Monday, March 11, 2024

My Legs vs. A Long Haul Flight


As much as I plot and plan to pack light, somehow it doesn't quite work out like that. I saw a woman on a ferry in Greece carrying only her backpack and thought, she is my spirit animal. I'm going to learn to pack like that, someday. Fact is, I've never HAD to pack like that. I'm strong, with legs that can carry a suitcase, a big crazy dog pulling on his leash, and a couple of kids up a steep hill. Or so I always thought.

Thing is, bodies aren't always cooperative. If they start acting up, you'll get no notice. It's been months since my body decided enough is enough and I'm still surprised by it. WE HAD A DEAL. My entire life I've had two functional legs that I could count on to hike me anywhere but that look terrible in dresses. I never let that bother me because they worked and that's what counts. At least that's what I told myself as I covered them in jeans and long dresses. 

My hubby wears a brace on one of his legs—has since high school. He’s had many surgeries on them. His legs are the uncooperative kind that you can't count on. It was all good, I always thought, I’ve got you there, sweet hubby. These hunk o chunk legs can carry two, and our luggage if need be. 

Until last summer on my annual long haul flight New York to Athens when something happened. I stood to get off the flight and my legs felt wooden. Painful. Uncooperative. Weird, I thought, but it had been a long haul. It had taken twenty-four hours as I traipsed from home to an airport, flew to a second airport, then a third. Then Athens. Even weirder. after I forced my legs off the airplane and through customs and then to baggage claim and into a taxi, when I tried to get out of the taxi at my hotel, I barely could. I had to use my hands to lift my legs and put them out of the car and then kind of jump onto them. 

Getting up the stairs to my room was tough, especially with luggage. I called a friend who’s a doctor. “Did you wear compression stockings?” She asked. “That’s a thing?” I said. I could practically hear the eye roll. “Elevate your legs. Ice them. And walk. Even if it hurts, walk. It’s not likely to be Deep Vein Thrombosis in both legs, but you HAVE to wear compression stockings on long haul flights.”

I froze water bottles in my mini-fridge. I old-lady without a walker walked the mile to the cold sea. When I got there, I rolled up my pants and trotted into the icy water. It felt wonderful. I step-together, step-together-ed my legs the mile back to my room and iced my knees. They throbbed. When I coughed they screamed. It wasn't just the knees, it was hip to toe, both legs, sobbing. They felt loose here and there, and tight there and here, and stiff, and they howled with every step. 

Yes, I debated going to the hospital in Athens. I debated getting on a flight and going back home instead of continuing another two days of travel to my summer destination. Memories of going to the ER surfaced. They're not fond memories and I was considering going to the ER in Greece which seemed worse. My Greek has not advanced to a hospital vocabulary. Even though I'm sure we could have spoken in English too, I’d long ago decided not to go to the ER unless the problem was obvious and there was a bone sticking out. I decided to stick by that decision and that I couldn’t fly home until I found some sort of chunko compression socks anyway. I didn't want to double my problem by flying home without them too.

For the next two days I traveled deeper into Greece. Another plane. Ferry. Walking miles. Taxis. Moving slow, slower, slowest, hauling my luggage. Possibly cussing under my breath. Anytime I passed the sea and could get there I walked straight into it. Cold. Salt. Thank. God.

My final destination was covered in stairs. I went up and down them, stumped my way to the grocery store, pharmacy, cafes. Every day I stood in the cold sea. May. June. July. By then I’d acquired compression socks and I reverse traveled my way back home. Ow ow ow. 

At home I went to the doctor, and again, and again, and again. It’s post Covid. You don’t just up and go to the doctor. You can get in in three weeks, four, next month. July. August. September. October. November. Schlump schlump, baby steps. Singing my ow ow ow refrain. December and January were blood tests and physical therapy. X-rays. By February I rated other testing. An MRI. Come March I had graduated to an Orthopedic surgeon. 

Right now I'm taking meds that are definitely helping. It's very exciting. I was so happy that I did everything I couldn't do the past nine months and threw my back out. I guess I shouldn't have done everything in a twenty-four timeframe. Now I'm taking those leg meds and icing my back and eyeing flights to Greece because it's time to plan that trip again. Right? Right? 


Friday, February 9, 2024

Typewriters and Fun

Recently one of my kids asked if I had any edible googly eyes at my house. Of course I did. Designer things and fancy things aren’t my style. Fun is. There are glow sticks, rock collections, and buckets of slime to be had here. I was pleased they thought to ask!

During a visit my favorite six year old, elbow deep in slime the color of the sea, asked, “Do you have a typewriter laying around here somewhere?” It surprised me that a six year old today knows about typewriters. I’ve long ago embraced technology but in some corner of the attic I did have a typewriter. It’s so heavy I couldn’t lift it out of the attic myself. It’s an ancient Burroughs typewriter. The kind with hard to push keys that force an old metal arm with the letter onto the page—it even has an old ribbon on it. I think it’s from the 1930’s. Driving past a yard sale ages ago I happened to spot it and stopped. It cost me $5. My husband insisted I was over paying by $5. 

I’ve yet to find someone to clean it up and restore it. I did what I could with cotton swabs and some rubbing alcohol. 

When Six visited, she tried to use it but the keys stick and clump together. She’s having a birthday soon and I decided to invest in one for her very own. It took some serious hunting to find such an archaic beast as a typewriter—but I can hardly wait to give it to her. I can barely resist opening it up and using it myself! Look at this baby!

Old fashioned yes, but a purple typewriter? I love it! Six’s interest in typewriters reminded me of the satisfaction of a good typewriter keyboard. IBM’s Selectric with the ball was a love of mine. I wonder if there’s a computer keyboard with the satisfying push of that old wonder of technology? It might be fun to find out!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Winter is Coming! Let’s Enjoy it!

Last winter and again this one, I made a pledge with a friend. Every day from the winter solstice until the spring solstice (the 21st of December until the 21st of March), we’ll each go outside no matter the weather and do something fun. We don’t live near each other so we make this pledge as support buddies and for accountability. Each day we report in to each other, sharing what we did.

Usually I walk in the woods, or sled ride. There’s a hill right off my driveway and I’ve accumulated a variety of sleds to use. The weather doesn’t always cooperate and accommodate me with the needed snow—but it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I go outside. Minimum time is fifteen minutes. 

Most days I start to have fun and stay much longer!

Some days it’s a simple walk up and down the street, and on a few brutally cold days with howling winds, I have hung around right outside the house and counted the minutes! 

The idea is to go out into the cold season and find something to enjoy instead of huddling inside. I’ve begun to accumulate good coats and gear for the season, snow pants, warm boots, hats that are for function. I’m always on the lookout for gloves that can withstand sustained cold! I’ve not had much success there! 

Who’s with me? Does anyone else want to find reasons to like winter? It’s easier than I thought! 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Acropolis Museum and A Cancelled Flight

My absolute favorite museum is The Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece. This year I had time to visit it thanks to Delta Airlines cancelling my flight home. 

The thing with cancelled flights is they happen after you’ve hauled yourself to the airport. No small task. Then plans change and you haul yourself wherever and spend hours on the phone trying to find another flight home. THEN, if you’re lucky like I was, you have another afternoon in Greece! 

Technically, I never did get another flight home and eventually took one to New York City instead and rented a car and drove there. That doubled the journey. Fortunately, I do buy trip insurance and now that I’ve been home a month and spent hours of that time submitting paperwork and arguing, I got reimbursed! Woo hoo! Isn’t it great when insurance works? 

Athena in owl form stands outside the Acropolis Museum. I knew this for years. Not because I ever remembered to look up when I was there, but because I bought a journal at the gift shop there with the picture on it. So it was very exciting when I finally spotted her this year. (Someone reminded me to look!)

Another bonus of the cancelled flight was flying home through Amsterdam. I bought a bunch of tulips at an airport shop. Can you believe these aren’t real? I crammed them into my backpack and flew out of AMS in what turned out to be a massive storm. They arrived home looking stellar. My luggage arrived half full of rain from The Netherlands.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Greek Food


Since I’m coming to you via the Blogger app on my phone, in Greece, I have absolutely no idea what’s going to show up on The Glitter Globe when I hit post. Sometimes it’s nothing, a post swallowed by an internet glitch or a the app. Sometimes it’s part of a post. So let’s keep it light and hope for the best! 

All things watermelon! Καρπυζι

Fresh watermelon juice is my favorite! But watermelon salad with feta and mint is amazing too! I even bought a quarter piece of a watermelon and hauled it up and down hills and stairs to my room to have for breakfast in my room!

Anything seafood

Despite things I’ve read online, it is tough to get gluten free food here. Yes, the Mediterranean diet is clean and naturally gluten free, but it’s common to get some lovely dish like my lobster salad here, with a pile of decorative crackers or bread plopped right on top. That’s what happened with this lobster. Yes, there was a long conversation about gluten during ordering (in English and Greek). It still happens. More often than not. 

Capuucino decaf

Coffee is not my thing, yet I have an absurd amount of photos of me sitting with a cup of it in front of me in Greece. It’s meditative! I only drink it here! 

Monday, June 26, 2023

A Month

And so it ends,

As it always does,

The women leave,

Their words linger.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Artemida, Greece

This morning I arrived in Greece after a long day and night of flying. Lately long flights give me what I’ve come to call Flyers Knee, because that’s when I get it. A painful stiffness from sitting in one spot for so long—though I did get up and walk around as much as possible. I wasn’t the only one stretching my knees out.

This year I stayed at a family run hotel in Artimeda, about a mile walk to the sea. I decided to walk it despite the knee. I got a chance to try out my sad Greek when I wasn’t sure which fork in the road to take. One of the teenagers chuckled and answered me in perfect English (as most Greeks seem to do), pointing the way.

It was a perfect evening for a walk. The sky a bit hazy. The sea busy. I sat on the Rocky shore, I think it was marble. 

Kritamo grows wild along the shore!

It’s delicious with lemon and olive oil! 

The perfect start to my adventure—despite my flyers knee!

Sunday, May 7, 2023

My Dandelion Sea

This time of year my yard is a sea of dandelions. I've taught Roper to eat them. Yes, they're edible. On sunny days when they open wide. I pick them and holding tightly to the stem, I use my thumb to flick the head off. The yellow bud flies through the air and doggo jumps to nab it. The first time his owner saw me do it she wasn't too thrilled.

"It's safe," I promised. "Google it."

Roper's Mom calls my yard a Golden Retriever yard. He can run run run. We spend hours playing frisbee with an Aerobie. It's a round disc with a wide hole in the middle. I toss it on its side so it rolls away. Roper chases it like it's purposely running away from him—every Retriever instinct in high-gear. This is only one of the things I love to do instead of writing, or cleaning, or doing paperwork of any sort. 

Nerf Dog Super Soaker

The Aerobie isn't for dogs. If I look away for a moment he'll chomp on it and break its little bird bones and it won't roll so well after. Sometimes we use the heavy duty Nerf Dog Super Soaker. Golden's are easy to please doggos. All you have to do to make them happy is never look away and never stop playing with them. Whereas kids are just waiting for you to look away so they can get your scissors and scotch tape without any adult supervision. 

When you look up, your sparest of spare rooms looks like this.

Fortunately that room has a door that you can just close while you play frisbee with Roper in your dandelion sea. 



Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Pathetic Dreams of a Chronically Stressed Out Woman

We were talking about flying dreams today, friends who'd had them or never have. It got me to thinking about dreams, especially those repeating ones you have for years or throughout your life, and how I learned to stop the worst of them.

My flying dreams had been wasted as I'd purposely never flown higher than the treetops. It's cold up there. After developing chronic vertigo, I begged my subconscious to stop them altogether because more often than not my spinning started while I slept. My flying dreams began to take a turn for the worse and I'd wake up spinning. They stopped one day, after dreaming I ran across a field and took to the air only to wake up to the dreaded swooping and swirling of one wicked case of vertigo. 

Long ago out of sheer desperation I found a way to stop dreams. A  friend lost her little girl in a drowning accident, and I'd dream that I found my own daughter floating face down in the pond in the back yard. I'd wake shaking and I still remember sitting up and saying, "No, no I will never do this to myself again. I won't have this dream ever again." Somehow it worked. When that dream would start, and I'd be walking toward the pond with cattails waving and skirting fire ant mounds, I'd say to myself in my dream, "I'm dreaming. I'm not having this dream again." And I wouldn't. I'd go on to another dream. 

Since then I can almost always choose not to have a dream. Though I have recurring ones that I apparently don't mind enough to fight. You know, the one where you're getting ready for work? You wake up and make your bed. Take a shower. Dry your hair. Get dressed. Drive to work, wake up and have to do that all over again in the real world? I hate that dream. There's a grocery shopping version too. 

After I had kids I'd be at work with them. One in a cradle by my desk. Another getting into things as I tried to juggle amusing the child and getting my work done. I had that dream for decades. The most ironic thing about it was that when my kids were that little I'd taken those years off of working. I didn't have to juggle both. Go figure.

Those variations of work dreams plagued me long after I changed careers and no longer had to race the clock with daily drudgery while I banged away on a computer and in my dream job the office slowly filled with water. I had to finish before I drowned. I never finished but happily woke up before the water got completely over my head.

Yet the most pathetic dream was my telekinesis dream. I've had this one since I was a kid and I still have it sometimes. In it I know exactly how to move things with my mind. It takes a concerted effort to do it, requiring a near painful focus. What do I do with this amazing talent in my dreams? Why, I flip light switches on and off as I walk through the house or office. After a night of that I always have a headache.  

The best part of these kinds of dreams is bringing them up in a group when you're struggling for conversation. Suddenly we all have something in common and something to say. One of my favorite early morning texts is from someone saying, "You will not believe what I dreamed last night!" At least I know it's not just me!


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Thrill of Learning Greek—and why I work on it every day

Greek tavernas are not to be missed!

One of the things that inspires me to stick with learning Greek is my food allergies. Failing to communicate what's safe has left me eating eggs and fruit in my room more often than going out. Most Greeks speak English but I find that going off script when ordering food can lead to a variety of complications. It's the same thing when ordering in the USA, so it's not so much a language issue.

Despite my food allergy spiel in any language, more often than not my food will arrive with a big hunk of bread plopped right on top or worse, hidden gluten. I have a severe gluten allergy. It happened again right after I got home from my annual trip to Greece. At that point I was so sick of the hassle that vowed never to eat out again and to always carry a tin of beans in my purse with me. I was more serious than not. 

Fruit and cheese on my balcony works too!

My first few years of trying to learn Greek was with Pimsleur, a conversational language program. It helped me learn basic words but I am a very visual learner and it wasn't until I added Duolingo to the mix that I really began to understand. Plus being able to read Greek has been so empowering. In Greece this year I found myself listening to people speaking, trying to understand them, watching the news, and reading signs and menus. It was a delight. Plus I found gluten free bread and crackers in the supermarket! I couldn't wait to tell my celiac friend when she arrived.

Gluten-free bread falls apart in any language but toast!

An online polyglot said speaking languages isn't something some of us can do and others not. She told me you get out of it what you put into it. That's when I started putting a couple hours into it daily. It quickly made a huge difference. I'd also read somewhere that after a certain age we can't really learn another language. I may not be inherently gifted at learning languages but I am an incredibly tenacious human being. I'm learning Greek the same way I write books, always working on it and never giving up. 

Why does cappuccino taste better in Greece? 

This summer I could greet people, find where I wanted to go, order at restaurants, and hunt for things in supermarkets in Greek. It was a thrill. I'm not good at it. And here's the thing about trying to speak in a new language, you look like an idiot and you make mistakes and people really laugh when you mess up. But even when they laughed they would usually engage, correct my pronunciation, suggest clearer phrases, ask me to repeat it to their friend so they could laugh too, and at restaurants if they didn't know what had gluten or what didn't, they'd have me talk to someone who would. 

 Watermelon Juice & Salad!

Several people took the time to write things down for me, or tested me insisting I speak only in Greek to them. This year I didn't even get glutened in Greece once. I was so pleased. The Mediterranean diet has a lot of naturally gluten free foods, vegetables and seafood galore. I've still a long way to go but I'm slowly beginning to reap the rewards and already thinking about what language to attempt after this! Though I attended Duocon online and they've got a math app coming out that has my attention too!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Twenty-Five Years of Monarch Butterflies

It started as a kindergarten project for my son. I volunteered to find milkweed and butterfly eggs. With no idea how to do that, I did what I always did, found a book about it. Then I searched parks, edges of the roadway, and examined weeds anywhere I could find them. Unsure if any of my weeds were milkweed or had an egg on it (it's amazing how many little dots of stuff are on weeds), I put the plants I had the most hope for into jars (with holes in the lids) and put them above the kitchen sink. 

Then I promptly forgot about them.

A couple weeks later my husband said, "There's a butterfly in one of your jars of dead weeds." I jumped out of bed and ran to check. I was much more excited than my five-year-old. Now I knew exactly what milkweed looked like and I had a better idea about the eggs too. 

Milkweed is the tall tree-like plant

What I didn't know was how far this little hobby would go. In Texas I started to find butterfly eggs on the plants about April. As soon as milkweed started to pop out of the ground there were butterflies laying eggs on it. In New York I found Monarch eggs late in the summer. I've found them as late as October too.

The eggs are tough to photograph. They're a pinprick of creamy white. Oval shaped and miniscule. Milkweed bleeds a sticky white substance that will ooze out of the plant if it's scratched or broken. The drops are flat. Eggs are much smaller. But there are aphids and other things on the plants. You'll have to figure it out if you want to raise them. A magnifying glass could help.

Monarch Caterpillars

It can be a big job. The caterpillars eat a lot. They also poo a lot. I used plastic shoeboxes, cut a large rectangle out of the top, and hot glued in window screen for the eggs and caterpillars. Every day I carefully cleaned out dried up milkweed and put in fresh. I had masking tape on the sides of the boxes with daily numbers written in marker to keep track of how many eggs or caterpillars were in each box. That way I never threw out the babies with the trash. 

When the caterpillars turned into a chrysalis and firmed up (never touch a chrysalis or a freshly hatched butterfly), I'd carefully remove the chrysalis from the roof of the plastic box. Chrysalises attach with webbing and it's easy to gently grasp the stem of a Monarch chrysalis and tug it free. The webbing will come with it.

I'd hook the chrysalises onto the top of a larger cage. I used large safety pins to attach them (through the webbing, handle a chrysalis with extreme care). 

Monarch Chrysalis

It still thrills me to watch a butterfly hatch. There is a general timeline for how long it takes an egg to hatch, the caterpillar to eat a lot of milkweed and grow into a big caterpillar, attach to the roof of a cage/stem of milkweed/bottom of the dining room table when they escape, shed their exoskeleton and form a chrysalis (not a cocoon, that's something else), and eventually become a butterfly. When they hatch it takes time for their wings to expand, they're wet and touching them will ruin them until they've dried and their wings are firm.

When I lived in New York I started tagging my butterflies before releasing them. Monarch Watch through the University of Kansas has an incredible program and sells the tags. We'd carefully log in each butterfly, sex, date, location, and set them free! My family and I learned about the migratory pattern of these amazing butterflies. We learned that they live only a couple weeks and head north in the spring and summer laying eggs. At the end of the season they hatch smaller butterflies that migrate all the way to Mexico (and other places). Those are the ones to catch and tag. They won't be laying eggs. They are on a mission to survive the winter. 

Monarch on Milkweed

From experience we learned not to collect milkweed from the edges of cornfields because for some reason the caterpillars tended to die when they ate it. We endured a few summers of exploding chrysalises due to a parasite that lays its eggs inside Monarch caterpillars. My kids may never get over that summer and they're adults now. 

There are far less Monarch butterflies now. I know this just from my personal experience. It didn't take much effort to raise a thousand of them ten years ago. Now, trying to get a few healthy ones is work. Many of the chrysalises are deformed now, and the parasites reign in Northern Pennsylvania and the places I haunt in southern New York. 

My husband jokes that their numbers are dwindling because I don't try to hit the thousand mark anymore. I'm not certain why their numbers are down. To me there's a direct correlation to those parasites. I'm not a scientist, just a nature lover and a woman who volunteered to help a kindergarten teacher twenty-five years ago. I fall in love so easily.

Friday, July 15, 2022

FOMO Has No Power Here—Happy in My Now

Once a newly graduated student admitted to me in a near-whisper, I have no interest in travel. Is that weird? It's amazing I said. Being content is highly underrated in the marketing world.

A cup of tea right where you are is perfection. 

Yesterday I fell into a hole on YouTube. I'm a solo traveler and I watched video after video of the adventures of other solo travelers. One that really got me was a young woman who planned an empowering and romantic trip to Paris all by herself. By day three she missed her cat and teared up when she talked. Trying to talk herself into the beauty of the city wasn't working. It made her sad. The old mom in me wanted to hug her, wanted to whisper, you're still seeing the fantasy you've been sold. You're seeing what you're missing and not what you have. 

I left no comment. There are things we all have to figure out for ourselves.

My solo travel is a choice. I have a perfectly good husband who has no interest in seeing the places I like to go to. After our centuries of marriage I began traveling solo so I could see the places that always called to me. I've no desire to see the whole world. Every year I go to the same islands in Greece. I write with the same group of women. I lay on the same beaches and float in the same sea as last year. 

Once I stayed longer in Rome, forfeiting Venice—which I've yet to see. I've never seen Santorini, Sifnos, Paros, or Crete. Over the accumulating years I've willfully missed much. To again lay on hot stones at Leftos Gialos or the Port Beach on my favorite island. Again, this year, I didn't take the ferry to Skopelos, preferring to stay afloat in the Aegean off Alonissos longer. Didn't make the snorkel trip. Didn't hit other beaches I've yet to see.

Instead to be quiet where I am.

Making quiet choices to sit or float in moments—lingering longer and longer—letting go of more and knowing enough. 

Why? I don't contemplate as I slide into now. Living in my moments. Not needing or truly wanting more. Filling myself with now's. Todays. Enough. Shhh, don't ask me why. It's something we figure out for ourselves.