I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I last posted here.  Facebook has been satisfying my need to share some of life’s tidbits, and affords me the opportunity to do so with very little effort, which is something that appeals to me more and more these days.  Besides chronic pain, the extreme heat has sapped me of whatever little bit of energy I might have left over when I get home from work.  Temperatures have been holding steady at around 88 degrees for several days now, and I’m not liking it one bit.  It’s much too early for this kind of heat.  Actually, as far as I’m concerned, there’s never a good time for this kind of heat.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a looooooong summer.

Speaking of summer, this will be my first without having at least one of my daughters around (since Rebecca was born in 1986).  Leigh is spending the next couple of months with Becca, and will be waitressing at Matt’s restaurant.  (Matt is Rebecca’s boyfriend, and proprietor of an Outback.)   At the end of August, she’ll be heading to SUNY Binghamton to complete her Bachelor’s Degree.  She just graduated from SUNY Delhi with an Associate’s Degree in their Veterinary Tech program, and earned a 4.0, which is especially noteworthy considering that she had an extra heavy course load (19 credits).  I’m so proud of her, and of Rebecca, as well, who earned her Bachelor’s Degree a few months ago, and is taking some time off before going on for her Master’s.

There’s not much else of interest to report… I applied to work summer school and am pretty certain I’ll be assigned to the position.  Once again, there won’t be any vacation for me.  I’m deeply disappointed about that.  I so look forward to getting away, but haven’t been able to afford to do that for the last couple of years.  The drudgery of life is really wearing thin… Oh well.  I guess I’ll be spending much of the summer in my favorite spot at home – on the front porch.

Song of the Day:  Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly and the Family Stone

Hurray!  I finally made it to the seashore!  Leigh, her boyfriend, Eric, and I spent Tuesday night and most of Wednesday afternoon in Seaside Heights, NJ.  Wednesday morning, I went for a walk around 7:00 a.m. in search of coffee.  I found a deli about a block from our motel.  Speaking of the motel, which was only a few steps from the boardwalk, this was the view from my window.  Sweet.

Anyway, while I was waiting at the counter, a woman walked over to pay for her breakfast sandwich.  I looked up and was stunned and overjoyed to see that it was LA!   After much squealing and hugging, LA channeled Humphrey Bogart and said, “Of all the delis in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Heh!  We ended up spending the day together on the beach with our combined clans, and had an absolutely wonderful time.  I knew that LA was in Seaside Heights this week with Mick and Wolf, and did hope that we would be able to get together.  Before LA left for the Jersey shore, she made the comment that it would be funny if the first time we managed to see each other in so long would be when we were both 100 miles from home.  Well, that’s exactly what happened, but I never expected to bump into her at a deli first thing in the morning.  Talk about a serendipitous experience! When LA told Mick about our chance encounter, he remarked that he would have been more surprised if it had happened to any other people.  But, with the two of us, he’s come to expect wild and wonderful things.

One of those wonderful things happened when LA and I were standing at the edge of the water.  Mick came down and wrapped his arms around LA.  Seconds later, Wolf walked over and put his arms around me.  My heart melted into a puddle that mingled with the surf foam and was drawn out to sea by the receding waves.

I am reminded of the John Lennon song, “Beautiful Boy” every time I see Wolf.  He really is remarkable in a lot of ways, just like his mother.  Thanks for a perfectly delightful day, LA & Co!

Today marks yet another birthday…  I am now FIFTY-FREAKING-FIVE YEARS OLD.  I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it is for me to believe that.  Lucky for me, it seems to be difficult for others to believe, as well.

During the last week of summer school, a student was talking to two of her friends about “cougars.”  She turned to me and asked if I was familiar with the term.  I replied, “Well, yes, I guess I am, considering that I’m married to a much younger man.”  They asked how old I am, and the look on their faces when I told them was priceless.  One exclaimed, “No you’re not!”  Another demanded that I produce my birth certificate.  The third further endeared herself to me by remarking that I look like I’m in my thirties.  Now I know that’s not true (see entry title), but it felt good to hear it, nonetheless.

Here’s this year’s birthday photo.   (My hair is a lot shorter than I’m accustomed to wearing it, but, believe it or not, this is three month’s growth after a particularly devastating haircut.)

My blog (I still have a hard time using that word) had a birthday recently, too.  I started an online journal (that’s what we called it back then) on August 21, 2001.   On September 23, 2001, I posted this entry about my reasons for creating an online journal:

Anatomy of a Diarist

Since my initiation into the Online Journal Club, I’ve been giving the genre a fair amount of thought.  Non-journalers tend to perceive the phenomenon as a “Dear Diary” sort of thing.  For all I know, some journalers approach it that way themselves.  But, that’s not how I see it. I feel more like a reporter whose subject just happens to be (for the most part) my life.  Of course, I don’t “report” in a New York Times fashion.  I don’t have that kind of training, and I don’t take myself that seriously.  I try to inject a little humor into my entries, and maybe even the occasional stab at pathos.  To me, this process is more akin to journalism or writing essays than it is to keeping a diary.  While I will discuss personal matters, it is not necessarily my intention to bare my soul.  Some things are just too private.

My reasons for writing are varied.  For one thing, I find that I don’t express myself as well vocally, having a tendency to get tongue-tied.  I like to consider what I’m going to say before blurting it out, and verbal conversations don’t afford me enough time to do that.  Writing gives me the opportunity to make more in-depth observations.  Often, writing will lead me to a better understanding of myself, and even an occasional revelation.  (R-E-F-L-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!)

Before taking the online journal plunge, I indulged the frustrated writer lurking within on a fairly regular basis in the form of letter writing.  Email is a vehicle I use on a daily basis.  I also used to exchange lengthy “snail mail” missives (25 pages and upward) with a friend in Pennsylvania. (Hi, Karen!)  Our correspondences were written in installments, and mailed at intervals of approximately every six months.  We included lots of photos, and found this a very satisfying way to stay in touch.

My writing method varies.  Sometimes my mood is light and casual; at others, it is bruised and introspective.   My entries are typically full of whining, joking, and boasting (usually about my kids).  During my darker moments, I find that writing about my feelings (and what causes them) really can be therapeutic.  This catharsis doesn’t exactly purge me of all negativity, but it does help to lessen my load considerably.  Sharing my triumphs and/or failures with an audience through an online journal lightens my burden even more.  Also, I recently read that writing lowers stress-related chemicals in the body, which is another good reason to allow myself this indulgence!

In closing, I’d like to share something Daniel told me quite some time ago, in reference to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch, and the staggering Gulag Archipelago.

“When Solzhenitsyn was writing in secret in Russia, paper was such a luxury to him.  Where we in the West have the freedom to scrawl haphazardly across a seemingly endless supply of paper, Solzhenitsyn literally could not waste a square inch of paper.  Every blank space had to be filled with his brilliance before he dared move on to another piece lest he run out of pages, and not transmit his profound thoughts to a world in desperate need of them.”

How humbling. Certainly, the world is not in desperate need of MY thoughts, so I am especially appreciative of those taking the time to read this.

Re-reading that entry makes me realize how much I used to depend on this form of release to manage stress.  It also makes me realize how much lighter my stress load is these days.  Oh sure, I still have chronic pain and financial burdens to deal with.  But there’s not nearly as much angst in my life as there was before.  After years of turbulence and heartache, I now have wonderful relationships with my daughters.   I am married to a kind, loving, supportive man who compliments me daily.  In short, I don’t have as much to get off my chest as I did in the past, which I suppose is why I don’t post here very often any more.

Still, it’s good to know that this place is here if I need it as a dumping ground, or even if I just want to drop in to say hello or show you some pictures.  Thanks for sticking around.  My world wouldn’t be the same without you.

Reading:  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Song of the Day:  Celebration by Kool and the Gang

I had an appointment with Dr. Spine Specialist yesterday to review the results of my latest MRI.  I already knew that I have a herniated disc in my lumbar spine.  What I didn’t know is that I have three of them.  I also have quite a bit of arthritis, as well as a fair amount of scar tissue in the area of the discectomy that was performed back in 2004.  All of these things contribute to my lower back pain.

Dr. Spine Specialist mentioned surgery as an option, and warned me that it will be a more complicated procedure this time because it will involve spinal fusion.  Umm, no thanks.    Not unless I absolutely can’t bear the pain any longer.

Before I left his office, Dr. Spine Specialist gave me an autographed copy of his book.   Thanks, doc.  See you again in five months.

I can’t believe summer “vacation” is almost over.  I use the word “vacation” loosely because I didn’t do any vacationing this year.  What a bummer.  I did get to the beach on Monday, but it was just the Long Island Sound at Hammonasset State Park in Connecticut.  It was brutally hot, and, when I tried to go in the water to cool off, I had to turn back because the bottom was so rocky I was afraid I would lose my footing.  So, I sat there in the sweltering heat for four hours, and ended up with a sunburn, despite wearing a large straw hat and heavy applications of sunblock.   I’m really hoping to get to the ocean before I go back to work, but I’m not feeling very optimistic about that happening.

At least my daughter, Rebecca, got to go away on vacation.  She and her boyfriend just got back from a wonderfully adventurous trip to Mexico.

They snorkeled on the reef and in a cenote, saw the ruins of Tulum, and went zip lining and rappelling.

While I am truly happy for Becca, I also have to admit that I am green with envy.  Sigh.

Song of the Day:  It’s Not Easy Being Green by Kermit the Frog

Rhode Island Hates Me

August 26, 2008

I had a wonderful time in Rhode Island – until Friday, that is, but I’ll get to that later.  First, the good stuff.  The weather was perfect (Thanks, Jim!), and the rental place was really nice.  This spiral staircase was a bit much for me to navigate, so I chose a bedroom on the ground flour.

This is the view (of a salt pond) from the lower deck.

And this is the view from the upper deck.

One of my favorite activities was watching shore birds, like Great Blue Herons and egrets.

On the Sunday when we first arrived, the beach was packed.  Honestly, I’ve never seen so many people on a beach.   Fortunately, the crowds thinned out quite a bit during the week.  To further ensure a good spot, my mother and I made it a habit to get to the beach when the gates opened at 8:30 a.m.  At that hour, the beach looked like this.

Besides reading, knitting and wading, I also enjoyed watching people fish from the jetty.

The carousel at Watch Hill is always a highlight of the trip for me. Dating from about 1876, this is the oldest carousel of its type, and may be the oldest carousel in existence in the United States.  The carousel is unique in that its horses are not attached to the floor, but hang by suspended chains.  The faster the ride goes, the farther out the horses swing, which is why it was given the name “Flying Horse Carousel.”  Each horse is hand-carved from a single piece of wood, the tails and manes are made of real horsehair, the saddles are genuine leather, and the horses have their original agate eyes.   Whichever child gets the brass ring is treated to a free ride.

Friday was our last full day in Rhode Island, and our plan was to go to Newport to do part of the Cliff Walk.  At 8:00 am, my foot got twisted in the corner of a too long bedspread.

I went down hard.   The pain was so intense, I couldn’t move at first.  When I finally managed to get up, I realized that I had done a fair amount of damage.

Still, even though every breath I took caused pain in my chest on the ride side, and my left foot was quite swollen (I had to walk on the side of it because of extreme pain in the toe area), I went along on the trip to Newport.  We drove along the shore route, where we saw many beautiful sights.  This is a shot of cormorants sunning themselves on a rock.

I had to sit in the car while the others went on the Cliff Walk, but I did manage to limp far enough to take these photos.

Around 4:30 that afternoon, I figured I’d better go to the Emergency Room.  X-rays showed that nothing was broken, thank goodness.  My left foot is badly sprained, and my chest wall is deeply bruised.  What a great way to end summer vacation.  And it’s always fun to start work with a new pain.

It still hurts every time I take a breath or bend forward, and I still can’t step down on my left foot. I can’t wear a shoe on that side, either, which should add to the fun of going back to work next week.

I had an unrelated doctor appointment yesterday morning, and she noted that the trauma of the fall has caused my other problems to flare up.  My trigger points are swollen and very tender to the touch.  Consequently, a steroid was prescribed.  I know all about the dangers of steroids, but, frankly, I don’t care.  They’ve worked wonders for me in the past, and I’m hoping for similar results this time.  Anything is better than this god-awful pain.

As luck would have it, Daniel left for Canada the day after I returned from Rhode Island.  He offered to stay home because of my injury, but I insisted that he go.  Work has been stressful, and he’s been putting in a lot of overtime.  He really needed a vacation.  Still, the timing is unfortunate.  I’m having difficulty dealing with the dogs, not to mention everything else.  To top things off nicely, tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m not much in the mood for celebrating.

I don’t know what Rhode Island has against me.  Last year, I ended up in the hospital right after I got home from vacationing there.  Back in 1989, I was hit by a moped and suffered a tibial plateau fracture.  Perhaps it’s time for a different vacation destination…

Song of the Day  Love/Hate by Liz Phair

I had a fabulous time at Crane’s Lochaven Lodge in Canada. The road trip, however, was brutal.  We left at midnight and drove straight through the night.  I tried, but failed, to sleep in the car.  My father and brother, on the other hand, did fall asleep, but it was while they were driving. That was pretty scary.

Sue and Ed, the owners of the lodge, are wonderful hosts.  My father and brothers have been going for several years now, so our family is pretty well known there.  I was very moved to see this tribute to Mark hanging on a wall in the dining hall.

I was also moved by the beauty of the French River.

The weather could have been better (it was cold and wet), but we weren’t there to sunbathe.  We were there to catch fish.  And catch fish we did – small mouth bass, large mouth bass, rock bass, perch, catfish (which we gave to the owners for the Friday fish fry), sunnies, walleye and pike.  I was ecstatic when I caught this pike, even though it was too small to keep.

Then I caught this one – the “Trophy fish” of the season – an astounding 41 and 1/4 inch, 16 pound Northern pike.

Ed’s son demonstrated the proper way to hold a large fish for photographs.  You get a better idea of the pike’s size this way.

What a thrill!  Never in my wildest imaginings did I think I would catch a fish like that – on a worm, no less.  My father and brother were casting with heavy poles and expensive lures, and, after I caught the big pike, the guide suggested that they might want to see if they could get their money back for the lures.  Heh.

I had no interest in having the fish mounted, and was told that pike aren’t good eating (apparently, they’re gamey tasting).  I wish I had released the pike, but I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.  I was in shock.

Anyway, Ed wanted it for advertising purposes, and offered to give me other fish fillets to bring home in exchange, so I let him keep it.  However, he neglected to follow through with his part of the bargain.  When I questioned him about it as we were leaving the island, he said he forgot, and promised to  make it up to me.  My father and brother are going back next month, so they’re going to remind him of his promise.

We visited the place where Mark’s ashes were scattered.  It was his favorite fishing spot.  After shedding some tears, I dropped my line and silently asked Mark to help me out.  Believe it or not, that’s when I caught the monster pike.

We had a guide for three of the days we were out on the river, and, most of the time, Jerry called my brother, Mike (Mark’s identical twin brother), by his correct name, but every once in a while, he called him Mark.  It was weird, especially considering that he knew nothing about our family.

Speaking of Jerry, he makes a mean “shore lunch.” A fire is built and the freshly caught fish are cooked up along with potatoes, baked beans and coffee made in a can.  Everything was delicious.

After Friday’s fish fry on the deck of the lodge, it has become a tradition for whichever guests and staff members feel so inclined to jump off the railing into the river.  There was no way in hell I was going to do that, despite everyone urging me to do so since I had caught the biggest fish, so one of my nephews volunteered to do it for me. He enjoyed it so much he did it again, and got one of his cousins to take the plunge with him.  We had so much fun.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for Rhode Island. I sure have spent a lot of time on the road this summer.   It’s been great.

I have loads of stuff to do, so I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Song of the Day: Proud Mary by Tina Turner

Sasha’s comment in reference to the 15 hour drive to Canada’s French River really made me cringe.  She wrote:  “The last time I was on a ride (almost) that long was when we moved up here. For two nights after I had awful leg cramps overnight. It was pretty horrible.”

Coincidentally, I’ve been suffering from agonizing leg and foot cramps for the past few days. Even when I’m not experiencing a full blown cramp, it always feels like my muscles are on the verge of cramping.  Besides worrying about what this long ride will do to my back, I now have to be concerned about leg and foot cramps, as well.  I dread the thought of being in the grip of these excruciating paroxysms of pain while riding in a car.   Shudder.

We’re leaving tomorrow, and will return late next Tuesday night.  The following Saturday, believe it or not, I’m going away again.  This time, I’ll be headed for a week at the seashore in Rhode Island.  My suitcase sure is getting a lot of use this summer…

Bye for now!

Song of the Day:  So Long, Farewell from The Sound Of  Music Soundtrack

Wildwood Days

July 31, 2008

So, I survived the trip to Wildwood.  It was a mixed bag of negatives and positives.  The biggest negative was feeling very out of place among a group of kids with an age range of 19 to 21.  Even though I don’t mind being alone and believe that solitude can be a wonderful thing, there were times when I felt extremely lonely.  Oddly enough, those weren’t the times when I was physically alone; it was when we were all together.  On those occasions, I spent a lot of time in my room.  The kids were great, and went out of their way to include me, but, much of the time I felt awkward being around them.

On the other hand, there were plenty of good times.  The weather was very accommodating, and I went to the beach five days out of seven.  The only reason I stayed away the other two days was because I was getting too dark from all that sun.    Usually, I went to the beach alone, but the young people joined me on a couple of occasions.  Here’s a shot of bathing beauties, Leigh and Alana.  (Leigh is on the left.)  Imagine me sitting next to those bodies!

Traveling to and from the shore was another negative.  Because of heavy traffic, what should have been a four hour drive turned into seven hours.  We headed for the beach almost as soon as we arrived in Wildwood.  Leigh’s boyfriend, Pat, and I were most anxious to see the ocean.

At one point, Pat bolted into the water and came back with this horseshoe crab.  (He released it right away.)

Another highlight of the trip was going out on a dolphin watch.  Leigh and Alana wore the matching t-shirts they bought on the boardwalk.

Here’s a short clip of some of the dolphins we saw.

This is an “extreme ride” Pat tried to convince me to go on with him.  Of course, I declined, and one of his friends went, instead.  They’re in the red seat.

The beach was about a mile from the rental unit, so that’s a two mile roundtrip walk.  In addition, the boardwalk is two miles long.  On average, I’d say that I walked four miles a day.  I wasn’t eating very much, and, in fact, felt hungry most of the time.  I knew I HAD to have lost some weight, and was looking forward to stepping on the scale when I got home.  You know what the scale showed me?  A one and a half pound gain.  I just don’t get it….

Friday was our last night in Wildwood, and we were treated to a fireworks display on the beach.

All in all, it was a pretty decent vacation.  I leave again next Thursday for the family fishing trip in Canada.  I don’t know how I’m going to handle being in the car for the fifteen hour drive.  My back has really been killing me lately.

I saw the pain management doctor yesterday and told him what the orthopedic guy said about sacroiliac joint injections.  The pain management specialist said that he had requested authorization for both Epidural Steroid Injections and SacroiliacJoint Injections, but, apparently, worker’s comp only authorized the ESI.  So, his office will now try to get authorization for the SJI.  The procedure has been scheduled for the end of August.  In the meantime, I am in terrible pain.

Song of the Day:  Wildwood Days by Bobby Rydell