Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Photo Recap – part 1


Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 72, low 55)


Merikay had a good idea of doing a photo recap of her year.  I thought it was such a good idea that I decided to copy.  Thanks Merikay.



found us in the Tampa area for most of the month, but by the end of January we were on our way to the Florida Keys!

The picture below is a close up of a gator taken at the Oasis Visitor center off highway 41 in the Everglades.   We always stop there on the way to the Keys.

gator eye


was full of fun and excitement in the Keys.  We did some kayaking while the boat was in the shop having a brand new motor installed.  There is some really great kayaking in the Keys with lots of calm clear water.


Wonderful fried hogfish sandwiches!

Sparkey's Landing grouper

Spectacular sunsets in Key West at the famous Mallory Square.

Mallory Square, Key West 

Wonderful entertainment by the street performers on Mallory Square.

Mallory Square, Key West

Feeding the Tarpon at Bud n Mary’s Marina on Islamorada



Still in the Keys

The Frangipani are starting to bloom!


We spent a day walking around the beautiful Key West beaches.  We’re not ones to sit at a beach.

Higgs Beach, Key West

Sunset at Bahia Honda State Park.


some relaxing

Sunshine Key beach

Sunshine Key beach

And most importantly, in March we closed on our very own Rv lot in the Florida Keys!

It’s not fancy and it’s not on the water, but it’s in the Keys, and it’s all ours.  :)


Venture Out

Our patio view


Pretty nice sunsets here too.


Sunrises aren’t bad either.



Still in the Keys

The winds and seas calmed down allowing us to get out to the reefs for some fishing, boating, and snorkeling.




This is Nemo, a 300+ pound Goliath Grouper/Jewfish that lives on Looe Key Reef.  He’s quite a character.

300 pound jewfish

handsome, don’t you think?

300 pound jewfish


It was almost time to head back to Tampa, so we packed a lot into our last week or so in the Keys.

(this wasn’t us) but doesn’t it look like fun?



savoring the memories until the next year.



We’re back in Wesley Chapel (Tampa bay area)

We have some new friends in the back yard.



gopher tortoise



Although Tampa is not our favorite location, my family is here and we do have a pretty nice site to come back to.

ackyard at Quail Run

July finds us back in the north Georgia mountains, but I’ll save that for part 2.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Healing Continues


  (I’m writing this mostly as a reminder in case he has to have surgery again)    If you don’t want to hear about Al’s post op routine,  come back another day when things are more exciting…..

Wesley Chapel, Florida  (high 82, low 62)

We’ve survived the first few days post-op and things are  looking up on day 6.

Rotator cuff surgery is extremely painful.  They use metal anchors to attach the tendons to the bone. They shave and smooth bones, and they suture tendons.  Al had 4 different pain medications, and managing them has been a challenge. He was taking something or another every three hours, day and night. There is no way someone on that many drugs could keep track of all the medication on their own. 

He was hooked up to an ice machine the first two days and keeping it full of ice was a constant concern. Our Rv refrigerator icemaker couldn’t keep up.

Al has been very anxious to wean himself off the medications, because they make him so sleepy.  That was good for the first few days, but now he would like to be awake during the day. (looking over at him, he’s sitting there with his head down and dozing)  We’ve been slowly weaning him off the pain meds, making sure the pain has diminished enough and doesn’t get ahead of him.   For the life of me, I do not understand why drug addicts like these drugs.   If I was going to do drugs, I’d want something that would be fun and not knock me out like a zombie.

He cut way back on the pain meds a few days ago and stopped the Percocet on Friday.  I think today, he will will stop taking the Tramadol as well and be drug free.  If he starts to have any pain he can always taken something as needed.

Yesterday, we managed to get Mr. Stinky up and into the shower.  Yay!   It was tricky since there is a bandage that can’t get wet.  We managed to wash his hair and body without saturating he dressing.  He felt a lot better afterwards, but a little later in the day, he started feeling some shoulder pain, so I gave him a Celebrex.   Not long after that he started feeling flu like symptoms with a sore throat.  Normally, he would have taken Echinacea, but with all the drugs in his system, we opted to ride it out.   Later on, I went online to check side effects for all his meds and found flu like symptoms can a side effect from Celebrex.   He felt better later and hasn’t taken another one, so maybe that was the cause.   Just what he needs, something else to make him feel bad.   I hate him taking these drugs, but I am also glad they exist because the pain would have been so bad without them.

He had been wearing the same clothes he came home from the surgery center in, including socks.  We hadn’t looked at his feet (my bad) and were shocked to see how swollen his feet and legs were.   We don’t remember that happening on his last surgeries.  We had also noticed that he had had trouble urinating and after seeing his feet, we knew why….  it was all going to his feet.  :)  

I gave him a few vitamin C’s which can act as a natural diuretic.  We took a short walk around the campground and he came back home and had a really good pee!  Yay.   We thought we had the swelling figured out and the edema in his feet did seem to go down a little, but not all the way. 

Should we be worried?  Any ideas on how to reduce the swelling?  He seems to be urinating normally now. 

Another issue I am concerned with is that he has a rash on his right forearm.  It started Friday with a little itching.  Sound familiar?   We were so busy dealing with everything else, that we didn’t do much about it.  Yesterday it got worse and now there is a 3” by 4” piece of skin with an itchy swollen rash on it.

Of course, our first though was poison ivy.  He was swearing some sweatpants that he last wore in Georgia.  Could there have been a little poison ivy residue on them?   With Al, just walking by a poison ivy plant can trigger a reaction.   I always wash his clothing several times when he’s having a bout of poison ivy, but it’s possible these pants could have caused the problem. 

This lead me to read the warnings of his medications very carefully and what I read horrified me.  If there was a warning label on a carrot it would probably scare you to death.

One of the warning things was a red swollen rash which could be serious. 

The following is what I read on the label for the percoset/oxycodone :

A VERY BAD SKIN REACTION (Stevens-Johnson syndrome (toxic epidermal necrolysis) may happen.  it can cause very bad health problems that may not go away and sometimes death.  Get medical help right away if you have signs like red swollen, blistered or peeling skin with or without fever.

Well, that put the fear of God in me and I worried about it for quite a while.   We washed the area with Zanfel (a wonderful poison ivy wash) and then put on a layer of the cortisone cream the dermatologist prescribed.  The itching stopped.  We covered the rash, put the arm back in the sling and haven’t looked at it since.   I am afraid to look!

He has not other rash or itching area, so we’re hoping he is having a poison ivy reaction.


So….that’s been our week.   Anybody have any ideas about the edema or rash?   Anybody have any rash from taking Percoset or Oxycodone? 

Any suggestions to reduce the edema in his feet and legs?  I could call the doctor, but hate to bother them unless it’s urgent.  

Remind me to never have surgery during a holiday week!

I’ll be glad to see the doctor tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Taking Care of the Patient


We are postponing our Christmas festivities a few days until Al feels up to it.  Right now, he’s fast asleep in the recliner.

He had his 4th rotator cuff surgery yesterday, and the third on the right shoulder.  I don’t know why he keeps injuring it, but he does.

The doctor wasn’t sure he would be able to repair the shoulder again, but fortunately, although badly torn, there was enough tissue to reconnect everything.

He went into surgery about 8:30 and was done by 10:00 and we were on the way home sometime after noon.  We had gotten up at 3:30 to have time to shower and get to the surgery center by 6:30 am.  We got very little sleep the night before and it was a long day for both of us, so we were both tired. 

He is hooked up to an ice machine, which is a cooler with a motor and cables that pump ice water into a patch that is attached to his shoulder.  It’s supposed to help with swelling.  Of course keeping it full of ice when you have an Rv refrigerator is a challenge. 

They did a nerve block on the shoulder so there was no pain until it wore off about 5pm.  We have 4 types of pain meds and unfortunately, I don’t think we (I) administered them at the correct times and he started having some excruciating pain.   We learned after his first shoulder surgery that if the pain gets ahead of you, there is no catching up.   I didn’t want to spend another week-end like we did after his first surgery.  I was regretting having it done so close to Christmas since the Doctor would not be available.

Fortunately, we got the pain under control, but it started up again before the 6 hour wait time.  I ended up giving him more meds about an hour early and it seemed to help.

Once the pain was manageable, he was able to sleep and has pretty much slept all yesterday, last night, and today.   I wake him up to change the ice, give him medications, or food, but other than that he’s pretty much been asleep.

He is sleeping in his recliner.  He has enough trouble getting out of the recliner, so we don’t think the bed is an option. Plus we don’t want him rolling over on the shoulder in his sleep.

I ended up sleeping on the couch next to him, because I wanted to be close if he needed me.  I was up umpteen times during the night giving him meds, and fixing things for him.  I was pretty tired today and napped off and on all day.

So…’s a fun Christmas Eve here at the Lueck household.  That’s okay though, because if the pain was real bad, he wouldn’t be able to sleep.


There is a new movie coming out tomorrow I think.  Do they actually have movie theaters open on Christmas Day?   It’s called Unbroken.  It’s a true story about a young man who was an Olympic runner, and ended up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  Al and I both read the book and loved it so much we’re reading it again, and plan to go to the theater to see the movie.  We very rarely go to a movie theater, but we just might go see this one.  I think the movie would be better if you read the book first.


Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wish Us Luck


Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 80, low 70)

It’s been a busy few weeks.   Things will be slowing down for us after today because Al will be completely incapacitated for at least a few days, and will have 3 months of physical therapy.

Today is his third rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder.   The doctor is not optimistic that there is enough tissue left for a successful repair.   We’re a little concerned.    If this doesn’t work, the only other option is a reverse partial shoulder replacement….whatever that means.  I’m not quite understanding how that would work with the damaged tissue, but I guess if/when the time comes, I’ll be doing some reading on the subject.

So, we’re off to the surgery center this morning.  Wish us luck.  He has the first surgery of the day, so we were happy about that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sometimes You Get a Deal



Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 62, low 38)


Our warm weather has ended and another cold front has moved into central Florida.  We don’t mind though. At least the sun is shining.

We’ve been busy but have done absolutely nothing fun or picture worthy.  We went to the dermatologists office for our annual skin check.  Al wanted to also talk to him about the poison ivy he has been plagued with for weeks.

The doctor wasn’t convinced Al’s rash was poison ivy.  He gave him some sort of cortisone cream in a large jar.  He said it could be some sort of allergy and that if it didn't clear up, to come back and they could biopsy the skin to get a better determination.    The cream seems to be working very well and Al has finally gotten some relief from all the itching. 

After we left the doctors office, we stopped by the camera repair shop where my beloved little Cannon SX 50 HS waits repair.   I bought that camera in May of 2013.  I made the mistake of not buying an extended warranty, which would have been very inexpensive at Sam’s Club where I bought the camera. 

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Review  Goldilocks Dream Camera

Sometime last summer, shortly after the warranty ran out, the camera died.   Canon was no help and estimated the repair cost at nearly what I paid for the camera.  Once we got back to Tampa,  I found a reputable local camera repair guy, who felt it could be repaired for less than $200, but it turns out Canon doesn’t sell the new lens assembly that we need.  I don’t why, and I’m not happy with Canon about this.  If I didn’t love this camera so much and if there was anything else comparable, I would not give Canon any more of my business.

We decided to go to Target to look at the newer and better version of the camera, the Canon SX60 HS.  It has a better and more powerful zoom lens and better processor. It was on sale for $499.   At this point, we were running out of options and no other brands of cameras have the super powerful zoom (stalker) lens of the Canon.

It turned out that Target had one display SX 50 Hs camera left, which is the same as my damaged camera.  They weren’t sure they could sell the display camera, but we got a manager involved and got the camera for a great price of  $214!  That’s about what the estimated repair would have been if we had been able to get the part we needed.   Yes, we bought a 2 year extended warranty for $30.  I’m sure I’ll end up with the SX60 at some point, but for now I have my favorite camera back…..with an extended warranty.  Sometimes you get a deal!

Lesson learned.  Buy an extended warranty.  Electronics aren’t made like they used to be and I’m hard on them.


Al is scheduled for his rotator cuff surgery next week.   It’s not going to be a fun Christmas for us this year, but at least it will be done and we can get him healthy enough to go to the Keys.  He will need some physical therapy. We’re not sure how long that will take, or when he will be able to function enough to do what he needs to do to get the motorhome to the Keys.   Our departure date is up in the air right now, but since our Rv lot is rented through January, we can’t go before then anyway.  We’re hoping for early February, but as always that depends on my Mom.

In the meantime, we’re dreaming about the Florida Keys.




Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Sometimes, Things Are Put in Perspective


Wesley Chapel, Florida


We rarely have time for any fun when we’re back in Tampa, and this time is no exception.  I have been busy trying to  find some ways to help my mother with her daily life.  She will be 85 this month and is needing more assistance.

We signed her up for Meals on Wheels.  It’s only $4.75 a meal and she gets a nice hot meal delivered every day.  It takes some of the pressure off me and my brother.

After the last outing to the doctor, we decided to get her a “rollator.”     She’s pretty stable at home, but when we take her out of the house, she’s pretty wobbly.  I found a brand new rollator on Craig's List for only $60.   That’s one nice thing about living in Florida….lots of cheap stuff for the elderly.  Hugo Portable Rollator Walker with Seat  Backrest and 8 Inch Wheels  Blue  Health   Personal Care

We’re considering getting her one of those lift recliner chairs that gives you a boost when you get up.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many in the furniture stores that you can actually look at.  They can be ordered but who wants to buy a chair without trying it out first.

I recently became aware of the possibility of an additional financial benefit for Mom from the VA.  Many of you know Howard and Linda from Rv-Dreams.  

Howard recently wrote up an extremely helpful blog post about elder care, with links to many resources.  Read about it HERE.  Much of his post was geared to benefits for veterans and their spouses, but there is some information for elder care.

My Father was in the military during wartime, although he was never in combat.  When he died Mom was able to have his death considered to be service connected, so she got some additional financial benefits.

After reading Howard’s  blog, I learned that as a widow of a Vet, she may be entitled to some additional compensation for “aid and attendance”.   Of course, dealing with the VA is going to be a challenge.  I’m trying to get my ducks in a row if she should need to be moved to an assisted living facility in the future.  The average cost of assisted living care is $3700 a month.

So…..that’s what we’ve been doing, mixed in between annual doctors appointments for us.


Something happened yesterday that really brings home what is important and what isn’t.

Last week, when we went over to the beach, I bought a cute pair of crab earrings from the visitor center gift shop.  They were only $12, but I liked them.

Yesterday, we went  to Walmart.  I wore my new earrings for the first time and Al even complimented me on how cute they were.

While shopping, Al noticed one earring was missing.   We felt pretty sure I lost it in Walmart, so we retraced our steps in the store with no luck finding the earring.  We even went back to the truck, but still didn’t find it.  We kept looking as we finished our shopping, but had pretty much given up hope.

I was a little upset, but kept reminding myself it was only $12 and I could buy another pair if I wanted, but I really liked those earrings.

As I was looking down towards the floor, I looked up one aisle and noticed a man with two artificial legs standing next to the freezer cooler.  As I looked up, I also noticed he also had a prosthetic arm.  Wow.  That stunned me.  This guy had three missing limbs.  I assumed he was the Marine from Tampa that was injured by an IED while in Afghanistan in 2011.  A few charities got together and built him a special custom built home, and he was all over the news a year or so ago.  It appears he is doing pretty well and I was glad to see him standing there grocery shopping like everyone else.

Boy, that puts the missing earrings in perspective, doesn’t it?

He was standing tall and straight on metal legs.  It stunned me and immediately brought tears to my eyes.  

I saw no wheelchair.  He was walking and functioning with three prosthetic limbs.  I was surprised at how tall he was and that he had such great posture.

If I hadn’t been looking down at the ground for my earring, I might have never noticed. This man was functioning so well with so little.

I found Al and told him about what I saw.  We decided my lost earring was not important at all, but almost as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I looked down and there was my lost earring.  It was in the same area that  I had already searched twice.   I think the Marine was my good luck charm!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Unusual Finds at the Beach


Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 80, low 62)


We’ve had several days of perfect weather,  so we decided to make a trip to the beach. We hadn’t seen the ocean for many months.

On Tuesday, we thought about going out to Big Bend power plant to see the manatees, but changed our mind and ended up at Honeymoon Island.  Most of this is owned by the state of Florida.  They had talked about putting a campground there, but there were too many people protesting.  It would have actually made a nice campground.  Not along the water, but there is quite a bit of scrub land that would have been perfect without much impact on the environment, I would think.  It would have been popular, for sure.  It will probably happen one day.

Map picture


It’s a beautiful place with a nice visitor center with two very nice volunteers.

The island is being eroded from the ocean currents, so they are doing some beach re-nourishing.  The beach is rocky because the sand keeps washing away.  They keep adding more sand, but nature has it’s own idea of where it wants the sand.

Honeymoon Island

It’s still a beautiful beach with a nice trail called  The Osprey Trail.  It actually should be called Poison Ivy Trail,  because that was the first place Al had picked up poison ivy since he was a little boy.  We walked the trail on New Years day one year many years ago and he got a raging case of the stuff.    We decided not to walk the trail the other day, since he’s still battling the current rash.

We hadn’t seen an armadillo in a long time.


It was a beautiful day for the beach.

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island

There weren’t too many people, but everyone seemed to be having a good time with near perfect weather.

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island

The usual seabirds.

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island terns

terns on Honeymoon Island

We enjoyed a few hours at the beach and had such a good time, that the next day, we decided to head over to Tarpon Springs and Fred Howard Park.

No rocky beach here.

Fred Howard Park beach

Fred Howard Park beach

We sat in the truck a few minutes looking at this view while we ate our lunch.

Two couples parked next to us and were outside taking turns taking pictures of themselves.  They spoke Spanish and we’re guessing were visiting from another country.  They  were kind of dressed up for the beach with both women wearing heels. 

After a few minutes, I asked them if they would like me to snap a photo of the 4 of the together.  I took a few pictures of them with this background, then they walked off.  I didn’t think they’d go down to the water with the way they were dressed, but shortly afterwards, we spotted them down near the water.

They were still taking pictures of themselves, but I was pretty far away (used a zoom here) so I didn’t offer to take any more pictures of the four of them together.

Fred Howard Park beach

I wondered about the high heels, but soon I spotted them sitting in the sand.  It was the strangest think I’ve ever seen at the beach, and I’ve seen some unusual things!

It made me laugh.

Fred Howard Park beach

This beach wasn’t too crowded and everyone was enjoying themselves.  I hope this guy didn’t catch any flies.

Fred Howard Park beach

This guy had the coolest octopus kite.


Can you see it’s eyes?

Fred Howard Park beach octopus kite

We walked all around and met a nice gal from New York. 

The day could not have been prettier.

Fred Howard Park beach

This is Anclote Key, which was one of our old stomping grounds when we used to have a boat here.  We would go offshore about 24 miles, do a few dives, then come back to Anclote for some relaxing time.  This is the back side of the island.  The front side was beautiful white sand beach.  We saw a pair of eagles on the beach there a few times.

Anclote Key

We enjoyed walking around and seeing all the beauty of the beach.

Fred Howard Park beach

sea oates

This starfish had washed up on the sand.  We think he was dead, but Al threw him back into the water, just in case.




After  waking around a few hours, I mentioned how nice it was not to have to pay for parking like at so many beaches.  About that time Al noticed this big sign.

Uh oh


After we saw this sign, we noticed a bunch of others that we had somehow missed.  How we missed all these signs, I don’t know.

We hurried back to the truck, expecting to see a big fat ticket on the windshield.

We got lucky.

no ticket

Instead of paying $5 to park for the rest of the day, we cut our losses and headed home.

Over the causeway.

causeway leading to Fred Howard Beach

We wish we were in the Keys, but since the lot is rented, it would be a little crowded anyway!   Hoping to go in February, but as usual, we’re not holding our breath.