Saturday, March 25, 2017

Have backpack will travel

Into the final countdown for vacation and my backpack and daypack are all ready to go. I'm using this knapsack - pictured here on the right, it's kid size but holds 40 litres - which I picked up as a reward for my excellent oncology appointment last week. I'm into the every
My life in a bag
three months specialist physical checkups (tests only if something is found) and was pronounced "hale and healthy, return in June". The pack is for a six week Greek islands hopping venture this fall. The intent is to check out a few of the Cyclades in September / October travelling in a minimalist style. So, what better way to understudy that role than a month hanging out in Cuba? Mind you, a few extras this time around what with dressier clothes, shoes etc. but have reduced my wardrobe to travel pieces and invested in a portable camping washing thingie….the Scrubba:


Well, actually invested again because the first one was 'tested' by two of the daughters in sequence while travelling and the second time around the scrubba didn't make it back. So, two thumbs up.

Heard again from the travel clerk for work with travel dates but no ticket received so will have to accept whatever flights they come up with. The travel partner / great white hunter had written (well I wrote and he signed the letter) to the Hunters & Trappers Committee (HTC) in Sachs Harbour, requesting permission to hunt snow geese this spring when he accompanies me to work. He received a cryptic email from the HTC clerk stating…..please fax letter, no internet. He complied. No point in questioning how the email was sent without internet…such situations are not unusual in the north. Research on travelling with shotgun/ammunition on various airlines is ongoing. 

Made the rounds of final appointments this week with haircuts, spa, physio. My transitional hair is still curly but…appears to be growing in straighter, although thick and not as grey. The hair stylist tells me that a year after chemo, finds you with the hair which you'll be left with. In the meantime, every haircut is a new challenge. Trying not to invest too heavily in curly styling products due to the temporary nature of the situation. I explained I'd gifted the wig to a former coworkers mother who is in need of it, should she contact the stylist regarding it and we decided that these type of things should be used not stored. My physio appointment included prolotherapy injection for my back and while the rhuematologist was examining my shoulder she commented on a 'mole with a halo' and mentioned having it checked. I thanked her for her concern but explained that spot was a ways down on my list of concerns after the past year. I shared my medical history and she said "oh my" a few times and I assured her that my plan was to be in the surviving group. She asked what drugs I'd received for chemo and….after living that experience for five months, being able to spout drugs, dosages, side effects etc. I found myself drawing a blank. I looked at her blinking, frantically searching my brain and finally said "I could look them up" to her incredulous gaze (she knows I'm a nurse) before somehow retrieving first one, then the other from my memory bank. As I said to the physio "it's amazing how I forgot so quickly something which completely took over my life" and then we both agreed that this is a good thing I've moved on. Today I was pampered at the spa with manicure, pedicure, facial etc. as I readied myself for instant summer. Ahhh

Just finished off a photo book from the Flo-ridication, using a voucher which will expire so it will be awaiting us when we return. Downloaded some e-books and that was the final task on my list before departure. So, off to bed as tomorrow morning is the community breakfast at the Fire Hall. My plan is to walk there and back, somewhat negating all those calories. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Oh….you're NOT Dutch?

Well, the last post began with an update on the Florida trip and this one will be a travelogue of…Curacao. The short version is that we (as expected) loved it and had a wonderful couple of weeks on one of the Netherland Antilles. The weather was fantastic, the food was great, people (representing 55 nations of origin) were friendly and helpful as we explored the island from one end to the other, frequently being mistaken for Dutch tourists as Canadians were a distinct minority, and acquiring a fondness for cheese balls as a snack. 

This is not to say that the travel plans went entirely smoothly, but lets just affirm that I'm never using that travel agent (shore captain) again! In December when we began planning this trip, I suggested having the travel agent look for airfare for us but… the problem was that mister (having reduced his working hours) had more time on his hands - not to be confused with having technological skills or being detail orientated. When the travel agent didn't immediately (as in at 9 pm at night) begin searching for airfare, my life partner went online and found 'only two seats left' on CheapO Air and panicked big time. He immediately attempted to book airfare online. This resulted in several days of phone calls back and forth with an East Indian call centre who refused to issue the tickets because "there are less than two hours between flights in Aruba". I wouldn't trust two hours in Pearson International (more on that later) for transit but Aruba is a small facility. I of course had to do the chatting with those with accents as the shore captain (after much insistence from me) is booked for a long overdue hearing test this month. After much to and fro, the ticket was finally cancelled and reissued (at a higher cost of course) and as it turned out, leaving a day earlier (requiring mister to add the arrival night at the hotel) and an overnight in Toronto on the return (which I found the week before we left). The greatest problem was discovered by our daughter though the day before we were to travel as there was a typo with my name on the ticket. This resulted in hours of phone calls with the aforementioned call centre who stated they were unable to change the mistake, pinned it on the shore captain who had originally entered the incorrect info online, asked for a copy of my passport to be faxed, threatened change costs and told me to call the two airlines directly (both WestJet and Insel Air stated that CheapO Air had to make the changes) and in the end did nothing to help. My only option was to head to the city early and throw myself upon the mercy of WestJet where a lovely agent took over an hour and changed my ticket. Again in Aruba at the Insel Air counter there was a repeat performance and a $25 fee that time. The last detail was on the final Friday when (thinking we we had two more days at the West Point hotel we were staying in) mister received an email stating we were to check in to the next accommodation he'd booked in Willemstad. Not sure how he managed the overlap but clearly can't be in two places at the same time so he made the call to ask that our room be held until Sunday. 

Ain't that the truth?
peacock flounder
view from our balcony
His choices with lodging were good - all three were different but great. We stayed the first few days at Coral Estates in Rif Ste Marie which looked over the beach, great snorkelling, lovely pool, bar, restaurant and grounds. We picked up some supplies for breakfasts and made a couple of suppers in our newly completed housekeeping studio to supplement the restaurant. We snorkelled at the resort and visited Dai Boo Beach nearby. This was a local rustic beach spot where folks come to BBQ and hang out as families. When we attempted to start the rental car after our stay, there was no way it was moving, not even a click! The very accommodating host at the bar even helped push the car up and down the parking lot with the shore captain as I attempted to 'clutch it' to start. No go. So a call to the rental company, then roadside assistance and a wait of almost two hours for the  mechanic to arrive and….immediately start the car. Thankfully our bar manager defended us stating that the car did not start for any of us. In the end, we decided it had something to do with taking the lock out sensor off the key ring so it wouldn't get wet while swimming and it not connecting immediately. Never happened again but sure made us nervous every time we shut the engine off. 
sunset from the rooftop terrace

Shete Boka National Park

school of sardines

Mt. Christoffel

sea turtles everywhere

The second stay was in a large suite at West Punt B&B which is a small hillside hotel in the northwest part of the island. Jose, the Venezuelan cook who had worked on oil rigs was a real find - we had lovely meals and I got to practice my Spanish. I managed to drop my phone poolside on the concrete and kill it instantly with ten days remaining - not even able to swipe the screen and access it. This resulted in using my Kindle in desperation to check email, only the truly stubborn would resort to that! We snorkelled almost daily at various beaches and saw many fish which were new to us, schools of sardines and lots of sea turtles. We also visited both Shete Boka and Christoffel National Park, hiking Mt Christoffel which is 1220 feet of rock climbing and was actually just as tough on the descent. Took in the Savonet museum which was a landhuis (plantation great house) with lots of history explained. 
fish on snorkel tour
shipwrecks on Klein Curacao
lighthouse Klein Curacao
 The final few days were spent in Willemstad which is a UNESCO world heritage site of Dutch colonial architecture. We explored the floating market (housed on boats over from Venezuela) then shopped the cobblestone narrow streets and visited the Maritime museum. There were cruise ships in daily which reminded us of our former visit and we were amazed to find a large yacht named the Freewind at the dock which was the Church of Scientology flagship. Who would think? We stocked up on breakfasts (again from the Asian supermarket which seemed to be the only nationality of shopkeepers) for our executive suite and enjoyed wonderful suppers at various restaurants. We took a catamaran tour to Klein Curacao for the day - a wild ride on the way over but nice sail on the return - lots of fishes and turtles, some shipwrecks on the backside and a derelict lighthouse, beautiful white coral sand beaches and a great BBQ for lunch on the boat. Tourists from across the globe to enjoy the day and rum punches with. 

We flew Insel AIr from Curacao to Sint Maarten and it was more of a scare than any of the rides at Busch Gardens. I was glad to see the pilot with a touch of grey in the cockpit as we boarded the Fokker 50 which was completely sold out. I'm sure the plane was one of the original built 30 years ago as some of the wall pieces were held today with duct tape, there was paper towel stuffed in a crack leaking water and the fuselage squeaked and rattled. The young male flight attendant seemed uninterested / frightened and spent most of the two hour flight buckled in the jump seat behind us. We were in the final row (unable to recline) and the two passengers in front of us pushed their seats back into our laps and were not corrected on take off or landings. In fact, the guy in front of me looked out of MY window while leaving the shade down on his. The middle 45 minutes of the flight we experienced severe turbulence (neither of us are nervous flyers and have flown lots of small northern planes) with the aircraft bucking, plunging, stuttering and violently shaking. A large lady wearing a wide brimmed straw hat, purple tights to match her puce leather bag, eye crossing bold printed dress and generous amounts of gold jewelry prayed loudly for deliverance. Whether she was a faithful follower or had only sought religion within the past hour was not clear. There were lots of frightened gasps and muttering with the occasional squeal. A female passenger a few rows in front of us was violently airsick and when the seatbelt sign went out as the turbulence eased, a German passenger goaded the flight attendant to "go and check on the lady, she's ill" so he made a cursory inspection of passengers, assisted the woman and promptly resettled himself. As we made our approach into Princess Juliana International Airport across tourists on Maho Beach we encountered crosswinds which caused teeth jarring shaking, spinning, loud rattles in the tail section beside me, wings flailing wildly as we descended across the water, but the pilot finally wrestled the plane into submission touching down, wings waving, fuselage twisting side to side and landing gear bouncing a couple of times off the runway with an immediate reversal of engines and coming to a screeching halt. Silence, sighs, then loud prayers of thanksgiving from the 'purple lady', nervous laughter from some, and finally applause for the pilot as we all counted our blessings. All of this was underlined by an email from the travel agent asking how we'd made out as Insel Air had been in the trade news as being recently grounded for bankruptcy and he'd wondered if we'd made it home as well as mentioning there is a direct WestJet flight from Toronto to Curacao. Sigh. The flight to Toronto was uneventful by comparison, the snarl at Pearson Airport was as per usual, taking two hours from landing to airport hotel. Ridiculous! A short night as we returned for an early morning flight east. My seat mate employed by the diamond mine in NWT I fly over regularly was good company. 

As we were retrieving the bag and met by our daughter I noticed a middle aged, well dressed man quietly leaning back against the wall, holding a bouquet of red roses as passengers streamed by and he waited for his special someone. I gave him the thumbs up and told the life partner that this dude was making the rest of the unromantics look bad, he shrugged, after 40 years he doesn't feel that requires a comment. 

The clunker car which the youngest daughter had been driving died while we were on vacation and her father suggested she pick up his new truck (which was at her sister's) for her to use while we were away. As she was explaining that she'd backed into a pilon in the parking garage at work, I at first thought she was pulling his leg but…the look on her face was similar to the one of 11 years previously when we returned from another vacation and there was $8900 in damages to an earlier truck. Oh dear, but it is only vehicle and can be fixed. 

We arrived home to much cooler temperatures than the past few weeks and full out wedding planning by the oldest daughter. The details are coming together and the excitement is building as it's less than a month away and only 17 days until we fly to Cuba. Will be nice to see our Cuban friends again, spend a month in the sun, meet the son-in-law and be together as a family for a positive event. 

Next week will be busy starting with a physio appointment, then on to run errands. In between there is a major storm predicted - thought this was March? Had hoped to visit friends in NB but weather forecast and hostess illness have rescheduled. Friday is my three month oncology appointment in the city. The weekend will be a family getaway with the grandkids at The Quarterdeck to enjoy the pool, games room and hanging out. The final home week will be last minute travel prep and then we'll return the end of April. 

I received a message from the travel clerk at work who is making arrangements for my four week rotation in May/June and am getting excited about heading back, just smoothing out the details and good to have it settled before I'm out of country. It'll be over a year and a lot of lived experience by the time I make it back. A coworker sent a pic of my photo ID hanging on the hook in the health centre office and I assured her that I'm with her in spirit. 

The microwave died just before we left for vacation and a replacement was ordered, arriving in our absence. Installed by the in-house handy man with much muttering and colourful metaphors, disruption of kitchen and mess everywhere and although it does function there is some final finish work to be completed. This morning's task was to clean up and polish the brass range hood cover before replacement - a  nasty job but it looks nice now….for a few days. Off to crack some lobsters for supper while pretending that white stuff outside the window is fine coral sand….ahhh. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Subtropical Stay

Home again to the cold and snow, unpacked and ticking off the 'to-do' list created by two weeks absence. As the shore captain stated though…it's sure a lot less hassle to come home but not have to deal with going back to work. Making a few calls, keeping some appointments, a couple of documents and updating the blog can't be considered too strenuous. Walking to the mailbox with snowflakes and windchill is another matter though. 

We enjoyed a wonderful family getaway to Tampa for two weeks even though the weather was less than stellar. There were a couple of days at the beginning and end which could be considered 'beach days' but for the most part breezy and cool (only 13c on the middle weekend). Three of us (shore captain, myself and the nurse daughter) had a belly bug which having had once I am sure was norovirus the first weekend - and trust me….the two nurses managed MUCH better than himself with the bug. Then the final week mister managed to catch a cold and share it with ALL of us, yes even the poor baby so we could fly home with crackly ears. I'm certain it was a man cold because the whining was MUCH worse from the two affected males. However, even with coolish temps a and illness the trip was a subtropical success. Subtropical being the way our friends 'bug man' reminded her of the climate. 
Indian Rocks Beach
Renting a house for a crowd was a good choice for relaxing, great meals and visiting. Indian Rocks Beach is a bit quieter than Clearwater or St. Petersburg so the rental van (with our son-in-law as chauffeur) was well used. We were only a block from the beach (lovely beach walks) and the hot tub 
Glass blowing 
was well enjoyed. We took a day trip to Tarpon Springs which is a Greek community famous for its sponge fishery - touristy but a nice spot. There was discussion of deep sea fishing but…the season and weather decided against it. We invested in Tampa city passes and took in five attractions for the price of simply visiting Busch Gardens. Tampa Aquarium didn't disappoint and although I'd visited it previously was well worth another trip, Clearwater Marine Aquarium was interesting (Dolphin Tales was filmed here) as it's a marine rescue centre, the Chihuly collection reminded us of Murano in Venice and St. Pete's is a lovely artsy spot: 

moreanartscenter.org/chihuly

The ladies enjoyed the Dali museum (over 2100 of his works) with the Frida Kahlo exhibit as a bonus. Cute to see the baby as an art critic. We were amazed at both sets of work and the gallery itself is a structural marvel:

thedali.org

The lads amused themselves with a visit to a microbrewery for a craft beer tasting and snacks - pulled pork nachos and ribs apparently were a good choice followed by watching the planes at St Pete - Clearwater airport and checking out the marina with the spiffy yachts. 

A very cool, breezy day spent at Busch Garden was still fun as the grandparents got to hang out with the granddaughter while the adult kids rode the rides complete with smiles and
Busch Gardens - Cumber
screams. Since we had always been dissed for not taking them as children to Disney (or any other theme park for that matter) we were absolved after the full day. It was a hoot to watch the baby observing the revolutions of the rides with great intent. We stopped on the way home for supper at a place called Suishi Burrito (which is in fact a Vietnamese restaurant - who knew?) and I have to say the lemongrass pork was one of the more delicious meals I've had. One evening we made our way across country to visit friends of ours (who we were posted with years ago in the RCMP) who now winter near Zephyrhills in a 'manufactured home' park - not our plan of choice as there were 1200 units there but a nice spot. It was different landscape with cattle farms, pine trees and lots of fields. There were two hockey games taken in where Tampa Bay Lightning played first Boston, then Ottawa and I was lucky enough to keep the baby both evenings. We walked the nearby nature preserve and beach, she told me stories, took a bottle of pumped milk and went to bed without protest. Perfection. It was good to discover that the little one is such a great traveller as she'll be heading to Cuba in April for her 'tia's' wedding. 


Since returning home, the bride to be has suggested we need to focus on lifestyle improvements such as healthy eating and increased activity so….we have made a meal plan for the week, purchased only healthy foods and increased our water consumption. She attended exercise class last evening and is participating in something entitled a '30 day challenge' which frightens me to even read the calendar she was provided. We shall see how the resolve holds out. 

Met a buddy last evening and we took in the movie Hidden Figures - it was being shown at a traditional theatre in a community about an hour away to honour black history month. We were not disappointed! It's a great tale based on a true story about the first female engineers at NASA and would represent either civil or women's rights. Having visited Cape Canaveral this summer made it even more enjoyable. My (much younger) friend was surprised to find that mechanical pencils were available in 1961 and I assured her that I had one at that time so could personally vouch for the story line. 

The weather is predicted as snow, freezing rain and slush so not much of a forecast but… we only have next week remaining and will be off to warmer climes again so I shall not whine.    

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Packed and waiting

Since my knapsack which holds all the essentials and more for a two week jaunt in Tampa is packed and sitting in the closet, and although our departure is a few days away, the remaining items on my 'to-do list' (along with the final domestic chores) only list check in online 24 hrs pre-flight and add the phone and charger so….as you can see, I'm enjoying some warm sun in the shelter of the veranda - yeah for the lexan panels on the screens. The breeze today was cool when I walked to the mailbox but the view is beautiful with all the waterfowl celebrating the end of duck hunting season. So lucky to live in such a beautiful location. The kitties have joined me for a fly hunting safari so all is good. 

The usual flurry of pre-vacation activity has included appointments for spa and (for the first time in six months) a haircut! Well, it was actually just a trim to even out the length and a consultation on 'products' due to the fact that my new 'chemo hair' has come in salt & pepper, fairly soft and…wait for it….curly! Always wanted curls and my mother used to assure me that I was born into the wrong family for those. Kind of a tough way to get curls and they are likely only transient as within six months to a year the hair will change again, but in the meantime I am 'enjoying' them. Everyone (myself included) has been amazed at how quickly my hair regrew. Lest I bore you with the details I'll summarize by saying that chemo dries out your scalp and hair so coconut oil before shampooing with replenishing stampoo/conditioner followed by moroccan oil is the new routine and the gel/spray for curls makes me look less like Don King (you remember the wrestling promoter with the wild hair) and more like I've got a new hairstyle which I'm learning to manage. The wig wasn't a big deal, but it's nice to be able to leave it on the shelf. 

The new year brought a couple of follow up appointments with an ultrasound and urologist consultation. All is well with the ureter stricture and she will continue to follow me with another ultrasound in May and appointment in June. We had one of those 'small world' chats when I mentioned heading back to work in the Beaufort Delta in the spring where she mentioned a summer spent in Yellowknife as a medical student and a trip to Inuvik with an internist who I have dealt with working north. When I disclosed I wasn't 'ready to give up on work yet although not sure if I'll just try it once' she offered encouragement and stated "just make the decision one rotation at a time" which is of course excellent advice. Tough to do when the rest of the world, especially employers, require advance planning but it does remove the pressure. 

There has been a bit of future planning in this household lately with the sale of the business and resultant investment planning. The financial planner salesman who is our age and a nice young lad advising on estate planning met with the life partner and I. Of course the adage that 'cancer changes you' is true and as I watched the three men discussing longevity, planning to age 80 and long term investments, I thought….how very smug of you three to assume that 20 years from now is an expected gift. As a nurse there has always been an understanding of the fragility of life and even quality of life and of course 2016 has reinforced that for me. The most pertinent question for me related to health insurance as in…could I continue the group coverage after leaving work? The answer being….group coverage is possible only if drawing a pension (which I don't qualify for) and of course private health coverage requires health history disclosure, meaning with my recent shenanigans that I would be either denied, or have pre-existing clauses for exclusion of treatment related to my various issues, and likely exorbitant rates. Another reason to remain employed until sorted out a bit. 

We had a nice visit with the daughter and granddaughter who came to stay from one city trip to the next (one of the perks of maternity leave) as is NOT being involved with a nasty labour dispute her fellow teachers are this year. The baby is growing fast, very smiley, sleeps through the night, learning to roll over and babbling great stories. Looking forward to spending time with her on vacation. 

Enjoyed an evening out with a group of ladies for 'paint night'. If you're not familiar with the activity it's where art supplies and instruction are provided along with adult beverages. The 
results are often mixed because of the combo. The evening was a birthday celebration for the oldest daughter's friend and lots of snacks and drinks were enjoyed. The young fellow tasked with instruction really didn't stand a chance and was lost to the crowd after the initial introductions. When my daughter asked if I'd learned anything from the evening, I replied "I didn't realize so many people were unable to make decisions or do crafts" as there was a great deal of angst from many participants about process, materials, and outcome. Although the model was of a winter scene, in keeping with our upcoming warmer climes travel a few modifications were made at our table. 

We had the grandson overnight on the weekend and he is great fun. We read books, played games, watched a movie and generally enjoyed ourselves. Since his Grawmp has bought a new toy - a Can Am Defender aka side by side - they went for a test drive in the driveway. He clamped on to the hand bar in front of him as he buckled up, which speaks to how he's used to being transported on off road vehicles, but as a grandmother this is not something you
dwell on. I took him for a spin up and down the driveway to try the new machine out and he called out my speed  as he is fond of doing "11 km, 12 km" as we went. We were discussing what we could use the machine for and I mentioned travelling to our camp on crown land which he quickly warmed up to. As we exited the cab he said "Nanak, next fall when Grawmp is old enough, you can drive us to camp and we'll go deer hunting, he'll be able to pull the archery bow back by then". Ah, the minds of six year olds. 

The youngest daughter and son-in-law are travelling in South America and after hiking Machu Picchu are presently in Bolivia encountering adventures of the non-Spanish speaking tourist variety as they go. They have been backpacking and staying in hostels so splurged for a $40 hotel room with balcony and were thrilled with the hot water and toilet paper that accompanied it. Their journey has provided a life lesson in how privileged we are. They will fly to Miami and drive across the everglades to Tampa arriving on the same day as we do for our family get together. 

The wedding planning for April is getting serious and the guest list is being organized. Lots of parcels arriving from Amazon - think solar lights to decorate with etc. The plan is to roast two pigs because "Cubans and Cape Islanders will talk about it if there isn't enough food" and hiring the $30 photographer "who's clearly taking advantage of a foreigner being married" and $1 bouquets of flowers which the groom is researching. Fun will be had. 

Have been crocheting a bit - making more caps for the homeless shelter, some dishcloths and a few ponytail hats on request. Couldn't convince myself to drive into town for the knitting group (am sure they don't discriminate) holding their session at the local library - one of these Tuesdays I'll make it. Plans tomorrow for a visit to a not too distant yarn shop, a walk and perhaps even some lunch. We shall see, gotta pace myself before the funcation.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

You probably saved his life

Christmas Eve and I'm spending a quiet evening in front of the tree. Although a few crafts were produced, for the most part this has been a rather non materialistic celebration. In part this stems from our upcoming family trip to Tampa next month, the addition of two grandchildren to be festive with and most importantly our combined relief at being able to celebrate with improved health. Nothing like a tussle with cancer to reorder your priorities. 

Yesterday I finished my final chemotherapy - yeehaw six cycles down - and the six year old grandson who had patiently waited with his grandfather in the waiting room rang the bell for me after asking "why do they call it treatments if they don't give you a treat?" Almost surreal to think that it's over as it's been the focus of my life for months now. This past week has been celebratory with the countdown advent calendar, an early morning visit from one of my sister-in-laws who brought wine and snacks and announced "I just came to tell you how proud I am of you, you made it through!", multiple messages from friends and family near and far and a champagne toast Thursday evening in anticipation. 

Saw the surgeon at my clinic visit last week and will have my first three monthly checkup in March. When I asked Dr Grimshaw about returning to work, I explained that the shore captain had sold his business and was supposedly retired (more on that later) due in part to my illness so was not too keen on my working and he congratulated my other half and said "that's wonderful, she probably saved your life!" and repeated it firmly when mister chuckled as if it was a joke. Permission for return to work was granted and I had my GP fill in the forms for my employer as he agreed to a month in May to try it on. Who knows if I will really enjoy it as much as I think I will? Maybe I won't continue but…no way to tell that from here, gotta try it on to find out. I am SO looking forward to doing that. Have convinced the shore captain to accompany me (as my employer would've paid for him to travel in and out every rotation actually) but now he has time so will plan to come in goose hunting for a few weeks. As you can see, there won't be a problem with finding geese to hunt:


Our trip of last week involved a stop at the Souls Harbour RESCUE Mission to drop off filled stockings for homeless folks, some more crocheted hats and a warm jacket donated by a neighbour. Truly felt the spirit of the season move me as I handed over the armfuls of donations. Will have to get my crochet hook going and whip up more hats as the winter continues. We visited with a long term friend who was in hospital awaiting surgery and it was nice to have the time together as I have become quite the expert on 'how to be a patient' this past year. A trip across the bridge to visit with our three month old granddaughter who was lying under the tree as she thinks the tree lights are a wonderful invention. I had crocheted her a snowman hat but one of the hazards of not having your model in house is….it was waaayyyy too big and will fit her next year. Seems to me that I've made that mistake before….I did do another version which actually fit when she came to stay for a few days and I was able to try it on her as I created it. Much colder last week and a buddy commented about being glad to not be a brass monkey and we agreed as we enjoyed a lovely supper at La Frasca (a great Italian restaurant on Spring Garden Road) and then trotted out briskly in the cold night air back to the Lord Nelson to collapse for the night.

This week our visit included a some seafood chowder and biscuits made in house at the daughters (while the shore captain and grandson shopped for a side by side - photo on left)
and supper delivered to my now post op friend who lives nearby. Glad to see that she's recovering nicely and heading on to the next phase of the journey in her usual style. Back to spend the evening enjoying some charcuterie and wine then seafood chowder and biscuits, topped off with lemon tarts. Ahhh. We opened our modest presents to each other and generally enjoyed ourselves. The nurse daughter is working 24, 25, 26 and 27 so this was her major Christmas celebration. My nurse friend (who hadn't seen the baby since she was a newborn) dropped by for a visit and we caught up on the news. I had given our grandson an audio book of birdsongs and he was tutored in Australian fowl by my Aussie nurse friend (Canadian now for 30 yrs) and as she readied for home he asked her if she'd be home by tonight on her flight. We explained she lived across the bridge, not in Australia now. Since this is on his 'to visit' list including Africa and Chinese he took a keen interest. Cute! Crawled into our beds and slept like logs after all those festivities. 

The wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child who still believes in Santa is enjoyment we've not experienced for some years and have forgotten how much fun it was…I put the reindeer cam on for our grandson. This is a webcam from the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park where one of the employees wears a Santa suit and feeds the reindeer grain and carrots at 9am and 3pm. "Santa waved at me" he said as he wove back and I said "Santa is watching you" and he solemnly agreed that "Santa watches EVERYONE". When I tried to get him settled for bed that evening he said "sometimes my eyes don't want to let me sleep Nanuk" but we agreed that he should try and less than two minutes later he was out for the count. 

Although the shore captain had promised to only spend three weeks in the transition after selling the business these have been long weeks He joked that he slowed down to 80 hr weeks and that's not far off. Leaving before dawn, back long after dark and putting in almost a full day on weekends is not what retired people do for fun I've advised him. The 'new' plan is that after the holidays he will move his files etc to his man cave and not visit the plant on a daily basis. I understand this is tough for him as he was seriously addicted to work and had no plan as to what he'd do if not keeping that pace but….it soon has to fall into place…or else! Getting up in the morning and heading to the plant before 7 am (or earlier) every day of the week and no plan? Of course you can see there'd be issues with this can't you? However, mister did not so this has been a steep learning curve for him. Sigh. 

Guess the only solution for the above mentioned 'retirement blues' is to travel then. We'll be doing a pretty good job of it then this winter when the tally is two weeks in Tampa in January/February with the family, two weeks in Curacao snorkelling with just the ole fella and me (to replace the cancelled DR vacation) in February/March, a month in Cuba in April to see the oldest daughter marry her Cuban boyfriend. Away two of the four months….yeah we can handle that. 

Today we had a short visit with the prodigal son and girlfriend before they left for supper with her family and will not have them for Christmas dinner as he plans to head out lobstering tomorrow evening. The boy captain has done well, catching as many lobsters in one day (9000 lbs) as entire seasons when his father was on the water. I whipped up a batch of red river cereal bread, pear tart, cranberry pudding and mincemeat pie and we enjoyed a charcuterie board of our own choosing for supper. Started sprouts in the sprouter I purchased (Merry Christmas to me) as I'm practicing for north - gotta get my greens. Oh yes, we are eating well. 

So, for all of you who have sent lovely messages of encouragement or Christmas cards and not received a word from me….my apologies. I've been so wrapped up in this crazy schedule of appointments etc. that I've not had time for the smaller pleasures in life. Just wanted you all to know how much the support and positive energy, prayers etc. continue to mean to me. My hair has regrown quickly and it's a kinky salt and pepper now that is not as soft as my original but….will be okay without a wig by the time we leave for vacation. My fingernails are chipped and discoloured but a manicure takes care of that. So now if you'll excuse me I'll get on with my job at present which is becoming completely well. I leave you with a playlist for survivors:

Everything Will be OK Playlist 

  1. "Float On," Modest Mouse
  2. "Be OK," Ingrid Michaelson
  3. "Don't Stop," Fleetwood Mac
  4. "The Middle," Jimmy Eat World
  5. "Let Go," Frou Frou
  6. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," The Rolling Stones
  7. "Trouble," TV on the Radio
  8. "Here Comes the Sun," Nina Simone
  9. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," The Ukulele Boys
  10. "Everything Is Alright," Motion City Soundtrack
  11. "Odds Are," Barenaked Ladies
  12. "Hold On," Tom Waits
  13. "This Too Shall Pass," OK Go
  14. "All Will Be Well," The Gabe Dixon Band
  15. "I Can See Clearly Now," Johnny Nash
  16. "More Adventurous," Rilo Kiley
  17. "Better Things," Passion Pit
  18. "A Better Place, a Better Time," Streetlight Manifesto
  19. "Safe and Sound," Capital Cities
  20. "If I Ever Leave This World Alive," Flogging Molly
  21. "Lullaby," Shawn Mullins
  22. "It's Gonna Be (Alright)", Ween
  23. "Sunshine," Atmosphere
  24. "Everything'll Be Alright," Joshua Radin
  25. "Swim," Jack's Mannequin
  26. "Lovely Day," Bill Withers
  27. "Everything Will Be Alright," The Killers
  28. "Gravity Rides Everything," Modest Mouse
  29. "Pompeii," Bastille
  30. "Dry the Rain," The Beta Band
  31. "Good Vibrations," The Beach Boys
  32. "Mr. Blue Sky," Electric Light Orchestra
  33. "Fresh Feeling," Eels
  34. "Everything's Not Lost," Coldplay
  35. "This Year," The Mountain Goats
  36. "Rainbows in the Dark," Tilly and the Wall
  37. "Coney Island Baby," Lou Reed
  38. "One Day Like This," Elbow
  39. "Tomorrow Will Be Kinder," The Secret Sisters
  40. "Don't Worry Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin
  41. "No Woman No Cry," Bob Marley
  42. "Do You Realize??," The Flaming Lips
  43. "I'll Be Alright," Passion Pit
  44. "Let It Be," Carol Woods, Timothy T. Mitchum
  45. "It Gets Better," fun.
  46. "Ooh Child (Things Are Gonna Get Easier)", Life of the Party
  47. "I Shall Be Released," Bob Dylan
  48. "Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy," Glee Cast
  49. "Island in the Sun," Weezer
  50. "New Slang," The Shins
  51. "Perfect Day," Lou Reed
  52. "Grapevine Fires," Death Cab For Cutie
  53. "A Change Is Gonna Come," Sam Cooke
  54. "Sunny Afternoon," The Kinks
  55. "Why Worry?," Dire Straits
  56. "Three Little Birds," Bob Marley
  57. "Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better," Josh Radin
  58. "Blue Sky," The Allman Brothers Band
  59. "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.," Noah and the Whale
  60. "I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor
  61. "What a Wonderful World," Louis Armstrong

Thursday, December 1, 2016

And the countdown is on……….

Delicious countdown
This week my oldest daughter surprised me with an advent calendar to count down to the end of treatment and as of today that's…..21 more days. The fact that it's a Kinder Mix with various selections of goodies (this morning I had a hazelnut creme egg as a pre-breakfast snack) adds to the excitement. It is one of those items that was on the banned list at Christmas here a few decades ago…and not due to its poor nutritional status. We have a Decembear quilted wall hanging and 'moving the bear' as I've shared before, was a coveted activity that often led to early morning raids to 'be the one' sometimes accompanied by a scuffle or wails from the losers upon discovery. This evening I had the shore captain (with lots of muttering) retrieve Decembear from the closet and the search for Christmas began. Somehow one year an advent calendar with each door opening on a candy, was gifted to us and one of the offspring (memory fails me or perhaps I've repressed it) pillaged and devoured the 24 windows of daily chocolate, to the extreme and loud distress of the other three siblings upon finding the wreckage…back in the day. First and last one of those countdowns. 

I was discussing how I was sliding into the countdown as only two treatments remain with a former work colleague, and she suggested that I was back in the drivers seat and I told her "no, I wish to be a passenger, a princess that is driven around" and we decided that was even better. I had a minor set back on the weekend where I (yet again) spent a few hours in ER as I enacted the fever protocol. The bloodwork, urine and chest Xray results were all good and the young Doc suggested that the temperature was either from the cold I inherited from the shore captain (no pneumonia) or the (yet another) phlebitis in my arm. Antibiotics worked the last time, so he prescribed again and I was on my way. All this interaction meant I was unable to attend the supper for the refugee sponsorship group held that evening and I was annoyed with myself and had a brief pity party. No point in continuing that snarling so….moving along. 

Speaking of the treatments, as we readied ourselves to leave for the city early Friday morning and stopped at the end of our driveway, the road was littered with pieces of vehicle ? from a collision - glass, metal, plastic scattered across the front of our driveway. Surveying the scene led to the discovery of a good sized spike horn buck, in the ditch to the left of the driveway, who looked as if he was just napping. As we had no time to spare (due to multiple seafood industry errands along the way which still annoy me enough to not want to discuss them) I phoned our German chef friend for pickup - he is becoming known as a deer harvester and is a DNR frequent flier for permits. 

Lobster season has begun (the start delayed by one day due to winds above 25 knots/hr) and today being another stormy one. This has led to long hours and some serious cases of 'lobster face' as a coworker used to call it. Tractor trailers loaded with crustaceans were on the road as soon as last evening - our local economy turns on the seafood industry. 

Before the start of the season the combined Christmas / retirement supper was held at a local restaurant and the turnout was stellar. The old guy was pleased. A former employee (one of the original trio) attended and….had a low blood sugar, just like in the old days. He's usually the entertainment and was so as we waited for our meals, then became increasingly more quiet as he slipped down that slope. Both his former boss and coworker took note and his wife sourced him some orange juice with a quick turnaround. The beginning of an after dinner speech from the retiring boss was met by a raised hand from one of the employees who said "I have a question" only to be told with a grin that "this is not a question / answer situation". When the young fellow said "are we still on the clock?" the audience chuckled. Appreciation for the hard work of all concerned leading to the company's success and the unwrapping of the retirement gifts (contribution enforced by the in control secretary) with a genuine thank you following for the beautiful carved duck decoy to add to his collection (a former Industrial Arts teacher creates them) and the Pro-Go. Yes it's a Go-Pro (one of those cameras you strap on your head or sports equipment) and obviously you need a tutorial from a much younger offspring if you can't even name it correctly. But he was pleased with the present as he's coveted one for some time. 

And, speaking of work…although it's been over seven months since I worked, it does still insert itself into my life. I had a call from the assistant to the crown prosecutor advising me of a summons to testify at supreme court in February. The original plan was that I'd be in Dominican Republic on vacation during those dates and there was discussion of application to the court for permission for phone / Skype testimony. It's at times like this, when you have to give your Skype name (mine in just my first/last names) that you're glad it's not something like bimbo babe.  I called the Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) which is the group that provides RNs with liability insurance, legal advice etc. through our professional registration fees and spoke to a nurse lawyer who strongly suggested I testify from within Canada. I can go to the local RCMP detachment and join via secure video link and so the DR portion of the trip has been put on hold. We will still have two weeks the end of January / first of February in Tampa with the girls, hubbies and granddaughter, so all is not lost. 

I had a long phone chat this week with a former coworker who is on this survivor journey, albeit with pancreatic cancer and really appreciated the chance to talk with someone walking the walk. Tomorrow afternoon is the retired nurses lunch at a local community hall and I'm looking forward to it as I have only attended one of these events (due to work or health issues). The Christmas lunch is a great chance to get together and catch up while enjoying a potluck meal. 

Last evening a couple of girlfriends and myself journeyed to Liverpool to see Ron James on his Pedal to the Metal tour. We enjoyed a great supper of chinese food and conversation then made our way to the Astor Theatre for the show. His was on his game and we were gasping for air from the first few moments. Fun on so many levels!

Today I stuffed a couple of stockings for the Souls Harbour RESCUE Mission which helps homeless men on the city streets. Filled them with practical personal care products and treats, added a crocheted cap as well. Sure was in keeping with the reason for the season. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Manic Nanak



With the prompting of a loyal blog reader and spirit sister I am urged to post as she "worries that something is wrong if it's been a while since I updated" and of course it has been a while. Not because anything is wrong, but simply as things are going along very well (and busily) so I have procrastinated. Been so occupied living my altered lifestyle where I continue to feel well, keeping myself busy with several projects while enjoying my grandchildren is….a pleasant full time job it seems. I reassure folks on a regular basis that I continue to remain well while being poisoned. Those who see me out and about express delight as in "you look so well" and although I am working at it…it's working!

When I parachuted into the daughter's appointment at the family Dr and requested my Canada Post/Sun Life misplaced prescription from the oncologist - did you know that to be reimbursed by insurance for a wig the Rx must read medically induced alopecia? as opposed to the regular, the hair fell out on its own kind - our GP was surprised and said "you're wearing lipstick!" actually he said it a couple of times in an amazed tone and then "I've never seen you wear it before" as he had worked with me in ER a few yrs ago. I informed him I'd taken a course (Look Good Feel Better - which of course a Dr wouldn't likely know about) to teach me how to apply makeup so I didn't look like a clown and that the products dispensed were worth at least $200 and he nodded knowingly (as he is familiar with my frugal ways) and agreed that appearance is closely related to mood. As we were leaving he instructed me to "continue to wear lipstick" which I assured him I would. Ordered some waterproof mascara from a beauty supply store which actually gives me back lashes and am getting pretty competent at not making the eyebrows look like a Frida Kahlo unibrow but, as regular makeup wearers will tell you… it takes longer to get out of the house if you're putting on your face and hair.

Attended the local Remembrance Day service this year and it's been a while since I've been home to do so and it was very moving. The message was delivered by a local pastor who was an immigrant from Amsterdam and lived through WWII and it's aftermath - very emotional. It's held in the same spot that I attended as a Girl Guide 50 years ago and the WWII veterans are much frailer now, but the newer worry are the young veterans medically discharged with PTSD. 

Arrived home shortly before the shore captain who had been on a US business trip - and yes he made it safely through the election day and its fallout. He had journeyed to visit the American buyers he supplies with seafood to discuss in person the 'things will remain the same' news pertaining to the sale of his seafood processing plant. Yes, you read that correctly - the workaholic is officially retiring. Am I worried that he has made no plans to fill his day and will be home after working 14 hour days for 6 - 7days/week x decades? You bet I am. Cancer doesn't scare me, but the concept of him standing over my shoulder telling me how to run the house sure does! There is a furnace in the barn with a plethora of tools and projects awaiting him so not a lot of reasons to annoy his wife with domestic supervision I've told him. He signs the final contract this Friday and will 'help out' for three weeks he says. That'll take us into the holidays so I feel a bit of breathing room. We shall see…

The new mother and granddaughter arrived at about the same time as the shore captain and we had a wonderful visit which began as a weekend trip and extended to Tuesday as the daughter said "neither of us have any plans and we can do laundry". A good baby who is sleeping 8+ hours at night and beginning to amuse herself somewhat, so a wonderful houseguest. She is growing like a bad weed - now 10 wks and 12 lb 14 oz, having gained almost a pound in two weeks! We visited Frenchy's for a larger sized wardrobe as she is of course wearing 6 - 9 month size now. I created some hats for her and her baby friends and we got out to the local craft fair and visited Santa, then did a Christmas crawl of shops in town. Both were great opportunities for showing off the visitor from the city. Wonderful therapy for this Nanak -  difficult to think of anything negative when you're playing with a baby! It was hard to see them off as we'd gotten used to that smiling little face, but her Dad missed her very much after five days and insisted they return. Apparently autocorrect changes Nanak to manic - which we decided is a pretty apt descriptor of the pace I've been keeping. 

Had a great lunch at the local seafood restaurant this week with two girlfriends and the food
Ooey gooey haddock/lobster
was as good as the company. We hatched a plan to enjoy a cruise this spring to revisit and surprise the super cruiser that my former travel partner was wooed by. We found a recent publicity article with photo of him and at 66 he has NOT aged well in the nine years since we'd seen him. If that's what cruising for 50 weeks of the year for decades does for you…no thanks. Made us feel quite smug about ourselves and our youthful appearances. Two of us headed over to the Salvation Army and added to the granddaughter's and our wardrobes for cheap. Even scored a free book en francais from the rack by the door. 


When we journeyed to the city I dropped off a large bag with my latest project of hats for the homeless
Donation from the hands/heart
men in the north end of the city. I was just putting the final touches on the 25th cap (my self imposed goal) as we pulled up to park. The hats were well received as the lady said "we need warm winter clothing not summer clothes people are cleaning out their closets this time of year" They are doing a Christmas stocking project (as per attached poster) and I am planning to participate and deliver on December 15th for anyone else interested in contributing from my local area. 

After an afternoon spent crocheting and visiting with daughter and granddaughter while Grawmp shopped for a new bandsaw at Busy Bee Tools we headed across the bridge and  had a nice family meal that evening (including the granddaughter - who was well behaved and passed around amongst family) at The Keg. We would never have considered taking  her mother out at two and a half months as she was a screamer, shucks we didn't take her to a friends houses and really limited having folks in before she was six months old - no one wanted to hear those screams, not even us :) They are lucky our granddaughter inherited her mother's 100 watt smile vs the yelling. As our daughter nursed the baby just as our steaks arrived, and ate the fork friendly parts of her meal, our son-in-law leaned over and cut her steak for her. I was amazed at what a team they are! 

Had another good clinic visit with the only delay being the local lab had lost one of my blood reports, refused to admit it, didn't cooperate with the chemo nurse and so it had to be repeated stat while I waited - not impressed and will deal with that issue with Thursday blood draw, but I digress…The oncologist assured me that we could travel a couple of weeks after chemo finished so we spent our waiting time drafting a family trip to Tampa end of January, first of February. It will be a great way to celebrate the completion of treatments and our 40th anniversary year. The girls and their families are signed on, we'll rent a house with a pool and the plan is for Nanak to keep Claire for the day as the parents et al do the rides at Busch Gardens. The youngest and her husband will be returning from Peru so will have about six days with us, but the remainder are signed on for two weeks. Think the life partner and myself will journey on to DR for a couple of weeks of R&R at the vacation share. We'll likely need a rest after all the family interaction. 

Speaking of travel should anyone be inclined to peruse some travel books I am providing the link here from a travel blog:
nomadicnotes.com/travel-books
A pretty broad cross section of literature, a few of which I've read. 

We stopped for an early supper and a bit of shop at Walmart for Lego as our grandson is having his 6th birthday party Friday. He was confused as it's after the 'real birthday' and now there are two dates. His mother gave him cake for breakfast on the 16th and he was pretty wound up I am sure when he reached school, so it's a bonus to have the festivities continue. Bought sinus medicine for the shore captain who continues to wheeze like Precious Pup from the post nasal drip he came home from his Stateside visit with, as he is three for four with his 'return with a cold' from his travelling partner, I advised him that the next time he and Richard have to have separate beds! He was not amused. Drizzly drive home and an early bedtime after the days excitement. 

Awake at 5 am - yes, that's what happens when you go to bed at a non-nite owl time - and so catching up on some online chatting and shopping, crafts and puttering in the house. Surrounded by sleeping kitties and a nap might happen to me as well and if so….it happens. Life is Good. 

Have an appointment with the urologist on Tuesday to review my ultrasound report which both my GP and oncologist have read to me as normal so that's good. No idea what happened to my ureter ? a bloodclot in that area post op - who knows and as long as it resolved and I can close that chapter, I care not. Going to meet up with the returning from Cuba daughter as her sister and niece will meet her at the airport and we'll 'do lunch' in the city. Will be able to hand off the exersaucer picked up on the Buy n Sell as there is more storage room in their split level than here and missy will be using it before very long as she is very sturdy and bright. 

Still missing the north and will have the discussion of return to work with the December oncologist visit. Have to be well enough to maintain the pace / be subjected safely to all the infectious stuff and work remotely of course. Looking like spring at the earliest now with all the travel plans. So, now that I've reassured my audience of my well being, I shall return to my various projects. Later gators.