Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Banana Belt

Just a short note on living in the banana belt of Colorado. Yesterday morning when we were leaving for our trip to Louisiana, the temperature at our home was 56° at a couple minutes to seven in the morning. When we wound our way out of the foothills to the plains below, the temperature had dropped to 37°.

It's not always that dramatic, but people are always looking up Loveland and telling me how hot or how cold it is at my house, and getting it wrong. We're actually a thousand feet above Loveland, and nestled in the foothills, so we're protected from lots of the weather most of the time. It's called the banana belt, and runs through the foothills in a band. We're cooler in the Summer and warmer in the Winter, at least most of the time, by anywhere from five to twelve degrees, but it can be more.

We got lucky, picking our home. We could have done a lot of research and chosen scientifically and not found a smarter spot. We chose because we loved it up there. We've never been disappointed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm Now Decorated for Christmas

If you know me, this post won't surprise you. John called Ben this morning and had him help bully me into going to the emergency room, which he had bee unable to do since last night when I flew from the edge of a suitcase to the closet door, nose first. I insisted on going to church first, since we were lighting the advent candle this week.

It's a good thing I wasn't supposed to sing, like John thought I was, since I couldn't breathe, let along play the guitar. My right hand got mashed as well, along with my back and neck. I hit hard. I couldn't see any sense in going to the emergency room. I had gotten the bleeding to stop, after all. Wow, there was a lot of it, too. I put ice on it. What more could anybody else do?

Here's what they could do. They could do a cat scan of my head as well as ex-rays, and tell me that although I didn't have a skull fracture, I did have a broken nose and a concussion. Then they gave me some medication for the nausea which was getting progressively worse because blood was still dripping into my stomach. That's what the doctor explained. So I can't take aspirin for the headache, but I can take my good headache tablets that I keep on hand for migraines. The other pains will go away eventually.

He also approved our going on the trip, and gave us seven pages of instructions for care and warning signs—when to pull off the highway and look for another emergency room, in other words. I was also told that within two days both eyes would most probably be several shades of black, yellow and purple.

"I know why this happened," I told him. Of course, he was interested in that. "From the time I was very small, I was extremely proud of having the smallest nose in my family. I don't think God takes kindly to people being very proud of things they didn't do anything to deserve."

The doctor, of course, disagreed. "I don't think He's that petty. Was there an ancillary reason?" (Yes, he actually used that word. Maybe he was trying to see if my vocabulary had been scrambled.)

"Well, there was a suitcase on the floor that I didn't see in the dark," I admitted. He laughed and told me that he was willing to bet that was the reason, and not my first guess. He then told me I wasn't to walk in the dark anymore. Ever. For any reason. He was actually a lot of fun.

John put the suitcase back on the bed this morning, and I filled it tonight. Now we can leave for Louisiana in the morning. By Tuesday night (weather cooperating, of course) we'll pull up with the trailer in front of Jeremy and Elisha's home. Ready or not, here we come. And I won't walk in the dark...

Friday, December 17, 2010

For Jeremiah, in Memory

The Christmas season is a time when families gather together, and those who are no longer with us are painfully missed. As most of you know, we have just returned from welcoming our first Grandson into the world.

Jeremiah True Harrell was born November 17th with a bright spirit, but too little blood to sustain life. Heroic measures failed, and he passed from his earthly father's arms into his Heavenly Father's arms after just ninety minutes of life.

His parents, Jeremy and Elisha, have asked me to thank you for all your prayers, and I hope you will continue with that. They also request that anyone so inclined will donate blood in Jeremiah's memory. You may save another little one's life.

I sing this song in his honor, and in memory of all those whom we miss during this holiday season and beyond.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On The Road Again

We've been at my mom's in California, gone from home for nearly two weeks. We went to help her celebrate her 90th birthday, and it was really great to be with her. We also got to see some dear friends, although we were very rushed, since we were only there a week, plus three days on the road each way.

My sister Ellen is always the best hostess. She put together a marvelous dinner party for Mom and us on the 11th, with home made manicotti, too many great appetizers to count, and a beautiful cake she created out of a cheesecake and cream puffs. It was drizzled with chocolate syrup, and topped with candles—not only beautiful, but perfectly delicious. As always, I left wanting more of my sister.

We'll stay home long enough to unpack, wash clothes, repack, go to church, and bake cookies for our good neighbor Doug, who watches over our home when we're traveling (and when we're home, he's just a great guy to have around.) Then on Monday we'll take off again. We'll go to Louisiana. What? We were just there. We just don't want the kids to be alone on Christmas. Why should we do Christmas alone at our home, and have them be alone at theirs? It's better to be together.

We'll pull the trailer and continue to pray for decent weather and safety on the road, since we don't usually travel during the Winter months. This time the trailer will have their new bed in it, and they'll have John to help them turn the nursery into a guest room. I'm so glad they wanted us back. It seems unfair that some strange mess up has postponed their trip, but there's nothing any of us can do about that. We do only what we can. The rest is out of our hands.

Someone at Bingo, referring to the tragedy of Jeremiah's death, asked me why this would happen. "How can things like this happen? It's so unfair!" I've heard that so frequently lately, and I know what they mean. I told her what I've heard myself saying lately. Unless we're going to question every blessing we receive, it's not really fair to question the trials.

I've had too many blessings to count. We're going to Shreveport to visit a couple of them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

We Give Up — Temporarily

John recorded me singing at church yesterday. It was a memorial for Jeremiah True, and we can see it in the video camera. There's a little problem, though. We can't get it to transfer to the computer. He pushed a wrong button which switched the camera to a different mode. All the video clips which were currently in the camera became invisible on the camera's monitor screen, but are visible when you try to download on the camera. (I'll admit, though, that when you push the download button, all you get is a beep.)

The recording of me singing for Jeremiah is clearly visible and playable on the camera's monitor. However, when you attach it to the computer to download, it disappears. No amount of fussing and button pushing will make it appear for download. We've read the manual. We've tried the Mac and the PC. John sat up trying "just one more thing" until two a.m., even though we're leaving for California this morning and he's pulling a trailer. He's that kind of man. He was the one making the recording, so he blames himself.

I know it's my fault. I thought the camera was so easy I didn't think he needed to practice. Push one button, point and shoot. But there are a lot of buttons, and he doesn't hold the camera the same way I do, so "the one by your right thumb" isn't a very clear instruction. We should have practiced. What he did was turn on the long playing feature, which apparently stores the clip somewhere else or some way else. It also, unfortunately, makes the clip a very low resolution.

My feeling is that we should just wait until we're in California and have the beautiful little church we used to attend available and go down there to St. Matthews and set the camera up and let me play it again. He can record it again. It will be the same song, with the same feelings—how could I ever sing it and not feel what I do for Jeremiah?

Still, I think we'll end up at one of those photo transfer places where they might be able to help us. John thinks that's the way to go, and he's so very often right. Meanwhile, if you're waiting for this... sorry. I haven't been thinking too clearly lately.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Food Court Flash Mob: Hallelujah Chorus

It happened at the Welland Seaway Mall in Ontario, Canada, on November 13, 2010. It's gone viral on YouTube. Over one hundred members of Chorus Niagra, a group of singers from local churches, colleges and homes, infiltrated the mall food court. The video that was taken that day has been watched well over 5 million times.

Because they allow people to embed it, I'm sharing this treasure with you. I hope it brings you the joy I just received when my high school friend Anita sent the link to me. (Thank you, Anita.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Memory of Jeremiah True Harrell


Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.


Today the family gathered to celebrate the short and blessed life of Jeremiah True Harrell, first child of our son Jeremy and his wife Elisha. He was born in joy, with no problems expected, only to be termed critical immediately and taken from them barely ninety minutes later. His service today was as beautiful as it was heart breaking.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Making Pottery Gifts with Elisha

Elisha's first day of maternity leave was yesterday, and we enjoyed it together while Jeremy was at work and John made his way through his "Daddy Do" list.

Actually, John did amazingly well, installing security lights, extra door locks, changing furnace filters and light bulbs on really high ceilings. Then he managed to change a vehicle light bulb that the service stations were going to charge the kids an hour of labor to "figure out," because their car is a Prius, and nobody knows how to work on them. They opened the compartment to change the bulb during an oil change and said the bulbs couldn't be reached. Oh, yeah. The mighty John figured it out and had it done in ten minutes.

Elisha took me to her favorite gift-making place. It's called Arts on Fire, and is a pottery shop here in Shreveport, where you paint the unfired pottery and then they fire it for you. Of course, it looks very dull and bland before it's fired, so it's hard to tell what color you're really painting, but she said that you get used to that. I think I still prefer plaster craft, which is basically the same thing, but it's done on pre-fired pottery where what you see is what you get.

Still, we had a great day. Elisha picked a gift for my mom's 90th birthday next month, and I painted a piggy bank for their baby. I wish I had thought to take more photos of the pig once I had finished painting it, but I forgot. It looks pretty boring the way it is now, but I added some little animal stencils and JTH, the baby's initials. He'll be the third JTH, by the way, following John Thomas and Jeremy Thomas. I love the name Jeremiah True.

I actually tried to talk John into Jeremiah when Jeremy was born, but John preferred the name Jeremy, and now I'm glad he did, since my first grandson will get the name I've always loved so much.

It was a wonderful day, full of painting and laughing. The owner is an interesting woman named Quincy. She gives just the right amount of help—whatever you need without telling you how she thinks it should be done. She's warm and friendly and handled the table full of pre-teen giggling girls having their first-time painting experience with only one mom to watch them with such ease I thought she'd been doing it for years.

Elisha filled me in. Quincy had never painted before, when the shop owner decided to sell out. One of her twin daughters loved to paint there, so she and her husband decided to buy the place. And that's how history is written, I guess. Our children introduce us to the some of the best paths in our lives.

Shreveport is having a Blues and Jazz Festival today, and we're going to try to get to that, as long as Elisha is feeling up to it. She's still sleeping right now, since with only 3-4 days left until the baby's delivery date, she's up and down all night visiting the euphemism down the hall. As all good babies know, it's important to find mama's bladder and rest there as soon as she gets to sleep. (Thanks for that, Jeremiah True... You're getting her prepared for the ups and downs of nighttime feedings.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Laughing and Waiting in Shreveport

After five days in Dallas visiting John's cousins, we traveled on to Shreveport, Louisiana to see Jeremy and Elisha. Their son, Jeremiah True, our first grandson and third grandchild, is due on the 17th of this month. We've been having so much fun visiting and laughing together.

There are too many things parents have to buy when they're expecting a child—especially their first. People have been very generous, sending them gifts for this baby, but there were still many additional expenses for them, of course. I finally had to explain that the fun part of being Grandparents is that we don't have to buy anything. Whatever we get is the fun stuff that we decide we simply want to buy. Today we found nine Dr. Seuss books at Sam's Club. I had already checked prices on them at Amazon, and these came three for eleven something. The ones at Amazon would have been nearly triple that. What fun to fill a grandchild's book shelf. (Well, he still needs the shelf...)

Jeremy has to work tomorrow, so Elisha and I plan to go to her favorite craft store where they do ceramic painting. We're going to do a piggy bank for Jeremiah. I have a feeling John will stay at their house, working on his "Daddy Do" list. He's really been going through a bunch of fix-up projects for them. What a hero.

This has been a wonderful trip. Their home is warm and welcoming, and they're so cute in their excitement. I just love being here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quick Update

Two days after I had the epidural on my back, we got in the car to drive to California. It wasn't the best timing, but that couldn't be helped. The epidural did help. It didn't help as much as I hoped, but made it so I'm much more mobile than I was. It looks like I'll either be seeing my old back doctor while I'm here, or having back surgery when I get home. I haven't decided yet, but the option is available to see my good old doc for another epidural here. The doctor who did the last one said it might be necessary.

We hit town the same time as a heat wave. I understand there's one going on in Colorado as well, though, so I shouldn't say too much—except that I'm more comfortable at home. And we do have cheaper electricity, so we keep it cooler. Is that enough?

The music for Pastor Stan's welcome back service at St. Matthews went well, I think. I got applause just for standing up and walking to the mic. That's never happened before. It made me feel very welcome, and it also kicked my sense of humor into action. I almost said, "Thank you," and turned to sit back down again. The only thing that kept me from it was seeing so many new faces in the congregation who didn't know me and would have no idea that I was joking. It's great working on the music with "Staniel" again. (Think lion's den...)

Sunday after the early service John and I will be driving to Lake Isabella until the night of the 29th, when we'll return to Newbury Park so we can be ready to greet the kids and grandkids as they start to arrive the next day. These two weeks between the welcome service and the kids' arrival have been the limbo caused by our not wanting to drive back and forth from Colorado twice in a month—not at the price of gas these days. We'll have absolutely no internet at the lake, and I'm not sure there's even a hot spot, but we'll look. It would be nice to put something other than a quick update soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm Alive

My DVR tells me I've got 26 episodes of Jeopardy that I haven't watched. I used to watch one every night. That was before I crashed my back and started taking pain medication.

My husband remembers really well-thought-out, beautifully prepared meals every night. He was down in his HAM radio room about quarter to eight when I called him on the telephone's handy intercom feature tonight. It's handy because I'm having a really hard time using the stairs right now. "Here's your stupid question of the night," I said when he answered. "Did we eat dinner?" You can imagine how bad I felt, having to ask, but pain medicine makes me stupid, and I just couldn't remember.

He usually reminds me to eat, but I didn't remember that, either. "No," he said. Luckily, we had some leftovers I was able to put together in the time it took to dish it up and use the microwave. We never used to eat like that. He could help or complain, but he isn't doing either. I hope this doesn't last much longer. At least I'm losing some weight. I noticed him eating steak at lunch time, so I don't think he is. I had an apple with peanut butter, but fell asleep before I finished it.

I haven't been writing in my blog, and still owe a slide show on our return to Venice. I'm supposed to be playing a 45 minute set on my guitar at our church on the 4th of July. I haven't practiced in over two weeks. I have a pile of laundry that nobody else is going to wash. My doctor's office called, and he's out sick. No wonder I waited a week without hearing from him.

I go to physical therapy three times a week, and this Friday morning I'll be seeing a spine specialist. Early. I hope I can make it to Fort Collins by 9 a.m. Actually it'll probably be easier than noon. I'm usually awake by three or four, when the pain won't let me lie down any longer and then I'm exhausted by mid-morning. Hopefully this new doctor will have some answers for me. I know he'll have a report from my physical therapists (both of them) before I get there.

If I never see another air cast in my life, it will be too soon.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Make God Laugh

Last night I laid out my plans for the blog. God is laughing now. Or maybe He's not. I'm not sure this time. I refer to the adage that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

I thought I was in quite a bit of pain when I got to the physical therapy office. Going through my mind repeated since yesterday was a prayer of gratitude that I had this double appointment. Relief was in sight. Physical therapy isn't always exactly pleasant while it's in progress, but it really works. When I walk out of there I always feel so much better than when I limp in.

And then there was today. We were running late, so I took the stairs, not the elevator. I could hardly stand up straight when I came through the door. They took me back immediately. First Jami worked with me. When that appointment was done, Ashley took me in for an hour, and even kept me about ten minutes over. I was feeling better than I'd felt all week—even after the last appointment. We discussed the upcoming week's schedule while I struggled to put the cast back on. I was still sitting on the therapy bed.

Can you just feel the other shoe getting ready to fall? I went to swing the leg with the heavy air cast off the bed without supporting it properly. I tore something in my back that connects to my right hip. I can no longer pick up my right foot.

I went home, medicated myself and went to bed. I just got up and I'm getting ready to take another pain pill. I'm allowed to take 1-2 every 4 hours. Believe me. I'll be taking 1 every four hours until bedtime, and then 2. I've got ice packed on my back and hip right now, and when I lie down, I'll switch back to damp heat. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I won't be going anywhere. Maybe I'll be up long enough to write about Venice. John's on his own for dinner. I'm having Crackerfuls.

Hours Later:
My back has calmed down enough so that I can tell where the real pain is coming from—the hip. I'm beginning to wonder if I either broke or cracked something in my hip. I guess I'll be calling my regular doctor tomorrow morning. I wonder if he works on Saturday. I've never thought to check before.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Complicated Week

I'm running late with my last Venice blog, and tying up the trip home, but this last week has been spent dealing with physical therapy and and pain while I handle the effects the air cast has on my back and hip. It hasn't been pleasant, to say the least. I've spent a little time limping around the house feeling guilty about the laundry backing up and the blog not getting done. I have spent hours in physical therapy, though, and gone to a short writer's class on self-editing, which I needed for my novel.

The only thing of real interest we did was today, when we met up in Denver with friends we hadn't seen for nearly 25 years. We just reconnected with them online, and found that they had retired to Colorado Springs, not much further South of Denver than we are North. We met on the steps on the Capitol Building, had a quick tour, taken in slow motion by a guide who was very understanding about my mobility limitations, and then took the free shuttle to the mall area where we had dinner at Swing Thai.

I'll get photos up for that soon, too. The only other interesting thing that I've done, other than take long hours lying down rotating ice and heat on my hip and back, was to play guitar and sing for both services at church last Sunday. That went very well, as far as the music went, but by the time I got home, I was wiped out—happy, but exhausted and in too much pain to sit at the computer and think about photographs and memories.

This too shall pass. I'll get back to the trip, because it's what I want to share so badly. I have a double PT session tomorrow, and it'll be over early, giving me time to start a blog before I cook dinner. That's the one thing I've managed to keep up, since John depends on me for that.

So if you've been watching for the final Venice photos, I apologize. They're coming. Just not tonight.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm Being Punished

I can't think of what I might have done to deserve this, but our furnace went nuts yesterday, and started indiscriminately pumping out heat. John has since figured out that it's not actually the furnace. It's the heat pump, which is the thing that changes from heat to air conditioning. That means that every time the thermostat tells it the house is too hot, it switches to cold air. Since it's not working, it just pumps out hot air.

It's 95° in the house. I've had about eight cold showers, and if anyone comes over, I'll have to either run and hide, or run and put clothes on. I think of anything over 80° as a punishment. (What did I do this time?) Obviously, he tried to fix it himself first. Then it occurred to him that he'd better call for help and found himself on the receiving end of Memorial Day weekend messages. Perhaps someone can call us back Tuesday. Oh, wait. I have physical therapy at the crack of dawn on Tuesday. No one will be here to answer the phone.

I don't think I'll be doing a slide show tonight. I think I'll go take another cold shower and stretch out under the ceiling fan again. It's a good excuse to take off this hot air cast. (Please, God. Don't let the power go out. I really need the fans right now...)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Climbing the Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Benjamin probably said it best. "We would never have chosen Dubrovnik, Croatia, except that it was on the ship's tour schedule. Missing it would have been a real loss." Or something like that. I took far more photos there than anywhere else. It was astoundingly beautiful, and the clouds that day were phenomenal. If I had painted them in, I would be getting complaints that they were too beautiful to be real. My slide show is longer than usual, but I cut it down twice already, and I'm not going to slice away any more photos.

John and I kept smiling at each other that day. It was hotter than it had been, but there was a bit of a breeze to keep us comfortable. I was enjoying the beauty of the day, the orange roofs and small alleys we could see as we looked down from the walls that surround the town. Of course, we had to climb long flights of stairs up to the walls first, but once up there, we had long stretches that were fairly straight. We looked down on yards with hanging laundry, flowers, churches, musicians, and (of course) lots of tourists.

We passed canon and craftsmen, including a man in costume making coins the old fashioned way: with a huge hammer from blanks in a very old machine that contained the reverse artwork that would be pounded into the blank with two or three strikes of the mallet. John collects that type of coin, as well as the souvenir pennies from various interesting spots we (or the kids) visit, so we had him make one for us.

This is one spot that I didn't buy a single post card. If you take a look at the photo above, I think you can get a pretty clear idea why I didn't. With digital cameras, it's easy to see what you're getting. I knew I had post cards in my camera already if I needed them. All I needed to do was print them out. Another thing I appreciated about Croatia was their music. It's another good reason for having a long slide show. I got to use two songs.

Again, the statuary and buildings were beautiful and attention to detail is amazing. It was obvious that "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto," as the saying goes. History, once again, was all around us. This is another one of those spots that we were getting to taste, when a full meal would have gone down really easily—maybe a week of full meals...

As we left Croatia to tender back to the ship, I realized that we would be leaving the cruise the next day, back in Venice. Our vacation, and the time with Ben and Ruth, Ashley and Kate was coming to an end. But what a way to finish it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Evening at Mykonos, Greece

The same day we left Santorini, we enjoyed short naps, had a light meal, and then caught the tender boats about 5:30 p.m. to Mykonos. We were still in Greece for this one more stop. It was delightful.

Still very light out, we were able to get some great photos of the ship in the harbor, the city as we approached, and the people wandering the small tourist shops along the waterfront. Then we disembarked and joined the throng. It was the slowest paced spot along our itinerary, and had a sweetness to it as night fell.

Most of the time we stuck together, walking and exploring, going into small churches and shops, chatting and just enjoying the evening together. As evening fell, however, we eventually split up. John and I wandered into a music store, finding some Greek music (you've been listening to it if you've been watching the slide shows) and a few presents for Ruth and the grandkids. I spent some time saying "thou shalt not covet" over lyres and lutes and Greek instruments I'd never seen before. It was a great stop.

We returned to the harbor and took the tender back to the ship just as full dark was falling. I loved the windmills along the shore, and the way the cruise ships looked resting out at sea. Still, I was aware that we had the next day at sea, then one stop at Dubrovnik, Croatia, followed by our return to Venice the following day. Our cruise was winding down. Reliving it by putting together the slide shows and blogs has been pure pleasure. Thanks for sharing these memories with me. Here is our Mykonos, as we saw it on May 5, 2010.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Santorini, Greece Was Unforgetable

If you have ever been to Santorini, Greece, you'll never see a photograph of the place without immediately knowing where it was taken. The place is just that striking. From a distance, I was amazed to see snow-capped mountains in the distance. As the ship pulled into the harbor, I realized that the snow on the mountains was, in actuality, white-washed buildings—not snow at all.

We arrived at the gathering station on board the ship early to take the tender boat ashore. Ben, Ruth and the girls, John and I all boarded the small boat and then a bus to travel along winding roads up to Oia Village.

We wandered and had a great time until it was time to get back on the bus and go to Thera or Fira, depending on who is spelling it, Greek or America, and had another fine time there, seeing so many beautiful sites I was instantly in love with Greece. I'm really happy with this slide show. I hope you don't think it's too long. (And I love the music!) The funny little man you'll see with John in one of the photos wanted me to take his photo with the "big man" and then, after I took the picture, he wanted me to give him money. I pretended not to understand him.

I think Benjamin and Ruth and I were passing the cameras back and forth quite a bit that day, taking photos of each other so that we'd all have pictures of each other on all the cameras with the beautiful scenery. The one above is one of my favorites, since it commemorates Kate learning to scream. She never did it for long, and seemed really proud of herself, even though it never got her anything. Still, I guess she was expressing herself. Ruth never screamed back, either. Neither did Ben, come to think of it. Grandma and Grandpa tried to hide their grins. I hope we succeeded. We really didn't want to encourage her, but it sure was funny.

I've never seen anything like Santorini. I didn't even think to wonder, while we were there, if they have earthquakes there or not. I found out that in 1956 they had a major earthquake along with a volcanic eruption (great combination) that caused such devastation that many of the villages on Santorini Island were deserted. Now, thanks to the tourism and wine industries, the island is once again prosperous.

I was so amazed at the beauty of this place, and how it all managed to cling to the cliffs like this. We stopped for photos so many times that I got a lot of rest stops, which made it a fairly easy day for me. At least that's how I remember it now. Still, by the end of the day, there was no way I was walking down all the steps like Ruth and Ben did. We stood in line and waited for the cable car. Now, that was a trip...

...but we made it safely. The people in the car with us really laughed when the car swayed wildly at first when we got in, and I made the sign of the cross in reaction, though. Couldn't hurt.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walking on Air Casts

As I read over my travel blogs, it's obvious that I'm fairly obsessed with the number of stairs I needed to climb to get to the places we saw. Was it all worth it? Oh, definitely. That's what my podiatrist asked me, too, before fitting me for the air cast yesterday, and admitting to me that he would have been right beside me, making the same decision. Some things are worth the pain, he agreed, and consoled me that I didn't do any permanent damage to my foot. I didn't do it any favors, though.

Anyone with plantar fasciitis knows that you're told to "take it easy," and I didn't do that. I did my exercises, took the anti-inflammatories while they lasted, and kept going. Now I'll be in the cast for a minimum of three weeks. The good thing about this contraption is that it comes off at night and for showers. The bad thing is that it makes my right leg longer than my left, so my left hip and back, already in pain and inflamed from the arthritis, is going to take a beating.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let me recommend the benefits of therapeutic massage. I had my second session a couple of hours after being fitted for the boot. My hour turned into 75 minutes, and I've pretty much decided that there are people who will do that for you in heaven. You just won't be in pain when in starts. My hip still hurts, but my back barely does. I'm getting used to walking with the air cast, and it's awkward, but but manageable.

Hopefully, in three weeks when the good doctor next examines my foot, he'll be telling me I don't need another one to three weeks with it. That is a possibility I'm aware of, but using the power of positive thinking to reject.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Standing on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece

After reaching the top of the steps and winding our way through the crowd, I spent about a half hour taking photographs of the ruins, being totally overwhelmed by the experience, when I noticed a little group of people coming out of a small building. I recognized them immediately. They were from our tour group, and had been the ones who had decided they couldn't manage the steps. They had opted to take the elevator. They were just arriving. I knew I had made the right decision, even with the plantar fasciitis and back problems, to take the stairs. I had done it because I didn't want to miss anything. Some things are worth the pain I know will come, and some are not. I knew this would be. I just didn't know it would also be that much faster.

460 B. C. That kept running through my mind as we climbed the many, many steps of the Acropolis once we were off the bus from the Athens, Greece ship terminal to the ruins. I remembered the wonderful nun who had taught ancient history to my third grade class. She made it come alive for me. I remembered coming home and telling my mother that the Sister was reading to us from some books called "The Idiot and The Oddity," and not understanding why Mama laughed until she cried. Okay, so I loved the stories but got some words messed up even then. And I kept telling myself to keep climbing, that at least I didn't have to carry a child on my back like Ruth and Benjamin did.

These buildings have been standing for almost 2500 years. That seems almost impossible. As I walked along, the preservation efforts are obviously determined and ongoing. Even with the crowd that was there that day, every effort was made, as is obvious in my slide show, to allow everyone to get some photos unobstructed by the masses. It was a well coordinated effort.

Again, I have to say that this was not a place I ever imagined I'd actually ever get to see in person. Like the Taj Majal or The Highlands of Scotland, the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Barrier Reef, I dream big but expect my travels to be done from the passenger seat of a car in my own country. (I've been to all 50 States.)

So if you're sitting at home thinking that you'll never see a remote part of the world, remember that dreams come true. You never know when some unexpected blessing might pull you out of your normal daily life and give you a taste of the exotic. To Ruth and Ben, who made this possible for John and me, and to Kate and Ashley, who showered us with as much love as Grandparents could ever believe in receiving—thank you all so much.

We knew we were lucky to have seen Athens and the Acropolis at all on this trip. The day we were originally slated to arrive, the next day, there was a political rally scheduled, and our ship was re-routed. No one would have been able to get to the ruins that day. Costa Cruise lines did a great job for us. We had no problems at all.

My slideshow begins with the bus ride from the ship, where our tour guide entertained us with stories of Greece and its history. Some of the photos of John and me together were taken by Ben. He probably took five photos for every one I took. Thanks for sharing, Ben. You do good work.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Exploring Corfu, Greece

If you've seen the James Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only," then you've seen the island of Corfu, Greece. That's where it was filmed. It's a lush green, set among the crystal blue Mediterranean waters that are so clear you can see the bottom of the cove.

Our morning started, as my slideshow does, waking up before dawn and taking my camera on deck to take photos of the sunrise. Then I trotted down a level and walked to the stern of the ship as it got lighter. Enjoying my first cup of (definitely not American) coffee, I waited for the sun to glisten off the wake of the ship and finally captured the beautiful colors left by the path our ship, the Costa Victoria, as it cut through the sea. I could easily get mesmerized watching that.

Ben took a photo of John and me at the temple on the hill we climbed. I thought I'd put it here, as if there were no stairs at all, but we did have to do some climbing to get there. Still, it was an easier day than most for us. Ben climbed higher than any of the rest of us. In fact, he did it twice. At one point, while we were still all together, there was a tunnel. He reset his fancy camera, a digital SLR, for the lower light levels, and forgot to reset it to the regular light when he left the tunnel. Then he proceeded to climb up to the top of an additional hill that none of the rest of us had the energy to climb.

When he came down and realized what had happened, he asked whether or not he should go back up and retake his photos. I said that if he didn't, he'd probably regret it forever. I know I'm still sorry that I couldn't retake all the photos I took on our Alaskan cruise in 1991. It was in the pre-digital days, and I paid over $200 to process my film only to find out it was all very gray, low-contrast. I was so disappointed... Off he went with Ashley in the backpack, and it didn't take him all that long, it seemed to me. He's young and strong.

The stairs we climbed were enough for me that day. We really had an easy day, though, since we had taken a shuttle bus from the port to the city center, and then walked over to some archeological ruins and decided to pay the small fee to explore them. I was surprised how few people took advantage of that, especially once we got inside. Of course there was climbing involved inside, but not nearly as much as on other days, especially since we didn't go up all the way to the top like Ben did.

The area we saw was phenomenal, though, and we knew the next day would be arduous, since it was to be Athens on the new schedule. Originally we were slated to see Athens on Wednesday, but the cruise line had found out that there was a scheduled labor protest on that day, so they re-routed the ship and had us arriving a day early. I was determined to make it up to the Acropolis under my own steam, so having a slower day on Corfu was great.

And yet we saw and enjoyed so much! I hope the tree gives perspective to the massive size of these buildings. If you think we didn't do any climbing, realize that I'm taking the photo looking down on it, and we did start at the bottom. But by now you'd probably prefer to just see the slide show, and if you need more information, there's Wikipedia, or you can ask questions in the comment area and I'll come back and answer them. I don't want to write a book here. (Not yet, anyway!)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My First Blog Award

While we were on vacation abroad, I was honored (and more than surprised) to receive my first award for my blog. It is called a Sweet Blog Award, and was given to me by Patricia Stoltey, a published author from here in Colorado.

I noticed some new people visiting my blog and leaving good comments, and then got an email from Patricia herself, telling me of the award. Of course I had to go back into Patricia's blog to find it. What a treat!

It made me feel especially good after getting one remark in an email this morning from an unnamed acquaintance stating that she would never blog because "Writing a blog would imply that I think I have something important to say." Hoping she was just kidding me, I said it made me wonder if she thought I should stop writing. She wrote back and said we'd discuss it later, that it was time for her breakfast. Okay.

Thanks, Patricia. I'll just bookmark this award and look at it on mornings like this one.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ancona, Italy from the Costa Victoria

Maybe if I do a blog every other day, I can relate this magnificent trip of ours without overwhelming anyone—including me. I'm still very tired, and find myself wanting to be asleep at strange times, and wanting to be awake in the middle of the night. I'm slowly getting back to normal, though, and I pray I'll be able to stay awake during church tomorrow. Tonight I want to recount the many steps we climbed in Ancona, Italy. It was our first port after boarding the Costa Victoria, the cruise ship that was to be our home for the next week.

What a grand home it was. John and I were on the twelfth floor, one of the few cabins up there, and one of only a couple of small cabins nestled among the suites. Ben and Ruth were tucked into an outside cabin with Kate and Ashley on the eighth floor. We were on opposite sides and ends of the ship as well, so it was somewhat of a hike to get to each others' cabins, but once we learned the layout of the ship it was no problem.

Some of the photos show the many steps we climbed to get to the top of Ancona. Yes, I climbed them all. That has, along with all the climbing we did in the other cities, I'm sure, contributed to the flare up of the plantar fasciitis I'm being treated for, but some things you know are going to hurt before you do them, and you weigh the merit. Will this be worth it? Yes or no. Then you decide whether or not to go for it. I have no regrets. My memories outweigh all the pain and recuperation I'm needing, even if my physical therapist might be a little frustrated with me.

As we pulled into port, I took a few photos of the city coming into view, and realized it was built more like San Francisco, with the waterfront leading up to the interesting things on the hills. Here, however, the stairways were stone steps leading straight up, and the railings were often intermittent. Ben and Ruth led the way, with John looking very strong behind them while I brought up the rear—determined and relentless, I suppose, with plenty of stops to take pictures.

It was a wonderful day, and I guess I wasn't altogether sure I'd make it all the way to the top at one point. There was a beautiful church at the top, and incredible panoramas of the village below, with the cruise ship sitting at anchor in the harbor. It was a little overcast, but the weather was mild. If it had been hot, I'm sure I would have given out. I don't do heat gracefully, and I consider anything over 79° as punishment. ("What have I done this time, God?")

I remember suggesting to Ashley at one point that she walk and I ride in her back pack, and she thought that was pretty funny. She told me I was too big. Those kids were great. The one way Kate would usually be willing to hold my hand, for example, when she really wanted to run on ahead, was if I told her, "Don't lose Grandma!" Then she'd run back and grab my hand. They were so much fun!

So here's my slide show of Ancona. It was a great day, but they all were.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Venice, Part One, Before the Cruise

I wasn't really prepared for Venice. I had some pre-conceived notions about the bridges and waterways, but it was very different from what I'd pictured. It's hard, I think, for an American to really grasp the age of these buildings and streets. In fact, the streets are little more than cobbled alleys, and most of them could hardly be called streets here. Ben chose a hotel for us really close to the Piazza San Marco, which is pictured above, the heart of the city in many ways. A city of this size, over 270,000 people, with no cars is also inconceivable to us, even when we're expecting it. You walk for a couple of hours, and then realize that you have to get back the same way. We do spoil ourselves, driving everywhere.

So I'll start with a little advice. If you're beyond your prime (as it's rumored that John and I are) and not in the best shape of your life, and you want to see as much as possible, don't go with a senior citizen group. Go with someone young and healthy who loves you and wants you to have fun and really see the sights. Someone who cares enough to be patient when your body starts to hurt and you lag behind, or when you get so excited about what you're seeing that you simply stop and stare and they're blocks ahead, but still remember to stop and look behind for you, and then wait for you to catch up. You'll end up exhausted, but very happy. John and I certainly did.

It was almost like being children in a sense. Ben made all the plans and arrangements. We didn't have many decisions to make. We were certainly given choices, and we made those as necessary, but otherwise we just had to follow Ben and Ruth, who carried the girls in packs where they could talk to them. The girls were up high where they could see what was going on and ask questions about what they were seeing, or relate what they wanted. It was a different story from the multitude of children I saw plugged in to "rubber mothers," what I've always called pacifiers. They were being pushed around in strollers, totally separate from the parents who pretty much ignored the crying much of the time—at least it seemed that way to me. Our granddaughters did seem to be the happiest kids around.

One of the things I most wanted to do in Venice, and didn't expect to accomplish, was getting to Murano Island, since it's quite a distance. The private water taxis are very expensive, and I knew that it would take a big chunk of our time and money for all of us to go that distance on the public boat. The lines are outrageous. The first morning in Venice we were stopped by a gentleman who spoke beautiful English. He explained that he worked for the city department on the Island of Murano and they were sending people there that morning in private water taxis if we'd be interested in having a tour of the Glass Masters' Factory. (Dreams come true.) He promised they'd return us the same way. We all said yes, and he walked us to the dock, paid for the taxi and off we went. It was just the six of us in the most beautiful little cabin cruiser. I'd love to get John a boat like that. Wow.

I bought a few gifts, and Ben bought Ruth a stunning bracelet for Mother's Day and managed to keep it a secret from her with my help. The whole experience was amazing. In fact, when we got out of the taxi, there were huge lines from the public ferries waiting to go in. A gentleman met us at the water taxi, took us in by a private door, and gave us a private tour. He took us through everything. We were even able to ask questions and take photos. On our way out we saw the room where we'd had our private tour crowded with about 50 people, all jammed together watching the masters work. It was different from the treatment we had received. I'm just not sure why. Then the tour guide took us to the dock, paid the taxi driver to return us to Venice, and off we went. All together, I guess we were gone about three or four hours.

We climbed steps, toured cathedrals and bell towers, looked down over the city and just enjoyed each other for two days. We even had a wonderful gondola ride through the side canals. I had no idea they were so easy to tip over. (No, we didn't quite manage that, but I sure thought we were going to!) We ate pizza and pasta until it was coming out of our ears, and the last night we hiked half way across Venice to find the only MacDonalds in Venice. Ben was "pizza'd out." Then we packed up on May 1st and went to the cruise ship for the next stage of our adventure. In fact, just getting to the ship was an experience. I found out how far Ben can throw a duffel bag.

The best part of being on this trip was doing it with people we loved. Being with Ben and Ruth, Ashley and Kate was amazing. I see the kind of parents they are, and I feel so fortunate that our grandchildren are getting the love and attention they do. They're smart kids, and good kids, but like all children—well, if you let them, they could take over the world. Their corner of it, anyway. Any child can turn into a tyrant if you let them. Ben & Ruth are so united in love that the kids can't play them against each other. I could go on, and someday I might do a blog on what I saw that impressed me so much.

I asked Ruth one day, which seemed especially long, if she ever felt like screaming. She's so patient. There's no question of her saying, "Because I said so" just to end a discussion with a 3-year old. She looked at me and said, "Sure." But she doesn't. She's probably the most gracious woman of any age I've ever met. (Good job, Ben.)

So I'll close Venice by saying thank you to both of them for being so welcoming to us, and so patient with our less agile bodies (especially mine). We know you could have covered more ground without us. Here's my slide show, if the photos weren't enough for you...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home Again, The First Day

I'll go into detail later, but right now I only have the energy to deal with today. It seems like we got almost nothing done, but I know that's not true. We returned many phone calls and emails. We went to the post office to mail a couple of packages and pick up our mail.

The worst part about picking up three weeks worth of mail is that you have to sort it out when you get home. I actually did that right away. It didn't take much more than an hour. There are some checks to write, but that can wait for tomorrow.

We did some of the marketing—enough to eat for a couple of days, anyway. I wasn't up to a marathon shopping session after the long plane trip yesterday. We were pretty much a food-free zone when we got home, though, so the trip to the store was a necessity. We put gas in the car as long as we were out, and then headed home for some major unpacking. (No, it's not done yet. Neither is the laundry.)

Tonight I had an evening physical therapy session, so we went out to dinner on our way. It made for a very early dinner, but gave John the opportunity of going straight to bed when we got home. I'm jealous, but I know that if I go to bed at 8:30, I'll be awake again by about 3 a.m. Such is life.

My goals for tomorrow include downloading the camera and selecting photos for the first slide show; one load of laundry; one nap; finish unpacking; get the other packages ready to mail... oops. I think I've already over-goaled myself. Maybe that should be for the next two days. Well, we'll see what we shall see.

At least I have all this lovely snow to look at. I get enough Summer in its own season. I'm enjoying Winter's last fling. I thought we had missed it while abroad.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

International Mother's Day

Oh, this is going to be short—

We woke up this fine Mother's Day in Venice, Italy. It was 4:00 a.m. What a wonderful morning it was for a race across a couple of canal bridges pulling suitcases to the bus stop. Now actually, I pulled a little one while Ben and John did most of the work and Ruth managed the girls. I did a little shepherding, but not much. At quarter to five, which is when we left the Hotel, little ones prefer their mamas.

We took the bus to the airport, and flew back to Amsterdam for the final two days of our incredible trip. I'm just overwhelmed at how wonderful every single day has been. We've loved the places we've seen, and traveling with these special family members made each place more special.

I promised myself I'd never be the kind of grandmother who boasted that her grandchildren were the nicest, the cutest, or the smartest. I've just spent nearly three weeks with them. I'm not boasting. I can't help how they turned out. The credit goes to their fine parents.

You'll get a real blog by Wednesday night, with photos… They'll come in stages, of course, or you'd never watch a slide show with 2000 photos on it!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Adventure Continues

We're about an hour away from leaving for the airport for our trip to Venice, and two days after that we'll get on board the Costa Cruise ship for our trip down the Mediterranean to Athens, via many ports, and back through Croatia to Venice again. We'll be back in Amsterdam on the 10th, and I'm thinking that will be my next opportunity to post to the blog—but you just never know.

Meanwhile, I thought I end with these few photos of the family in action. That's been the real fun so far. Then I'll sign off, singing a strange rendition of "Happy Trails to Us."