….now that’s not fun. End result, last time I took either of the prescription pain meds was before bed on Sunday night. Since then, I’m using Ibuprofin or Tylenol.

#3 – Showering – I’m sure you’ve all been sick for a couple of days, and confined to your bed or the living room couch, and about Day 3, you start fantasizing about standing in the shower! Well, imagine you’ve just had you leg cut open, your knee hacked out, and a brand new man-made one inserted! You’ve then overnighted in the hospital, then came home, and since then, done nothing but lay around with your leg elevated. Think I wanted a shower?? You bet I did!! Physical Therapist Grady came and visited Saturday morning, and after checking out the house, we talked about showering! The dressing on my incision is waterproof, so that was not an issue. The new knee would have no problem holding my weight, so that was not an issue. He told me to have at it, as long as I abided by the guidelines for showering that were included in my discharge instructions! Sunday, after Bagel Sunday Breakfast, I showered, and it was glorious! Shower 2 came Tuesday, and it too was glorious!!!

#4 – Leg Elevation and Ice – Everything we’ve read, and everything everyone involved in this procedure has told us is that the incision is the bigger thing to worry about, not the implant. They are worried about infection and after that, swelling. There were very exacting procedures to be used pre-surgery to make sure your body is clean, and there are similar, but not as stringent procedures, post surgery to make sure you stay clean. Following those procedures, and making sure your visitors wash their hands are about all you can do to prevent infection, and we have followed those rules to the letter. The other concern its swelling, and that is remedied by keeping you leg straight and elevated ABOVE YOUR HEART, for 20-22 hours a day! Think that’s fun? Add to that, the regular application of ice to the operative sight….20 minuets on, 40 minutes off, round the clock! WOW! To say that this is the worst part, so far, of the knee replacement surgery for me, would not be an exaggeration!! Well, I’m happy to say that Grady, my Physical Therapist just left, and I am done with the 20-22 hours of that, and that I can SLEEP ON MY SIDE!! Yahoo!!!

#5 – Dressing Off – So there is this one-piece waterproof dressing that they put on you in the Operating Room that keeps the incision clean. It’s about 10-12 inches long, and a bit of a pain. Guess what? Grady took it off! I’m free!!!

#6 – Going from Walker to Cane – Once Grady took off my dressing, and liked the way the leg looked and saw no swelling or drainage, he said, “So..lets see how you walk.” I asked walker or not. He said, which ever way you want. I decided no walker! Forget the cane, I can do what I want! I think I impressed him!

So that’s where we are as of the afternoon of Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 – 5 days post surgery! Grady is very happy with my progress, Susie and I are very happy with my progress, and I think there might be a frosty clear alcohol drink (a MARTINI) in my immediate future! There are more milestones to hit (like getting the staples out next Monday), but for now, we are happy with where I am!!

Notice in the video, it is the yet to be replaced right knee giving me a weird gate!

 

Thanks for being along!!

To be continued!!

Bees Knees #2

Okay…let’s start with the headline…Operation was a success, I’ve got a new left knee!

Thursday July 11th started off for Susie and I at 5:30 when the alarm went off. We both showered, dressed, and relaxed a bit till it was time to head over to Shore Memorial Hospital. How fortunate were we, to retire to a seashore community that’s just across the 9th Street Bridge from a large, well equipped hospital? We left at 7:40, and checked into the hospital Pre-Op unit just before our assigned time of 8 AM. A little paper work, I got my hospital bracelet, and I was taken into the back to get prepped.

img_0871-1I was worked up by the Pre-Op Nurse, met the Anesthesiologist, and had my knee shaved and scrubbed. My IV was started, and I was hooked up to oxygen and a B/P monitor. Susie joined me about 9AM, and shortly after that, the Anesthesiologist gave me my Nerve Block and then Dr. Zabinski came in and we talked a bit about the operation. Just after 10:30, the Anesthesiologist Nurse said it was time to go. I kissed Susie goodbye and she headed to the waiting room while I headed to the Operating Room.

The OR was cold, and it seemed like there were about 7 or 8 people working there. They gave me some medication to put me in a Twilight mood, and then went to work on my Spinal Block. “Dangle your legs off the side of the Operating Table like you’re sitting on the side of a pool”, she said. “Now bend forward and extend your spine.” Luckily there was an Anesthesiology Technician in front of me to keep me from falling into the pool! Next it was time for the Lidocaine shot in my spine, “This will just be a little pinch”, she lied to me…it was not! By the time that was in, I had no memory of the last injection…the medication that put my spinal block in place! I was in Twilight..oh yes I was!

For the first couple of minutes, I kind of had a foggy sense of people talking and things happening around me, but more like I was an observer rather than a participant. Then I had the oddest sense that my Dad was in the Operating Room with me! He’s been dead since 1983, and whether this was wishful thinking or a visit from beyond, all I can say is thanks Dad for being with me! The next thing I know, I’m in the Recovery room and as soon as my eyes focus enough to be able to read the clock on the wall, I could see it was a little after 1 PM. There went 2 plus hours I’ll never see again!

The Recovery Room

My grasp of the time space continuum was still a little fuzzy, but within, what seemed like a few minutes, Susie was back at my side. She said that Dr. Zabinski had come out and talked to her about 12:05, and said that my knee was a mess and loaded with arthritis. Wonder what the right one, which I’ve always thought was worse than the left looks like!

Around 2:45, they moved me from Recovery to room 410….a private room! This would be a good time to compare going to a hospital on Long Island and in South Jersey. Simply, there is no comparison!! It’s as different as Night and Day. Black and White or Up and Down! Everything here is fast, simple and uncrowded. People are nice, they are there to help you, and you just feel so much better about the whole undertaking!

Me in and the view out of Room 410

Now here’s the part you always hear about, and even though it’s just happened to me, I still find it unbelievable! Just about 3:30, Maria from the Hospital’s Physical Therapy Department came into the room, and with the help of a walker, had me up on my brand new knee, and walking the halls!

Crazy but true, it worked, but I was also so high on drugs at that point, I probably could have just as easily flown down the hall!!

At dinnertime, not only did I get food, but they ordered Susie a dinner too (like I said, Night and Day). About 10 PM that night, before heading to bed, I took another, even longer walk around the 4th floor, with a little encouragement from my lovely wife!

Susie had decided to stay the night, and Rebecca, the Nurses Aide got her a recliner (See, Black and White). Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of recliner we thought it was going to be, and honestly neither of us had a very good night…even with good drugs (me, not Susie)! The next morning, at 5:30 AM, Dr. Zabinski came in to check on his work. He told us that the knee was so bad, that as soon as he opened up the knee and bent it, it dislocated. I asked him what happened to it, and he said, “It went in the garbage.” Rather an ignominious end to a knee that had been with me for 69 years, 6 months, and 9 days! Then he pulled out a drain he’d placed in my knee before closing it up. Looked to me to be about 10-12 inches…now that was fun! Happy with what he saw, he signed off on my going home that morning.

img_1028

Getting a breathing treatment

After breakfast, I saw my Medical Doctor, Dr. Raab, and he too gave me a clean bill of health and signed off on my release. Then they gave me a breathing treatment in lieu of my regular inhaler treatment, and then some more pain medication, so I’d be ready for my last sign off…from the Physical Therapist!

In answer to a question asked at the Joint Replacement Class we’d attended the week before surgery, if PT signed off on you in the morning, you’d be gone before lunch, if not, they’d keep you till after lunch, and do another session with you! I wanted to go home BEFORE lunch! My “Graduation” PT session included climbing a full flight of stairs (so I could get into our house), and walking all over the floor! Bottom line…I passed and was cleared to go home!

img_1029-1

Dressed to go home

Did I push myself? A little bit, because I really wanted out of the hospital, and was going to do whatever I could to make that happen. But, at the same time I was pushing myself, the nerve block that they’d given me was wearing off. The bottom line, I was starting to hurt! I got “chauffeured” down to the lobby, figured out how to get into the car, and we headed home!

img_1031

In the car

Our one stop was at CVS to pick up antibiotic, and not one, but two pain pill prescriptions. Even though they’d had the prescriptions since 9:30 and it was after 1, they weren’t ready. “Come back in an hour”, the Pharmacist told Susie. That was ok…still had about an hour and a half till I could take the next dose, so off we went to the house!

I had no problem climbing the 14 steps at the front of our house, but I was pooped and in a little more pain, but we were home!! I got myself in the position I’d find myself in for many hours in the upcoming days (22 out of 24 hours for the next 5 days, Dr. Zabinski said), and Susie went back to get my prescription!

It took her 45 minutes to come back because, of course, the prescription wasn’t ready! The worst 45 minutes of the whole undertaking!! I was hurting, but as soon as Susie got home, and I got my drugs, I let out a sigh of relief, and we started planning when I’d be getting the right one replaced!

We’re thinking May!

img_1616Before I leave, I have to thank one person above everyone else involved in the last couple of days, and that is the love of my life, my wife Susie! She has been there at every turn of this process, with encouragement, knowing the right questions to ask, and kicking me in the ass when I’ve needed it. Since coming home from the hospital, she has been my constant companion and care giver. Wrapping my knee, applying ice, organizing and handing out my pills, and handling my every need. You know the phrase”Helicopter Parents”? Well, Susie said to me this morning the she’s a “Helicopter Wife”! Thanks Susie for all you always do for us all, and especially me! Love you baby!!

To be continued …..