Monday, August 14, 2017

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

peach jam
Summer is winding down in my neck of the woods, perhaps sooner than normal as we have been blessed with temperatures in the 80s during the day and 60s overnight. Peaches are abundant right now, so I decided to try my hand at making peach jam. For the first batch, I made five jars of peach and five jars of a peach/blackberry mix. As the peach turned out well (haven't tried the mixed jam yet), I made a second round of peach on Saturday. For whatever reason, the peaches did not ripen as much as I would have liked, which made them challenging to smash with the potato masher. Consequently, I'll have to say that the end result is more peach preserve than peach jam. But I'm okay with that. The flavor is still quite good.

St. Louis Zoo
Sunday morning I met my photographer friend Caren at the St. Louis Zoo. With temperatures in the 60s when we started out, it was a perfect time to experience the animals. Because it was a Sunday, the zoo was not yet crowded so we were able to stroll and photograph at our leisure for the first hour or so. By the time it got really crowded, we were ready to head out anyway.

I had yet to visit the Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden behind the St. Louis Art Museum, so we walked there next. It was slightly disappointing, to say the least. There are no paths leading to each sculpture so you have to walk on the grass. As the irrigation system had been on that morning, it was a soggy endeavor. And I have no idea how the project met ADA requirements as I can't imagine pushing a wheelchair (or a stroller, for that matter), let alone trying to maneuver a walker through the area. Over 400 hundred trees have been planted, some purportedly representing "rooms", but all I could see was too many trees planted too close together. There will be tree casualties due to this, and that is a shame. Perhaps they should consider using a local landscape architect next time, instead of bringing someone in from France.

Sculpture Garden
We then headed inside to have an early lunch at Panorama, the restaurant located inside the museum. This was my second time eating here, and I have found both the food and the service to be quite good. Caren and I had both parked in the open lot across from the museum when we arrived that morning, so it was an easy walk back to the cars following our meals. It was good to get out and photograph again. It's been too long since I have taken time to do that.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Moon River

Last weekend was the annual float trip for our company. The past several years it has taken place on the Huzzah River at a facility where we shared a cabin with another couple.  I am not a fan of sleeping on the ground anymore, especially in Missouri in August. The younger associates and their families pitched tents or brought campers along. This year the organizer selected a campground on the Niangua River near Lebanon, Missouri. Unfortunately, all the cabins and rooms in the lodge were already taken when our group signed up, so I called every motel in Lebanon only to find out that they were all booked as well. This was the first indication that the river would be packed with floaters on Saturday.

I am suspicious that all the campsites were already full when the organizer called, judging by where they ultimately put our group. Located by the porta-potties and the dump station for the RVs, I'm convinced that they created space for us once they found out how many were coming. It's all about the almighty buck, after all.

Still not interested in tent camping, ultimately I found a house for the four of us on AirBNB, and as it had a two night minimum during the summer, I booked us for Friday and Saturday nights. The house was perfect for two couples, and it backed up to a city park so it was nice to sit outside and enjoy coffee or another beverage. We drove separately from the other couple as we wanted to take some time to explore the area on Sunday and they needed to get back. We grabbed dinner to go in town and took it out to the campsite Friday night. Most of the group had arrived, with only a couple driving down on Saturday morning, so we sat around the fire until 10 or so before going back to our house.

Niangua River
Saturday morning dawned cloudy and cool, with a revised forecast of rain. By 10:30 we were on the water. Most of our group chose to float in individual kayaks, but a few had rafts or canoes as they had children or dogs with them. I have never seen so many people on a river before! It was packed, and a number of groups had their rafts tied together, creating logjams in the middle of the river and making it difficult to get around them when the channel narrowed. We were on the water maybe 10 minutes before the rain began. At first it was light, but then it poured. We kept thinking it would stop, but it never did. We later learned that they were expecting 4-6 inches of rain that day. The operators had no business sending anyone down the river on Saturday.

With the cool temperature, the rain was not refreshing, but we muddled along. When the thunder and lightning began, it got scary. Jim and I had long since separated from the others in our group as our thought process was to get the heck to the ending as quickly as possible. There was no safe area to leave the river mid-route. We were on the 6 mile float, which normally takes 4-6 hours to complete, depending on how often you stop. We pulled over under a tree for a short break, thinking we might be able to eat our lunches, but it was just too wet even under the tree. We grabbed a protein bar and gobbled that down, but we began to shiver uncontrollably as we were no longer exerting ourselves. We quickly got back in the kayaks and on our way.

Passing the 3 mile marker was very disheartening as we knew we were only halfway done. A lot of people pulled off there, so the river was more open for the second half of the journey. As I came up behind a raft, I saw a young man walking in the freezing river. That can only mean one thing - he was peeing. After he finished he belly flopped onto his raft, causing the other passengers to fly up in the air. Unfortunately that maneuver also caused his swimming trunks to come down. And that is how it came to pass that, despite the clouds, rain and the daylight hours, there was a full moon (as in VERY full) over the Niangua River on Saturday. And I had a front row seat, much to my dismay.

We finally reached the 6 mile marker and drug our soggy selves out of the water. We had paddled the route in 2.5 hours! Thankfully a bus was waiting, though it had all the windows open and no heat going despite the temperature being 59 degrees. Only the intern from our office, her dog and her boyfriend were on the bus from our group. The route back to the campsite was up steep hills on a barely-there, deeply eroded gravel road. The driver had to back down the hill one time to let another bus come down. My only thought was it was possible that we survived the lightning on the river only to die on the bus ride back to camp. We later heard that one of the buses slipped and tipped over, and another one hit a car on the way back.

As  we approached the campsite we were surprised to see that most of our group had either packed up and left, or were in the process of doing so as it was still pouring and predicted to do so throughout the night. How had they beat us back? As it turns out, they all got out at the 3 mile marker and hoped that a bus from our camp would take pity and come and get them. Indeed it did, but they waited 45 minutes in the cold and rain for it to show up. They actually did not get back to camp that much earlier than us.

Back at the house, a hot shower never felt so good. We ate our late lunch, then read or watched t.v. for the rest of the afternoon. That evening we found a really good Italian restaurant where we had dinner, and then played cards up until bedtime. Following breakfast the next morning, the other couple took off for home, and we went to Bennett Spring State Park. Neither of us had been there before, and we wanted to check it out and watch the fly fishing. Of course it had to rain on us there as well.

Bennett Spring State Park
In a fitting end to the weekend, we stopped at Uranus, Missouri, a tourist trap along I-44 where the jokes just seem to write themselves. What a hoot! The general store, in addition to containing the Uranus Fudge Factory, also sold nostalgic toys and candy in addition to fishing equipment, guns and ammo. There was even a shooting range in the back. One stop shopping...

Uranus, Missouri

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Kissing Cousins

My cousins in Cincinnati are absolutely the best, even if I feel like I eat my way through the city every time I go there. The family that I stayed with this visit always help me to push the envelope in terms of my palate. Friday night we went to Gomez Salsa, where they offer unique Mexican specialties such as their signature Turtle Shells. I had a burrito that could have fed at least two people. From there were went to the old fashioned ice cream parlor, Algamesis Bro's, which has been in business since 1908. It is no surprise, as the ice cream is delicious!

Gomez Salsa and Algamesis Bro's
Saturday morning we had breakfast at the house, and then my cousin and I went to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. What a fun find! It is located in 20,000 square feet of an old factory building, and covers more than a century of American signage. There are early, pre-electric signs adorned in gold leaf, some of the earliest electric signs, examples of beautiful art-deco neon signs, and modern plastic-faced signs. We were really enjoying ourselves except for the group of four families who had 12 kids in total. Those kids were out of control, running, yelling and climbing on the exhibits. Not only were the parents paying no attention, no one from the museum stopped the shenanigans either. When they finally left, the noise level dropped dramatically, and my cousin breathed a sigh of relief. I told her jokingly not to worry, they would show up at the next place we went. Ha, ha...or so I thought.

American Sign Museum
From there we went down to the riverfront as there has been a lot of development since the last time I walked in the area. Because it was 97 degrees and incredibly humid, we mostly did a drive by. But I can't wait to spend more time there when I go back in October. We hit Findlay Market next to pick up some dog food for their dog, and were debating whether to grab a bite to eat. We walked around to see if there were any tables available, and we heard a bunch of kids yelling and screaming. Guess who? Yep, our favorite families from the museum. We busted out laughing!

Margie, me and Betty
Margie and Marie
That afternoon there was a surprise party for my Aunt Margie, who turned 95 the previous day. She is my mom's younger sister, and one of two children still living from the family of eight kids. Her sister Betty turned 90 last month. Margie's sister-in-law Marie from her husband's side of the family will be 96 in September, and she is a hoot. All three of these women are a constant source of inspiration as they are active and living on their own. There are some incredible genes in these families, that is for sure. I believe there were around 40 people at the party, and we had a lot of fun and laughs.

Sunday another cousin met us for brunch at a dim sum restaurant. This was my first experience with this style of dining, and I really liked it. It was fun to hear the wait staff explain each dish as they brought it by, and then say yes or no to trying it. For me it was a good way to try various dishes that I would not have ordered on my own for fear of not liking it.

Then that evening we met yet another set of cousins for supper. There are always so many people I want to see when I go back to Cincinnati, that it is hard to fit everyone in. Fortunately there is a family reunion in October so my next visit I can see a slew of people in one spot.

Skyline Chili
Leaving Cincinnati the next morning, I stopped at a Kroger store to stock up on goetta. And in Kentucky I spied a Skyline Chili sign. As it was 11:00, I just had to stop for a taste of Skyline before I headed home since the Empress Chili I had while staying in Alexandria did not do it for me. As I said, I eat my way through Cincinnati when I visit there. Good thing it is only twice a year!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Looking for Hightowers

Last Wednesday I drove to Kentucky to look for my illusive Hightower family records. Just to break up the trip, I stopped in La Grange, Kentucky, which is just north of Louisville. I had seen the town listed on the website Roadside America. This website, by the way, is great if you are going on a road trip and want to stop and see oddities or attractions along the way. In fact, I use it to find interesting things to see around my own city. You enter the state where you will be traveling, and a list of attractions pops up. You can also look at a map view so you can see what is along your route.

La Grange, KY
La Grange has the distinction of being one of only a couple towns in the U.S. where trains come right down Main Street. So if you hear that train a comin', you better get the heck out of the way! La Grange is a pretty little place, and it was nice to get out and stretch my legs. But sadly, none of the 20 plus trains that pass through daily chose the time I was there to make an appearance.

Melbourne, KY
My final destination was Alexandria, where I would be visiting the Campbell County Historical Society as well as the Campbell County Clerk's office. I stayed at an AirBNB for two nights in nearby Melbourne. Of course I had to take a picture of the sign. Who gets to visit Melbourne twice in two months?

I found a great little diner in Alexandria for breakfast on Thursday morning, thanks to Yelp. TripAdvisor totally let me down this time. It showed no places to eat in Alexandria. The Spare Time Grill was just what I was looking for so I could get my goetta fix. I passed the time talking to the owner and his daughter while waiting for the historical society to open at 10:00.
Spare Time Grill
Campbell County Historical Society
At 10:00 on the dot I was on the front steps of the old Campbell County Courthouse. I believe that it was constructed in the 1840s, but was heavily remodeled in 1928. It is still an impressive building, nonetheless. On the second floor lies the collection of the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society.

There was one volunteer in the building, and she was extremely helpful. Many of their records are online, and I had searched their site extensively before coming on the trip. But family files and some church files are not online, so I looked through those. She helped me brainstorm other areas that I might look, and probably most importantly indicated what records would and would not be located at the other Campbell County Courthouse in Newport (yes, Campbell County has two courthouses, just to make things even more difficult and confusing), as well as the holdings of the Campbell County Library in Newport. She saved me a lot of time looking for genealogy love in all the wrong places.

county clerk's office
Unfortunately, I found nothing new in their archives, and she sent me on my way to the county clerk's office. Though mostly used for licensing cars and drivers, this office also has old documents such as marriage bonds, deeds, wills, etc. It's a rare situation in that you are allowed to pull the books off the shelves and look through them. As the shelving area was right across from the license renewal desk, there were interesting conversations for me to listen to as I looked through the materials. I will say that the staff was much more friendly and helpful than any of the license offices I have had to go into around here.  While I found deed information for the man who may or may not be my 4 times great-grandfather as well as some other Hightowers who may or may not be brothers of my 3 times great-grandfather Thompson Hightower, there was nothing to tie them all together definitively. I took scans of all the deeds just in case.

I did find the original the original marriage bond that was posted for Thompson Hightower and Elizabeth Hopper. Marriage bonds were popular in the 1700s and early 1800s. It was essentially a declaration of an intent to marry. The groom-to-be would go to the courthouse with a bondsman, typically the father or brother of the bride-to-be, and posted a bond indicating his intention to marry. No money was paid at the time of the posting, but if the marriage did not occur then the would-be groom would pay the amount stated on the bond, in this case 50 pounds.

Marriage Bond
The Campbell County bonds had been indexed and that index appears online, so I knew the substance of the document. The bondsman in this case was J.P. Piner, an uncle of Elizabeth's, with whom she had lived from the age of 6. I had assumed (and you know what they say about assuming) that her parents were deceased. I do not know their names, so I have no idea if Piner was her mother's brother, or he could have been a brother-in-law to either of Elizabeth's parents. But when I saw the original document, there was a hand-written note that stated Elizabeth's "father is willing that a marriage license might be issued..." Her father was alive in 1838! For whatever reason, he had not been able to care for Elizabeth since she was about 6. Maybe his wife was ill or deceased, or maybe he was simply too poor to take care of her. Either way, it gives me another clue in looking for her father. Too bad they didn't list his name.

The next morning I bid my AirBNB adieu and drove north to Newport. Here I found The World Peace Bell, one of more than 20 peace bells located around the world. It was the world's largest free swinging bell from 2000-2006. It weighs 66,000 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. I found out about it through the above-mentioned Roadside America. It was pretty impressive to see, though I did not hear it ring while I was in the area.
World Peace Bell
After I grabbed a quick lunch in Newport, I went to the Campbell County Library, which had little genealogical information, and then headed over to Covington. The Kenton County Library has a lot of good stuff, but I have spent quite a bit of time there in the past. This visit I was focused on seeing if I could find out anything about the Baptist churches that were in the area in 1838 as I had found that Thompson Hightower and Elizabeth Hopper were married by a Baptist minister. Unfortunately the Baptists are not as organized as the Catholics, so I struck out there as well. It was time to get the heck out of dodge, and so I traveled across the river to Cincinnati, where I spent the rest of the weekend with my cousins and aunts. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Hunting I Will Go

Thompson's Civil War unit
There is one ancestor that is hiding so far behind a brick wall that the brick wall has a wall. Thompson Hightower is my three times great-grandfather on my dad's side of family tree. I have created a solid, documented trail from myself to him, but his ancestry remains elusive. There are numerous family trees on that indicate his father is George Hightower, Jr. and his mother, Frances Ann Hall. The problem is that none of the trees has one piece of evidence to back up that connection. I can place both Thompson and George in Cambell County Kentucky at the same time, but that is it. George's family is extremely well-documented back to the early 1700s in Virginia. If I can ever prove the relationship between Thompson and George, I will have quite a robust tree. Not to mention the ability to become a member of the DAR as well as numerous other prestigious associations.

The problem is that Thompson had the audacity to be born around 1815, long before Kentucky kept birth records. He compounded the problem by dying in 1866 before death records were recorded in Kentucky. He was of age when he married in 1838, so no parent's names are listed on the marriage license, and he left no will. George also died intestate, and research in Adams County, Ilinois where he died offered no clues regarding his children.

A week at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, despite the assistance of the highly qualified staff there, yielded no new information on Thompson. So my Hail Mary is a trip to Alexandria, Kentucky this week. When Thompson was born the area was all Campbell County, so records before 1840 are in the courthouse in Alexandria. Or they might be in a second county seat in Newport. In 1840 the area where Thompson lived became Kenton County, so records after that date are located in the courthouse in Covington. Or are they in a second county seat in Independence? It is all very confusing, and I have my work cut out for me.

My game plan is to first start at the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society, conveniently located in the old courthouse in Alexandria. They have limited hours, so I need to be there when they open at 10:00 on Thursday. In addition to looking at their collection, I feel like they will be able to direct me on what records are held at the various courthouses so I'm not wasting time at the wrong place.

Thursday and Friday I'll do research in the area, and will be staying at an AirBNB in Melbourne, Kentucky. I'll need to take a selfie with the sign since I was just in Melbourne, Australia in May. The cottage where I am staying is located on 20 acres. Apparently mountain lions have been spotted on the property! Maybe I can get a picture of one without being eaten.

Betty, Margie & me
Friday afternoon I will head north to Cincinnati to spend the weekend with my cousins. My mom's sister turns 95 on Friday, and she doesn't know that I am coming over. I'll also see her sister, who turned 90 last month. I can't wait to see them - they're the best! The picture on the left is of the three of us two years ago. I always have a great time in the city where I was born, and hopefully I'll have a genealogy find to celebrate in addition to a milestone birthday.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Breast Biopsy Results

Early this afternoon the home phone rang, and caller ID revealed that it was St. Anthony's calling me. I thought that was odd as I had the mammograms and biopsy done at Missouri Baptist. I picked it up anyway, and it was my primary care doctor's office. She asked if I had been given my pathology results yet, and I said I hadn't heard a word yet. She said they had just gotten them, and that the results were BENIGN!!!! What a huge relief, and a blessing not to have that hanging over me the whole weekend. She asked that I call their office back after I heard from Missouri Baptist regarding what kind of follow-up they were recommending.

About a half hour later, Missouri Baptist called me with the same report. She said the biopsy had come back with the cells being identified as stromal fibrosis. Fibrosis refers to an increase in dense connective breast tissue. It is a very common finding, occuring in up to 7% of suspicious breast lesions examined by biopsy. According to the American Cancer Society, fibrosis does not increase your risk of developing breast cancer later on. More good news.

They do want me to come back in six months for a repeat mammogram and ultrasound of the right breast. When I asked why, since the biopsy came back negative, I was told it was to make sure nothing had changed. I have to admit that I am a little concerned about all the x-ray exposures on this one breast. There were the two views at the routine mammogram, three views at the screening mammogram, and two more views following the biopsy. It is something I will be asking questions about, especially since they established a baseline mammogram after the biopsy was performed.

But setting all that aside for the moment, I am one lucky lady!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Breast Biopsy

flowers from the breast care center
Yesterday morning I left the house at 6:35 a.m. to get to Missouri Baptist Hospital by the 7:00 requested arrival time. My biopsy was scheduled for 7:30, but they needed to check me in and all that. Due to it being a holiday week, traffic was light and I got there at 6:50. More time to wait - yippee...

The front desk gal checked me in shortly after 7:00, and I went back to a room for the nurse to go over my information again, and to repeat what was going to occur. Then I slipped on my beautiful pink ball gown, and waited for the radiologist to come in. We have known each other for many years as our kids went to school together. He is the same doctor who drained a couple of breast cysts, and he has been reading my mammograms through the years. I was grateful that he was scheduled for July 5th, and that he had an opening for my procedure.

Dr. H. stated that he wanted to do another ultrasound himself as he wanted to see exactly what the spot looked like. At that point I think he was still hopeful that it would turn out to be nothing, or that perhaps an MRI would do the trick instead of putting me through a biopsy. I didn't realize that was even a possibility, and it was probably just as well.

Once in the procedure room, the nurse and technician went over my name, date of birth and which breast we were looking at - for the third time that morning. As someone who was once Vice President of Marketing and Risk Management for a medical malpractice insurance company, I appreciated all their efforts to make sure they were a) treating the right patient and b) treating the correct body part on the patient. The doctor then came in and performed the ultrasound, and decided he need to go in after all.

While I was told that the local anesthetic could be likened to what you get in a dental chair, that it not exactly accurate. This one went much deeper into the tissue. I am used to needles and anesthesia due to all my skin cancers, but I'll just say that this smarted more than any of those have. On the plus side, it was not as bad as a cortisone shot, so there is that.

Under the guidance of the ultrasound, Dr. H. guided an instrument through the side of the breast to get to the area of distortion. He warned me that I would feel pressure, but should feel no pain. That was the case. Then he said I would hear a sharp noise, so I shouldn't be startled. I took that to mean, don't move. What he didn't say is that I would hear four sharp noises - one for each of the tissue samples that he removed. The sound reminded me of what the ear piercing gun sounded like.

After the tissue was removed, a ceramic marker was inserted into the breast so that any radiologist who reads my mammograms in the future would know that the area had been biopsied. Normally they would put a metal marker in, but since I have had allergic reaction to different metals in my earrings, they decided to be safe and go with ceramic. Then the nurse kept pressure on the entrance site for ten minutes to minimize bleeding. She said that I hadn't bled much during the procedure. Then she said I needed to go and have more mammograms taken. While they had told me I would have a followup mammogram, I presumed it would be after the biopsy site had healed. Not right after it was done! They assured me that rarely does anyone bleed nor does it dislodge the marker they had put in.

The mammography technician reassured me that she would not be putting as much pressure on the breast as she would do during a normal screening, and said this was just to give everyone a baseline of where the biopsy had been done and where the marker was located. While I was in there, I asked her to explain the difference between the 2D and 3D tests as it seems like they are done by the same machine. She explained that a 2D mammogram was like taking a picture of a lump of bread that had been squished. You might see something, but you don't know exactly where in the loaf to go and look for it. A 3D, on the other hand, offers slices of the loaf of bread, so if something appears they can go and look at that slice. I thought it was an interesting way to describe the difference. I had asked Dr. H. if he thought a 2D mammogram would have picked up the architectural distortion. He said, "No way." At any rate, the technician was correct. The squishing in two directions wasn't bad, and did not hurt.

The entrance wound was dressed with steri-strips and then topped with a gauze pad covered in tape. My instructions were to leave the dressing on for 24 hours, with no shower until it came off. They sent me home with two small ice packs to place inside my bra over the wound, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off to minimize swelling and bruising. The nurse told me to take it easy and load up on Netflix for the rest of the day. Sort of lends a whole new meaning to the phrase "watching the boob tube", doesn't it?

ice pack

I slept pretty well last night, and removed the bandage this morning. There is a small bruise but no swelling, and not even a drop of blood on the dressing. I continued to use the ice packs off and on today as well since they seemed to help. I took it pretty easy, and should be back to most activities tomorrow.

They said two to three days to receive the results from pathology, and they will call me once they get them. I'm hoping since my test was so early in the morning, that Friday I will hear something. Otherwise, it will be a long weekend. I'm trying to stay off of Doc Google and relying on Doc H. instead.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Say Yes Ma'am to the Mammogram

A week ago Tuesday I had my annual mammogram done at Missouri Baptist, where I have been going for many years. I was given the option of a 3D mammogram versus the traditional screening. It is supposed to give better readings, especially for women who have dense breast tissue, which I apparently do. I was warned, however, that my insurance company may not pay the additional expense of the 3D test. The difference in cost? $60. That seems a small price to pay, and so absurd that the insurance companies do not feel it is worth that amount to catch breast irregularities early. I opted for the 3D test, though I can't say I noticed any difference in how the mammogram was done. The boobs still got smooshed two different ways.

The mammography office called me on Monday, which I knew was not a good thing. Normally they just send me a letter in the mail. The gal told me that they noticed a distortion in the right breast, which they felt needed to be looked at further. She scheduled me for a diagnostic mammogram, which possibly could be followed by an ultrasound. I have had fluid filled cysts in the past, so I've had the diagnostic test and ultrasound done before.

Later that day I received a letter regarding my mammogram results. It just said that the exam showed "an abnormality that requires further evaluation." Had I received the letter before the phone call, I would have seriously freaked out. I'm glad the office called so I could have the explanation to go along with the words.

Missouri Baptist Breast Health Care Center
This afternoon I went to Missouri Baptist Hospital (I have the annual mammograms done at one of their satellite offices much closer to my house) for the additional tests. The technician was hoping that the distortion would not show up with the mammograms she performed, but no such luck. The radiologist then requested the ultrasound. After reading those films (if they are even called that anymore since everything goes into a computer), the doctor came in to talk to me. She wanted to know if I had ever had breast surgery or experienced any trauma to the breast. No to both questions. She asked me if I felt a lump and I said no, and she said she didn't feel any either.

She then requested two more mammograms to try to get a better look at where the distortion had been pinpointed. Upon reviewing everything, she felt it was best to schedule a biopsy to see what we are dealing with just to make sure it is not a very early cancer growth. Three plus hours of multiple boob squishes, having it pressed upon by the transducer for 20 minutes, and lots of time sitting around pondering the "What ifs?" My biopsy is scheduled for July 5th, and then it will be 2-3 days before the pathology report comes back. More time to ponder.

With all the people you hear about getting diagnosed with cancer, do you ever feel like you are a ticking time bomb?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

We had family visiting from out of town last week as they made their way south to visit a daughter. On Friday we took them on a drive through Forest Park on the way to visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. I always forget how gorgeous the cathedral is until I walk back inside it again. As it happened, our timing was perfect to catch the noon Mass, so our relatives were thrilled at the experience. From there we had lunch in the Central West End, and on such a beautiful day we were able to eat outside which is a rare treat in St. Louis in the summer.

Cathedral Basilica St. Louis
Busch Stadium
Friday night we took them to see the baseball game. It was a great game on a cool night until about the 7th inning when the Cards blew their lead. After that I was just happy the game didn't remain tied as I didn't want to sit through extra innings. I believe that baseball, and babies, should have 7 as the magic number - innings or months of pregnancy.

The relatives took off around noon on Saturday, and we got some work done around the house. Sunday Jim went for a motorcycle ride, and I went to my happy place - the Missouri Botanical Garden. With low humidity and temperatures in the 70's, it could not have been a nicer morning at the garden. As I've said before, we are incredibly blessed to have such a phenomenal institution in our city.
Missouri Botanical Garden

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Busy Times!

Last weekend was quite busy, beginning on Thursday night with the Garden of Glass exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The weather was perfect that evening, with temperatures in the low 70's and a comfortable humidity level. Artist Craig Mitchell Smith created the 24+ glass pieces, nearly all of which are located inside the Climatron. That is a somewhat small space, so I was curious to see how crowded it would be. As it turned out, it really wasn't too bad as they are somewhat controlling the numbers by issuing timed tickets. Ours were for 7:00, which is the earliest you can get in. I think the time slot kept some of the crowds away as there were people waiting in line outside the Climatron when we next walked by around 8:30.

Garden of Glass
The benefit of going early, besides fewer people, is that you still get some sunlight coming into the Climatron. It makes it easier to take photos for sure, since they don't allow tripods inside. The downside is that you don't get to see how the glass looks with full interior lighting on it. I'll take the smaller crowds any day. After we were done inside we had time to walk around the garden a bit, which was nice because it normally isn't open in the evenings. While we enjoyed the exhibit, we both felt that it falls way short of the magnificence of the Chihuly Glass in the Garden back in 2006.

Friday night I attended the world premiere of the movie "I Love You Both" with a girlfriend. It was held at the Tivoli Theatre, which I don't think I have been in since Jim and I saw "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" back when audience members were still allowed to not only dress up, but also go on stage, throw rice and toilet paper, use squirt guns in the theater, and flick their Bics. This new movie was written, directed and starred in by a brother and sister who graduated from a local high school. They recruited their mom to be in the movie as well because "we couldn't find anyone as funny as her." I love that! They stuck around after the show to answer questions, and it was interesting to get an inside look at the process of securing money, filming, and producing a movie on a shoestring.

As far as the movie itself goes, I thought the characters needed a little more development, and that the film drug a little bit. The premise is that one man falls for two people (in this case twins, played by the brother-sister duo) who both are interested in him as well. The problem is that he wasn't around them long enough to fall in love with one, much less both, of them.

Saturday I played in a pickleball round robin that lasted from 12-6. It was outside in a local park, and the temperature reached into the 90's that day. Luckily, there was low humidity and a breeze, so in the shade it wasn't too bad. After that I hurried home to shower and head off to a high school graduation party. Jim was in Kansas City so he wasn't able to attend.

Kirkwood Round Robin
Sunday morning I met a photographer friend in University City to see the Mannequins on the Loop. Different artists compete to win a prize for best dressed mannequin. The materials have to be a recycled product. Such creativity!

Mannequins on the Loop
Then finally I had lunch with a friend who had also been away on a vacation, though hers was to Ireland, a favorite place of mine. We wanted to catch up on our trips. She also wanted to bring me up to date on her new book, which is currently at the publishing company. All of the photos in the book are mine. I can't wait to see it - and read it. Busy weekend, but very rewarding in so many areas.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Epic Vacation Wrap Up

Our return to St. Louis from Auckland went quite smoothly. The flying time from Auckland to Los Angeles was only 12 hours and 25 minutes, which seemed short compared to the 15 and a half hours we flew to get from Los Angeles to Sydney. It was a more difficult flight for me in that we left Auckland at 1:00 in the afternoon, so I wasn't a bit sleepy. The time was passed by watching movies. I will say that flying Business Class on those two long flights was the bees knees, though. It will be hard to fly in coach on overseas trips in the future. Here we are leaving Auckland, still smiling after 30 days of 24/7 togetherness.

American Airlines Business Class
Many people have asked me which country I liked better - Australia or New Zealand? It's a hard call, because the people were so very nice in both countries. But I would say Australia for the wildlife - it's hard to beat seeing kangaroos, parrots and cockatoos out of the windows of your house. New Zealand takes the win for scenery, however. I can't remember a drive where every single turn brought exclamations of, "Wow, look at that!"

Over 3,500 photographs have been downloaded onto my computer, and it is taking a while to sort through them, throwing out the ones that are bad and doing a little correction on the ones that need it. But what a fun way to relive the trip. I can't believe how much we saw, all the things that we did, and the wonderful people we met on this journey. I summarize the adventure by saying that I had really high expectations for this vacation, and they were all exceeded. You can't beat that.

two thumbs up!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rangitoto Island

We bid farewell to Kathy and Paul this morning as they flew to Sydney today in preparation for their flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and then Minneapolis tomorrow morning. After they left, we walked down to the harbour to see all the sailboats. Auckland is known as the "City of Sails" due to its abundance of sailing vessels. It has hosted the America's Cup a couple of times, in fact.

A little after noon we took a ferry to Rangitoto Island. The island was formed by a volcanic eruption around 600 years ago, and now rises 850 feet over the Hauraki Gulf. It is a public reserve managed by the Department of Conservation. There are no permanent residents on Rangitoto, but in the early 20th century a small community lived in baches (simple holiday houses). A few remain today.

We hiked up the path to the summit lookout, which was about an hour's walk uphill. It was challenging due to the incline and the loose rocks. The lady at the ferry terminal told me my walking shoes would be okay, but she lied. I should have gone back to the apartment for my hiking boots which have more support as well as better insulation from the rocks.

The views from the top were great, and we enjoyed the many birds we found on the island. The fact that so much plant material sprouted out of lava is amazing to me. A few things were still blooming despite the fact that it is fall here.

Once back in Auckland we went back to the harbour as there is an industrial area that has been redeveloped into walking paths, shops, restaurants and playgrounds. It was very interesting to check out. By then our feet were killing us, so we came back to the apartment to eat dinner and do laundry. We head for home tomorrow!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Coromandel Peninsula

We rented a car today and drove south and then east to the Coromandel Peninsula. The drive through the Coromandel Forest Park was filled with steep, windy roads. The scenery was quite different than what we had seen in Auckland. We saw Hot Water Beach, where the water was cold. But supposedly if you dig a whole in the sand where the hot springs are located within two hours of low tide, the water that fills the whole can heat to 140-147 degrees! We also visited Hahei Beach and Cooks Beach before beginning the long drive back to Auckland.

Before returning the rental car, we stopped for our last dinner together at Di Mare Cafe & Restaurant where we had an excellent meal. Corbins leave in the morning to fly to Sydney, where they will catch their flight home to Minneapolis on Wednesday. We will have one last day in Auckland before leaving for home from here, also on Wednesday.