New Year, New Trip

Well, I never did finish writing about my fantastic Grand Canyon trip. I still have my notes, so it is not a lost cause yet. But here I find it to be 2017 and I am sitting in a hotel room in Lafayette, Louisiana. I spent all day on a Greyhound bus from Austin to Houston to Lafayette. It was interesting. I bored everybody on Facebook to tears by giving them a play-by-play of where I was. It helped pass the time. I am waiting for my friend, Carolyn, who you might remember from my Grand Canyon adventures, to arrive. We are about to start another Road Scholar adventure: “Celebrating Mardi Gras in Cajun Country.” We are arriving a day early because we both have a day of travelling. She is going through 4 airports today: Portland, Maine to Detroit, Michigan to Atlanta, Georgia to Lafayette, Louisiana. I know she is going to be tired once she gets here.

A lot has happened since the Grand Canyon. I should have kept up with my blog but things just kept me from being able to write. My mom’s health is very poor. She has congestive heart failure now and we are uncertain what is going to happen there. And she is just stubborn and a pain in the ass sometimes. Okay, most of the time. My right hip has hurt for over a year and I have complained to Pain Management for awhile. They finally sent me to the orthopedic surgeon and the xrays show that my hip replacement that I had in January, 2014 is loose and never “took”. So, on April 19th I will be having it redone. I am not thrilled. For a few reasons. If I had been sent to the orthopedic surgeon last year, when I had the higher tier insurance, my copay for the surgery would be lower. I went to a lower tier this year to save money. Now my copay will be higher. But this will be discussed with Baylor Scott and White at great length. But I am mainly not thrilled at having to go through the recuperation again. But it is what it is.

My friendship with Carolyn has been my rock for this past year. She flew out to Texas last November for a week and we toured all over Austin and had a blast. We email almost every day. I can’t imagine what my life was like before I ever knew her. I now also have plane tickets to visit her in Maine in August. I can’t wait.

So, this Road Scholar trip we are sharing a room. I asked the hotel if they could give us a room with a really nice view. Carolyn told me via email that she could not care less what the view was. I wanted a nice view. So they told me they would. I immediately looked out the window and we must have the crappiest view in the entire hotel. It does not have a view of the river or of the city. Carolyn should get a kick out of this. I have decided that I don’t care. We aren’t going to be in here very much. Then I walked down to CVS to buy a little 4-pack of wine to put in our refrigerator. I couldn’t figure out how to cross their roads. I had to run for it. It was crazy. I should have taken the shuttle but thought the walk would be nice. Not again. I got back to the hotel but barely. I want to go to the airport with the shuttle guy to pick up Carolyn when she gets in but I have been having trouble figuring out when they will leave. I am beginning to think I am becoming a pain to the front desk staff and I have just gotten here. No wonder I have the worst view in the entire hotel!

It’s almost 8pm and I just realized that I never ate dinner. I had a snack at almost stop on the bus ride here. So I wasn’t hungry. We are going to the Blue Dog Café for Sunday brunch tomorrow morning. I was told by the shuttle driver that we made an excellent choice by making reservations there. Yum. Well, I better get ready to go and bug the front desk staff again about taking the shuttle to the airport. Our program officially starts tomorrow evening, so Carolyn and I are on our own until then. Oh dear…

I should be able to blog as we go as I am not “off the grid” as we were at the Grand Canyon. That made it really difficult. I am tired. More later!


South Rim Day 2, Day 4 of Trip

I am getting through this very slowly. Having some other things going on. Caregiving–I am no longer working part-time as a caregiver for Senior Helpers. I am now focusing solely on my parents. Going from caregiving to caregiving was tiring and something I had really thought about while I was on my trip. I knew that I at least wanted to adjust my hours, but my mom has said she can pay me for helping them out. I’d do it for free if I could afford it, but I need to supplement my disability. Sucks. Once I get into the lower rental apartments, I can afford it, but that may be awhile. Anyway, that is what is happening. Now I have more flexibility and I can spend more time with them and some more time taking care of me.

Okay, Day 2 at the South Rim was really, really busy. After an early 6am breakfast, a lot of our tour had signed up to take a flight over the canyon. I did not pay the extra money for it, so I knew I had to do something with the 3 hours of my free time. It was basically a whole free day where we were not going to have to get on our tour bus at all. I had bought some postcards (at the gift shop!) and had to mail them at the post office but that did not open until 9. As soon as everyone left for their flight at 8:30, I got on the shuttle that headed to the touristy Visitor Center (that would be the Blue Line Shuttle). At the Visitor Center, I had to change buses to the Orange Shuttle and it took me out to Yaki Point. It was only myself and 2 others there. The view was beautiful and it was peaceful and I just sat there for awhile and looked around and thought. It was cool, breezy, sunny and perfect weather. Finally got up and got back on the Shuttle to the Visitor Center (visited the gift shop!) then caught the Blue Shuttle back to our lodge. I grabbed my postcards and Carolyn had asked me to mail her postcard also, and I trotted over to the post office. There, while waiting to buy some stamps, there was a man from McKinney, Texas who attends Round Rock Express games a lot in line. So we started talking about that, of course. I can’t even remember how we got into that discussion! I think he told the post master that he was from a small town in Texas and I asked him where. So I mailed the postcards, then I…visited the gift shop!!! I could not resist! I knew “my crew” was expected back by 11am, and it was getting to be about 10:30, so I trotted back to the lodge. I sat on a seat in front of my door and closed my eyes…and heard our tour bus when it was about a minute away. I opened my eyes and thought that had to be our bus. Sure enough, it was. I was so happy to see them. I ran over, saw Carolyn, and the first thing she says to me is, “I made a new friend!”

“What!!!???!!!” I didn’t say this out loud. But my heart dropped. She and I had really clicked and we were having a blast. My worst fear had just come true. She was gone a full 3 hours and I had lost who I thought was a going to be a really good friend! Well, it turns out she was talking about the pilot of the aircraft who flew them over the Grand Canyon and she was all excited that he had put his arm around her when they all had their picture taken. She even spent the money to buy a copy of the picture. LOL We started one of our laughing, giggling fits right there in front of the bus and our tour leader, Mike and our bus driver, Dave, just stared at us. They had just gotten back. What could possibly had set us off already? We had found something, of course! We were good at that.

After lunch, Carolyn and I decided to venture up the opposite direction from Yaki Point to Hermit’s Rest. The park was having a very rare controlled burn, so the shuttles were having to go different routes than normal. We took the Blue Shuttle to the Bright Angel Trailhead and transfer to the Red Shuttle. The Red Shuttle has many stops on the way up to Hermit’s Rest where you can overlook the canyon. Before we started, we decided we would get off at 2 stops to take pictures: Maricopa Point (because we liked the name) and The Abyss (how could we not check this one out??!!) We stopped at every single stop. It was so beautiful. Took a million pictures. I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell which picture went to which stop though. We did witness a helicopter picking up water from the Colorado River to dump on the controlled burn. Cool. And rare! We got to Hermit’s Rest and guess what they had?? A gift shop!! We were happy. So we shopped. Then we caught the Red Shuttle back down to the Bright Angel Trailhead. We weren’t done yet. I told you it was a busy day!

After we got off the Red Shuttle, we hit all the tourists. But we had to have “the ice cream”. We had witnessed people walking all around the park since the day before with these huge waffle cones with huge scoops of ice cream. So we knew that was on our agenda. But we needed lunch. Now this had been a topic of discussion all during our shuttle rides to and back from Hermit’s Rest. We had finally decided to eat at the Arizona Room, supposedly a wonderful place, a steakhouse, hard to get into, but easier at lunchtime. It was starting to get late. It was around 2pm by this time. We were amazed we were not as hungry as we should be. We got to the restaurant and they said they could seat us in just one moment. I mentioned to Carolyn, that is strange it isn’t very busy–wouldn’t it be funny if this wasn’t the Arizona Room? The guy came back to seat us and she asked him if this was the Arizona Room and he said no, that was around the corner! Another laughing fit moment. We made it to the Arizona Room. This time, we are in line. Two younger men, maybe in their early 30s, came in behind us and were waiting. The woman comes up and says “table for four?” We are like, “uh, no…two…” One of the guys says, “yeah, we are not dating yet!” Another laughing fit moment. So we get seated. We look at the menu. The lunch menu was disappointing. I was hoping for a steak. Not on the menu at lunch evidently. So I got a burger, which as really good though. So we ate. This was the one meal we had to pay ourselves. All of our other meals were covered on our tour.

After lunch, we were still planning on that ice cream, but decided to visit Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio and the Bright Angel Lodge gift shop (!!) first. Then we had ice cream! It was good! Then we decided it was time to head back to our lodge to rest for a little. Because of a late lunch, we knew it would be a late dinner. Dinner was going to be at Maswik Lodge instead of our lodge. So we trotted over to catch the Blue Shuttle. The line was super long. Yuk. We waited. Finally got on the shuttle and got to our lodge. I was exhausted. Got to rest for a little bit. Carolyn and I met at 6pm to catch the Blue Shuttle over to Maswik Lodge for dinner. Their cafeteria was better than the one at our lodge. It was like an eatery with different stations. It was good. We found another lady who was on our tour and invited her to sit with us. She lives in Maryland, so got to talk with her for awhile. Guess what Maswik Lodge had? They had a gift shop! So we went in there afterwards and perused for awhile. By this time it was dark out, so the shuttles run less frequently. We waited for one and were lucky to get on one pretty quickly. It was crowded, but we did not have to go far. Got back to our lodge and we decided we were exhausted. We had to be up at 6am for breakfast the next morning for an 8:15 departure to the North Rim for 2 nights. Less touristy, less busy. So Carolyn and I parted company after we oohed and aahed over some more elk nearby. This would be my last night with television until we leave the Grand Canyon, so I fell asleep with it on.

Next day: Off to the North Rim!


South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Day Three (continued): We arrived at the South Rim with mixed emotions. I was pretty beaten up as the bus had taken a very windy, upward climb with little land to the side of the road and a very long drop beside it. Our group leader, Mike, saw me looking downwards out the window, most likely turning somewhat green, and after making a comment about not understanding how people who have a fear of heights would want to visit the Grand Canyon, he said, “Yes, it would roll a few times.” I made a few comments out loud, making my displeasure known. I do not have a fear of heights so much, but I do not like to be unprotected and not have control. In the bus, I had no control. At the Grand Canyon, a good portion of the trails were without railings and just one misstep, that would be it. One girl while we were there (who was not in our group) did fall off a trail and was only saved because a tree just happened to stop her descent. I have to applaud the paramedics who had to RUN down the unprotected trails (I would almost crawl!) in order to save her. Anyway, after many ear pops, road winds, and wanting to say, “Are we there yet?” we finally got to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. We arrived at the most touristy part of the park. I thought, “this is it???” Yes, the view was spectacular! We took pictures, oohed and aahed, watched crazy people go out to points with no protection, then sat down to eat a sack lunch. It was very crowded. I was hoping that this was not how it was going to be for the entire trip. After lunch we hopped back on the bus and headed towards the Visitor Center (and the Gift Shop!) and we got the rundown on the Shuttle System in the park. Were we tired? Evidently not, because it was time for a “nature walk” (aka a hike) from the Shrine of the Ages (after getting back on the bus for a quick ride there) along the Rim Trail to the Bright Angel Trailhead. Wasn’t there a shuttle that could have taken us there? No, it was a beautiful walk. Some of us were tired and the elevation adjustment was a little harsh. But it was all making it funny. The bus met us at the Trailhead and took us to the Yavapai Lodge where we would be staying for the next two nights. I was off the grid now. You could get basic internet in the Lodge but there was always so many people trying to get on, that people were having trouble getting their emails. I did not even try. I didn’t mind not getting telephone calls (my service didn’t work there) and I didn’t mind not checking my emails. The lodge had a cafeteria and a gift shop (!!) and there was a post office and there was a market which had a huge gift shop (!) and you could buy food and snacks. We were hitting all the gift shops. The cafeteria was okay, the rooms were nice, not as modern as the other hotels that we had been staying at, but they were nice. We had about a quarter mile walk between our rooms and the lodge. It was a really beautiful area. We started seeing elk and deer all over, who were not afraid of us at all. We checked into our rooms, rested for an hour, then headed to dinner. After we ate, Carolyn and I headed to the gift shop (of course) and then to the market. Got some snacks there and walked around their huge gift shop. Luckily Carolyn had thought of bringing her flashlight as it was dark when walking back to the lodge. Exhausted but still had to do some hand laundry when I got back to the room. Then I crawled into bed and fell asleep watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air! The next day was going to be a very busy one!DSCF1780

Good Intentions

I had meant to blog everyday while I was on my trip to the Grand Canyon. Even while I was “off the grid” for four days I had meant to write and then just post it once I had access to the internet. Oh my gosh, I was exhausted every night. I was crawling into bed every night no later than 9:30pm and going straight to sleep. That is unusual for me. Not just the 9:30, but the going straight to sleep. Usually I like to play on my Kindle (Mah Jongg or Solitaire…) but my Kindle was pretty much left alone most of the week. So, I did not write. I had a blast. I made a great friend. We are already talking about our next trip. It may be another two years before we go, but I think we will go.

When I left, I was so anxious about going by myself. Was I going to have a roommate? Would I make any friends? Would I be left all by myself? I did not have a roommate. That was nice to be able to relax on my own and not worry about somebody that I did not know. I made friends. I think Carolyn will be a “life-long” friend. I already miss her. It was hard coming home and not talking with her and laughing (and we laughed so hard) but she lives on the East Coast. I’m back here in reality, worrying about some friendships that I thought I have built, grieving for some that I have lost. I did a lot of soul searching while I was away and have realized that I am stronger than I have given myself credit for.

Day One: I flew into Phoenix and took a shuttle straight to the Hilton. I was early, so was put on a waiting list for a room. I wasn’t hungry, so had a bowl of fruit in the dining room and then sat in the lobby. The longer I sat, the grumpier I got. I was ready for a nap. I was about 5th on the list, so I waited. Impatiently. A couple came over and started talking to me and they were also on the same trip as I was. I was so happy to meet somebody finally. While I was talking to them, my name was called for a room. Yea! I got upstairs and got to rest for awhile. At 4:30 we had registration. That is when we got to check everybody out. We met our leader, Mike (hysterical!) and we had to get in front of everybody and introduce ourselves. There was a girl sitting across the aisle from me who was travelling alone who worked with cats and I swore I was going to talk with her. I ended up not talking with her until about halfway through the trip. We had a very early morning the next day, so went to bed early on the 16th. Did not sleep well that night. I was off with the 2 hour time change, the being nervous, etc.

Day Two: We loaded up the bus after a good buffet breakfast and left the hotel by 8am. During breakfast a lady came up to me and said she was travelling alone also, maybe we could eat together? That was Carolyn and we became partners in crime for the rest of the trip. On the road to Sedona we stopped at Montezuma’s Castle and Red Rock State Park. Places I have heard about from my parents and on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, my siblings travels. I could not believe that I was actually seeing them for myself. The Red Rocks were beautiful. Sedona was beautiful. We did not stay in “downtown” Sedona, so were not near the great little shops, unfortunately. The group ate at a little Mexican restaurant named Maria’s and both Carolyn and I had huge frozen Margaritas. Oh my. We got very silly, giggly, and ended up walking up to the nearby convenience store to get snacks, giggling all the way. And all the way back. By the time we got back, I had discovered that she had been given the handicapped room on the first floor (and had been given the same at the Hilton Phoenix Airport hotel) so she did not get a bathtub and evidently she likes to take baths. This became a standing joke the whole week (though she ended up with a bathtub once we got to the South Rim lodge in the Grand Canyon.) Then the hotel desk clerk thought she got her trail mix (or whatever she got at the convenience store) there and I had to tell him that, no, she had purchased it at the convenience store. I was waiting for the elevator by this point and Carolyn had walked to her room. The clerk had walked over to me all concerned, “Where did she get those?” Seriously? Do we look like we would steal trail mix from their $2 stash? I had bought some Milano cookies (yum!) Off to bed (again, early–tired–we had mentioned going into the hot tub…but we were exhausted.)

Day Three: Up early again for breakfast (hot continental) and then on the bus by 8am. This trip I sat with Carolyn, so everyone on the bus was doomed. We didn’t need Margaritas to put us into giggling fits anymore. We stopped in Flagstaff at Arizona State University for a brief rest period (and Starbucks on campus was open, so we got tea/coffee/etc.) Enough where we would need another bathroom break at some point! There was a bathroom on the bus, but we got a lot of rest stops. They (Mike and our wonderful bus driver, Dave) were very generous! So back on board and got a tour of Flagstaff (would be back on our last day in Arizona) before heading on to the Grand Canyon.

This is where I am going to stop for right now. Have to leave you in some suspense, right? Right…

Two hours behind, not one…

Well, I arrived in Phoenix thinking that my flight was very late. Not that I had any place to be in a hurry or anything. But I really thought we were late. We had a late start but I could not figure out why we still lost so much time. I asked the girl sitting next to me on the plane if we were late and she said no, but then she said that Phoenix was only one hour behind Austin. I was confused. But she was from Spain. If I didn’t know, why would she? Finally the guy sitting next to her (she was in the middle seat) told us that Phoenix was two hours behind Austin, not one. Oh. Duh. Okay, so we weren’t late. Maybe 10 minutes or so.

So I end up in the Phoenix airport. I get my luggage, which was very easy after finding the baggage claim. I find the restroom. Phew. I call the shuttle service to take me to the hotel. They tell me to go to Door One on the North Side, cross the street, then stand between Doors One and Three. What? I made her repeat it again, then I repeated it back to her, hung up then kept saying it over and over so I would not forget it. Evidently I didn’t as I seem to still remember. I got the shuttle. Got to the hotel. Had to wait for a room and started to become very grumpy because I was becoming really tired. But finally I got a room and got to take a nap before our program began.

Everyone is so friendly and I really think the whole week is going to be fun. I have my own room, which is really nice. I was a little nervous about that.

Tomorrow is an early day–breakfast at 6am and then we are off at 8am for Sedona (and the cliff dwellings). Can’t wait. Time for sleep. Excited for tomorrow!

Watch Out, Arizona…Here I Come!

I am just about all packed and ready to go. My apartment is cleaned. Normally, I would have waited until the last day to get everything done. I have been pretty organized and can now relax with only a couple of things left to do. Tomorrow morning I leave for a week in the Grand Canyon. Courtesy of a Caregiver Grant given by A much-needed vacation.

I went to the nursing home this morning to see my dad. I won’t be seeing him until I return. I will worry about him and about my mom while I am away. I know my sisters are going to keep in touch in my mom, but they are not close by. I just have to think positive. Things will be fine.

I am nervous and excited. I won’t know anybody when I get there. I worry that nobody will like me, of course. I know that this trip will only be as much fun as I make it. I have to get past my shyness and anxiety. Everything will be fine. Positive thinking again! 🙂

I have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. Finally! I can’t believe it. Is it really as beautiful as the pictures I have seen? We will see!

More to come…stay tuned!

Ants in My Pants Cured!

Six more days until I am off to the Grand Canyon. I am so nervous about travelling by myself and joining this tour group. Will people like me? Will I have a roommate? Will she like me? Will I snore? ha ha  Will I hold up the entire security line at the airport trying to open up my laptop (yep, I am taking it…) and taking off my shoes? I can’t go through the “regular” security thing because of my hip replacement and my neck fusion. Sigh. If it is not one thing, it is another. I just found out that the cabins we are staying in the North Rim hold 3 people, so if I don’t have a roommate, am I going to be thrown into a room with two other people who already know each other? Surely not. Yep, I have a little bit of social anxiety.

Yesterday I could not sit still. I would sit down, then get back up and try to get something done. I was restless. Well, I went to Pain Management this morning and had my injections, so I am pretty numb from my waist down. So no more ants in my pants. At least for now. I hate to miss my Al-Anon meeting tonight; maybe somebody can pick me up and drive me–if I have any feeling by then. I am already missing it next week, so I would love to go this week. I had to have my injections before my trip and before I did a lot of walking. Unfortunately, the injections don’t last as long as they used to anymore. I did schedule another radiofrequency ablation for when I return.

Six more days. Six more days. I remember when I filled out the application for the Caregiver Grant I had to wait six months! And here it is.

Time Off In Sight

Twelve days to go and I will be off to the Grand Canyon. Courtesy of One week exploring the North and South Rims, meals included. I had to pay a $100 deposit (my older brother offered that!) and my younger sister paid my airfare to Phoenix from Austin with her airline points. Do I have a great family or what? They all live on the East Coast. I live here with our parents in Round Rock, TX (home of Dell Computers and the Round Rock Express–AAA team of the Texas Rangers.) Our local paper, the Round Rock Leader did a whole front page article on me and the grant that I was awarded for this trip. Round Rock Leader Article

I am so excited for this trip. I am so tired. I love my parents. But sometimes I want to just have my own life, like my brothers and sisters have. They do not understand the tiredness that I feel. My life is not my own. I could not even date if I wanted to at this point. I cannot do any social (Meetup) events anymore. It is just not possible.

But I love my parents. I choose to help them. And I am going to have a wonderful one week off in the Grand Canyon! The spirit of my best friend will be with me. Her death has created a huge void in my life. I miss her everyday and talk to her all of the time. I know she is with me but…I want her here. I know she is in a better place: out of pain. I just miss her.

Well, twelve days….can’t wait…nervous…excited…etc.

Sadness and Excitement…

It has been a long time since I have blogged. I hope to write more in the coming months. It has been almost a year since I have published on my site and a lot has happened.

If you have read my past blogs, a year ago I had a friend who had a heart attack and then suffered kidney failure. On top of that, she had Ankolysing Spondolytis. And I probably spelled that wrong… She has gone through dialysis at least three days a week for almost a year now. She is my best friend. Her health has been failing and she has finally decided that she has had enough and it is time. She went through her last dialysis treatment two days ago and her husband checked her out of the hospital and she is now on hospice at home to help with the pain. She might have a few days left. But she is already gone in her mind. She has done everything she is supposed to do on this Earth and she told me it is time. So, it is just a matter of time. I just feel like my world will never be the same. Because it won’t be.

My dad entered a nursing home due to his Parkinson’s Disease. My mom has never lived alone. She lives in the same apartment complex as I do, and if she had her way she would have me over every evening. Well, I would love to stay sane. So she is slowly getting used to spending time on her own. It is sad. Too many sad things.

A little bit of excitement. I applied for a Caregiver Grant through and was granted a trip to the Grand Canyon. All I have to do is pay a $100 deposit and the airfare. I am all signed up, my older brother contributed the $100 deposit (he just happened to be visiting from Virginia when I received the acceptance letter) and my younger sister is going to donate airline points to pay my airfare. I don’t get to travel much at all, so this is super exciting. I am really blessed.

What is really neat is that it normally takes 4-6 weeks to hear after you send in the application. My friend really pushed me to send it in. I had to write a personal statement and I really struggled with it. I did not think I would hear before she passed away. I heard within about 2 weeks. I was able to tell her that I am going to the Grand Canyon.

What if this should happen to you?

What if one day you were getting ready to go to work and you started having trouble breathing and pains in your chest. Next thing you know, you are in an ambulance and that is where you have a heart attack. You are 53 years old. You have to have a triple bypass, but there are complications. After the procedure is completed, your heart stops three times, but the staff is able to bring you back. Then your kidneys fail and you have to have dialysis. Because of an autoimmune condition (ankylosing spondylitis) you cannot be put on a transplant list. You are on a trach tube and cannot speak. You are being fed through a feeding tube. You had your surgery in May and the following January you are still in the hospital. You are making progress, slowly. You just took 2 steps using the parallel bars and with a lot of help. You finally are rid of the trach tubes, and after 7 months, you can speak for the first time. Now you can also eat food as they have removed the feeding tube. Your umbilical cord has been cut. You are reborn. Think about it. Meanwhile, your job is gone. You had to leave on disability, so you only get a percentage of the pay that you were getting. Your medical bills are piling up; thankfully, it looks like Medicare might be approved soon, but not soon enough and it won’t cover enough. Would you want to have to worry about this? I wouldn’t. This story is about my friend Shelly. It is a very condensed story. But please help and donate to the GoFundMe account…Thank you!