Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cataract Surgery Update

This morning was my one week follow up appointment, and this time I actually saw the surgeon who did the procedure. The last appointment was with a doctor I had never met before. My eye pressure dropped from 21 to 16, which is great news. Anything under 20 is good. The left eye measured 13. I can easily read the 20/32 line on the eye chart, but certain letters on the line below that are not crystal clear, specifically the "C" and the "O", which look alike to me.

The bottom line is that I am still slipping on reading glasses more often than I hoped to, though there still should be some continued improvement in the vision in the right eye. Taking all of that into consideration, I opted to go with the enhanced lens in my left eye next week. It makes sense to have a matching set. Dr. Pepose will correct my astigmatism in that eye at the same time. Interestingly, the enhanced lens will be ordered to the specifications to fix the astigmatism in my eye.

eye shield
Overall, everything is looking good with my right eye. I no longer need to wear the plastic shield at night, and I can resume all activities except for swimming. Even pickleball - color me happy! I can also wear eye makeup again, though I will only do that when I'm going out since I still have to put drops in three times a day. Of course next Wednesday I begin the whole process over again, but for a week I'm footloose and fancy free.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Postmortem on the Cataract Surgery

While it might seem odd to have the word postmortem in my blog title, since the usual definition means an examination following death, people have come to use postmortem to refer to any examination or discussion that takes place after an event. As my natural lens has been removed and tossed away, I think postmortem works in this context.

My first cataract surgery took place on Wednesday. Beginning on Monday, I had three eye drops to put into my eye, three times a day, including one of each in the eye before heading out for surgery. There was to be no food or drink after I went to bed Tuesday night. We were told to arrive at the surgical center at 7:30, where I completed enough paperwork to apply to a PhD program. As I was instructed to bring nothing with me except for my ID and insurance card, I didn't even have my reading glasses with me for assistance. But I could clearly see the young woman in the waiting area scarfing down a bag of potato chips. My stomach gave a disgruntled rumble.

About 15 minutes after arrival I was taken back to a surgical waiting area where I was told to lie down on a gurney. You get to leave on your street clothes, so that's a bonus. Two other beds were already occupied with patients, which gave me some sense of my wait time. My vitals were taken and I had to give my height and weight (ugh!) for the anesthesia, I presume. Multiple eye drops were placed in the right eye in preparation for surgery.

I was nice and toasty under a warm-from-the-dryer blanket when the anesthesiologist came to talk to me. I'll admit that I did not realize ahead of time that anesthesia would be administered. When I had my LASIK done 14 years ago, I was given a "happy pill" while sitting in a recliner in a dimmed room to relax me before walking into the surgical room. When the technician talked to me at my last appointment, all she said is that I would be given "better stuff" than what I had gotten previously. I assumed (my bad) that it would be a stronger pill.

About 8:20 the nurse came to administer the anesthesia. It was in liquid form, shot under my tongue with a needle-less syringe, where I was told to hold it for 60 seconds before swallowing. As the first thing I had to drink in 11 hours, let's just say it didn't taste like Kool-Aid and leave it at that. At no time did I ever feel the effects of whatever they gave me - before, during or after surgery - so I'm not sure exactly what it was supposed to do for me. It certainly didn't relax me like the LASIK pill did.

It was 8:42 when the nurse wheeled me into the surgical room. That was not a moment too soon as the man who was waiting in the bed next to me was just starting to tell the nurse about the online video he had watched on cataract surgery. Some things I just don't want to know ahead of time. More numbing drops were placed in my eye, and then a white plastic sheeting was placed over my face. They told me that they were blowing oxygen under it so I could breathe. A hole was cut in the sheet over the right eye, and a clamp was placed on the eye so that I couldn't blink.

When the light was maneuvered overhead, the doctor told me to stare at the light. There were three glowing orbs, and he said I could look at any of the three. Then he began the surgery. I can't say that I felt any pain, only pressure. But I was braced for the pain as I have a weak (or is it strong?) tolerance for anesthesia. Often during my skin cancer removals I will have to stop the doctor as I can feel him cutting. During dental procedures I usually need an extra shot. And I felt them removing the most recent breast biopsy. Ouch! But this time there was no pain, thank goodness. I just wanted it to be over with, as it is rather scary to think about what the doctor is doing.

rocking the pirate look
The procedure took about 15 minutes, then the draping was removed, more drops put in my eye, and I got a sexy eye shield to wear. I was wheeled to a the recovery ward, where I was rewarded with orange juice and pretzels before being helped into a wheelchair for dismissal. Jim brought the car around to the front, and we were off.

For the first day I was to leave the shield on, raising it only to add eye drops. I could watch t.v. but there was to be no reading or computer time. I had minimal discomfort in the eye, only a headache which a couple of Tylenol fixed. Yesterday Jim had to drive me back to Pepose Vision for my first follow up. They said the eye was healing nicely, though my pressure is a smidge high. Fortunately it was not so high as to necessitate additional eye drops. The shield now only has to be worn at night and if I take a nap. But I have to use these eye drops for 42 days! And that is just for this eye.

For the first week, there is no lifting over 20 pounds, no strenuous exercise (no pickleball!) and no bending over. You don't realize how often you do that until you are told you can't. I'm getting really creative in how I get things that are down low. My hair looks like crap as I always bend over to fluff it each morning. I also cannot wear eye makeup, which is a big deal to me. I feel naked without my eyes done.

It will be worth it in the end though. I can already see better with the right eye than I see with the left, and my vision should continue to improve in the surgical eye. The one thing that I've noticed the most is that the surgical eye sees everything much brighter. It is so obvious since the left eye has not been done yet. Although people had told me that would be the case, I wasn't expecting it to be very drastic for me since my cataracts were still in the early stages of development. It's amazing, for sure.

On Tuesday I will drive myself to the last follow up appointment for this eye, and hopefully get the news that I can resume all my activities. Especially pickleball. At least until May 30th when I get the second eye done, and start the process all over again.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Easy Come, Easy Go

We had relatives in town for the past couple of days. While the guys headed downtown to a Cardinals game Monday night, the ladies were able to dine al fresco at a local Mexican restaurant. Tuesday's weather was perfect, and I tried to take them to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Everyone had the same idea, and we couldn't even get into the parking lot. Thinking I would show them the Old Cathedral, and the new Arch grounds next to it, I drove downtown. But I was forgetting that there was an 12:25 ballgame. Cathedral parking was $15, and there were no spots in the lot at any rate. I was finally able to maneuver our way out of the downtown gridlock, and I took them to Forest Park instead.

Boathouse at Forest Park
Though it was a long shot, I thought we might try to eat lunch at the Boathouse. It has just reopened for the season, and is under new management. I dropped them off to see how long it would be to get a table outside, and then miraculously a parking spot opened up. Taking that as a good sign, I quickly pulled into the spot. After a 30 minute wait, we had a delightful lunch by the lake.

Following lunch we spent some time at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, which is where Jim finally caught up with us as he had a meeting he could not reschedule. From there we grabbed some steaks at a local butcher, and the evening was spent sitting outside on the deck enjoying the nice weather. Our company headed out to their next destination early Wednesday.

Today I ran to the Missouri Botanical Garden for a couple of hours, arriving just as they opened. The temperature was still moderate this morning, but the next few days are supposed to hit around 90 degrees. I figured this would be the last opportunity to see the tulips, azaleas and other spring flowers before the heat takes care of them. So much for spring...
Missouri Botanical Garden

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Shine on, St. Louis!

St. Louis Arch
The redevelopment of the Arch grounds has been going on for quite some time - years, in fact. It was supposed to be completed by the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Arch, which was to be celebrated October 28, 2015. Oops...But great progress has been made, and the area looks really good right now. Pedestrian access is much improved, with people able to enter the park without having to cross multiple lanes of traffic. The museum is not yet open, with the latest prediction stating that it will be ready for visitors "in the summer of 2018".

Jim and I went downtown Saturday morning to check things out. We began at Citygarden, a lovely small park that opened in 2009. With its water features, it is packed with families in the summer looking for a spot to cool off during the intense heat that is prevalent here.

Citygarden
statue depicting Harry Kiener
Next we walked to Kiener Plaza. Dedicated in 1962, the park was named after Harry Kiener, a local amateur boxer, wrestler and swimmer who also was part of the U.S. track team at the Olympics held in St. Louis in 1904. The plaza recently underwent extensive renovations, and reopened in May of 2017. The new design is wildly successful, and includes a children's playground. There must have been 75 people taking part in a yoga class Saturday morning.

From there we headed to the Arch, stopping to admire the wonderful gardens that serve as the front yard to the old courthouse. It was great to see so many people out and about in the city, especially considering that it is not yet summer and no Cardinals game was being played. St. Louis gets such a bad rap in the media due to the way the crime statistics are tabulated. It makes me happy to see people enjoying the beautiful amenities our city has to offer. Shine on, St. Louis!

St. Louis City

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Spring Beauty

Tuesday I played in a pickleball tournament at a local recreation center. My partner Tish and I had never played in a tournament together and, in fact, don't even play at the same locations very often. It is a huge benefit to have the same partner in tournaments as you get used to how the other person plays and can get in sync with each other. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a shot. I did at least meet her Sunday afternoon at the center where the tournament was being held so that I could get a feel for the playing surface. They have a sport court as their gym floor, and it is quite different from the wooden floors I am used to playing on. I really liked it as there is no glare and with a softer surface, it is easier on the feet and legs. But the ball definitely plays different on that kind of surface.

Tish & me
On Tuesday we arrived early at the center to warm up. It was not a huge tournament, and we ended up playing six games. One was against a team ranked lower than us, and two were against teams ranked higher than us, so those three games did not end up counting in the standings. We beat all three teams that were at our level, so we ended up getting gold medals. One of these other teams had taken gold at the last two tournaments held at this center, so that made us feel particularly good about our play. It was a fun time!

Though my legs were quite tired from all the pickleball the day before, yesterday I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden to see what was in bloom. Things change so rapidly there this time of year that you almost need to go once a week to check it out. I took my crystal ball along as I wanted to play around with it. I hadn't been in the garden more than 15 minutes when a couple of Asian women stopped to see what I was doing. They asked if they could take some shots through the ball, and they had a blast working with it.

crystal ball photography
Along the way several children came over to see what I was doing, and it was fun to show them how the thing you are looking at appears upside down in the ball. But then another strange thing happened. Two Mideastern women dressed in traditional abayas and hijabs stopped me along one of the paths. They did not speak English, and one was gesturing with her phone. Assuming that she was wanting me to take their picture together, I reached for the phone. The woman quickly pulled it back, and they both began to speak and move their hands. I finally realized that one of the women wanted a picture of herself with me, which the other woman took with the phone. That reminded me of the time Jim and I went to Redwoods National Forest with Andy when he was about 11 months old. A huge bus filled with Asian tourists pulled into the parking lot where we were standing. One of them ran over, snatched Andy out of my arms, and proceeded to hold him in their group photo. It happened so fast that we were stunned, and he was screaming his head off!

Missouri Botanical Garden
The garden was quite busy, especially as I counted three school groups wandering through. It was a pretty day, party cloudy with the temperature around 70. I think everyone was so tired of winter that they welcomed a day outside with the beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs. Before I go next time, maybe I should consult my crystal ball to see how crowded it will be. Ha!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away

wild horses of Shannon County
Friday afternoon, while a bit cloudy, was warm enough for us to eat lunch outside at the Creekside Grill in Echo Bluff State Park. But it began to rain shortly after we checked into our cabin at Riverside, which was actually located quite a distance from the motel - far enough that we drove to get to it. And the five cabins were, oddly enough, on a gravel rode stuck in amongst cabins owned by other establishments. We had been advised that we were the only ones using the Riverside cabins Friday night.

Riverside cabins
We threw our stuff into the cabin, and then sat out on our patio to watch the river flow by. It was very peaceful - then. As it was raining more heavily, we drove back to the motel shortly before 7:00 to meet up with the other photographers who were participating in the workshop. There were only four of us, plus the instructor, which was great. The instructor went over settings on our cameras that would be most conducive to photographing moving horses, as well as safety instructions to being around these wild animals. Then we were advised to meet in the parking lot at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday.

But some excitement was in store before our 5:30 wakeup alarm. Around 9:00 the storm began in earnest, with high winds, lightning, thunder and torrential rains. We had no cell service in the area, and particularly none at the cabin. The motel's wifi didn't even work there. Next the tornado sirens went off, so I quickly put on the television to find a weather report. There were tornado cells to the southwest of Eminence, tracking to the northeast.  In other words, heading our way. Additionally, flash flood warnings had been issued for our town. As we were contemplating where exactly we should go to be safe, the satellite went out! We had no basement, of course, and no bathtub to climb into. We were in a small cabin, after all. We didn't know if it was safe to leave in our car, or if the town of 600 some people even had a storm shelter.

I relaxed a little when the tornado sirens ended, though in the pitch black I had no idea how quickly the nearby river was rising. But the sirens went off a second time, and I could only hope that the owners of the resort or the town sheriff would check on us if the river threatened to carry the cabin away. Needless to say, very little sleep was to be had that night between the stress and continued booms of thunder, and we were both awake before 5:00. At that point it was still too dark to see how much the river had risen during the night, but it wasn't coming in under the back door of the cabin so that was encouraging.

We gathered with our group a little before 6:00, and while the day was pretty gray the rain had fizzled out to a light mist. We loaded up in two cars and went to the first field to see if any horses were around. There was no chance of sunrise shots with the herd of three that we found, and the lighting conditions made taking pictures a bit of a challenge. As the day progressed the light improved somewhat. We spent an hour or so at this location before driving to a second field where around a dozen horses were hanging out.

small herd of wild horses
I should mention that the instructor has a way of communicating the the lead mare of each of the herds. She would enter the field by herself at first, and once she established that the leader was okay with us being there, we could follow her into the space. It was quite something to see. The second herd less skittish than the first, so we spent quite a bit of time with them both in the field and then in the woods nearby.

We went for a late breakfast, then headed to our respective rooms to rest up a bit. We were pleased to see the river was nowhere near our cabin, and we settled in to look at our morning pictures as we were to each bring several to the instructor's room at 2:00. When the group reconvened we reviewed photos, and were given suggestions on other things to try when we went back out at 5:00 to try for some sunset photos. While the sun did peek out for a bit late that afternoon, there was no sunset. All the rains from the last 24 hours did create a pop up pond in the field, though, and that made for some great reflection photos.

larger herd of wild horses
Saturday night we had dinner together at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the motel, and turned in early as we were all exhausted. Sunday morning we met at 6:00 for one last photo shoot. Again, there was no sun and in fact we had some rain during the morning. The temperature was only 37 - what a contrast from Saturday morning when it was 60 as we started out early in the morning! But we found both herds again, and got some great pictures. Then we had one last breakfast as a group before everyone took off for home.

I think Jim summed it up best when he said to everyone, "Best Christmas present I have ever given my wife!"

crystal ball horse photo

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Horsing Around in Shannon County

Wild horses of Shannon County
Last weekend we photographed the wild horses in Shannon County, Missouri. But I almost didn't get to go. Wednesday afternoon I was working away on the computer when it seemed that my left eye was not focusing correctly. When Jim and I went for a walk that night, I noticed that it had gotten worse, and I was seeing a blob out of the left eye. It was moving like a floater, but it was rather large and shaped like a vertically squished circle. But then I saw some white flashes like lightning on the left side of the eye, and that was very disconcerting.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology website lists these things as possible indicators of a torn or detached retina. It further warns that if prompt attention isn't paid to the eye, blindness can occur. Well, that certainly sounded scary. The next morning I called my ophthalmology practice and explained what was going on. They agreed I should have it looked at, and scheduled me with the retina specialist at 12:40. I skipped my morning pickleball just to be on the safe side. After thorough testing, the retina doctor said she could see what I was referring to, but my eye pressure was good and there were no signs of any tear or detachment. She explained it was just a big old floater, and that each eye will most likely have something like this. The average age is 67 when it occurs, but she added that nearsighted people get them earlier. In 85% of the cases they disappear on their own. If I am one of the unlucky 15%, I can decide if I want to live with it or have it removed by laser surgery. Unfortunately it cannot be removed when I have the cataract surgery done. So, bottom line was good news and a clearance to make the drive to Shannon County the next day.

For Christmas Jim had given me a gift certificate to attend a workshop about photographing the wild horses in Shannon County, Missouri that was offered through the Academy of Nature and Wildlife Arts. As background on the horses, it is believed that the herd formed after residents left their livestock behind during the great depression. Though there was an effort by federal officials to remove the horses in the 1990s, local protesters intervened and petitioned the National Park Service office in Shannon County. Legislation was passed to protect the animals, with the condition that the herd remain at 50 horses. When the number grows, the Missouri Wild Horse League rounds up some of the younger stallions, who are tamed and then adopted by local farmers. The herd roams free on land located in the Mark Twain National Forest.

Echo Bluff State Park
On the way to Eminence, where our base would be for the weekend, we stopped at Echo Bluff State Park. A project of SWT Design, I had heard about the park for years and had seen many pictures of it during and after construction. But I had not yet seen it in person. Missouri's newest state park opened in 2016, so everything is still pretty new and sparkly. It will take time for the added vegetation to mature, but in terms of camping or glamping, the park has something for everyone. Tent campers will find themselves on wooden platforms, the campers and RVs are on a nice concrete pad with good facilities nearby, the main lodge offers rooms and a restaurant, and cabins built for singles and large families are also offered. The lodge is located near the echoing river bluffs, from whence the park got its name. The park has been so popular that reservations need to be made a year in advance for weekends or any day during the summer. It has also become a wedding destination, which was not something that was anticipated. It is a wonderful park, and I appreciate how they kept several of the old structures from when the property was Camp Zoe.

Following lunch at the lodge, we got back on windy, hilly, narrow Highway 19 and made our way to Alley Spring. Located in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri's 7th largest spring discharges 81 million gallons of water each day. The grain mill at the site was constructed in 1893, replacing an earlier mill that had been built in 1868. It was a wheel-less mill, operating instead on a turbine system. The mill closed in 1918. It has been preserved by the National Park Service, along with a one-room schoolhouse that is located nearby.
Alley Spring
By late afternoon we made our way into Eminence and checked into the Riverside Properties. Located on the Jack's Fork River, the choice of accommodations includes the motel or cabins. Some cabins are located along the river while others are across Highway 19 from the motel. We could have stayed anywhere around Eminence, but the workshop instructor had a room at Riverside and would be having meetings with the group there. We opted for one of the cabins along the river so we could have some cooking facilities and the ambience of the river out back. The cabins went under water when the river flooded last year, so they were touted to be recently renovated. The decision to stay in the cabins ended up to be a cause for concern that evening when turbulent weather rolled into the area.
Riverside cabins along the river
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Has Spring Finally Arrived?

tulips
The weather has been so goofy, with above average cloud cover and rain, and below average temperatures. And not just in our area, but across many parts of the U.S. We are all just sick of it. I can take the cooler temperatures, but bring on the sun for crying out loud! If I wanted clouds and rain, I'd live in Seattle.

Today brought sunshine and temperatures finally in the 70s. It won't last for long as they are calling for rain on Saturday and a high of 42 on Sunday. I decided to make a break for it and headed to the Missouri Botanical Garden. I arrived shortly after 9, and there were not too many people in the garden yet. Many of the magnolia trees and bushes were impacted by the cold temperatures, so they were not very pretty. But the spring bulb plants were up and showing off their colorful little faces.

It was a treat to be able to walk through the garden without a coat, stopping to take as many pictures as I desired without having anyone grumble about how long I was taking to get the shot I was after. The garden will be in much better display in a couple of weeks, but for today it was a perfect way to get me out of the elongated winter doldrums.

Missouri Botanical Gardem

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Hip Hop Hamilton

Hamilton
Unless you have been living off-planet, you have probably heard of the musical Hamilton. It received a record number of Tony nominations in 2016, winning 11 of the 16 awards for which it was nominated. The Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album also went to Hamilton in 2016. Despite all of that hype, I knew little of the play other than the fact that it depicted the life of Alexander Hamilton. I never listened to the music as I was told it was "all rap and you won't like it."

As season ticket subscribers to the Fox Theatre, Hamilton was part of our series of shows for 2017-2018. For the first time ever, as subscribers we were not allowed to purchase any additional tickets for a play before tickets went on sale to the general public. For all other shows, we can pick up extra tickets if we want. We were not sure if we even wanted to see Hamilton, especially after we saw the tickets in the same row as ours listed on StubHub for $1,500 each. Wow! More than ten times the purchase price as we don't pay the listed price on the tickets as subscribers. I have to admit, we were tempted to put our tickets up as well. I am so grateful we did not do it.

Hamilton set
Someone suggested to us that we listen to the soundtrack of the show first, so I borrowed it from the library. That was a game-changer, for a number of reasons. First of all, we LOVED the music, even the hip hop and rap. Second, there is a lot going on with the music, and sometimes it was difficult to  understand what was being said. Having the lyrics printed out so we could follow along helped immensely. Finally, listening to the music a few times before seeing the show made it easier for us to follow along. Plus we could pay attention to the other actors on stage, the costumes, the choreography and the lighting since we didn't have to concentrate so much on the words.

Our tickets were for last night, and we knew there would be a crush of people jockeying for parking and entering the theater. We went early and easily found a parking spot on the street before heading to the Triumph Grill for an early dinner before the show. From the restaurant it's an easy walk to the Fox Theatre, where there was quite a crowd at the doors. The Fox recently added body scans with a wand to the purse checks, so it takes awhile to get people in. I think that is the only show we have attended at the Fox that was 100% sold out.

The energy in the theater was so different than we have ever experienced. Expectations were high, and the actors did not let the audience down. The crowd responded in kind, cheering, clapping and whistling after each song was completed. Everything about the musical was exceptional, and it was without a doubt the best show I have ever seen. Before the last note ended, the entire house was on its feet.

I'm so happy I didn't throw away my shot to see Hamilton.

Monday, March 26, 2018

March Showers Bring May Flowers?

March has been unusually gloomy this year. I haven't been able to locate a chart that says how many days of cloud cover we have had, but so far 16 of the 26 days this month have had rain. My response to that is, "If I wanted to live in Seattle, I would live in Seattle!" I am definitely one of those people who need light. I would not go so far as to say I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I would definitely take a cold, sunny day over a warmer, cloudy day. It especially bothers me when I cannot go out and shoot photographs, something I hadn't been able to accomplish since going to Cabo.

But yesterday, despite the cool, cloudy day, I drove with Jim and another photographer friend to Perryville, Missouri to attend an event at one of the projects Jim has been working on. Along the way I made them stop at a couple of oddities I had read about on the website Roadside America. I have written about this site before, but in essence it is a documentation of weird or unusual things you can find while driving around America. Since there is nothing too exciting about spending a bunch of time in the car, you might as well stop and see some fun things along the way, right?

For purposes of this trip, I found two stops that seemed worthy of our time. The guys might disagree, but hey... First up was the life-size Pink Elephant. Once part of the Pink Elephant Batting Cage and Mini Golf, the recreation center closed but the elephant remained. Later a gas station was built on the lot on Missouri Highway 141 in Fenton. A martini glass was added to the elephant, but someone broke it off, so the elephant's trunk is oddly wrapped around a metal rod.
Pink Elephant
15 foot bowling pin
We continued south on 141 until we reached southbound I-55. Next on the list was a stop in Imperial to see a bowling pin that stand 15' tall. Easily seen from the interstate, the pin is located appropriately next to the Imperial Bowl bowling alley. The place was hopping on a Sunday morning! Lenten services at the lanes?

After another hour on I-55 we arrived at our destination in Perryville. Missouri's National Veterans Memorial is a new 46-acre site encouraging veterans, families and citizens to gather and pay tribute to our service men and women. The heart of the development is a built-to-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Attendees at yesterday's Mark of Remembrance were encouraged to write a message on the concrete wall before the granite panels are placed. The messages were very moving, and I was thankful I had a tissue on me. To see all the veterans gathered in one spot was amazing. This project is funded all by donations, so it will take time before it is completed. The master plan, created by SWT Design, contains walking trails, a reflection pool, an amphitheater, burial areas and gathering spaces, among other things. What an amazing thank you for the vets!

In meeting with the volunteers and those who are working on this project, you couldn't help but be touched by their passion and enthusiasm. It will take a lot of time, energy and money to accomplish the whole plan, but I have no doubt they are up to the challenge. Judging by the hundreds of people who came for the Mark of Remembrance event yesterday, I think they will have a lot of support. Considering the weather, it was amazing to see the number of veterans who arrived on their motorcycles. I can only image the turnout they will have on Memorial Day.

Missouri's National Veterans Memorial

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Eyes Have It

My annual eye exam was in January, and I anticipated that the test would reveal what I already knew - my eyesight was worse than the previous year. Though I had passed the driver's license cursory eye exam in October, I know that I am slipping my reading glasses on more frequently. Still, I was unprepared for the ophthalmologist to suggest a prescription for glasses. Huh? I had LASIK done on both eyes in 2004 to eliminate the need for glasses or contacts. I was expecting the doctor to suggest a "tweak" of my previous surgery, not offer up glasses.

When I told him I would like to discuss an enhancement, he explained that he would need to do a more in-depth test for cataracts before we could consider that. If cataracts are present, then LASIK is not a choice. Instead, the option is cataract surgery. As my mom, dad and sister all had cataracts, I knew it was a matter of time before they showed up on my eyes. And sure enough, the additional test revealed the beginnings of cataracts. On the plus side, insurance covers basic cataract surgery, while LASIK is considered an elective procedure.

Before it could be determined if my cataracts were far enough along, additional tests needed to be run. I had a two hour appointment this morning, which entailed multiple tests on my eyes, a discussion with the doctor after he performed an eye exam, a followup test as the optic nerve in one eye was a little enlarged and they wanted to rule out any problems, and then a meeting with the scheduling department.

The bottom line is that I am approved by the insurance company to have surgery on both eyes, and the optic nerve issue is one they believe I was born with and nothing to worry about. The biggest consideration is what type of lens I want to have placed during surgery. Insurance will cover just the minimum lenses, which most likely means needing glasses the rest of my life. They also will not cover the correction for the astigmatism in my left eye, which seems stupid but there you have it.

The next step up in lenses would be similar to what I had done with the LASIK surgery. One eye was corrected for distance, and one for nearness. That has served me well for the past 14 years, with the exception of using reading glasses in low light and with small print. The doctor is concerned, however, because of the fact that I am a writer and a photographer, the lenses might cause problems for me in one area or the other. It is not an exact science, and while it worked well following my previous surgery, those were my own lenses he was working with and not man-made ones.

The final option is using extended depth of focus lenses. Relatively new on the market in the United States, the lens provides improved near and intermediate visual acuity while maintaining comparable distance visual acuity. Sort of like what our eyes were like when we were young, I suppose. As you might imagine, because they are state of the art they are very pricey.

If I was quite a bit younger, the pricier lenses would be a no-brainer. If I was quite a bit older, going the basic route would be a no-brainer. But here I am, stuck in the middle... When Jim gets home tonight we will discuss the pros and cons of the options, along with the associated costs. Although I met with scheduling today, I cannot set up the first eye surgery until a lens decision has been made. The second surgery will take place two weeks after the first, as they want one eye healed before they work on the second. Following surgery, there is no lifting or vigorous exercise for a week. Weeks without pickleball?

Eye, caramba!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Vacation Was All We Ever Wanted

Some friends from college invited us to join them at the Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach (PBSB) in Cabo San Lucas last week. They and a couple other family members own time shares at the resort. We have been to Cabo only one other time, and that was a day stop on a cruise of the Mexican Riviera that we took a couple years ago. As we went on a snorkeling excursion at that time, we saw little of Cabo other than the marina.

To be fair, PBSB is not actually in Cabo, but is instead perched on the side of a hill west of town on the Pacific Ocean, about a 20 minute cab ride from the center of Cabo. We flew early February 27th to Phoenix, and from there to Los Cabos International Airport in San Jose del Cabo. The airport is about 30 minutes north of Cabo. Everything went smoothly, and we waited at one of the bars outside the terminal for our friends to arrive. Their flight was scheduled to land an hour after ours, so that gave us time for our first margarita.
San Jose del Cabo Airport, Mexico
The taxi ride to the resort took about an hour, and we arrived early enough in the afternoon to see the sweeping views of the ocean and the lush landscaping on the immense property. It is absolutely gorgeous! We were both put in rooms in building 26, us on the fifth floor and them on the sixth. Our friend's dad and his wife were already there, and they were on the second floor of our building. We had easy access to the pool outside our building, and though the walk to the lobby, market and restaurants was all up hill, it was doable. Golf carts were always available if you were going farther or just didn't want to walk.

Our room was huge with a galley kitchen and a lovely balcony. All rooms face the ocean, so you are guaranteed a view. It was one of the nicest rooms we have ever stayed in. We did not select the all inclusive package, but it is offered. We wanted the flexibility to be able to eat in town or on the road. With several restaurants and a market, there is no need to leave the resort if one doesn't want to, however. Though the resort has a beach and is on the Pacific, there is absolutely no swimming in the ocean. The riptides there are very dangerous, and the water drops off quickly. While that meant whales would come swimming very close to shore, and boats hovered close for fishing, it was a bit of a bummer not to be able to enter the water and snorkel or swim.
Pueblo Bonito at Sunset Beach
The day of our arrival we hung around the pool for awhile before having dinner at the resort. The next morning we walked up to the market for breakfast, then explored the resort for a bit before heading to the pool. The water was a bit too cool for me, so I enjoyed reading my book under an umbrella. Later we took a shuttle to the Pueblo Bonito Rose resort, which was also beautiful. From there we could walk on Medano Beach to the more touristy area of Cabo. We found a fun restaurant called The Office, where you can have your feet buried in the sand while you dine under their blue umbrellas. When we were finished we grabbed a cab and had the driver wait for us while we picked up provisions at a massive grocery store.
Medano Beach, Cabo
By Thursday I had connected with a man I met online (and doesn't that just sound wrong!), and Jim and I joined two couples for a few pickleball games. They were way out of our league, but were very kind in letting us play with them. The couple from San Diego was leaving the next day, but the couple from Seattle was staying until Monday, so we managed to play with them two additional times. It was so great, and we appreciated their gentle instruction on how to improve our games.

That night we took a cab into San Jose del Cabo for an Art Walk. It was colorful and fun, with many galleries open and serving wine and traditional music and dance going on in the town square. Our driver took us to a favorite restaurant of his for dinner, and we had a great evening.

Friday was Jim's birthday, and we celebrated at the resort as we could not get reservations for a sunset catamaran cruise until the following night. We played pickleball in the morning, and hung around the pool in the afternoon. While the temperature was in the 70's the whole time we were there, the pool water did not warm up enough for me to get in until Friday. It was very pleasant from then on.

We had dinner at The Bistro on site, sitting outside at a lovely table overlooking the ocean. While it was dark and we couldn't see the water, it was lovely to hear the waves crashing down below us. The wait staff brought Jim a piece of celebratory cheesecake, and sang happy birthday to him. He was only missing a sombrero. Ha!

Saturday we finally made the trek down to the beach. The sand is not as fine as Jamaica, and I found myself being thankful I had my flip flops on to protect my feet. In all fairness, I'm not sure what the sand was like before the hurricane took away the beach several years ago. They had to replace the beaches in the area. From there we made our way to the pool before getting ready for yet another cab ride into Cabo. Once we arrived at the marina we had some time to kill while waiting in line for the sunset cruise, so Jim and I walked the boardwalk to get some pictures.
Marina Cabo San Lucas
The cruise itself was very fun, with drinks and snacks served on board. We saw an amazing show put on by a couple of whales, who seemed to think it was their job to provide entertainment for the boats. I've never seen them so active. The sunset somehow seemed anticlimactic, but it was beautiful as well.
sunset catamaran cruise
We began Sunday with a light breakfast followed by an hour and a half of pickleball. The rest of the day was spent around the resort. Late in the afternoon we all took a cab into Cabo to have dinner at a nice restaurant called Alexanders. We were celebrating the birthday of our friend's dad.

Monday was our last full day, and we took a private tour vehicle that our friends had used before. Our driver Daniel picked us up at the resort, and took us first to a glass blowing factory in Cabo so we could watch the artisans work.
Glass Factory
From there we headed north along the coast, with our final destination being Todos Santos. Along the way we found the Blanket Factory, where blankets, rugs and other items are woven on site. The colors are just magnificent!
Blanket Factory
Our next stop was at Playa Los Cerritos, a well-known surf spot south of Todos Santos. It was fun to watch the surfers trying to catch a wave, though I suspect the surf was pretty tame the day we visited.
Playa Los Cerritos
Finally we arrived at Todos Santos, an artsy community on the Pacific Ocean. The driver gave us a tour of the town, and then we stopped at the Tequila Sunrise restaurant for a late lunch. As we had to wait for a table, we popped across the street to visit the Hotel California. While it is actually not the inspiration for the song of the same name by the Eagles, it was still an interesting place to explore. Jim and I thought our meal at the Tequila Sunrise was the best we had in Mexico, with the exception of the steak and lobster dinner at Alexanders in Cabo.
Todos Santos
After lunch we headed back to our resort. All in all, it was a fabulous day and we appreciated being able to see a little more of Mexico than the touristy spots we had been to so far.

Tuesday was our travel day, and we got a shuttle back to the airport at 10:20. We arrived with enough time to catch an earlier flight back to Phoenix. As we originally had a short one hour window in which to go through customs and catch our next flight, we appreciated having the additional time in Phoenix.

And so the sun sets on another wonderful vacation. Adios, Mexico!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Don't Stop Believin'

We were invited to the see the Rock Pack at the Family Arena last Friday night. I've heard of the Rat Pack, but the Rock Pack? Time for Google. The show bills itself as "a unique concert experience featuring the greatest classic rock singers of all times". Apparently there is a rotating cast of "iconic" singers. For the St. Charles show, the group consisted of Lou Gramm from Foreigner, John Payne from Asia, Kelly Keagy from Night Ranger, and Steve Augeri from Journey. So I could take a Journey to Asia dressed as Night Ranger, but would probably be considered a Foreigner. Bah!

Rock Pack
Invited through a friend of a friend, we had the VIP experience, with free parking, food and drinks in a nicely-located suite. There were only eight of us, so that provided an opportunity to get to know the others. It was my first time in a suite at the Arena, as well as my first concert in the venue.

We had a blast! Listening to the music from the 70s and 80s, you couldn't help but think back on where you were and what you were doing when the songs were hits. In some cases we weren't even married yet but still living the college high life, and in many others we had not yet started our family. I love how music can easily transport you to a different time. It was a great evening, all the way around.

Another first for us this weekend was trying the Shake Shack. This chain was started in 2004 by St. Louis native Daniel Meyer, but it took him until November of 2017 to open a location here. The restaurant has been hopping since day one. Many people reported standing in line outside for an hour. As no food is worth that to us, especially in the dead of winter, we went in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. There was a short line inside, but it moved quickly. They have an app you can download, so you can order and pay for your food through the app, and set up a pick up time. That way you can avoid the line altogether. I downloaded the app but didn't use it on Sunday since we were going at on off time. If there had been a line outside, I would have ordered from the car through the app.

All the employees were very friendly, and they keep the dining area neat. We each got the single ShackBurger and a shake - chocolate for Jim and Salted Caramel for me - and we split an order of fries. The burgers are like Steak'nShakes, but with better buns. The shakes are like the ones at Crown Candy Kitchen, but much smaller. The frozen custard is supposedly like Ted Drewe's, but we didn't try any. We thought the burgers and shakes were great, but the fries were pretty ordinary. We'll skip those next time. The bill came to around $25, so they are on the pricier side for St. Louis. Because the restaurant is located in the Central West End, you have to pay to park as well, though we found a free meter since it was Sunday. There is no drive-thru, so between the cost of the food and parking, that could make your evening of dining out pretty expensive.
Shake Shack

Friday, February 9, 2018

Shooting the Breeze

Audubon Center at Riverlands
Last weekend was somewhat gray, cold and windy as has been the case January heading into February. On Saturday a photographer friend joined Jim and me as we set out to go hunting (with our cameras) for eagles along Illinois Route 100. We stopped first at the Audubon Center at Riverlands, a wintering spot for a number of migratory birds. While we saw a few, it was nothing like the number of birds I had seen back in December.

We continued on our journey north through Alton. Normally teeming with traffic this time of year, the Great River Road was relatively empty - and so were the trees. Of leaves and birds. For a change of pace, we took the Brussels Ferry across the Illinois River to Brussels. After leaving the ferry, we spied what appeared to be a large gathering of birds. Driving down a gravel road to get closer, were we ever surprised! It was a decoy spread. What the flock?
decoys
In Brussels we found several interesting buildings to photograph. The first was a barn just as you entered town. The second one was an abandoned "duplex", and the third a barn quilt. It is always a good day for me when I find a new barn quilt!

Brussels, Illinois
Following lunch at a local dive in Brussels (not a good choice, unfortunately) we decided to change up the scenery by taking a different ferry back home. I found a couple things to photograph while waiting for the ferry to return to our side of the Mississippi River.
Mississippi River
Alas, for all our driving there was not an eagle in sight. Well, except for this one - ha!
Golden Eagle Ferry

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Boob Redo

Yesterday morning I had the repeat right breast core biopsy done. This time I went to the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University. What a class act, all the way around! The staff, particularly in the treatment room, were exceptional friendly and kind. I had asked the radiologist to show me the film that was taken three weeks ago at the other hospital, and she pointed out the marker that had been left in. She then showed me where the architectural distortion is located, and that marker was nowhere near the distortion. I could see why that had all the radiologists and the breast surgeon concerned.

Unlike the first biopsy in July in which the radiologist was guided by an ultrasound, this time I laid face down on a table with my breast dropping through a square opening in the table. From there the breast was compressed in a 3D mammography machine while the doctors and technician made sure they were getting the correct spot. It felt like the skin from my neck was getting sucked down into the hole as they tightened the machine.

Then the injections were given to numb the breast, and the probe was inserted like last time. Unlike last time, however, I felt it. Ouch! They quickly administered more medicine, and I only felt pressure after that. In the previous biopsy a ceramic marker was left to mark where the tissue had been removed. The doctor had stayed away from a metal marker due to some allergies that I have with pierced earrings. Yesterday they placed a titanium marker as that is all they ever use, and it has a low rate of reaction. It is what is used in knee and hip replacements, so I guess I might as well find out now if I am going to react to it. They said I'll make the medical journals if it ends up being a problem for me. 🎶I am titanium...🎶

ice pack and cover
Adhesives also bother me, so they decided to try putting a liquid bandage over the small hole made by the probe. It should stay on for five or so days, and so far I am not reacting to it. I'm a little sore today, but keeping ahead of things with Tylenol and the cute ice pack they sent home with me home made a huge difference, I think.

When we left I was told that it would probably be Friday before I got the results of the biopsy back. But late this afternoon the breast surgeon called with the great news that the tissue came back benign! She added that we are officially not worrying about this spot any more, and I don't have to have a mammogram for twelve months. I'll need to follow up with my primary care doctor about that, though, as the other breast is due for a mammogram in June. As Scarlett would say, I'll worry about that tomorrow. Tonight I will sleep much easier.