Thursday, December 29, 2016

that hour we spent talking to dish network

Jack and I just spent the last hour on the phone with Dish Network.

Waste of time?  I don't know.

What are you supposed to do when your local NBC affiliate suddenly goes off the air because it can't reach an agreement with your tv provider so you realize you aren't going to get to watch the last week of football before the playoffs.  And if it goes anything like the last time this happened when Fox 13 couldn't come to terms with Dish and went off the air for weeks and only just resolved it all barely in time for the start of the football season--well, it seems likely we won't see the playoffs (playoffs!) or the super bowl and, well, it was concerning.

And since Jack had surgery on his thumb this afternoon and was a little medicated, it seemed like as good a time as any to tell Dish we either wanted our local NBC affiliate back or we wanted out of our contract.  And of course, they insisted they were working on the affiliate issue 24/7--seriously? 24/7?--and there wasn't any way they could waive the early termination fee, which, wait, there's nobody at Dish who can waive the fee and let us out of the contract?  Well then we need to talk to your supervisor.  So that was the story, one supervisor after another until we were talking to the secretary to the president of Dish.  Seriously?  And they all had the same script.  Which is, I'm just gonna say, really frustrating.

Pretty early on in the call, Jack realized Dish wasn't going to let him out and he didn't really want to change providers because we like those Dish hoppers. 

After an hour it was time for another pain pill for Jack.  And by then, the secretary to the president had set us up for half price HBO and Showtime and a $20 discount for some number of months that added up to more than the early termination fee. 

So we're still with Dish.  Paying $35 less per month for some amount of time.  And according to Jack's surgeon, in three months he'll be so glad he had the surgery.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

the time when piano music returned

A few weeks ago, I told Jack I missed having a piano in the house.

When Stuart was in fifth grade, we went to the music store one night to rent a trumpet for him to learn to play in the grade school band.  We left a few hours later with a rental trumpet and a few days later a lovely piano was delivered to our house.  I was so excited to have a piano in our home remembering the joy I'd felt as a kid after hours of practicing and developing a love for sonatinas.

That night was a turning point for our family.  We changed from being a family who listened to music to being a family who played music.  Created music.  Loved music even more.

The kids all took piano lessons in addition to learning to play various instruments.  I remember hearing mothers complain that their kids wouldn't practice their piano lessons.  That was not a problem we had.  Our kids loved to play and if anything, there were quarrels over whose turn it was to play the piano. 

There was always piano music in the background of our lives.  It was a sweet gift.  A blessing to see and hear my children creating and enjoying something so beautiful.

When Stuart graduated from college, we gave him our piano as a graduation gift.  It seemed fitting to have the music continue in his home.  I was pleased when Jessie and Cory bought a piano for their home and when Herschel and Whitney inherited a piano from her grandmother. 

But there was no piano music in our home. 

Until last week.  Last week one night, on the way home from work, Jack made a turn from our normal commute and drove to the piano store.  The same company who had sold us our first piano.   We went inside, me unable to stop smiling.  We discussed the pros and cons of upright bersus baby grand, looked around and found a used upright piano that had just come into the store the night before.  The previous owner had signed the bill of sale and left as we walked in. 

It was, obviously, meant to be ours.  And now it is.

It was delivered on December 22.  Stu and his girls came over to check it out.  As I finished wrapping the last of the Christmas gifts in my bedroom, I heard the familiar sound of him playing some of his favorite memorized pieces.  I will easily admit to finding tears in my eyes in that moment.  And again when Stu brought me a copy of my favorite book of sonatinas--the book from my teenage years that I had played over and over again.

And now the piano music is back in our home again.

Monday, December 26, 2016

this christmas memory i want to remember

I want to remember this afternoon.

I had this idea that maybe if I bought four tickets for the matinee performance of The Nutcracker at Ballet West on the day after Christmas, and had Jack give one to my mom for Christmas, along with an invitation to lunch at Siegfried's, the German deli right next door to the theater, then maybe she would agree to join us--Jack, Jr, and me. 

Since my dad died, she hasn't wanted to go out much, other than to church on Sundays and frequently, Sunday dinner at my house.  I hoped she might come with us, and for a couple of hours, be able to simply enjoy herself.

So Jack gave her the ticket yesterday along with a hand-printed note, inviting her to lunch at Siegfried's at noon.  She agreed to go.

We picked her up at noon in Jr's car.  He drove us to the door of Siegfried's and she and I went in to get in the line while Jr and Jack parked the car.  She immediately asked if I wanted to share a reuben sandwich, which, hello, of course.  Siegfried's also has amazing fried potatoes and mom added a piece of apple streudel that we all shared.

Lunch was tasty.

We finished in plenty of time to walk the short distance to the theater.  We rode the elevator to the mezzanine and found our seats.  As we settled in, mom leaned over and said to me, "You done good, kid."  And then we were transported to the beauty and strength and grace that is ballet.

It could not have been a better afternoon.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

writing and healing

Two things.

First, I've realized in the past few weeks that writing is healing for me.  Painful perhaps for any readers, but so helpful for me.

Second, while I'm wondering how people walking by me can miss the hole in my heart, I also wonder whether or not they've been through the same loss of a parent.  Are we both members of that same club?  Because I can't see it on their faces, which makes me think that either they haven't joined the club yet, or they are in the club and there is hope for the future.  So there.  Hope for healing.

Also, I may be feeling better this morning because we're getting a new swingset in our back yard today.  It's supposed to be for the grandkids, but I'm thinking it will be a great form of exercise for me too, right?

pictures coming later...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

more time please

I've learned a new thing in the past almost three weeks.

I thought I was pretty good at keeping my feelings hidden.  Apparently I am not.

I've also learned another new thing.

People, especially those who care about you, want you to feel better.  Soon.  Please.  Because it's uncomfortable to not be able to make someone feel better. 

I've read about these two things before, written by people who have experienced great loss.  Some have experienced hugely tragic losses--the loss of a child or the unexpected loss of a family member.  Losing my 91-year-old dad who had lived with dementia for over five years was nothing like that, I'm sure.  But it is hard in its own way. 

So when people who may or may not know about his passing ask me, casually, how am I doing, in my mind, I'm surprised that they are asking how I am instead of them being able to see the huge hole in my heart and instead asking me whatever has happened and how can I cope and go on with that gaping wound and shouldn't someone tend to that injury?

Perhaps I am too dramatic in my head. 

It probably doesn't help that my kid's health has been up and down over the past six weeks too.  I'm not a fan of saying stuff isn't fair--thanks to my high school teacher who printed in pastel-colored chalk across one whole wall of chalkboard, "LIFE ISN'T FAIR" because he was weary of students saying stuff wasn't fair--so I rarely say stuff isn't fair, but seriously.  It isn't fair for a kid to know more about health insurance and liver enzymes and blocked liver ducts than anybody else I know. 

So there's that.

I know people care about me so much and want so much to help or make it better or somehow ease the pain. And the hugs and pats and support are so very appreciated.  And even after this short amount of time, there are moments, minutes, even an hour, when I can get buried in a project that requires me to think and focus and for that brief bit of time, I'm not thinking about my dad and my kid.  Or my mom, which is a whole other concern. 

But the thing is, these feelings are always there, just below the surface, so if someone asks me earnestly how I'm doing, I'll likely say I'm okay but apparently my face gives me away.  I thought I was doing a really good job of keeping it all inside, but in the past two days I've realized that apparently I can keep it under check for about five seconds but if you look at me for longer than that, you'll likely see the pain seeping through.  And you'll want to help and I'll start to cry and it will be a mess.  Sorry about the mess.

The truth is, I'm doing the best I can right now.  I miss my dad.  Missing him feels sad.  I'm worried about my kid.  And that feels sad.  And worrisome.  Because I'm me, the worrier.

I've heard that time helps with the pain of loss.  I'm hanging on tight to that, hoping sometime I'll feel not so sad.  I don't expect I'll ever feel the way I felt before my dad died, because life isn't the same with him gone. 

But today was a better day for my kid so that feels good.  And I'll keep hoping for more of that. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

more sunshine

For years now, Jack has wanted to take out a couple of big trees in our yard.  One is a pine tree on the front corner of our lot, right next to the sidewalk, that used to grow in the company of another pine and a blue spruce in the neighbor's yard.  But a couple of years ago, the neighbor had his two trees cut down, leaving our pine the sole tree, with its south half barren because it was previously protected by the now missing spruce and pine on the other side of the fence.  To be honest, our pine did its best to fill in that bare space on its south side, but it also always did its best to fill up the flower beds, lawn, and rain gutters on the house with fallen pine needles and cones.  Lawn mowers hated that pine, especially its cones that would shoot out like missiles whenever one of them was discovered by the blades of the mower and would explode and fly across the yard at any unsuspecting victim who happened to be wandering nearby.

During the last microburst rainstorm a few months ago, our newly remodeled basement was flooded with two inches of water when the rain gutters on the house couldn't effectively move water away from the roof line because of the winter-long collection of pine needles clogging them.  Two inches of water in a basement doesn't sound like much, but really, it is a lot when it's soaking through papers and books and dog beds and furniture and also newly laid carpet (but so glad we went with commercial grade, no pad required carpet squares last year).

The other tree Jack has wanted to remove is a silver maple.  It too must have been at least 30 years old and sat at the back corner of our yard.  It was huge.  Massive.  Many branches, a trunk so big I couldn't wrap my arms around it.  And while I loved that it tracked the seasons amazingly well (it always knew spring was coming and would begin to green up before I sensed the end of winter, also knew when fall was around the corner even though it felt like bright, hot summer still to me), it gave me a feeling that no matter what was going on in the world, the world was still right because the tree knew.  Spring follows winter every year, summer is next, then fall, and then dark winter.  But then fresh bright green spring again.  The tree knew and the world was constant and safe and right.

That tree also took very seriously its commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.  Every year, it sent forth millions--I don't think that's an exaggeration--but literally millions of its seeds to sprout in every bit of bare soil in my gardens.  Every year it tried to reproduce a forest of its seedlings in my gardens.  Honestly, I loved that tree for all of its gifts, but I really didn't want hundreds of it growing in my yard.  Or even tens.  Or more than just that one.  So every year, I spent a fair amount of time, pulling up countless tiny little two-inch seedlings, and every year, I pulled up more than a few six or twelve-inch tall sprouts that I'd missed during previous weedings, and every now and then, I dug up a young treeling that was certain it was going to establish a home in a bed in my gardens.

During one of the recent wind storms--which sounds so uneventful, but really was very eventful, tipping over trees everywhere, knocking down power lines, blowing away shed roofs and trampolines--anyway, apparently that wind storm got a little bossy with our maple.  A few days after the storm, we found one of the huge branches split nearly off the tree, laying across the roof of our shed.  Luckily, it hadn't crushed the shed, but probably only because half of it was still attached to the tree.  But poor tree.  A major limb hanging on but nearly torn off.  Seems to me that must have been painful.  And then we noticed the split down the back side of the tree.  Insects? Disease?  Lightning strike?  We don't know.  But we knew the tree was in peril of splitting and falling on our house, or shed, or block wall, or maybe even the neighbors' houses.  It was a huge tree.

Like I said, Jack had wanted to cut down those trees for years and I had argued against it because who can cut down a beautiful living thing without good reason?  But then I realized, we had good reason.  Both of the trees were doing damage to our home.  And it wasn't the trees' fault, they just grew where they were planted.  But they had been planted, wrong tree, wrong place.  Both of them are park trees.  Or forest trees.  But not neighborhood, small-lot trees.

So for Jack's birthday, I told him I was agreeing we could have the trees removed.  As long as we agreed to buy and plant new trees that would be the right trees in the right places in our gardens.

Jack knew this was a hard thing for me to come to, but he knew I'd come to it in my own time and on my own terms.  He said it was the best gift I'd ever given to him.

After shedding a few tears, I looked around and found a company that could remove these trees safely, who would make sure they didn't come back in suckers all around the yard, and who would take them to their yard to be made into mulch to be sold to add back to the earth.  I found that company and their guy came out and gave us a bid and we made arrangements for them to bring a crane and a crew with lots of equipment to remove the trees.  But they couldn't come for six weeks.

They showed up bright and early yesterday morning with the crane and the bucket truck and the backhoe and the dumpster and a bunch of smart, capable guys who did a remarkable job working together and removing the trees.  Maybe it was all of the cool equipment they brought, or maybe it was how efficiently they worked, or maybe the events of the past few weeks put it all into perspective, but somehow, yesterday wasn't a sad day.  The grandkids all came over to watch the crane and we played together and laughed and some stayed for lunch and in the end, it was all okay.  Sometimes your perspective changes and things you thought would be really sad, end up being okay after you've endured truly hard things.  The trees being gone is okay.  We'll find some new great trees.  And time will heal the pain of losing my dad.  And Stu is back home from the hospital again, looking much better.

Sometimes you just need a little perspective.   What seems like it will be so very hard, ends up being not so hard at all.

And with the trees gone, there is more sunshine then ever in my gardens. And who can't use a little extra sunshine in today's world?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

we did it

We planned a funeral for my dad and we made it through.   I think he would have liked it.  It wasn't too long and so many people from all throughout his life who loved him were there to celebrate his life with us and also to give comfort to us.  He would have appreciated the military aspect at the cemetery too.

In many ways, he's been gone for much more than nine days.  But almost to the end, there were parts of him that didn't change.  My hands ache to hold his hand again and my eyes long to see his face light up at the sight of me.  Because he always smiled when he opened his eyes and saw me.  I miss him so much.

After the service, per the local norm, we all met back at the church for a meal.  I got to sit at my grandkids' table with Jessie.  It was so very soothing to my heart to be with these people I love so very much.

And it was good to see my mom smile again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

and now he is gone

My dad passed away on Sunday, July 17.  I've had so many thoughts about him and his passing and his life.  Some of the things I've thought:

  • I know people's dads die all of the time.  I know that in my head.  I do.  But I had no idea how it would feel in my heart, watching him slow down, realizing it was soon, and then acknowledging he was gone.
  • As the end neared, it felt a bit chaotic to me.  When it was very close, people, understandably, got stirred up.  For just a few minutes, I wished we had a doctor there, someone who had been through this who could calmly take control of the situation.  Probably wished there had been a wise, fatherly figure to ease us through that difficult time.  But I'm sure my dad would have chosen to be in his home, in his room, with his family close by.  He was and we were.
  • When my brother called Sunday morning and said he thought dad wouldn't last much longer, I finished mixing the banana bread I was making and got Jr and Jack to agree to watch it and take it out of the oven when it was done so I could go to my parents' house.  When I got there, I could see that my dad's breathing had definitely changed.  It was disturbing to me to watch at first because it was so even and fast and shallow, but after sitting with him for a few minutes, holding his still hand, I knew he wasn't suffering or in pain but I also knew his mind wasn't still with us.  Holding his hand was comforting to me.  But the protective mom in me didn't want my kids or my grandkids to experience my dad like that.  My initial reaction when I walked in the room and saw him breathing like that felt like a punch in the gut.  I wanted to protect my kids and grandkids from that experience.  After a while, I realized it wasn't really my call to protect my adult kids or their children from seeing my dad like that.  They are adults and if they wanted to see him alive one more time, that should be their decision.  By that time, Jack had already told our kids about my dad and they were making plans to be there for me and my mom.  My nieces and nephews were all there when my dad passed.  My kids were there shortly after.  And I'm okay with all of that.  I know my kids have all spent time recently with my parents when my dad was more like himself and that was enough for them.  Everybody gets to do this thing called life in the way that works for them.  And we all did.
  • After my dad passed and everyone gradually left the room, it was very quiet in there.  I thought of how much life and death are alike.  That when a child is born, there is lots of time waiting, then a flurry of activity, some various infrequently-heard human sounds, then the birth, followed by that moment when you're waiting for the baby to take its first life-giving breath.  I realized on Sunday that dying has many of those same components.  There was the waiting, the flurry of activity, some sounds I've never heard before, the last breaths, and then silence and he was gone.  It was as if the air had gone out of the room for everyone like it does when you're waiting for that first breath and cry of a newborn baby.  We are not here, we are here, and then we are not here, and our brief bright light is out.  Even 91 years can seem so brief.
  •  We didn't know how long it would be before my dad passed, so my sweet sister-in-law and her daughters went out and bought lunch foods for all of us.  My parents' house is not big enough for all of us to sit in together so they set up chairs in the back yard under the shade of the big maple tree out there.  I know my dad would have been delighted to see all of his kids and grandkids and great-grandkids together at that time, sharing food and memories, and comforting each other.  It was a warm afternoon, but there was a nice breeze and it was good to see everyone together.  It felt like a scene from Steel Magnolias where you recognize the sadness of life ending but also the hope of life going on and on through the generations.  My sister-in-law had put a bunch of cans of soda with ice in a wading pool she found in my parents' garage, and for just a moment, I found myself walking towards that pool of ice with the intent of scooping out some to slip down my brothers' shirts, which would have started a water fight and would have been totally inappropriate considering the situation.  But it's something my dad would totally have done and would have totally approved of.  All the same, I'm glad I had some shred of self-control in that moment.
  • That thing people say about grief being like the ocean, coming at you in waves?  Confirmed. 
  • My big brown dog is stuck to my side.  She still seems to sense when I'm emotionally hurting.
  • I know lots of people say that someone who is dying might wait to die until all of their family is there.  Or until everyone leaves the room so they can die in private.  Or some version of that.  When my gramma died on my birthday, I had to throw away that concept because I couldn't bear to believe that she would have chosen to die on my birthday.  That was too painful.  But then my dad died when he did.  Just before his 83-year-old baby brother arrived.  The brother who is eight years younger than him, who was his best buddy, who he shared with and protected and whose tender heart would have been broken by watching him go.  There is a part of me who wonders if dad saw Judd coming and stayed as long as he could without causing more pain to his dear brother.  And who knows, maybe gramma died on my birthday so it would be easy for me to remember when she left.  I'm still pondering all of this.  But I wouldn't ever have forgotten.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

sometimes it's hard or even harder

The past week or two have been buggers, haven't they?

It isn't enough enduring the never-ending nightmare that is the past year of politics.

Or the rise in violence and brutality and division in our country that is overwhelmingly painful.

Then there was the several-days long recurrence of Stu's liver issues.

And, you know, ants invading the pantry.

And, of course, the air conditioner breaking down.

While the politics will go on for months, and the chaos and divisiveness continues, at least we conquered the ants, Jack repaired the air conditioner, and Stu gradually recovered from his last stay in the hospital.

But then there's the part about my dad. 

It turns out his dementia has progressed.  A significant downturn. 

I knew from watching him the past few months that he was declining.  Sleeping more.  Eating less.  Interacting infrequently. 

Last week, the family all agreed it was time to bring him home and accept help from hospice for however long he lasts. 

The hospice nurse and aides are incredible.  They are kind, compassionate, even-tempered and so very capable.  They have allowed my mom to release herself from the incredible demands she has lived under for the past five years so she can try to just enjoy the remaining time she has with her husband. 

The hospice doctor says maybe a couple of weeks.  The goal is to keep him comfortable.  How many times have you heard that about hospice?  It sounds so very different to me now.

This is so hard.  You know that thing where you wake up in the morning and for just a brief flash everything is okay and then suddenly you remember life is not what it was just a few weeks ago?  And you really want to just put your head under the covers and stay there all day or for however long it takes for life to go back to normal?  But you know it won't because this is real life and you can't stay in bed all day every day.  So I get up and go to work and call my mom when I think it's late enough that she might be awake, but of course, she's been awake for hours already.  And at her house, it isn't normal either.  Just a slowly changing new normal.  And by lunchtime, I think I might be able to get through another day. 

But it would be so much better if I could just go sit with them.  Quietly sit and be present.  For however long we have.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Yes I still love going to Lagoon.  Always have.  Always will.

Yesterday was a perfect temperature day.  Warm enough to dry us off quickly after the water rides and not sweltering or too humid.  The lines were short and the crowds were small, tiny really.  Lots of walking but many exciting rides.  Some fear and trembling and trepidation, but mostly that was overcome.  Courage was found.  People survived their fears.  We ate pretzels and chicken strips and fries, Icees and ice cream and ribs and jello and roasted corn on the cob.  Herschel talked us into playing a wacky midway game that he ran when he worked at Lagoon one summer years ago.  We may have played it too many times (because that's midway games for you), but eventually everybody won/walked away with a small stuffed lemur prize. 

Yesterday was midday to after dark good times.  Especially with my people.  Almost all of them.

True, I confirmed I can't take the roundy-round rides anymore.  Vertigo.  Blah.  And I was exhausted by the end of the night, or maybe before sundown.  But it was all good.  So great seeing my kids happy together with their kids happy together.  Good times.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

about europe

At some time, every day since we returned from Europe, I open Safari on my phone where my blog is my homepage, to check the blogs I frequent, and I am disappointed to see I haven't yet posted about the details of our visit to Europe.  I've thought frequently about the trip and about what I want to write, what I will remember for having written it down, what I want others to know about the Europe we experienced.  I've thought often that it would have been good to have written something before going to sleep, but honestly, I was exhausted each evening, which is no excuse, because it would have helped me remember each day's activities. 

But here I am, two weeks later, having thought about it all a lot, and finally deciding I just have to write something and then maybe write something more later or perhaps I'll just move on from here.

We'll see.

So.  Europe. 

Most of it was like this:

I'm pretty sure we saw all the things tourists are supposed to see in the countries we visited.  Much of what we saw was only the exterior of the site.  For example, we didn't go inside the Louvre, which was, honestly, at the time, disappointing.  In Paris, we went on a boat ride on the Seine, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, we toured the Palace of Versailles.  So we saw the things tourists see.  We even went to the Moulin Rouge, which was entertaining enough, although parts were a bit, uh, distracting. 

After two nights in Paris, we headed south through the Alps, seeing castles and fortresses and vineyards.  We spent a night in Lucerne where we were touched emotionally by the Lion monument, walked across the covered bridge, and rode trams up one side of Mount Pilatus and a cog train down the other side of the mountain.  It was beautiful and the goat/sheep/cow bells we heard in the distance made me feel like we were living in the book Heidi.

After Lucerne, we crossed the Alps into Lugano and cruised across Lake Lugano to one of the most entertaining dinners I've ever had, at a delightful family-owned restaurant right on the edge of the lake. 

The next morning, we drove into Italy, passing the marble mountains where Carrara marble is mined. 

We spotted the Mediterranean Sea on the horizon, but drove on to Pisa.  Truly another tourist site, but how do you go to Italy and not see the leaning tower? 

That day ended in Florence, where we spent time in the Academy, seeing the David.  It was breathtaking.

We began our second week in Europe in Rome.  In one day, we visited the Forum, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Vatican, including St. Peter's Square and Basilica.  The Pieta in the Basilica moved me deeply and was probably my favorite of all the things we saw.  It brought tears to my eyes.

I did not take this picture (it's from the internet), but taking pictures of it felt irreverent.  And pictures simply don't do it justice.

We also had a delicious, entertaining dinner that night in Rome.  We were really exhausted that day but it was a good day.

The next day we drove to Ferrara, visiting yet another castle, and then headed to Venice where we cruised up the Grand Canal, saw St Mark's Square, Doges' Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and a glassblower demonstration before enjoying dinner in yet another incredible restaurant that we would have never found on our own. 

We went back to the canals the next day for a serenaded gondola ride with the singer on our gondola because our tour guide wanted us to have a romantic time.  She was funny that way, always looking for a way to treat us a bit special.

The next morning, we headed north over Brenner Pass in the Alps to Innsbruck, Austria, and after a few hours in Austria, rode on to Munich, Germany.

In Munich, we had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus.  It was loud and chaotic and the food was tasty. 

We drove further north the next day to Rothenburg and then on to Rhineland.  The next morning, we cruised on the Rhine passing many more castles, churches, vineyards, and fortresses.  And we had cake on the cruise.  Because apparently cake is a thing in Germany.  A thing I like.

So many castles and churches.

We left the ship to again board our bus headed to Amsterdam where we did a walking tour that included a visit through the red light district, which was, frankly, seedy and discouraging.  I didn't know if Amsterdam could ever redeem itself in my mind.  But dinner that night was delicious, and another canal cruise was interesting, as was a trip to a clog maker, a cheese maker, a windmill, and the village of Volendam.  I think I had the best fish I've ever eaten in Volendam. 

Early the next morning, we boarded our bus and drove to Brussels, where we spent a few hours sightseeing and then boarded the Eurostar through France, the chunnel, and into London.  Our awesome tour guide left us to go back to her home in The Haigue and we spent our time in London with a local guide from the area. 

Dinner the first night was of course, fish and chips, at a traditional English pub.  After dinner, we did another river cruise, this time on the Thames, so we saw many of the sites of London from the river.  It may be that by the time we got to London, we were really exhausted, but we both thought London was terribly chaotic and overwhelming.  On the cruise and also the next morning on the bus, it was, "on your right is ..., and on your left is ..., and on your right is..." and on and on and on.  It was distracting and wearing on the nerves trying to sort out the new from the old amidst all of the construction and traffic, but we did enjoy walking through the quiet of St. Paul's Cathedral.

We also watched the changing of the colors, which was a parade of sorts of all of the Queen's men, I suppose. 

Later that day, we headed to Windsor Castle, where my dislike of the Brits was confirmed by an encounter with one of the helpers at the castle.  Jack is still telling people at work the story of the helper woman who responded to my polite query about something at the castle by correcting my manners.  "Hello mum" will forever be associated in my mind with England.  Obviously she was still annoyed that we, America, broke away from them in the 1700s.  Whatev.

And then we came home.  Writing about all of the things we saw and the places we went has nearly exhausted me all over again.  And I'm sure I haven't noted everything.  It was a crazy pace to keep up with for 16 days.  The good things were the great hotels and yummy food everywhere we went and the brand new comfy bus with wifi.  An incredible bus driver and even more amazing tour guide who knew everything about the art, architecture, history, current events, food, and everything else.  We loved those two. 

Our bus driver, Franco, and Mareeka, our awesome tour guide
And of course, seeing everything we saw was a good thing.  While I was disappointed to not go inside of the Louvre, after going through all of many rooms of art in Rome, I realized that if we go back to France, I'm going to research the Louvre and decide ahead of time which pieces of art I truly want to see and then I'll focus on those instead of wandering past hundreds of items that will overwhelm me. 

It was good to be in a tour group so we avoided long lines getting into various places, but that meant getting up at 6:00 am everyday to have the suitcases in the hotel hallway by 6:30, eat breakfast and be on the bus by 7:30 or so.  It was really great not having to haul around our suitcases.  It was good having someone plan and take care of so many things.

Another good thing was Diet Coke.  It's called Light Coke in Europe and it was pretty much available everywhere and tasted pretty much like Diet Coke at home.  Simple things matter.

I was stunned by how many bikes there are in Amsterdam.  

 This is a bike parking ramp for 2,500 bikes.  Walking in Amsterdam required us to always be on the lookout for bike riders, especially in the bike lanes.  You could get clobbered and seriously hurt and never even know what hit you.  And nobody who lives in Amsterdam wears a bike helmet.  Only tourists have helmets.

I was saddened and angered by the mentality that allows a red light district where women are displayed like animals in a zoo but are described as business owners who pay for business licenses to sell their bodies.  Where pot and hash are legally sold in caffee shops that can't legally sell other drugs but those other drugs are obviously sold right outside the caffee shops.  And next door to the caffee shops and women are churches and kindergartens.

People always say that Europe is so old.  I didn't understand what "old" meant until I saw it.  

I loved listening to and trying to read words in Italian. I think I got pretty good at it even if we didn't know what I was saying.  I'd see a sign on a shop and read it in my best Italian and we'd try to figure out what it meant by the stuff being sold in the shop.  Five days in Italy was probably not enough for a whole lifetime. 

I had no appreciation for the power of the Catholic church throughout history and no understanding at all of how much stuff it owns and controls.  True, the Church has had thousands of years to collect stuff, but still.  I had no idea.

Everywhere we went we saw vineyards.  Acres and acres of vineyards over miles and miles of flat ground and hills and mountains.

 This is nothing compared to some of the areas we drove through.  Everywhere, rows and rows of grapes.

And fields of wild poppies.  Not anything people were growing to harvest, but acres and acres as well as little bits everywhere of poppies.

I have a long list of movies to see and books to read that were suggested by our guide because they relate somehow to the places we visited and saw.  I'm looking forward to them.

What I realized on this vacation is that there is so very much I don't know about the world.  About history.  About other people.  I was surprised by how different we are and how very much alike we are.  Everywhere we went and everyone we talked to seemed to be disappointed in their government and unhappy with their healthcare plan.  Except maybe the Aussie couple who were originally from Figi and loved their retirement plan in Australia but insisted Figi is the perfect tropical vacation place.

When we left for our trip, everyone said we should take lots of pictures.  Now I wish we'd taken more, but at the time, I just wanted to soak it all in and I thought I'd remember it all and there would be better quality pictures on the internet of everything we saw.  I quietly mocked the others on the tour who were snapping pics nonstop.  Now I wish I'd taken a picture of every meal we ate, pictures of the people we toured with, pictures of every dog we saw, every flower and bird.  It was all so incredible, so memorable, and I wish I could share it with everyone. 

Maybe next time.

Monday, May 30, 2016

and now we're back

Europe was so much.

It may have been the 16-day tour through eight countries--so lots of bus time seeing lots of stuff on a very surface level.

Or it may have been that Europe is quite simply, so very much.

So much history.  So much architecture.  So much art.  So much acreage.  So much food.  So many people.  So many languages.  So very much.

Our tour guide told us on the first night that the tour we were on was an appetizer.  Something to whet our appetites that would make us want to come back for more, over and over. 

She was right.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

we're here

After a three-hour delay at the airport, and a ten-hour flight, we've arrived!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

lots of stuff

It's been a while since I've posted.  Lots of things going on but here's four of them:

1.  Jr is healed from his appendectomy.
2.  For the first time in my life, last Friday I wore eyebrow makeup all day, on purpose, that wasn't part of a costume.
3.  Jack and I are headed to Europe tomorrow for 16 days.
4.  I'm fighting with yet another stye.  So there's that.

And one more.  Hasn't this spring been absolutely lovely?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

the unexpected turn of events in florida--part 2

I thought the worst part of our potter trip to Florida was tendonitis.

Holy cow was I ever wrong.

This is Jr sleeping during the day in Florida.  Or trying to sleep.  But he was in serious pain and had nausea with accompanying vomiting, etc.  We thought it was a stomach bug.

We dragged him around the hotel and airport and he dragged luggage and eventually we got on the plane for home. 

By the time our nearly five hour flight was finished, it had become clear to me that Jr was really sick.  Something serious was wrong.  I didn't know what it was, but I knew it required an ER visit.  STAT.

We checked into the ER at 11:30.  Blood work, urinalysis, poking/prodding, and ct scan confirmed he was suffering from appendicitis and needed an appendectomy.  STAT.  They took him back around 5:30 saying they'd be back in an hour.  Two and a half hours later, he came out of surgery, minus his just-beginning-to-rupture appendix, and feeling so.much.better.

It is no good seeing your kid feeling so crappy that he tells the nurse his pain level is a "ten" and you know he truly understands what that means.  So glad he's feeling better.  Hoping he's on the way to all better soon.

Monday, March 14, 2016

the unexpected turns of events in florida

Jr and his friend, Erica, and I have been in Florida since last Thursday.  We flew in early and were fortunate to be allowed to check into our hotel at 5:00 a.m., so we got a few hours of sound sleep before heading to the beach.  [Sidenote:  Erica flew into SLC from her home in Omaha on Saturday for a couple of days of skiing before our trip to Florida but unfortunately on her first ski run at Snowbird, fell and broke her ankle.  No good.  But she was still ready to make our trip with her boot and crutches and said she'd consider a wheelchair if she absolutely needed it.  Jr was prepared to push her anywhere in that chair.]

After a few hours of sleep, we got up and drove to Cocoa Beach, which, surprisingly to us, was sponsoring a surf tournament, which meant there was nowhere, not one parking spot available there so we headed north to Daytona Beach.  Along the way, we saw massive numbers of motorcycles--first one or two here and there and then gradually increasing numbers, dozens and dozens and eventually in Daytona Beach, perhaps hundreds of thousands.  [NOT AN EXAGGERATION.]  I got out my phone several times to attempt to document how completely surrounded we were by bikes, with accompanying biker dudes and biker chicks, but was just a little unsure of the photo-taking protocol with bikers.  As we were driving, we kept thinking we needed to stop for food, but every sign outside of every restaurant had language that welcomed bikers.  We weren't sure if they would also welcome us--in our rental Jeep--or if the bikers would welcome us.  So we drove on and on and eventually made it through the masses to the beach at Daytona.  Still more bikes and bikers.  And signs welcoming everybody to the 75th Biker Week at Daytona.  Finally, we understood.  The 75th annual Biker Week at Daytona--opportunity of a lifetime to spend two weeks with all of the biker dudes and biker chicks in the world all gathered together at Daytona Beach.  AND WE WERE THERE!

This is a photo from the internet and I'm not really sure it captures how many bikes/bikers/biker chicks were in town for biker week.  I'm warning you though, don't go googling bike week unless you want to see lots of biker chicks.

Traffic, even with motorcycles that take up a whole lot less space than cars, was terrible.  Like Las Vegas strip speed.  Slower than walking slow.  SLOW.  Eventually we made it to the beach where Jr was thrilled to be able to actually drive on the beach and park on the beach and play on the beach. 

After an hour at the beach in a serious wind, we decided to head back to the hotel for a bit more sleep to prepare for our days of fun at Harry Potter World.  But even in very windy wind, the beach and the ocean were still awesome.

We rose early and headed to Potter World.  Erica quickly realized that renting a wheelchair was not just a great idea but was actually going to be totally necessary if she was going to spend more than ten minutes in the world of magic.  It was going to be a lot of walking.  A lot.  Really a lot.  Jr was more than willing to push her in a wheelchair so he could hurry us along to get on all of the fun rides and into the Leaky Cauldron for breakfast and etc.  So we--Jr and I--pretty much ran everywhere while he pushed Erica.  Or maybe he just walked his usual "I'm so freakin' excited" walk and I tried to keep up.  It was such a fun day.  We laughed and rode rides and marveled at the reality of it all and just generally enjoyed ourselves.  After a long day of fun, we headed back to the hotel and crashed into our beds for a good nights' sleep and sweet dreams.

The next morning we got up, ready for another fun day at the park, only to discover Erica's ankle was having none of that.  She insisted Jr and I needed to go back for more and she would ice and elevate her ankle for the morning and then join us midway through the day.  So off we went to catch our bus to the park.

As we left the bus and started walk-running to the entrance, my foot started complaining that something in it needed to pop.  Before long, it wasn't just asking for something to pop, but was starting to hurt.  And that pain increased the farther we went until I was doing some sort of funky toe/ball of foot walking motion because putting any weight on the outside of my foot sent pain shooting up the outside of my leg.  But we soldiered on, riding the rides, marveling at the things, buying the hoodies, eating the cornish pasties, and etc. 

Midday, as promised Erica called and said she was ready to meet us at the park.  My aching foot/ankle suggested we head back to the hotel.  So we did.  And then I insisted Erica and Jr head back to the park for the afternoon, which they did.  I iced and elevated and googled "sore lower outside of leg from walking."  Hrm.  No Good.

Did I mention Jr made me wear his extra fitbit so we could compete for the title of person who walked the most steps?  Did you know walking while pushing a wheelchair makes a fitbit not count your steps accurately?  Does it seem crazy to have walked 17,743 steps in one day?  And then have an ankle that refuses to walk without protest the next day?  But it looked like I walked the most steps.  I didn't actually, but it looked that way.

The next morning we all rose early, determined to head back to the park together.  Uh not on my ankle.  Jr is very good at taking care of people but I didn't think it possible for me to walk anymore or for him to push two of us in wheelchairs so I sent them on their way, promising to join them after I bought me a new pair of walking shoes and some type of ankle brace or wrap or something.  And off they went.  Because Jazzies seemed like a bad idea if only two of us would be in them and Jr would be able to walk faster than we could drive a Jazzie.

I took the Jeep out in search of a Sports Authority.  Found myself some great new sneakers plus ankle braces and even cushy inserts for my shoes.  Alas, my ankle was still protesting.  So I stopped in at the urgent care facility, waiting a couple of hours, having an exam and a couple of x-rays all to confirm that I did indeed have tendonitis (boo--google was right), which would likely respond to a course of prednisone and more icing and elevation.  The doctor said I should give it 48 hours and I'd be on the way to better. 

Just in time to be back in the office.  YAY!

It might sound like this trip was a bit of a bust, but not really.  Would it have been great to spend all four days at the park and the other two days at the quiet, sunny beach?  Sure.  But we still had a great time. Time spent at the beach, or at an amusement park, or with my kid and his friend are all swell.  We've laughed and enjoyed each other and looked out for each other, which is all good, no matter what else.