Saturday, November 29th, The Ballet

We attended the Dallas Ballet’s production of Nutcracker. Of course, the reason for doing this was our beautiful granddaughter was dancing in it. She was on stage for about 1/2 hour in the beginning as a ‘house guest’ was one of the horsemen and a clown. She was incredible (of course) and danced beautifully.

However, Balanchine is turning over in his grave! Ben Stevenson, the artistic director of the Dallas Ballet, must have been tippling a little much of the nog. The toy soldiers came out of a large cabbage with beets and wheat growing from the sides. And there were Angels! They introduced Clara to the candy land and bakers. When did Clara die? Really? Ben, Ben, come on……you shouldn’t take liberties like that. But, then to change some of the important choreography…….that was going too far. Yes, Balachine is spinning. Ben has re-written the entire book to his liking. For me, Nutcracker is a tradition. It hasn’t been modernized or updated in the past 100 years. It doesn’t need it! Look at the characters with the big wigs and dresses. This is NOT an updated, new, version. You can do whatever you want to your ‘Nutty Nutcracker’, but leave the original alone.

We had a wonderful family dinner after the performance. Everyone was there, again, to watch Tatum dance, so it was one last chance to see everyone before we come back for Christmas.

Yesterday was a day for us to relax and for me to sit with my feet up. I needed that. My feet, ankles and legs look horrible. I sat in my wheelchair at the ballet with my feet in Michael’s lap. It helped a little, but they need more time up in the air. I’m going to call my massage therapist in the morning and see when she can come over to work on my legs. Yes, they are THAT bad!

We leave in the morning. Before we leave, we’ll make our reservations for Christmas. Maybe while we’re here we will get the creative boy genius to finish the installation of the furniture. It will be a nice Christmas present to have it done.

This was a completely uneventful trip (except for the run-in with the iron fence) so there wasn’t much to report as far as Coach and Toad are concerned. Until next time………….

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Thursday, November 27th, Thanksgiving Day

We had a perfectly delightful Thanksgiving lunch at the home of Matthew’s parents, Danny and JeanAnn, in Justin, Texas. There was way too much food. We all overrate, but it was all delicious. Almost everyone was there. The only absentee members were Gramma Bill, who is 94 years old (I think) and her daughter who is her caregiver. Other than that, we had a full table.

We only had one small disaster. It happened yesterday as we were pulling into the RV park. After we registered, we had to turn in a fairly tight circle to get back to the entrance. In trying to turn this rig, with Toad attached, Michael was watching Toad in the left side mirror. He wasn’t watching the right side mirror as closely. Consequently the right side mirror got up close and personal with a metal fence. Just the slightest little scrape on the mirror. He wasn’t going very fast, so it wasn’t very bad, but he is still quite upset about it. There are several small ares he wants to have ‘cleaned up’ from other close encounters, so Coach may be spending some time at the repair shop. Or at least the body shop. The body work and paint job we had done several months ago looks really bad. The paint is flaking, so it was going in, anyhow. Now is a good time to get the rest of it done.

There are other things. Like the night shades. The motors work on a sometimes basis. In checking the Entegra forums, Michael found out this is not an uncommon problem. One man has replaced (to the tune of $135 EACH) 14 motors. He was bragging that he had the replacement process down to under 30 minutes. It’s not an easy job.

i’ve been going through cupboards and cleaning things up, sorting things out, figuring out what can go and what can stay. We are finally finding out what we use and what is not necessary. When you buy glasses they come in sets of six or eight. We don’t need that many, so I’m freeing up space. It’s definately better. Once we finally bring Coach back to the creative genius, we should be in great shape as far as storage.

I’ve had several people ask if we were going to have the desk installed during this visit. The short answer is “No”, not this trip. The furniture is supposedly ready to be installed. We could do it. We have the time, tomorrow, to do it. But, after talking if over, we decided that cleaning everything up and trying to put all the milk crates, our current storage system, away just wasn’t on the schedule this time. Instead of rushing and trying to squeeze that in, over a Holiday weekend, wasn’t what we wanted to do. This is a family weekend, not a work weekend. We can come back up after the Christmas Holidays.

So we’ve had a great day. Good food, great people and a wonderful time. I hope everyone had an incredible Thanksgiving feast and enjoyed family and friends!

Wednesday, November 26th, Thanksgiving Weekend

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We have loaded Coach, hooked up Toad and are headed north to Dallas for Thanksgiving with the kids and grandkids. WOOHOO!!!!

i can’t tell you how close we came to NOT being able to make this trip. First was Michael’s job. Why does it constantly have to interfere with our travel time? Oh, yeah, now I temember, that’s how we pay for all this. He keeps reminding me. After some rearranging, re-scheduling and changing, he was able to get Wednesday off. We pulled out of the driveway at 11:00 a.m., headed down Wagon Trail towards the toll road.

But, the bigger stumbling block was me. As usual. Last Saturday I had a complete system shutdown. I woke up at my usual time, 4 a.m., but decided to go back to bed. Bad choice. I should have gotten up, had my pain meds and started drinking water, like I ueualy do. Unfortunately I was on the verge of being dehydrated. Because I take a strong diuretic to help keep the fluid off my legs and feet, I have to drink gallons of water, daily, to replenish my body. Going for several hours, while sleeping, means I’m not getting any fluids. Hence, the dehydration. On top of that, I was cold, so I pulled the covers tight around me and went back to sleep.

When Michael woke up, several hours later, at 8:00, he tried to wake me. I was unresponsive and completely unable to move. Dehydrated and overheated I had gone into complete system shutdown. He tried to get me into the wheelchair and to the bathroom. When he realized what was happening he made the two phone calls that saved me. First he called Vickie. As soon as he told her what was happening, she made a U-turn in the middle of Jones road and was at the house minutes later. Then he called Heidi. As soon as she heard his voice, she said, “I’m on my way!”

With the three of them they were able to get me back in bed, uncovered, under a fan and drinking fluids. Vickie headed to the clinic for everything she would need to do a urinalysis. She thought my high fever (101.6) was due to a bladder infection. As it turns out, it wasn’t an infection, my core temp was just that high from being dehydrated and getting all warmed up under the covers. I’m unable to regulate my body temperature.

I was lucky this time. The last time, in February, when this happened, they called 911 and took me to the hospital. That was when I was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia (which we now know was not what was wrong) and I left the hospital AMA, against medical advice, when they obviously didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat it. I hesitate to accuse them of trying to kill me. I don’t think they TRIED, it was just happening. I really belive what happened last time, was exactly what happened this time. But, we caught it, treated it and I didn’t go to the hospital. Now we know.

But, the upshot of this Saturday episode was a serious swelling, fluid, in my legs and feet. The fluid retention was so bad, my abdomen and chest were swollen, also. By Saturday evening I was better. By Sunday, much better. By carefully regulating my Lasix and fluid intake I was able to get the fluid off my body so by Tuesday night I was back to normal. Well, as normal as I get. We were going to Dallas.

The trip up was uneventful…….almost uneventful. I loaded stuff into bags in the house. Michael took the bags to Coach and put things away. Well, almost. He hot some things in the right places, but this part is usually my job. I should have made a quick trip through Coach before we pulled out. I didn’t.

When we got to the Traders Village RV Park (we’ve stayed here before) I discovered what had not been put up (some refrigerated items) and what hadn’t been secured properly. The bathroom cabinets hadn’t been closed and there were things scattered everywhere. Once we got the slides out and I was able to get everything cleaned up, it was time to find something to eat. We went to a Mexican place where we had eaten before. Ate way too much, like always with Mexican food, but it was good.

So, we are settled in. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We are going to Matthew’s parents house. They are hosting the dinner. We are eating early, noon, so Griffin and Matthew can leave for Austin. Griffins BFF is in Austin and he is spending a few days with him. We are here to watch Tatum dance with the Dallas Ballet production of ‘Nutcracker’ on Saturday. We’ll leave for home on Sunday.

More tomorrow!

November 3rd, The Doctor Visit

Several people have emailed me asking about my visit to the doctor today.

I saw Dr. Hutton, the head of the Maxine Messinger MS Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine, here in Houston. Over 30 years ago, when I was first diagnosed, I was under the care of Dr. Victor Rivera, who subsequently became the first head of the Maxine Messinger Clinic. I last saw him in 2011 when he retired and turned me over to Dr. Hutton. At that time he told us I was a secondary progressive MS patient and there was nothing in the United States for me. He suggested we go to Isreal to see a doctor about a stem cell treatment being used in Isreal that did not involve chemotherapy and the destruction of the immune system. We contacted this doctor’s office. His nurse gave us all the prerequisites and we made the appointment. Two weeks before we were to leave, they contacted us and said the study had been terminated. They would let us know when, or if, they ever re-started the study. That was three years ago. We haven’t heard a peep.

Todays visit was to see if any new research was being done and if there were any studies using secondary progressive MS patients that I might qualify for. We spent well over an hour discussing all my options with Dr. Hutton. First, let me say, he agreed with me upping the dose of prednisone/steroids to control my symptoms. He also agreed that had I stopped the prednisone I would be bedridden with just a few weeks and probably dead of aspiration pneumonia within six months. Our assessment of a five year life span was correct, too. The only thing he wanted to change was for me to have a regular series of blood tests as a baseline and to monitor my condition. No talk about lowering the dose or stopping it.

After talking and going over my chart (they found all three charts! Together the stack was 6″ tall. He had documentation of every drug I had taken, every clinical trial I had been in. Quite impressive!) the conclusion hasn’t changed. The only that HAS changed is my age. And my age is what changes the options. There is one clinical trial going on right now using Tysabri for secondary progressive patients. The results are not very promising in the early stages of the study, but, most important, the patients in the study are younger. I’m way over the age limit. The drug is being saved and tested in younger people who have a chance at a longer life span if the drug slows or stops the disease. I completely understand this. There are no other studies currently being done.

We talked about stem cells. I have stem cells banked, here in Houston, with a company called CellTex. CellTex ran into trouble with the FDA 2 years ago for noncompliance with FDA rules and regulations. There were concerns about sterility and proper handling of the stem cells. The FDA shut their operations down in the states. If I want my stem cells I have to go to Mexico to have them infused. And we have no guarantee I would be getting MY stem cells or someone else’s. I could be getting sterile water for all I know. There is no way to test the liquid to find out what it is, if it is, in fact stem cells or to whom those mystical cells belong. The money spent on that endeavor went down a rat hole. I paid the $150 ‘storage’ fee at CellTex this year just in case Dr. Hutton thought there might be a  way to obtain and use them. I will not be paying that fee for next year.

I do not qualify for Dr. Huttons stem cell study for two reasons. First, again, is my age. Second is the use of chemotherapy to wipe out the immune system. I’m too old and too fragile to have the chemo. That alone would kill me. I believe the cure, if they ever find it, will involve stem cells. Dr. Hutton agrees, but it will be too late for me. Everything happening in the research for finding a way to control MS is 8-9 years off. That’s NOT a cure, just the beginnings of trials for drugs that might slow or stop the progression of the disease.

There is nothing here, in the states, or overseas, that I qualify for or would be able to tolerate. This visit confirmed what we already knew, but it also served to get me on Dr. Huttons radar in case something did come up. He did not hold out much hope in that regard, again because of my age. His office staff, all the different social and case workers came in to meet me and let me know what services they could offer to help us make our house (and Coach) better suited for my increasing disability and help us ease into end of life decisions. Nobody does it better. These trained professionals have been helping MS patients for years. They know all the loopholes. The main goal is to make me as comfortable as possible with as few hospitalizations as possible.

Everyone was amazed at what changes and improvements we had already made and how well I was still doing, in particular to remodeling the house. We didn’t use an ADA certified contractor when we remodeled a few years ago. Instead it was me, Michael and a wonderful group of people from Smith & Smith Construction that worked out every problem and detail to make our home more accessible for me. I still call on David Smith when something needs to be done. Between the two of us we have made, according to these trained professionals, all the right choices. My home is as close as possible to ADA compliant. I probably have more special ‘hidden’ little tricks in this house than most MS or disabled people have. And the price was much better! They were impressed. Kudos to David and his team!

I will spend a little time today setting up a link, through the clinics system, for questions or problems so I don’t need to see Dr. Hutton until my next scheduled appointment in one year. Once that is done they can reach me with any information the doctor feels I need and I can ask questions of him or his myriad of staff members as needed. As usual, after you leave the doctors office you remember all the things you wanted to ask. I had ALMOST everything written down, but I do still have a few questions. I can ask them through this portal.

One neat thing. I have an iPad. Everyone knows about NewEye. On NewEye I have a program for making notes. I have one titled ‘Medictions’. When I started it, I also wrote down a brief medical history in chronalogical order. Every time my medications change, or I see a doctor, have tests, surgery, anything, I write it down and add the current date. The Clinic sent me a long questionnaire when we made thus appointment. All throughout this questionnaire I would write ‘See Attached’ and I made a copy of my ‘Medications’ note and attached it. The doctor and his entire staff mentioned this list. They were so impressed. Again, something we had come up with they hadn’t thought of. However, to take it one step further, the doctor wants me to get an electronic medical alert bracelet that I can download all this information to. It has be be one I can update as needed. Most of what I have seen are a one time bracelet. You download your medical problem, the doctors name and number and contact information. I need one that is slightly more sophisticated. If anyone knows where to find one, that would be very helpful. Oh, yeah, since I’m going to be wearing this thing all the time, ugly isn’t an option. I do love the bling.

So, good news/bad news. Good news, we have made some correct choices. Bad news, there isn’t anything left to do. But, like all of you have reminded me, over and over, I’m a fighter, I’ve outlived all the predictions so far. Who’s to say I won’t still live to the ripe old age of 83, which was Dr. Rivera’s prediction 35 years ago!

AN ADDENDUM: Strangely enough I got a phone call this morning from CellTex, taking a ‘survey’. A follow-up on my stem cell procedure. The first question was, “Do you feel you recieved any benefit from your stem cell infusion?” Before he could list the multiple choice answers, I responded with a resounding, “NO!!”. After answering his 4-5 questions I told him I really believed the cure for MS will, in the future, come from stem cells, just not using the CellTex protocol. I was quite specific in telling him I was upset that I could not get MY cells, banked here in Houston (so we are told), but I had to go to Mexico, where it isn’t safe, for the infusion. I also asked how I could verify these were, indeed, MY stem cells, not someone else’s, or just sterile saline. He said he was going to have someone from their human resources department call me and talk to me about my ‘concerns’. He wasn’t qualified to answer my questions. I’m sure this was nothing more than a coincidence, but, isn’t it strange how things happen? I’ll let you know when, or even if, I hear back from CellTex, and the ensuing conversation.

November 2, Home

You would think, after doing this traveling thing, that I would know better than to post anything about the trip until we were home, safe and sound. Home safe. The sound part is debatable. Seems on Thursday, right after we left, the gas company turned off the gas to replace the old meter. Because we weren’t home, they couldn’t turn the gas back on and relight the water heaters. So, in all their litigious wisdom, they put a strange, 1/2″ lock on the meter so we couldn’t turn the gas on. It is now Sunday night. The Hispanic gentleman answering the after hours calls at the contractors office, who couldn’t speak enough English to get the address correct, finally said someone would call tomorrow……..maybe……..

Michael finally played the handicap card. Me? That would have been the first word out of my mouth. It’s hard enough WITH flowing hot water, to take care of me. Without it everything gets much harder. About an hour later the phone rings. An unknown name. Could it be? We answer. “This is the gas company. I’ll be there in 23 minutes.” I guess his GPS told him it was going to be 23 minutes. I should have timed him. I was just thrilled he was actually coming out!

In less than 1/2 hour the doorbell rang. A delightful young man unlocked the new gas meter, re-lit all the pilots, checked everything and was gone in under 20 minutes. Kudos to CenterPoint Gas for showing up and doing their job on a Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. This was a first for us and any Houston utility company.

We had hot showers on Monday morning. NOW we are home safe and sound. The only things left to do is mail out the prize shirt to the winner of the ‘Name The Green M&M Lady’ contest and the white elephant gift to the first person to mention the connection between the name of this blog and The Wind In The Willows. Thanks, ladies, I’ve enjoyed playing this game with you. Stay tuned. There will be another contast about something else on our next trip.

November 2nd, Day Four, Leaving Canton

We are headed home today. It’s been a nice, long, weekend for the three of us. We shopped the entire time, but none of it was that frantic, get-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn shopping. We just took it slow and easy, starting when we wanted and going very slowly. This is really the only way I can do it and Ollie was very understanding about it.

And it did her a world of good, too. Because we used the scooter she was able to stay off her feet and still get to see everything she wanted to see and go everywhere. Her feet have become so painful she (and I) knew she could not walk this terrain for very long. The pavilion areas have concrete floors and, once off the paved aisles the rest of the booths are on ground. Everything goes up and downhill, on rocky, uneven dirt. Without the scooter she would not have ended the weekend being able to walk or stand for the rest of the week. After all, both Michael and Vickie have to go to work in the morning. Michael gets to sit for most of his day, but Vickie will have to be on her feet continuously to see clients and for whatever surgery she has to do. Being a vet isn’t an easy job. I’ve been telling her for years the scooter is the only way to shop. I think I made a convert out of her.

Daylight savings time this morning gives me an extra hour. I’ve been up since 4:00 a.m., just taking meds and drinking my coffee. I have my feet propped up on my ‘foot’-stool, with my quilt over my legs. I’m pointed towards the fireplace, so the warmth from that goes up under the quilt. I’m nice and toasty warm. Lovely way to begin my day.

It will be oatmeal, fruit and scones for breakfast this morning. Michael wants to get that mushroom stool from the home decor store, Paul Michael’s, and Vickie wanted to make one more tour through to see if she missed anything yesterday. We really found more there than at First Monday.

When we first got here, on Thursday, we almost missed the entrance to the resort. They had added another building to the first store, over 30,000 square feet, and the small road leading into the resort was overshadowed by the parking lot. We wanted to know what this store was all about because the entire time we’ve been here the parking lot has been crammed to overflowing! Almost the same parking situation as First Monday! We were intrigued. I’m glad we checked it out. We found some great buys. They have a lot of merchandise and the prices were very competitive. So Vickie and MIchael will go back this morning and I will stay here and get the inside of Coach ready for the trip home.

We left the RV park just after noon, headed to Athens and I-45 towards Houston. About 2 seconds before we got to Corsicana, Michael said he wanted me to find a place to eat. This army marches on its stomach. Happy stomachs make for happy people. But, come on, 2 seconds notice? I found a place on the interweb and told him where it was. He shrugs and says, we’re past Corsicana. Find something in Fairfield. GGGRRRRRRRR!!!!

If you’ve ever driven between Houston and Dallas you know where Fairfield is. It isn’t very big, but is just about the only town with any eating establishments. Everybody who drives this stretch knows about Sam’s and Gilberto’s. I wanted something else. Sam’s used to be good, I don’t think Gilberto’s has ever earned that distinction. Sam’s isn’t any good anymore. Certainly there was some competition in town. I found a listing for ‘Something Different’, called American Cuisine. Fairfield is a small town. Maybe 5,000 people. Maybe. The menu for ‘Something Different’ was 5 pages long. Everything from crab salad to hamburgers and Mexican food. Five pages. How bad could it be? It was rated #3 in Fairfield. Off we went.

When we drove past, looking for big rig parking, the blah, cinder block, squat, dun-colored building had a few cars out front. It was right next door to Sam’s. If we walked in and we didn’t like what we saw, we could go right over to Sam’s. I was in a tee shirt with shorts, no make up. Really tacky looking. I grabbed Cindy’s Choice, my quilt, put it over my lap, made a joke about us drooling veggies and how people loved to talk to me, and away we rolled, across the parking lot, to ‘Something Different’.

By the time we got to the front door there wasn’t a car in sight. We thought they had closed, but, no, they were open, empty, but open. There is a very small counter in front of you as you walk in. It looks like they might have had barstools at some time in the very distant past, but those are gone now. All seating is done at the 10 booths that line the walls. Dark, not very bright and cheery. Not exactly sparkling clean, either, but not dirty…….exactly…..we commandeered a booth. We had our choice. There wasn’t a soul in that place. We started laughing. The sign on the wall said, ‘Lots of People Have Eaten Here. None Have Died’. We were encouraged. If none had died, we felt safe. By now all three of us had tears running down our faces. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t talk.

A very nice young lady came over immediately to ask about drinks. Michael and Ollie got unsweetened iced tea. I played it safe and asked for water, lots of ice and lemons. Our drinks arrived in short order as we perused the lengthy menu (5 PAGES!!!!) two iced teas hit the table, followed by my ice filled glass of water. Just as I started to remind her about the lemons, she carefully set a squeeze bottle of Real Lemon next to my water. All three of us almost choked trying not to laugh out loud! There is a first time for everything.

When she asked if we were ready to order, we ALL decided to play it safe. Michael got a chicken fried steak. Something he always orders. Like a test recipe. Poor choice, but, he had to try. Vickie had the BLT with chips. Can’t go too wrong with that. I got the cheeseburger. I also asked for french fries and onion rings to share.

Our meal came out very quickly as we continued to look around and laugh at what a poor choice I had made. The food arrived quickly. Everything was served hot, plates overflowing. It all looked good. The burger was huge, with a big, thick burger patty. It didn’t look pre-frozen. It was too thick. Vickie’s BLT was good with thick rashers of bacon. The only thing that failed was the chicken fried steak. Which is no real surprise. Very few places do a great CFS. Like this one, it all depends on the meat. And this was round steak. Too tough.

Towards the end of our meal several locals came in. One of them was a lady wearing a Sam’s shirt. I couldn’t resist. I told her, as she walked past, that we were going to eat at Sam’s, but changed our minds and we were  glad we had. She said everyone who works at Sam’s comes here for the special and the desserts. So, of course, we had to have desserts. They were homemade, and made very, very well. Excellent Italitan Cream Cake and lemon pie. Everything made from scratch. Excellent pie crust. Excellent cake. We even got a short history of the underhanded thievery in the Fairfield banking industry and the deaths of all the great cooks at Sam’s. We learned that when this Sam’s waitress came by ‘Something Different’ this morning, it was packed. Apparently everyone in town comes here for Sunday breakfast.

We stopped laughing. Remember that old adage? Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. We learned our lesson. From now on, when traveling from Houston to Dallas, we will make a point if stopping at ‘Something Different’! The food might not make it onto Allison Cook’s 100 Best, but it was good food at a reasonable price, fresh and served hot. You can see the short-order cook making your food. If you have never watched a good short-order cook work, it is a sight to behold. Not an easy job. Lots of fancy footwork and precision timing to put everything out at the same time. And all of our food came to the table at the same time (except for Michael’s salad which came right after our orders were placed). We made a mistake in thinking this place was beneath us. It clearly wasn’t.

After our lunch Ollie stretched out on her couch and slept most of the way home. We managed to greet the kitties at about 6:00, in time to get everything unloaded and put away.  I did very well on this trip. My meds are pretty well balanced and I didn’t have any major crisis. Tomorrow I have an appointment with the Head of the Maxine Messinger MS Clinis at Methodist Hospital. Wish me luck!!!

November 1st, Day Three of First Monday, Canton

Blackout curtain on the kitchen side, looking from the washer/dryer door towards the front

Blackout curtain on the kitchen side, looking from the washer/dryer door towards the front.

You take what you get. This isn’t where I wanted this picture to go. I’ll put a little note where it is SUPPOSED to be, but I can’t seem to get it there and before I try to flush NewEye (my newest iPad Air) down the potty, I’d better stop!

Well, morning started off great…….until I lost my first blog to Toad Haul. Poof!! Away it went, into the ether, never to be seen again. I wanted to give you some history on First Monday. I thought I had it firmly in hand. However, this is the day after All Hallows’ so maybe that explains some of it. Anyhow, this is the explanation, according to the official website of First Mobday……

IT ALL BEGAN … in the 1850′s when the circuit judge stopped in Canton on the FIRST MONDAY of each month. This was the day the Judge held court. People from the area came to town on that day to conduct their business, stock their pantries and sit in on court proceedings … and watch a few “hangings”. History relates one incident where a man was hung for stealing his partner’s wagon of goods for trading. He is buried facing south (not east) in Hillcrest Cemetery by the First Monday grounds.

Quite naturally, many also brought their own goods, produce and livestock with them to sell or trade. This took place just off the west side of the courthouse square. Most history versions include the trading of wild hosrses, which were rounded up in the region and brought to Canton to sell.

By 1965, FIRST MONDAY had outgrown the Town Square, It was then that the City of Canton purchased six acres just two blocks north of the courthouse. FIRST MONDAY was moved off the square.

Originally, FIRST MONDAY only “happened” on the first Monday of each month. However, if you take a look NOW at the calendar, you will note that Monday has been excluded.

Even though the event goes from Thursday – Sunday, the name is now and will forever be known as: FIRST MONDAY TRADE DAYS.

Now you know.

So, back to the day. I’m hoping today will go a little smoother than yesterday. We know what we are looking for and, more importantly, where to go to find it. After everyone gets up (they are still sleeping) and breakfasts eaten, we can get going.

It’s cold here this morning. LittleEye (my iPhone) says its 38°, with a high of 61° today. The temperature gauge on the roof of Coach says its 31°. I’m wearing something a little warmer than shorts and a tee shirt! I’m also riding in the wheelchair. I did okay on the scooter yesterday until right before we left. I sideswiped a metal upright (don’t ask), did no damage to a powdered sugar covered Luggie, but, for the THIRD time, rubbed my left arm against a foreign object. Tore off more skin. There isn’t much left of my right arm from the elbow to the wrist. I’ll sit in the chair with my wings tucked in tightly. Those are my orders for the day. Sir! Yessir! [salute]

I’m going to try to post a picture (if I can keep from losing this post) of the blackout curtain from the kitchen side. It’s been working great. Michael is up, but there hasn’t been a peep from Ollie. She said she hadn’t heard a single noise from me yesterday morning. She was surprised. She thought I hadn’t gotten up as early as I had planned. I’m really happy with how this idea of Michael’s worked. We have a winner!

Ollie? Did you wonder why I called her Ollie? We have called each other Ollie for the past 30 years. I don’t know why, but we have. For some strange reason, this name has stuck. She is Ollie. I am Ollie.

THIS IS WHERE THE PICTURE OF THE BLACKOUT CURTAIN SHOULD GO. SORRY, FOLKS, I’M STILL LEARNING.

Its 8:30. Michael has been up for about 45 minutes. Still not a peep from the other side of the curtain. However, it’s time to start breakfast. Maybe the smell of food will do it. Ya’ think?

We went into a home decor store that is right outside the RV resort. Lots of really nice stuff and great prices. We finally left and got to First Monday, but we are planning to go back again tomorrow morning before we leave. Here’s the final take on First Monday.

I seriously doubt we will ever come back. There are several large ‘Pavalions’. This is where you can get the high dollar junk. The ready made stuff from China. Clothes, knives, crafts, gifts, home decorating items. You know the drill. Everything else is outside, surrounding the Pavilions. Acres and acres of other people’s junk. Scattered in and amongst are true antiques, but they know what they have and it’s priced accordingly. No bargains to be found here. The rest of the stuff? Well, I’m not interested in buying used Christmas tinsel from the 1980’s. Please, I really don’t need your junk. We were disappointed. The inside the Pavilion stuff wasn’t what we wanted, but the outside the pavilion stuff was just junk. Nothing, or very little, we were interested in. I must admit, I got a few things, but nothing like what I wanted or came here for.

I got a round, blue rug for my new room upstairs and a few things to go on the shelves. I found two white iron wheels for the front yard. Managed to get the price way down on both of these. He wanted $65 for the wheels, but I got them both for $30. So I did get a few things, so did Vickie. We will see what shakes out when we get home and get everything unpacked.

Had a semi-disastrous dinner at a steak place. We waited for 45 minutes for a table, our order didn’t come out at the same time. The steaks were not very good. We were seated at 7:15. They turned off all the outside parking lot lights at 7:55 and closed the place. When we left the restaurant the parking lot was pitch black. Need I say that he was upset. I think we are going to try to go back to Paul Michael’s in the morning before we head back to Houston. They had a beautiful cypress knee made into a mushroom type stool. It will look perfect by our little pond by the outdoor kitchen.

It was a long day, but we had fun. I’ll write more in the morning. Don’t forget, Spring Forward, Fall Back!

October 31st, Day Two of First Monday, Canton

Michael is the ultimate over engineer. If he does something, you know it’s going to be done so it will never come undone. That’s why this latest project surprised me.

We are talking about the curtain rod project to close off the front of Coach for Vickie. We bought a bracket we could attach to either side of Coach for the rod to slide into. The initial plan was to glue them, then put a small screw through the center just to hold it in place. Somehow in the actual implementation of the plan one side got a tiny dot of glue, the other side was just wedged in tight between the top edge of the trim and the ceiling. Neither side got the screw.

We stopped for lunch and put the slides out. During that little transition, EVIDENTLY, both brackets came off, went down inside the slide and ultimately off into the ether. So, here we are, prepared to do battle with 500 pounds (ok, maybe not quite that much) of double blackout curtains when we discover this newest fiasco. After getting all the curtains on the rod, with Vickie on one side and Michael on the other, they did manage to get the rod up and propped on both sides on the top edge of the trim on each slide. I’m happy to report the whole scheme worked. Vickie had a nice, cozy little nest in the front of Coach. Sound proofed and darkened.

i’m sitting here, this morning, drinking coffee (no coffee bean spills) with both Michael and Vickie sound asleep. Neither one bestirred while I ground coffee and sliced open my arm, requiring some well muttered curses and much bandaging, took my medicine and started my day.

We’ve stayed at this RV park before. It’s really nice. They have a very large facility with lots of shade trees and green space. There are other RV parks in Canton, but this one is just north of the flea market and caters to the vendors and visitors. There are cabinettes for rent and for sale. They are adorable little things. If anyone wanted to try living in a tiny house (like you’ve seen on TV) this would be a good way to try out the concept. It’s like a little village or town. They even have, like most RV parks, a small general store, laundromat, golf course, swimming pool, walking trails, dog parks, just about everything you would need to be self-contained. You could go for several weeks without ever needing to leave the grounds.

They have a shuttle that comes by starting at 9:00 in the morning and running continuously throughout the day. We have read up on First Monday. You can rent a cart to haul your purchases for $20/day. We have 2 scooters and a pack mule (oh, sorry Michael) we have 2 scooters and a Michael. I think we can manage without the additional expense of a shopping cart. But…..one never knows…….does one? We could, potentially, purchase more than we could comfortably carry…… I wouldn’t want to strain Michael’s bad shoulder. So, the rental of a shopping cart is still a possibility.

Breakfast will get made in a leisurely fashion, showers and all that stuff will happen as we figure out a routine that works for the three of us, and we will get going to First Monday. It’s Friday, one of the better days to do this, so we are going to take it easy and explore. Saturday is rumored to be a mad house. We want to know what we’re doing before we get trampled by the pros.

After breakfast, and what a breakfast (!), we had oatmeal, fruit and four different kinds of scones with jam, Kerry Gold Irish butter and clotted cream, we took showers, dressed and headed for First Monday. This was not what we expected.

We took both scooters, no wheelchair. In hind sight that was a mistake. While Vickie and I were comfortable, Michael was miserable. I don’t blame him. He has a very bad back and is used to using my wheelchair to prop himself up when walking long distances. Without the wheelchair he had nothing to hang on to. He was in a lot of pain.

We thought this would be like an open-air bazaar, a true flea market. We wanted to haggle with people selling their junk to clean out their homes. Instead what we got was several covered buildings with crafts and pre-made (mostly in China, it seemed) items. The majority was clothing. We wasted most of the day wandering in these buildings. It was much the same as the shops and booths at the Texas State Fair. There were lots of people pulling wagons filled with items, but nothing that just ‘grabbed’ us. We kept walking and finally realized there was a whole ‘nuther world out there, Mabel…..

We got out of the buildings and into the open air. It was like night and day. THIS was what we wanted! By now it was getting late. We had eaten one powdered sugar-ladened funnel cake (hey, I said it was like the state fair!) and Michael had a corn dog, so we needed something in our tummies. We found a diner in town called ‘Buttermilks’ and had dinner. We sat during dinner and plotted our rounds for tomorrow. We are going back in the morning, but this time we know where the true flea market people are. I found a couple of things, so did Vickie, but there is much more to be found……

In the morning we will take the wheelchair and one scooter. I’ll be much more comfortable in the chair. Michael can push me and he will be better and Vickie can be on the scooter. Everyone will feel better. We will know where we need to be and can get the things we came for. Tomorrow will be a great day!

October 30th, Canton, First Monday

We are headed to Canton, Texas for the weekend. This is supposed to be one of the biggest flea markets in the United States. It’s held on the weekend before the first Monday of each month, thus the name First Monday.

We’re taking my ‘should-have-been-my-sister’, Vickie. We have been BFF’s for almost 30 years, since we built our house backed up to hers, all those years ago. Her kids are my Godchildren. We have gotten into more trouble together than I care to admit to. Way more trouble. My other ‘should-have-been-my-sister’, Heidi, is staying home to take care of all the animals and our houses. I don’t know what I would do without either of these ladies. They are my lifeline.

so, this morning we loaded everything up and by 10:10 we were rolling down our street, headed to Dallas. Remember the creative boy genius? We told him we would bring Coach to him the next time we were in Dallas for him to take the unfinished furniture out, finish everything and we would come back for him to re-install. I told him we would be there at 3:00. He texted back that he was really busy and could meet us at 4:30. This would have made it too late for us to get to the RV park what with traffic and construction. So I told him, no problem 😃, we could come back mid-November. I KNEW he wouldn’t like that!

oh, no, no, no……November would be horrible for him. Way too busy in November. He would work it out…….somehow…….to meet us at 3:00. Suit yourself, dude. Oh, and BTW, could we give him a check today? No, sorry, I’m tapped out. Family emergency. Next week, when funds hit, I’ll see about sending you a check, but, until then, the answer is no! I’m not paying him any more until I see some finished product. So, there! We have everything unloaded from the cabinets and drawers. It’s going to make the weekend difficult, but we’ll manage.

Im re-doing my office at home. Turning it back into a real room. I’ve got a huge chair that folds out to a twin-size bed, so what I need are some knick-knacks for the new room. I’m doing a Cape Cod shabby chic look in there. I already have a blue sideboard and a couple of other things, namely a quilt being made for me by my special ‘Quilt Lady’. 😃 My contractor will build some bookshelves along one wall. I can put some of Michael’s collectibles in the bookshelf. Some shelves will be behind glass doors and on glass shelves. So we are looking for small decorative things for that room.

We are driving up I-45. Probably THE most boring stretch of road in Texas.  The only thing worse is driving from Houston to El Paso! There is nothing redeeming about this stretch between Houston and Dallas. The only good thing is you can get on it, point yourself north and drive.

The weather is beautiful. Cool and Sunny. Hopefully it will stay like this thru the weekend. I don’t do well in the heat, so when we planned this trip, it was with the hopes the weather would cooperate. It’s supposed to be high in the 60’s & 70’s. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

We are staying at Mill Creek Ranch Resort in Canton. When I called, last week, I got their last big-rig site. She was very nice about it. She said because we’ve stayed there before, she would hold it without a credit card. This always worries me. I wish they would take the CC info so I KNOW they won’t give it away. It was the 4th place I called. All the others were full. See why this no credit card thing makes me nervous?

Oh, Michael came up with a great idea for our one problem with the weekend. I was concerned about getting up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and disturbing Michael and Vickie. No problem! We found a curtain rod that fits across the span of Coach, right between the fridge and Vickie’s bed. I got curtains and added blackout curtains. We fashioned a bracket (that doesn’t even show when we take the rod down) to support the rod. It can be left up while we are parked and comes down quickly when we are ready to leave. The curtains will fit in the overhead bins. I’m so excited! She has a white noise machine, a fan, a bedside lamp, earplugs and her own little cozy bedroom. I won’t disturb her in the morning. She can sleep as late as she wants. Problem solved.

I have scones, four fifferent kinds. I used my basic 7-Up biscuit recipe, added sugar and dried fruit and voila, I have scones! I got oatmeal, fruit, coffee and tea. What more could we need? Oh, I also have clotted cream and Kerry Gold Irish butter. We are good to go.

Michael and I went to CorkScrew BBQ yesterday and got chopped beef, whole brisket and ribs. He also got potato salad and beans. So we are having that for dinner tonight. After tonight, we’ll eat out or at the flea market. Breakfast is the only meal I’ll have to fool with on this trip.

When we get set up tonight, I’ll let you know how the meeting with boy genius went, what the RV park is like, how the set-up on the curtain goes, just all those little things………

We have a winner! The first person to make the connection between Toad Haul and The Wind In The Willows. Her name is MaryAnn. If she will send me her mailing address, I will go through my stash of carefully procured white elephant gifts and get one in the mail to her. Or, depending on my shopping prowess this weekend, I might find something really special. Who knows?  But, the important thing is, she made the connection. Thank you, MaryAnn!

We stopped at a roadside rest area for a quick lunch. We stopped, put out the front slides, fixed chopped beef sandwiches, ate and were back on the road in under 30 minutes. This is why I love Coach.

In the rest area were three humongous semi trucks carrying the propellers for those big windmills. You have no idea how big those things are. Each blade was on a different truck bed. Each blade had to be 150 feet long, at least. I’m basing this measurement on the fact that Coach with Toad is about 60 feet long and each blade was about three times that length. Quite impressive. Sorry, I should have gotten a picture. I just didn’t. If I get another chance while meandering along, I’ll get one for you.

We got to boy genius’ place at 2:59 on the dot. He was waiting for us. The desk, drawers and cabinets were out in under 20 minutes. I told him we had had a family emergency and were unable to write him a check today. I would send it next week. He seemed okay with that and we hit the road. We got to the RV park at 5:00 and set up everything. Dinner, ribs from Corkscrew BBQ, are in the oven. We have beans, potato salad, chopped beef and hamburger buns. What more can anyone ask?

Tomorrow we can take the shuttle (with both scooters?) or take Toad, a much better option, to the flea market. I think we will have a wonderful day. I’ll try to get some pictures tomorrow. I understand this place is massive.

Epilogue, October 19th

My new friend suggested I try WordPress to write about the adventures of Coach and Toad, so this is the start of that attempt. I’m hoping this will make it easier for everyone and not clog up your email inboxes. If you want to read the blog, that’s your choice. If not, you can pass it by.

First, I want to say ‘Thank You’ to the people who told me, before we started this trip, that they didn’t really understand anything about racing or NASCAR and I needed to do a little more indepth explaining for this trip. The feedback has been very positive. I tried to give you an understanding of how this sport works and why we are hooked. I haven’t done nearly as good as I would have liked, but I’ve scratched the surface a bit and will continue to do so.

The biggest reason we love anything to do with racing cars, for those who don’t know, is because of how Michael and I met. We were both driving race cars. We met at a race track. Racing and fast cars have always been the backbone of our relationship. We started with racing and almost 40+ years later we are still involved with it. Not driving, other than on the streets around Houston, but Michael does have a very fast, cranked up Cadillac CTS-V. When he pulls in to a gas station, the male drivers from all around him wander over to ask, “So………what’s under the hood?” You can hear him all over the neighborhood when he starts it up in the morning. I thought we might have a problem with the HOA because of the noise, but there have been no complaints from our neighbors. In fact, they all seem to love it. A 72 year old, grey haired man, in a souled up car. What’s not to love? He once told a my ‘sister’ the reason he needed such a fast car to drive the 2 miles to work was there were a lot of people he needed to pass in that 2 miles! 🍰

Me? I just love speed. I drive, even now, way too fast. I seem to have passed this need for speed on to my beloved daughter. Even her children, from the time they could talk, would say, “Let mommy drive. She goes fast!” And she does. But, in her defense, she is a very good, safe, driver. She drives fast, but she does it well. She would have been a terrific race car driver.

On to some random thoughts. Michael and I were talking this morning about how great it was to be home. One of the great things about Coach is what it has taught us. We are much more aware about the amount of water we use. Not only because of the limited amount in the fresh water tanks, but the amount of waste in the holding tanks. Our showers are quicker, the length of time I run water in the kitchen sink, flushing the potty, all these things, while at home aren’t as much of a concern, in Coach make you stop and think. Michael checks the tank monitors obsessively. I’ve learned to check them. I don’t want to run out of water, but, more than that, I don’t want the ‘black water’ tank to back up.

Hand in hand with the water conservation, goes the use of toilet paper. I have always contended that toilet paper is one of our most important, cheapest commodities invented by man in the last 200 years. No more corn cobs! If I use an entire roll of toilet paper in one day, then that’s not a problem. It’s cheap and necessary. But, add Coach into the mix and my attitude changes, drastically! The toilet makers in Coach recommend you use a special degrade able toilet paper. It’s singlevply and dissolves in your hand. I won’t use it. So, to be able to use what I want, we have to use much less. You don’t want to get the ‘stuff’ in the black tank clogged up. Anyone who has had to plunger a stopped up toilet knows what I’m talking about. Compound this by a factor of 10 and you get a glimpse of what it’s like trying to unclog a black water holding tank. Not fun! We are VERY careful to use a biodegradable fluid that helps break everything down, but you still have to be careful. So toilet paper conservation becomes another issue.

Then we have garbage. At home I have the BIGGEST under sink garbage disposals made by Sears, or anyone, for that matter. After replacingdisposals every few years, I begged for something that wouldn’t clog up or break. He got the biggest and best money could buy. I’m so darn proud of that thing. It chews up piles of shrimp shells, small (and, truthfully, not do small) chicken bones, corn husks……almost everything I’ve thrown at it. When Heidi and I cook, that disposal has been our lifesaver.

Coach doesn’t have a disposal. The kitchen sink drains into the grey water tank. You don’t put any biodegradables in the grey tank. It’s just water and whatever you let go down the drain into the tank. So when you rinse the dishes to put them in the dishwasher, you have to be careful not to rinse the food bits down the drain. I’ve been scraping dishes into my little garbage can on the counter then emptying all the garbage into the big can under the kitchen sink. You get really good at remembering to gather up all the smelly garbage and finding the locations of the garbage bins in the park. The dishwasher must have a terrifically good food grinder in it because the amount of identifiable food coming out of the grey water tank has been nonexistent.

In my last email I introduced you to the M&M green lady and asked for suggestions for a name. The best name had a very good reason behind it. The best name came from Scarlett. She said her name should be Nancy. The reason? The white, high-heeled boots. Many of you are too young to remember, but there was a song, ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, sung by Nancy Sinatra. She sang this song in short shorts and white high-heeled boots. It’s the perfect name. And, guess what? There’s a prize! Kind of like a White Elephant gift. Scarlett wins the Kenny Wallace raffle shirt! Send me your address, Scarlett, and I’ll send you the shirt.

i like this idea. A contest with each trip. The winner gets something we’ve picked out just for the occasion. And there’s no telling what the contest will be. Naming something, like this one. Guessing where we are from a picture. Any number of things come to mind. Keep tuned.

i didn’t explain about why we kept seeing Nancy and her friends at the Kyle Busch shop. The reason is that M&M is the major sponsor on Kyle’s race car. His race shop must have had 20 or more of the display M&M’s. Now, why couldn’t they sell me one?

Michael just got the car unloaded. The rear quarter panel from Kyle Larson’s car is waiting to be mounted on the wall. As soon as we get it done, I’ll take a picture to show you. Pretty sad when you are willing to pay for a beat up hunk of metal that was scheduled for the trash bin, huh? But, remember, a portion of the money went to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, a charity near and dear to my heart.

pictures. I have been trying to post all the previously sent emails, in order, to this blog. I thought (there I go, again, thinking. When will I learn?) I can copy all the text, but when I try to copy the pictures within the text, the program crashes, my iPad locks up and I have to start all over again. The program wants me to enter the pictures through an insertion program within WordPress. But it won’t let me put the pictures where I’ve put them in the email. It just inserts them wherever my cursor was the last time. AND it won’t let me drop and drag the picture!!! It might take some time, but I’ll figure it out. For the time being, I’m taking the pictures out. I’ll let you know when I get this problem solved.

One last thing. A couple of people asked if we could get some specific memorabilia (caps, shirts, etc.) for them. I tried, but wasn’t very successful this time. I’ll be better organized next time. I promise!!

Again, thank you for coming along on this trip with us. There is nothing better than traveling with friends!!!