Summer suffering

As of this weekend, summer heat has found Silicon Valley.  By the feel of it, Mother Nature has been saving it up for a while!  The max heat was doled out upon Pittsburg, in the north bay area, just east of San Francisco.  That molten city hit a high temperature of 111F yesterday,  Not an all time record for the Bay area, but more than enough for any of the residents!

The ‘official’ beginning of the summer holidays is always the big July holiday.    July 1st is Canada Day, the country’s 150th birthday!  July 4th is Independence Day, which is the American holiday.  The two days are quite close together , which is why Windsor Ontario and Detroit Michigan always celebrated both of the shared waterway, the Detroit River, as Freedom Festival.  We both grew up enjoying the celebration, especially down at the river where massive barges staged a spectacular fireworks display.

This year, our summer includes some travel plans.  Claire and Evan have purchased their first home, with possession set for on June 30th.  As well, their second baby girl will arrive by C-section on July 5th.  Although they would have preferred us there earlier to help with the packing, we were restricted by number of  remaining holiday days due to our trip to Florida in February!  As it is, we’ll only be able to meet our new granddaughter at the hospital.

We were dismayed to find out that Anna’s recent knee surgery caused unforeseen complications.  She developed blood clots in her lungs, causing extreme shortness of breath.  She has been put on blood thinners to destroy the clots, but that takes time.   So far, she is still unable to have a conversation on the phone without tiring terribly.   As a result of her issues, we have added on a quick visit to see her, at the end of our Peterborough visit.  This will turn our planned week long trip into ten days, but checking in on Anna is essential for our peace of mind!

Glenn just warned me that his absence from work at this particular time may necessitate a take a trip to China in mid July.  Yuck!  This would be a perfect opportunity for our air conditioner to stop working, just like it did in our previous residence in Santa Clara.  The news is currently warning of our hottest day yet:  Thursday temperatures may reach yo to 107F.  After that statement, the newscaster said that extreme heat is the number one killer in the USA.

Cold comfort we get from watching the news, no pun intended.

 

Landscape architect

Landscape architect

I don’t know.  Perhaps I, in my beguiling naivety, searched for something of which had I had no knowledge.  Or, at least, insufficient knowledge, to actually know what I’m searching!

After ‘googling’ the term, I landed on the name of a magazine, printed by the Society of Landscape Architects.  Perfect!

Not exactly…

What I discovered was a very artistically elegant publication with beautiful illustrations. Some very artistically interpreted photographs  of plants in a rainbow of modern shades.  No mention of ‘structures in the garden’ could be found.

What I NEED is a skilled someone who can stand back, and objectively view my backyard, such as it is, and quickly know what I’d need to do to obtain the maximum amount of shade on my much loved porch!  I see a wise,  but artistic,  individual in that role, who would take a small step backwards, tilting his or her head, and viewing the 50 foot expanse through a frame created by their raised hands.  Thumb to thumb, index finger to index finger.IMG_0713

I really enjoy sitting out there with my morning coffee, trying to formulate my plans for the day.   Then , later, I’ll return there with  a pre-dinner glass of wine, hoping to sort my day into a nonexistent file folder.  Does there exist an answer to both extremes,  morning AND late afternoon shade?  Other than the obvious conclusion of an inclusive roof over the whole area, I’m stymied.

The turquoise shelter above does an okay job, when the sun is directly overhead.  But since I’m rarely home at noon hour, you can see why this isn’t very helpful!  The little beige triangular sail is helpful for the angle light, but not all of it.

Ideally, the structure would be tastefully designed, providing for modern aesthetics and environmental concerns.  Anything more specific than that is still far too ethereal, wandering in and out of my imagination at will.  Lots of time to dream, fantasize and plan.

In a perfect world, all construction could be done in something like redwood, this being California and all.  That’s not a frugal choice, but it MUST be cheaper than ‘Trex’, the wood-like material that is essentially a polymer!  VERY weatherproof, but also very hard to build with!  Of course, there are a lot of competitors now, in the pseudo-wood market, so perhaps the price has settled down a bit.

As most if not all of my MS buddies know, sunshine equals heat, and heat equals non functional body parts!  I like to carry that equation to an extreme:  I CRAVE SHADE.  I’ve even gotten to the point where bright sunlight hurts my eyes, making me steal Glenn’s Oakley sunglasses, since they are SUPER dark.  My drugstore junkers pale in comparison, pun not intended but I’ll take it!  My tendency to lose things on a regular basis makes me disinclined to invest in pricey sunglasses, but I may have to change my tune after my next appointment with my retinal specialist at Stanford!

One step at a time.

Problem solved!

Planning a several thousand miles trip back to the Olde Country (Canada) is much more challenging for me than it used to be.  A long time friend of mine who also has MS explained that it was something to do with the “executive function” that our brains seem to have lost.  Sounds as good as any explanation!  All I can say for certain is that it happens when you dig your old suitcase out of the back of the closet, and open it up on your bed, ready to stuff with the exact amount of clothing that you’ll need.  Logically, the number is directly related to the length of your trip, the availability of laundry facilities,  your planned activities, the weather forecast, and the number of members of the Royal Family you plan to see.

Slight miscalculation on my part:  Bill, Kate, and the kids will be visiting Canada later in the year.  My bad!

The MAIN reason for this visit is the anticipated arrival of our very own Princess, on July 5th!  To my knowledge, she is as yet unnamed, although there has been a lot of chatter about Hattie.  We’ll know soon enough!  My sympathies are with Claire, since I remember well the misery of being VERY pregnant in the heat of the summer.  Our son, the baby-daddy, Evan, arrived on July 19th.

There is yet another reason for this trip.  THE BOUGHT A HOUSE!  Tired of ‘pouring money down the drain’, aka renting, they finally fought the insane real estate market in Peterborough.  The reason this little city in central Ontario is having a wild time in the real estate market is that the behemoth of Toronto just noticed that they were just a ninety minute drive out of the big city!  Now, lots of would-be cottagers are discovering this area with lots of lakes and forests, with prices much lower that Muskoka, the usual Toronto go-to for vacation property.

They get possession of the property on June 30th, and are already busily packing and downsizing any unnecessary items in preparation.  Their new home will have 5 bedrooms, which they will need, since Claire’s mom, Bonnie, is moving in with them so she can help get them settled, and then eventually provide child care, when Claire goes back to work.  She’ll be taking most of the next year off as maternity leave, but since she’s self employed, that mean NO income!

Once they are settled, they hope to build a chicken coop on their large property.  As well, a generous garden is planned for NEXT year, on their 3 acre lot.  It will be a huge cost savings as well when Evan installs a reel-to-reel clothesline, for all those clothes that won’t need to use an electric dryer!  For the winter months, a clothesline can be set up in the basement, just like I remember my mother having when I was growing up!

They are SO excited at this new adventure that is unfolding for them, and I really can’t blame them at all.  They will no longer be living in the city of Peterborough, but in the nearby town of Norwood.  They will have a few nearby neighbors, but their road isn’t like a city street.  It’s a “Line”, 12th Line to be specific!

I will definitely post lots of pictures from our visit, in June/July, including some baby pics!

Vasper

When a local scientist was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he wasn’t content to simply watch his diet and take Metformin for the rest of his life.  He began to research what he could do to reverse this condition that could eventually take his eyesight, his kidney function, and his heart health.  With the knowledge that weight loss could reign in blood sugar,  Peter Z Wasowski got to work designing a multifaceted exercise machine.

Taking a basic machine found in most gyms, called a Nu Step.  This equipment is most often used by people that are in need of gentle exercise, at a slow speed.  What Peter did was to add tight pressure cuffs to both the arms and legs, in order to trap the lactic acid that the body produces in exercise.  This cues the body to produce more growth hormones, which helps with healing injured limbs, and fools the body into thinking that it has been exercising for a much longer period of time.  These machines are used extensively in rehabilitation for stroke victims, as well as those with chronic illnesses.nustep vaspar (1)

These blue seat covers, as well as the cinching cuffs, are piped full of icy cold water on a continuous basis.  The pump doesn’t start until you are on the seat with the cuffs in place, but once you are and the switch is thrown, BRRR!   This is supplemented by the frosty metal pedals!  These accommodations are ideal for folks with multiple sclerosis, like me!  Those  20 minutes  actually provides the benefits of a 45 minute workout.

IMG_0678Peter is currently working on outfitting some other pieces of exercise equipment to fulfill this same role.  Currently, there is a rowing machine and an elliptical trainer, that have had modifications made to accomplish these lofty goals

My favorite part of the whole experience is the “Cool Room”.  Soft nature sounds are played, and lavender oils are available for use.  It is a softly lit room with four cots that have the same chilled ‘bubble wrap’ as the seat of the Nu Step.  It is actually filled with extremely chilled water that is pumped through it constantly, the same way it is pumped through the cuffs and the seat cushion.  The water tank used is shown in the above picture.

The value of persistence

I’ve been having a battle with the Department of Motor Vehicles lately.  My driver’s license expired in March, and even though I sent my renewal in February, I’m still waiting.  Since we have to show our license to get in to Moffat, I got pulled aside.  Up comes the military police, who wouldn’t let me drive OR go to Vasper for my exercise session!  I had to call my Glenn to come and get me and the car!  I got an official warning to renew my license, even though it was actually sitting in the hands of the DMV.
When we got home, I called the DMV, and asked what I was supposed to do.  They said to call the DMV’s Legal Presence in the morning, which I did.  The voice in the recording said I was ‘caller # 45.  When a live body finally answered after half an hour, he told me  to come in to the bureau with all of the usual paperwork us non natives carried.  Next day, #3, we got in line and waited.  FINALLY, we are next.  We showed the clerk our stack of paper, ,our passports, copies of  his H1B, my H4, our I94 (which lists all of our entrances and exits from the USA.  NOT good enough!  They required us to present the ORIGINAL I94, not a copy.  As a concession, they did extend my drivers license by 3 weeks.
Next morning, I headed off to Vasper once again, and once again, I was pulled aside.  Why?  The officer looked at my ownership, saw the red tag on it, and said that I had to put it on the car, since it was invaled if it stayed on the document.  I agreed to attend to that right away, so he nodded and walked away.  Good girl that I am, I immediately got out of the car, went to the rear of the vehicle, and attempted to removed the sticker from the ownership.  I scratched at it with my fingernail, to no avail.  It wasn’t a sticker, it was a photocopy!  I looked down at the plate, and sure enough,  there was the sticker.
Fast forward to day #4, when we return once again to the DMV.  Early afternoon is the time to go!  Our wait was minimal, just half an hour.  It’s amazing what you can be grateful for.  Finally our number is called.  Finally, the fates were on our side!  This gal was super friendly, and was half Canadian!  We chatted about the ‘old country, and compared the real estate markets of here vs Vancouver, BC.  She looked at my drivers license, which had been renewed for 30 days, and commented that this was not nearly enough, given the way bureaucracy  is inclined to drag its heels.  She took it for a few minutes, and cam back with having extended it for a YEAR!
Now, with that adventure put to bed, our youngest son and his wife found a house they wanted……AGAIN!  This was their fifth try.  But finally, it worked, and they got it!  They live in Peterborough, Ontario, which is a couple hours north of Toronto.  It is a small city, population of about 200,000, with a real estate market that was kind of sleepy, until about a year ago.  It is now as competitive and vicious as it is here, since Toronto has realized the proximity! They had wanted to live in the downtown area originally, but had been looking outside of town more recently.  They found a home in the village of Norwood,  that is, well, quirky, but they fell madly in live with it.  Luckily, they were able to bargain with the owner, and get it!  Possession date was set at June 30th.  Only problem is that his wife, Claire, is very pregnant, with a baby due July 1st.  They currently have a 4 year old girl, who is most anxious for her baby sister to arrive.

East Coast Adventures

East Coast Adventures

This vacation week goes down in the history books as one of the very best.  We left a chilly, soaking wet California, and headed east to what we were told was a warm and sunny locale.  We soon learned hat weather forecasts are universally unreliable.  It poured for the first two days of our visit.

This gave us the excuse to spend some time at the local mall, something that Mary Lou heartily encouraged.  The men were both in search of new sandals, which they were able to find.  I was in hopes that the traditionally HOT California summer would hold off a bit longer, but eventually I would need some new shorts.  At home, I don’t have a girlfriend to shop with that could provide me with an honest second opinion.  I’ve lots of friends here, but most of them are unable to withstand a lengthy shopping trip, due to the challenges of MS.

On the first clear morning that we were there, Hutch announced that he and Mary Lou joined their nearby friends for a two mile hike along the beach every morning.  Having been lulled into a restful sleep by the gentle shush of the waves each night, this sounded quite doable.  Donning our sandals, Glenn and I followed along enthusiastically.  Should be no problem, but if I tucker out, I’ll just sit on the beach and wait.

Upon reaching the edge of the sand, they removed their sandals and left them on the edge of the boardwalk, It is much easier to walk barefoot,  with the variability of the waves lapping the shore.  Usually a gentle tickle, but sometimes an enthusiastic whoosh, the Atlantic offers constantly changing conditions.

beaxh stretchThe six of us headed along the surf with enthusiasm, but the spacing quickly spread out.  The more experienced foursome soon left us behind, as I was busily picking up shells of all shapes and colors for my young granddaughter.  I can just imagine the ‘arts’ that she will create with a bottle of white glue and all of those specimens!gator.jpg

Obviously I was incredibly naive about my ability to travel on the beach.  I found out exactly why this was not a good idea for me as the day wore on.  The spasticity that I have always wondered about but have rarely experienced set in on me with a vengeance!  By the time the evening rolled around, I could barely walk.  Muscle cramps times ten in severity!  Extreme pain was an understatement.  Luckily, I had inadvertently packed extra Baclofen (Lioresal), and one extra of those pills eased my discomfort to a manageable level.  No more sand sprints for me!

On the day they had planned for a golf date, Glenn and I headed to the nearby nature center.  This also had a large collection of exhibits built of Lego, to highlight the natural points of interest.  DSCN0533We also went on a memorable Everglades cruise on a loud but amazingly fast ‘air boat’.  That was the closest we had ever gotten to an alligator that wasn’t safely ensconced in a cage!  gatoreverglades tourWe also visited the he favorite spot for manatee spotting…. but I guess they were feeling a wee bit shy.  The best view we got of them was when they were CLOSE to the surface of the murky water.  Oh well, we are told they look like large blobs of glistening fat with tiny ears and nearly invisible eyes.  manatee?Guess we didn’t miss much!

On our last evening there, we took our hosts out for dinner at the best seafood restaurant  on the East coast (or so we were told)!  It was quite awesome.  Mary Lou had scallops, Glenn had tuna, and Hutch and I had Place.  All fresh caught that afternoon!dinnerdates

 

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung

An extremely popular Shanghai restaurant has crossed the Pacific Ocean, and opened a branch here, in Silicon Valley, California.  That was a year ago.  We have tried several times to get a reservation there, with no luck.  We tried to get reservations when Claire and Evan were here at Christmas, but no.

oTwo weeks ago, Glenn asked where I would like to go for dinner on Valentines Day.  We have tickets for the new Cirque du Soleil that evening, with our good friends Karen and Robert.  An early dinner would be a lovely start for our evening!  On a whim, we checked on Din Tai Fung, and WOW, we got a reservation at 4:30pm, giving us lots of time to get to the 7:30 curtain call for Cirque.

In just ten days time, we are heading to Florida, to visit my brother and sister in law, in their condo in Fort Pierce.  The note I got from them last evening told of weather that was drastically different from what we have been having here.  He said that it is hot and sunny there, temperatures in the low 80’s  (F) and no possibility of precipitation for the duration of our visit.  That should delight me, but …  Heat is no friend of mine, so I’ve not REALLY minded the rain, and cool temperatures of the past couple of months.

 

Today was a nice change of pace from our cool grim grey days.  Bold sunshine stirred legions of  birds to sing their hearts out in absolute delight.  Luckily, the sunshine was not accompanied by it’s less desirable cohort HEAT.  A cool breeze kept the brilliance down to an acceptable level, since even February has been known to have its momentary heat waves here.  A year ago, Willa was dashing into the ocean surf in Santa Cruz, playing with several other toddlers that seemed oblivious to the nip of the icy water!  This year, the beaches will be eerily quiet, since the major route to get there is full of rocks, mud and yellow police tape!screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-10-59-14-am

We have received more rain in the past six weeks than this region has had in many years.  So much in fact that several local reservoirs are OVER full, causing local officials to try to find a way to drain some of the surplus.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-10-44-40-am

There have been SO many weather warnings lately that sand bags are the MUST have item on everyone’s list.  Flooding is a frequent event, as are landslides.  Property inspectors are working 24/7, trying to keep up with tagging homes that are no longer safe.  Many of the homes that have been condemned are in tremendously expensive areas, but not so much now!

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-10-51-49-amA gorgeous 3800 sq foot home with stunning views of the valley below, that was perched on the precipice of a mountain may have just been red-tagged.  Its foundation had begun to crack badly, as the ground beneath it has seceded in the onslaught of raging flood waters.  The red tag means that NO ONE is allowed to enter the premisses, including the homeowners.

After working and saving so you could purchase this remarkable property you are now homeless.

You never thought this would happen to YOU, but it just did, courtesy of Mother Nature, the great equalizer!