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Monday, February 28, 2011

Screwie Louie's, Madeira Beach

This, my friends, is heaven on a plate.  Screwie Louie's of Madeira Beach was just down the road from our motel, so we walked up there one morning for breakfast.  I had the breakfast burrito, which came with  delicious home fries (and I can take or leave potatoes most of the time).  It was also served on a pretty blue and yellow plate. The service, honestly, could have been better, as they weren't busy and we only saw our waitress when she took our order and dropped off the bill (someone else brought the food), but I would recommend the place and I would definitely eat there again.  Hopefully the waitress was just having an off day.  Rats - now I'm hungry!

To see more Blue Monday photos, click here.
To see more Mellow Yellow Monday photos, click here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


At the end of December, my oncologist started me on Tamoxifen.  I take a daily dose of this drug, which is a hormone therapy formulated to help prevent a recurring cancer.  Tamoxifen has the potential to cause a number of side effects, but so far I've only experienced one:  night sweats.

It's funny because during the day I pretty much always feel cold.  It doesn't matter how many layers I dress in, I'm still feeling a chill.  Even when I go to bed, I feel cold until I fall asleep.  If I'm lucky I get five or six hours of good rest before I wake, hot, uncomfortable, and covered in sweat, unable to get back to sleep.   Walker tells me I throw all the covers off as soon as I fall asleep.  We have a ceiling fan in the bedroom, but it isn't helping.

My doctor tells me that my body should adjust to the Tamoxifen in a couple months, if I can tough it out.  If this is as bad as it gets, no problem!  But the lack of sleep concerns me.  At first it was kinda nice to have the extra hours in the day; now I'm just tired.  I can get through the day (thank God for caffeine!) but I would really like a good night's sleep.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lazy Saturday

It's been snowing all day.  Big, fat, lazy flakes that just keep falling.  Diva and Squeak shoveled the driveway for $2 each - they charge a dollar for each inch of snow.  Can't beat that.  Unfortunately, my happy snowman neighbor succumbed to the warm temps.  He's now a pile of broken snow chunks.

When they weren't outside working, Diva and Squeak were busy in the kitchen whipping up new flavors of soda. I gave Squeak the soda making set for Christmas, but this is the first time I have been recruited as a taste tester.  I tried a few sips here and there, but in the end I paid my nephew Cubbie a dollar to take over for me.  Some of the flavors they came up with were.....appealing only to a kid.  Let's just leave it at that.

I spent a little time in the basement, trying to get reorganized after The Flood Saga of 2011.  I should not say this, but so far, we've been dry since the plumber came last Monday.  I hope that statement doesn't tempt fate.  Anyway ~ we still need to get the burst pipe repaired but it won't leak unless someone turns on the outside tap.  Given the weather, that is not likely.  We're hoping to have someone in next week.

Until that pipe is repaired, I can't put anything on the shelves in the storage room, as they are directly beneath the pipe. We did a good job of drying out the things we could, and everything that was not salvageable has been carted to the local burning plant, where they convert garbage into usable energy. I'm pretty much done down there until I can start moving things back to the shelves. It was a lot of work, but in a weird way, I'm not sorry it happened.  We needed to do some cleaning and I don't think anything less than disaster would have motivated us at this point.  It's funny how fast you can fill a house ~ we've been here about five and a half years, after moving from a home half this size.  And our storage area was full of junk we did not need. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Bright Side of the Big Snow

Driving home from work this morning, I spotting this happy guy in the neighbor's yard.  Looks like Diva's playmates had a good time in the snow on Monday.  Because I never learn, I didn't have my camera with me.  When I got home I grabbed it and walked back around the block to take this photo.  If you're wondering why I didn't wait until morning,  the thermostat in my car read 34* at 2am.  At the angle this guy was to begin with, I wasn't sure he'd stay standing when the sun came up.  You can't tell from the photo, but he's over six feet tall, easily.  I don't know how the kids managed to build him but I think that's the reason for his posture.  I just love snowmen, especially  ones with this much personality.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dr Jonathan's Hand Cream

Okay, I have to rave about this stuff!  I've been wanting to write this post for a while, but I made myself wait until I'd gone through a full jar, just to be sure it was as great as I thought in the beginning.  It is.

I found this hand cream back in November, when I was in the middle of my radiation treatments.  I bought it for my hands, since my skin gets so dry it cracks in the winter.  The claim to fame is cranberry oil, an ingredient I had not found in any of the other hand creams I've ever tried.  I ordered the cream from, a website owned and operated by Dr Jonathan and his wife, Michelle.

The package showed up on my doorstep on a Saturday.  I immediately used the hand cream.  It has a light, slightly berry scent, light enough that Walker decided to try it, too.  It felt wonderful, sank in easily, and made my hands feel soooo much better.  By the end of the day the scaly patches were gone.  They're still gone.  Which got my wheels turning.....My skin had started opening in my "treatment area", and none of the creams I got from the doctor seemed to be helping much.  I knew I should check with the doctor before using this hand cream on my boob, but it was a Saturday and the cancer center was closed.  I decided to give it a shot.

Now, obviously I'm not a doctor, and I don't claim that everyone else will have the results I did, but honestly, by the time I went for my next treatment, two days later, my skin was healed.  The open areas had new skin in them and it never opened again, though I had several more weeks of treatment.  The doctor was anticipating I would lose a large patch of skin under my arm, because the color was so dark it looked like a purple bruise.  By Monday, it was just a dark tan color.  I never lost that skin. 

That Monday, I took the hand cream to the cancer center, and after my treatment I tracked down the doctor and showed it to him.  He read the ingredients and told me there were several that had naturally anti-inflammatory properties.  He gave me his blessing to keep using it.  For the remainder of my treatments, everyone commented on how well my skin held up.  I can't say with 100% certainty that it was this cream that made the difference, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who was having radiation treatment. In fact, I've been recommending it to everyone I know, LOL.

Now, two months post treatment, I still use the hand cream.  It's been very effective at preventing the winter dryness I normally get this time of year.  I just ordered a second batch, and I added a few more lotions and potions to try.  So far, I love everything. 

In case you're wondering, I don't know Dr Jonathan or his wife or anyone else who works at this company.  I haven't been given products or any other form of compensation.  I just really, really love this stuff.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The plumber didn't find a darn thing blocking our mainline drain. Um, WTH? I was not imagining all the water bubbling up out of it on Saturday. After he left, I tried running a small load of laundry to test things out. The drain did not back up - YAY! - but the hose on the washer apparently loosened enough to start leaking. Lucky for me I was standing right there and noticed immediately that the sound was different and was washer wasn't filling very quickly. I turned it off, found the loose hose, and fixed it. Still? Grrrr......more water to mop up.

Our snow continues to fall. Schools opened late this morning and probably will tomorrow. Walker has shoveled our driveway three times. My brother is recovering from surgery and can't lift a shovel loaded with snow, but he can move the cars out of the driveway and sweep up the front steps. I'm happy to leave it to the boys. Not that I have a choice: since my breast cancer surgery Walker doesn't want me shoveling so he either takes the shovel in the van with him or puts it in the garage rafters where I can't reach it. Last time he did that I used Diva's tiny kid shovel to clear a path to the street. The handle is half as long as a regular shovel, so I was hunched the whole time. No fun. But I got it done.

Tomorrow, we go to a family education class to learn how to help my brother. Walker and I are the only ones from my family that signed up. My mom is avoiding the whole thing and I think my sister is, too. I guess it's a good thing he moved in with us and not one of them.

I got a post card in the mail from the Susan G Koman foundation. Someone who loves me has made a donation in my name. What a thoughtful gift! I was very touched. With all the stress and drama we've had lately, it was a nice surprise to know that someone I don't see often was thinking of me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shows What I Know

Well, either everyone else on the plumber's list canceled or Walker owed him a favor. Either way, he was here bright and early at 8:30. Right now, he's doing whatever it is plumbers do to clear a mainline drain, and I'm waiting to see how bad the news is. If we're lucky, he can clear it without having to dig up the yard. We're due for some good news, I think. I wish it worked that way.

Since I had to get up early (very early for me) I think I'll try to tackle the rest of that darn to-do list. Maybe by the time I have to go to work I'll be back on track.

Monday Morning Blues

We're in the middle of a nasty winter storm. First we had snow the size of quarters falling thick and fast, making visibility very poor. Then it warmed up and the snow turned to freezing rain. After the sun went down, the rain turned back into snow.

I don't want to run our washing machine until the plumber works his magic, and I feel pretty certain that the weather will slow him down. I don't expect him now until Tuesday. With that in mind, I planned to go to the laundromat today after Walker got home from work. His van is the best vehicle for transporting a week's worth of laundry. Because of the weather, I stayed home instead.

Lil Bro and I cleaned out the kitchen cupboards in the morning, then the boys went out to shovel while I cleaned the inside of the house. We all fell asleep in the living room after lunch. Now it's 2am, Walker is getting ready to go to work, and I'm mourning the end of another weekend with my to to-do list half finished. I don't know if I'm not managing my time well or I'm simply trying to do too much, but I always feel a huge sense of frustration when Monday morning rolls around.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Maybe She's Lost

I was going to clean the bathroom this morning but......

That's my cat, Ernie, napping on the bathmat. She just started doing this. I have no idea why. She turned twenty-two years old this month, so I pretty much let her do what she wants, where she wants. In all her years, I could count on one hand the number of times she entered the bathroom. Now she seems to be making a new home there. Eventually she relocated to my brother's lap, and I got the bathroom done.

It's Kinda Like that Movie About Groundhog Day......

Today's flood was brought to us courtesy of a washing machine and a floor drain.  Yep, that's right....after all the cleaning and mopping and fan running we did on Thursday and Friday, I got up this morning, started a load of laundry, and returned an hour later to yet another chapter in the Flooded Basement Chronicles.  This time, I was the only adult onsite.  My nephews were here and offered to help, but there's no way I'd let a little kid clean up sewer water.  Since it was the washing machine that caused it, the basement smelled Downy fresh ~ a plus while I mopped and wet vac-ed.  The challenge today was, since it was the floor drain backing up, I could not dump the mopped water inside the house.  I had to schlep the shop vac, then bucket, full of water up the stairs, through the garage, and into the yard where I dumped it on the nearest snowbank.  I made about twenty of those trips before I was done.  I know I will be sore in the morning.

Walker came home and called a plumber.  We're now on his list of house calls but we don't know if he can come Monday or if it will be Tuesday; it depends on how long it takes him to fix the folks ahead of us.  We decided to wait for this particular guy because he has a little camera that he sticks down the drains to find out what, exactly, the problem is.  I don't want to waste any more time or effort "trying things" and hoping the issue is fixed. Been there, done that.  I cannot keep spending hours a day mopping up water.

After I cleaned up all the puddles I set fans around to dry the damp concrete.  I also set up a space heater and turned on the fan in the furnace to keep the air moving as much as possible.  A couple hours later I went back downstairs and started the real project: sorting, tossing, and storing in totes all the stuff we had on the shelves that got wet.  If you had asked me before all this, I would have said all we had was some holiday decorations, old furniture, paint cans, and a couple boxes of assorted "stuff".  Now I know just how much crap was packed onto those shelves.  I did not know we had six coolers and three thermoses.  I do now, because I dried each and every one of them. We will not be keeping six coolers and three thermoses.  I see rummage sales in my future.

Even though I only got through about a third of the stuff, I filled four large garbage bags with stuff that was unsalvagable or just plain junk to begin with.  I can't put anything back on the shelves until the plumber fixes the pipe, so I have Rubbermaid totes stacked in the laundry room. We now have a very large pile of stuff in the garage, waiting for trash day.  I also had to remove two computers that were soaked when the pipe burst. Those can't go out in the trash; we need to have them recycled.   I verified with my insurance agent that I'm covered for both the burst pipe and the sewer backup, but I don't know yet if it will be worth filing a claim.  I have a high deductible for flood damage.

I am so, so tired right now.  And I get to do it all again tomorrow. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Not Even Watery Wednesday!

So yesterday I went down to our basement to put some stuff away and discovered that a pipe going to an outside hydrant had burst.  The pipe in question was way in the back of the basement, in the storage room.  The first puddle I stepped in was at the very front of the basement, at the bottom of the stairs.  Gallon after gallon of water had flooded down from the pipe in the ceiling, covering the storage room floor, seeping under the wall, running the entire length of the utility room, seeping under the next wall, and into Walker's man cave at the bottom of the stairs.

I was not happy.

Lucky for me, both Walker and my brother had just gotten home so I had help with the cleanup.  Where do you even start with something like that?  My brother ran the carpet steamer just to suck up the puddles he could get to, Walker did the same with the wet vac in another room, and I pulled boxes and totes off the shelves to check for damage.

There was a lot of damage.

By the time I had to leave for work we had all the standing water mopped up.  The concrete was still damp but no actual puddles remained.  I had carried box after dripping box up the stairs to the garage, where they will sit until the garbage goes out next week.  I don't know, yet, how much was lost.  It will take the whole weekend and then some to get everything cleaned up.  The bad part is, since the water heater was leaking, I had shoved some things onto the shelves in the storage room to keep them from getting wet.  They would have been safer left alone, as the water heater wasn't leaking all that much.  Ah, well.  Who knew?

The silver lining in all this is that I was meaning to clean up the basement this winter.  Now I have no choice.  We will be seriously purging some (read: most) of the "stuff" stored down there.  It's been a long time coming and I'll be glad when it's done.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Boobie

The prayers and good wishes have worked their magic.  My visit to the Cancer Center was very reassuring.  Well, for the most part.  When I walked in the receptionist commented on how great I looked, which was nice.  Then the nurse called me, and she commented how great I looked.  Still nice. We went down the hall toward a treatment room and ran into the patient advocate, who commented several times how great I looked.  Here's the thing:  I didn't do anything special to get ready for my appointment.  Nothing.  I haven't lost weight or changed my hair or bought any new clothes.  I started wondering how crappy I must have looked before.  Ah, well.  Apparently I'm over that now.

When the doctor came in he took a look at the problem area on my boob, then he did a full exam.  He was pretty sure he knew what was going on but he called in another doctor for a second opinion.  The consensus is the goo balls coming out of my skin are excess sebum, which occurs naturally but usually in small amounts that you'd never notice.  My mammary ducts apparently are clogged, which causes the sebum to build up, until it has no more room, at which time it seeps from my pores as yucky little goo balls. They are very sure that this does not indicate infection or recurrent cancer. Yay!  The bad news is, there is really no treatment for it.  It should clear up on it's own  but if it doesn't the only course of action is to surgically clean out the clogged ducts. Because the effected area is relatively widespread, they don't know how feasible surgery would be for me.  They advised I wait until my next mammo in April, unless it gets worse or shows signs of infection. The area is tender but it doesn't bother me too much from a pain standpoint; it's just the yuck factor that I don't care for.  So waiting isn't a problem.  They do want me to chart how often and how much goo I see, so they can see if it's getting better or worse.  And I have to keep using the skin cream I got last time. 

The assumption is this was caused by radiation treatment, since it's only happening in the treatment area.  The radiologist said it's not common but they've seen it before.  The hormone therapy could be making it worse.  Since it isn't harmful I don't need to worry about it.  Maybe now I'll start sleeping better.  My blood pressure was up yesterday.  Considering everything that's happened recently, I'm not surprised, but I do need to do a better job of taking care of myself.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Distracting Myself

I have an appointment at the Cancer Center today.  For the most part, they've been routine for months now but this one has me a little unsettled.  I'm still having drainage in my treatment area.  It's been almost two months since I finished radiation and I would think that by now this would have cleared up.  The skin healed long ago, but there are what I call "goo balls" coming out of the pores.  Every couple of days, the skin gets puffy and sore, then a day or so later this goo drains out. The swelling goes away with the goo, as does the tenderness.  For a couple days, at least.  Then it starts again.  The doctor didn't feel it was an infection; he said it doesn't happen often but they have seen it before.  He told me at my last appointment, a month ago, that it would probably clear up by now, and he ordered yet another skin cream for me.  It's gotten better but it has not cleared up.

I couldn't sleep this morning so I got up and took my borrowed dogs for a walk.  I did some housework.  The water heater we put in a few weeks ago has been leaking, so we had a plumber in today to swap it out.  I went outside, to a gorgeous, sunny, pre-spring day, and cleaned up some of the debris that comes with winter: tree branches, blown in litter, like that.  Then I came back in and watched some TV. I'm still anxious.

Right after my appointment I have to head into work. I know I'll be dog tired by the end of my shift.  Hopefully, there will be good news at the doctor and an easy night at the office.  Cross your fingers for me, please!

Vacation on a Budget

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, I'm gonna make you proud! I just love Gail on 'Til Debt Do Us Part.  Her no-nonsense approach not only makes great TV, it makes sense to me.  This show is one of only about three that I actually sit down and watch.  Usually the TV is on, keeping me company, while I'm doing other things.  This show is worth paying attention to.

One of the things I like best about Gail's approach is that she encourages balance; even if you have debt to pay off, or you are lacking in your emergency fund, Gail believes that you need to have some fun once in a while, so long as you budget for it ahead of time and don't go overboard with the spending.  I think that's important.  Nobody can thrive when all you do is work for a paycheck.

Anyway - Walker and I had planned to spend a week on Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico last November.  Those plans had to be canceled so I could do my daily radiation treatments.  When we were ready to try for another trip, we could not find decent airfare to Fort Meyers, the closest airport to Sanibel.  We could have waited a bit to see if the airfare came down, but there was stuff coming up at work that would require my presence, and Walker really needed some time away sooner rather than later, so we decided instead to check alternate destinations.  Walker has some family snowbirds in Orlando, and while we could get there for a good price, the flights had not one but two stops along the way. This time of year, with unpredictable weather, that bothered me.  Who wants to get stuck in an airport half way to their destination due to snow and ice?  We ended up deciding on Tampa, and were thrilled to discover we could get frequent flier seats with one slight catch - we had to fly down a day earlier than we were planning to. Ah well, what can you do?  Our vacation went from a week to eight days, challenging the budget a bit more.

This is what we had originally budgeted:

Airfare        $700
Hotel          $600
Rental car & gas  $400
golf  (greens fees & club rental)   $300
Entertainment, meals & miscellaneous spending   $800

Total budgeted cost for seven days and nights was $2,800, which is just a bit less than we had saved in cash.   But this is the year of fiscal reform, at least at our house.  So here's what we actually spent:

Airfare  $212 plus 50,000 frequent flier miles. $92 of that was baggage fees.  The thing is, Walker paid to check his golf clubs.  He would have spent more renting them than bringing his own, so it was money well spent in my opinion.
Hotel  $748
Rental car & gas  $407
golf fees $122 
Entertainment, meals & miscellaneous spending $636 in cash, $108 on the credit card, and 400 Disney reward "dollars".  The credit card will be paid in full as soon as all the charges post.

The total came to $2,233, which is $567 less than we originally planned for, even though we stayed an extra day. That's just over 20%.  Wahoo! The thing that's worth mentioning is, we didn't scrimp.  We did not live on peanut butter bread and tap water as some of my friends did when vacationing during their college days.  We spent a full day at Disney World, Walker went golfing three times, we rented a mid-size SUV rather than a compact car, we ate good food in fun restaurants, and we brought shirts and treats home for the kids.  Could we have cut the budget further?  Sure. But I'm happy with the budget and the experience we had.  We found the balance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Missed My Cyber Neighbors!

It's funny how you can feel like you know people you've never actually met.  When we were in Florida, I kept seeing things that made me think of my blogger pals and wonder how y'all were doing.  This is a tshirt that was in the window of a surf shop in John's Pass. It reminded me of Donna and her husband, Cliff.  Donna has spoken of Cliff's love of ketchup.  Once home, I realized it would make a good Ruby Tuesday entry. 

For more Ruby Tuesday photos, click here.

A Perfect Florida Morning

The best weather we had on our vacation occurred the day we visited Disney World.  These colorful umbrellas shade a popular dining spot between Main Street and Cinderella's Castle. 
For more Blue Monday posts, click here.
For more Mellow Yellow Monday posts, click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Let the Games Begin

My wish for a bit of a break must not have reached whomever is in charge of the universe.  This morning, after doing laundry all day yesterday, my floor drain backed up into the basement.  I'm grateful that it wasn't the sewer, but honestly, I still feel like: "Really? This too??" 

I found the mess fairly early and was able to minimize the damage, but I had to call Walker home from errands to help my brother and me in the cleanup.  The kids had a party to attend, so they were occupied all afternoon.  We had mopped up the water and cleared the drain lines before they got back. All in all, a minor inconvenience, though it put me behind in the unpack-and-get-ready-to-return-to-work routine.  Several hours behind, actually.  I doubt I will have myself caught up before I go back to work tomorrow.  I still have to go through all the mail that accumulated in our absence, as well as finish the last load of laundry.  Walker went for groceries, and my brother has done all the cooking and dishes. The kids will go back home after school tomorrow.

The sun came out today.  The air feels downright balmy.  The snow is melting, even now, after dark.  I can hear it running through the gutters when I step out the front door. Though I know there is more winter still to come, I feel like we're in the home stretch.  Spring is right around the corner.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Home Again

This morning, we checked out of our motel long before the sun came up.  We flew north, trading palm trees and crashing waves for frozen rivers and piles of snow.  I confess: I am not good at flying.  I get totally nervous every time I set foot on a plane.  I hate the noise, the fuel smell, the cramped spaces.  The only reason I do it is the payoff of more time spent on vacation, less time in the travel itself.  This time, I didn't really care about any of that.  I just wanted to get home.

While we were in Florida, my brother was released from the hospital.  He's in the middle of a divorce, so he couldn't go home.  The doctors wanted him to not be alone, so he moved into our house and my mom stayed with him.  My sister picked us up at the airport and brought us home to a house full of people: my mom, Diva, my brother, and my brother's children were all here to greet us. It was chaos, and it was wonderful.

I think given the circumstances, we had a good trip.  We spent half our time at the beach and half visiting Walker's snowbird relatives in Orlando.  We spent a day at Disney World, just the two of us, playing like teenagers on a date. We took each other out to breakfast, and cheered the Packers to a Superbowl victory at an outdoor sports bar.  We walked on the beach, slept late, and ate ice cream sundaes for lunch.  I feel rested and ready to move on to the next challenge, but I wouldn't mind a bit if that challenge didn't present itself for a while. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Schooner Motel, Madeira Beach, Florida

Y'all might be wondering why I happen to have photos of the food we ate on vacation.  The answer is a little dull, but I'll tell you anyway.  Walker really wanted me to do some reviews.

The thing is, when I plan a trip for myself or someone else, I rely pretty heavily on reviews, most of which I get from blog posts.  I look for posts by people who live in the area we're planning to visit.  Hey, if the locals love the food, or put their family members in that hotel, you know it's good.

For all that I love reading reviews, I have mixed feelings about writing them.  Why?  Cause I don't want to screw with someone's business.  If everything is great, no problem.  But if things aren't so good.....You know, anyone can have an off day.  We mostly try to avoid chain type places in favor of local restaurants, and if there is a family run motel or a private condo, we choose that over a big chain place.  So, you know, if they're short staffed or have new employees or whatever, it has a bigger impact.  I don't want to assume that the service is generally terrible if our waitress is lacking.  That sort of thing.

Having said all that, I'm going to go ahead and post a review of our motel on Madeira Beach, Florida.  We've stayed several times, so I think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect. 

The Schooner Motel is a small facility located directly on Madeira Beach.  That was the big selling point the first time we stayed there.  The parking lot is very small, maybe a dozen spaces.  There is no street parking in front of the motel, but they do have an additional lot across the street, which is unpaved.  The street has fairly heavy traffic, but half a block from the motel they have pedestrian crossing lights. Right next door to the motel is a public parking lot and public beach access.

The motel itself is older.  While it could use some serious updating, the rooms have always been very clean.  I can't imagine what it takes to keep beach sand and bugs at bay, so I'm always impressed with the cleanliness.  The front desk staff is very friendly and will always answer questions about where to eat, what to do, et cetera.  On the other hand, you have to be buzzed into the lobby, even during business hours, and the office closes at 9pm.  I'm not sure what they do if you have a late arriving flight.  I would imagine someone would come to meet you.

Walker and I have always rented an efficiency, with a small kitchenette and a beautiful view of the Gulf of Mexico.  As I said, the room decor is quite outdated.  The very tiny bathrooms are done in pink tile, the dressers are worn, and the beds are quite soft.  We also had a table with two chairs and a small sofa. There are end tables with lamps on either side of the bed. The kitchenette has all the basics for a short stay: dorm fridge, microwave, dishes and utensils, coffee maker, toaster.

Outside, there's a shared patio with umbrella tables, plenty of chairs, and barbeque grills.  We generally grill a time or two but this trip, due to rain, we did not.  The patios are swept every morning, and each table and chair is wiped down.  The beach is also raked clean by a tractor of sorts that sifts any debris out of the sand.  The motel is pet friendly, and they keep beach toys on hand for the kids ~ all you have to do is ask for them.  There is a very small pool at the building next door, which is owned by the Schooner Motel.  That pool did not seem to be heated.  Next door to that is the third Schooner building and an even smaller pool.  That one has always been warm when we've visited, including this trip, when the weather was much cooler than normal.

We go on vacation to spend time on the beach, to shop, to play golf, not to sit in the room.  The decor and furnishings did not bother us one bit.  This trip, however, we had a few issues with our room.  The biggest problem was that the bathroom fan did not work.  There was a smoke detector mounted on the wall outside the bathroom and it went off every time one of us showered.  Since Walker was getting up very early - 5ish - to play golf, this was a concern for us as we didn't want to disturb the neighbors.  So, I would open the windows and turn on the ceiling fan, while Walker made sure to keep the bathroom door shut tight.  Which presented another problem: the bathroom door knob was loose.  Very loose. Not loose as in coming out of the door, but loose as in, you turn the knob and it just keeps going.  It didn't catch right away.   It took some fancy jiggling to get it open.  I was pretty convinced that while Walker was on the golf course I would end up locked in the bathroom, stuck until he got back. Lucky for me, that didn't happen.  The other problem we had was that in order to open the windows, we had to jiggle them as well.  The frames are quite bent.  The bent frames also mean that the windows don't stay open unless you prop them.  I used empty water bottles.  It worked but, really?  Not the greatest impression.

The bottom line for us is, we would not consider the Schooner to be our first choice when we visit Madeira Beach again.  We will keep an eye on the website, and hopefully they will make repairs and updates at some point.  If not, I doubt we would stay there again.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Walker and I are in Florida.  Right up until the plane took off, I wasn't sure I should go.  I kept thinking about my family, especially my brother, and I would think there was no way I could just leave town.  Then I would look at Walker, knowing how much he needed this time away.  I could not let him down.  In the end, I decided I had to trust in my brother and his doctors.  I wish I had stronger faith in God.  I envy people who find relief in prayer.  I try, but I can't release my worries.  I haven't learned to "let go and let God."

So we came to the beach.  I sat in the sun and sank my toes in the sand.  I watched the dolphins play just offshore.  It helps, some.  I know I need to let go of the guilt I carry but I don't know how.  When we get home I plan to call my brother's social worker to see if they have some sort of support group for family members.  Hopefully, she'll be able to hook me up.

Right now, it's just a day at a time.  We call home every day.  The rest of the time we walk on the beach, or shop, or hang out in a tiki bar listening to music.  From our room, we have a view of the Gulf.  We fall asleep listening to the surf.  Walker has spent some time on the golf course.  While he plays, I'm content to sit on the patio with a good book.  I do love the beach.  The ocean air is healing for me.  I sleep like a rock here. I needed that.

I'm not feeling great about being here, but I don't think I'd have felt any better had I chosen to stay home.  One of these days maybe I'll  find one of those crystal balls somewhere, and I won't have these choices to make.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Call I Didn't Get

I was supposed to get a phone call this week.  Maybe yesterday, maybe today.  I'm not sure who would have called me.  I would guess maybe my mom.  Maybe not.   I was supposed to pick up the phone to learn that my brother's body had been found.  I was supposed to hear the word, "Suicide".  I was supposed to help plan his funeral.  I was supposed to mourn the loss of his life. 

Instead, I got a very different call.  I was wrapping up my shift at work when I got a call saying that my brother was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.  I didn't know if he was okay, or even if he would still be alive when I got there.  But right then, when he was supposed to be gone, he was alive.

I went there, to the hospital, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night.  I was calm, I was numb, I was as prepared as one can ever be for what I would find. I was taken to the critical care unit, to my brother's room, where the nurse told me I could not come in: he did not want visitors.  Inside the room a woman in a jacket sat near his bed.  I did not know her; who was she, and why was she allowed to be there? I'm sure I glared at her, though I didn't intend to.  But then the nurse said my name, and my brother's groggy voice said, "Oh, she can come in.  Let her in." So I was brought in, too. 

The woman in the jacket turned out to be another nurse, sent to watch my brother, to keep him safe.  She gave me a pager so I could call her if I needed help, and she left us.  I sat next to my brother's bed, in the dark room, holding his hand, watching him sleep.  He would wake, and we'd talk a bit, and he'd be out again.  Still safe.

Nurses came, took vitals, took blood.  Morning came.  I had to go, to start on the phone calls, very different phone calls than the ones I should have had to make.  Thank you, God, for ruining the plan.  Thank you. I will gladly make one thousand of these phone calls, though I hate them.  How to you tell your mother, "No, it wasn't an accident.  You have to face that, Mom, or you won't be able to help him.  Yes, I'm sure, it was not an accident.  He told me so.  He meant it."  How to you cause your mother that kind of pain?  But you do, because you have to. 

I called my mom from the hospital parking lot, while I waited for the ice to melt from my truck windows.  Walker was waiting for me when I got home.  I was several hours late.  Explain again, then make more calls.  Explain again over the phone. Late morning, I tried to sleep. Early afternoon, I got up and went back to the hospital.  The nurses tell me how lucky we are:  he should be okay.  It looks like he was found in time.  Thank you, God, thank you.

I am angry, I am hurt, I am scared.  Most of all, I am sad.  Whatever I am feeling, I imagine my brother is feeling 100 times more.  I do not understand.  I will never understand.  I want to hug him.  I want to smack him.  I want him safe.

Some people will wonder why I'm writing about this.  I asked myself that, too: should I really blog this?  Is it fair to my brother?  I think this story is not mine to tell.  But here's the thing:  we all need depression to not be a secret.  Maybe, if we can learn to talk about it, people in pain will realize that they are not alone.  Maybe more of them will ask for help.  Maybe there will be someone else out there who does not get the call I almost got.  Maybe someone else will be saved.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Problem Solved

Walker and I took his sister out to lunch on Monday, which meant that I rolled my fanny out of bed before noon on a workday.  That doesn't happen too often, as I'm one of those wacky people who actually enjoys working into the wee hours of the morning.  At any rate, we finished lunch and had hours before I had to go to work, so I had Walker drive us out to the mall.  While he did whatever boys do in the sporting goods department, I headed to Lingerie to get myself fitted for a bra that would balance out my girls.

Now, I probably sound like a cranky old biddie but when I saw the teenager working behind the counter I figured I was on my own.  My apologies to the young lady, but honestly, how much experience could she really have?  And it's not like I was there just to pick out something pretty.  I needed actual help.  Or so I thought. 

You know those molded bras that look like they come with boobs already in them?  The ones that flank the aisles of the department store making you believe that yes! You too can look like a proud owner the very finest implants, ready and waiting for an open casting call to Jerseylicious.   Yep, those.  Being somewhat, ahem, generously proportioned, I had never even considered buying something like that.  I considered it that day.  I also tried it on.  It came home with me.  And it brought a friend.  All I had to do was find one that fit the healthy boob.  The other side?  Well, it's got some extra breathing room, but in this thing, no one can tell.  Score one for me!