Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Celebrations

As we have rolled into July, I've been able to get out a bit and do my favorite pastime - taking photographs. Jim and I, along with another photographer friend, have gone out several times together in the last year or so to take pictures. Then after a couple of days, we share our favorite photo from the outing with each other. It is always fun to see our different perspectives, even though we were in the same area together. This month we went to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in north St. Louis County.

Located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Columbia Bottom has over 4,000 acres of land to explore by car, bikes or walking. They also have an area to put in boats, and I have seen people coming there to fish as well. The conservation department has planted fields of sunflowers, so that was the draw for us on this trip. Four fields were in bloom, and they have staggered the plantings so that there should be flowers in bloom through August. Though I wish we had arrived earlier than 9:00 as it was already hot and humid, the sunflowers were amazing.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
We also attended the Webster Groves 4th of July parade, which is a time-honored tradition for us. We simply have to pack up our chairs and water bottles and walk over two streets to the parade route. After years of practice, we know where to set up our chairs so that we will be in the shade the entire time. Jim set our chairs up early, and we walked over around 9:15. The parade starts at 10:00 and it takes a good half hour to reach our spot. But the time passes quickly talking to the folks around us and people watching. Despite all the political entries in the parade, I thought it was a good one and that people were very respectful.

Webster Groves parade
On Friday, July 6th we had a nice treat. An architectural firm that Jim works with, Fox Architects, was celebrating their 40th anniversary with a party at their office. It happens to be located directly across the street from the St. Louis Arch, the grounds of which have been newly renovated. For the first time in several years they were able to have Fair St. Louis back on the arch grounds now that construction is complete. We had a bird's eye view from the 18th floor of the One Memorial Drive building, high above the crowds and an exceptional spot to watch the fireworks display. It was a great time!

St. Louis Arch

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cataract Complication

Yesterday was my one month follow-up appointment for the second cataract removal. The technician had me do the normal reading test, and I am seeing 20/20, which is awesome. Then she did the dreaded looking through the lens exam. "Which looks better = 1 or 2? Or are they about the same?" "2 or 3? Or are they about the same?" I had no problems with the right eye test. But the left eye gave me some trouble, and apparently gave the technician trouble too. I guess I was all over the place, and she said the results were not making any sense. She felt like I was trying to see something that wasn't there. She added that since I was reading 20/20, I should not see any improvement when she showed me 1 and then 2. She got frustrated, and so did I. We agreed to disagree.

She then tested the pressure in both eyes, which were at acceptable levels before dilating them both for the doctor to check. Dr. Pepose was pleased with my reading level, and the fact that the dry eyes has subsided quite a bit. But when he looked into my eyes I could tell he saw something that he didn't like. Apparently I have posterior capsule opacity (PCO) in both eyes. The right eye is very minor and he isn't worried about it right now. The left eye, however, he thinks needs to be treated. He asked if I had any problems with the vision in that eye, and I told him that it does seem sometimes like I am looking through a smudge on the lens. I thought it was due to the eye drops, as I still have to put those in the left eye three times a day and they make the vision blurry for a while.

He explained that PCO manifests itself like that. Two things came to my mind: 1) interesting that my vision is 20/20 even with that, and 2) that is no doubt why I was confusing the technician when she was doing the test on the left eye. As it is blurry in one part of my eye, sometimes the chart looks better than others. At any rate, PCO is when the epithelial cells of the lens, which remain after cataract surgery, grow on the lens capsule. This happens in 20% of all cataract surgeries. Yay me!

Fortunately there is a pretty simple fix with a YAG laser capsulotomy. In the doctor's office, my eyes will be dilated and the cells removed by laser. The procedure will take less than 15 minutes, though I will have to be at the office for an hour and a half. I can drive myself, and there are no restrictions following the surgery. For a week I will need to use eye drops - yippee! I certainly haven't gotten enough of that yet. The biggest complication from the laser surgery is that I might get floaters in that eye. As I already have a big one there, hopefully this won't add to it.

The gal from the office called today, and my insurance company says I have to wait three months following the cataract surgery before they will approve this procedure. And obviously they know so much more about it than one of the top ophthalmologists in the United States. (Insert sarcasm here.) I am scheduled for September 5th. While I don't like having to look through the smudge for another two months, I am eager to see how things will look out of these new eyes once it is all said and done.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaching for Retirement

As my husband begins to prepare for retirement, we have been talking a lot about where we want to live. Staying in our house, much as we have loved it for the past 31 years, is not the best option. First of all, at some point the 2 1/2 stories will be too much for us. The upkeep and maintenance are already more that we want to undertake, and the taxes and insurance here are killers. So...if you know you will want to/have to move, where do you go?

While it is possible that we will remain in this state, we are exploring other options. We have eliminated places that are too hot, such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas, as well as states that are just too expensive such as California. We don't want to live any further north than we are now, but we still want to experience some of the four seasons. North Carolina and Tennessee have both made our initial short list.

Lambert St. Louis Airport
Last week we spent 7 days in North Carolina. Uncertain as to whether we would prefer lake or mountain views, I lined up an itinerary that offered some of both. We began in Charlotte for a number of reasons. It has a wonderful international airport, which we always have to fly through when traveling abroad. Why not live there and eliminate one stop on foreign trips?

Charlotte is a large city (population around 800,000) with many of the cultural institutions and activities we have grown to appreciate in our current hometown. With that comes great medical care, which will become more important as we age. We don't want to live right in Charlotte, but instead wanted to look at the six lakes that surround the area. After 2 days, we knew that none of these lakes were what we were looking for in terms of livability. They are located off of narrow, winding roads with no amenities nearby. I don't want to have to drive an hour to buy a loaf of bread, go to a store, or see a doctor.

Our next destination was the town of Lenoir, located northwest of Charlotte at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the way we found the two remaining covered bridges in the state of North Carolina.

Pisgah Covered Bridge
Bunker Hill Covered Bridge
In Lenoir, a smaller artsy community, we stayed at the Irish Rose B&B. It was a huge, beautiful old home, and the proprietor made the most amazing breakfast that we have ever had at a B&B. The other guests we met were so interesting to talk to, and a couple from Maryland were on the same journey as us, so it was fun to compare notes. They were even looking at The Coves, a mountain gated community that we had come to see. Alas, with Lenoir being 1.5 hours from Asheville and 1.5 hours from Charlotte, we decided the distance was more that we would like to drive each time we want to fly somewhere. There were other reasons we dismissed this area as well, but the travel time to get to any cultural events or flights was a big one.

Next up was the town of Black Mountain, which had a couple of gated communities we wanted to see. We had an appointment with a realtor, and she took us to several communities but also to a few regular residences that were up for sale. She wanted to give us an idea of what our budget could buy us in the area. I have to say, Black Mountain will probably remain on our short list. It is less than 30 minutes from Asheville, the community is darling, we could purchase a lot with mountain views and build our own home, and we could be on Lake Lure in 30 minutes if we wanted a lake experience for a day or weekend.

Lake Lure, NC
After spending most of the day with the realtor, we drove to Lake Lure. I really wanted this area to work out as it is only about a half hour from Asheville, and the lake has wonderful mountain views so we could have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately the houses are very close together, which we are trying to avoid. Plus there are no shopping or medical facilities in the area. You would have to drive to Asheville for most things, on a winding road with a 35 miles per hour speed limit. It was a pretty and fun place to visit though, so we had a good time playing tourist for a couple of days as we explored the lake and Chimney Rock State Park.

Chimney Rock, NC
We worked our way back to Charlotte on Saturday because we had an early flight home Sunday morning. Though it wasn't exactly on our way, we made a second trip to Black Mountain so that we could see a little bit more of the town on our own. Despite the fact that it was a Saturday during tourist season, it wasn't too overrun with crowds, so that was good to see. If we decide to get more serious about settling in that town, I think we should go there for a couple weeks in the spring or fall and really get a feel for the area.

St. Louis
At the end of the day, while we were a little disappointed that nothing called out to us, it was a good experience and we learned a lot from this trip. We will be better prepared for the next one. We are in no rush, and we want to take the time to make sure this next move won't be the wrong move. We have been in St. Louis for 40 years, so we obviously don't take relocation lightly!