Monday, March 30, 2009

A little piece of Heaven

Crystal Cove State Beach Cottages are a step back in time. The southern California beach, the temperatures and the adorable '50's style houses make it my favorite vacation spot. We always feel like we have won the lottery when we've been lucky enough to get a reservation.
This is a picture of the house will be staying in for a week starting tomorrow.
This place is so special that we have to share it with our dearest friends. When they are able to clear their schedule and come too, well, it is like winning the Mega Jackpot!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Car games

The other night we pulled up to a red light behind a mini-van. There was a DVD that hung from the ceiling playing a children's movie. My first thought was, I wish we had those when the kids were little. Then I thought of all the special times that would have been lost.

Since the kids were little, we played a game they called alligator (it was actually navigator). Jim devised this game and I have to admit, sometimes I didn't have the patience for it. The game designated one of the kids as the navigator. They were responsible for directing the driver to turn left or right. The driver had to obey - unless it was dangerous or illegal- think one way streets. I believe this migh be how they learned their right from their left.

When they were very little, they would direct us within our neighborhood. Then home from the store or school. The boundaries got bigger as they grew, until they could direct us home from out of town. We also added more challenges, such as telling us ahead of time which streets we were going to take. Did we ever get lost or take a longer way home? Absolutely. But that was part of the fun.

Both kids knew the streets of Redding very well by the time they were in middle school. By the time they got their driver's license they were confident out on their own. They were surprised that other teen drivers, born raised in the area ,couldn't find their way around.

Our niece and nephew often stayed with us. A while back, our niece, now 30 years old, told us how she remembered playing 'alligator' and how much fun she had riding in the car with us. It is nice to hear about pleasant memories from their childhood.

I am glad we didn't have a DVD.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Adventures in flying part 3 - crying babies

No one wants to be stuck on a cross country flight with a crying baby anymore than the baby's mother does. So, I have to wonder, why would mother with a child under the age of five, board an airplane for a cross country flight with nothing to feed the child or entertain the child?

The cute little boy was not yet two years old. His mom looked about 20. She brought her blackberry for her to use (what else can they do besides make calls or email - neither allowed on our flight). But the little boy was just held in her lap- staring at the back of the seat in front of him.

He became very fussy upon take off. Helllooo, didn't she think that his poor little ears would pop and hurt. A bottle, a drink, yawning games, anything would have eased the discomfort. No, she just kept repeating, stop! Stop! I said stop!

He settled down some after the plane leveled. An hour into the trip he starts screaming- again. They are sitting on the isle seat; I am directly across. No one is sitting next to them, but a business man is in the window seat. Mom tries to give child a drink of soda, he flings it out of her hand into the business man's lap. The man has long since had headphones on. He jumps and to his credit, tries to help the mom get things cleaned up.

At this point, the lady behind me passes the boy a little box of sugar pops cereal. The boy is delighted and takes one at time to eat. Mom puts the tray table down and he plays a couple of games with them, arranging them different ways over 45 minutes. Then they are gone. He gets fussy.

He looks at mom and plays with her hair, which she doesn't like. He tries banging his hands on the tray. That gets boring. I play peek-a-boo until he tires of that game.

I dig in my purse. It has been a long time since I carried 'emergency toys' in my purse. I find a little change purse, empty the change and put some Teddy Grams in it. After asking mom if it is okay to give it to him, he happily takes it. He is not as interested in the Teddy Grams as opening and closing it. It has a little clasp, that apparently, he has never seen before. He spent the next hour figuring out how to open and snap it shut - mastering a new skill.

That gets boring too. Hey, he has the attention span of a two year old. Mom is obliviously to his needs or disruption to other's passengers comfort. He starts crying. My guess is he is wet and even though he has had a handful of cereal and 4 little Teddy Grams, I would think a two year might get hungry or thirsty in that long of time.

At this point, adult passengers are cranky-even the flight attendants can't wait for this flight to be over. We have been packed in like sardines and it is hot and uncomfortable. I am about ready to crawl out of my skin. I brought an Ipod and that usually helps me focus and relax. The child's screaming, however, overpowers any music or the audio books. I have a splitting headache and am exhausted.

In desperation, I take the white barf bags and and pen. I draw a face on the bottom crease and make the flap open and close for him. He is gleeful. I hand him a pen and a new barf bag to draw upon. He is entertained until we land.

This was not the child's fault. The mom was self absorbed and should have planned ahead to have things to entertain him (or at least interact with him). She did not even make sure his basic needs were met; dry diaper, food, water.

Getting off the plane, several passengers smiled at me or said thanks. The mom, of course was still oblivious. I feel so sorry for the cute little guy.....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adventures in flying part 2, security -again

My airport experience flying back to Virginia was covered here.
Adventures in flying - part 1 - Missing laptop, is
here .

I pick up the story on our travel adventures on the way to the airport in Virginia. We did get the laptop and we were still on time for the flight. All of the sudden, tension gone, we break into uncontrollable laughter, tears are steaming down our faces. Each of us tried to replicate the sound Dennie made going in the window, to retrieve the laptop. Since Dennie was the one to "break in" to the condo for my forgotten laptop: I felt I owed her to make sure I didn't cause a "stink" at airport security - this time.

Dennie has always embarrassed easily. She is also a retired CHP officer so she follows the rules. She claimed the hassle with security going east was because I had the water bottle in the first place. Therefore, driving to the airport, I promised her I would not take a water bottle with me. The words were hardly out of my mouth when I reached in my coat pocket and realized I had a plastic bottle of diet coke. It was unopened. I really, really, wanted it for the long, 8-hour cross country flight.

I suggested since it was plastic, maybe I could just leave it in my coat pocket. I saw the muscles in her jaw twitch and it was still dark! Remembering the sight of her hanging half in and half out the window, I promise I will throw away the coke too. After checking our bags, we went into the restroom where she watched me pour my soda down the sink and throw the bottle away - Sigh.

We were approaching security when I remembered they insist on having laptops out of the bags. We stop so I could get the multi-zippered bag in the right direction, with the right zipper slightly opened for easy removal. A few feet closer and I reach in my purse and get out my boarding pass. We are almost there when I remembered to take out my driver's license too. See, I say to her, I have everything ready and I won't cause any trouble. She looked relieved.

I am proud of myself, I am completely ready for a smooth pass through security. We get to the scanner belt, efficiently I grab two of the plastic tubs, put my laptop bag in one with computer out and on top. I put my shoes and purse in the other tub. I am told to step through the body scanner. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! Do you have any metal on you? Anything in your pockets? No, but I have an artificial hip -which by the way has NEVER caused a security device to go off in 4 years.

Step over here! I look around for Dennie - she has gone through the other side and is gathering up our stuff. I give her a look that I hope says "I didn't do anything". The TSA women must know I am now getting anxious as once again I start sweating and she has to repeat instructions to me a couple of times. Arms straight out - palms up! I said, palms up! Here, turn your hand this way! Now I feel my face turning red with embarrassment - once again my brain is shutting down. I am in a glass enclosure where everyone can see in. The women pats me down. She lifts my blouse, and starts to unbutton my pants! I am not kidding! I grab her hand. She says roll your pants down. I am searching for Dennie's eyes again. The woman rolls the waist of my pants over - I know my underwear shows. I keep my eyes on my sister and try to relax and breathe. Finally, she says I can go.

I leave the glass cage and Dennie hands me my shoes and laptop. I try to explain to her I didn't do anything. She says, yeah, that was weird with your pants...

Stay tune for adventures in flying -part 3 - crying babies.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Memory loss

I felt I had to respond to the "Dear J" column about memory loss on ttp://
I have a unique perspective on the issue of memory loss because
A) As a medical social worker, I studied and worked with the elderly and terminal patients.
B) I went through this stage of life with my mother, father-in-law and mother-in-law, and
C) I currently have many of the same issues as a result of a stroke.

Here are my suggestions:
1) Anyone can hold it together for a couple of hours. You need to spend at least a couple of days with the person to judge their functioning -preferably, not in their own home. We develop a system in our home,the familiarity and routine can mask a lot. Ever watch a blind person fly around their home, cooking and cleaning?

2) Observe the person objectively, don't think of them as your strong dad or mom, wife, husband, sister or brother.

3) Look for coping mechanisms they use to deal with diminished capacity, thing like:

  • pads of paper everywhere to make notes or jog memory-especially with with phone numbers or information they once knew well.

  • instructions or labels on how to operate household appliances, TV,etc

  • less desire to go out or do things that were once pleasurable- movies, or social activities.

  • not wanting to use the phone as much or passing it over to someone else in the home- 'here, dad wants to talk to you"

  • using "catch phases" that fit a number of situations "that wouldn't be bad now, would it?"

  • using humor to deflect or not directly answer a question. My dear father-in-law was so good humored, many things were missed. When asked by the doctor what brought him to the emergency room, he replied, "the ambulance". Everyone in the room laughed, someone else filled in the medical issue and the doctor never ask him again.

  • avoiding large crowds, loud environments, or a lot of things going on at once. The more stimulation, the less ability to function.
  • abnormal fear of falling or taking avoidance of taking showers or baths. Letting other personal grooming slip getting angry over little things they have trouble doing or becoming frustrated with a task and leaving it. No longer doing hobbies, they once liked.
  • Having trouble making change or completing paperwork. "I can't read this - the print is so small or I left my glasses, etc"Turning over tasks they once did themselves, such as paying bills or volunteer work - seeing over due bills or being overdrawn at the bank.

  • accusing others when unable to find something, "so and so took it."

  • Seeing stashes of money in various places or hoarding some items

  • Weight loss, are the fixing meals and remembering to eat or just snacking? Ask what they had to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner - how about yesterday?

  • Looking to others to answer for them or saying the spouse "takes care of all that"

  • Taking a long time to do a task that was easy in the past (some of my short blogs or this response can take many hours (sometimes days for me to complete).

There are so many things people can do to cope. But use some common sense. I am reminded of the lists of things to watch for if your teen is taking drugs. So many of the things listed is normal teenage behavior.

Make sure they have had an eye exam and a hearing test. Everyone thought my mother-in-law just didn't hear things. After her hearing aids it was obvious the problem was her memory and comprehension.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adventures in flying home - part 1

I know this is 'Adventures in flying - part 1' - because I am writing this on the plane and more has happened since leaving the condo. Heading to the airport had a rocky start.

We needed to leave by 5:00 A.M. I have short hair and usually don't wear make-up, so I can go from bed to shower, to out the door, in 30 minutes or less. My sister, on the other hand, has longer, very thick hair that takes FOREVER to dry. She said she would need to get up at 3:30 A.M. to be able to leave by 5:00A.M. - the airport was 34 miles away and our flight left at 7:15.
The car in front of the window that saved us

Things were going smoothly - at first. We both did a final check to make sure we had everything. We had packed the night before. I even remembered to call the office to let them know we were checking out very early. No problem, just leave the keys in the unit instead of dropping them in the box at the closed office.

We manage to haul the wheeled luggage down the entry way stairs, bump, bump, bump. We were trying to be quiet in the dark, early morning, but it was nearly impossible. Until we remembered the upstairs neighbors had sounded like a heard of elephants all week, especially after 11:00 P.M. - that's when we stopped worrying about the noise.

While loading the luggage in the trunk of the car, I went down my mental list.
Large suitcase, check.
Smaller suitcase, check.
Purse, check.
Laptop, chh..., laptop...... laptop??!!!
Dennie, do you have my laptop? No!
Really? Oh, crap! Do you have a room key?
No, they told us to leave them in the room, remember?

Now, I'm frantic. I would rather lose my purse than lose my laptop as I could replace the items in my purse easier. All week we had to be extra careful to make sure the front door was shut tightly as it had a tenancy not to click shut. I Crossed my fingers that maybe it didn't close this time. I checked, but of course it was closed tighter than a bank vault.

I yell to get in the car! We go flying over the speed bumps trying to find SOMEONE, anyone, on the property. I suggest now is a good time to speed as maybe that will make them magically appear. My mind is thinking of breaking a window and wondering if we show up late if they will give us another flight home. There is no one around but a deer and a scared tabby cat. Every other time we have driven in the property, we have seen multiple security trucks or marked complex golf carts.

Trying to hold it together, I said - go back to the condo! Dennie says there is no point. I know she is probably right, but I just can't leave Virginia without my laptop. We pull up to the front of our unit. She goes to check the front door again, as I'm taking the screen off the bedroom window frame. Please, Please let the window not be locked.

It slides open! Then we look at each other to see who will 'volunteer' to get boosted up five feet from the ground to the window.
Dennie, bless her heart, says she will go.
I cup my hands together to make a stirrup. Being the experienced horsewomen she is, she puts her left foot in them and lifts herself up to the window sill. Her torso is in, then I hear this weird sound - I have been trying to figure out how to spell it- something like UUAAAGGRRRHH!
I peek over the sill and her arms are flailing like two windmills. She finally finds the floor with her hands. Now, she has her butt and legs sticking out the window and her torso over the window sill with her hands down on the floor inside. Yeah! We're in!

At this point, I'm in control. She was going in - even if I had to push her butt and toss her legs over the window sill! She might have guessed what I had in mind, because with one more strange guttural sound, she was successful in wiggling the rest of her body through the window.

Still no security guard, but I could have sworn I saw a light go on in the unit upstairs.
Within a minute , Dennie comes running out with laptop in hand. We rush to the car to make our get away. The dashboard clock says 4:59 - still on time for the airport.

Stay turn for part 2 - Security.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cross Williamsburg off my " Bucket List"

Visiting Williamsburg has been on my 'bucket list' of things to do before I die. We have spent a week here without ever going out of the Colonial Triangle of Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown. It is an incredible area and definitely worth the trip - especially for history buffs.
One truly steps back in time to experience the sights, sounds and way of life. We rode this carriage around the Colony.

There were scholars, weavers, blacksmiths, cobblers, shop keepers, farmers and every other occupation needed to run a community.
It is time to step forward to the present and fly home.

None for me, Thank you

This is a picture of a typical feast the richer colonists might serve on very special occassions.
I think I will stick to Californa cusine.

Food for Thought Restaurant

In Williamsburg, we found the Food for Thought Restaurant. We had spotted the ad for it in a visitor center publication.

Drawn to the restaurant by its name, we decided to eat there when we saw it was voted "best new restaurant in Williamsburg."

We were seated in a room that had a glass window to the kitchen area. There were famous quotes and expressions painted on the walls. Pictures of Presidents and great statesmen hung throughout the dinning room and bar area.

If patrons had trouble starting a conversation, they could pick a card from a stack on the table. Some cards had 'mind games' -word or math puzzles. Others were prompts to open dialog, such as, who is your favorite actress and why?

My sister, Dennie, had talked about "cheesy grits" on the flight east. She claimed it was a local cuisine and we should try some while in Virginia. Does cheesy grits and cuisine belong in the same sentence? Sorry Dennie. I, on the other hand, had been looking forward to crab cakes.

Once seated, sweet potato corn bread and Parmesan cheese biscuits were placed on the table. While I did not think sweet potato corn bread sounded very good, I would like their recipe - I know it would be a new Thanksgiving tradition in our home.

Dennie ordered her cheesy grits as a side to pot roast with sweet potato fries. I had a crab cake and selected broccoli and asparagus as my side dishes. My plate came with with a ramekin of 'southwest remoulade sauce.

We both were very impressed with the food. Dennie said her pot roast and sweet potato fries were the best. She was not thrilled with the cheesy grits -preferring more cheddar flavor. I sampled them and thought they tasted like wall paper paste (don't ask how I know). I was thrilled with my selections. There was plenty of food and the price was only $8.95 per meal.

Our server may have eyed us with suspicion when we first arrived as we took pictures of the sign outside before entering the restaurant. When he saw me taking a picture of the menu, I had to explain that my friends, Doni and Kelly, have Food for Thought A News Cafe. Then I asked if the restaurant was a franchise or chain. No, he said, Mr. Howard Hopkins owned it.

As patrons were finishing their meals, I noticed Mr. Hopkins making his way around the tables asking if everything was satisfactory. At least two tables greeted him first by his name. When he came to our table, he introduced himself -extending his hand. We thanked Mr. Hopkins for the wonderful meal and I told him why we had been taking pictures of his sign. He asked more about Food For Thought, A News Cafe. He was intrigued and said he was going to go look the web site right then.

I know this is long, but I was so struck with the similar philosophies of each business, that I have to quote from his menu,
"Our food is prepared with love and served with pride. The foundation of our menu is built upon classic American dishes such as fork -tender pot roast , grandma's meat loaf and "fall off the bone" ribs. These are the meals that America grew up on. To compliment these American flavors, we added some newer, more contemporary flavors and ideas like Pad Thai, Jamaican jerk chicken, flavored butters and original vegetarian dishes.

A truly wonderful meal is a combination of good food and good conversation. So talk about the special people featured here. Talk about the contributions these people have made to the world. Talk about how everyone can can be great in his or her own way. Talk about how we can each make significant contributions if we model the same principles and beliefs of those that have gone before us. Have fun while enjoying a deliciously inspiring meal and expand your mind as well as
your belly....... * eat *drink *think "

Newspapers obsolete?

Turning to the suffering newspaper business, he disagreed with those who say they're obsolete. "I recently got a puppy, and you can't housebreak a puppy on the Internet," Biden said.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009


It was chilling walking the Revolutionary War battlefield in Yorktown today. Nearing the the edge of the York river, I saw two men painting a cannon. I asked if I could help paint. They looked around, then at each other - stunned.

I immediately promised not to fling the paint or slop it onto metal pieces. Finally, the younger one, shrugged his shoulders and handed me his paint brush.
Then, I asked the older man if he would take a picture for me. He agreed, probably thinking it would get me out of their hair faster.

Note: There is a cannon ball stuck in the side of the brick house, between the two windows -It wasn't me - honest!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Unusual Finds..

We discovered a wonderful place in Williamsburg, totally by accident - President's Park.
The Park has 16-18 feet tall busts of every president (but President Obama). The information about the presidents and the first ladies was amazing!
We both fell in love with this Park.
Visiting the gift shop, I mentioned to my sister I could use some T-Shirts. The clerk overheard me. She had a whole barrel full that she couldn't sell and was trying to dump. I took four. They will make good night shirts as we can't bring ourselves to wear them in public ;)

Post Stroke Challenges

I don't know anyone that enjoys going through airport security. I tried to plan ahead and have my boarding pass and ID ready to show. I took off my shoes, put my purse and laptop bag in the square plastic tubs to be scanned.

As I was walking through the metal detector, the screener asked if the black bag passing through the machine was my laptop. Yes. Then he asked about the brown purse. I identified the purse as mine. He opened my purse and pulled out a water bottle (I had forgotten it was in there). He cited the rule of "only 3 ounces of liquid allowed."

The 12 ounce water bottle was probably three quarters full. I apologized and offered to drink it. Nope, not allowed. Can I pour it in the trash? Nope, not on that side of the security belt. At that point, a young TSA agent stepped up and said he would walk me out (the entire 6 feet) to the 'other side' where I could dispose of the water. So I follow the uniformed young man carrying my water- apparently I was not to touch it. Once through the gate, he handed me the bottle. I drink it down to less than an inch. I figured there wasn't even 3 ounces left. Nope, still not good enough, even though it was less than 3 ounces, it was still in a 12 ounce container. Geez. But, the young man cheerily confides, if I empty it, I can keep the bottle and then fill it from the drinking fountain in sight - less than 4 feet away. I drink the rest of the water.

One of the most frustrating and embarrassing residuals of the stroke is the inability to handle a lot of stimulation, frustration, or new information. The airport was crowded, hot, noisy and then 'all this' (in my logical mind it was not a big deal - however, in my post stroke (PS) brain it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, the PS brain was in control of the rest of my body. As I became more frustrated, I got more confused and my brain just shut down - like a computer in hibernation mode. Then, my vision started narrowing -leaving a pin hole of central vision . My wonderful new prism glasses were totally ineffective. All I could think was, if only I had Bailey, my service dog. But I had worked so hard to be more independent. Leaving her this trip was a test to prove I could do it by myself - obviously I was mistaken.

The young TSA agent led me back to the scanner operator, who then decided the same laptop that was successfully scanned through a few minutes prior, was now suspect. My laptop bag had to be taken apart as there were 'extra electronics' discovered.

It was all I could do to hold it together. I was near tears as he removed the GPS and my camera, along with the laptop. He called a supervising agent to inspect the equipment.
I can't blame them -I was dripping sweat like a nervous terrorist.

Finally, my property was given back - not in the bag, just thrown in the plastic container. I was trying to put my shoes on - a comical sight with my poor balance. It seemed like every passenger in the entire airport was behind me in line, staring at me, waiting to get through. I was fumbling trying to put things back in the laptop bag and get my purse. My jacket was missing, but at least I noticed, told the inspector and he found it on the next table before I left the area.

Finally, through security, I started looking for my sister. I waited at the end of the security screening area. Eventually I realized, she must have gone ahead to the boarding gate, which was at the end of a very long concourse.

She wasn't there. By then, my entire body was revolting, I was shaking, I could barely see, my legs were refusing to obey and I hurt everywhere - especially in my head. I sat down and tried to get a grip; medications, deep breaths and calming visualizations helped.

Why does my mind and body continue to betray me like this?

Ten minutes later, I force myself back down the long concourse. I was almost to the security area when my sister spots me.

Once, I was a strong, independent, confident, woman - now, I sometimes feel like a lost two year old.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An 'Aha' moment

In 1999, I was a social worker. I was transporting a 10 year old foster child from Butte County to Shasta County. It was a beautiful spring day.

At one point, he said it was getting warm in the car. I suggested he roll down the window. He looked at me puzzled and asked where the button was located. I explained I did not have power windows and he he would have to roll them down with the handle.

His face lit up and he yelled, THAT'S WHY THEY SAY ROLL DOWN THE WINDOWS! He had always wondered why they didn't say push down the window. Every few minutes for the rest of the ride, he would repeat roll down the window and then giggle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lesson Learned

My dad was a truck driver for over 30 years. He never cussed when I was growing up.

After college, I was eager to have him see me as an adult. I can't remember the subject we were discussing, but feeling like an equal, I said the word 'shit'.

Dad looked stunned. Then quietly, he said, "You just had something in your mouth I would never put in my hand."
Lesson Learned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pushing myself

Tomorrow I leave for Harrisburg, VA. My sister, a history buff, has always wanted to go and I have never been either.

Several weeks back we bought our Southwest Airline tickets for $99 each way to Roanoke. Then we scored a two bedroom condo for $400 for the entire week. Throw in our $89 weekly, standard size, car rental and how could we not take advantage the opportunity? By dividing the expenses, of the car rental and condo we could swing it. Of course, we have to eat, but because the condo is fully furnished - including the kitchen.- we will buy groceries for the week, which we would have had to do anyway.

It sounds like a great adventure. So why am I so scared?
It will be the first time without my Service Dog, Bailey.
I have not been on a long flight.
Since the stroke, I have a number of issues that will make this trip an enormous challenge for me.

I want to push the envelope. I have been working hard on my physical and mental abilities for over 3 years now.
So why am I so terrified?

Some expressions from the past

A family member recently said he was, "Busier than a hog on ice." That got me thinking about some sayings I learned from my elders. Expressions such as, "Don't go at it like you are killing snakes." One grandparent had a saying that always made us kids snicker, "Slicker than snot on a door knob" Eeewwww.

My dad would describe nicely painted cars, but without power, as being, "All show and no go." When my mother worried about someone's safety, dad would reply philosophically, "Some of them make it and some of them don't!"

Most of my family would describe bargaining for something as "jewing them down" I was so embarrassed when a friend informed me the saying was racist. I had never connected Jews with that expression. I honestly thought it was a separate word. Thank God for good friends that speak up to educate.

Dad often showed us creative ways to accomplish a task or make a repair. When asked how he knew that, he would reply, "It's an old Indian trick." I always wanted to meet his Indian friends as they had to be very smart! Could that expression be offensive as well?

Old expressions came up again today, when talking with my sister. I asked if I woke her with the early morning phone call. She said no, she was waiting for the coffee to "percolate."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A sign of the times

A friend, an alum of UC Berkeley, posted this on his Facebook. I find it so sad.

"Engineering and History are still popular majors at UC Berkeley but they aren't growing nearly as fast as a minor that has only been in existence for two years.

School communications officials announced this week that "Global Poverty and Practice" has become the fastest growing minor on campus.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Expressions that may need to change

Bored games

R U Buckled

How does it know if it is am or pm

out dated sayings:
ice box

roll up window

tie shoes


Friday, March 13, 2009

The case of the runaway wallet

It was day 11 of Jim and Laura's 19 day, cross-county, bike trip in Vietnam.
Jim sent a short email asking me to cancel our credit and debit cards. He had "lost" his wallet. That was the entire message so I didn't know if it had been lost or stolen. I did know there had to be more to the story.

In a longer email, a few days later, Jim said he didn't believe the wallet had been stolen. He remembered putting the wallet in his computer bag but it wasn't there. A check of the suitcases and support truck didn't produce it either.

When Laura dropped Jim off at home, he said he had found the wallet in the suitcase when they were packing to leave. He swears both he and Laura looked there numerous times.

Oh happy day. Jim did not have to replace his driver's license or health insurance cards and all the other things he crammed into that little black, tri-fold piece of leather.

The next morning, Jim couldn't find his wallet - again. He remembers getting it out to pay the toll at the Bay Bridge on the way home from the airport. Since he crashed his bike, broke his clavicle, and cracked some ribs, moving was uncomfortable and he didn't return the wallet to his pants pocket; instead, he set it down on the console of Laura's car.

Jim called Laura and sure enough, she found the wallet in her car. Laura said she would drop it in the mail after work.

The next morning, Laura calls and said she is so sorry - but she lost Jim's wallet - yet again. She put it in her pocket, then rode her scooter to work. Instead of dropping it in the mail, she apparently dropped it on the road. She back tracked but didn't find the elusive wallet.

There must be a reason that wallet wants to runaway.

Last night, we returned home to find a phone message from a women in Redding. She had found Jim's wallet near her house when out walking.

Now for the incredible part.....

She drove to our old house in Redding and tried to return it. Since we had moved, it took some sleuthing on the part of her family, but they found our phone number in Elk Grove. She wanted to return the wallet and even offered to DRIVE it three hours to return it to him!

Laura will pick up the wallet and attempt to mail it - again. We will keep our figures crossed that it arrives. Hey, third time is a charm. If /when it gets here, Jim is going to immediately remove the important papers and transfer them to the new wallet he bought in Vietnam - hopefully it has better Karma.

While this started as a description of losing a wallet, the obvious heroes are the family in Redding (I forgot to get their permission to mention their names).
That kind of behavior is one of the things we associate with the citizens of Redding. The community has such wonderful, caring, honest people.

Thank you so much to the 'M' family for playing detective in order to return a wallet to out-of-town strangers. I know their lives will be blessed for their efforts.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


It has always fascinated me how people remember things. I am a visual learner and my memory resembles slides in a mutimedia presentation.

Where are the keys? A picture of them, on the kitchen island, appears in my mind's eye. What do we need at the store? I visualize holding an empty container or throwing away the box. What is John's number? I see a video of the last time I called him - with a close up of the numbers.

I used to have somewhat of a photographic memory. I could read the newspaper or a book and remember the exact location of text - particularly helpful in college.

My sister laughed at the way I described 'filing' information in my mind. Imagine a virtual Rolodex with tab headings, helpful hints, numbers, studies, trivia or dates. There was no end to my Rolodex - or so I thought.

I feel betrayed by my mind. It is now smiliar to Swiss cheese. I recall stupid trivia but can't remember something that happened to me this month. I can recite phone numbers from 30 years ago but can't remember my current cell phone number- it's a blank screen.

I remember how I used to function and wish I didn't.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I have to admit to feeling very conflicted about being alone while Jim was on his adventure in Vietnam with our daughter.

One minute I was excited about being on my own for the first time in my life, the next minute I was full of anxiety about being left alone and not knowing how I would function. That may sound extreme, but since my stroke, there are many 'activities of daily living' (as the medical profession calls them) that can be a challenge for me.

We had considered many alternatives for my safety, including, going to a relative's or friend's house or having someone come here (thanks for all the gracious offers). I even thought about going on a cruise where meals, room, entertainment, even a doctor/medical clinic are available. Don't laugh,there are some incredible deals for cruises as low as $42 per day; a fraction of assistive living costs.

I am so glad we moved to our retirement community when we did. The house is built for 'aging in place' and has many of the safety features that I now appreciate - things like hand rails in the shower and taller toilets. When we first moved in, I could not believe how many beeps, tones, buzzes and alarms there were in our house. There would be a beep when a door opened. The stove beeps at setting changes or if left unattended. The dishwasher beeps. The refrigerator chimes if a door is ajar. The very sounds I thought I might find annoying were a comfort to me these last couple of weeks.

I have always felt strong and in control of my life - until the stroke.
I am trying desperately to regain that feeling. Daily, I do several hours of cognitive therapy (which includes this blog). I had to put my ego aside to use whatever assistive devices make my life easier; service dog, cane, prism glasses, tricycle for transportation, strangers kind offers of help, and handicapped public access features. Thank God for the American Disabilities Act(ADA).

I DID IT! I stayed alone and enjoyed recovering more independence. I got to know my (new)self a little better and I didn't burn the house down!

Okay, there was that one morning, at 6:00am, when I let the dogs out the patio door without first turning off the security alarm. But hey, I got to know a few more of our neighbors ;)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Uncle Jay explains why newspapers are closing

This week, Uncle Jay answers a question about why newspapers are shutting down.
Ahhh.... now I get it.
I have mentioned Uncle Jay Explains the News in this blog before. You are missing a few chuckles per week if you have not clicked on this site. Uncle Jay Explains the News is located on the right hand side on A News's home page - hint: it is in a blue box labeled "Fun and Games"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies

There is a reason I have not bought Girl Scout cookies in decades. That is not to say I pass up the little entrepreneurs in front or Raley's or close the door on the neighbor's children or grand children.

I will ask them about the cookie sale, then give them the money for a box or two - and tell them to keep the cookies.
Trust me, it is a much better deal for us both. The last time I actually had a box of scout cookies, there were only three varieties; apparently that has changed.

The other night, neighbors came over for dinner and a card game. They were so sweet to bring a box of peanut butter patties (how long have they offered that flavor?). OMG, now I remember why just giving the scouts money and not getting the cookies is a good idea. I knew I shouldn't have opened the box. Let me just say, having Girl Scout cookies and insomnia is not good!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Phone calls in the middle of the night are never good

I hate the phone to ring in the middle of the night. My heart sinks before I even answer it. This morning at 5:00 AM. It was Laura, our daughter who is on a bicycling trip through Vietnam with her dad.

she is so good in that she said, "First, we are fine but we got to experience the Vietnam medical system." Jim took a 'spill' and fractured his collar bone according to her. He will need surgery and would I make an appointment with the doctor for when he gets home. No other details, she was borrowing a phone. She promised to email more. This is the email:

Of course the Internet connection is really slow here so my message will have to be short (there is a line for the only computer). Dad is doing fine but is in a little discomfort. We have pain meds for him and have a brace that keeps his shoulder immobilized. Fortunately there is a radiologist from Seattle on this trip and he confirmed what the doctor at the hospital said. We have the X-rays for Dad to take to his doctor. Ideally they would like to do surgery, but there shouldn't be any harm in waiting until he gets home. Dad is adamant that we don't go home early even though I have pressed him several times. Especially since at least for him riding is over for a couple of months although the doctor said he could do it one handed. However, his daughter will not allow that.

Dad had x-rays, an exam, 2 braces, immobilization, and debridement all for the grand total of $40. Our guide was amazed that I thought it would cost at least $1500.
Hope all is going well with you!

I hate not being with him, but it sounds like their adventure continues.....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I don't get it

I listened to a program that explained how the federal government is going to be releasing money so people can now go out and buy things on credit.

I don't understand. Isn't that how we got in this mess to begin with - buying things we couldn't afford and putting them on credit? It was a brain exercise for me to listen to the entire program. But, I failed the exercise because by the end, I still didn't get it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More on customer service

One would think in this economy that retailers would bend over backwards to make sales and keep customers happy. Unfortunately, sometimes the customer has to be the one to ask for service.

We purchased a security screen for the front door. It had to be special ordered as the door is extra tall. We were told it would be in two weeks. Plenty of time before Jim left for Vietnam. The week before he left, I called. After checking the paperwork I was told it would be in "in two weeks". Okay, I don't believe they placed the order - but hey, it's just a guess.

We had arranged for the door to be installed but thought it would arrive in time for Jim to pick it up. When it finally came in, I explained I would have to have it delivered. We are talking 3 miles from the store to our house. I was told there would be a $79.00 delivery charge! Shocked, I reminded them it was their installer doing the work. Couldn't he just bring it out with him? I asked. The customer service representative said, well that's different, why didn't I say say so in the first place? In that case, it's only a $50.00 delivery harge. Call me crazy, but I still think that is excessive for a 3 mile delivery.

But wait, there's more. While she is on the phone, she asks me to hold while she 'checks on something". when she returns, she ststes there is a problem in that the person scheduled to install the door does not have a pick-up truck. So we are back up to $79.00 for delivery. I ask if I could I have a different installer? No, Bubba covers our area. But she suggeests I come in and rent their truck for $20.00 per hour and pick it up myself.

After explaining again that I was unable to drive, I finally aked for a supervisor. Guess what? Maybe it was better to have it delivered than lose the sale, because the door was delivered -at no charge.

The contractor was scheduled to come yesterday between 8 and noon to install the door. At 12:30 I call and was told he was 'running behind' and would be out between 2:00-4:00 PM. At 4:30 he calls and said it would be closer to 6:00PM before he will ome out. It's a good thing I am retired and didn't have to juggle work to be home the entire day for this guy.

Babba finally came yesterday close to 6:00 -without a truck- and installed the door.

I love being able to open the front door and smell the rain. I just wish it didn't have to be such a hassle to get a simple job completed.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I can see!

After a couple of months of new vision tests and studies at UC Davis, I finally received my prism glasses. The difference they make in my vision is nothing short of amazing. I was trying not to get too excited during the long two week wait from the time they were fitted to when they arrived at my doorstep. The doctor said they may even help with my balance - but they would take some time to get used to wearing.

Since my stroke, my vision has been getting progressively worse. It was like the end scene of a cartoon where the screen narrows in a circle until it is completely black. Complete tunnel vision. There isn't a problem with the health of my eyes, but rather, the way my brain encodes the information the eyes see. If it wasn't for Bailey, I would not have been able to even get around.

Now, the possibility that I might be able to get around without her is astounding to me. I am trying not to get ahead of myself but after wearing them for most of the day, I am so thankful and happy - I am walking around the house with a silly smile on my face! The dogs think I am nuts, I keep getting up and walking around, inside outside, at the computer, at the sink. I could even drive again!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Talking on the phone

One of the strangest residuals from my stroke is having difficulty talking on the phone. The issue is the trouble connecting the voice with the person; unless I talk with them frequently. Maybe it is because I lack the visual cue of seeing the other party.

There was a commercial a while back about a lady that felt like her head was a balloon drifting away from her body with headache or cold. That is a good visual for how the voices sound - disconnected from an identifiable person and floating around without context.

It is so frustrating not be able to make routine business calls. I know what I want, and how to say it, but when I get on the phone and reach the endless options of push one if you have your account number, push 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc., I get so frustrated I am near tears. If I am successful in getting a real person, I am already so flustered, I have trouble articulating what I want to say. Plus, the voice on the other end is floating and doesn't seem real to me.

I have always been the one to make the phones calls and deal with the household business. But now I ask Jim to make calls and then tell him what I want him to say - because I usually have the background information. I know this makes him crazy as he knows it takes longer for me to give him the background information then to just make the call myself. But somehow, once I get on the phone, the floating voices makes my brain shut down.

Intellectually, this is all very stupid. I can sit here calmly and think about what goes on in my head during a phone call. It would be nice if I could transfer that and not sound like a babbling idiot on the phone.