Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

RA Triumphs and an OMG “Grandma Moment”

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Some of the medications I take in an effort to slow the damage Rheumatoid Arthritis causes (not just to joints, but also the internal organs) have side effects.  Actually, all of them do, even the various cocktails of vitamins; that’s why the close supervision of a physician is necessary.  One of the side effects is the leaching of inordinate amounts of calcium from the bones – not good ever, but even more problematic for a gal in her 60’s, when osteoporosis is a normal part of the ageing process.

This morning, I had one of those pass-or-fail appointments with my Rheumatologist. Before I met with him, I had another Dexa-Scan (bone density test) to see if two years of nightly Forteo ™ injections had strengthened my skeletal structure. My “best guess” was that the results would come back aces, as I don’t break when I fall, I bounce.  Yes, usually minus some strips of flesh, but nothing more than that.  I was still more than a little nervous when my doctor entered the examination room, though . . . . because I had three photographs of me during the trail-ride in July arranged on his desk-top!  He was going to go ballistic if my Dexa-Scan numbers were low!

I received an A+ grade on the bone density test, and will finish my course of Forteo™ in about one week!  I also got “permission” (as if I ever wait for that!) to ride as much as I wish.  I’m also on a different schedule for my Cimzia™ self-injections.  The usual (400 mg once a month)  dosage has left me with good weeks & bad weeks, so the new schedule (200mg every two weeks) should help to keep the serum level more constant.  Great news, as I simply don’t have time to feel bad!

This evening, 5 year-old Sara was helping me prepare dinner as we discussed the various wildlife she has viewed through our patio door. She listed the raccoons, possums, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, finches, red-headed woodpeckers, cow-birds and the squirrels. Suddenly, she turned her bright blue eyes towards me and asked, “Grandma, how do squirrels get baby squirrels?”  I froze in place – for a moment, I simply froze and attempted to look thoughtful.  What I was really thinking was that I had absolutely no idea how much basic biology had already been explained by my daughter and son-in-law! What’s a grandmother supposed to do?!  After “looking thoughtful”, I answered “Hm. I’ve never really studied squirrels, Sara. Your mommy probably knows”.  Later in the evening, when she was engaged in activity with her grandpa and uncle, I told my daughter about the question. With that deer-in-the-headlights look that all parents wear at some point (and which probably more correctly describes the look I wore earlier this evening), she said that the subject hadn’t come up at home yet. “Well, brace yourself, it’s going to come up soon!”  I can picture it now: Sara asks and her parents give her the short-text, age-appropriate answer. Sara mulls over this new information for a moment, then solemnly announces “You need to tell grandma about all of this, because she doesn’t know!”  LOL!

 

“Pixie Dust”, Studio Time & Horses, Oh My!

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Big Grin – If my poor neglected blog had any readers, that title might catch their attention! LOL!

Somehow, there truly does seem to be “pixie dust” or some other magic element in the air!  I place in evidence the quarter-scale (1/4″ = 1′) New Orleans/French Quarter Balcony Vignette  at right; a kit created by Braxton Payne www.braxtonpayne.com which had been languishing in my “Smaller Scales” storage bin for ages.  My RA damaged hands usually confine me to  larger (one-twelfth scale) projects, where 1″ = 1′; even then, some of the pieces are quite small and have a frustrating habit of  launching out of my tweezers into thin air! This was completed on July 5th, 2012 and is now on display. . . . . Finally!  Actually, it is my  third small-scale success within the past 30 days; the only plausible explanation is that I have lost my few remaining marbles!

 

Tiny Paper Village

This paper village is one of the projects I packed in my ” recovery busy box”  just before my surgery on March 29th. Please don’t ask me how I planned to get all of the tiny pieces cut,  assembled and mounted on the base while confined to bed ~ I obviously wasn’t thinking too clearly!  However, when I began to feel better (and mobile enough to venture upstairs to my studio/disaster area), I determined that A) It is ridiculously small, and 2) It was going to be completed somehow.  Not sure of the scale, but the US dime at the right of the village will give you an idea of just how nutty I am 😀   Work was started on this in mid-June and finished in early July 2012.  This was adventure #1. (Yes, the church bell tower is leaning rather precariously, isn’t it?!)

 

 

 

 

After completing the village, I took a deep breath and delved deeper into the Smaller Scales bin and unearthed  this 144th” scale Japanese Tea House. It is a beautifully compiled kit by Susan Karatjas www.sdkminiatures.com    Most of the components are 1/16th” or 1/32nd”  stock. . .if they are pinched too firmly with tweezers, they either  snap in two or disappear entirely! There are several flaws in the construction of my Tea House, but I am quite proud of it. Completed July 2nd, 2012.

 

The mysterious powers of pixie dust still seem to be active; my current project is an English Span Green House (kit by www.finescaleminiatures.com.  The scale? Quarter-scale, again! The structure has been fully glazed(“glassed”) and constructed, but I won’t post pictures until it is properly landscaped and the plant trays have seedlings in them. BTW – the small plant trays measure 5/16″ x 1/4″ and the large plant trays measure 1/2′ x 3/8″ !

Horses? Oh, yes, I did mention horses, didn’t I? In my preteen and teen years, I loved horseback riding. At every opportunity, I would exercise a friend’s horse or resort to a young rent-a-horse with some spunk still left in it. Young and still feeling invulnerable, I rode alone, jumped fences (sometimes clearing the fence while the horse stayed behind!), rode full-out when prudence would have suggested a canter, and enjoyed every minute
of it! Marriage, multiple moves, children and careers shifted any indulgence in that pastime into the “Yeah, someday” category. . . . . and then
Rheumatoid Arthritis moved the wish into the category of fond dreams. Or did it? I have wistfully mentioned wanting to ride – – – sometimes (as a gesture of defiance against the RA, most likely, I have threatened to “go find ahorse to ride”. Well, it’s going to happen!! For our 45th wedding
anniversary, my husband has made reservations for a two-hour trail ride in Bandera, Texas on July 22nd! This is incredibly sweet of him on so many
different levels. He has ridden horses before, but I seriously doubt that he misses a repeat of the experience. He knows he’s going to be sore as hell
afterwards. He also knows that this is probably the most foolish activity I could undertake and that every part of my body will be extract a fee afterwards (making me rather poorcompany for awhile) . . . but he knows how much I want to try! Oh wow!

A Princess No More :(

Monday, June 25th, 2012

But then, I never truly was one , was I?

Still, when a huge part of my on-line life was suddenly stripped away ; when my contact with  people who are loving and supportive as well as creative ,imaginative,  playful  and encouraging abruptly disappeared, it left an aching hole in my heart!  These are people I may/may not have ever met in person, but I know their likes & dislikes, the names of their children and pets and what troubles them and pleases them.  They have unique personalities (some are chatty, others prefer to sit quietly and observe), and all of us have felt we were part of a very special, cohesive  group.  We Were!  We loved each other and cared about each other, understood when one of us was feeling lonely and ignored by RL (Real Life) loved ones or overwhelmed by RL problems!

When I was invited into GSOLFOT  (“Green Sock on Left Foot on Tuesday”. . . . . .it’s a long story!), there were “too many royal titles already granted”, so I adopted the title of  “GSOLFOT Contessa of Useful Bits, Bobs & Specks & Protector of the Roof Runners #%Z P.I., Office # 17″.  (Dashing my hopes of being a princess, but sounding rather lady-like.) Some members had much grander,more  elaborate titles and others had simpler ones, but we all had a wonderful time in our fantasy world (we adopted Neuschwanstein Castle as our ‘virtual clubhouse’!)  We shared miniatures we were creating , construction obstacles we encountered, workshops/studios we were attempting to carve out space for in our real homes,  and supported each other through serious illnesses, surgeries, chemo, loss of pets and deaths of spouses.  We also found time to see to the proper training of our pet dragons, made sure the various cats, raccoons & parrots (including my”Chunk”, aptly named after he took a good-sized bite out of a roving intruder) were well fed and cared for.  We had fun,  teased each other unmercifully, and were saddened when any one of us was sad.

There has been an ominous, troubling silence from the leader of this madcap Yahoo group (and owner of our web site “home”) for several months now, but none of us expected what we read when we turned on our computers this morning.  Just a tersely worded message saying “All over – all done.” No goodbye to those of us who thought we were her friends, no explanation – nothing. The web site is gone.  Suddenly, we are  adrift and alone, our titles stripped and the castle gate barred against us :(

 

 

 

 

Long Dresses & Tall Grass

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

With Stage 2 water restrictions in place and a humid high of 93 degrees predicted, I hauled my stiff and unwilling joints out the door at 7am, planning to water all three lawns, the sun & shade gardens, and the ever-expanding collection of potted flowers, foliage and herbs. (I have never met a gardening center I didn’t like – LOL!)  Stage 2 allows sprinkler use one day each week, beginning and ending in the pre-dawn hours; that might be doable with a in-ground sprinkler system, but we don’t have one. Hand-held (hose) watering is allowed at any hour, and I try to finish the task before the mercury climbs too high. This morning’s watering costume was a colorful floor-length (ergo grass-length) halter dress; totally unsuitable for a 64 year-old, but then I do not expect to wear it beyond the boundaries of my yard 😀

I gave the back lawn, sun garden, pots and shade/tropical bed (along with the hem of my dress!) a thorough soaking , and then took leave of whatever good sense I claim to have!  What I should have done is move to the front lawns. . . they were thirsty, too.  What I did do was put away the hose and grasp the pruning shears. We have a 40- 50 foot long wall of red-tipped photinias against our back fence; it provides shelter for white-wing & Inca doves, cardinals, blue jays, wrens, house sparrows, finches, pileated woodpeckers,  black-capped chickadees, titmice and starlings, momma squirrel and her two juvenile offspring  plus the odd grackle and mockingbird  –  a secure place to await their turn at the three feeders or birdbath or make up their minds to forage around the base of the feeders. However, the “bushes” are over two storeys high now, and many of the branches were extending well out beyond the feeders. into the yard.  As well fed as our adopted managerie is, they don’t need branch-bridges to reach the seed!  With pruning shears in hand, I set about trimming everything I could reach back to the boundary line.

The arbitrary boundary is the edging which our landscaper installed last year to separate the bushes & river rock from the lawn; apparently, there has been quite a lot of forward growth since Jesse and his team put that edging in place!  Crouching down repeatedly to tame the bottom branches quickly became a problem; my kneess and hips  announced that they would make me pay dearly if I did not stop immediately, and the water-line on my skirt climbed to knee level. The lower part of the dress was actually becoming quite heavy.  Bend down, prune branches, grab dress bodice, stand up – repeat for length of “hedge”.  Then I made a pass at everything from knee-level to eye-level. . . certainly less challenging (and painful), though I had to keep pulling my bodice up avoid ‘flashing’ the avian & rodent audience!  Tired, sore and with the temperature now in the high 8o’s, I went totally daft! “Everything from eye-level to full upward arm extension must be cut back.”  Do you have a picture of this idiocy in your mind?

This evening, I am confined to the sofa with a heating pad on my upper back and shoulders and an ice pack being shifted between right knee and left knee. It hurts when I try to reach my keyboard , even though it is sitting on my lap. However,  the bushes have been tamed (they look quite nice, actually) and the higher, out-of-reach branches form a very pleasing canopy. Will I try this again?  Not until I completely forget how much of me hurts right now!  Oh, the soggy & heavy dress coupled with over-the-head pruning?  Yes, the menagerie got flashed. . . . . several times!

Tomorrow. . . . the lawns need watering. Sigh!

 

Welcoming 2011 in the ER

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

We planned a quiet, laid-back New Year’s Eve; a home-cooked meal, a DVD and “maybe” staying up until midnight. Thomas (IV) had been fighting a migraine for two days, and truly only wanted peace, quiet & reduced pain; he retreated to his space after dinner, hoping sleep would help, and we decamped to our bedroom.

By 10:15 or 10:30pm, I had opted for sleep while Tom (III) was ready to watch the rest of the movie we’d started. I may have been asleep for 10 minutes when Tom woke me up. Thomas had made his way downstairs for help; he was cold and clammy to the touch, extremely pale and heaving up lunch/dinner/ et al. We arrived at the local ER around 11:45 pm and it took several exams and two doses of a medicine “cocktail” to make the nausea subside and the headache recede (not disappear). By 2 am on New Year’s Day, we were on our way home. Thomas was surely “seeing stars” through most of this, but it wasn’t the traditional (and illegal) fireworks being set off to celebrate the begining of 2011!

All is well now, except that his headache is still lurking like a beast ready to pounce. I’m hoping he got the last of 2010 out of his system and 2012 will be healthier for him! (Note:I must have still been tired when I wrote this! As Shannon pointed out, I’m hoping 2011 will be a better year for him!)

Physical therapy – that’s a surprise!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

 Before my follow-up appointment with the hand surgeon (today), I fussed and whimpered and fussed some more; the “brave Christy” simply went into hiding, leaving a complete coward in her place!  

 My last encounter with stitch removal was two years ago, when the male nurse (aka Attila the Hun!) removed all of the surgical wraps on both feet (including the ones which had adhered to the incision) briskly, efficiently and painfully.  He then proceeded to SCRUB the incisions with great zeal and particularly rough-textured gauze! I have a witness – I think the marks of my fingernails are probably still dimly visible on Tom’s left hand!  The actual stitch removal was done by a very sweet, empathetic nurse, but she still had to dig for stitches within a rather deep V-shaped  area on both  feet and somewhat overgrown by new skin. . . . every time it hurt too much for me to stay silent and stoic, I felt guilty for making her feel guilty about hurting me!  All of this, of course, was on my mind while Tom helped a very reluctant me to get dressed for The Appointment before he left for work.

The mystical, “magical gauze strip with important healing qualities”  hadn’t been removed when my neighbor (aka Ace Nurse) or I did my own dressing changes, mostly because it was obviously well adhered to the surgical site by the rather important red fluid that flows through my body!  I was fussing because I had mental images of the surgeon (or nurse) calmly ripping the “magic strip” off.  In point of fact, it was the nurse who did the deed, and then proceeded to dig around and remove twelve stitches before leaving me to my surgeon’s tender mercy.  OK – I  survived that, the  incisions looked good and I was sent off to physical therapy to be fitted with a ‘figure-eight’ brace and given a sheet of exercises to be done five-times daily.   (According to the surgeon, “We had to remove a lot of extraneous bone.”) and released to return to the therapist’s clinic on Nov.10th. 

Excuse me? (1) The center of said figure  8 brace rests across all three incisions, with no padding between brace and skin! 2) I can perform the range-of-motion exercises much better without this infernal appliance constantly shifting and 3)  “OK, Chris. . . .give it time. Calm down, do the exercises, breathe deeply  & give it time. . . . well, I’m trying, but. . . .!

Off with her head (erm, hand)!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

O.K., confession time. With the guys off at work all day and “The Hand” sending out post-surgical messages I cannot repeat in polite (or even semi-polite) society , my “plan” was to escape boredom and pain by napping as much as possible.   However,  my self-appointed ‘nurse cats’  have decided  it would be a good idea (and very helpful, of course) to keep the injured hand warm if I  happen to doze off!  This ‘good deed’ consists of either Diva or Cassidy draping their considerable weight over the elevated hand , centering themselves over the bandage, and falling into a deep, virtuous sleep! 

I’ve started fiddling around with the bandage. Hey! The surgeon did say we could move to a smaller bandage after 3 days!  I’ve  re-wrapped the Ace bandage several times and in several unorthodox ways , as well as cutting away a few parts of the ‘cotton batting’ which had become rather frayed and disreputable. None of this activity has produced much in the way of comfort or improvement :(   The biggest problem is that some subconscious portion of my brain has decided that the main discomfort is a result of having the ring finger firmly bound to the little finger by layers I’ve been way-too- chicken to delve into. (Actually, I had worked my way down to three layers of ‘cotton batting’, all of which are firmly attached to me by post-operative bleeding. Nope – no way am I fooling around with that!   By the time Tom arrived home from work, I had latched onto a much better plan; catch my delightful neighbor/Ace Nurse at home, if I could, and have her redo this whole mess, hopefully leaving only the ring finger bandaged!

I’m thrilled to report that the Ace bandage is now banished, best neighbor/nurse freed me from the layers of felt/batting/whatever and released the trapped little finger!  There’s a strip of “magical gauze with mystical healing  & anti-bacterial properties”  (that’s an extremely loose quote from Nurse Kathy) that she left in place directly over the incisions . . . . .I was rather relieved, as said strip seems to be firmly attached to me by the aforementioned bleeding!  Still, with a fresh gauze wrap and bright pink cohesive tape wrap, I’m feeling freer and somewhat stylish. LOL!

Good morning – rough evening!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Tom  and I had to report in at the surgical suite of The Hand Center of San Antonio at 6:00 this morning.  Ugh!  Granted, it didn’t give me a long time (thirsty and hungry) to wait or become nervous, but we were sure doing a lot of yawning!

Everything went like clock-work, and I’ve seldom met a warmer, friendlier group of clerks, nurses & technicians.  The in-take clerk (usually the worst of the “just-the-facts-ma’am, sign here..here…here, and there, “go sit and wait to be called” crew) was warm, welcoming, and even shunted some of the lengthy paper-work towards Tom to be filled out once she noticed that the pen & I were engaged in a small battle of wills.  (I try to have a Christy – friendly pen with me at all times, but I didn’t even bother to take a purse with me; just my ID, insurance card and med list.)

Pre-Op was fairly empty when I was taken back to be prepped. All of the nurses were sweet and “un-rushed” (If it isn’t a real word, it ought to be) and I drew Christy (yep!) as my prep-nurse. Went through the standard litany of questions (designed to avoid errors, so I don’t mind them at all!), but Christy didn’t employ the usual Drill Sargent approach :)  Got “comfortable” in my surgical gown (yeah, riiiiiight) and another nurse came along to start the requisite IV; lucked out again, as she slid the needle in and taped everything down without a twinge!  I was handed a marker and initialed the area Dr. Rust would be working on – LOL!  Met my anesthesiologist, who was a tad surprised to hear that all he’d be using the IV line for (aside from the standard Ringer’s Lactate) was a light bit of sedation; Dr. Rust & I had agreed on local injections at the base of the 2nd and 3rd fingers.

One of the pluses of avoiding general anesthesia is that I went straight from the OR to Level 2 Recovery, where I spent a very short time being monitored for wonky blood pressure (it does it every time!) and a little longer sipping dark roast coffee and sitting in a recliner before Tom came in to take me home! I was settled on our bed by 9:30 am.

That’s a good thing, because my surgeon encountered more than she expected.  After she removed the cyst, she found a large rheumatoid bony growth that had to be cut away (remember my “things can hide in x-rays” note a couple of posts back? Bingo!) . Hence, I apparently have a V – shaped incision instead of the small, straight cut she’d planned to make. It also means that the pain level is several notches higher than I expected; when bone-cutting is involved, it definitely ramps up the Ouch Factor!

I won’t be making miniatures for a couple of weeks, but I’ll feel better in a couple of days :)

Run up to surgery # . . . whatever!

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Back on September 1st, I met with Dr. Stace’ Rust about the knot/lump/whatever which has been forming on my left hand ring finger, palm-side and just below the first knuckle.  It has been growing for several months……..not actually sure how long, as I have a bad habit of trying to ignore “little things”, even when they get in the way of normal mobility or make tasks harder. (It’s called Surviving RA!)  I finally quit ignoring this one when it occurred to me that I might not be able to remove my wedding ring or engagement band without having them cut off  by a jeweler!  Tom accomplished the removal with liquid dish soap, a great deal of pulling and some mashing of the knuckle; that was enough to convince me I needed to find a hand surgeon!  ( The wizard who performed three reconstructive surgeries on my right hand, the last one several years ago, has since switched to the more lucrative field of plastic surgery!! )

During my mid- August appointment with my rheumatologist, I asked him who his favorite hand surgeon was.  I was lucky on several counts; her practice is located close-by, she was accepting new patients, and I could get an appointment with her relatively quickly!  At the first visit (Sept. 1st) , she had several x-rays taken to rule out a bone chip or other solid mass. Nothing there, except a rather crooked finger. (Take note . . . .things can hide from an x-ray!)  Examining the finger, she posited three possibilities; rheumatoid nodule, benign tumor or cyst.  We could confirm or rule out door number three by having her attempt to use the typical, rather large needle & syringe to drain it.  Yes, I let her – yes, it is a fairly uncomfortable procedure – yes, it was a cyst.  Caveat: it could still return, at which point we would need to discuss surgery.

September 2nd, when I removed the band aid, the cyst had refilled and enlarged a bit!  Rats!   Back to Dr. R’s ~ time to get me on the surgical schedule. I saw her on Sept. 13th and my calendar turned out to be much more of a problem then hers!  Sept. 17th-19th was the Society of American Miniaturists (SAM’s) Wonderful  Workshop Weekend. I was signed up for two workshops, haven’t been to a real Miniatures Show in over a year, this was the firs Workshop Weekend at the new Temple, Texas venue  and I  Was Going!  Sept.21st & 22nd were appointments I had already booked with medical appointments and  Sept. 24th was our last round-trip to Houston & Baylor University for follow-up on Tom’s injured left eye (we’re rotating him back to the excellent medical team here in San Antonio, and I was not going to make that drive in surgical bandages)!  Finally settled on October 21st, which sent me into an energy-draining quest to complete everything on my “You need two hands” list before the chosen date. I almost finished everything on the list, too!

Lots of good will and maybe one small spill*

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

(* With apologies to Dolly Parton, lyricist & singer – “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”)

SAS (San Antonio Shoemakers) hosted their 21st annual  Siesta Valley Ranch Walk today (10-9-2010, hosting thousands of participants at no fee.  T-shirts and a free bar-b-cue meal (with sides) await all those who arrive at the finish line. Participation in this event is a long- standing tradition in our Son-in-Law’s family; we were  introduced to this three mile (or six mile – hiker’s choice) walk/hike  through  beautiful ranch land in the Texas Hill Country three years ago. The vistas are gorgeous, the beautifully groomed horses make me ache to ride at least once more and the buffalo herd pastured along the walking course are simply majestic.  It is a working ranch, so the trails can be a bit rough, steep or rocky (or all three at once.) Also, as it is a working ranch, one needs to keep a sharp eye out for the cow patties while enjoying the cliff faces, valleys and lush green pastures , or face a good clean-up session :)

 My first ‘Ranch Walk’ (with Tom & Thomas,  joining three generations of Moores)  was o the 19th annual walk (2008) ~ for me, it was a blatant challenge to the double amputation surgery (already scheduled)    of all ten toes. All family members caravaned to the ranch (about 10 miles west of Medina, TX and started the walk together. I successfully completed the hike with my leg braces, cane and Tom’s sturdy arm, but I definitely slowed down the parade! 

2009 was the 20th Anniversary walk, and Tom III was the only Blackburn presence. Thomas was working an abysmal job with outlandish hours, and I just plain goofed!  I soooo much wanted this to be my “Victory  Walk” (post-surgery and extremely mobile), but had committed myself to being a facilitator at a  state-wide  Community Education convention before I knew the date of the Ranch Walk and felt obligated to keep my promise :( 

This year, all three Blackburns were able to attend, and we arrived at the ranch ahead of the Moore clan. Making the walk together (and watching rapidly growing grand-daughter Sara and her cousins enjoy the wide-open spaces while still within parental view)  are a special part of the walk, but I knew we needed to start the walk ahead of them. The surgery has done amazing things for my mobility, but I’m a bit wobbly right now and knew I would hold everyone else back.  Turned out that was a good plan. I handled rough terrain pretty well, kept a death grip on Tom on the loose & rolling gravel parts. . . .and about 2 miles into the walk (striding along on turf beside the main path) I took my mind off of what I was doing for a moment. Yep – flat out fall, stopped by my left ring finger catching on something (rock? tuft of turf? Who knows!) and my left arm!  Took a .5 inch by 3.5 inch strip of hide off of my left elbow and forearm, and bruised both knees!  That was the moment I was glad my Sara was somewhere behind us and unable to see Grandma do a wipe out! I got back up (with the help of both Toms and a gentlemen also sporting a cane (His comment was “If it hadn’t been you, it would have been me!” – sweet) and finished the final mile. . . . .then made a ‘pit stop’ at the on-duty ambulance for a clean-up and a gauze wrap to hide the messy patch from young Sara!  Fortunately, the relative size of a bandage hasn’t occurred to her yet, so it didn’t raise any alarms:)

I had a wonderful time, and the experience also convinced me that my legs & ankles are way too weak. It’s time to look into well planned physical therapy to turn this around! Oh, another HUGE treat. . . .Thomas won the dice toss at the end of the walk!  Since he is more a fan of younger-style footwear (and has no need of a purse), the certificate he received will buy me a much-need new pair of black SAS shoes!!!!  (They’re the only ones my orthotics will fit into!)