Saturday, October 18, 2014

Annoying little problem

While singing the praises of outdoor tennis yesterday, I forgot to mention that gnats, or some such little thing, were congregating around my face, biting my forehead and every part of my eyes that they could get to.

I kept rubbing my eye, which is the only reason I can think of for the subconjunctival-hemorrhage that the doctor who was kind enough to see me yesterday diagnosed. That sounds more scary than what it actually is: a broken blood vessel in my right eye.

I noticed Thursday night that it did indeed look like a broken blood vessel. When I woke up yesterday, my whole eye was red, leading me to suspect pink eye, although I couldn't think of any place I might have caught it.

My eye stings and burns and would look good for Halloween. But it won't last that long. It should resolve by itself in a few days as long as I don't rub it anymore.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tennis in the rain, what a glorious feeling

Yesterday might have been the last day for playing outside at the Holyoke Canoe Club, and we came out in full force, eight of us and then six die-hards who played even after it started raining.

We were playing George's made-up game of triples, three against three, which I initially didn't like but which I now understand is good for your doubles game because the balls keep coming, quickly and from unexpected places.

It is a perfect place for tennis: clay courts nestled in the woods, the river nearby, and George's "air-conditioned" court – the one closest to the river – for catching a breeze on hot days. Also, non-competitive, easy on your legs, everyone joking and having fun, complimenting each other, always learning something, sharing a watermelon and exchanging stories-of-the-week during breaks.

So it is hard to say good-bye for the season. We played on for maybe 15 minutes, until the rain that began as a drizzle really started coming down.

Playing tennis in the rain, and also running in the rain, makes you feel like a little kid. Silly, and without any concern except to hold on to your racquet in tennis and navigate the puddles while running.

Yesterday was warm, but next week's forecast calls for rain and cold.

It had to end sometime, but before you know it, George will be talking about putting the courts back together.

You could sing my headline to this song:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fun in Minneapolis

We covered a lot of ground over the weekend: walking around (part of) a lake or two, walking along
the Mississippi, eating out, visiting Dinkytown (yes, the area around the University of Minneapolis is
really called that), drinking coffee (me) and tea (Katie) at Caribou coffee and other great spots in sections of Minneapolis that resembled Northampton on a larger scale.

View of the Mississippi from our walk.
We also went to the Gutrhie Theater, almost missing the play ("The Heidi Chronicles") due to getting stuck in traffic during the Zombie Pub Crawl , which, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, broke a world record with at least 15,458 people dressed as the undead gathering in one place, an accomplishment entered in the Guinness Book of World Records. What can I say? I never knew I would go to Minneapolis and run into that.

Best of all, of course, was just spending time with Katie.

My home-away-from-home for three nights was another great find on Airbnb (the first one being the bed and breakfast in Seville). It was exactly 1.3 miles from Katie, a hop, skip and a jump, with "my lake" (Lake Harriet) close to me, and Katie's lake
(Lake Calhoun) a short drive from her.

Nice day at Lake Harriet
It is more expensive to fly from Hartford, so I flew from Logan, where Diane was kind enough to pick me up last night. I spent the night in Newton and then drove straight to Northampton this morning so I could get to at least part of class at the Literacy Project. Then, coffee with a friend; then, stopping at Atkins; then, picking up Maddie, then, taking her for a mini-walk...and then, wondering if I should clean out the car and unpack my bag, but saying, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hello from Minneapolis

I took my mother with me on the plane to Minneapolis, and now I feel that she is keeping me company while Katie attends a program required by Teach for America.

Well, first of all, I am not saying that I actually took her. I took a framed painting – a "Lynne Gordon original" – that Katie wanted for her new apartment. The still life watercolor is an early piece signed  Lynne Lewin in her perfect handwriting.

I was thinking of going to Staples to get packing materials when it occurred to me that I could just wrap it in newspaper, put it in a bag and take it with me as a carry on. First I read the newspaper and then I wrapped the picture in it, proving that the paper is not just good for "fish wrap." I liked the idea of wrapping it in her beloved New York Times.

I prepaid the $20 required to check my bag, but on the way back I can just carry it on.

There were some adorable babies on the plane yesterday, making me even more anxious to see my own, who I can't believe is 22. She is doing well in the first year of her Teach For America stint teaching ESL in an elementary school here.

It incredibly nice here with a lot of cool things to do and see including a lake near her house and another near where I am staying (just 1.3 miles from her, another winner found through airbnb).

I had looked up a restaurant where I could have lunch but ended up at a different place that looked inviting. It is called French Meadow Bakery and Cafe, and its owner is......drum roll....Lynn Gordon.

On the wall there is a framed newspaper story about her, headlined "Risen Star Lynn Gordon."

How cool is that?

We are going to walk around Lake Harriet and then have dinner and go to see "The Heidi Chronicles" at the Guthrie Theater. Fun!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Stitch free ... if only for now

Crazy but good morning yesterday.

"Nurse Jo" came over to remove my stitches, coffee cup in hand.

I needed to take the coffee cup from her because Watchdog Maddie ran over with a toy and was jumping all around her. I stuck out my arm for the third consecutive removal of stitches in basically the same place, right above the crook of my arm, which is odd because that area does not get much sun.

It has gotten to be a routine, easier than last time because I also had them on the back of my hand.

I finished the story I was writing for HCC, got in the car and got stuck in traffic on my way to the Literacy Project. There seems to be construction everywhere.

With three volunteers, there was time for one-on-one. I worked with a woman from Ecuador who was just learning to read and write in English. She struggled over the word "though." I kept saying it and she didn't understand. She thought I was starting the word with a "D" as in "dough."

 She asked if I was from Massachusetts and I said originally from New York, and she said she thought that was it. Do I really have a New York accent? I always say that the accents are from the Bronx and Brooklyn, not from Manhattan, but maybe there is a tinge and if that is so, I am proud of it. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.

My travels usually take me in that direction, but on Friday I am heading WEST, to Minneapolis to visit Katie. I am very excited because I miss her very much and am so used to having her in Boston, which I basically consider to be our backyard.

More on that later because I thought it would rain and there would be no tennis at the Canoe Club, but the sun has come out and that will be a good start to the day since I have taken a break due to stitches and travels.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Getting back on the bike

I must admit I'm envious of the trip to Greece that a group of tennis friends are taking (and posting about on Facebook), but it's pretty nice here in Western Massachusetts too.

The  picture-perfect fall day is especially welcome following yesterday's rain. I am slowly and cautiously getting back to bike riding after the two-year break I took after my accident. Today was a good day for it.

I am able to get my new, lighter step-over bike into the back of my car, which I did this morning. Starting at Damon Road in Hadley, I rode for about an hour and a half, with a little time to stop and enjoy the scenery.

Since it is flat, it is easy riding and a good place to practice stopping and starting at the intersections.  After I got the new bike, I started with a little spin and gradually increased a little bit at a time, the same as I did when returning to running. Today was the first day I actually enjoyed myself as opposed to watching myself.

It doesn't provide the same exercise for me as running, but it is good to relearn the basics in case I ever want to take a harder ride.

My legs felt a little funny, but it was so nice outside that afterwards, I walked Maddie around the lake.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Needles: the good kind

I had almost forgotten that I had signed up for free acupuncture through the Cancer Connection in Northampton, so I was surprised when the phone rang and it was acupuncturist Laurel Turk saying I had come to the top of the list.

Since the only time that she does this in Northampton is the same day I volunteer at the Literacy Project, I went to her office in Sunderland earlier this week. There was therapeutic value just in driving along beautiful Route 47 just as the leaves were beginning to turn.

 I previously had acupuncture done at Dana-Farber's Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies  and also in Amherst by a woman who is also an herbalist. The session at the Zakim Center was definitely calming, causing me to immediately fall asleep. Same thing for the sessions in Amherst. These were  complemented with Chinese herbal medicine to balance and strengthen my system after my first bone marrow transplant.

I took home a bag full of raw herbs that I boiled in my spaghetti pot and drank like a tea. It tasted and smelled horrible. The whole house stunk. My kids said it looked like the acupuncturist had just gone out behind her house and collected pieces of bark, and they would kill me if I did not stop. I am not doubting Chinese medicine, but it was not my cup of tea at that time.

At the session last week, I said I primarily wanted to address the neuropathy in my feet. I would love to get off that drug Neurontin, with its side effects of dizziness and drowsiness. There are many other imbalances in my body to address, including the graft vs. host in my liver and the tendency of squamous cell cancers to pop up on my skin.

My feet were the only place the needles hurt. The rest went in easily, including a couple in my head to calm my runaway mind. She also used a moxa stick, in which dried leaves of the Chinese herb mugwart are lit and applied to the needles, intensifying their benefits.

With each needle, I felt more and more like I was in a warm bath.

It was so much better than the needles that usually poke me.

I am happy to say I get five more sessions. Thank goodness for places like the Cancer Connection that offer services not just to those in crisis but also to those dealing with the long-term effects of cancer treatment.