icky air

Since today is Sunday, it is designated as a run-around, here and there, get it done kind of day.  We both make a list of things to get done, listed in order of importance.

The difficulty today is the all-encompassing cloud of smoke!  Never before have we had such an in your face smoke cloud.  We are glued to the news channel, seeing the evacuation orders creep closer.

The current evacuations are still FAR north of us, around the Healdsburg area.  We are in Sunnyvale, which is approximately 80 kilometers south of San Francisco.  Healdsburg is north of San Francisco, approximately an hour and a half past San Francisco.  Does any of that make sense?

Unfortunately, the smoke is getting thicker and thicker.  The smell of smoke is getting quite insidious,  but it didn’t stop us from completing our to-do list.  Many schools and colleges are closed due to unhealthy air conditions!

Due to the ‘wind event’ accompanying the fire, power is being shut off in many of the Bay area neighborhoods.  PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) has ordered black outs in order to minimize the winds inadvertently causing more fires!

Currently there are several thousand families under evacuation orders, and various schools and community centers are serving as evacuation centers.  As the wind speeds pick up, more and more areas have their power cut, especially those that are in well treed areas.  There is a constant worry that broken tree branches fall on power wires, causing sparks to light up dry foliage.

This time of year in southern California offers a variety of things of which to be fearful.  Take your pick!

Diary of our Alaskan cruise

This cruise took place earlier this year (2019).

WE WERE LATE LEAVING SAN FRANCISCO.  We were supposed to leave at 4pm, and we even got us upgraded to business class!.  We had just done up our seat belts, and


They just discovered that they had put too much fuel on the plane.  Apparently they can neither add fuel or take it off the flight while passengers are on board.  So, off we go, back into the airport.  While they were reducing the fuel on the plane, we all sat there, grumbling.  

So when that was done, we thought we were all set, UNTIL..

The pilot came out and explained to all of us that this plane was a no-go anyways, because there were warning lights that had come on.  So, no problem, he said, we’ll just take a different plane……

….except there were NONE available.  There MUST be a plane that we can get , we just have to find it!  Meanwhile, we’ll give you snacks and  bottled water.  

Well, there IS an A320 currently in Puerto Vallarta…… yeah, let’s get that one!  Be here in just a moment, kinda sorta.

The plane was called to head north, and arrived at 6pm.

Luckily, everyone was in amazingly fine spirits.  We thoroughly enjoyed chatting to a family group who were in San Francisco, visiting from Christchurch, New Zealand.  They told us that we really needed to visit there, because they LOVE Canadians!  Okay, we will move you up our must do list!

We finally got on the new plane, all the way from PUERTO VALLARTA!  Luckily our upgrade status still applied, so we were served dinner on the flight.  Mind you, it was chicken on quinoa, so didn’t appeal to many of us.  Of course, we were pretty full of snacks and water by then, so we didn’t starve.

We are currently staying at the Pan Pacific Vancouver, at $500 per night.  At this point, I can  clearly see the value of this accommodation!  The entire outside wall, overlooking the harbor, where our ship, the Volendam Holland America, rests.  It is patiently awaiting its load of sailers, like us.  that are scheduled to depart on the four o’clock sailing, this afternoon.  

I am incredibly excited to be cruising once again!  It has been FOURTEEN years since our last cruise, that departed from Rome and cruised the Mediterranean Sea.  That was our twenty-fifth anniversary.  It was important to us that we have at least one exotic port on that trip!  That port probably would have been on the stop in Tunisia, which is frighteningly close to Libya.  Kinda scary neighbors!This cruise is tame by comparison.  Leaving from Vancouver British Columbia Canada, we cruise up the inside passage, between the islands and the mountains, ogling at miles of astounding views and photo ops.  

We hope to find THE picture, that will eventually grace our living room wall.  This is why Glenn’s Nikon camera was invited on this trip!  The camera has better image sensors, and the telephoto is MUCH better than the one on the iPhone, with apologies to Apple.  Although, unsubstantiated rumor has it that Apple is in quiet talks with some camera makers……

It is now gone 5 o’clock, and we have just had a relaxing time in the shipboard bar.  While a young pianist coaxed the ivories into a soft tune, we enjoyed cocktails that we haven’t had in many moons.  Despite coolish weather, I HAD to have a Pina Collada, while Glenn selected a Mojito.  We relaxed, as the stunning scenery slid by easily, while we sighed over the many cottage properties that dotted the hillside.  

The ‘spoil your sweetie’ package that Glenn ordered when he booked this cruise, included a beautiful floral arrangement,  which was delivered early this afternoon.  Then, a brochure was dropped off at our cabin door, offering our choice of many wines and spirits, so we chose two of our favorite chardonnay.

So we are both softly buzzing, and are back in our cabin.  During the mandatory drill concerning lifeboats, life vests, and evacuation we had plenty of time to chat with our fellow cruisers.  One couple on our lifeboat was actually from Windsor, and the gent taught history at our high school, after we had left.  His wife is a long time customer of Tabi, Tan Jay, and Northern Reflections.  She didn’t recognize me, but then, I didn’t have short spiky hair then, either!

Thursday morning brought a slight rocking motion on board the ship, undoubtedly due to the part of the coast we were sailing.  Land masses would appear, then melt away, as we gently went  along.  Having just checked the progress we have made on the main map posted in the stairwell by the Lido deck pool, we can tell basically where we are.  Currently, we are sauntering up the coast towards our ultimate destination:  Alaska.  

Our first stop in this northernmost state is Juneau, but before we get there we can attend an informative even telling us where to shop and where to dine.  That starts at 11am, so we’re off to grab a seat for this!

Well, that was pretty much a waste of time for us, since we are not here to invest in diamonds, or any of the precious gems that apparently can be had at many local shops at shore.  Ah well, we at least learned where some awesome halibut and chips can be found!When we were seated at our table for dinner at 8pm, we were delighted to see that we had window seats, overlooking the rear froth from the ship’s engines.  Eventually, two more seats were taken, by a couple that were originally from England.  He is a structural engineer, and has recently had placements in Zimbabwe, and Australia, which is where their kids currently live.  They have one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way.  The couple currently resides in Australia, so they will have contact with their growing family.

Later this afternoon, when we get closer to Alaska, we will be in USA waters.  At that point, the ship will be ‘in US waters’, so the ship’s current Canadian pilots will hand the steering back over to the American pilots.  It is figured that this will happen in the middle of the night, so we’ll be none the wiser.  The theory is that as we enter into shallower waters (closer to ports), the hazard areas will be best known by the pilots familiar with the area.  

Before returning to our cabin, we passed by the collection of photos that were taken when we embarked.  I was barefaced, completely without makeup at that point, so as I feared, the camera made me look like a ghost.  NOT a keeper.  

It is now gone noon, so I think that it is time to wander towards the dining venue for lunch.  

Oddly, the temperature has dropped steadily throughout the afternoon.  It currently stands at 48 degrees Farenheit, with winds gusting at 18 knots.  After a light lunch we came back to our cabin to read, watch a movie, and generally try to find the energy that we think that should have!  The theme for dinner tonight is dressy but not formal.  

We never got there.  Thanks to being chatty, and enjoying discussions with our fellow cruisers, we spent a wee bit too long at the shipboard bar, accomp hanied by a pair of first time cruisers from Victoria.  Glenn and I each had two booze heavy cocktails, his a mojito and mine a long island ice tea.  Frustratingly, he was not really affected by this, but I, I was….. DRUNK.

We needed to change into dress wear for dinner, so back to our cabin we went.  I made the mistake of laying down while he commandeered the bathroom.  Changes in position, like horizontal vs vertical, are never easy, since my concussions.  Add a couple of boozy drinks, and these changes knock you flat.  

When I tried to stand up so that I could exchange my pants for my long skirt, caused me to swoon.  BACK down on the bed I cascaded.  And there I stayed, except for periodic gulps of the ginger ale that Glenn had gotten for me.  When my bladder insisted that it really was worth the vertical trip down the hall, my stomach couldn’t resist registering its complaint.  I sealed my lips to avoid a ‘mishap’.  After having quickly dealt with the needs of my bladder, I lurched back to the comfort of BED.  Our eight o’clock dinner time came and went, as I chewed my second Dramamine.  I insisted to Glenn that he was welcome to go to dinner, but he was deep into one of the ebooks he had downloaded before we left home, and demurred.  

It is now 945am Friday morning, and breakfast is done.  I am still paying for sins in that I require being close to the facilities.  Glenn is off for a brisk walk to stretch his legs on the wide open assembly deck, where the life boat drills took place.  Although I initially offered to accompany him, I soon demurred, feeling that my needs would be best served by minimizing 

the distance to the bathroom until I got my sea legs well and well and truly under me.  

Sunrise was as predicted, at 529am.  Sunset occurred at 954pm last night.  We have cruised 445nm (nautical miles) and the ocean’s depth is estimated to be 90 meters.  I guess that this is testament to our being in a much more northerly locale.  All of those statistics are designed to make you shiver.

We just watched the ballet, as the captain called it, of a much smaller ship coming alongside of this much larger vessel, in order to offload the passengers of the first side trip.  This first trip was to Tracy Arm, to get a close up of glaciers.  The cruise ship goes past the glaciers, but does not go in to the fjords for unclose viewing, simply because this ship is TOO BIG for these narrow waterways!  

Glenn’s morning stroll around the ship gave him a view of two whales, on the port side of the ship.  Sounds like they were providing a photo op, undoubtedly at the crew’s behest.  Since we will be on the port side for the return trip to Vancouver, I can only hope that they oblige me as well!

Our tour departs at 2pm, giving us that much longer to rest and relax after our adventures of last evening.  While having breakfast, we noticed little advertisements for today’s special lunch in the dining room:  Alaskan Fish and Chips!  You don’t need to ask us twice!  We have ordered such a meal many times in our lives, only to be served Captain Highliner fish.  The absolute very best we’ve had was at Pat and Hank’s in Windsor, Ontario, where we grew up.  The Chish and Fips was a close second, but too often restaurants will entice you in with the promise of fish and chips, only for you to learn that it didn’t come close to what you were expecting.  However, I have better expectations of today’s lunchtime offering, and hope not to be disappointed!

We are currently at 58 degrees north latitude, whereas Ottawa is 45 degrees, and San Francisco is 40 degrees north, on the latitude scale.  We are currently heading up to Juneau.  

Currently, it is 10am, and we are traveling at 17 knots, with apparent winds at 20 knots.  We have travelled 1200km, since we left Vancouver, BC.

Every time Glenn steps out onto the verandah, he spots something worth seeing.  But by the time I manage to join him out there, the special sight has disappeared.  If I was inclined to be paranoid, I might question this, but the reality is that his eyesight is a bit sharper than mine.

We had our fish and chips lunch, which was very nice, but still paled in comparison with the fish we remember from days of old, which might in fact be because our memories are either jaded or enhanced.  Yes, it was halibut, but not as crisp we would have liked!  It helped that I chose a vintage ginger ale to accompany the meal.  At least I was able to eat most of the meal!  

We are now docked at Juneau.  It is a cute looking little town, that thrives on the presence of cruise ships.  We have been fully briefed on all the little shops where we can purchase amazing jewels at amazing prices.  Sadly, that isn’t on our shopping list.  Our shore excursion will depart at 2pm.

This morning was full of lemony sunlight, as we gazed upon the Skagway harbor.  Most of our fellow passengers were booked on earlier tours, so we up and breakfasting by 8am.  Not us;  Glenn wisely arranged an afternoon trip, so this morning was all about relaxing, and having that second cup of coffee in the dining area.  We had fortunately found a table by the window, so spent some time gazing at the ‘grafitti’ composed by travelers that came before us.  This is obviously a stop that is favored by Holland America, as there were several tags that mentioned the names of other of their ships.  

We are booked on a round trip train trip that takes us on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.  The train cars are reconditioned, and the rails are 110 year old iron rails!  We’ll go through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles, as the guide recounts the tales of the gold rush.  At the summit, of 2865 feet, the train makes a loop, and heads back down the pass.  This narrow gauge railroad is considered to be a world wide wonder!

Most folks know how I feel about train rides.  So I don’t mind admitting to being somewhat giddy with excitement!  I know, silly, but I AM my grandfather’s granddaughter, after all.    

Many fellow passengers are taking more adventurous (read ‘strenuous’) tours, but I’m happy with what I CAN do, and am ever so grateful that Glenn seems okay with these restrictions as well.

Luckily, zip lining doesn’t top his to-do list either.  We laughed when Carolyn bemoaned Ryan’s refusal to participate in this activity when they visited Costa Rica, while quietly questioning to ourselves what WE would have done.  Neither of us spoke up to say that we would have done it, because the reality is a bit harder to speak.

It is 1030am, on Saturday May 25th.  We have travelled 891 nautical miles so far.  Sunset tonight 951pm but won’t actually be dark until after 11pm,  and sunrise tomorrow will be 407am.  This means that we only get about 5 hours of darkness.  Welcome from Juneau, and is probably one of our last opportunities to mail the postcard I wrote to Willa and Hattie, so it will have an Alaskan postmark. Welcome to the land of the midnight sun!

We just took a quick lunch break before our train trip, and noted that the rug lining the elevator said ‘Friday’.  Either we have time travelled, or one elevator got missed when the daily rug changes were made.  I’m thinking it was the latter

The train trip simmered with nostalgia, as the guide pointed out numerous sites where the original creators of this railroad now lie.  An announcement in the press of the day declared that gold had been found!  This was in the midst of a depression, so tens of thousands of men and women arrived to stake their claims.  What they didn’t realize was that six hundred miles of treacherous terrain lay before them before they would reach the gold!

When they arrived, some prospectors were required to carry a ton of supplies up the ‘golden stairs’ to the summit of the Chilcoot Pass.  Others chose the longer, less steep White Pass Trail, thinking that pack animals could be used, and would be easier.  In either case, both trails lead through interior lake country.

The White Pass & Yukon Railroad Company began construction of a narrow gauge railroad.  This rail climbed from Skagway at sea level, to 3000 feet, in just 20 miles, and featured steep grades.  

The original narrow gauge rail was restored in the 1980’s, and is continuing to this day.  A tall wooden trestle was retired in 1969, but much of the original track is still used, and is continuously updated and maintained.  This news spread like wildfire, when it was published in 1899.

Sunday May 26th morning was another unusually bright beautiful day, especially for normally somnolent Alaska.  We are just cruising today, heading north to view various glaciers.  We reached the end of our northward objective at 1145am:  the glacier, and it’s arm, the Marjorie glacier.  We are pausing here to allow everyone a chance to photograph these partially hidden monoliths, at least to the extent possible.

When I thought of glaciers before, I was picturing clear blue sharp edged large chunks of ice.  I now know that this is NOT the general picture of ice bergs.  In fact, they could most likely be described as looking like dirty snowdrifts, that are potentially hiding the more pristine parts under silty cloaks of solidified snow.  THAT is a glacier, as recognized by the scientific community!

As we were standing on our balcony just now, there was a sudden disturbance of the surface of the water.  Within a few seconds, the cause of this appeared.  A sizable chunk of clear blue ice rose to the surface, bringing its snowy mantle with it.  Glenn mumbled about the ship being hit by and iceberg, but this wee chunk was probably not even noted by the ships crew.

Still standing, transfixed by the ice, we heard grumbling and distant crackling, as Marjorie cut loose another small serving of ice from her bulk.  Even with glancing furiously in the direction of the sound, we were too late.  The sound actually was the live happening of the cut, so by the time we heard the sound it was too late to see the action.

We are now heading back down the Tarr inlet, back towards the mouth of Glacier Bay.  When conservationist John Muir first visited this area in 1879, he stimulated the publics’ interest in Alaska.  People began arriving in ships to view this natural wonder.  Sadly, polar regions respond to changes in climate at much faster rates, than temperate and equatorial regions do.  So, how much will Glacier Bay likely change in our lifetimes?  In our grandchildren’s?

Glacier Bay National Park is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is located in the Tongass National Forest.  It is one of the world’s largest protected natural areas.   

Glenn has spent the past several days engrossed in the books that he downloaded onto his IPad.  Because I  had most of the packing lists weighing heavily on my mind, I just grabbed a book off my shelf, thinking I wouldn’t likely have much time to read.  Well, wrong, and more wrong!  I grabbed a book that I had already read.  Damn!

And I have plenty of time to read, but no material TO read.  Luckily, this ship has a fair collection in their onboard library, so I was able to find the sort of reading material I prefer.  The autobiographical work of a man about our age that describes his year of living in Alaska, and building his own home, while surviving basically on his own:  gardening, hunting and fishing to

survive.  Oh yes, a friend had given him a sourdough starter when he left.  

This book is called ‘One Man’s Wilderness:  An Alaskan Odyssey’, by Sam Keith, from the journals and photographs of Dick Proeneke.

I also found another book the interested me, so I’ve noted the salient facts about it, as well.  Bruce Chatwin, “The Songlines”, ISBN 01400914.296, ?

Penguin Books, 1987/1988

This one is about a man that ventures into the desolate land of outback Australia to learn the meaning of the Aboriginals ancient “Dreaming Tracks”.  

I absolutely love non fiction, and can rarely tolerate fiction.  I know:  WEIRD!

WE are technically on our way to our last stop, Ketchican.  We are experiencing a slight delay, since our on board computer systems are acting a bit flakey.  Holland America is run on PC’s, so that is understandable, or so says Glenn.  All they need to do is ask for Glenn’s help…….

A couple of days have passed since I have had time to sit and blog.  I have to finish my book before the end of the cruise, since I will have to leave it here.  I’m nearly finished my book, so will be able to leave it behind without regret.  

Yesterday, we went to a native village, and saw/heard a presentation from the Tlitkin tribe who are Alaska’s aboriginals.  They were actually discovered on an island off Alaska’s coast, but for our purposes, a village was set up on Alaskan soil.  It was interesting to see how the younger folks are trying to maintain their heritage, and how babies and small children are woven in to the fabric of their day to day lives.  Babies are not surprisingly often frightened of the loud drums, but they showed how they became acclimatized to it, as they are woven into the ceremonial dances.  

Our latter part of the day was a ‘lumberjack show’, but in hindsight was rather theatrical.  Several quite well built young men were the lumberjacks, who played for the numerous teen girls in the audience!  Afterwards, anyone was able to pose with these fellows, an offer taken up by young and older ‘girls’ alike.  I was able to resist, mostly because I could imagine the derisive reaction of my two boys to this!

We will arrive back in Vancouver later tonight  This has  been a truly awesome trip, but I’m really not ready for it to end!  We will have an extra day in Vancouver at the end, but I’d like to start all over again.  We never did manage to find a place to buy stamps in Alaska, so we could mail our postcard to the girls, providing an official postmark from this distant state.   Perhaps it is one of this situations of the best made plans not being brought to fruition.


Why I NEED to have a clothesline, when we retire to Canada

There is nothing as comforting as the scent of sheets, air-dried on an old fashioned reel to reel clothesline. This is oh so true in Canada, but definitely not here. In California, the air is markedly different from the fresh air we grew up with.

Here, the air is laced with car exhaust, smoke, and fumes from various industries. Hanging clean clothes in this sort of air would mean that they were really no longer clean. This explains why you rarely see clotheslines in the backyards here!

Every few weeks, the local governments declares a ‘spare the air day’.  This is the subtle nudge to remind us to make extra efforts to help reduce the air pollution,  for which we are ALL responsible.

You can even SEE the difference in the air quality here. We have a bright red shiny car, that we take to the car wash every couple of weeks.

This would probably be a good time to describe the difference between US and Canadian car washes. In Canada, a car wash generally refers to a business where you drive your car into a small building that contains machinery that washes your car. We do have a few similar businesses down here, but those are the exception.

Most American Car Washes are affiliated with gas stations but only run on weekends. Instead of a specific building, these car washes are populated with dozens of Mexican men that wash, polish, vacuum, and polish everything inside and outside the entire car.

This mini hispanic army works amazingly fast, and stays on task! Since it is always HOT here, especially in the summer sun, I often feel very sorry for these guys (and gals!) laboring in the midday heat. If I make a comment commiserating with them, they inevitably shrug, and say that they are used to it.

It is the rainfalls that we only see in the ‘winter’ months that tell the true story of air quality. An overnight rainfall does not rinse the car clean of the previous days detrius, but instead leaves a messy scattering of dots and streaks on this beloved car.

On the morning after a midnight shower, one cannot luxuriate and inhale the moist scent of grass and greenery. No, not here.  By the time the moisture fights its way through the ick congested atmosphere and sampled the airborne soil, it has elected to take it on to where the raindrops ultimately land Is that wise? Who ever credited raindrops with being particularly smart?



Too big and too little

Yesterday was our annual trip to the vet with our two ‘big boned’ orange cats, Alf age 14, and Louie age 3. Each of these boys is big enough that they each get their own carrier. At approximately 15 pounds each, they are ‘significant’.

We had a bit of trouble rounding thes two big boys up. They know exactly what those carriers mean: NEEDLES! Alf was put in a carrier first, and Louie second. He just started his chorus of loud cries, but Alf put his effort into escape. Which he did, and took off at a rate of speed that his girth makes should hinder.

Cat #3 is Jesse, 2 years old, small build and sleek, whose appointment doesn’t line up with the others. We could sense him smirking at the other two, but perhaps we read too much into this.

Down the hall and around the corner Alf went, settling down in the kitchen. He snuggled up against the dishwasher, as best as could. Silence. Perhaps he’d not be found if he could just squeeze under the front edge……

HE was quickly nabbed, and reinserted in the carrier….temporarily. He may be big, portly, and orange, but stupid he’s not. His second escaspe was easier than the first, and quickly done allowing him to rethink his poor judgement that foiled his first effort.

This time, the wiley Alf continued down the hall in search of a better hiding place. Sadly, he dashed straight into Glenn’s legs. Back into the carrier once again. This time, Glenn had a small length of black electrical wire, just enough to secure the doors of the cage.

We arrived at the vet’s office about half an hour late. This was not an unusual event for us. We normally try to bring the whole gang at once, even though this can have pit falls of its own! The problem is that appointments on Saturday are scheduled every fifteen minutes, as well as being at a higher billing rate.

So, not surprisingly, we were greeted with somnolent glowers as we staggered into the office with our heavy loads. A quick discussion between the vet and the clerk was had, and we were quickly escorted into the inner office.

After the usual admonishments for having fat cats, we were handed two bags of high protein dry cat food. We could feed them less of this, but they would be more satisfied, because of the additional protein it contained.
Of course, we are already feeding them a high protein dry food, albeit perhaps more than they should have. So I can sense the next few months are going to be lots of fun with hungry cranky cats!

And then, the tides changed.

“We have just admitted a tiny TINY kitten, who was brought to us before the clinic opened, by some construction workers. Mommy was scared off by the noises of the equipment, but she left behind a wee morsel in someone’s hardhat. “

Would we be able to take this wee kitten, keep him warm and fed, and bring him back next week? They just didn’t have anyone that could take him for the weekend. They kindly offered to show us how to feed the wee beast, but this isn’t our first shot at the kitten game! We have done this many times before, with smaller babies than this one.

My dad always wanted me to name either one of my boys Ozymandius. I laughingly refused, but for a tiny being whose eyes have just barely opened, it seems perfect. BIG name for a wee fellow!

Of course at the rate that he’s plowing back the formula, he may not be wee for long! This evening we need to put our efforts into bathing him, and stimulating his body to uh, pee and poo. Mommy would ordinarily lick him to wake up his output nerves, but we have to simulate this using a warm, damp cloth.

Fingers crossed that this works as well as it did in the days of yore, when we cared for over 400 cats, and a few dogs, until they could be adopted out to their forever homes.

On Wednesday March 27th, I was all prepared for my meeting/appointment with the nurse/practitioner for my neurologist, Dr Dunn, at Stanford. I was in good time for this, so really didn’t need to rush!

It was raining lightly, and the only available parking spot was on the 3rd level down from ground, but at least I got a spot! I have been advised to ALWAYS use my walker, so popping the lid of the trunk was easy. I decided that this was something that was especially wise when the ground is wet.

Everything was ‘falling into place’, no pun intended, so off I went. The rain soon began to pick up, causing me to get increasingly wet, so I picked up my pace. No sooner did I do that, when


I was stunned to find myself face down on the ground. My landing was not graceful, but not a belly flop! My palms stung from being my brake pads, as I tried to make sense of my crash landing. Immediately there were a couple strong looking young men, dressed in black. at my sides, inquiring as to what happened. (I had no idea!) They offered to help me up, as each fellow took an arm and lifted me gently. A third person quickly swiveled my walker back in front of me, and I frantically grabbed for a handle. I thanked my heroes for their help, and headed into the building.

As soon as I began the check in process in, I the tears began to dribble, feeling such a fool! Handing me a tissue, , the clerk said that she would like to give me a ride up to the third floor for my appointment. “No, that’s okay, I’ve got my walker.” I reached for it, but only air greeted my grasping hand. I was already slightly dizzy from the the jostling my brain got in my tumble, so swiveling my head around in search of my walker wasn’t helping. That, and my head was full of grey fuzz for some reason!

‘Someone’ gently grasped my flailing hand, saying “its okay, I’ve just put your walker over her by my desk”. I’ll keep an eye on it for you, while my colleague takes you upstairs.

Tears dribble again, as I close my eyes in resignation. I hear myself thank her, as I’m whisked off to my appointment.

The thought occurs to my slightly addled brain that I’m just playing a part in a carefully choreographed piece……. but reality soon nudges me back, as I hear the clerk tell me that she is placing me in the waiting room, where I can easily hear my name being called. I remember smiling wanly at her…..

“I’ll take you to see Jean Mi now, ”

At once, I am facing Jean Mi. Small thoughts sneak into my mind, this is like a flashback, in a PTSD case…….

“Hello, ordinarily I’d ask how you were, but I already heard.”

“Yeah, dunno what happened, but I made a fool of myself in the parking lot your!”

“But you’re okay? Did you hit head?”

No, but my palms and my torso hurts, so I’ll probably have some interesting bruises in a while. No matter, that’s not why I’m here! Can I please, PLEASE stop taking the Aubagio? Actually, I already did. Damned pills gave me brutal diarrhea!

Yes, there are some issues with this medication that were mentioned by other patients. But that being said, it is still considered to be well tolerated, and very effective in patients with remitting relapsing disease.

At this point, I would like to go off ALL these damned drugs, but she (Jean Mi) would hear none of that. She said that I was far too young for that, and there were lots of options for new meds. Especially, one that was just approved by the FDA last night. It is made by Novartis, the company that makes Gilenya.

At that admission my ears perked up! My beloved Fingolimod, now called Gilenya! I had to go off of this well tolerated drug only months ago. I had been on this drug for many years, from the very beginning of the drug trial, right through all the initialing every corner of the trial paper work. It was felt by my doctors that the combination of my age, and the length of time I was on that drug, made we a risk for PML. That is a big nasty, fatal brain disease that no one every recovers from. So, when I was told to stop taking it, I did as I was told!

Glenn went ahead and contacted our insurance to see how amenable they were to the price of this wonderful new med. Their response was not encouraging: they would not discuss it with him, saying that they preferred to discuss it with my doctor! So, for now, I wait, fingers crossed.

Stay tuned…….

Atmospheric River

Or so says the weatherman! We have been warned that we may get the equivalent of a month’s worth of rain in just twenty four hours! In other words, DELUGE. In preparation, the authorities have drained a ‘significant amount’ out of the local reservoirs in order to forestall the likelihood of overflow.

The birds in my backyard are celebrating the rainfall, as well as the large feeder that I try to keep continuously full. We have a well populated hedge across the back, which acts as an immense green bird condo. I would definitely never consider cutting this monstrous greenery down, despite the constant flow of dead branches it drops I like to think of it as my daily exercise plan, raking these cast offs into piles.

I wish I could share the sound of this storm with you. The moaning of the wind is ominous, and brings to mind how powerless we all are in the face of whatever Mother Nature choses to dish out. California is nice, when it is nice ….. weather wise. At the moment, it is somewhat intimidating, with the threat of flooding and damaging winds. Having lived here for five years, we aren’t that easily intimidated, especially since we experienced lots of scary weather back in Canada. I guess we’re ‘old hat’ when it comes to nasty storms. What with ice storms, tornadoes, and deep freezes, we’ve seen it all.

My exotic collection of backyard birds: little grey dudes

I love my birds. Listening to their incessant chatter cheers me. I like to think that they are constantly conversing about how lucky they are to have a constant reliable food source!

“Now, if we can just get the homeowners to put in fountain, one that is plumbed in so it is constantly being refilled with fresh water. That birdbath is nasty! “

Feeling a bit shaky about this whole thing

Living in a home that was built in 1980 is fine. Living with bathrooms of the same age is NOT fine! We always knew that we’d have to gut and replace both bathrooms, but we had no idea that it would involve such a huge cash outlay for basic bathroom equipment.

The last bathroom contractor that went through our home pointed out that ceramic tiles might not be an ideal choice for the floors,  given California’s well deserved reputation for earth quakes.  He suggested that even a small jiggle could cause cracks.  He felt that linoleum would be a better choice.  Since the array of patterns is quite astounding now, so we could have tile ‘look’ without the worry of damage in a shift.

We hadn’t thought of that possibility, given that we are not native Californians.  But honestly, the only tremors that we have ever FELT were not while living down here, but  in Ottawa, the valley of which also lies on a fault!

Down here, there is the constant worry about THE BIG ONE.  Referring to a monster quake, the seismologists say that we are ‘due for one’ any time now.  We have earthquake insurance, so we are supposedly well protected.

The first quote we got for our bathroom remodeling was for $50,000.  WOW!  And that’s just for labor!  The materials like the new counter and new shower tiles are over and above that.  Since we want a large shower, it will need to be a custom design with all ceramic tiles, and a curb-less design for handicapped accessibility.  This means that the floor will have to be leveled properly, to ensure that the water drains.  I will also require several grab bars, as well as a shower seat.

I wish that I felt complete confidence in the contractors we have interviewed.  My fear is that we sink all this money into this project, and could potentially end up with a mess!

At one point we went to a fairly high end plumbing supply store, and looked at their assortment of products.  We had no problem finding several models that we both really liked, but Glenn felt that these items were fairly pricey as well!  So now what?  I want get things going on this project, especially since last week I fell out of our current Tardis shower stall, and did a face plant onto the floor   OUCH!  I hit my teeth and my nose, and my nose for one is still sensitive.  From the little I recall, I was probably bending over to pick up my shampoo,  The latch on the stall is weak, and wouldn’t stop me from this sort of elegant manoeuver!

Job one has to be the master bath.  Secondary would be the guest bath, especially since I’m still debating about what sort of style I’d like for there.  I know that the freestanding tubs are all the rage right now, but I think that this more specifically refers to the master bathroom.  As far as I am concerned, there will be NO tub in the master bathroom.  Just give me that luscious big shower stall, and I’m good!  I’m still debating about heated floors in the master bathroom, but I fear that would necessitate the verboten ceramic tile flooring!

Winter in California

To be sure, this is NOT winter by the definition that most Canadians would relate to.  This is like at very, very wet spring that I remember from days gone by!  Of course, no smart Californian complains about rain, EVER!  This state is famous for it’s months long droughts, so rain is not only welcomed, it is revered!  I know it must be hard on those suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but luckily I’m not one of them.

After this wet season comes sunshine, and almost simultaneously, HEAT!  I don’t mind postponing that for a while.  Meanwhile, my gardening plans are happily whirling in my mind.  I have ordered a couple plants off of a website, something I hardly ever do!  One is a vine that will make my hordes of birds very happy:  a bittersweet vine, which produces copious clumps of brightly colored berries!

Now all I have to do is figure out where to plant it.  Since our fence that divides our front from our back yards is begging to be on our to do list this year, I can’t plant the vine there.  I could plant it in a pot until the new fence is installed…… but that might jinx our fence rebuild!

Or, I could plant it on the back of our unit, but that would make it lose a lot of the visual value for me!  I love to watch the birds on the various treats we provide in our yard, but the back of the house is of no use to me as far as a viewing standpoint goes!  Perhaps our upcoming master bathroom reconstruction should include an added window on the back, so I could see the feathered appreciation?  Sadly, that budget is already stretching us, so I don’t see that I’d get a lot of support for that idea.

So that decision is on hold for now.  The plant hasn’t arrived yet, so I still have time to wander around the yard and imagine the best placement.


OOPS! I’ve done it again…..

A few days ago, I fell, this time off the end of my driveway!  It’s easy to forget about the little  drop  off that decorates all of the driveways in this park, but if you do, it is at your own peril!

I popped open the trunk in order to retrieve my groceries.  Having pressed the OPEN  button, I instinctively stepped back wards, in order to accommodate the swing of the hatch.  THAT apparently was my most grievous error.

My heels registered the edge of the drop, but my brain did not.  WHAM!  Down I went, not just onto my butt, but the velocity of my tumble pushed me onto my back and head.  Momentarily stunned, it was several seconds before I uttered some coarse descriptors.

Apparently my strenuous verbal offerings drew the attention of  nearby neighbors.  A small clutch of concerned folk rushed over, repeatedly asking me if I was okay.  Within minutes the panel had decided that a call to 911 was warranted.  It seemed to me that within seconds a fire truck appeared!  I was able to explain to the paramedics that I was uninjured, but nevertheless I was assured that an ambulance was on its way.  Again, I protested, saying that I was NOT in need of a hospital, so they reluctantly cancelled the ambulance.  The paramedics handed me a disposable cold pack, in case my head hurt.

After all the assembled folks had wandered off to resume their afternoon duties, I became aware of a quickly increasing bump on the back of my head.  My local friend Cathy immediately contacted her home care worker Albert, who is technically known as a Home Healthcare Aide.  By this time I had made my way back into my house, and was slowly rocking, taking comfort from my legacy of the rocking motion bringing great comfort.

When Albert arrived, he was quite dismayed at the size of my significant bump.  When he gently placed his had over the mass, he was unable to cover it entirely.  He strongly urged me to go to the nearest emergency ward, and get it checked out.  His pleas fell on stubbornly deaf ears.  He departed momentarily in order to fetch a large cold pack from his car.

When exhaustion overcame me, I took on the task of ensuring that the welcome relief from the icy cold pack would not slip off my head as I nodded off.  Truly a feat in pillow engineering, as the smooth plastic case naturally wanted nothing to so with my pointy head.  Eventually I managed, with the help of four pillows to wedge support around this large rectangle of relief, and got some fitful sleep.

Lacey however decided that 530am was a fine time to start nudging me with her wet nose, while uttering her guttural canine complaints.  I struggled into a sitting position, causing me to swoon and swerve.    My body  also realized that it was high time to deal with more pressing matters, so I stood and headed to the bathroom.  THAT is when the entirety of my injuries became crystal.  Two steps forward ended up throwing me headlong into some bags of donated clothing.  At least it softened my landing, but the reality of it sent me into a panic.  I really didn’t have any idea of which way was UP!

My sensible friend Karen called our shared neurologist, Dr Dunn, to bring him up to date on my status.  He immediately insisted that I go straight to the nearest emergency department.  Get in line, I already have several well meaning folks telling me what to do. Through determined negotiation, Karen managed to cross out ’emergency department’ and insert ‘urgent care’.  The reason for this was purely a matter of the wait times for these facilities:  the first will take all comers and usually means wait times of many hours, but the latter is for less dramatic (and time consuming) injuries, with much lower wait times.

A born organizer, Karen told me the time at which she would pick me up for this appointment.  As luck would have it, I was able to get right in to see one of the doctors.  After a quick but thorough exam, she determined that I did not need any of the available scans.  My bump, although much decreased in size, did manage to impress her, as well as the numerous abrasions on my scalp.  She pronounced mine to be a “severe concussion”, and told me what else not to do:  NO extreme sports, like mountain biking, or downhill skiing,  no trampolining or jump rope.  In other words, give your poor old brain a chance to heal its bruises!   No driving your car,  at least for this week.  Your judgement might be slightly off while your brain recuperates!

Well, at least I am blessed to have good friends and neighbors, especially since they all know that Glenn is in China.  Both Albert and Karen have offered rides, and neighbor Craig has offered to take Lacey on her nighttime walks since she gets along beautifully with his dog.  Directly across the street Chris has sternly told me that I am NOT to try taking groceries into my house on my own, that he would be honored to help me out!

WOW.  I had no idea!