Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Cruise with a View….part one
October 20, 2017

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Although I’d sailed in 1966 on an older ship from Canada to England, I’d never been on a cruise. This ocean cruise was a whole different cup of tea. It was a seven-day cruise leaving from Long Beach, CA with two stops in Mexico: Cabos San Lucas (two days) and a stop in Puerto Vallarta for a day with two sea days back to Long Beach port.

We were lucky to have been asked to join a family of a friend, and together we travelled with a composition of  slightly over two thousand guests and close to nine hundred crew members. All from many walks of life, countries, backgrounds and mind sets. The goal of Carnival Cruise Lines was to arrange and create something from this mix, and forge a unified whole from the hearth using the sun and fun. Our purpose was to enjoy ourselves.

To me, more than the surface aspect of cruising, this trip was a snapshot into humanity as it surrounds us. It became a metaphor for learning and my view of that metaphor.

Upon arriving to embark, I was totally impressed with the boarding agents and their efficiency. Adding to this, was the beauty of the ship, how clean everything was and the friendliness of the crew we encountered.

Our cabin was roomy, (photo of Joe included) with an efficient bathroom, super comfortable beds  and this towel art, which changed daily:

 

Every time there was a new towel art figure in our room, it conjured up childhood memories to me. Remembering the warmth I felt when mom would wrap a towel around me when I got out of the bath. Memories of long gone pets. Memories from when my parents took me to the zoo. Feelings of softness, warmth and love during my up bringing. Such a simple gesture with the power to make me appreciate how fortunate I am.

There was a mailbox outside the cabin door for events and notices, and inside on the wall were cards for room service, non disturbance and our service team for the cabin. About this time, there was an announcement that lunch would be served on the Lido Deck until 3:30pm, so we headed in that direction. Our suitcases and bags would arrive later.

We took the stairs up eight fights so we could see some of the ship. Art pieces hung on each landing and there were art glass pieces encased behind protection in the corners.

When we reached the Lido deck, and the multiple eating areas and restaurants, it seemed we had joined all of the other two thousand guests. We had to wait a bit to get a table before we could look around and choose something to eat. I found out by the end of the cruise, that the first and last eating sessions on a ship are completely full and bring out the best and worst in people. This was my introduction to some of the unpleasant traits of human nature: excess and greed.

We secured a table, and as we waited for the rest of our group to join us, I watched as plates piled high with food passed us. Endless food of all descriptions: pot roast, chicken and fish (fried, roasted or grilled), vegetarian, vegetable and starch selections, fresh fruit, regular and gluten-free breads and meals, deli sandwiches, smoked salmon plates, pizzas, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, roast pork, pastas, multiple ethnic including Chinese food, salad bar selections, dessert plates, beverages and more. Too many to list.

After everyone arrived at our table we took turns getting food so as not to lose the table. As I passed other tables I couldn’t help but notice all of the half eaten food plates left behind, as the same people were digging into another plate piled high. Waiters were busy picking up plates with left-overs, that never seemed to end. And, as soon as the waiters had cleared these, replacement plates were piled up faster than they could pick-up. It was organized insanity.

I didn’t know if the factor that drove this phenomena was (a) it was free, (b) guests felt they paid for the food, therefore everything was game on, (c) guests who might not have had an opportunity in the past to try some of these choices had the opportunity now, and they tried some new things, didn’t like what they tried and left the rest, or (d) didn’t care. Judging by the amount of waste I saw, I grouped it under the former heading of excess and greed. I added waste.

(After having been in the food and hospitality business for over forty-five years, I didn’t have any food on the ship that wasn’t good, great or exceptional, in taste, quality and eye appeal. As a matter of fact it left me feeling spoiled and appreciative).

 

After lunch, we went back to the cabin to see if our luggage had arrived. It hadn’t, so we took time out to explore the ship.

I didn’t take photos of everything that was available to guests on our ship. There was a full gym (I used the stairs instead….which turned out to be not enough exercise for the weight I gained) on two levels with a full spa, steam and sauna. Water slide, exclusive over 21 areas, multiple pools for children and adults with their own food and drink bars, basketball court, ping-pong, miniature golf, whirlpools, private decks, library, art gallery, games room, many cocktail lounges, extra pay dining rooms, the four-story theatre and arts center, 24/7 fresh sushi bar, coffee bars, the comedy club, piano bar, the disco/nightclub, casino and on and on. Along with the numerous function areas, there were daily activities, directed by an excellent cruise director.

 

For the guests, this vessel seemed on the outside, to be a self-contained floating city of fun and excitement. An escape from reality that could possibly solve some of their problems in life, even be it for a week. I found the Carnival crew went out of their way to try to fulfil the needs of every guest and make them feel like each and everyone of them was the most important person on earth. That in itself was an insurmountable task. People end up bringing their individual worlds with them. Worlds of inner pain that keep surfacing outwardly through action, deed or expression of self. Overhearing conversations as we participated in activities on board made this apparent. I’ve always felt, that inner pain, is just a lack of love on some level. This vessel and it’s amenities were the temporary compensation being used to fill this ache that never seems to disappear.

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Our first stop was Cabos San Lucas. Carnival brought in ‘tenders’ to take us to shore. We didn’t sign up for the excursions that were available on board. We wanted to take our chances on shore to see what we could experience.

We were surrounded with options when we reached the shore for scuba diving, glass bottom boats, deep-sea fishing and private boat tours to El Arco and End Rock. The on board Carnival tour was $35/person, but we ended up accepting a private tour for $11/person.

 

There is a photo here of ‘Last Rock’ with a sea-lion perched on top of the rock. At first we thought it was a statue, but as we got closer and we circled the area, the sea lion would change its pose. We were all laughing because the sea loin did it for all the boats that approached.. Major ham and great entertainment. He should be paid for all the photos that were taken of him.

Afterwards we walked the main boardwalk and stopped in at a couple of places, one being Senor Frogs. Lot’s of fun and the hot chips and salsa made the beers go down easier.

We had to be back on the ship by 4:00pm because it would cruise the coast during the night and come back in the morning for the second day where we’d have from 7:00am till 3:00pm on shore again if we wanted. We went back to the ship, got cleaned up and waited in a lounge for everyone to arrive before we went into the dining room for our dinner.

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I found the dinner meals exceptional. As Trump would say, ‘tremendous’ selection, and it was different every night. Always six or seven appetizers to choose from, a ‘unique item’ like veal tongue, or frog legs or rabbit, etc., plus a selection from the grill with assorted sauces, or two vegetarian meals and a selection of six or seven desserts. Hence, the added pounds when I stepped on the scales at home.

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Road Trip……..day five
October 6, 2017

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After the continental breakfast included by the hotel, and frost on the car windows, we were on the road by 7:00am. Even though it was only 42 degrees when we left Mammoth, we wore shorts and a T-shirt because we knew the day would be much warmer in the valley below. Overall  the day temperature was a comfortable mid nineties. We passed Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine and entered Death Valley. Most of the roads we’ve travelled on this trip were either in great shape or newly paved this year. I really enjoyed the topography, ups and downs, ascending and descending from all the different elevations. Our first stop was Father Crowley Point. The view from here was vast and endless with an empty simplicity. Most noticeably, there was an incredible quiet.

Next stop was Stovepipe Wells Village, where we stopped for lunch. Two bread sandwiches (oh, forgot there was a paper-thin slice of meat in it), and a coke came to $18.00. Sitting on the rocking chairs on the porch, outside the general store and eating the sandwiches though, made the experience……actually fun.

After lunch, we headed for Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes (reminded me of the sand dunes on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands where we’d go and slide down on the dunes on our backs or stomach….I was 17, and much younger then) and the Harmony Borax Works.

After this, we headed for Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but being a Sunday it was closed. Next destination the Devil’s Golf Course. The landscape looks like a golfer had left thousands of divots strewn over a few thousand acres. These divots are mostly composed of salt deposits. I took a close-up photo of one below.

Badwater Basin was next on our list.

Artist’s Drive is a one-way road through the mountains that looks like it has been painted with hues of red, green, blue, rust and purples. There are steep dips and turns on the road and Disneyland modelled their car ride in California Adventure after this Drive. This Artist’s Drive is much longer and four times the fun. The scenery of the mountains and colors are outstanding and even breath-taking at some points. Our photos don’t do it justice. A real must do if you get out this way.

Just after this drive we headed back to the main road. Shortly after the junction on the main road, there is the historic Oasis Hotel. It is undergoing a major renovation at this time. It is in the middle of no-where and looks like a mirage oasis brought down from heaven. Exotic palms and trees were being planted around the site and it’s a stark contrast to the landscape. It is going to be the place to stay when it is finished. The photo below is the way it looked before the renovation.

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Moving on, our next destination was Zabriskie Point.

After this we were going to go to 20 Mule Team Canyon, but the road in was long and not in good shape (very rough gravel). Not worth the damage it might do to the car. So, we headed to our last Death Valley site; Dante’s View. It’s a long way to the top with hair-pin curves and a steep incline. When you get to the top, all you can smell is the burnt rubber and hot oil from vehicles engines.

This ended our stay in Death Valley. We were heading east now to Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House. It has a long history and I’ve borrowed the link from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amargosa_Opera_House_and_Hotel

Our final destination for the trip is Pahrump, Arizona. We headed east and arrived around 5:00pm. We figured we’d stay at one of the casino hotels, have a good meal and head back to Palm Springs tomorrow. Below is a chuck wagon outside our room in the courtyard and a photo of inside the casino.

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip…….day four
October 4, 2017

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We left Denny’s in Merced at 7:00am. Our first stop was Mariposa an old mining town from the gold rush era. It’s present claim to fame is its musical festivals usually held in June of each year on their fairgrounds. We would have stayed here instead of Merced, but we wouldn’t have arrived until much later and the motel prices were substantially higher. Overall, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered on the time basis as we were up most of the night anyways. Something we look back on and just laugh. The town is wonderfully charming with its hanging flower baskets and you should check out the original courthouse.

 

After Mariposa, we entered Yosemite National Park. We decided to head for the furthest point in the park…Glacier Point. It is a long drive with incredible scenery on either side of the road and well worth the trip just for the view. We were lucky, as all the signs in the park said all roads were open, even though they had recent snow and a forest fire. Areas we passed were still smoldering and there was some smoke and haze lingering, but over all the views were perfect. When we came down the mountain, the rangers were already directing traffic away from Glacier Point, as it was at capacity. It was exceptionally busy even though this was off-season. We were glad we went here first and early.

 

You can really see a major portion of the park from this vantage point. Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Half Dome included. It gives you great perspective and makes you feel small and insignificant when you take in its vastness. Our next stop would be Tunnel View with a few stops for photos in the snow. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia was closed for restoration. There is numerous hiking trails, cliff climbing, soaring and trail riding available. Even free shuttles around the Valley. We were here on a day trip so we limited our hiking to about two hours for the area around Mirror Lake.

 

The roads in the park were quite busy with lots of traffic. At some of the sight-seeing spots, we had to drive through the parking lot three or four times to get ‘lucky’, just to get a parking space. The longest wait we had been at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel where it took us an hour to park. After Tunnel View we headed for Bridalveil Fall.

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After waiting an hour to park at the Yosemite Hotel, we hiked to Mirror Lake, which happened to have a very low water level. The walk was great and invigorating, and again with endless beauty. We passed a lot of bike riders on the walk and some campers and serious hikers. The creek that flows from Mirror Lake had enormous rocks in it. It makes you wonder how and when they got there. Some were the size of a small house.

 

Back in the car, we drove to Yosemite Village and the Visitor Center. We picked-up a lot of information on the park at the Center and took time to talk to a few Rangers. From this point on we would head out of the park. Next stop, Tioga Road and closer views of Tenaya Lake.

 

The scenery was beginning to change as were the mountains. The passes through the mountains led us up sometimes and down other times. We passed Lee Vining and came to Mono Lake. Mono lake had receded quite a bit also. It was down 40 feet from its original height.

 

On the road again to our final destination for the day….Mammoth Lakes. We arrived at 6:00pm and checked into our hotel. We asked for a good place to eat at the desk and the manager recommended a restaurant a few doors down from our hotel, or we could take the bus, or walk downtown (20 minutes) and go to the Village. He also mentioned that Oktoberfest was on and it was quite the happening. We lucked out again with our timing. We went to our room, settled in, cleaned up and decided we’d take the brisk, chilly walk to the Village and Oktoberfest. When we arrived there was a few large tents with traditional German music and full menus of Oktoberfest food (Yummmmmmm!) and a lot of people dressed in German garb. Beer in authentic steins, schnapps and German wines were available with the food.

 

We filled up on food and walked around the village. By the time we’d done this we were starting to feel the cold and I convinced Eberhard to go to one of the restaurants inside and have a final glass of wine at the bar, so we could warm up before the trek back to the hotel. Enough said. Tomorrow….Death Valley.

A Tribute
May 28, 2017

Wendy

 

Wendy never really understood this world. Somehow it escaped her. She was always trying to accept what she couldn’t decipher.

From her early age on, she was different. It wasn’t just her choice of clothes or her haircut, it was how she expressed what she came into contact with. Probably the one gift she was given to share with the world, she missed out on, but only because she couldn’t understand why it was given to her. It was such a mesmerizing voice when in song.

At the age of six she became very ill one day. During those days, doctors would make house visits. Many unanswered calls and a no-show from the doctor left her with a final scream and then, pale white and limp on the sofa. Mom and us kids carried her unresponsive body to the car and mom drove her to emergency. Many hours later, mom returned, worn out and distraught. Wendy’s appendix had burst and because of complications and blood transfusions, she would be hospital bound for over a month. She was never really the same after that episode. It was surmised much later in her life that one of those transfusions was tainted and gave her an ailment which she fought for the rest of her life.

She did have happy times and relationships and she was loved. These all faded with time and lately, in her last days there seemed to be a hidden message in the letters she sent me and a look that reminded me of when I visit my mother-in-law at the nursing home. The look and feeling  that says “Someone hold me”, “Someone help me”, “Someone love me”.

The circumstances surrounding her death are still under investigation. There is a video tape of her outside her apartment at 11:00pm taking all of her clothes off  and reports of a naked woman running around the complex. Somewhere between then and early morning when a jogger found her body in the nearby stream, no one knows what happened. She had been on new medications and maybe there was an adverse reaction. Yesterday, the coroner and detectives were with my other sister who lives next door to Wendy in the same building. Until the autopsy and toxicology reports are back we won’t know what truly happened. They said this could take up to two weeks. Her apartment has been sealed until they establish the cause of death.

Deep down, I feel this was Wendy’s freedom call. As sad and as hurt as I feel, I am also happy for her freedom from pain.

On the patio this morning as I listened to the birds, all of a sudden there came a complete silence. This moment is for you Wendy. If I never said it enough while you were here, “I love you”.

Two Words
March 21, 2017

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“Help me”!

I was standing next to the nurses station as I turned to look from where the words came. Behind me, leaning against the corner stood a tall woman. With a stylish haircut and pajamas covered by a bath robe, she stared into my eyes with such deep penetration and pain, I could feel it in my stomach. That accompanied by the sound she used to convey her pain made everyone around the room, look in her direction. A nurse immediately went and placed her in a wheel chair.

My husband and I were here to admit his mother into a skilled nursing facility. For the past eight years, until this time she had been living with us. Recently diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s and the difficulty we’d been experiencing in keeping her safe and healthy, her doctor had recommended we place her under nursing care.

The decision had been fractious and frustrating. Much more personally for my husband. We admitted that the past few years with her had been much more difficult than when she first moved in with us. Unable to accept any guidance from us, she became increasingly angry, resistant to help and now, distant, to the point where she shut us out of her room daily except for meals and her multiple cups of tea. Coupled with her lapses in memory, anorexia issues, and habitual nervous rubbing of her face and hands, we felt challenged constantly. We would wake up each day and wonder what complexities we would face. She was not happy and we were not happy.

The nurses at the facility arranged for a smooth transition from us admitting her, out of sight, and getting her acquainted with her room and surroundings. At an appropriate time, the nurses asked us to leave, and to entrust the rest to them.

I’m sure, that all aspects of this transition with everyone involved brought many emotions to the forefront. We experienced depression, guilt, loss and they are ongoing and will be for a while. I’m sure the mother experienced similar, along with anger, frustration and even hate.

Reflections of our lives and what brought us to this point are universal in nature. Somewhere in each of us there is a part of us that is crying out.

“Help me”!.

 

Beginning of………
February 3, 2017

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Fear without Knowing
January 21, 2017

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So, I’m coming around the corner to go to the boy’s room and there are two people waiting in line. The first person is standing  about four feet from the restroom doors. The second person is standing sixteen feet from the restroom doors. A line is forming, but neither of these two people move forward to take up the distance in the line.

What keeps them from moving forward?

Is this a sign of the times?

Is their fear of moving forward greater than their need to release?

One person comes out of the left side restroom and the first person takes his place. But, the second person in line refuses to move forward, even though the line behind him is forming quickly and reaching out the exit doors of the building. Finally, the second restroom becomes available and the person ahead of me moves to take his position inside the restroom. I immediately take up the lax in space of close to twenty feet and wait for the next restroom to become available.

If fear is this obvious in a nondescript environment, what does it say about the county under Trump?

Are we going to be governed by our small but innate fear of ‘not knowing’, or fear of ‘who we are’ as a replacement for I AM?

Move forward! Take a stand! Be who you were meant to BE!

Homeless……..part 3
January 16, 2017

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Since I couldn’t afford rent and utilities, I gathered up the few possessions I had and moved them into the basement office of Beans and Barley. I was homeless. I didn’t want to admit failure to my family or friends, so I said nothing about my move.

Thankfully, the restaurant had some resources I could use. The staff room was equipped with a washer and dryer (we did our own linens) and a shower. As for storing my clothes and belongings, I came up with an inventive plan to keep them out of sight. Underneath the front stairway which led to the public restrooms, there was an access panel for the underbelly of the stairs.

The front part of the restaurant was heated by hot water radiators which were part of the main building boiler system. During construction it was determined that there wasn’t enough flow to the radiators to provide heat in our area, so a booster pump was installed to push the hot water through our system. The pump and its manual switch were located underneath the front stairway. The pump had to be turned on every winter. This area would be my new closet. I placed clothes hooks on each of the stairs and hung my clothes there. My sleeping bag and pillow fit nicely also. Each night, after the staff had left, ( I would leave with them and walk around the block and then come back), I unscrewed the panel, took my sleeping bag and pillow, set it on the floor of the office and went to sleep. In the morning, I would put everything back and re-screw the panel back in place. The staff always wondered how I beat them to work every day.

I lived like this for a couple of years. The good part was that I learned lots. Eighteen hour days became the norm and I put my heart and soul into the place. There were still bad periods before things began to turn around. Creditors called at all hours and it was difficult to do cooking when the phone never stopped ringing. One day it was so bad, I called the phone company and had the phone removed, (phones weren’t un-pluggable at this time) and a pay phone put in, which had an unlisted number. Finally, some peace! I could still call out when necessary, but I stopped being harassed.

Strangely enough, this action helped the business. It alluded to customers that we didn’t need a phone for business. It made us more popular. This, plus the fact that the food and service was immensely improved put the restaurant on the road to recovery.

By the way, I paid off the loan before it’s due date and never missed a payment.

 

A Rock
December 3, 2016

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A rock is obtuse. It lacks the ability to discern insight, therefore it is solid in its makeup. It blends in with its surroundings, but in reality it is just ‘there’. It gives nothing. But, it takes something.

It takes space and the ability to absorb energy. Energy it absorbs is never given back in equal amounts of what is taken. On the contrary, it takes and takes and takes. Weather it is sunlight, air, or any energy, it sucks it from it’s source.

The purpose behind a rock is to reassure humanity that there is stability. An anchor for its inequality. A rock is a rock is a rock.

If you meditate on ‘rock’ you will find a deep, deep sense of solidness and anchoring. It will scare you with its depth.

How then does a human turn into a ‘rock’?

Probably, lack of love.

Give and take.

On both sides.

Sad.

 

Unappreciative
August 31, 2016

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He’s here for a short stay. She knows him and seems like she is looking forward to the change. We will be leaving for a short sojourn of five days. He will be taking care of her.

We all like change when it looks like we’ll get what we want. Otherwise it’s painful and unwanted. It seems this change for her is “her escape”.

I’m listening to her conversation with the guest. She says ” I like to eat different things, not the same thing every day. The meals should be small. I don’t like to eat too much. I’m eighty pounds and that’s my perfect weight”.

It reveals, that as we suspected, she in her mind, feels that eighty pounds for her five foot one frame is a good weight. She would be blown away in a ten mile per hour wind, and if she turned sideways, she’d almost disappear.

Her mindset is like Fort Knox. Inflexible and like steel.

All these years I’ve fed her every morning, noon and night, varying her menu so she wouldn’t get bored with the food. Bending over backwards to accommodate every whim and wish, only to discover it all meant nothing to her. She could care-a-less. She is only interested in maintaining some illusional weight configuration in her mind that , as she sees, is perfect. I may as well be serving her ice cubes.

So after the sojourn, maybe when I return to her care taking, her meal will be a grain of rice, or a trip to Syria.

Nothing like contrast to bring a person to their senses.

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