Living Deliberately

I think that this will be my new mantra for the near future.  My little hospital adventure threw me for a loop and took the wind out of my sails for a few weeks.  Even as my body recovered from the adverse effects I experienced, my spirit did not.  The long spates of cloudy and rainy weather probably added to my lack of enthusiasm, but I hesitate to place the blame there.  I became dismayed one day to realize that I had become content to spend my free time watching television or playing on my phone or computer.  I was also slowly changing my eating habits in unhealthy ways, feeding my emotions with the craving of the moment.  This led me to a sense of dissatisfaction regarding my choices without any actual will to change the direction of things.

My epiphany came in pieces.  I mentioned to a friend that I had bought a new journal, pictured above.  She suggested that it should be a photo on my blog because of the sentiment it expresses.  This gave me a little push in the right direction because it reminded me that I had the power to define my own destiny.  My next push was in deciding to follow through on on a discussion Al & I had regarding inviting a few friends over for dinner one night.  This required taking some action in the form of finally cleaning off our dining room table which had long been a place for me to pile papers and ephemera that I didn’t want to deal with.  It was very cathartic to arrive at a less cluttered space.  It also lead me to release even more stuff as I boxed up books to donate. My final push was in listening to a radio program when a caller spoke about living deliberately; making choices that were in his own best interest instead of moving passively through the daily, more mundane activities of life.  He went on to relate it to making the choice to exercise and to eat right which had led him to lose 20 pounds in 6 months and to probably be in the best shape of his life.  The phrase living deliberately stuck in my brain.

It will be some time before I can claim that my life has actually been changed or confess that it was just a passing fancy, but for now I can say that it is making a difference.  I have found it within myself to finally resume a schedule of purposeful exercise and have found that the phrase living deliberately has been enough to make me rethink what I am putting in my mouth.  Has it made a difference yet?  It is too early to tell in terms of weight or fitness, but it has definitely helped my psyche.  It has given me back my sense of choice.

One of the books I have read that made a definite impact on my life was “On Choosing With a Quiet Mind” by Ray Woollam.  It was given to me by an acquaintance during an emotionally difficult time in my life and led me for the first time to truly “get” the concept that everything in my life is related to the choices I make, whether active or passive choices.  My point is that I am reclaiming the prerogative to make active choices. My hope is that it will lead me to being a better me.

I come to the point that I claim that I have pontificated enough for one night.  I run the risk of boring even myself.  So with this I bid you adieu.  Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful week to come.

Cancer, Healthcare

Still Finding My Voice

Today, February 4, 2018,  is World Cancer Day.   As a coincidence, I was just released from the hospital yesterday after suffering complications from a treatment related to my cancer diagnosis.  First, my commentary, then for those who are interested in the gory details of what put me in the hospital, be sure to read to the end.

My hospital experience was a mixed bag.  My needs were met, but I’m still confused about the approach and some of the tests performed.  More than anything I am frustrated that I felt like I had no voice; that my concerns and opinions were of secondary importance.  I think Al feels that his voice was even more distant in the ears of the medical professionals.  We spent some time talking today about the experience and how hospitals have changed in the nearly 40 years that we have been in careers that at least relate to medicine.  It caused us to pause and wonder if it is not at least part of the issues with career satisfaction in medicine.  Medicine has become such a business that those who practice one of it’s many disciplines as a matter of calling can easily be lost.  We approach patients as diseases and attempt to treat them with protocols based on lab values or x-rays or reports from a third party.  Treatment decisions are often based on what JCAHO requires or what insurance will pay for. I’m not saying that these things are irrelevant, but when did the business of medicine become more important than taking care of a patient?  When did the vulnerable human being sitting in front of the nurse or doctor become invisible?  When did we become so busy that if something is outside of our expertise it is shoved to the side while we look for an alternative narrative that fits our comfort level?  When did we decide it’s okay that if you really care about someone you will never leave them alone to fend for themselves for more than a few hours even in the best of hospitals?    In my 4 days of hospitalization we had interaction with 5 different physicians, one in the emergency room, 2 internal medicine physicians, and 2 oncologists.  The oncology visits, more out of courtesy than anything as they were not directly involved in my care, I will largely discount, except to say that my personal oncologist demonstrated actual interest in my current state of health and we had short discussion about how to proceed going forward; the covering oncologist was more of a cursory visit.  The ER physician and staff generally focused on key words and lab work to the exclusion of considering what was, to me at least, the most plausible explanation for the current state of being.  My attempts to clarify misstatements fell on deaf ears.   The first internal medicine physician, presumably a hospitalist, was much the same and basically ordered more tests.  I am happy to say that the second internal medicine physician, also presumably a hospitalist, actually listened to what I had to say; considered my narrative and looked at me as a human being that consisted of more than the sum of my lab values and test results; who actually  did research on a medication that she had limited experience with.  Of the three, she also happened to be the only female.  I will grant the ER doctor some slack that I was clearly in crisis.  I will also point out that he was undoubtedly utilizing hospital protocols to treat lab values.  Medicine 101: pay attention to the patient in front of you, the symptomatology that is present, and the entirety of the picture; do not dismiss simple explanations in favor of more complex or far-fetched ones simply out of lack of experience with the problem at hand.  I felt like I had a lot of unnecessary tests because of improbable scenarios of what might be causing my symptoms and possibly received less than optimal treatment what all finally agreed was the actual problem – a severe and unusual reaction to a medication.

I found similar ranges of interest with the nurses.  Some demonstrated clear interest in me as a human being and delivered great care on every level, others demonstrated adequate interest to get them to the next problem, the next patient.  I did not stand in their shoes, so do not know what other challenges they faced or how they differed from one shift to another, but some were either self-important because they were nurses and some work was nurse-assistant work or it’s just a job to them, while others were there to see that I, as a patient, had my needs met to the best of their abilities.  The differences in their approaches were notable and I believe they had an impact on my recovery.

A few more thoughts before I leave this diatribe about the state of modern healthcare.  Hygiene, beyond toileting, was never addressed.  If I was not able to shower, then apparently there was nothing to be offered.  Oral hygiene was apparently also of no concern.  I will add to this that one of my suspected, and initially treated diagnoses, was probable sepsis.  I was not able to move myself and there was no effort made to reposition me, perhaps because of my pain level.  I had skin symptoms that were never addressed by anyone, though they were repeatedly pointed out and examined and commented on as puzzling.  I expressed repeated concern about the use of narcotics without some concomitant treatment to prevent/treat constipation which were completely ignored until doctor #3 entered the picture and by then it had over 48 hours.  All of these things have an impact on patient comfort levels and potentially on outcomes.  But there are no protocols to treat them, no JCAHO requirements, no big brother watching over our shoulder.  The only requirement to address them is an ability to put oneself in the patient’s place and demonstrate compassion in the delivery of care.  How much of this is due to changes in how care is delivered?  Nurses used to work shorter shifts more days per week, had fewer patients to care for, came to know their patients better, and had the opportunity to see patient’s improve as a result of their efforts.  Physicians followed a patient throughout their stay and most likely had an existing relationship with the patient, rather than seeing a patient once for a few minutes during their entire stay and on the basis of those brief interactions making major treatment decisions that could change the course of outcomes.  Al & I could not help but wonder if the lack of continuity in care is not part of the problem.  I cannot say that I have the wisdom to offer any answers, only that I am full of questions.  Our national debate about the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare and calling that healthcare reform is a joke.  It has nothing to do with healthcare, it is about perpetuating the system while spending the least amount of money possible.  We are so involved in our partisan fight that, in my opinion, we cannot see that we aren’t even having the right conversation.  I offer this as food for thought.  Maybe you agree with me, maybe you don’t, maybe you never gave it a thought, but you are entitled to feel the way you feel.  I am curious if anyone is actually satisfied with the state of healthcare in America.

Diatribe finished.   For those who want to know, here is my version of recent events.  During my most recent visit with my oncologist one of the topics we discussed was whether or not it would be suitable to add a medication called zoledronic acid (brand name Zometa) as an IV infusion every 6 months.  In short, zoledronic acid belongs to a class of drugs called bisphosphonates, used primarily to treat osteopenia & osteoporosis. This is an injectable form of drug that is also used to treat bone metastases. Recent studies in post-menopausal women who have had breast cancer and are being treated with an aromatase inhibitor, its use should be considered because it helps prevent bone breakdown and has also demonstrated a decrease in the incidence of bone metastasis.  Since I fit all of the criteria based on my breast cancer and had 34 positive lymph nodes it seemed a reasonable choice to add as an IV infusion every 6 months.  My bones are still in the healthy range based on bone density scans, but I certainly have chance of developing metastatic disease.  Why not add this to the arsenal to fight against that possibility?

On Tuesday I had my first infusion.  I did everything that one should do; I made a point to be well hydrated and continued that up to the point I was getting ready to go to bed.  I pre-medicated with acetaminophen before my infusion and took some ibuprofen early in the evening.  Then around 9pm I decided I should get ready for bed and the last thing I did before retiring was go to the bathroom.  I was having some mild bone pain in my spine and ribs, a well known side effect of zoledronic acid, and the reason for the acetaminophen and later ibuprofen.  But when I went to stand up from using the toilet, I had a major muscle spasm in my back.  It was kind of scary, but muscle spasms are possible, so I figured the ibuprofen would kick in and I would fill fine in the morning, so made my way gingerly to bed.  But I continued to have spasms and they got worse.  It took everything I had to make it to my hotel door – I was staying in Dallas because of work – and undid the safety latch because by now I knew that I was in trouble and was planning to call an ambulance.  I called Al first.  It was about 2am and he did not answer but he called me back immediately.  We spoke briefly and he said he would come down.  I told him I would wait and we could decide together if an ambulance was necessary.  I was not able to dress myself completely, but I was able to get to enough clothes to at least start the process.  I called the front desk and informed them of his impending arrival and asked them to give him he key to my room.  One he arrived, Al helped me finish dressing enough to leave the room, obtained a wheelchair from the hotel, took me to the car and then to the ER.  The transfer was not pretty, but we got there and I was quickly brought back to a room.  The spasms continued pretty much anytime I moved.  This was not your normal every day muscle spasm.  This wrapped across my back and into my ribs and made it impossible to breathe until it was over.  It was off the chart painful, not to mention more than a little terrifying.  Once they had a pulse ox on my finger and I had a spasm it dropped my oxygen saturation level so low that they put me on oxygen.  Then the theories began.  One that I cannot blame them for is the potential for sepsis – initial lab tests showed an elevated white count and elevated lactate among other things, both signs of sepsis.  Two IV lines were inserted and antibiotics and fluid bolus was begun.  However, because they focused on the pain and not on the spasm, they also did a renal ultrasound to rule out kidney stones, which still makes less than no sense to me.  Along the way it was conjectured that it could be a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is not an uncommon source for sepsis, and the initial urine tests had shown a few white cells, a sign of a UTI, so a urine culture was ordered. Somewhere in there all the fluid caught up with me and I had to go to the bathroom, but since I couldn’t move much was as painlessly as possible helped onto a bed pan.  Ever try to empty your bladder while laying on your back with seven people in your room?  wouldn’t recommend it.

Once I was admitted and taken to my room I was put on precautions because it was decided that I should be tested for the flu.  The test was negative, precautions were removed, they decided to repeat testing for the flu and some other things with a more sensitive test, so I was put back on precautions.  Somewhere in all of this either Al or one of the nurses noticed that I had some small blisters on my back, blisters that had not been there when my shirt was removed in the ER.  Still, I had yet to find anyone who was willing to consider that this is  most likely a bad reaction to the zoledronic acid infusion.  The blisters added possible conjecture that I was also experiencing shingles, but that was quickly dismissed as it didn’t look anything like shingles, and was not otherwise addressed.  Once situated in my room, I laid flat on my back with as little movement as possible until Friday when the spasms were abating enough that Al decided I needed to try the bedside commode.  A change I was willing to try if for no other reason I was getting quite worried about how little I had been able to move and what it was possibly doing to my skin and my muscle tone.  The rash got weird, my back looked like someone had lashed me with a whip, but otherwise no skin issues were noted.  The rash went untreated until we got home and put steroid cream on it and it appears to be clearing up.  My muscles loosed up when I moved.

I am happy to say that my symptoms improved relatively quickly.  Despite that a CT scan was ordered to check for a compression fracture, which was another diagnosis that didn’t really fit my symptoms.  At least it was canceled after discussion with the doctor.  I went from excruciating spasms that literally robbed me of breath on Wednesday, to walking in the hallway and being able to climb stairs on Saturday when it was agreed I could be discharged home to continue my recovery.  I am not 100% and hope to follow-up with my primary care doctor tomorrow.  I consider it important if for no other reason to re-check some labs and make sure that there is not a lingering problem other than my apparent unexpected drug reaction.

This is one for the record books.  My generic complaints about healthcare aside, the symptoms that I experienced are outside the norm of what has been reported with this medication.  My oncologist, one of the best in the world, had never seen one like it in all of her years of practice.  I hope this story does not discourage anyone who is considering taking this medication from doing so.  It is a decent drug and has a place in treatment.

I end with a note of gratitude.  I am more than ever thankful for the love, friendship, and dedication that my husband, Al, demonstrated once again.  But more than that, the few people who he told while it was going on were more than kind in their inquiries and their offers of help.  I have been reminded once again that I am loved and that I am not alone in this world.  There are people who have my back and who would have stepped in and made a real difference if Al had not been able to.   I am humbled by the reminder of how fragile life can be and how wonderful the people in it can be.  Thank you from the core of my being.

Cancer, life

Another New Year

What to say about a year gone by and another new year started?  I can say that as I age time truly does seem to pass faster and I seem to accomplish less with each passing year. I could use the excuse that spending so much time on the road for work keeps me from getting as much done as I might if I were home every night, but though there be an element of truth to it,  even I believe that is an excuse.  As with all years, 2017 had its ups and downs, but not being one to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, I find myself looking forward to what 2018 might have to offer.  It is sure to have its own set of highs and lows.  I start by sharing the above photo of last weeks super moon that I took with my cell phone from my hotel window in Dallas.  It fits the year so far in that while the super moon is totally cool to look at, it also helped create some of the havoc experienced due to the higher than normal tides on the east coast during the recent storms.

Which, somewhat inexplicably, brings me to a question: is it possible to miss someone that you barely know?  Today, a man that I only met once, a friend of a friend, lost his battle with cancer.  In our one brief meeting I was touched by his humility, his curiosity, his compassion, and his intellect.  My own recent cancer journey was still pretty fresh and he was well aware that his was going to be fatal, but chose to face it head on and to look for the silver linings and to continue to live life to the fullest extent possible until that time came.  I kind of think we each presented a form of hope to the other and a bond was formed that had kept us each aware of the circumstances of the other.  I am sad for his family and for our mutual friend, but I am also sad for the world to have lost a brilliant and compassionate person. My opinion of cancer has remained unchanged; simply put, cancer sucks.  I already count this as one of the lows.

Yet life goes on and  I still look forward to what else the year may have to offer, knowing it will have its share of highs.  I have my usual set of goals: work out more and harder, eat cleaner, lose weight, read more, play more, etc.  I have made one real decision though and that is about this blog.  I will continue to write it, but I feel I need to have a more consistent goal for writing.  To that end, my intent is to publish a new post on the first weekend of each month.  I may put out an extra post every now and then, but my aim will be to produce a post once a month and to hopefully turn out a more interesting read.

I will close with the report that my next follow-up visit with the oncologist is this week.  I am interested to see how the newest guidelines affect the approach to my treatment.  Will there be any changes?  Specifically, will she add a bisphosphonate?  This is part of the new guidelines, at least in part because the addition of a bisphosphonate to the aromatase inhibitor therapy that I am already on has been shown to decrease the incidence of bone metastasis in women who have undergone treatment for estrogen receptor breast cancer.  I’m not overly anxious to add any new meds, but I’m not willing to forgo something that could add to my life either.  The upside looks pretty good. So, we shall see what the verdict is later this week.

Here’s wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2018.  May you have many more highs than lows.

Healthcare, Love

Highs and lows

I am in Tyler for a couple of days.  I had the rare privilege of getting to drive here in the middle of the day.  It was a beautiful day to drive, sunny and unseasonably warm, but not too warm.  My hotel room was ready early so I was able to check in and relax and I opened the shade to the afternoon sun.  As the sun was setting, I decided to snap a photo with my phone.

Since my last post I’ve managed to experience both highs and lows, at least as far as my health, and consequently my pocketbook, is concerned.  Those of you who are my friends on Facebook may find much of this to be a repeat, or you may have missed some of it entirely the first time.  Let us start with the briefer part of the narrative, the highs.

Having had some ankle issues after my last 5K walk, I was anxious to try my luck at another.  The Run, Run Rudolph on December 2nd, a fundraiser for the Catholic school just a few blocks from us, provided me with the opportunity.  Al was kind enough to sign us both up, and, even though I am more challenged by the process of running than he is, Al is kind enough to jog and/or walk by my side and to encourage my progress.  I was notably slower than I had been in March, but faster than my last, almost limping, 5K, so I will take it and consider it progress.  My new running shoes served me well and I had no ankle pain at all.  That’s not to say that I didn’t feel like an overweight middle-aged woman trying to recapture some small piece of a former level of fitness.

This brings us to the lows.  I started last week with early morning workouts, as is my preference.  In hindsight, I think my body was starting to have issues on Wednesday, as I decided to skip my workout because I just didn’t feel like I had the energy, feeling rather extraordinarily tired.  Thursday brought the same.  At the time I wrote it off as ennui secondary to my unusual schedule of a different work site every day.  Then came Friday and my first sick day in several years.  I woke up with excruciating left flank pain.  It had started in the night and I would adjust and go back to sleep hoping that it was just a matter of position, but morning’s light had put the lie to that idea.  It’s interesting how pain can affect one’s ability to think clearly.  I called Al to make sure I wasn’t just being a wimp and he encouraged me to go to the ER, both of us thinking it was likely a kidney stone because of the location and severity of the pain.  I called my boss who did not hesitate to say he would cover my shift for me, checked out of the hotel and headed to Baylor University Medical Center (BUMC).  I picked BUMC because it was relatively close, certainly between me and home, and because they had access to past medical records since that is where I had my mastectomy and all of my breast cancer related procedures.  The ER was awesome.  It was only a few minutes before I was taken back to a room.  After a quick physical exam, labs were drawn and a urine sample collected to check for signs of infection or a kidney stone.  Nada.  Labs were remarkably normal.  Next step was a CT scan.  I appreciated the conservative nature of looking at the simple and inexpensive first before going to the much more expensive, but more definitive, line of testing.  Again no kidney stone, but a suggestion of diverticulitis.  It was mid-afternoon when I was released with prescriptions for antibiotics, standard treatment for diverticulitis, and a pain killer.  While in the ER I had received IV medications for my nausea and my pain.   Because I was alone and needed to drive, I did not accept an offered opiate, but rather a non-steroidal painkiller, ketorolac, which did take the edge off of my pain.  I made the decision to walk across the street to Sammons Cancer Center and have my prescriptions filled there.  Since it is one of the pharmacies that I cover, I let myself in and had the truly bright spot in my day as the staff on duty all went out of their way to take care of me in whatever ways they could – a chair was produced for me to sit on, soup was brought up from the still-open cafeteria, my prescriptions were filled, and I was even escorted to my car.  I have no idea how I rate such treatment, but I am ever so grateful to know and work with people who are so willing to shower me with loving care.  It is no wonder that I love working with these people.

Once home I mostly slept on the sofa, taking my antibiotics and pain meds, trying to get in enough fluids, drinking both broth and juice, hoping that the antibiotics would kick in quickly and give me a greater degree of relief than the pain meds were.  Somewhat unexpectedly, once I got up Saturday morning, I almost immediately became nauseated, soon followed by vomiting.  I was silly enough to think that was that and I would now start to feel better.  Maybe 20 minutes later this process repeated itself.  And then again.  And again. And finally after the 5th episode, Al decided it was time to head to the ER again to get some IV fluids and some IV meds to make it stop.  We decided to go to Heritage Park, figuring it would be less busy than the full-service hospitals.  I was impressed by the care I received.  Like BUMC, it was empathetic, professional, and respectful.  And it helped.  Al took me home, after filling my prescription for nausea medication, to spend another day sleeping on the sofa before the nausea finally completely subsided.

A good nights sleep on top of a day on the sofa found me feeling pretty good on Sunday and I actually got a few things done around the house.  I was feeling rather tired and flushed by bedtime and had developed some nasal congestion, but I didn’t think it was a big deal.  How could I possibly be so wrong so many days in a row?  Monday morning I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all, had the chills, and already had some congestion in my chest.  I went to work, was told to go home, which only gave me permission to do what I thought I should have done anyway, and managed to get in to see my primary care physician.  Fortunately, the flu swab was negative and my GI issues were finally starting to ease up, but it still felt like misery piled on top of misery and led to another afternoon of napping on the sofa.

I did finally hit my “I’ve laid around as much as I can stand” point and went back to work on Tuesday.  I wish that I could say that I feel 100%, but I can only honestly claim that I am feeling somewhat better by the day.  I can once again breathe though my nose most of the time, yet the productive cough lingers and is likely to for at least a few more days.

Please pardon me if I have been too self-absorbed this go round.  Thank you to all who have expressed concern, sent me well wishes, or inquired about me.  I appreciate the love and concern.   I promise that I am getting better and will be back to myself soon enough.


Art, Cancer, Love


This is the time of year when our thoughts tend to turn to time with family and when we voice our thanks for the blessings in our lives.  It can also be a time of difficulty for those without family or who are going through a rough patch in their lives.  Most of us have some mixture of both, either directly or indirectly.  Among the things that I am grateful for in my life are my families, whether the one I was born into, the one I married into, or the one that has created itself around me in the world.

Recent events cause both consternation and gratitude.  Earlier this month I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with two of my three sisters, something we have made point to do once a year for over a decade now.  Sadly, one sister was absent, having just had a knee replacement, yet I am hopeful that the procedure will leave her with significantly improved mobility and allow her to join us again next year.  Sadly, cancer has continued to touch my life, though not directly.  Another family member was recently diagnosed with cancer, fortunately it appears to be early enough to be successfully treated; an acquaintance has had his already metastatic cancer move to his brain causing him to have seizures and sending him for brain radiation, many prayers have been sent up asking for successful, life-enhancing, treatment for this brilliant man; another person who is much loved by a family member is fighting throat cancer; and it looks like yet another friend may have breast cancer and another acquaintance has had her breast cancer return.  Sometimes I feel surrounded by cancer and I suppose this increased exposure to cancer is part of the reality of aging.  Yes, I work in oncology, but some days I cannot help but wonder if everyone ends up being touched by cancer as many times as I feel like I have been.  Sometimes it makes me sad, oft times cancer makes me angry, yet there is almost always a silver lining, if one is willing to look for it, and therefore room for gratitude.

As regards cancer, I am grateful simply to be alive.  The photo at the top of this post is part of a special Chihuly exhibit that I visited with my sisters at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.  In many ways it resembles the mammogram image of my breast cancer.  One image is a beautiful work of art, the other a terrifying image that represents the fragility of life as we know it.  For not the first time in my life, advances in technology have spared me to live another day, for which I am ever so grateful.  The same is true for those who touch my life who are currently in their own battles with their various cancers in that the results of research offer them greater chances for longer lives than they might have had even a few years ago.  But, enough about cancer for one day.  On to lighter topics.

Our sisters’ weekend this year was, as noted earlier, in Bentonville, Arkansas.  I have driven along the edge of Bentonville many times, but never really ventured into town.  I was pleasantly surprised by all that the town had to offer.  My favorite part, aside from simply spending time with two of my sisters, was easily the Crystal Bridges Museum and the special exhibit, Chihuly in the Forest.    I loved the museum so much that I have told Al that we need to go back together.  I am in love with the architecture of the museum and since they have frequent special exhibits there is sure to be something new to experience.  I have included a few photos from our weekend.


This past week was also about family.  We had a short trip back to Kansas to celebrate Thanksgiving with Al’s side of the family and also got to spend some time visiting with extended family before heading home.  It was a good visit, short as it was.  There was some discussion of genealogy and we made a stop at a cemetery to photograph some headstones for our records before heading to the farm for a nice hike and a look over the  fields and pasture.  I really have no desire to ever move there, but I just love visiting the farm.  There are no longer any buildings, but I like walking through the tall grass prairie or exploring the creeks.  I always have a feeling of peace when I am there.

This is the beginning of the holiday season and our celebration of our connections and our expressions of gratitude for all that has been bestowed on us.  So, to all of you reading this and your loved ones, I wish you happy holidays!


Art, Photos, Travels

New York State of Mind

Our latest travel adventure was our first real trip to New York City.  We drove through parts of NYC 5 years ago while driving down the east coast because Al was determined not to pay any tolls; a feat he accomplished.  But this trip was all about my life long desire to visit the Statue of Liberty in person.  One of the things that cancer or other life threatening diseases gives to the recipient is a renewed understanding of the fragility of life and permission to do all those little things that are so easy to put off but that would be meaningful to the individual.  As I hit the point of feeling that I could easily travel again, Al & I started prioritizing places we would like to visit and since the Statue of Liberty has been on my list as long as I can remember it was time to make a visit.

We flew into LaGuardia from Love Field on Southwest.  We talked about various means of getting to the hotel including using Lyft, Uber, a taxi, or the airport shuttle.  Friends suggested Uber, the people at the airport and the hotel all recommended the airport shuttle, but we opted to use mass transit and stopped at the kiosk to purchase 7-day Metro passes.  It really didn’t take any longer to get to our hotel than it would have by any of the other means of transport and gave us an introduction of the workings of the NYC bus and subway systems.  There is an app available that gives route information and suggestions for best route from point A to point B.  The subway was not difficult to navigate, but it was not as intuitive as the one in London.  The app worked well, but not as well as the one in Portland, Oregon.  Bottom line we would use mass transit again and while it was not as intuitive as some other cities it was very doable for most travelers.  We also found everyone to be quite friendly and whenever we had a question about how we need to go about getting to our destination we never had a problem finding someone to give us helpful information and guidance.  We got off at Grand Central Station, which gave us a longer walk than necessary, but gave us the opportunity to experience the grandeur of a previous age as well as find our way around some.


The grand hall at Grand Central Station in NYC

Our hotel was the Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central on 42nd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues.  It was very centrally located with the closest subway station less than a block away and a major hub just over a block away.  We were literally half a block from the heart of Times Square, so were surrounded by theaters and restaurants.  The hotel is relatively new and I am told that the rooms are larger than the average older hotel in NYC.  Check-in time is 3pm, but we arrived before noon.  We anticipated checking our bags at the desk, but our room was ready and they welcomed us to go ahead and settle in.  Our room was smaller than the average room in Dallas, but was plenty adequate.  There was actually enough floor space to do floor exercises if desired, though the hotel does have a gym (which we did not visit because, hey, we were on vacation).  We were both pleased with the hotel and the services provided.  The concierge was helpful in giving advice and obtaining tickets for us; the free breakfasts were average hotel fare; the housekeeping was good; we found all of the staff to be friendly and helpful.  Should we go back to NYC we would not hesitate to stay at this hotel again.  I do have to admit that our stay was free as we had adequate hotel points to cover our time there.

Our first day was spent traveling and, once we had arrived, orienting ourselves to the immediate area.  Times Square is a mecca for people watching.  Between the characters – ranging from costumed Disney characters to the naked cowboy and painted ladies, the tourists, and the locals it was an interesting millieu.

We wasted no time in sampling the local cuisine.  Our first official meal in NYC was at Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery.  Famous for their cheesecake, Junior’s has a full restaurant as well as a take out bakery.  We opted to try our first pastrami reuben as well as some cheesecake.  While we were told that Katz’s had the best reubens, a matter of taste that I would not dispute, I found he reuben at Junior’s to be excellent as well.  The cheesecake, which they sell via mail order as well as in restaurant, was light and creamy and totally different from any New York style cheesecake that I have ever had outside of NYC.  I share real photos of our lunch and photos from Junior’s website of the cheesecake, because, well, we acted like pigs and ate the cheesecake before we even thought about taking a photo.


My half of our shared reuben – it was awesome!

Our first full day in New York was all about Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It was all that I expected.  We did not go up into the crown – one has to purchase tickets about 6 months in advance to do so, but my fear of heights kept me from feeling deprived by that.  We did walk up the stairs to the top of the pedestal as well as visit the museum inside the base.  She is a glorious site to me, representative of all that is good about America as well as a symbol of hope to those seeking to escape oppression.  Ellis Island was educational and interesting.  We did not spend any time looking at the archives as our relatives all came before Ellis Island was in use, but it was quite interesting to have some of the experiences of immigrants so poignantly illustrated.  I cannot imagine going into a foreign country, hoping to be accepted, and having a medical examiner who did not speak my language use a button hook to flip up my eyelid to check for trachoma.  The medical exams given seem barbaric at best, at least by today’s medical standards.  Such things aside, here are a few photos from our time on Liberty Island and Ellis Island.



New York City from the harbor – the sun finally came out of hiding

Our days in New York City were spent sight seeing, visiting museums, and, of course, eating great food.  For the sake of brevity, I will mostly let the pictures do the talking.  Here are a few more food photos, just to make you hungry.  In addition to the great restaurant food we had, we also visited the street food vendors a few times, had a real New York pizza, and a real New York bagel, all of which were awesome.  I’m convinced that there is no bad food in NYC.

We visited the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, loved the architecture but found the special exhibit to be more odd than artistic; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an incredible art museum that one could take a lifetime to digest; the Museum of Natural History, loved the butterflies and the dinosaurs; and visited the 9/11 Memorial.

Some of my favorite butterfly pictures – especially love the one that mimics an owl.

Dinosaurs and mammoths . . .

And finally some of my favorite photos from our tours around New York City.  There is a lot of public art in NYC from the beautiful mosaics in the subways to iconic pieces to some of the awesome architectural details.

A few photos of well known buildings . . .

Central Park is a true oasis in the midst of the chaos that is New York City.  While there are many other parks in the city, none compare to Central Park.  One can actually find quiet in the park.

In between all of the sight seeing and eating, we did manage to catch a broadway play, Kinky Boots, which we enjoyed tremendously.  Should we go back, some of the places that we did not make it to that would be at the top of our list include the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Tenement Museum, possibly a stop at Macy’s, the world’s largest store, spending some actual time in Harlem instead of just a quick ride through, and we would probably revisit some of the places we saw this time because there is so much to digest that it is hard to take it all in in one setting.

Here’s hoping all of your travel adventures are good ones.  Until next time. . . .

Health and Fitness, Love, Photos, Travels

Another Year, Another New Beginning

It has been some time since my last post.  For anyone who actually looks forward to these  missives, I apologize.  I have certainly had intention before now, just somehow the stars didn’t align just right so that it might happen.  Probably the biggest news in my life since my last post is the passing of another year’s milestone, that being my birthday.  I am now officially 61 years young.  I pretty much look at birthdays the way many people look at New Year’s – a time to look at what has transpired over the past year, examine what was good and not so good, where I excelled and where I failed, and consider what I would like to accomplish in the year ahead.  My husband inspired me in part by telling me that he thought my birthday should be about trying new things.  Not everything here has occurred in the week since my birthday, but it has pretty much been since my last post.

On a recent trip to REI (an outdoor store aimed more at hikers and bikers than hunters and fishers for those of you not familiar) I was inspired to purchase the hat I am modeling in the photo above.  It is not a hat that I would have typically picked, but it spoke to me and I think it suits me.  It is a winter hat, so those who see me when I go north may be more likely to encounter me wearing it than those who I run into in Texas.

One thing that I have decided to focus on with renewed enthusiasm is fitness.  Yes, I have been on a fitness journey since the beginning of 2017, but my focus has now moved from simply to achieving greater fitness to an attempt to master the 5K.  I have made some gains this year in my fitness and I hope that one can see some differences in the two photos below, one from March and one from last weekend when my husband and I participated in a 5K the day after my birthday.  As an aside, I celebrate birthdays for extended periods of time these days.  My official birthday present is a long awaited trip to New York City in October, so I figure that my birthday isn’t officially over until I get back from New York. That means in my world I did a 5K on my birthday.  🙂

My goal is to get to the point where I can actually jog an entire 5K instead of having to walk part of it and to do so with an average of a 12 minute (or less) mile.  Wish me luck!

One might also recall that I enjoy hiking.  Something I have also done recently.  This is the part where I digress from pleasantries and go on a social diatribe.  I have been incredibly dismayed of late with how much trash/litter I find when on a trail.  How is it that people can carry in food and beverage containers that are presumably full and not have the wherewithal to carry the empties out.  Our parks are not trash dumps!  I hope that no one of my acquaintance is guilty.  When I go for a hike, this is what I want to see.


Thistle in bloom

Not this!


Trash along the trail

Trust me, this was not an isolated finding.

Back to more pleasant topics.  After my husband’s pronouncement, I decided that my evening meals when out of town had become entirely too repetitive and boring and that I should branch out more.  While staying in Arlington I opted to try some new restaurants in lieu of the usual easy to find chains.  I found a couple of gems that I am sure to visit again sometime, after I try some of the other restaurants I found during my online research.  The first was a little, hard to find place named Fork In The Road.  It was a delightful little place, with only about 10 tables and a very eclectic decorating scheme.  Their famous signature dish is their truffle macaroni and cheese, which they call Crack-a-roni.  Of course I had to try it.  The serving was so large that I think it could have sufficed for four people, so needless to say I had leftovers.  It was quite good, but I wouldn’t rate it as the best I ever had.  Then again, such things are very subjective and I suspect that for many it is their favorite and certainly was the most frequently raved over dish in the online reviews.  On my next visit there I will probably try something different, but it was such a fun little place to visit that the food would have to be awful before I would decline to visit again.  Here are a few photos from my visit.  Note that if you hover over each of the photos presented in the group, you should be able to see the description accompanying each photo.

A second restaurant I visited was thee.Taste of Europe.  It is somewhat misnamed as their major dishes are Russian.  It has won the Best Russian Cuisine award for the Dallas metroplex many years in a row (though I cannot say I am aware of any other Russian restaurants, so cannot say how significant this honor is) and was featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  It is another interesting place to visit.  Part museum, part Russian relic store, part grocery store, and part restaurant, there is plenty to look at while waiting for your meal to arrive.  I had to try the Russian stroganoff since it was the owners favorite dish.  It was somewhat different from any stroganoff I have eaten before, but it was quite tasty and I would definitely order it again.  The desert of the day was honey cake, something I had never actually come across, so I had to try it.   I can’t claim it was my favorite dessert ever, but then I’m addicted to chocolate so most non-chocolate desserts fall short for me.  I am glad I tried it though and it was tasty enough that I ate it all.  Here are a few photos from my visit.

When I got home the evening before my birthday, my wonderful husband greeted me with roses.  Please excuse the clutter on the kitchen table.  I am still fighting my addition to reading material and sometimes it can be very messy.


I especially love the ad for the incontinence briefs that is sitting next to the roses. Too funny!

My actual birthday was spent with more of a staycation since we will be traveling soon enough on a bigger trip.  We had three possible places in mind, two of which we actually visited and a third we decided to save for another day, mostly because we ran out of time.  Our list was the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, and the Samurai Museum, in that order.  Part of that order was based on location and ease of access.  The Presidential Library has received excellent reviews and I have long wanted to visit it.  I was not disappointed.  It is easily the best museum of its type that I have ever visited.  I will note that both Al and I commented afterwards that we had forgotten the humanity of President Bush, his sense of decency and compassion.  Like all humans, he was far from perfect, but he had a clear moral compass that led him to push for and create programs, some highly successful, some less well thought of, but nevertheless, guided by the principle that all lives matter.  Below are a few photos I took during our time at the museum.

I did not take any photos at the Holocaust Museum.  I had expected it to be very moving, but actually found some of the exhibits at the Presidential Library to be more moving.  Instead I found that the Holocaust Museum struck me as more informative.  Don’t misunderstand, there were some fairly stark exhibits, but something about it just did not touch me in the same way.  A special exhibit at the museum about the African American military experience in World War II was incredibly interesting.  It was also timeless as we seem to still be struggling with the concept of racial equality in America.   I hope to live long enough to see the day that we truly judge people by the content of their character than by the color of their skin, their choice of religion, their sexuality, or their country of origin.

Here’s hoping that everyone has a great week and that the coming 12 months is filled with more blessings than problems.