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!

Another reason

Due to the unrelenting damage from multiple head injuries over the past couple of years, I have had to ‘retire’ from my volunteer position with the local food bank.  I would get trained on some new feature or technology in their accounting system, and manage to use it successfully for a short while.  If I wasn’t in for another week or two, I would sit down at the computer, rest my fingers on the keyboard, and …….all I could see was a huge blank wall.  My neurologist assures me that this isn’t unusual for head injuries, but somehow that is cold comfort.

I now just have the ONE volunteer role, at the Santa Clara Senior’s Center, monitoring the use and attendance at the gym.  I have made so many friends in this role, of all ages.  Even though it is technically a “seniors facility”, it also welcomes disabled citizens of Santa Clara as well.  Plus, since our gym is considered one of the BEST in the (San Francisco) Bay area, residents of other cities can join too, but they have to pay a small fee, whereas locals are FREE!

Since I’ve been around home more, I’m enjoying the opportunity to rest more, read more, and have coffee with neighbors.  Lacey likes me to work out in the backyard in the garden, so I try to do that at least once a week, assuming its not pouring rain!  We have had over 300% of our normal precipitation levels in the past six weeks!  The drought is officially CANCELLED, at least in this area!

SOMEHOW the local Volunteer bureau got hold of my name, but I suspect this is from when we first arrived here in California.  On March 25th (his 55th birthday!) Glenn headed off for his first day at Apple.  Suddenly I was alone in a foreign country, far from friends and family.  WHAT was I going to do with myself??  My first reaction was to go online, and search under VOLUNTEER.  That’s when I found my current role at the Seniors Center.

I should know better than to open unsolicited emails, but apparently I didn’t.  This one  really piqued my interest:  a registered charity that started in the times of hurricane Katrina, by providing baby clothes for the victims of hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Now they are focussing their efforts on the children of abject poverty, and have narrowed their intakes to just include baby sizes up to 12 months.   The potential recipients are usually single women, making less that $16000 per year.  They are referred by social workers, hospitals, clinics or local agencies.  Each baby receives approximately 75 items of clothing up to 12 months in size, including hats, booties, bibs, blankets, sleepers, diaper shirts.  Board books are welcomed as well!  The moms will receive an educational ‘new parent’ kit.

WHAT TYPE OF ITEMS DOES LOVED TWICE ACCEPT?

We distribute baby clothes in sizes up to 12 months ONLY. Small baby blankets, hats, socks, bibs and board books are welcome too.
WHAT TYPE OF ITEMS DOES LOVED TWICE NOT ACCEPT?
Baby clothes are given to new mothers as they leave the hospital. Due to space constraints, hospitals and our organization are not in a position to distribute items such as: car seats, strollers, cribs, baby bottles, maternity clothes, formula, clothing larger than 12 months, Boppy pillows, toys, baby bedding, diapers, bumpers, mobiles, etc… We realize your heart may be in the right place to donate these items, but to keep our mission focused we kindly request that you do not donate these items to our organization. Doing so takes up valuable time that our volunteers could be spending packing the much needed new baby boxes.
Their ad on the internet was intended to recruit people to help sort donated clothes into size and sex, to ensure balanced distribution of items.  Reading about their mandate, I had a better idea for how I could help.  I spend a lot of time checking out the racks in Children’s departments at various retailers here, so I know where the best sales are, and when they are likely to be found!  I volunteer to shop, and buy things with my own money, for donation to the charity, in exchange for tax receipts.
The response from the lady that started this group was fast and enthusiastic.

I am so incredibly grateful for your potential help bringing in baby clothes. I founded this nonprofit 11 years ago and am amazed at the incredible people like you who are helping. Thank you!
We have an ongoing need for baby blankets, sock, hats and clean bibs. If you ever see any at a discount a thrift shop – it would be great to give them to keep homeless babies warm. Just last week, I dropped off to an agency where a new mom bought her baby in to attend a parenting class and the baby had nothing to keep warm. They had boxes from Loved Twice, so now that baby has clothes for the first year of life. Your impact will help babies like little Angela.

Finally feeling human again

Finally feeling human again

Antibiotics were finished in five days, but deep lying congestion remained.  I have been told to stay on my steroid inhaler indefinitely.  I guess that implies COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), without verbal acknowledgement from the doctor.  On my chart, it is no longer called COPD, It’s called COLD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease), or something like that.

I may be wrong:  how many different words can you fit in that acronym?  How about Chocolate Onion Liver Delight?  Or Constipated Old Lady Darling?  Or Crying Over Lousy Dinner!

I digress.  I worked out in the back garden today, since we were granted a few hours of sunshine after another morning of pounding rain.  The past few days rain was emphasized by howling winds, making those last few autumn leaves finally desert their branches.  Caught in the downdraught of the storm, these fragments of botanica were found too frail to win this last skirmish.  Their pieces lay scattered, becoming part of puddles, acceding to the circle that was their itinerary.

Now that we’ve both overcome our Christmas viruses, we are feeling like we deserve medals of honor.  Being between projects at work, Glenn is keen to take a little break while the hectic lifestyle of tech is pausing for breath.  Being post holidays, money is definitely a factor influencing our choices.  Having flown back and forth to Canada several times in the past year, we are well aware of that expense!  For both of us, it would be close to two thousand dollars, so clearly that’s not an option.  The cost of crossing the border, I guess.

We then discovered that flights WITHIN the USA were substantially cheaper.  We have an outstanding invitation for visit Mary Lou and Hutch, at their winter condo, in Florida.  It is on  Hutchinson Island, on the Atlantic coast.  The closest commute city is Fort Meyers, but the easiest place to fly to is still Orlando.

When they found out we were coming, Hutch sent us a couple of pics, just to seal the deal.img_0495This is the view from their balcony, on their fourth floor unit.  There is a heated pool and a hot tub, with the ocean is just  a  few yards away.  Of course, the only people that swim in the ocean at this time of year are Canadians:   they have  been primed by the cold lakes at home!

If that sumptuous view wasn’t enough, you can always get west-coasters with a shot of a beautiful sunrise.img_0501

Mea Culpa!

Mea Culpa!

I have started a diatribe a couple of times lately, but then I have wandered off and not finished it.  Why?  I have been sick:  VERY SICK, with the virus that Willa left us with at the end of her Christmas visit.  That poor little doll arrived here with a souvenir of air travel that no one would want.

Despite feeling somewhat miserable, I sincerely hope that Willa enjoyed her Christmas with  us.  Everyone agreed that THE most fun was had at the Children’s Discovery Center, aka The Purple Museum.  Absolutely everything was sized for kids, and the variety of exhibits assured no one would ever hear, “I’m bored…”.  THE most fun was had at the structure formed completely from duct tape.  The kids ran , laughed and slid on this slick silver slip N slide. img_0665 Sadly, it was a time limited offering due to the fragility of the exhibit.  Regular maintenance was required, so it was only open for 90 minutes at a time.

img_0667Glenn developed the sniffles and sneezes immediately after the family left, on the 26th.  Of course, with my lame immune system, I chose to take a head cold to epic proportions, developing not only bronchitis but effectively disabling my pulmonary musculature.

“Take a deep breath, “, says the doctor.  I do as I’m told, over and over, until she steps back.

“Well, despite the fever, I don’t hear any rattles, or wheezing…..”, she says, brows furrowed.

Well, maybe that’s because I CAN’T BREATHE!  To me, it felt frightening, like my lungs weren’t expanding, not due to congestion so much as they just WOULDN’T!

I felt absolutely horrid at this point, on New Year’s Day.  Until now,  I had chosen to battle this bug using good ol’ home remedies, like drinking lots, resting, and meditating.  Clearly, it was time to acquiesce, and call the doctor.

An antibiotic was prescribed, due to the presence of a fever, and a steroid laden inhaler, to reduce the obvious inflammation in my lungs.  Ten days later, I am feeling MUCH better, thank you!

I was puzzling what caused this ‘inflammation’ to begin with, and mentioned it to my fellow MS’er, Karen.  Unable to come up with a satisfactory explanation, she contacted her nurse rep with neurologist Dr Dunn, whom we both see.  Still unable to explain this inflammation, Jen Li said she would contact the company that manufactures my MS medication, Gilenya, as she recalled that there was a lung side effect disclosed in the associated warnings for this drug.  She promised to get back to me once this had happened.

Tomorrow is my recheck with the doctor, to ensure my lungs are behaving better, as well as Glenn’s chance to discuss his ongoing shoulder issues.  He seems to have developed Frozen Shoulder on his left side, probably originally due to falling on it several years ago.  To clarify, his first experience at curling was his last.  Wearing only sneakers, he slipped on the ice at the rink, and broke his right ankle in two places, and tore the tendon.   With his foot in a cast, he had to use crutches to get around , so a slippery driveway was the recipe for a perfect storm.  To reassure you, the crutch wasn’t injured.

 

Losing crumbs

Every once in a while, I surprise myself, but not in a good way.  I’ve always been good with basic math skills, so this was a shock AND a reality check

I was in the midst of one of my favorite past times, making muffins using the oranges I had processed and frozen last summer.  Since I usually freeze the juice and ground fruit in doubles, this means that the recipe ingredients also need to be doubled.

With some of my recipes, I will annotate the larger quantities beside the single amounts.  I hadn’t done this for this recipe, basically because I’ve only been making these muffins for a year.  Having had the generous old orange tree in the yard of our rental home was what inspired me to find a use for this windfall of fruit.

Today I was doubling my quantities while I was actually making the muffins, multitasking if you will.  The recipe as written calls for one and three quarters cups flout, but to accommodate the double quantity of fruit, I need to also double the dry ingredients.  So that means, one and three quarters doubled, which is one plus one and three quarters plus three quarters.  That is the same as saying 1 3/4 + 1 3/4.  So, 2 plus …….  3/4+3/4, or….6/8?  No, that’s not right!

I took a step back from the mixer.  What the HELL!?  This SO not me!  Since when can I not do simple little crumbs of math?  keep breath, relax.  Is this MS messing with me?  Or what?  I’ll ask my neurologist on Tuesday at my appointment to discuss what my 3-Tesla MRI showed.  Maybe that will have some answers for me.

When I was at my volunteer job at the senior’s gym this week, one of our members brought in a copious amount of oranges, as well as everyone’s favorite Meyer lemons.  James does this every year, since he fears that if the fruit isn’t picked, the trees will figure that it isn’t appreciated.  As a result, he picks every single piece of fruit, puts it in boxes the size of shoeboxes, and brings them in.  He is a character, James is, and he has been known to talk the ears off of many a gym member.

So for the short term, I’ve got to get into the gym for my shifts, and scoop up as many oranges as I can!  While we were in the rental home, I probably should have put more effort into processing orange for the freezer, but we didn’t realize how soon we would be wanting to leave!

The diagnosis?

As the hockey game murmurs excitedly on the television, I am coaxing my consciousness to curl up in the simple comfort of my coloring program.  It truly is a struggle not to dwell upon what is happening back in Ottawa.  There is nothing, NOTHING, I can do from here.  In reality, there’s nothing I could do, even if I was there.  I feel so powerless, nearly four thousand miles away from home, or at least, that which USED TO BE home.  Honestly, I’m not really sure where home is anymore.  But I do know that I can’t help but think that I could make a difference.

After phoning her repeatedly for two days without getting an answer, my anxiety slowly rose and crested on Thursday afternoon. I finally got connected to her phone, back in Ottawa.  Her son, Steve, answered the phone, sounding world weary, his emotional stress palpable.  He quickly explained what was going on, and my fears were confirmed.  On Tuesday morning, she decided to call her doctor, after having spent a virtually sleepless night, due to a persistent tickle cough.  Upon arriving at her office, the doctor immediately slipped a PulseOx meter on her fingertip.  It didn’t take long to sound the alarm bells, once the reading for her blood oxygen saturation was displayed.  After listening to her chest, and detecting a telltale crackle, the diagnosis was clear.  

She was instructed to immediately head to the emergency department at the nearby Montfort Hospital.  Her oxygen saturation was dangerously low!  Diane demurred, saying she really didn’t want to go, would rather just go home and rest.  Luckily, the doc didn’t allow that.  She could either do as she was told, or she would call an ambulance to escort her there!  Given those options, she relented, and headed off to Montfort.  Not surprisingly, she was quickly admitted, and given a nasal cannula to provide the desperately needed oxygen.  That was Tuesday morning this week.  She is still there, and will stay put for the weekend.

Tests indicated that she has “hardening of the left ventricle of the heart”, according to Steve.  He seemed a bit hesitant with the exact particulars of the findings, but if it is indeed what I think he said it was, the proper term for it is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  From the bit of information I have read thus far, this is most often a genetic condition, which I suppose is why siblings and children of the affected individual are supposed to be checked out for this malady.  I’m not going to go into any more detail about this condition for now.  

Honestly, I’m not panicking yet, if ever.  Mistakes happen, so I’ll wait until I have more definite information.  In other words, researching the condion that might NOT be the final diagnosis is just adding more stress to an already worrisome situation.