Friday, July 13, 2012

How I spent my summer vacation (brought back to life)

I traveled when I was younger, but for the past 15 years or so, the only vacation trips I made were driving (or occasionally taking the train) to Colorado to visit Mom. Since I haven’t that annual trip on my calendar anymore, I decided to save my money so that I could visit my nearest and dearest all around the country. 

My friend, Connie, asked, “Rose, is this going to be your farewell tour?” And, yes, I guess so…sort of like Cher’s; I hope I can keep doing it for the next 10 or 15 years!

The first trip was this summer. My niece, April Rose, is my only blood relative who has stayed in touch with me over the years. I hadn’t seen her since Thanksgiving, 1994. Last month I flew to Florida for a brief visit, but I was apprehensive. When we were last together, she was a young woman and I was a middle-aged one. Now, she would be middle-aged and I an old lady.

Me and April
It didn’t matter. She is funnier now, or maybe just more wry; gorgeous as always; smart, smart, smart and totally unique. Me? Older, smaller, pretty much a hick these days. But we were still aunt and niece: family -- I felt a deep sense of connection that both surprised and touched me deeply....

Coming from Arizona, now in year 14 or 15 of a 20-year (possibly, never-ending) drought, Florida was lush and green to me, but it, too, was in the midst of a drought. But from the night of my arrival on, it rained every day I was there. I loved it. I soaked it up like a dried sponge. And we played anyway: beach, bookstores, bird watching, a visit to the fish market. We laughed and talked and ate. We saw Marigold Hotel. I stayed in a charmingly quaint hotel in downtown St. Petersburg (April’s jewel box of a house much too small to accommodate more than her and Charlotte, a feline companion) and spent early mornings walking and exploring that elegantly fading city. I had a grand time. 

Iconic pic of St. Pete from the pier

On my flight back to Arizona my seat mate was a seasoned traveler, a woman who said she and her husband logged 3 or 4 international trips a year and almost weekly domestic flights for their business interests. I asked her what piece of advice she would give someone like me about traveling—the best way to get to know places. She thought about it a while and then said, “Get lost…” (She wasn’t telling me to go away; this was her advice.) “When you have to find your way back, you meet people and see things you wouldn’t otherwise have done. You get a real glimpse of places that way.” 

I dunno.Having someone who knows and loves a place and shares that special knowledge with you is a delight. Then again, I can still remember an incident in rural Yugoslavia 50 years ago when my friend Jamie and I got lost in the dark on some earthquake-ravaged back roads. We finally stopped in what we thought might be a sheltered place and I threw my sleeping bag on the ground next to the Volkswagen and conked out. Early the next morning I was wakened by the snuffling and grunting of gigantic hogs rooting around my head. After much screeching and cries of help, a bemused old farmer scattered the pigs, picked us a hat full of figs, pointed us in the right direction and, beaming, (probably silently laughing his head off) sent us on our way.

"Adventure is just bad planning."     -- Roald Amundsen, explorer (1872-1928)

Health update: The results of my first official mammogram since my diagnosis in the fall of 2010: I am cancer free. I am taking no medications, I do not have to endure another blood draw for 9 months, nor undergo another mammogram for two years. Life is good.

Thanks, Sherry, for saving my blog by sending me the original post from your email! Saved me lots of tears and time.


P.S. For more pix of my trip, see my previous post (older post link below)


Monday, July 9, 2012

How I spent my summer....oops!


I managed to delete my wonderful blog about my trip to Florida as well as my good news that my 2 year mammogram shows that I am cancer free. When I get time, I'll try and reconstruct.

In the meantime, here are some pix at least:

Me and April

April at Ft. Desoto Beach

Rose and a great egret (Ft. Desoto)

Rosie, Elmo and Karen, my sis-in-law

E-ya' later

Monday, March 5, 2012

Winter's downhill slide

Thinking on my feet and not my butt
Even as I’m posting this, I’m prepping for a colonoscopy tomorrow. I have a new primary doc and he’s requested it, saying it’s routine for anyone over 50 these days. For those who’ve not yet encountered this bizarre medical practice where total strangers take a scenic tour of your colon, prepping is regarded by initiates as more troublesome than the actual scoping. (Apparently there are some really good drugs for the actual procedure itself.) In the meantime, however, prepping means nothing passes your lips but clear liquids for 36 hours prior to the colonoscopy. (Jello® is okay as long as it’s not red.) On the day of the event, you eat, nor drink, a single thing. Oh, I forgot the part about…Oops. Excuse me; I’ll be right back…Anyway, there’s this stuff you drink, four liters of it (That’s over a gallon in English) that acts a lot like Liquid Plumr® does in your tub. You drink eight ounces of this stuff every fifteen minutes until the entire four liters is gone or, if you are fortunate, until only clear, pristine solution exits your anus.

This event caps what I view as a long, not terrifically fun winter. Twenty inches of snow in December. In January, I did a 90 degree back flip in the parking lot at school, whereupon proving little old ladies can fly (but have trouble with the landings). Sitting was problematic so the school (it was way cheaper than a lawsuit) and I both purchased some equipment that allows me to work at the computer while standing. My butt’s getting better, but my feet are killing me.

More worrisome this winter has been lots of brain farts, senior moments and an interesting memory lapse called anomia where I can’t remember nouns (tough for someone who earns a living as a writer.) While I’ve generally been good about adhering to the usual cliché, if it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain,” (physical exercise, eating right,) I’ve come to feel there's a need to focus on specific things that exercise the gray matter itself. I started by doing crossword puzzles. Got a dash; hang on….While I think it’s bolstered my vocabulary, it seems somewhat lacking in practical application. Words like kea (a big green parrot) or lamia (a female vampire) aren’t necessarily ones I work into copy selling the merits of getting an associate’s degree at our little community college.

My friend Jamie enjoys brain training on the web site Lumosity So I signed up for a trial run. My scores have improved, but I’m not sure if I’m just getting better at the exercises (helpful tips to improve scores are offered by other participants) or if my brain is actually developing new synapses. One game though, albeit frustrating, seems useful. It’s called Eagle Eye, a bird watching game that’s useful for working on perception and peripheral vision. Since I have glaucoma in my left eye, I think it’s helping me compensate by forcing the other eye to take some of the visual load.

What's wrong with this picture?
But my favorite brain training was taking a class at college. I get free tuition so money wasn't a consideration. Anyway it was an experimental class in literary and media criticism focusing on the controversial animated cartoon, South Park. The professor’s aim was to give our college students a taste of what they could expect when they got to university. For those of you not acquainted with South Park, it is an outrageously potty-mouthed compendium of poop and fart jokes that skewer personalities and issues at both ends of the American political spectrum. The class was composed of me and seven teenage girls. I remarked the first night that I thought the students in the class would be all adolescent boys. One of the young women turned to me and said, “So did we!” Best thing about taking a class is you get brain stimulation plus you are interacting with real, as opposed to virtual, people. 
Hey, back in a minute…

Fun E-Things: Have you looked at the new social media site called Pinterest ( – no www) It is great fun – a cyber bulletin board where people (mostly women) post (or “pin” up illustrations/photos of intriguing things they’ve found in the vast cyber world of the Internet. Click on an illustration you find interesting or curious to learn more about and it will take you back to the link of the original blog or website. You can just meander through the postings or enter a key word in the search bar to find something specific. Postings cover the universe with lots of DIY projects, home décor, incredibly beautiful hair styles (gorgeous, but mostly for long-tresses), recipes, knitted goods and every imaginable kind of crafts. My words simply can’t do it justice. Try it; I think you’ll be delighted. Hey, another brain stimulator!

Recipes: I’m thinking a fun challenge I’d like to take on is a cookbook that features recipes that have only 1, 2, 3 or 4 ingredients (salt & pepper don’t count). A one-ingredient recipe, you scoff. Well, I’ve sent some of you my pear recipe (wash an unripe pear, peel or not as you choose, slice off the bottom and set it in a bowl. Microwave until  juicy and tender (2-4 minutes). Let it cool a bit before eating. You can peel or not. A sweet winter treat.

Not convinced? How about mushrooms? Clean 'em, cut off hard part of the stems and slice. Place in a skillet (non-stick works best, but any will do). Turn heat to medium high and cook until you’ve reached the stage you want, juicy, just past juicy or all the way to golden brown and crispy. Eat as a side dish or put in gravies, sauces or soups. A great way to enjoy lots of them while reducing fat intake. 

Back in flash

High on the hog!
At the other recipe extreme: Pictured here is the entrée of the meal served to Bob and me for our Leap Day anniversary. You can’t get the full impact from this photo; it was a fabulous crown rib pork roast weighing eleven pounds, stuffed with a homemade cranberry sauce, apple, pear, red onion, rosemary, fennel dressing. The chef was Jan Kennedy with hubby Larry assisting with the heavy lifting! It’s the kind of meal where you feel like you can't invite them back to dinner at your house because you’ll never be able to serve anything as good as that!

Now, I need some information from you. My sis-in-law, Gloria, has just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Anyone have any personal knowledge or tips on coping that they would share? Send an email or post a comment. You’ll be doing a great someone a great favor.

Gotta’ run!!

Hope you and yours are well and happy.

Love to all,
Aunt Rose