A Day in the Life: Indian Vista

manzanita

Manzanita at Indian Vista 2017

High up in the San Jacinto Mountains of California, 9.5 miles west of the town of Idyllwild, lies the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook in the San Bernardino Forest. While out in Indio, California, last year, my brother and sister-in-law and I took a day trip up the mountain to visit Idyllwild, where we explored a bit and had lunch. Along the way we passed vista after beautiful vista, each more enchanting than the last.
san jacinto mtsoverlook hazy mtsnear idyllwildelevation 5000 ftmount gorgonio
When my younger brother and his wife joined us this year, we made the drive again so they could enjoy the views. When we got up to Indian Vista, we stopped and got out. There are beautiful views, an historical marker, and a few hazardous (for me) paths down toward the valley. We ventured down a little way, looking for the perfect spot to scatter my parents’ ashes together. As we stood looking out over the mountains, we reminisced and told funny stories. My father was born in the Adirondacks, my mother in a tenement in Manhattan. She adapted quickly to life outside the city. The both loved the mountains. Now they can kick one another’s little ashes into eternity.
resting together here
indian vista pathIndian vista on the way to the tree

trees at Indian Vista

Manzanita’s still there year later.

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A Day in the Life: Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus

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Salvation Mountain by taylorandayumi via Wikimedia Commons

While out in California visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I went on a few excursions with them, all of which were well worth the effort—The Living Desert, Big Bear Lake and Temeculah. By far, however, our jaunt out to the Salton Sea, followed by a visit to Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus was the most unusual. You just have to see them to believe them. You can read all about Leonard Knight-the man, the mountain, the art here. It is truly a sight to behold. As we drove up to the mountain, we passed through Slab City on the way to East Jesus. There are some very good photos of Slab City and East Jesus by Marc Cooper here.

east jesus marc cooper

East Jesus. Photo by Marc Cooper.

east jesus sculpture garden marc cooper

East Jesus sculpture garden entrance. Marc Cooper photo.

The trip out to Salvation Mountain, Slab City and East Jesus followed the highway along the Salton Sea, a once popular recreation area, now largely abandoned.

salton sea

Salton Sea. DesertUSA.com

There’s an interesting story about the Salton Sea, “Salton Sea: From Relaxing Resort to Skeleton-Filled Wasteland here.

On our way back to Indio, we had planned to stop in at the International Banana Museum, but we somehow missed it. Hard to believe.

BanaSign

International Banana Museum. Photo from Christie’s California Adventure, here.

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A Day in the Life: I paid for a whole seat.

I know, I know, it’s been a long while since I’ve written anything. There has been no lack of subject matter, but time and other commitments have gotten in the way. Today, I’m recovering from a bit of surgery, so I’m resting. Thus, time to write.

sunrise in indio with pool reflection

Sunrise in Indio, CA

After a lovely two weeks in Indio, California, visiting with my eldest brother and sister-in-law, I returned home to the frozen tundra. Unfortunately, the return flight was one of my most unpleasant ever. Here’s why. I paid for a whole, already-too-small seat on American Airlines. When I boarded and arrived at my row, a behemoth of a woman sat in the window seat, sharing half of my seat. Too large to put the armrest down, too large to buckle her seatbelt, clearly she, too, was uncomfortable. I sat squished for nearly four hours, her body leaning against me the entire flight. She was so obese that her body prevented my tray table from fully lowering. To add to my misery, she had some obvious hygiene issues. The flight was full, every seat taken; nothing could be done about it. I left the plane limping badly to where my wheelchair awaited, ready to ferry me to the bus terminal for my hour-and-a-half ride home.

By the time I arrived home around 8pm, my entire body ached and I could think only of sleep. I went to bed thinking I’d crash early, but sleep eluded me. The more I thought about it, the more disgruntled I grew. Seats are smaller than ever on airplanes. There is no way that woman did not know she needed two seats, and there is no way that the flight attendant who seated her from her wheelchair didn’t know she needed two seats. Lest I be accused of fat shaming, I don’t give a rat’s petootie how large or small, short or tall, anyone is. I care only that when I pay for a seat, I expect to sit in the entire seat, not half a seat. If you cannot sit in the seat with the armrest down, you should buy a second seat instead of taking up half of mine.

I emailed my complaint to American. Surprisingly they responded the same day, crediting my account with 7500 frequent flyer miles. I’d have preferred a refund for that part of my round trip. Adding miles to my account to placate me does nothing to address the problem created by the airlines regularly reducing the size of the seats and leg room for the explicit purpose of cramming more bodies into an aircraft. The complaints are justified, not just on American, but on all the domestic airlines.

Rant over.

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A Day in the Life: Mom discovers Instagram!

Morning at a Chiang Mai flower market. instagram.com/j.dewitz/ All rights reserved.

OK, my title is more than a bit misleading, since I don’t post to Instagram, myself, and I’ve known about it for some time. However, my elder son, who lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, has a fabulous Instagram page that vividly portrays the culture and architecture of his city. From street scenes, to temples, marketplaces, and much more, his photographs are a wonderful, vicarious look at daily life.

I’ll be sharing some of his photos on this blog, not just because I’m a proud mama, but also, because they are beautiful, informative and worth sharing. Each photo is accompanied by background information that helps to give a sense of the experience. Since there are 1000 or so temples in Chiang Mai, many of his photos depict their art and architecture that surround him in his daily life.

Yes, it’s hard to have my son live half a world away. He is, however, following his heart and his passion, and I’m proud of his courage and determination to choose his own path. Please check out his Instagram page, and share with friends. His website will be coming soon and photos will be offered for sale. instagram.com/j.dewitz/ 

Chiang Mai at night. Photo by James Dewitz. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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A Day in the Life: More Slice and Dice

More slice and dice in the OR

I know I’ve neglected my blog for a while. I’ve had quite a lot going on, some of it not really things I’m comfortable sharing with the whole world. After my stroke, I had so little energy that I couldn’t even think to write. As I recovered from that, I began having some serious issues with my spine, and have now had several rounds of injections at L1, which have brought immense relief. I was scheduled to have shoulder repair surgery on June 16, but that never happened because…

On June 6, I underwent yet another slice and dice to implant a sacral neurostimulator. For whatever reason, despite boatloads of sedation—propofol, Versed and Precedex, along with both local and topical anesthetics—I somehow failed to sedate. In plain language, I underwent surgery without benefit of anesthesia. I could feel every move, hear every sound. Quite a few times, I cried out in pain. “Nevertheless, [I] persisted” and surgery continued, that is, until very suddenly and without warning, my heart stopped for 10 seconds. Had I not been in the OR, that might have been disastrous. As it were, OR staff administered a shot of epinephrine, bringing me right back. And while blood now pumped through my heart, severe dry heaves wracked my body until a shot of anti-nausea medicine eliminated them. After a few minutes, I was fine and surgery completed.

As one might imagine, my energy has once again flagged. I’m just beginning to get back to the “normal” that is me, and I’m hoping to be more inspired to write and to create new artwork. Please bear with me.

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A Day in the Life: An Abundance of Zucchini

curried zucchini soup

Curried Zucchini Soup. Serve hot or cold.

As some of my friends know, I love to cook and I love to experiment, adapt recipes from others, and make my own. When my dear friend, Mary, brought me an abundance of zucchini, I pondered how I’d use it all. I’m not much for baked goods, but I do love my veggies.

I saw a zucchini soup recipe online, so I figured I’d take a crack at it…sort of. When it was finished, I tasted it and found it disappointingly bland. I knew I had to do something to “fix” it. Because I love curry, I figured I’d add some curry, and then a little coriander, a dash of oregano, a little cayenne, some fresh basil…. By the time I was done, it actually was pretty good, but I decided that when making the next batch, I’d add a few things to the basic recipe.

Herewith is my recipe. This creamy soup has no cream or dairy products, but is thick and rich tasting, and deliciously satisfying served either hot or cold.

Curried Zucchini Soup

Ingredients
6 C zucchini in small cubes
1/2 C diced sweet yellow onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 C chopped celery
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small cubano pepper, chopped (or 1/2 other sweet pepper)
4 C chicken stock (I used homemade)
1/4 C olive oil
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground coriander
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
2 bay leaves
1/2 C basil (packed into measuring cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
1.  In a 5-quart Dutch oven, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil on medium heat
until translucent, about five minutes.
2.  Add zucchini, carrots, celery, pepper and 1 cup of stock.
3.  Cover and cook for about 3-5 minutes.
4.  Add the rest of the stock. Cook just until zucchini mashes against the side of the pot.
5.  Add fresh basil leaves and stir in.
6.  In a blender, carefully puree the mixture, making sure to hold the top down.
I did mine in three batches.
7.  Pour back into pot, add bay leaves, curry powder, ground coriander, cayenne (optional) and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for another 20 minutes for flavors to blend.

Serve hot, or refrigerate and serve cold. Garnish with a bit of chopped basil.


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A Day in the Life: Stroke (of Luck)

half-vision

The vision on my right side disappeared into blackness.

This past Monday morning, as I came upstairs from the basement with an armload of clean clothes, the entire right side of my vision disappeared, while at the same moment, an excruciating pain shot through my head, creating the worst possible headache one could ever imagine. As I reached the kitchen, I glanced at the clock on the microwave and realized that I could see only the hour—nothing to the right. Turning my entire body toward the right and looking out the left side, I was able to see the time—8:14am.

Apparently my younger son is right—I’m an under-responder. I thought perhaps I was having some sort of migraine, although I’d never actually had a migraine before. I’ve had so many issues with my vision ever since I got toasted by LASIK in 2001 that I’m accustomed to visual oddities. I took meds for headache and went about my business. I asked my friend to pick me up for our lunch date, given the lack of vision, which seemed to be returning by millimeters, and after lunch, we ran a couple of errands. By 3pm, I was home and ready to rip my brain out of my head from the pain. I took more Fiorinal, laid down for a bit, and when the phone rang a little before 4pm, I was happy to hear from my ophthalmologist returning my earlier call.

“This is not a visual issue. You need to call your neurologist—RIGHT NOW.”

Hung up, called my neurologist immediately. “You need to go to the ER—RIGHT NOW!

I grabbed my down vest, my keys, phone and wallet, and eight hours after onset, I jumped into the car and off I went to the ER a mile away. I should have known after I walked in and explained my symptoms that something was very wrong, since despite a waiting room packed with groaning, moaning, unhappy people, they shuffled me back right away. I waited another hour until someone could see me.

“We’re going to take you for a CT scan in a minute, hon.” Off we went.

“We’re just getting a room for you now.”

Wait, what? “Are you admitting me? Why?” (Apparently, I’m not that bright.)

“We’ll just need to do some more tests in the morning. We’re going to give you some benadryl that will help you relax, and then we’ll get you upstairs once your room is ready.”

The minutes ticked by. Nearly three-and-a-half hours after my arrival, a kind soul came in and asked me if I wanted anything. A dry turkey sandwich quelled my hunger, and soon after, I went up to the fourth floor.

Hooked up to an IV and heart monitor, and with additional benadryl and the promise of further tests in the morning, I fell into a fitful sleep, interrupted by lightning striking in the left side of my head. Thankfully, my vision had recovered.

In the morning, I underwent a brain MRI, a carotid MRI with dye and an echocardiogram. And then I waited. An inedible lunch came and went and I waited some more. The afternoon dragged on with texts and calls from friends and family asking about me. Worried about my cats, I really just wanted to go home. An inedible dinner arrived (roadrunner, mushy carrot, mushier peppers) and I waited for someone to come and tell me what was going on.

Since I had arrived with nothing at the hospital, I called a friend to ask a favor—please bring my chargers and tablet, and a few personal effects. Once those arrived, I was able to brush my hair, change my undies (thank goodness!), and reconnect with the outside world—nearly human.

Around 7:30pm, I overheard chatting at the nurses’ station right outside my door. “Here’s what we’ve got in the pod tonight. 24 is a stroke, 26 is…..” I was 24. And that is how I learned I’d had a stroke.

An hour or so later, the hospitalist came to talk to me. That’s a thing now, doctors contracted to the hospital through a third party, who only care for hospital patients, running up your hospital bill with out-of-network providers.

H: “So, you’ve had a stroke. I’m putting you on Lipitor for cholesterol.”
Me: “Umm, no. Not taking it. I was on Lipitor for several years and it ate up all the muscle mass in my arms and legs. It took me a year of rehab to recover.”
H: “Well, your cholesterol is a little high.”
Me: “I’m taking cholesterol meds now, just not a statin.”
H: “They aren’t strong enough.”
Me: “Whatever, I’m not taking a statin. You may note that the patient refused medication as indicated.”

Thankfully, the neurologist on call arrived to rescue me.

N: “I see you’ve had a very small stroke. Your cholesterol is a tiny bit high. Are you taking meds? Any family history of stroke?”
Me: “Yes, I am on meds, but I confess to not having been vigilant about taking them regularly. I will do better now. And yes, my father had a stroke in his 70s. He recovered well.”

According to the neurologist, I had a tiny stroke; it’s nothing to worry about; it’s not likely to happen again; it appears to be a bit of an anomaly, since my carotids, my heart and my brain, except for the tiny area of the stroke in the left occipital lobe, are clear and unaffected. My diabetes, regardless of how well controlled, and a family history of stroke increase my risk. Not unexpected, but what I learned next stunned me.

Most often, vision loss of this sort with a stroke is permanent. MINE RECOVERED. Sheer luck.

The ongoing, horrid headache now presented the only obstacle to my release. Another night spent in the hospital, another breakfast—but this time, I was smart. When the dietary aide arrived, I asked her politely for a hard-boiled egg, coffee, cranberry juice, and some dry rice chex, rather than the usual disaster. (Not much you can do to ruin them.)

By noon, I was home, still had a headache, but didn’t care. I fed the cats, took some Fiorinal and aspirin, enjoyed a wonderful lunch my dear friend brought for us, and then I took a nap.

I slept like a rock last night (for a change), woke up with only a slight headache, and by 8am, was in the dentist’s chair getting a tooth capped. Life is good—and once again, I’ve been blessed by a “stroke of luck!”

P.S. I’ll be following up with my regular neurologist and my internist next week, and with the ophthalmologist later this month to check for any loss of visual fields. All is well.

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