Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fall Photo Shoot

Fall finally arrived in our area, so last Saturday Jim and I along with another photographer friend went out to shoot some fall color. We started at Forest Park, intending to drive through looking for inspiration. What we didn't know was that there was a huge run taking place that morning. Parking and traffic were quite a mess, but we finally found a spot near our intended location at the Muny. The lake and bandstand outside our outdoor theater never disappoints in any season, but it is bathed in brilliance in the fall. This year was no exception.

The Muny at Forest Park
From there we made our way over to the zoo, which is also located within Forest Park. Despite the overcast skies and cooler temperature, the zoo was actually fairly crowded. Many of the animals were out, though we were not lucky enough to get close to the new cheetah family. In November of 2017, the female cheetah gave birth to eight cubs, a first in zoo history. The normal size of a litter is four. The cubs were kept out of the public eye until May of this year, but sightings of them are still pretty rare. Here are some of the other animals we saw though.

St. Louis Zoo
While walking back to the car, we stopped to admire the trees around Art Hill. The colors were outstanding, and there were many people taking advantage of the beauty to capture family photos. I really enjoy our photo walk outings, and the opportunity to be outside taking pictures with other people who get my obsession.

Art Hill in Forest Park

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

They Say It's Your Birthday...

Happy birthday to me!
My birthday was on Sunday, but because my husband would be prepping for his Monday colonoscopy that day, we decided to celebrate on Saturday. It was a cool but beautiful morning so we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden to see how the fall colors were doing. We are very late with color this year, so it was great to be somewhere where fall was actually showing up.
Missouri Botanical Garden
After we left the garden we drove over to Tower Grove Park. We enjoyed a nice, long walk and had the opportunity to see some more pretty colors on the trees.

Tower Grove Park
That night we tried a new restaurant in our community called The Frisco, due to its location near the Frisco railroad tracks. Because they had heaters outside, we were able to dine on the patio. It has a very nice ambience.

Since Jim did not need to begin his prep until 12:00, Sunday morning we went for a drive through Lone Elk Park. The last few times I've been there, I haven't seen so much as a squirrel. But the animals were taking advantage of the nice fall weather, and we saw quite a bit of activity in the park. We also stopped in at the nearby Wild Bird Sanctuary before heading back home.

Powder Valley
Overall, I had a fabulous birthday. But the best gift of all was in hearing that Jim got a clear (pardon the pun) report on his colonoscopy

Monday, October 29, 2018

City of Brotherly Love

Last weekend we visited Philadelphia for the American Society of Landscape Architects annual conference. Well, my husband attended the conference and I went along to play. Our hotel was located by the convention center, which was convenient for him and centrally located for me.

Friday night we went out to dinner with two other couples at the R2L Restaurant. Located on the 37th floor of the building, it offers incredible views of the city. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy that evening, so we didn't see the amazing sunsets that others have talked about. It was still a wonderful experience though.

R2L Restaurant
Saturday one of the other spouses and I toured around the city. We had breakfast in the Reading Terminal Market, an outstanding downtown indoor farmers market (and then some) before heading to the Curtis Building (former home of Curtis Publishing, whose publications included The Ladies' Home Journal) to see The Dream Garden, a wall mural that consists of over 100,000 pieces of Tiffany  glass pieces. It is so beautiful!

The Dream Garden

From there we visited Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States. Many of the homes on the street still serve as residences today, and most of them date to the mid-1700s. One of them is a museum, so we paid the small admission fee to be able to see inside the home, which was built for two sisters who were seamstresses.

Elfreths Alley
After lunch we walked the city some more before visiting the John F. Kennedy Plaza for a close-up look at the LOVE statue and a nice view of City Hall. We took a well needed rest by the fountains before walking back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

John F Kennedy Plaza
Sunday was more touring, sometimes by myself, sometimes with another couple that I know. I saw the world's largest pipe organ and a huge brass eagle (that were both originally built for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis), some street art, beautiful fountains, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Philadelphia sights on Sunday
Sunday night was the formal dinner at the ASLA convention, and Jim's partner Ted was elevated to Fellow so it was a big night for SWT Design. As a fellow Fellow, Jim walked Ted down the aisle to receive his award. It was a touching ceremony.

Monday Jim still had sessions to attend in the morning, so I went to see the Liberty Bell and the Irish Memorial. Both of them touched me for different reasons. The bell is such a part of the American story, and it was a thrill to be able to get a close look at it. The Irish Memorial is probably one of the best sculptures I have seen, with each side representing a piece of Irish history explaining the reasons for the mass emigration out of Ireland.

Liberty Bell and Irish Memorial
We had lunch with Jim's partner and his wife, and then Jim was able to join me for a little touring before we had to head off to the airport. It was an exceptional trip in a very historic city, and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Visiting the Queen City

Recently I spent two weeks in Cincinnati staying with a cousin who was recovering from a total knee replacement. Normally when I visit the city of my birth, I feel like I eat my way through the town. This time was much different as I was preparing many meals in, which was much better for my Weight Watchers experience. In fact, I still lost weight on the trip, much to my delight.

Findlay Market
I did manage to get down to Findlay Market, the historic farmers' market located downtown, twice. It is like stepping back in time, and feels like I am visiting another country.

It also worked out for me to see my dad's remaining sister Gloria and two of her children. Gloria consented to take a DNA test, which I had brought along with me. It will be interesting to see how her results turn out.

During the second week of my visit Jim was on a motorcycle trip with three of his friends in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. However the rains of Hurricane Michael kept them housebound for several days, so he decided to ride to Cincinnati to spend the final weekend with me. That allowed him to see Findlay Market and the downtown riverfront development as it had been many years since he has been to the city. It was fun to have him there to explore with me and my cousin.

Cincinnati collage
My trip coincided with the Crusham family reunion as well. It was wonderful to see so many of my cousins, but especially my mom's two sisters Margie and Betty, ages 96 and 90, respectively. They are truly a treasure. Margie also took a DNA test for me, so I have now tested the two oldest living relatives on both sides of my family, which is really exciting.

Betty, me and Margie

Friday, September 28, 2018

Pickleball Festival

Hy-Vee Arena
Last weekend I traveled to Kansas City with some girlfriends to attend the second annual Third Shots a Charm Festival (TSAC2). Last year about 125 people came, but this year registration was capped at 400. The event was held at the newly (almost) renovated Kemper Center, which has just been named the Hy-Vee Arena. While construction is ongoing, TSAC2 was the first event to be held at the center. We had 24 pickleball courts that were striped on the multipurpose wooden floor, though 4 of the courts were almost always taken by group lessons. So 21 courts divided by 400 people = a LOT of wait time to get out to play.

We were invited to a free open play session on Thursday night from 7-9, and it was kind of a zoo. Registration opened at 8:00 on Friday morning, and I caught a ride to the center with some other friends as my carload was not wanting to go that early. We breezed through registration and onto the courts. By 9:00 the place was packed. They had three tables on which to place your paddle in a stack, with each table covering six courts. So the best plan was to look at each table when you came off a court to see which had the fewest stacks of paddles on it. I typically waited about 25 minutes to play, but some people told me that they waited an hour or an hour and a half!

inside the arena
I think enough people complained about the different levels of play (from beginner to pros) that on Saturday the three tables had labels on them - advanced, intermediate, and social. I started out on the intermediate court, which is where I belong, but as the day went on realized that social play had way fewer paddles waiting. So I spent the rest of the day there, and had a lot of fun. They kept the same arrangement on Sunday as well.

double decker bus tour
Friday and Saturday nights they had live music and food for us. The bands were great and so was the food, which I understood came from Hy-Vee. On Saturday you could also take a double decker bus tour of Kansas City, which was fun even though we had the same route and tour guide as last year.

Overall TSAC2 was another great experience in what pickleball is all about, which I refer to as the three Fs - fun, fitness, and friendships. I already have my room reservation for next year!

some of the St, Louis crew

Monday, September 17, 2018

Update on the Eye Issue

This morning I was to have the YAG procedure performed on my right eye. It was an inconvenient date and time as our daughter was visiting us from Los Angeles for a long weekend, and I was looking forward to spending her last day here doing fun things. Thinking the right eye was going to be taken care of on September 12th, I was not anticipating this conflict. See my previous post for more on that.

When I got to the office today for my 10:00 appointment, I explained that my left eye just is not right. So again they sent me upstairs to have an eye exam done, fitting me in around patients who were already scheduled for such activities. Obviously I was screwing up the schedule of not only the surgi-center but the regular office as well. Dr. Pepose said this time there is not any filament or stray cells on my lens. Instead it is my astigmatism in the left eye that is causing the problems.

My vision with both eyes together is 20/20, and I have tried to explain that I am happy with the outcome in terms of what I can read. However, it is the quality of what my left eye sees that is the problem. Everything is slightly blurry. My frustration comes from the fact that I paid (a lot!) for the enhanced intraoccqular lenses to be implanted during the cataract surgery, and also for my astigmatism to be corrected in the left eye. The lenses and correction were not covered by my insurance, so that was all out of pocket. So to be told now that the astigmatism still exists came as a shock to me.

Apparently my astigmatism was corrected to a certain point, which is obvious as I was reading 20/50 with that eye before surgery and it is now 20/30. However it was still not as good as my right eye, which is why I am seeing the difference between the two eyes. My choices are 1) live with it, or 2) have an additional procedure know as Limbal Relaxing Incisions (LRI) done to further correct the astigmatism. The downside is that I may lose a little near vision, but what I do see will be clear. What a choice!

While I have tentatively scheduled the procedure just to secure a spot on the calendar, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do at this point. One decision became clear to me, however. I am definitely not going to have the YAG done on the right eye at this point. I'll be leaving well enough alone on that one for the time being.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

More Eye Issues

eye ball
Yesterday I went back to the eye surgeon to have the same surgery performed on my right eye that had been done on the left last week - the YAG laser procedure. But that is not what ended up happening. After I got checked in and before the nurse put the dilation drops in my right eye, I mentioned that the left eye was still cloudy. In fact, I think my vision was worse in that eye than before I had the laser done. That proclamation resulted in her talking to Dr. Pepose once he came out of the surgical suite he had been in, and he decided he wanted me to have a thorough exam done on my eyes before proceeding.

The bottom line is that they determined I had a filament that was still covering my left eye, and he wanted to go ahead and take care of that first. So the YAG was repeated on the left eye, and the right eye was rescheduled for Monday.

I'm not convinced the left eye is totally cleared up yet. I'm going to see how things look in the morning, and may give the doctor's office a call. At this point I'm not even sure I want to have the right eye done, because I certainly don't want to have it turn out like the left eye.

All of this is pretty disappointing as my vision was better before I had the darn cataracts removed!

Friday, September 7, 2018

More Skin Cancer

skin cancer removal
To add to the list of medical procedures I'm having done this week, yesterday I went to my plastic surgeon to have yet another suspicious spot removed from my forehead. It's one we have been watching for a bit, but as it has not responded to liquid nitrogen (it should blister and then peel, but it does nothing), the dermatologist said to was time to have it removed.

In checking my records I realized that I had not been to the plastic surgeon since September of 2016, so that actually is not too bad for me. Unfortunately this is my 14th skin cancer, if indeed the biopsy comes back positive. I have resigned myself to the fact that this is my life from now on, but I have been taking extra precautions with my skin so hopefully I won't have too many more that will need to be surgically removed.

I did not sleep well last night as the doctor told me to keep my head elevated to lesson the risk of bleeding. It hurts today, but not as much as yesterday. It should feel much better by tomorrow, which is good because I am volunteering at the Michelob Ultra Pickleball Tournament in the morning. It was supposed to be outside at Forest Park, but because rain from the hurricane is headed our way, it has been moved indoors. Unfortunately that means a 45 minute drive for me in the morning, and I have to be there by 7:00 a.m. It is the first sanctioned tournament to be held in St. Louis, so I am eager to see the 4.0 and 5.0 players in action once my volunteer work is finished.

On a more fun note, last weekend was Paint Louis 2018. This was an organized event allowing graffiti artists to legally spray paint the flood wall that runs along the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis. Hundreds of artists came from mostly around the Midwest, with live hip hop music adding to the party atmosphere. By the time we got down there Monday morning, most of the artists had packed up and left. But there were a few remaining, and it was interesting to talk to them about their work and the process they use in creating art to cover such a large space. Sadly, it won't last for long as other graffiti artists will come along and paint over what is already there. It is a constantly evolving work of art.
Paint Louis 2018

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Eye Yi Yi

creepy eyes
This morning I had the YAG laser capsulotomy performed on my left eye to remove the cells that were forming on the back of the new lens that was inserted following my cataract surgery in June. Essentially it was as if I was looking through a window that had finger prints on it. That is not exactly the result I was hoping for after bucking up for the expensive replacement lenses. My surgeon noticed the problem when I was in for my one month follow up appointment. In fact he said the right lens had some cells on it as well, but that the left eye was more prominent and the cells should be removed.

My insurance company insisted that I wait 3 months post-surgery before they would approve the YAG procedure, which is why I didn't have it done before now. Fortunately for this I could drive myself to and from the appointment. I arrived at the surgical center about 8:50 for a 9:00 appointment. I signed the appropriate paperwork, and at 9:15 was taken in the back to have my eye dilated before returning to the waiting room. Shortly after 10:00 I was again taken back, this time for numbing drops, and then seated before Dr. Pepose in front of what looked like the normal machine they use to examine your eyes. He placed a clamp on my left eye to keep me from blinking, and as I kept my chin and forehead pressed against the machine, he zapped my eye with the laser. In less than five minutes it was all done.

The assistant rinsed my eye, and then placed Lotemax drops in my eye. Lotemax is an anti-inflamatory steroid drug, and one of the three drops I had to use in both eyes following cataract surgery. For this, I need to place one drop in the affected eye three times a day for a week.

I asked Dr. Pepose if I could go ahead and schedule the right eye since my deductible and maximum out of pocket expenses have been satisfied for the year, which for us ends on September 30th. He said absolutely, so I will get it done next week. I also told him about the fact that my left eye has a bit of discomfort still. I asked him if he ever wore the hard contact lenses. I got my first pair of those before my sophomore year in high school, and they were extremely painful to get used to. You had to build up a callus on the back of your eyelid, and that is sort of how this feels. He suggested I try taking fish oil pills twice a day, as that has proven to help some patients with dry eyes. Otherwise the option is for me to use prescription eye drops like Restasis. I'd like to avoid that if possible, so I'll give the fish oil a go and pray for the best. My left eye has seemed a little better the past few days, so perhaps I am turning the corner on that problem anyway. Of course, having the laser treatment done may change all that.

In all, I was at the office an hour and twenty minutes. They had warned me to be prepared to be there two hours, so getting out early was a bonus. Hopefully next Wednesday will go just as smooth.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Death by Suicide

One of my nephews died last Monday at the age of 47. While it is tragic enough to lose a person so young, the grief is compounded by the fact that he took his own life, leaving a suicide note behind. Because he grew up in a state far away from me, we were not as close as I would have liked. I cannot begin to fathom what drove him to give up hope, though I have since heard he was experiencing financial difficulties.

As a nation we need to do better at providing mental health options for people in need. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year around 45,000 people commit suicide in our country, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Sadly, my nephew will be part of the 2018 statistic.

September is National Suicide Prevention month. Let's all do our part to draw attention to the problem of suicide, let people know that suicide can be prevented, and advocate to do more to prevent people from feeling like suicide is their only option. It's too late for my nephew, but hopefully not too late to help others who are struggling.

poem for my nephew

Friday, August 24, 2018

40 Years of Wedded Bliss

August 19, 1978
We celebrated our 40th anniversary last weekend. Even seeing those words in print does not make it any more believable to me. It doesn't seem possible that those two starry-eyed kids are now looking retirement in the face. It's been quite a ride, and I am so glad that I had Jim in the other seat as we have taken this journey.

When we got married we were fresh out of college. Jim had taken a job in St. Louis, and I stayed in Des Moines for the summer, living with my parents and getting everything ready for the wedding. We had little money and college debt to consider, so flying off to the Caribbean or Hawaii for a honeymoon was out of the question. I reserved a room for us at a nice hotel for our wedding night, but then we headed up to Appleton, Wisconsin to camp and do a float trip on the Apple River for several days. We had purchased a used tent from Iowa State University when they were selling off their old supplies. It was a heavy canvas that had an off-smell and didn't breath at all. Great in August, right? Not so much. But we were young and in love, and we did didn't mind it.

Fast-forward 40 years to when our anniversary falls on the same weekend as the SWT float trip, which was being held this year at Echo Bluff State Park. Camping and floating for your 40th anniversary is every girl's dream - or not. I looked everywhere for a hotel, B&B, AirBNB, VRBO for Jim's partner and his wife to stay in along with us last weekend. There was nothing available. I explained to Jim that there was no way I was camping out in August in southern Missouri. I told him to have nice time, because I wasn't going.

By divine intervention we were bumped to the top of the wait list for a cabin in Echo Bluff. Being part of the design team has its perks. We ended up with a 3 bedroom cabin that was amazing. It was definitely glamping at its finest. We spent Friday and Saturday nights there, and kayaked on the 9 mile river route Saturday. The weather was perfect other than a little rain Friday night. We were in a cabin, so we sure didn't care!

Echo Bluff and the Current River

Rich's Famous Burgers
Heading back to St. Louis Sunday, we stopped at a hamburger joint in Steelville for lunch. The waitress overheard Jim's partner saying he would pick up the tab for our anniversary. She asked us how long we had been married, and I told her 40 years. I imagine she and the table of people across from us were thinking, "Wow, 40 years and her husband took her to get a hamburger in Steelville!" We all laughed about that in the car. And that laughter is what has gotten us through 40 years of whatever life has thrown at us. I'm eager to see what the future holds and to hopefully, like Robert Frost, take the road less traveled.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin RIP

"I say a little prayer for you...", Aretha. Rest in Peace, and sing with the angels.

Aretha Franklin quote

Monday, July 30, 2018

Filming a Horror Show

Friday our house was used as the set for the filming of an episode of a horror series by Morbid Curiosity. Entitled "The House on Plant", the first part takes place in 1922 and involves a love story, betrayal, murder and ghosts. A couple of 1920's era cars were parked in front of our house to add credence to the timetable, and they were very cool to see. It got even better when the owner asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. You bet I did! The pedals and gear shifts all seemed very confusing to me, but I'm sure they were very advanced at the time the Ford was built. I'm glad I had the opportunity to tool around the neighborhood in it, and I even more appreciate the conveniences and comfort of modern day vehicles.
Ford Cars
One of the actors is a certified drone operator, so he had brought his drone along to do some sweeping aerial views of the house and yard. I have never been that close to someone filming with a drone, so I found that part interesting and am eager to see what footage will end up in the final cut.
There was quite a bit of film shot in front of the house with the cars, as well as on the front porch. I'm not sure what was going on, but our street looked like a parade route with cars traveling up and down it. Normally it is pretty quiet, but for some reason it seemed like Maple was being used as a way to avoid Friday rush hour on Elm. At times some of the crew just had to stop traffic so the shot could be taken without car noise in the background.

At dusk, the action was moved inside the house. There were shots in the entry foyer and the back stairway to the kitchen. Finally it was time for the bedroom action. And that is where three people were killed - in our bedroom. They wrapped things up with the ghost scenes. Four and a half hours later, everyone was gone from the house.
Morbid Curiosity
The second part of this episode is set in modern times, and that will be filmed in our backyard. They need to perfect some of the stunts that will be used, so it will probably be later in August before that takes place. Because many people will die, I will be sending out a note to my neighbors to let them know what is going on so no one calls the police. The director will let the police know of the filming as well, in case anyone freaks out. Should be fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Summer Hummer

In the spring I put out the hummingbird feeder that I purchased last year, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the tiny birds. Weeks went by without a sighting. Friends of mine had been commenting on Facebook that they had yet to see anything at their feeders either, despite following the instructions on how often to change the sugar water solution. I wondered what was going on weather-wise that the birds were not making their way to St. Louis. Finally on July 17th I saw my first one. Now there are several who come to feed, including a much smaller juvenile.

Last Sunday I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden with someone from my Women in Focus group. It was a beautiful morning in St. Louis with a cooler temperature and low humidity. There was a nice breeze as well, which isn't necessarily a photographer's friend. We had a good time while she worked with me on going 100% manual with my camera settings to try and capture a water droplet. I can't say I was totally successful, but I learned some things about my camera so that was worthwhile. All the water lilies were in bloom, and I am a huge fan of those. We wanted to play around with our lens balls a bit, and that certainly resulted in a lot of strangers coming up to us to see what we were doing!

Missouri Botanical Garden
After grabbing lunch we drove over to Horseshoe Lake in Madison County, Illinois. I had never been there before, though I had seen a lot of photos on Facebook that were taken there. It is a nice lake, and many people were there fishing, having picnics or just taking walks along the lake. We even saw a woman walking her dog with a bow and arrow on her back! When we stopped to talk to her, she explains that she fishes with a bow and arrow. The arrow is attached to fishing line, and she reels it back in after each use. I never knew such a thing existed.

Horseshoe Lake
Friday there will be a camera crew at my house filming a show. Morbid Curiosity is a "made for TV series of short Horror/Drama stories" which air locally through Charter Communications. For this particular story they were looking for a Victorian home, and ours fit the bill. The first part of the show  is set in the 1920s, and that is the portion that will be filmed Friday. The second part is present day, and will be filmed in our back yard at a later date. There will be murders, ghosts and mass casualties! It will be very interesting to see the making of a show. And to watch my neighbors' expressions when a "For Sale" sign goes up in my front yard, albeit on a temporary basis. Hopefully all the ghosts will leave when the filming crew does. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Celebrations

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

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

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

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

St. Louis Arch

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cataract Complication

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaching for Retirement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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