Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Found Friends

Through the magic of Facebook I recently reconnected with my long-lost elementary school friend, Jennifer. Jen and I had not spoken to or seen each other in almost 30 years! We both attended Mary Morrisson Elementary School and Fitch Junior High School in Groton, Connecticut. When I moved from Groton in 1981-82 to Washington State we lost touch and through the years I have looked for her to no avail.

On Facebook I ended up connecting with several friends from that period in time and while looking through a mutual friends contact list I saw her name and asked that friend if it was the same Jen - it was! I was so excited since I had been looking for her for so long!

After months of emailing and catching up, this past weekend Jen and her boyfriend Chris came to Charleston from Georgia for a visit and to see the Smashing Pumpkins in concert. We had so much fun reminiscing and talking about our younger, carefree days of rollerskating and playing kick the can! Fun times!

My, how we have changed!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Diagnosis: Strep

I woke up this morning with the intention of going to work. Though I don't remember it, I even took a shower. After my shower I collapsed into bed, wrapped myself up in the down comforter and set my alarm. The shower had physically exhausted me. Next thing I know, an hour later I'm still wrapped up in the down comforter with the towel still on my wet hair calling my boss and telling him that there is no way I can come in. Thankfully he was pretty sympathetic.

For the past couple of nights Robin has been sleeping on the couch because her coughing fits are horrendous and keep me up at night. Neither of us have worked since last week and we are both getting stir crazy from being in the house. We both called our doctors and made appointments to be seen today. My doctor was out of town so I made an appointment with one of his colleague's at 3pm. Robin was luckier and got a 10am appointment. I stayed in bed until she returned from her appointment with the lovely diagnosis of strep throat. Ugh.

I pretty much slept until my appointment. Who knew that a person could actually sleep this much? It's unreal! As soon as I headed out to my appointment I was so grumpy because it was downpouring and we were having a lightning storm. I despise driving in the rain, anyway. I was lethargic and lightheaded... I have no idea how I drove myself across town and back. When I walked into the office the receptionist handed me a face mask to put on. I said "do I seriously have to wear this?" and she said yes. It doesn't really make sense since I touched many things in the office during my visit. I used the bathroom, their pen and so on. The mask was uncomfortable and when you are having a hard time breathing in the first place you really don't want something covering your face to further suffocate you! As soon as I got to the exam room it was off!

The doctor I saw was very cut and dry with little personality. She asked questions, I answered them, she examined me and then she left. When she came back she told me that I have strep throat and gave me some prescriptions and a work excuse and I was on my way. When I went to the check I really wanted to poke the girl that "helped" me in the eye. She was chit-chatty with one of those ding-dong sounding Southern accents... not your classic Charleston accent, but the kind you find in the very deep woods where the moonshine is. I gave her my copay and she said I had $25 balance. I made the mistake of asking her what it was from since I always pay my copay (which is actually only $20) and she started to go find someone so I could discuss it with. Really? I was about to pass out and all I could think about was getting back to bed - NOT discussing my medical bill. I told her I would pay it on my follow up visit in two weeks and she said she would note that I said that. Um, okay... I guess she thought I was going to skip out of town! She must be new.

On the drive home I stopped at Chick-fil-A and got a diet lemonade, which I couldn't even taste! No, really.... I couldn't taste it! I tried but it tasted like nothing! So sad since I LOVE their diet lemonade. I never really trust the Chick-fil-A when I get the lemonade, though. The diet and the regular lemonade taste similar so I always wonder if I'm drinking the wrong one. It's sooo sweet and soooo tasty! Today I was seriously parched and just wanted to feel the cold on my throat. The whole way home I chewed on the ice and it felt so good!

I stopped by the pharmacy to fill my prescriptions and all I could think about was getting back in bed. While waiting for my "15 minute guaranteed" prescription fill I thought about getting some chocolate. I was going to get some Sour Patch Kids, which I love, but opted to get gummi worms instead (no, they are not on my diet, but this is a special situation!) I didn't want to eat chocolate and have it be a total waste of caloric intake since I can't actually taste anything I eat. What I really wanted were Fun Bugs. I haven't been able to find them in South Carolina and it makes me a little sad. I'm a fan of pretty much all gummi candies but Fun Bugs are the bomb! I used to get them at the Wal Mart in Ohio. They had them in small packages at the checkout. They are little bug shaped gummi candies with a juicy inside. I LOVE Fun Bugs!! Apparently they have a website for bulk ordering! This could be trouble!

I guess I will have to wait on my Fun Bug order after I have financially recovered from taking three days off this week. It's all without pay since the remainder of my PTO was sucked up during the first week of my cancer treatment. The next couple of weeks will be hard. We'll have to find some fun and inexpensive things to do! Perhaps the weather will cool down and we can break the bikes out for a ride downtown when we feel better. All I know that I have one more day to be cooped up in this house. It's making me insane!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Super-Fast St. Louis Trip!

We decided to take a quick trip to St. Louis last weekend and came back with some unplanned cooties on board. Both Robin and I have been sick since returning early Wednesday morning. Robin was the first to get the tell-tale symptoms of a cold and I didn't really feel it full-on until Friday morning.

Robin went to work on Friday and ended up coming home early. As I worked I could feel the cold creeping up on me and when I came home around 4pm I hit the sack. We were miserable all weekend and I didn't leave the house until Sunday night when we went to get some NyQuil and Mucinex at CVS (a car trip Robin doesn't even remember!) On Saturday, Robin went to the grocery store to get some vegetables for chicken noodle soup. I think I ate that and grilled cheese all weekend and nothing else. Those grilled cheese sandwiches were soooo good. Robin bought that really soft, chewy white bread... the kind we NEVER buy. We usually buy the whole wheat Arnold bread. The bread Robin bought reminded me of my childhood and the Bunny Bread brand that my Grandma used to buy. Soooooo goood, but so bad for you! Those always make perfect grilled cheese! It's a good thing they don't make Bunny Bread in South Carolina!

I really needed to sleep well before going back to work today so I took the meds and went to sleep around 11pm. At 7am Robin came in and asked if she could get me anything and I said I needed to get ready for work. She said there is no way I could go to work since what we have is contagious (everyone in Illinois is sick!) so I called in and again, laid on the couch all day... still miserable. I did manage to shower (since I hadn't since Friday morning!) Although a little cleaner, all it did was make me feel hot. Hopefully I will feel better (fingers crossed) by tomorrow morning.

Our trip to St. Louis was only a couple weeks in the planning. In June I received an email from my Aunt telling me that she had just returned from a doctors appointment with my Grandfather. It appears that Grandpa's cancer has returned and it's in his lungs. Having seen his brother, three sons, brother-in-law, both wives, daughter-in-law and his grandchild (me!) go through cancer treatments he has decided to forgo radiation and chemotherapy. Based on that decision, Grandpa has been given a prognosis of 3 to 12 months. It's been a little over a year since I have seen my Illinois family so Robina and I planned a trip for the 4th of July holiday weekend.

My Jeep is in need of new tires and has high mileage on it so we decided to take Robin's Miata for the 13-hour drive. Things were fine until we hit the mountains of North Carolina where, out of nowhere, it was bumper-to-bumper standstill traffic. We had no idea what was happening, but for the next three hours we inched through the mountains - all of us narrowed down to one lane! We didn't find out until we returned home to Charleston that there was a rock slide down part of the mountain that blocked some lanes. It was dark, but I didn't see any indication of a rock slide... just sayin'!

Road trip pit stop for cider and boiled peanuts.

We finally arrived in Maryville around 7:30am and everyone was fast asleep so we let ourselves in. Later, we woke up around 11am to start the day.

Still sleepy, I called my Uncle and Aunt to let them know we arrived okay and then called Grandpa and Mil to see when they wanted to have lunch. We didn't want to bog ourselves down with an itinerary. I wanted to see everyone, but there is never time enough to make all the stops I'd like to make on a quick weekend trip like this... besides, my priority was seeing Grandpa. We made lunch plans for the following day and then headed out for the day. First stop was lunch - we were starving!

I decided I wanted to take Robin to Lotawata Creek, which is one of my favorite restaurants. I don't think I ever noticed before that Lotawata touts itself as a Southern restaurant. I was looking at the menu this past weekend and still have no idea why... where are the collards and okra?? When Robin and I discussed it she said she thinks it's because they fry a lot of their food. Haha! I suppose that is a misconception of what Southern food is. I decided that they don't exactly define WHICH "Southern" part of the States they are representing since they have a little bit of everything, including Cajun. Wouldn't that be considered Southern, also?? Anyway, I don't care what they call themselves! Lotawata Creek's food is so tasty that we ate there twice during the weekend. Robin fell in love with their rolls so much that we stopped there before heading home to buy some. You should have seen us stuffing rolls in every crevice in that tiny Miata with all that luggage!! I wish they would open a location in Charleston!!

This is how ice should be done in EVERY restaurant!
I think Robin had a private moment when she saw this.

Don't remember what it was called... but it was GOOD!

After lunch, we somehow ended up at the mall. My cousin, who will go unnamed on this issue, apparently wears fake toenails on her big toes because she feels that her big toe-toenails are "ugly". Ummmm, what? I had no idea that fake toe-toenails even existed. Who wears those??? They are FEET! Just paint those beastly things and call it a day. Really, no one is looking unless they have a foot fetish and odds are, a person with a foot fetish will probably like funky looking toes. Wow. So... Robin and I walked around the mall a bit and wasted time while the damaged fake toenail was repaired.

On our mall excursion we found something amazing!

A Hurricane Simulator Machine!!

I suppose this is what people in the Midwest do since they don't have hurricanes. We were going to get in it and give it a whirl for $2, but we overheard a small child tell his friend that the winds inside weren't as powerful as they used to be. Bummer.

We also found a new hat for me that I could wear on the ride home with the top down. After a couple of hours my hair blowing around really gets on my nerves!

Oscar the Grouch. I think it suits me.

Later in the evening we decided to head over to St. Louis for a drive around the city. We went to Forest Park and parked at the Grand Basin and St. Louis Art Museum, which I have always thought was beautiful.

We took a long walk around the Grand Basin and knew the next day was going to long one so we headed home.

The following day we met Grandpa and Mil at their house and headed out for lunch at the Golden Corral (their choice.) Grandpa has lost so much weight and is walking with a cane that I was unsure of how he was going to maneuver around the buffet. I asked him if he needed some help but he said he was good to go. Once everyone had their food Denise and I started talking about old memories of growing up and going over Grandpa and Grandma's house... How Grandpa would get mad at us for kicking the white rocks out of his landscaped bushes, how Grandma used to warn us about getting near Grandpa's garden, how we used to freak out when the wiffle ball was hit too close to the garden, Grandma's macaroni and cheese, the scary basement in their house, how mad Grandpa used to get when he would hit an old Easter egg in the yard that we didn't find, family picnics, fighting over who would carry Grandpa's lunch box up the hill when he pulled in the driveway... Most of the time Grandpa was just laughing to himself and looking down. It was a good lunch.

We went back to Mil and Grandpa's house and Mil gave us a grand tour (which I have had numerous times!) until we finally had to leave since we had plans with Uncle Chuck and Peggy. It was so heartbreaking just walking to the car. I remember leaving Grandma in her Hospice bed after saying goodbye to her and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I didn't want this trip to be sad like that. I went there knowing it was probably going to be the last time I saw my Grandfather although I pretend that it is not and pray that I am wrong.

After visiting Grandpa we headed over to Uncle Chuck and Peggy's house. The original plan was to visit for a couple of hours and then head over to St. Louis to see the B-52's preform at Fair St. Louis and then watch the 4th of July fireworks over the Mississippi River. During our visit we basically decided to get something to eat and skip the 4th of July festivities. Family is way more important than seeing the B-52's, right?

Upon deciding to get dinner we went to several restaurants around the area and found that they were closed. I guess they all assumed that family BBQ's and Fair St. Louis were going to take all the business so they closed. We went back to Uncle Chucks and ordered pizza and chatted for a couple of hours.

The next day Robin and I decided to have as ours and I wanted to take her to several places in St. Louis that I thought she should experience. I really wanted to make it to the Zoo since it's one of the most amazing I have been to (and free!) but there just wasn't enough time in the day to fit it all in. We started off the day by going to Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Laumeier is a place that I've always wanted to go, but for some reason never made it out to. Before we explored the park we stopped at White Castle for lunch. Robin has never had White Castle (we don't have them in South Carolina) so I thought she should have that experience. She didn't care for it much and that made me a little sad since it was something I had while growing up. She said it was probably something that you need when you are really drunk and need to sober up. I said "Yep" because really, she's right.

When we got to Laumeier the sun was blazing hot. We walked around for about 10 minutes and I was already extremely uncomfortable in the heat. I tried to push on and we made it around the main part of the park and I was melting. When we got to the huge eyeball it was a total meltdown, including crying. I don't feel well when it happens, the heat attacks are out of control and I feel and look awful when it is happening. It's extremely uncomfortable. Robin went to the car and got the towel and the leftover drink we had from White Castle and it helped a little. I sat for a bit and cooled down before moving on. We didn't even get to see the childrens sculpture garden. We definitely need to go back when the weather is cooler. It's such a neat and magical place!

From Laumeier we drove over to Cathedral Basilica St. Louis, which is a place I will never tire of visiting! When Robin and I visited the Cathedral at Duke University she said that before dating me she never visited large churches like that. As soon as she said that I thought of Cathedral St. Louis! I couldn't wait to show her! Each time I go there I stare in amazement at the mosaic ceiling. It's just breathtaking!

Love, love, love this place!!

The day was getting shorter so we headed downtown to the Gateway Arch. After parking and getting our tickets to the top we realized our wait to go to the top was almost three hours! Gawd! To pass the time we wandered around the small museum under the Arch and saw the same stuffed buffalo that my Mom made a big deal about 40 or so years ago... you know, city girl from Boston had never seen a buffalo before! How crazy is it that they still have that thing!

We ended up sitting on some long couch-like benches that were unfortunately made of wood for a couple of hours. Not comfy at all!

Finally, it was our time to head to the top and sadly, the long wait and ride to the top is something I kind of regret. It was awful. I have been to the Arch MANY times and this is not the first impression I wanted Robin to have. The wait was long, the top was incredibly overcrowded and well, it was just gross and filthy. The windows were so disgustingly saturated with fingerprints and muck. Gross. At one point, as we were looking out the windows, this overwhelming and nauseating stench of body odor surrounded us. I covered my mouth and nose and looked at Robin who nodded in the other direction as she covered her face. It was a whole family... I won't even go on to describe them. It was just an unpleasant experience overall and I was so sorry that had to be Robin's first (and probably last) visit to the St. Louis Arch!!

Top of the Arch... doesn't this look like fun??

After the stink-fest at the Arch we were beat. We headed back across the river and back to Denise's. The next morning we were heading home and needed much rest. After dinner and dessert we went to bed and headed back the next day and made a pit stop to see Superman and Big John's in Metropolis, IL. They sure do love their Superman there!!

Who wouldn't shop at a grocery store with gigantic grocery clerk outside?

The Superman Superstore!

The Superman Superstore has EVERYTHING that a Superman fan would ever need or want, although they were out of the black tank tops in my size! Oh well... maybe next time we're traveling through town!

(To my friends and other family members that I couldn't see, I'm terribly sorry! Hopefully we can hook up next time we are in town! XOXO)