Tag Archives: travel

Sister Trips

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Many years ago, my sister and I started taking an annual “Sister Trip”, a long weekend together usually spent in the Gulf Shores, Alabama, area.  It actually started as a Christmas shopping trip, but we always had so much fun that we decided to make it official.  Originally, we would stay in a hotel in the area, once in a condo owned by one of the doctors I worked with at the time.  After my mom passed away, we tried to work it out so that our trip would coincide with her birthday weekend (early November), a way for the two of us to honor her memory that would have pleased her greatly.  Then, ten years ago, my sister and her husband bought a condo in Fairhope, Alabama, a beautiful little town on the Mobile Bay.  And our Sister Trip had an official home.  Oh, the wonderful times we have had there!!  Shopping, eating, drinking oceans of wine, laughing, being sisters.

This past weekend was our last in the condo.  It has been sold.  After much hand wringing and soul searching, my sister and brother-in-law decided it was time to let it go and find a real house to live in full time there in Fairhope.  Of course, we had a great weekend, but there was a bittersweet edge to it this time.  Just knowing that I’d never again sleep in that living room on the fold out sofa, after imbibing a little too much wine, was nagging at my brain and heart the entire weekend.  I know my sister was feeling it, too.  As I drove away, I swallowed my tears, trying to be adult about it.  I know things change and life moves on.  I was lucky to have been able to share time there, get to know friends and neighbors there, grow to love it there.  Fairhope will be home for my sister soon, but I’ll always miss that little condo.  What a slice of heaven it was…

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Anonymity

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Ten years ago, I took off for Washington, DC, for a three month travel nurse assignment. All by myself.  Was I scared?  Yes, indeedy.  But good scared, if you know what I mean. My family was not exactly in shambles, but a reasonable facsimile thereof, and I wanted to get away.  Far away.  My heart was still heavily bruised from a relationship that fell apart. And, I wanted a challenge professionally.  I had heard horror stories about the hospital where I’d be working, but I didn’t really care.  (They all turned out to be true, by the way, and then some!!!)  I mainly wanted to be where I only had to take care of myself and my dog.  And where at any given time, nobody would know exactly where I was, or who I was.  The travel company would pay for my furnished apartment, utilities, and travel expenses.  Sounded good to me.  So I hit the road.

My apartment was just a couple of minutes away from National Airport, the Pentagon, all kinds of cool things.  I got all moved in pretty painlessly.  My best friend had ridden up with me, and we did lots of sight-seeing that first weekend.  At one point, we were waiting for the Metro at the Pentagon (I hadn’t quite figured out the system at that point), and I thought I’d snap a picture.  From somewhere up above, a deep voice boomed, “Don’t take that picture!!”  I stopped, looked up expecting to see God, and heard the voice again.  Then I noticed a security guard slowly driving past.  Whew!!  I was kinda freaked out, I must admit!!  I showed them, though.  Later, I took a photo of the Pentagon from the top of the Washington Monument!!

Yep, the hospital where I worked was pretty much a nightmare.  I worked in the Pediatric ER, which was SEVERELY understaffed and VERY busy!!  The people I worked with were nice and for the most part helpful, but it was just crazy all the time.  For the first time in my life, I lost weight without trying, because I never had time to eat while I was at work, and when I wasn’t, lots of times I was too tired to eat.  And if you know me, you know that’s TIRED!!!  It was really weird, I was expecting all top of the line, cutting edge equipment and facilities.  Boy, was I wrong.  Some of their stuff had been around since the days of Ben Franklin!!  Thanks to a fellow travel nurse, I managed to figure out which section of the ER was the best to work in, and was quick to volunteer for it. Helped that most of the other nurses didn’t like working in that area, but for me it was great. The doctors only came over when necessary, and I was pretty much able to do my work without much interference.  But, damn, that place was busy!!

On days off that I was’t exhausted, I’d go exploring.  DC was great!!  I loved walking around the National Mall, and going to all the museums.  I had never been so alone in my life, but I really kinda liked it.  It was fun not having to answer to anyone, to just go with the flow.  My apartment was small and cozy, my nearly blind dog adjusted easily, and I had everything I could ever need just a stone’s throw away.  Several friends came to visit, and it was fun checking out all the coolness of DC with them. Before it was all over, I even met a guy I really liked!!  If I had liked the job, all would have been perfect!!!

Hard to believe that was TEN years ago.  Man, it seems like yesterday in so many ways. I’ll always be glad I did it, because if I hadn’t, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.  In fact, I enjoyed DC so much that I came back the next year.  Well, kind of.  I lived and worked in Virginia, out in the burbs of DC.  That hospital was like a vacation.  I even extended my contract and stayed three extra months.  If the cost of living weren’t so outrageous, I’d have stayed there permanently, that’s how much I liked working at that hospital.  Fun, nice people, EASY workload, low aciuty patients for the most part.  What more could you want from a Pediatric ER job???

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end.  I came back home and to my old job.  Not a bad gig, and great people.  But I will always treasure my DC adventures…

 

Blew it out–figured I would…

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Well, I had a BIG weekend.  Got together with a couple of friends that I hardly ever get to see anymore.  We hit the Gulf Coast with a vengeance!!  Stayed at one of the big casinos and had a blast.  The first day I didn’t do too bad as far as food goes, but, man did we drink!!  When you’re sitting at a slot machine with two good friends at your side, laughing and catching up on old times and new, those drinks just slide right on down without a thought.  And the cocktail waitresses were on top of their game–every time you turned around, there they were.  Needless to say, the next morning, none of us felt so swell.  So you know we needed good old greasy burgers to make us feel better…with fries on the side of course. Then floating around in the pool’s nice cool water was bliss.  On the way home, I really blew it when we stopped at an old fashioned fruit stand for a watermelon.  I noticed that they had honest to god hand dipped ice cream.  Was one dip enough?  Hell, no!!  I had to have two, one of dutch chocolate and one of butter brickle.  Was it pure heaven here on earth?  Hell, yes!!  So, yesterday I ended up sleeping most of the day.  I had every intention of getting up early and taking the kayak out to the rez for an early morning paddle.  Didn’t happen.  I literally did not get out of bed, except to feed Stella, until almost 1:00.  I wanted to stay in bed then, but I really needed to go grocery shopping, so I had to get up.

I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up too bad.  I had a wonderful time, so now I’m just going to put it behind me and climb back on the straight and narrow.  Had watermelon for breakfast and egg salad with tomato for lunch.  Trying to get all my steps in on my Fitbit.  Gonna grill some chicken thighs for dinner.   Just going to keep moving…

Me, Sciatica??? WTF?!?!?!?!

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Me, Sciatica???  WTF?!?!?!?!

Shortly before Christmas, I was rolling over in my bed when I noticed a little “catch” in my back, just above my left hip.  Not awful, just a nag now and then when I’d turn a certain way.  Then, on Sunday, Jan. 2, pain started shooting down my left leg to my knee whenever I walked.  And when I say pain, I mean PAIN!!!!  It was awful, and I was leaving for vacation in a few days.  Yikes.  Monday I was in the clinic, begging for a magic cure.  Well, the MD said I have sciatica?  Excuse me, what?  Yep, sciatica.  Christ above!!  Last year I had bursitis in my right elbow, and now sciatica.  So, it’s official…I’m old!!  Doc gave me a steroid pack, muscle relaxers and pain meds.  Thank goodness it doesn’t hurt while I’m sitting, because vacation included a drive from Minnesota to Montana, with a side trip to Mt. Rushmore thrown in.

So, off I go, armed with my meds.  I flew to Minneapolis from Memphis, then the next day we headed out for South Dakota.  It was COLD!!!  And I’m okay with that, but there were spots where the road was icy and slick.  Thank goodness the driver knew just what to do.  We spent the night in a very cool “chalet” in Keystone, SD, and drove up the mountain far enough to see the 4 presidents lit up in the night.  Beyond cool!!!  There was a little bar right next door, so I managed to walk that far.  A couple of brews couldn’t help but make me feel better.  When we came out, there stood a deer, just chilling.  He took little notice of us, even when I snapped a couple of pictures.  The next morning, we went up to the monument.  This place is really impressive.  I loved it.  We watched the film, and I limped my way around enough to get some really good photos.  Soon it was time to hit the road.  We went down to Rapid City and found a sports bar so my Minnesota buddies could watch the Vikings game.  Few beers, some appys, nice way to spend an afternoon, even though the Vikes lost.  On the road again, headed to Billings.  Stopped at Wall Drugs on the way…look it up if you’ve never heard of it, it’s pretty cool.

We had reservations at an Econo Lodge, two queens and a rollaway.  My friend insisted that I have my own bed since I had the bum leg.  Well, somehow, the reservation got screwed up.  Side note–while the friends were in the office arguing about the room, I got mooned by some drunk goomba who was wagging his junk in front of the window of the room where his friends were.  Doofus must have frozen his balls off!!!  Anyway, turns out the owner of the Econo Lodge also owned the nearby HoJo, and assured us that he had a room with a rollaway available.  Off we went.  Didn’t see one drunk bare ass there.

Made it to Big Sky the next afternoon.  WOW!!!  Just beautiful.  Leg feeling a little better, enough so that I managed to cook dinner for about 14 people.  The snow-mobile tour of Yellowstone turned into a snow coach tour due to my infirmity, but it was great nonetheless.  Breathtaking views, cool animals, funny guide, what more could you want?

After a few more days in Big Sky, it was time to head back to Minnesota.  The trip back was through North Dakota.  No offense, North Dakota, but that was one more boring drive!!!  Spent the night in Bismarck, then made it to St. Paul the next afternoon.  Dropped my friend’s daughter off at her apartment so she could get her car, then headed to their house in Woodbury.  WOULD YOU BELIEVE…the car broke down!!!  And as luck would have it, right at an exit with a car dealership!!  We quick phoned the daughter and told her to pick us up there.  The dealership had been closed for about 15 minutes, so we just left the car there for the time being.  Thank goodness it waited til we were damn near home, and not out in the middle of nowhere with -12 degree weather!!!  I had to get re-packed and ready to fly out the next morning before the ass crack of dawn.

Got to the airport that morning thinking it would be pretty dead so early, but I was wrong!!  Leg killing me.  So I asked for assistance and was loaded into a wheelchair, then one of the carts, and got to my gate just in time to board.  Tight layover at O’Hare–40 minutes.  I knew my broke down ass would never make it, so I had another wheelchair ride.  Good thing, because we came in at gate K-15 and left from G-18.  That’s a long way for those of you not familiar with O’Hare, which is not my favorite airport, BTW.  Again, made it there just in time to board.  In Memphis, I had parked in the cheap, long term lot, which was farther from the terminal than I remembered.  Not fun limping and lugging my suitcase, which decided it really didn’t like rolling that day.  But I made it, then drove the 3 hours home.  Walked in, dropped my luggage at the door and crawled into bed.  Slept until time to go pick up sweet Stella.

Back to the clinic in a couple of days.  Doc recommended MRI and PT.  I’m all about the PT, I’m a BIG believer in it.  So now, I’ve had 3 sessions, 4th one is this afternoon, and I’m feeling 90% better!!!  Barely any pain, not taking the pain meds except before bed, and have a much improved outlook.  My therapist is great, she deserves a medal!!  I have decided to postpone (cancel?) the MRI.  If the PT works, what the hell do I need the MRI for?  If it doesn’t work, fine, I’ll do it, but I’m hoping I won’t have to.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!!!

 

Shouldn’t you be working…

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So, I’m sitting here at my desk in my little cubicle, doing anything but work.  Just can’t seem to make myself do anything productive today.  I’d love to go home and get on the sofa with my snuggly little Stella and take a long, cozy nap.  But I have to try to at least look busy while my mind wanders all over the place.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a lost love.  He broke my heart into a million pieces…just walked away without a word. And even though it was years ago, sometimes it still hurts.  I hope he wasn’t the love of my life, but I strongly suspect that he was.  I haven’t even come close to that feeling with anyone since him.  I can’t help wondering now and then…if only…I suppose everyone does that once in awhile. Makes for a melancholy day, though.

On a cheerier note, I have a trip planned for January.  I’m going to Big Sky in Montana with my friends from Minnesota!! They’ve been going for several years now, and the other night I got a call inviting me to go along.  I don’t ski, but there will be lots of other things for me to do.  Like hang out in my PJs all day and read, sip wine, cook.  I can have dinner ready for the skiers when they come in from the slopes.  One day we are going to take a snow mobile tour of Yellowstone, something that’s been on my bucket list for a long time!!  But just spending time with friends will be the best part of all.  They love me in spite of my many quirks, and accept me without question.  Can’t really ask for more than that!

I’ve also got my annual sister trip coming up.  We try to go the first weekend in November to celebrate my late mother’s birthday.  It would make my mom so happy.  We shop, eat, drink, laugh, and just generally enjoy each other’s company, which we don’t get to do nearly enough.  I’m glad we have managed to keep our trip alive all these years, it’s good for my soul.

Hard for me to believe that Christmas is just around the corner.  So much to do.  I have bought a few presents, though. Always nice to have a bit of a start.  I can’t wait to get my tree…makes the house smell so wonderful.  I love to turn off all the lights in the house except the ones on the tree and watch my favorite Christmas specials–A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original cartoon, NOT the Jim Carrey movie).  On Christmas Eve, I’ll watch A Christmas Story over and over…I’ll go to sleep with it on and wake up to it on Christmas morning.  A little tradition of mine…

Well, I’ve managed to kill a few minutes anyway.  Time to actually do something work related for the last thirty minutes of the day…

Remembering that day…

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Very early on the morning of 9/11/2001, my good friend in St. Paul took me to the airport in Minneapolis.  I had been there visiting for a couple of weeks, and now had to head back to reality.  I had bought my plane ticket on Priceline, so I had a totally jacked up itinerary.  Minneapolis to Denver to St. Louis to Jackson.  When I got to the airport that morning, a very nice ticket agent took a look at that, realized how ridiculous it was, and rerouted me straight to St. Louis–flight leaving shortly.  I happily boarded the nearly empty plane and settled in.  When we landed in St. Louis, everyone started milling around, getting their belongings, etc.  Then the pilot announced to us that there was no need to be in a hurry, that the World Trade Center in New York had been bombed by a plane flying into it, and all flights had been delayed by at least 4 hours.  What???  All we passengers just kinda looked at each other, like, is this for real?  As soon as I entered the gate area, I heard someone say something about the Pentagon.  My first thought was, wow that’s how rumors fly…first it’s the World Trade Center, now it’s the Pentagon…  Then I rounded a corner and saw a group of people watching a TV.  As soon as I looked up, the screen split and showed a smoking Pentagon.  Oh my God, what is happening?  All the Arrival/Departure monitors were showing my flight as delayed.  So I headed to my gate to wait and see what was going on.  I was told that if I left the gate area, that I would not be allowed back through security, so if my flight actually got to take off, I needed to stay put if I wanted to be on it.

Oddly enough, in the concourse where my gate was, there were no TVs at all.  Anywhere.  Plus, at that point in time I didn’t take my cell phone with me everywhere, so I didn’t have it with me.  That meant standing in lines at pay phones trying to get through to my parents, who for some reason got the idea that I was in Memphis.  I had to call my friends who were supposed to pick me up at the airport that afternoon.  And I had to call my friend in St. Paul, who thought I was still on my way to Denver.  I got in touch with all of them, with the promise to update them as soon as I knew anything more.  I was still being told not to leave the gate area, so I did as I was told.  There was a lady sitting near me, and we struck up a conversation.  She was on her way to Lincoln, Nebraska, for her mother’s 80th birthday.  Every once in a while, I’d go over to the other concourse to see what I could find out from the TV at the bar.  On one of my trips, I saw the first tower fall.  Not long after that, we were told that we needed to leave the gate area after all, that none of the flights would be leaving.  I was so naive, I thought I’d just go rent a car and drive home.  However, as soon as I left the gate area, I realized that things were wild and crazy.  There were throngs of people, everyone looking lost and confused.  At every car rental desk there were signs up that there were no more cars available.  The lines to the hotel phones were miles long.  I still wasn’t really all that concerned, I figured I’d just hang out in the airport and catch my flight the next day.  Uh huh.  Panic set in when I heard an announcement that everyone was to find their luggage and leave the airport as soon as possible.  Really?  And go where?  And do what?  Where is the luggage, anyway?  I started wandering aimlessly, trying to figure out what the hell to do.  I realized that large sections had been roped off and luggage was piled in them.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason, and I started the search.  Airport employees tried to tell me where to look, based on where I’d come from and where I was going, but I couldn’t find my bag.  As I was going to yet another area, I ran into the woman I’d talked with earlier in the gate area.  She told me that her husband was in the military, and she had finally managed to get in touch with him.  He had told her that there was a USO office in the St. Louis airport, and she should go there and see if they could help her get a hotel room.  Without a thought, I asked her if I could stay with her if she got a room.  Just as quickly, she told me that I could definitely stay with her, she didn’t really want to be alone during this crazy time.  I waited for her outside the USO office, watching all the people.  One girl told me that she had just toured the World Trade Center a couple of days ago.  It was all very surreal.  My friend (I now was thinking of her as my friend), came out and told me that she had indeed been able to get a room, at the Marriott.  They even would provide shuttle service for us, as soon as we could find our luggage.  We agreed on a meeting place, then split up to continue our search.  I really don’t know how long I looked, but I finally saw my bag, sitting off to itself, in an area totally unrelated to either of my flights.  I grabbed it and ran.  I saw my friend standing in another line to get to a luggage area, and went to see if I could be of any help.  A young woman standing behind us was worried about finding a hotel room.  My friend told her to call the Marriott and tell them that the USO told her to call.  She did, and wonder of wonders, she got a room.  At long last, we all found our luggage and went outside to wait for the Marriott shuttle.  Seems it was about 3:00 when we made it to the hotel.  We were tired and hungry.  After making phone calls to loved ones, we hit the hotel restaurant.  Then, back to the room to watch the news and try to figure out what was happening.  We really felt out of the loop, since for much of our time in the airport, we had no access to a TV, radio, nothing.  I was so tired that I fell asleep for a bit, then started making calls again to try to figure out how to get home.  The train and bus stations in St. Louis had closed down, and there were no rental cars to be found.  So, my wonderful friends who had planned to pick me up at the airport in Jackson, agreed to drive the 8 hours to St. Louis to pick me up.  They are truly saints.

I will never, ever forget the kindness of a total stranger that day.  She certainly didn’t  have to let me stay in her room.  It was so good not to be all by myself, freaked out and confused.  I still send her a card on the anniversary, and one at Christmas.  I hope she knows how much I still appreciate what she did for me that day.

9/11 was an awful day.  What I went through was nothing compared to what the people in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania experienced.  Our whole world changed that day.  But it’s nice to know that there are always good people to be found, no matter what the circumstances.

Let us never forget…