Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Moment of Peace and Quiet.....

Having my Dad here is a blessing.  He keeps my Mom occupied to a degree, although she complains that he sleeps too much.  My brothers have both been in to visit, which has also made my Mom happy.  Between my usual Saturday housekeeping and grocery runs, my brother and his wife and I went out to the local farmers' market to stock up on fresh local produce and explored a favorite local shop for a couple of hours. 

But with guests comes noise and chaos.  I sat eleven people down for dinner last night, two of them vegans, one whom can't eat greens because of his Coumadin, one who can't have salt because of heart failure, and one for whom preparation of a raw salad requires an hour of sanitation.  Since hubby was working right up until it was time to seat everybody, I was cooking like some kind of ninja.  It was one of the rare times when a six burner stove might have been helpfull. 

While I was cooking, Curlygirl and Jujubee and Babygirl were trying to convince three hungry toddlers that:  1) Just because Grandma put the baby gate in the kitchen doorway doesn't mean she hates you and doesn't appreciate your efforts to 'help' and 2) Just because there are plates on the table doesn't mean that the food is ready NOW or will be for the eternal forseeable future.  To make matters louder, Jujubee jumped the gate to help me in the kitchen (sometimes having someone who is good with a knife is scary, and sometimes it's handy).  Together we managed to get Italian sausages with peppers and onions, veggie burgers, gnocchi with fresh-from-the-garden homemade pesto, corn on the cob and sauted kale onto the table all at the same time, hot and fresh.  Timing is everything. 

No toddlers were harmed in the making of this meal.  That gate offers two-way protection. 

Jujubee went home, and the rest of us (sans Mom) watched the season premier of Doctor Who.  I'm going to miss the old doctor.  Like Clara, I'll get over it.

Did I mention I was on call also?  Yeah.  Add that.  Oh, and the chipmunk.  He must be deaf since the rest have stayed away since we added the sonic anti-pest devices.  Hope he likes his new neighborhood down by the river.

So this morning has been remarkably quiet.  Fresh air, fresh coffee, fresh sudoku, fresh blog post. Fresh peanut butter in the Have-a-Heart trap just in case. Got it all covered. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Crisis Du Jour.....

Things in our lives here have been stable for so long that we haven't had to consider the "The Crisis of the Day" menu for a while, but it has been sneaking up on us for a bit. 

Hubby's had a couple of health issues.  One has turned out to be less than we feared and is responding nicely to medication.  The other?  Well, any MRI report that gets you a referral to a neurosurgeon is ugly, and rarely an easy fix.  I'm hoping for something simple there as well, but back surgery on a big guy with diabetes is an interesting proposition.

My new migraine medication was such an unqualified success that my neurologist is attempting to taper down one of my other (more unpleasant) medications.  The resulting neurological chaos made me lose an entire day last week.  I almost never awaken with a migraine, but if I do, the battle is lost.  The key to beating these SOB headaches is to hit them early, before they become entrenched.  If you wake up and it's there, it's likely been there a while.  From 6 AM to 3 AM, it made itself at home in the right side of my head.  And there've been a few of them.  I'm hoping that as my body adjusts to the new dose of medication the headaches will ease, but then I get to drop it again.  And AGAIN.  THIS is going to be fun.

My stepsister (also my godsister but that's a story for another post, surely) has developed some sort of aggressive inflammatory arthritis.  My stepmom has gone to Florida to be with her.  My dad is here - for how long, we aren't certain. 

And, most recently (I almost said 'finally' but that would be silly, wouldn't it?), my niece and nephew have once again suffered the loss of a grandparent.  Grandma Dottie has gone to join Grampa Mike.  She was a rare woman - tough, funny, kind, warm, and generous enough to be Grandma to my kids when they were in town as well, proving what this family knows well:  Blood doesn't matter nearly as much as love.  Curlygirl shared some fond memories of her and her home at dinner last night. Go with God, Dottie.

So if you have a prayer to spare, send it this way, along with one of thanksgiving that for a change, it isn't Babygirl who is the Crisis Du Jour.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Final Week - The Mission Trip......

This years' mission trip took us into southern Virginia, Washington County. 

Babygirl's numbers were good.  Since her immune system was in good shape, she was allowed to go, but....

Food is served buffet style.  She needed to be first in line, so that sometimes felt a little awkward for her.  The rest of the team stepped up and helped keep it from being too weird.  We were told to keep things as clean as possible.  God sent us to a better-than-average worksite.  We were installing flooring indoors.

  Building a new deck outdoors.  The only touchy project was insulation, underneath the addition in and the trailer, but there was plenty for her to do without crawling around underneath.

With the bugs.

But if the point of the trip was to make someone's home warmer, safer and drier, we did all three.  And the twenty-two adults and youth (and the many, many people who sent us!) are grateful to have had the opportunity to help out.  We all - including Babygirl - want to go back again next year. Outdoor showers and all.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Selling Mom's Car....

It's a classic "Old Lady Car" - a 2004 Impala with 43,000 miles on it (I know - I could have stopped at "Impala" and we'd have finished the definition of "Old Lad Car").  She hasn't left the house unless someone else drove her since she moved here in May of 2013, and rarely drove before then.  I've been trying to talk her into selling the car for about a year now. 

We have no garage.  Our neighborhood has alternate side parking in the winter, so the car was parked in the backyard all winter.  We had to replace the battery to move it to the street, and we've been ignoring it out there since spring. My mom's friend would borrow it once in a while to do some shopping for her.  The last time she took it out, she reported that the brake pedal felt like it was hitting bottom.

While we were on vacation, Mom's friend took our car to run some errands and arrived home just in time to see a tow truck ready to load up Mom's car.  Turns out her inspection had expired and no one had noticed but the police. Two hundred dollars later, the tow truck and the tickets were paid off and the car parked  back in the backyard. A few hundred more and the brake lines and pads have been replaced and the car has passed inspection.  Mom agrees, tearfully, that it's time to sell.  We have not one but two potential buyers!

What don't we have? 

The title.

I found the registration.  It says, "Non-transferable."  

I spent half an hour in a line at the DMV to find out who the lien holder is, and we are tracking down whether or not she actually ever finished paying for the car so we can get a lien release letter and a clean title.  And I want to do it all before the registration is up at the end of this month.

It's always something.

Every time the car situation crossed her mind, she cries.  I understand - short of admission into a nursing home, it's the last nail in the coffin of her independence.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Last Whiff....

A few months ago I cleaned a closet. It was one that had held dialysis supplies - gauze, antibiotic ointment, IV pole parts, bandages and the like.  Tucked in the back I found a large container of antibacterial hand soap - the kind with a pump on top but at least three time bigger than the ones we buy in the store.

There are LOTS of odd things about being on dialysis (like collecting you dialysate 'pee' in the same 5-gallon container that everyone else uses to carry water while camping).  But among them are the weird things that suddenly get covered by your insurance, like vitamins, bandages - and hand soap.  Not just ANY hand soap, of course - the super-duper infection-fighting stuff.

Two years ago I was singing Christmas carols for two minutes every day ( with the scent of the this stuff in my face the entire time.  It was, for me, the "smell of dialysis."  Oh, I know, those who suffer through hemodialysis in a hospital setting have a whole different aroma in their memory banks, and that it is without a doubt less pleasant, but scents are the strongest memory triggers our brains possess.  Fresh bread. Pine Sol. Cinnamon. Funeral homes. Crayons.  Coffee.  Home.  Strong scents, subtle odors, the smell of snow - all these things take us to times and places and emotions far away from where we are standing at the moment.

Hand soap.  Without really giving it any thought, I put it in the downstairs bathroom.  Since that's the room that seems to go through soap the fastest, it made sense to put this huge bottle in there. 

So.  Every time I've washed my hands for the past few months, I've gotten a whiff of dialysis:  A grim reminder of difficult days.  A reminder to count the blessings of the days we are in.  I've just gratefully used it for the last time and tossed it in the recycle bin.  The scent will linger on my hands until I wash them again, and then, good-bye.


Friday, August 8, 2014


Old southern cities are truly interesting places.  I had never heard much about Savannah.  I never watched "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and was unaware that "Forrest Gump" and "Glory" were filmed there, among many others (our campground offered a shelf of movies filmed in Savannah that one could borrow for free - there were at least twenty of them).  Hubby, however, is a move aficionado.  Hence his desire to see Savannah.  I'm the literature girl.

If I had my 'druthers, I'd pick a destination, go there, and see all there is to see.  I like to wander around on foot, map in hand, going in and out of stores and museums and parks.  But a road trip is like a wine tasting tour. You rush in, take a few sips, get drunk on the experience and hope you remember what you liked the best so you can go back someday and focus on that one thing!  That being said, despite the sometimes-corniness of the public tour business, taking a tour is frequently the best way to get the lay of the land.  For Savannah, there are trolley tours.  Dozens of them. We picked one at random and got an informative and extremely amusing tour guide ("Honey, the accelerator is under your RIGHT foot.  Don't get in my way - I'm bigger than you and sometimes size DOES matter, bless your heart!")

Unlike Charleston, where the historic district appears to be small-ish, Savannah sprawls around at least 24 squares.  Each square has an historic statue.  Each person represented in the square is facing the direction of the enemy he defended Savannah from.  For example, the commander of Fort King George faces South to defend against Florida.  The Civil War Generals face North and so on. 

Savannah has a lot of historically preserved homes, and in the historic district, if you are going to build something new it has to look old.  They are very egalitarian in what they preserve.

There are people in various period costumes who come onto the trolleys to tell their stories.  This lady was an actress who married money and became and abolitionist:
They think it's important to remember where the pirates use to hang out and drink:

Their first Ford dealership is still in business (but not selling Fords):

Itty bitty 500 square foot houses sell for over half a million.  They deserve preservation too!

 They have their own version of Rainbow Row.
They thought they had the first cure for migraines;

They have some AWESOME restaurant d├ęcor:

I had no idea that Savannah is the third largest seaport in the US.  They are currently adjusting the harbor to manage ships with 1000 foot draft to match what will be able to pass through the upgraded Panama Canal.

They have entertaining fountains.  You don't see many Griffins outside of my home town, where they are the High School Mascot.  Go Griffins!

And like all good Colonial cities, it has a George Washington-slept-here-and-gave-us-a-pair-of-cannon story.
I am sure Hubby's camera has a shot of Forrest Gump's park bench.  The statue from "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" has been moved indoors to protect it from crazy tourists, who were chipping off pieces as souvenirs.  People are idiots.  Damn yankees.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Places You've Never Heard of......

From Orlando we drove to Tampa to visit family.  Babygirl and I took the opportunity to go and see "The Fault in Our Stars" since we had read the book together.  I brought a packet of Kleenex.  It was almost enough. 

Having skipped Savannah on our way into Florida, we decided to check it out on our way out.  By this time we were pros at cancelling and rearranging campsites all over the south (Hubby figures we'll get blacklisted at some point, but until then....), so, atlas in hand, we headed out, planning to camp just outside of Savannah and tour it the next morning.

We never really make any solid plans for the road itself.  We just go with the flow. 

Lunchtime approached and I began to watch road signs and the atlas for likely stopping points.  We got off the highway to check out an antebellum plantation only to discover the road there was hopelessly under construction.  Back on the highway I saw a billboard for Skipper's Seafood.  It sounded promising, and there was a marker on the map for a National Historic Site nearby.

Signage is quirky.  You get off the main drag, and there's a sign pointing to the right.  You go a couple of miles, and the road ends in a T.  Left?  Right?  Well, the fort is to the right, so lets go that way.  We crossed a river, realized that there was no civilization in the swampland on the other side, and crossed back. 
Traveling down an ever narrowing Spanish-moss-overhung road past homes that clearly might just have backyard 'gator infestations, we arrived at Fort King George.
This little fort was the southernmost outpost of the British Colonies.  It was built by infirm elderly soldiers, most of whom died of either malaria, yellow fever, (the park rangers told us the 'skeeters aren't as bad as they used to be) or drunken accidents (I kid you not.  The museum displays said so).  Oddly, it was built to defend Georgia against the Floridians, who were, at the time, Spaniards.  Fortunately for the old alcoholic soldiers they were never called upon to fight.  We took a nature walk around the grounds.  At one point I slapped my leg and killed 6 mosquitos at one time.  Not my best vacation moment, but it may have inspired my best vacation running time.

The park rangers gave us directions to Skippers - we'd driven past it twice.
I bought local wine along the way.  All I can say is:  Don't. Unless you want diabetes.  And who's ever heard of the Darien River?  or the Darien River wine country?
It looks like a log.  But it has eyes.  It was our only live 'gator sighting.  We ate his cousin for lunch, with a side of excellent crab stew.

Completely satisfied with our odd historical tour (and our lunch) we headed in to set up camp. 'Gator- and 'skeeter-free camp.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


After Charleston we continued south to Daytona to visit with our good friend Nancy.  She lives on the estuary between Daytona and Daytona Beach.

The view from her terrace is lovely, and we spent time watching the tides, the boats and the dolphins.  It's a five minute walk to Oceanside, and we had a clear view of the fireworks over the Daytona Speedway.  This was the only part of our vacation where we experienced any bad weather.  It rained a lot while we were there.  Babygirl wasn't feeling well, so we stayed an extra day, enjoyed the company and the view, and had a peaceful time.

We had planned to spend two days at Universal Studios. I'm a Disney kind of girl, but Hubby has been to Universal with his brother and really felt we were missing out by not seeing it ourselves so we decided to go for it.  But because of our delay, we had only one day.  So while we were waiting in line to buy tickets, we did some math.   Two day passes plus the cost of a night in between versus one day passes plus the extra fee to skip all the lines?  It was 95 degrees, 98% humidity, Babygirl was recovering (slowly) from a doozy of a headache and we had to keep her hydrated. 

Tickets to Universal are ungodly in price.  One day at Disney is $99.  At Universal it's $136.  The skip-the-line passes are nearly another $100.  Each.  Buying them makes one day cost as much a two, and you can't skip the Harry Potter ride lines with them.  We looked around.  There was a CROWD. 

There are things you can do when you have an only child that you cannot do when you have four of them.  And there are things you will do for a chronically ill child that you would NEVER do for any other child, or even for yourself. 

We bought the passes.  It felt like flat-out illegal bribery.

It was a good decision.  Babygirl was still reeling from the headache.  Keeping her out of the heat early in the day by bypassing lines to air conditioned shows and 3D movies gave her time to collect herself and feel well enough to move on to the simulator rides and things of that sort.  We never did do any coasters, but frankly we can do that sort of thing anywhere.  Spiderman and The Simpsons were unique.  And since Hubby is a big guy and can't ride a lot of the coaster type rides, it worked out well for all of us.

We got to explore Diagon Alley to our hearts' content.  We drank frozen Butterbeer (O. M. G.). We rode the Hogwarts Express (worth the wait and as close to Disney as Universal managed to come).

The ride inside Hogwarts, sadly, would not seat Hubby.  He steeled himself for a long, lonely time, as the sign at the entrance warned of a 90 minute wait, and our passes didn't bypass that line.  But as Babygirl and I were going in I spotted a "single rider" line.  I asked her if she cared if we sat next to each other or not.  She didn't.  We got into that line, which effectively bypassed 300 people and took us straight to the front, where they immediately needed two people from our line to fill a row in the ride.  (The ride is awesome, by the way - Hermione enchants a bench full of muggles so we can go and play some Quidditch, which is fine until Hagrid loses track of his dragon.  And his spider.)  We finished and popped out so quickly that Hubby did a double take.  So we rode it again.
It was a good day.  We opened and closed the park. We did in one day what we would barely have managed to do in two if it hadn't been for the skip-the-lines passes.  But for the money we could have done three days in Disney. But to give credit where possible:  Universal's "affordable" food was better than Disney's.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Three Month Check Up....

We interrupt our vacation blog for the following update:

Babygirl spent all of Monday seeing doctors. 

We began with Nephrology.  The kidney is doing well.  We discussed medications that Neurology wants to try for the headaches.  Lisinopril -as much as they want.  Zonegran - nope, not at all.  Depakote would be much better, thanks, I should tell them to try that.  Carry on, blood work at home in six weeks, see you in three months.  (This was after we'd located them.  They'd moved, and we knew they'd moved, but apparently no one at any CHOP information desk knew that they had moved or where.  We got a lot of exercise looking for them.  Turns out they are on the same floor of the same building as neurology now.)

Then Neurology.  Really, she is still having headaches?  You called?  We are having some problems with communication. (Oh, really?? No kidding there.)  Anyway, they listened to what nephrology suggested, smiled smugly at their ignorance ("Depakote for an adolescent girl?  With weight gain as its major side effect?" Dude, it isn't that we don't know what can happen, but the kid can't go to school for the headaches for the good Lord's sake, we have to do SOMETHING!) and worked out a convoluted plan involving increasing the medications that aren't working.  Again. 

Then Gyn, where we discovered that our appointment is actually Tuesday (my bad, I guess) but the (oh God bless her) doctor squeezed us in, and made a plan for ongoing care an follow up that made sense to Babygirl.  Works for me.  Irregular periods weren't high on my worry list anyway.

The big news, to me anyway, is that there was a radical shift in Babygirl herself.  She took the lead in telling her story, answering questions and filling the docs in on how she feels about the whole thing.  Of course, the flip side of THAT is that they pushed her to be more responsible about keeping track of things - the number of headaches, the days she is bleeding, the amount she drinks.....

Becoming more mature has its price.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Crossing One Off the Bucket List....

I have always wanted to go to Charleston.  I really don't know why. Maybe it was reading Gone With the Wind.  Perhaps it was some other historical reference that got stuck in my brain - but I've wanted to go to Charleston the way Babygirl wanted to go to Paris. 

When Hurricane Arthur put us a day behind on our travel plans we contemplated skipping Charleston.  We discussed skipping Savannah.  Turns out Hubby had a thing about Savannah like I had a thing about Charleston.  Go figure.

But Hubby is a sensible man. "Happy wife, happy life!"  Right?  So we went to Charleston.

As we were approaching Charleston on the strength of our road atlas (since GPS will only help you if you know exactly where you want to go), I said to Hubby, "We don't want to cross any big water."  Next thing I know we are on a huge bridge hundreds of feet above Charleston harbor.  Oops. 

I am nothing if not flexible.  We were now on the same side of the harbor as the USS Yorktown.  Hubby was more than glad to add that to our list of things to do, and Babygirl is always up for an adventure, so we paid the $10 parking fee and got on the boat. 

I have to say that it was an amazing side trip. Did you know that you can take your youth group/scout troop and spend the night on the Yorktown?  It has got to be the most awesome sleepover ever - they use the sailor's bunks and everything.  We toured the ship, the planes, the Medal of Honor museum, a submarine and a Vietnam-era MASH unit.  We then took a water taxi to Charleston proper. 

Historic Charleston is absolutely beautiful.  The waterfront, the market, the fountains, the historic homes, the churches....sigh.  We signed up for a horse-drawn carriage ride.  I was disappointed to be told that the horses 'won' their routes by lottery, and we had rather poor odds of going past the famous waterfront homes and Rainbow Row on the horse tour since the lottery rarely fell to that route.  I figured we'd get a local map and walk it if need be, and we spent the hour waiting for our tour in the market.  We watched people weave sweet grass baskets.
  We saw spices and sauces for sale.
Babygirl bought a lovely dress after deciding against an umbrella.  Yes, it's an UMBRELLA.

We clambered aboard our carriage and were lucky enough to get front row seats. Our carriage horse was a retired Amish plow horse, and the horseshoes had a layer of rubber tire between his hooves and the metal shoes for extra comfort.  As we pulled up the the bingo-ball machine that would assign our route, our driver asked everyone to pick a color:  Red, yellow or blue?  I was the only one who picked yellow.  And yellow was what we got - the Rainbow Row route!

I spent a blissful hour admiring things I had only read about.  Twice the horse had to pull us up to the highest point in Charleston - 12 feet above sea level! 

We caught our water taxi back to the Yorktown (and unexpectedly had to walk an extra mile around it to get to the truck - July 4th festivities!).   I was sad to leave, and would gladly go back and spend more than a day, but it was nice to check it off my list!