Thursday, August 27, 2015

Should Have Gone to Quebec!

Way back in 2009 I had plans to meet Susan and Sylvia in Quebec City, Quebec.  Being so close to the Canadian border I was really looking forward to the road trip. Right prior to this trip, I had the chance to tag along with Roger on a business trip to Chicago. We were in Chicago for three nights and all was going swimmingly well.  Until, and I do say, until, my hormones kicked in, the result of a hysterectomy 6 months earlier.

To avoid taking HRT I did research and found a drug that relieved the wicked bad hot flashes and mellowed out the crazy train that resulted from a complete hysterectomy.  (Google "complete hysterectomy/horror stories" and you should find my picture. Yeah, it isn't pretty.) I had taken the drug only once or twice before this time and could really tell I needed to get things into check. This is one of those medications that 100% must be "taken as directed". Long 3rd-night-in-Chicago story short, our final night, I was a complete mess. Because of this I was utterly exhausted and backed out on my road trip to Quebec.

Don't worry, all the embarrassing personal moments were in the paragraphs above.

So now I found myself at home with a couple of days off and itching to go somewhere, and while Quebec City seemed a life-time away, as in 6 hours, I chose instead to go to Stowe, Vermont, by my lonesome, less than 4 hours away.

Off in my new Wrangler I went! What a stunning drive!  Up I-93 through the White Mountains I headed north, then angled west and cruised back south into Stowe where the Green Mountains begin. Stowe is a big-time skiers destination, but in August, it's rather tranquil and very scenic. I arrived at the Green Mountain Inn, checked in, and found my room tucked away on the 2nd floor near the back of the inn.

The first night I went to dinner nearby, then headed back to the inn.  As it was still a bit early, and my room was quaint (super-tiny) I decided to go to the quaint (super-tiny) restaurant/bar in the inn. Initially I chose a small table for two, and while waiting for a waiter, I noticed a couple standing at the bar with only one available seat. So I offered up my table and we swapped spots.

Here's where the trouble slowly eeked itself out. To my left was an older, seemingly innocuous, man. Above his head was the Redsox game, so I was continually looking his direction watching the game. A friendly conversation struck up and before long I gave him a business card with the website of this blog.  The card also contained my cell phone number and email address.  I had also shared with him that I lived in Massachusetts and drove a Wrangler and that I worked at Tufts.

It was becoming apparent that this gentleman had grander aspirations than a chat at the bar as he offered to pay for my beer, which I declined.  He stepped away to the restroom and I quickly paid my tab. Upon his return he offered to "see me to my room", which I then told him I chose my room in the safe confines of the inn to avoid being out at night time, so no escort was necessary, but thank you very much, and off to my room I went, followed by the locking of every lock I could find and placement of a chair in front of the door.

I awoke to a stunning day.  Off in my Wrangler I went to explore.  Cruised by the ski trails, visited the Von Trapp Family lodge, yes, those Von Trapps from the "Sound of Music" and overall had a glorious time  I returned to my room around 4:00. Then, my cellphone rang.

I didn't recognize the number, so I didn't answer, but a message was left, from my wanna-be-paramour from the previous evening. He wanted to meet me AFTER dinner for drinks. I dropped the phone like a hot potato! Then, my cellphone rang again, from a differnt number.  Again, a message was left, from the same man.  At this point I'm 100% spooked. So here it is 4:30 in the afternoon so I head down to the restaurant to see if I can get room service later in the evening.  Because of the small setup they couldn't accommodate me. Then, I started crying, telling the bartender who was young enough to be my son about the older man from the night before and his phone calls. The bartender was VERY sympathetic, however, his hands were tied.  So off I go to find an early-bird dinner so I could be back in my room well before dark.

After my meal I stopped at a convenience store and loaded up with wine, cheese, crackers and nuts to take back to the room, as I knew I was going to have many hours ahead of me holed up in my room on what was an otherwise beautiful evening. Back at the inn I settled in for my evening which ended up consisting of watching Ted Kennedy's wake on C-SPAN and the Miss America Pageant on another channel (worse cable channels in the history of hotels) alternating crying and laughing.  During this, Roger called, which I simply told him I was in for evening and enjoying my quaint (super-tiny, becoming hellish) room!

The next day I drove home on rain swept highways. Once home, Roger and I laid on our bed and I started crying and told him about the entire episode.  He laughed and laughed and laughed!

On a final note, no more phone calls were received on my cell, but sure as heck there was a voice-mail on my work phone when I returned on Monday.  Lesson learned!

Friday, August 14, 2015

"If this is how my body is now, what will it be like in 10 years?"

Today I had my light bulb moment when I stumbled across Richard Cohen's blog. Richard is married to Meredith Vieira and was diagnosed ages ago with Multiple Sclerosis. And now, thanks to this post, "Importance of Staying Stubborn", I have a much better understanding of Roger.  Though we aren't faced with M/S, Roger does have issues that can affect his mobility. And thanks to Richard's post, I fully get Roger's "stubborness".  (Is that a word?!?!)   Either way, I ask that you please read Richard's post before continuing on with my entry.


Awesome, thank for obliging me and now on to the purpose of my post.

Thanks to yet another ruptured disc (L1 this time), along with a very painful shoulder, Roger has been struggling in putting on his socks and shoes in the morning. This is actually nothing new, just currently made even more difficult at the moment due to very real injuries.

In my effort to help him out a bit, I found the aides (a nifty device to help you put on your socks and a super long shoe-horn) provided to him following his hip replacement and set them beside his shoes.  I had been encouraging him, as in nagging, to get them out himself, but when he didn't, I assumed he was simply forgetful. After a few days I told him I was happy that he was using the tools and noted how much easier it is to now accomplish what was a very difficult and painful task.  His response..."but I feel like I'm giving in".

This statement was completely lost on me. If you need help, get it!  Clearly I'm a Democrat at heart, but I digress. I told him he wasn't giving in, that he has a ruptured disc for heaven's sake. I've seen him flat on the floor before and was doing what I could to avoid that from happening again.

Back to his question. "If this is how my body is now, what will it be like in 10 years?" Roger posed this question to me just the other night.

I've allowed my mind to wander in that direction as well a time or two, but mostly in the functional sense.  A future home should be a single story and have a walk-in shower.  I need to be sure he has access to the best doctors like he currently has. I need to have a job that provides him with excellent health insurance. As far as the actual life-style aspect of the future, I rarely allow myself to think that far ahead and instead focus on what his capabilities are at the moment.

In the end, my response to him, which is 98% true, is that his body is only slightly the worse for wear than it was 10 years earlier, much of this due to the natural aging process.  But we know with Roger it's more than that.

Many years ago he was diagnosed with degenerative disc and bone disease. What this means is that over the course of our 24 year marriage he's had 4 back surgeries, rotator cuff surgery, and a hip replacement. (He's also had major surgery on his colon, but that's another story). His lower back is marred with scar tissue and arthritis. Soon he will need to have the left shoulder repaired as he is in intense pain right now, and the other hip is inevitable, but far from a current pressing matter. 

He's also had a nagging, sometimes screaming, wife yelling at him "to take it easy", "STOP THAT", "are you CRAZY"....on and on and on.

One thing I've known all along is that Roger's unwillingness to "give in" is what keeps his tired, arthritic body going. But more importantly, it's what keeps his spirit alive. He could have long ago just tossed in the towel, but he has absolutely refused.

I truly wish I could thank Richard Cohen personally for the openness and raw honesty that he shares with his readers, but for now I know I'll honor him by backing off Roger and letting him do things his way.  I'll suggest alternatives from time to time, but it's ultimately up to him to make the decision.

So 10 years from now I foresee a 71-year-old guy that has been through a lot mentally and physically, but will also still be a force to deal with, staying well ahead of his 64-year-old wife.  Oh, and he'll still have that wicked-fast sense of humor that also keeps me on my toes!

Friday, March 6, 2015

From Texas to Prince Edward Island, Canada

It didn't take us long after moving here to realize how close in proximity everything seemed to be and before long we were taking day trips here, there and everywhere, which eventually led to weekend getaways.  Mile after mile of coastal driving, the White Mountains, the lakes region, Vermont, the beginnings of Down East Maine (which is actually straight north, then bang a right), all within 2 hours of our home.

In 2005 we were taking a week long vacation and decided that would be the perfect time to go to Canada.  Eventually we would make two trips to Montreal, Quebec, but for our first foray we decided to head to Prince Edward Island, just off the coast of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, about as far east as you can go by car (9+ hours away) without catching a ferry. On our return trip we planned a couple of evenings in Halifax, Nova Scotia, then a large ferry ride back to Maine.  1600 miles, 20 hours or more driving, not a weekend get away for sure!

But, back to Prince Edward Island (PEI as it's more commonly known) and back to the picture above.

While researching our trip I started pulling up online images of Prince Edward Island in order to get a sense of what would look like.  It was at this time that our picture popped up!  The exact same picture I bought Roger when in the hospital in Dallas before we even had the slightest inkling of moving anywhere.

So I started doing research and found the artist was Sandy Wadlington who lives in New Hampshire, though her profile noted that she had spent time in Texas as well.  Not having an actual address, but finding the town where she lived was quite small, I sent her a letter with nothing but her name and the town and sure enough, it made its way to her and eventually I received an email from her.

In my letter I told her how we ended up with a poster of one of her pieces and was hoping she could tell me where that specific scene was on PEI. It so happened that her original painting was from a photograph taken by her brother, but she herself had never been there.  She was kind enough to ask him if he recalled the location, and he in turn drew out a map of where he thought the photo was taken.  We were never able to find the exact spot, as we think it was on private land, but we sure had fun driving the area trying to find it.

In the end though, Roger and I were both amazed at this entire "coincidence".  Not having a single notion of moving in 1996, other than perhaps to a different neighborhood, then, due solely to the close proximity of our new home, to end up planning a vacation on PEI where our picture was based.  A picture that signified to us a very scary moment in time, but a picture that offered us both a scene of serenity and calm.

I still ask myself, "how in the world did this all fall into place"?

Part 1 of this story can be found here:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Must Have Been Kismet!

Click the photo for a better view!
One of the harder stories to relate to others, be it family, friends or acquaintances, is how Roger and I came to the decision to move from Dallas, Texas to New England.  The story is difficult because it all just sort of happened, but deep down inside, though my heart was full with friends and family, the endless concrete of Dallas was stripping at my soul and spirit.  So in the fall of 1999, a random thought was spoken out loud, which lead to a larger conversation, not in a gripping sort of way, but in a meandering, what-if kind of way.  Where would we move? Near the ocean, of course!  Okay, Atlantic or Pacific?  North or South? Up until this point we'd only thought of perhaps moving to a different house in the same neighborhood. 
At the time I was working for a telecom company with offices on both sides of the continent, so a quick check of temperatures in Miami quickly eliminated a move Southeast.  A quick check of West Coast home prices quickly eliminated a move to California, unless you enjoy living in a trailer that is.  Then a sort of AHA moment. Boston!  It’s on the water, my company had offices there, we have family there.  Boston it is!  Seriously, it happened that quickly.  The tip-toe into the water came when our friend, Juanna, agreed to fly with me to Boston just to have a look around.  It was the week between Christmas and New Years and baby was it cold!  It was a quick trip just to get a glimpse and that’s pretty much all we got, but it certainly fueled the fire.

Next thing we know, Roger and I have a map of the Boston area spread out on our pool table.  Let’s see, Nortel (my former employer) is located in Billerica, northwest of Boston.  Here’s the ocean.  Let’s start right in between the two. Roger began calling the chamber of commerce of various towns just to have a chat.  Out of this came the decision that we’d move to Haverhill.  Had we ever been there?  No.  Had we even been to Boston or anywhere near it?  Other than my brief trip, no. Didn’t matter, this was the plan!

All along, the picture above had been hanging in our home for about 3 years. This was actually a poster that I purchased when Roger was very ill and in the hospital.  He’d been in the hospital so long that I decided we needed to decorate. I came across this picture and was instantly drawn to the soothing colors and pastoral waterfront scene. I brought it to the hospital and tacked it to the wall. After extensive surgery, resulting in a foot-long scar down his abdomen, he finally came home. We were so happy that he was finally coming home that we took the poster and had it framed.  This picture will come into play again in 2004.

Our next step was to book an actual vacation so we could really check out the area, and, to buy a home.  Yep, we flew into Boston the last week of June, 2000 for the sole purpose of buying a house in Haverhill, Massachusetts. We also took in a Redsox game, got horribly lost several times over our five day stay, but still we were undeterred. 
The next couple of days we spent with a realtor with whom we had connected with prior to our trip.  Within 48 hours we found our new home!  Also within that same time period we happened to pick up a local paper with a job listing for Roger.  A quick phone call, followed by an interview and job offer while I sat in the parking lot. 

Click, click, click…one by one all was falling into place.  Our home in Richardson sold lickety-split and on Labor Day weekend, less than 1 year from the initial “conversation”, with 2 dogs, 1 cat and both vehicles, we were moved into our new-to-us home that was built in 1900.

Part 2 is here:

Monday, January 5, 2015

Books, Books and MORE Books very many books awaiting my attention.  I have the actual "hold in your hands and read 'em" books, and of course, books stashed in my kindle, which begs the question, if it's downloaded is it a "book" or a simply a collection of written words?

I actually have James Michener's "Chesapeake" in both versions, as the original tome is so large (published in approximately 8 pt type) that I added it to my Kindle as well so I'd have more opportunities to traipse through 370 years of history.  Having started reading the book back in June, 2014, in anticipation of a September trip to the Chesapeake Bay area, I'm happy to report that almost 7 months later I am now in 1938. Whew!!!  Only 40 years to go!

"Chesapeake" by James Michener
I find it interesting that the past year or so I've leaned towards books on Black history (Chesapeake resulted in this category); and Female Comedians, having read the biographies of Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and the most awesome, Carol Burnett.  I'm doing my best to hold off on downloading Amy Poehler's book and so far so good.  As an aside, I also read BJ Novak's "One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories".  Some of his stories are pure genius and others just simply make you wonder.

However, back to what's waiting to be read.  I'm listing them here to see how long it takes me to whittle the list down, but considering that I now want to download, or buy, "Unbroken", and the fact that I'm still reading "Chesapeake", I'm more guessing that this will be a rather fluid list. 

In no particular order, currently on my Kindle:

1.  The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton:  I read that this is being made into a movie so I wanted to read the book before hand, which implies that I'd actually go see the movie, which I rarely go see any movie, except for Bad Santa, now THAT was a good movie!

2.  The Path to Power:  The Years of Lyndon Johnson - Robert Caro:  As a Texan, I owe it to my heritage to know all about LBJ.

3.  The Elements of Style - Strunk & Strunk:  a book on writing.  Which I should probably refer to at this very moment to determine if I should be ending my numbered entries with a period or not.

4.  Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel

5.  Bring up the Bodies:  A Novel - Hilary Mantel:  for some reason I was compelled to download both books.

6.  Tita - Marie Houzelle:  based in France, 'nuf said.

7.  People Skills - Robert Boulton:  according to Kindle I've read 19% of this book.  You'll see similar books like this as I saw my career crashing down around my ears, so I figure it must be a personal flaw. Right? Certainly it's not the fault of the establishment to see a sudden halt to what was originally an upwards projectory.  Right??

8.  Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High - Patterson & Grenny:  This book was recommended by a friend.  I've read 15% of this and am sure I will get back to it - eventually.

9.  301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview - John Kador:  I was in a rather desperate mood when I downloaded this book.  For the sake of everyone, I'm going to share #301.  Well, sadly they're not numbered so I guess I'll have to actually read the damn thing, but I did notice that there is a section on "Crucial Conversations".  Interesting.

10.  Hard Eight (Stephanie Plum) - Janet Evanovich:  I love, love, love the SP series! Such a fun, quick, laugh-out-loud (if Roger wasn't sleeping beside me anyway) series.  I'll be heartbroken if I find that at some point she's killed off her pistol-packing grandmother.

11.  The Naval War of 1812 OR the History of the United States Navy during the Last War with Great Britain to Which is Appended an Account of the Battle of New Orleans - Theodore Roosevelt:  It was a free download and that is the complete title.

12.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie

13.  And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

14.  Chasing the Sun:  A Novel - Natalia Sylvester:  A "novel"?...okay moving on!

15.  The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis

16.  The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith, JK Rowling's  pseudonym

17.  Dark Places:  A Novel - Gillian Flynn:  again, another "novel".  Flynn wrote the oh so infamous "Gone Girl:  A Novel" which I could not finish. So, I'm trying another of her books for some unknown reason.

18.  Praying God's Word:  Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds - Beth Moore:  Moore released 3 books for free download.  I've read one, and have 2 to go.  I did enjoy her style and her sharing of God's place in her life.  Another conundrum...should it be three, one, two; or 3,1,2; or is it fine how I wrote it in the first (1st?) place?

19.  10% Happier:  How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story - Dan Harris.  Okay, Dan, I think you could have gone with "10% Happier:  A True Story".

20.   Hot Six (Stephanie Plum) - Janet Evanovich:  I'm so glad I created this list as I'm afraid I would have skipped # 6 and gone straight to #8.  Not sure where #7 is.

21.  The Associate Press Guide to Punctuation - Rene Cappon

22.  Negotiating Life:  Secrets for Everyday Diplomacy - Jeswald Salacuse:  see entry #7.  Serious self-esteem issues at play here.

23.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves:  The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation - Lynne Truss: Perhaps I should have simply paid more attention in high school.

24.  On Writing:  A Memoir Of The Craft - Stephen King:  I only recently learned the King actually taught writing, and perhaps still does. 

25.  The Women in His Life - Barbara Taylor Bradford:  a weak moment in time when I downloaded this book.  Who knows, it may carry me away!

So it appears that there are many more to list, so I'll stop here and resume with a secondary post, that's if you're still with me!