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Mainetenance Protocols

Posted on July 27th, 2018

Dave!Breakfast was leftover pizza. Lunch... was also leftover pizza. For dinner there was no more leftovers to be had, so I decided I'd wait 3 or 4 hours, put down my laptop, and venture out for a late supper. But then I heard thunder booming around 4:00, and decided I would rush out to eat before a torrential flood of rain unleashed like it did yesterday.

Dinner was uneventful... thank heavens.

The walk back from dinner? Mostly uneventful...

• There was a scuffle in the parking lot between two guys whom, it would seem, arrived together in the same car. It was more verbal than physical... except for one poorly-timed slap that landed badly and a spit-response. Then one of them ran off while the other got in the car. Apparently to give chase and run him down.

• Whenever I come to the Auburn/Lewiston Area, I note that the Androscoggin River (which divides the two cities) is bordered by "Great Falls Boulevard" on the Auburn side. Problem is... in the years I've been coming here, I've never seen the "Great Falls" be that great. I'm guessing it's great in the Spring, but I'm here in the Summer and Winter when it's just rocks. Today I finally asked about it. "Well, it's not really that great most years any more."

• Today I finally decided to make a quick stop at Veteran's Park next to the above-said-not-so-great-falls. I knew it was here... never stopped. It's dedicated with a marker, which I sadly noted didn't have any women in service on it (sorry for the glare)...

Veteran's Park

Until I took a closer look(?)...

Veteran's Park

The hands-on-hips should have given her away.

• Other than the odd choice to have a gun firing at a jeep(?) it's actually a nice little park...

Veteran's Park

In case you are wondering... off to the right there are the Great Falls.

• As I was nearing the end of the bridge, I noticed that there was a Trump Protest going on across the street, almost all of them (I'm guessing) being senior citizens. They were calling for his impeachment...

Veteran's Park

Maine, like my home state of Washington, is a Blue State. But Androscoggin County, like my home county of Chelan, is a Red County. Meaning more than 50% of the people voting voted for President Trump. Don't know if that would be the case today.

• As I walked up to my hotel, the thunder was growing in intensity, but there was still no rain. As I walked in the sliding doors to the glass-enclosed vestibule, I saw a poor little bird flying back and forth. He was smashing into the windows from one side to the other, and I felt terrible about it. And so... I spent the next five minutes corralling the little fellow until I could shoo him out the front door. Time well spent, even though everybody in the lobby thought I had gone insane.

• When I got back to my hotel room, I noticed that there was a photo of the Great Falls (where there were actually falls) hanging in the bathroom (sorry again for the glare)...

Veteran's Park

Okay, I have to admit that this does look pretty great!

   
And thus ends my big day. Tomorrow it's back to work again.

   

Wednesday the 18th

Posted on July 18th, 2018

Dave!This has been an incredibly challenging week as I try to catch up on everything I missed while also covering the things I'm going to miss.

Last night I backed up my local security camera footage and checked the health of the UPS batteries that keep them recording in a power outage. Then I went through all my cloud security camera settings to increase the picture quality.

Then I washed interior windows.

Not that you'd know it. The outside windows are so filthy that they all still look dirty. So I guess it was wasted effort.

Except — I — know they're clean, so that's gotta count for something.

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Primed for Disappointment

Posted on July 17th, 2018

Dave!I have long wanted a dash-cam to record all the crazy shit I see while driving. It's all so wacky that even I don't believe it sometimes, so it's good to have photographic evidence.

Since I didn't want to invest a ton of money in tech that was going to be obsolete in five minutes, I decided to buy the cheapest camera I could find until the newest generation of cameras with all the cool bells and whistles dropped in price. I ended up paying $28 on Amazon for a dash-cam that was usually $70 (I think it was on closeout?) and that would be good enough. Sure, the picture is crap and it doesn't have many features... but it would be better than the nothing I had at the time.

Three problems...

  1. I keep forgetting to press the "save" button when something interesting happens, so the video gets overwritten.
  2. So much of the crazy happens just outside of the range of the lens, despite it having a fairly wide angle.
  3. Removing the tiny micro SD card to get the video off of it is a huge pain in the ass.

Last night while I was waiting for an email response, I ran out to the car and grabbed the card. Turns out I had four videos saved. Two of them were of my garage door when I installed the thing and kept accidentally pressing buttons. But the other two were from my last drive back over the mountains...

The first was of a guy peeing on the side of the road. Didn't bother to go in the bushes or nothin'... just whipped it out and was peeing. At least his back was turned, but still. Problem is... all the camera captured was his car. And since the video quality is crap, you can barely see that...

Dash-Cam Footage

Dash-Cam Footage

The next video I saved was a deer...

Dash-Cam Footage

Dash-Cam Footage

   
I was hoping that Amazon's Prime Day would have a massive discount on a camera with a GPS, voice-activated save, and wireless download... but it was not to be.

And speaking of Amazon Prime Day, it was a total bust. The only thing I really care about is gift cards at a discount but I can never snag one. I set my alarm... wait for the card I want to be offered... then click to purchase the second it shows up as available... but it's always, always, always sold out. I couldn't get Petco. I couldn't get Panera. I couldn't get American Eagle. The only card I managed to get was iTunes, which is great... but it's insane that Amazon doesn't offer enough cards to last more than 2 seconds.

The only real bargain I managed to find was a white SONOS One speaker for my bathroom. I had a $100 gift card that was gifted to me when I watched a friend's dog plus I had $65 in Amazon Credit Card points... so I only had to come up with $35 to buy it (except I didn't have it, so hello credit card). The Prime Day Special was the speaker bundled with a $50 gift card, which I could not pass up because SONOS rarely goes on sale, and this is as close as it gets.

Now all I need to complete my SONOS home experience is a SONOS BEAM for my bedroom and two SONOS One speakers (one for the guest room and another for the main-floor bathroom). Then there will be no corner of my home that can't be blanketed in sound... or that's not Alexa accessible. Gotta tell you... this SONOS stuff is addicting. It's just too amazing to have your television or music playing everywhere you want so you can move around the house for chores (or whatever) and not miss anything. If only they made some kind of a SONOS-style video device for my kitchen so I could keep up with television video as well as audio.

That way I won't have to miss a minute of Love It or List It when I am unloading the dishwasher or making dinner.

   

Facial Unrecognition

Posted on July 3rd, 2018

Dave!I currently have 146,427 images in my photo library. And while they are all fairly well organized by date and location, I tend to rely on the facial recognition in Adobe LightRoom if I'm trying to find a picture of a person. It does a pretty good job, though there's a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately there's a "training mode" where you can fine-tune the algorithm's picks.

Take for example pictures that LightRoom thinks are me that are actually me.

And... some pictures not so much of me.

XXX

So... pretty good job, actually.

And yet... Apparently I look like a skeleton doll... a painting of a grody old saint... a statue of some Thomas Jefferson looking guy... a drawing of a woman in curls... and a black blob.

Among other things.

No accidental comparison to Ryan Reynolds this time, however. Just a woman in curls.

Sometimes technology lifts you up.

Sometimes technology kicks you in the balls.

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Warm Cookies and Cool Jewelry

Posted on July 2nd, 2018

Dave!When it comes to death, we humans have a crazy variety of customs, superstitions, and rituals. Most people would agree that a lot of them are really weird, which is to say that they're weird to you To other people, maybe it's your customs that are weird.

My beliefs are a bit complex, largely falling into Buddhist ideals, but sometimes straying into the other belief systems which have shaped my thinking. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so death is just a natural thing that happens... like a flower that blooms, dies, then returns year after year. While I don't know that I believe in reincarnation, I do believe that death is natural and nothing to be afraid of. I also believe it's not the end of you, though what happens to the energy that was you I do not know. I'm actually glad about that because it means there's one final mystery solved when you leave this earthly plane.

When I die, I honestly don't care what becomes of my body. I'm not there anymore, it was never anything really special to me, and it can get tossed in the garbage for all I care. I do like the idea of having my ashes spread over Mt. Haleakala in Maui though... just in case my friends want an excuse to take a vacation.

My mom was raised Catholic, so I am doing my absolute best to act according to what I believe her wishes to be. The whole "last rites" thing was a bust because apparently Catholic priests have better things to do than serve their flock now-a-days, so I'm already off to a bad start. I know she wanted to be cremated. I know she didn't want a church service. I know she wants to be buried in her plot next to her parents. Everywhere else I'm just filling in the blanks the best I can.

And it's been a bit weird, I don't mind telling you.

The local funeral home here went out of business one week before my mom went into hospice. I was really saddened by this, because the guy who ran it is the brother of a friend and I really appreciated how he helped me out when my grandmother passed. And so I found a new funeral home by doing a Google Maps search near my mom's care facility, picking the one that looked the nicest, and then dropping by to take care of everything. Years ago I had bought my mom's car from her and put the money into a funeral insurance policy, so the money to pay for everything was already there.

I sat down with the funeral director where I was served a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Assumably to provide comfort to grieving clients. Which... I must admit... it actually did. Or maybe I was just hungry because I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning. In any case, they were some really tasty cookies.

While the lovely person handling my mom's final affairs was off photocopying her birth certificate, Navy discharge papers, and all that kind of stuff, I started looking around at all the urns and casket options when I saw this...

Love Ashes!

That's right... for a hefty chunk of money, you can turn your loved one's remains into jewelry! Remember when I said that this was all a bit weird? This is what I was talking about. I mean, how does that go? "My that's a lovely pendant you're wearing!""Oh thanks... it's grandma!"

But that's just the beginning. You can also get your loved one fingerprinted and turn that into jewelry...

Love Prints!

"Do you have any wishes for your mother's remains?""Yeah... book 'em, Dano!"

And lest you think that your pet has been left out of the fun... you can also get paw-print jewelry and even nose-print jewelry made! I mean, hey, I love my cats and all, but I can't picture a scenario where I would want to wear Jake and Jenny's noses around my neck.

After nearly an hour of cookies and paperwork, it was ultimately decided mom would be cremated then put in a nice metal jar I selected. I'll then pick up her ashes at a later date and have them interned in her plot just before concrete is poured for her marker, then say one last goodbye to the remarkable woman that will always be my mother. And check in with grandma and grandpa next door, of course.

I have decided against any kind of graveside service. I feel badly about that because I'm sure there's many of mom's friends who would like to say goodbye and have closure. But it would be just my luck to have her fucking pig of an ex-boyfriend show up, and I think it would be in bad taste to have a murder occur as she's being laid to rest. So... instead my family will set aside some time at the next reunion and remember her then. I like this idea anyway because a lot of people will already be there and not have to drive hours for a ten-minute goodbye.

And so... plans made. I guess I'm done with all the weirdness then, right?

LOL. No. There was a call from the medical examiner which was another bucket of weird to deal with. I won't go into all the details of my spilling details... but I will say that it was surprisingly thorough and specific. As if they suspected foul play. Which had my mind racing in a dozen different directions. Have there been a slew of "accidents" at mom's care facility? Has there been a chain of suspicious deaths surrounding my mom's doctor? Who knows. But my mom used to read mystery novels by the hundreds, so I kinda like the idea of her getting one final mystery before leaving this earthly plane.

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The Elephant Out the Window

Posted on June 30th, 2018

Dave!When you've unloaded your life on the internet for fifteen years, it probably seems hypocritical to claim to be a "private person," but for me it's still true. Rarely does my blog touch on my personal life, my work, my family, or my offline friends. That's entirely by design, because there are some things I'd rather keep to myself. Not just for me, but out of respect for the privacy of everybody else connected to my life.

Long-time readers were probably surprised to find out that so many of my travels which have been documented here on Blogography were made with my mother, because I never mentioned her being with me at the time. The reason for this is long, complicated, and nobody's business... but... at the same time it really should be everybody's business. Partly because it may help others who are going through a similar trajectory, but mostly because there's a lot of inspiration to be found there.

And so...

Mom, Mickey, and Me

For all the time we've spent together over the years, my mom was never given to talking much about her life before I came along. I know practically nothing about her years growing up, and I honestly don't know why that is. What little insight I have is from old photos I've run across or out-of-the-blue comments that would pop up. Once while we were out for breakfast I ordered my eggs over-medium instead of scrambled like I usually do. Mom took that as an opportunity to mention that when she first got married and was cooking breakfast for my dad, she'd throw out eggs with broken yolks because she didn't want him to think she was a bad cook.

And so it went for as long as I knew her.

When things didn't work out between my mom and dad, she moved to a neighboring city. I ended up moving there with her because I was attending college there at the time. After a year of starting a new life for herself she spent most of her time with her boyfriend and was rarely around, making her the perfect roommate.

I spent way too long trying to figure out what to do for a career, but eventually found my way to graphic design. Once that had been decided, I took a job offer with a brand new company that was starting up in San Diego. It was sent my way via an ex-girlfriend who was living there, and seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The opening was seven months away because offices were still being built, so I asked my mom if she wanted to take a trip before I left. She had accompanied me on work-trips around the US from time to time, but this was to be a grand vacation in Europe... visiting London, Edinburgh, and Paris. We went. We had a great time. And I was happy to have some terrific memories before leaving home.

Not long after returning, it came to light that her boyfriend was a heinous, abusive, shit-stain on all humanity. And my mom's world fell apart. I'd say this "man" was garbage, but that would be an insult to the bag of cat shit I just tossed in my trash can. I maintain to this day that prison was too good a punishment for the atrocities he committed, and consider anal warts to be a higher form of life than him on his best day.

My mom never fully recovered.

She blamed herself for not seeing what he was... blamed herself for not knowing what he was hiding... blamed herself for everything and anything because that's all she had left. On the day she got a phone call from her now-ex piece of crap demanding she come bail him out of jail, I knew that San Diego would have to wait. First I had to try and get her the help she needed. This involved attempting to carry her down the stairs of her apartment, which I was not capable of doing. I essentially ended up dragging her down the stairs as she was sobbing uncontrollably. She couldn't walk. She could barely breathe. Days later I saw how badly she was bruised because I was not strong enough. It was the first time I felt as if I had completely and utterly failed her as a son. It would not be the last.

Months later as she was slowly... so painfully slowly... recovering from the trauma that life had thrown at her, she asked me if we might go on another vacation together one day.

You know how that turned out.

You also now know why she was never mentioned as I documented our travels on my blog.

I didn't want her disgusting pig of an ex to know anything about her or what she was doing, even though deep down I loved the idea that he would know she recovered from his abuse and managed to live a great life without him in it. She had crawled out of the wreckage, picked up the pieces, and did the best she could to carry on. Sure all the fantastic places we traveled had helped, but make no mistake that it was her strength, determination, and drive that were ultimately responsible.

This was not the life she had hoped for, but it would be good enough.

At least for a while.

A decade after our European vacation, her memory started failing her. She would chalk it up to having "senior moments," but after a while it was becoming a problem. She would write herself notes constantly. More notes than anybody could ever read. She'd go through a pack of Post-It's in a week (eventually she'd go through a pack in a day). Then, three months before we were to leave for Africa, I woke up and found her wandering around in a daze. She was so confused that I thought she might have had a stroke, and rushed her to the hospital. But it wasn't a stroke.

The specialist was not entirely sure what had happened to have caused the "permanent brain injury" which my mom was now dealing with. He didn't think it was Alzheimer's, but couldn't know for sure. Subsequent sleep studies found that she would stop breathing for dangerously long periods in the middle of the night. Her doctor felt that oxygen deprivation was most likely responsible for her brain trauma. He immediately started her on a CPAP machine, but the damage had been done.

There was no reversing what had happened, and her slide into dementia had begun.

And now it was my turn to have my life fall apart.

First thing I had to do was get a note from her doctor so I could cancel our trip to Africa and get a refund from the insurance company. "Why would you want to do that?" he asked me. Well... probably because her brain was incapable to making new memories and it would be a horribly confusing ordeal for her. But her doctor thought canceling would be a mistake. Since her older memories would be preserved for a while, he thought she would be able to go and still have a good time. Sure she would remember absolutely none of it, but that wouldn't stop her from having fun at the moment.

And so we went.

It was bizarre, tragic, and beautiful all at the same time. Every morning we'd wake up and she wouldn't know where we were or how we got there, but then she'd see an elephant wander by our tent (or whatever), remember that we had been planning a trip to Africa, put two-and-two together... and, surprise, we must be in Africa.

Mom, Mickey, and Me

And, no, the irony of an animal that supposedly never forgets helping me come to terms with a mother who always forgets is not lost on me.

It's funny how things sometimes work out.

I am beyond grateful that we had taken that first trip to Europe, because that showed her she could have fun in life without her boyfriend in it... right before her boyfriend was carted off to prison.

I am even more grateful for her doctor encouraging me to take her to Africa despite her brain damage... because it showed me that her life was not done yet. Yes, things would continue to fall apart, but I didn't just writer her off after diagnosis like I probably would have if we hadn't gone to Africa.

Everything after returning home is a blur of heartbreak and tears as I struggled to figure out how to help my mom have the best life she could when life was throwing every possible obstacle in her path.

Eventually her apartment wasn't safe for her. Those same stairs I had dragged her down years before became a barrier to getting her in and out of the apartment. So I bought a home in the old neighborhood I grew up in where she could be in a familiar area (so that's why he bought a new home!). I had to install security cameras all over my home so I could keep an eye on her while I was at work (so that's why he has all those cameras!). My mom was scared and lonely when I wasn't there, so I decided to get some cats to keep her company (so that's why Jake and Jenny are there!). It goes on and on. Every day was a new challenge. But it's my mom and I love her, so what else was there to do?

Mom and Jake

Mom and Jake

I'm not going to sugar-coat it, dealing with dementia is a horrendous ordeal, and just when you think you have a handle on it, things get worse. They always get worse. And then there comes a point where you don't think that your life will ever be anything but worse.

After six months in my new place, my mom was declining badly. She was on a host of drugs to help her with the depression and confusion, but they sometimes only worsened what they were supposed to be helping. Mom would become angry for no reason. She'd scream at me because a son shouldn't be kidnapping his mother. She'd pound on windows to try and escape. She'd start crying and couldn't stop.

One day she complained of chest pains. Thinking she was having a heart attack I ran her to the ER. It wasn't a heart attack, it was constant stress generated by never-ending confusion. Her doctor was very concerned.

But not for my mom.

He was concerned for me.

"What are you doing? You can't take care of her like this." And he was right. My entire life had become about trying to keep my mom from going off the edge, but I didn't realize she had already fallen off. And I was falling with her. It was then I knew that she should have been put somewhere that could help her months ago, but I would never admit it to myself because admitting it would feel like I was giving up on her.

After weeks of searching, I found a place I could live with where she could live.

Driving her across the mountains to her new home was about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Maybe it is the hardest, I don't know. All I do know is that it felt worse than any heartbreak I've ever had and I spent a lot of time after wanting to die.

But it was just a warm-up for what was to come.

When it comes to dementia, things always get worse, remember?

There is nothing... and I mean nothing... that can prepare you for that moment where your own mother doesn't recognize you. You can read all the books that exist on dementia... you can think you are prepared and be able to accept it when that day comes. But you're wrong.

If you want to know what that's like, there just aren't words to describe it. There is no pain... no suffering... that will cut you quite like it. This video might give you the smallest inkling of how it goes. The whole thing is worth watching, but you can fast forward to 23 minutes in if you want to see what it looks like when somebody has been completely and utterly destroyed...

And that was me.

Sitting in the parking lot of my mother's memory care facility trying not to die of a broken heart.

They say that when it comes to dementia you say goodbye twice, and that's absolutely true. I said goodby to my mom when everything that I was to her was gone. I said it again last night when she died. The first time was a lot harder because it was the one that matters. Relatively speaking, the second time was easier because it was just saying goodbye to the body of who my mom used to be.

And so now you know.

The reason my blog stopped on June 4th, 2016 is because I had to find a home for my mom. The reason it didn't really start up again until October 31st, 2016 is because that's how long it took for me to recover from it. You can fill in the blanks on all the entries after that where I'm having a bad day or feeling depressed or didn't feel like blogging.

Tomorrow's Bullet Sunday will be bullets talking about what I have learned in dealing with dementia. Which is almost nothing, but it still might help somebody out there who is going through the same thing. I don't think it will be published tomorrow, but when it is published, that's what it will be.

To my family and friends who have helped me so much over these past years... sometimes without even knowing it... thank you. I could not have made it through without you.

To my mom's doctors, nurses, and all the people who work at The Cottages Memory Care in Mill Creek... thank you. I cannot fathom how you manage to do what you do with such compassion and grace, and am more grateful to you than you will ever know.

And to Jake and Jenny, who gave me a reason to get up in the morning after my mom had moved out (and almost certainly kept me from killing myself on more than one occasion)... thank you too. I mean, I know you're just cats, but you're still far better humans than a lot of people I know.

And so... until whenever I start feeling a little more like myself, take care of yourself and each other.

   

I Love You Around the World and Back

Posted on June 29th, 2018

Dave!A lot of people can tell their moms "I love you around the world and back," but in my case it's literally true. She's been traveling the globe with me for almost twenty years on an annual vacation we take together. And since it's her Mother's Day gift, she gets to pick where we go and what we're going to do once we get there. Riding a camel at the pyramids of Egypt? Done it. Trekking the rainforest of Costa Rica? Done it. Climbing a glacier in Alaska? Done it. Exploring temples in Cambodia? Done it. Taken a safari in Zimbabwe? Done it.

My mom's love of adventure has always been a never-ending source of joy in my life

And tonight I had to say goodbye to her.

Losing a parent is a soul-crushing, heartbreaking ordeal which creates a wound that will never heal. But as I sit here looking through hundreds of photos of all the places we've seen and all the things we've done... it's hard to stay sad. What time we had together on this earth was put to very good use, and you can't ask for much more than that.

The travel bug was something that bit her late in life. She ended up enduring a horrific tragedy that would crush most people, and her way of putting it behind her was to roam the planet. Mom wanted to see as much of the world as she could while she was on it, and would pour over travel magazines and TV shows for ideas all year long. And the things she would come up with for us were always interesting. I could write a book about it... maybe I should write a book about it... because the situations we often found ourselves in make for great stories.

But as many times as she would come up with something out of the blue (Vietnam?!?) she was not above wanting to return to old favorites. We ended up in Rome four times because she loved the city. Especially The Colosseum, for some reason, which we visited all four times. She also had this weird love of helicopters, and was always looking to see if there were helicopter rides available wherever we landed. I've lost count of how many times we'd end up lifting off into some incredible places with chopper blades whirring above. Maybe it was just being able to see the world from a different perspective? I dunno. I never thought to ask her about it.

About the only thing Mom didn't like about traveling was wrinkles. She was always up long before I was, ironing away on the day's clothing. When I finally bought her a travel steamer you'd think it was her own personal helicopter, because getting those pressed-in wrinkles out was just so much easier now. Anybody who knows me knows that I hate ironing and couldn't care less about wrinkled clothes, so that was the one thing I most definitely did not inherit from her.

But the wanderlust to roam the planet? That's all her.

Thanks for a lifetime of adventures, Mom. I'll love and miss you every day...

Travels with Mom
We had traveled to places like San Francisco, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, and the like... but this was the first international trip we took. My mom had to get a passport, which she was very proud of.

Travels with Mom
My mom will rarely ask me to take a photo. Like... very rarely. This was one of those times. She really wanted a photo of her coming out of a phone box for some reason.

Travels with Mom
Obligatory Eiffel Tower shot. I knew that this is what mom's friends would most want to see when we got back, so I made her stand there for way too long so I could be sure I got a good shot.

Travels with Mom
My all-time favorite shot of my mom. Arizona was our first trip after a horrific ordeal she endured, and it was great to see her smiling and having fun again.

Travels with Mom
While in Sedona, we took a "Pink Jeep" tour out in the rocks. Mom asked our driver for this photo because she wanted to remember the time we took a trip together. Little did she know... it was just the beginning.

Travels with Mom
We're on a Caribbean cruise here at a stop in Tulum, Mexico as it rained and rained. We had a great time anyway. I am not a cruise person, but my mom loved them because you get to stop in a lot of different places without packing and unpacking.

Travels with Mom
Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Mom was terrified of slipping and falling on the climb up because she wasn't sure-footed. She made it just fine, I, however, slipped twice. This was a triumphant moment for her.

Travels with Mom
New Orleans is my favorite US city, so of course I had to take her for beignets at Cafe Du Monde!

Travels with Mom
Obligatory Leaning Tower of Pisa shot on one of our five trips to Italy (which I think was my mom's favorite country to visit... it's certainly one of mine!).

Travels with Mom
Trevi Fountain in Rome. My mom threw in a coin and made a wish but wouldn't tell me what it was because she wanted it to come true. Years later when she saw this photo, she told me that she had wished for more vacations like this one. See, kids... wishes can come true!

Travels with Mom
A foggy day in Tuscany. Out of all our travels, this was probably the most disappointing stop. We really wanted to have our "Under the Tuscan Sun" moment, but rarely saw the sun the entire time we were there. Still had a fantastic time though... the food and history are incredible.

Travels with Mom
My mom wanted to go to Greece and bought a whole book to plan out the stuff she wanted to do... mostly centering around visiting the Greek islands. I said okay, and started planning. Then one day at work my mom calls me. She was looking at a map and "...noticed that Egypt is really close to Greece, so we should go there too!" I was going to explain that an inch on the map was actually hundreds of miles, but thought "Hey, I'd like to see Egypt too!" The logistics of such a trip were a little crazy, but about a week later I got a cruise brochure which included Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. So there you go.

Travels with Mom
As we were making our way around the Acropolis area, this dog comes running up. Here is where I told my mom to stand still so the dog wouldn't feel threatened and possibly attack her. Then I took this picture for some reason. I was walking towards them when the dog ran up to my mom and she was petting him, so I missed that shot. She thought it was hilarious that I thought she was in imminent danger, but stopped to take a photo.

Travels with Mom
At the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo. Mom absolutely loved mosques because the interiors were always so gorgeous... and very different from all the churches she had seen. We visited quite a few over the years.

Travels with Mom
"I thought they would be taller!" said my mom... and most every other person that visits the pyramids.

Travels with Mom
Be fore we leave on a trip, I always ask my mom if there's something special she wants to do so I can be sure to arrange it. Since she was obsessed with reading travel magazines and watching travel shows, I didn't want her to miss something that made her choose to go there in the first place. For Egypt the only thing she cared about was riding a camel at the pyramids. She later told me that it was the reason she wanted to go to Egypt because it looked like fun.

Travels with Mom
The camel's name was "Daisy." As mom was forgetting things and our travels were fading away, she rarely forgot Daisy. Even when she did, I'd remind her of Daisy and she could start pulling memories out of the experience. Thank heavens I asked about what she wanted to do, because this became one of her most enduring travel memories and I would be gutted if she had missed it.

Travels with Mom
Mom was disappointed that Cairo was so close (it literally comes right up to the pyramids, which you can see if you look at Google Maps). She thought that they were out in the dessert somewhere and we'd be riding camels out to see them. We actually went inside of The Great Pyramid, which is a good story unto itself. I'll have to blog about it one day.

Travels with Mom
A stop at Ephesus in Turkey. The crowds were insane, and it took several attempts to find a spot where I could get a shot where people weren't walking in front of her. I thought it funny that she wanted to bring her purse for this excursion, but she did that a lot. No idea why. I had all the money. Guess she just liked to be prepared. She had everything in there.

Travels with Mom
Mykonos, I believe? Not the first time mom asked a total stranger to take our photo... with my pricey camera. I was always worried that somebody might run off with it one day, but it always worked out!

Travels with Mom
Gorgeous sunset in Maui, one of my favorite places on earth.

Travels with Mom
I had my mom bring a jacket and gloves to Hawaii because I knew we'd be going to the top of Mt. Haleakala and it's cold. She was upset she didn't bring a hat and scarf, so we improvised with a Bad Monkey cap and a beach towel that were in the trunk of our rental car. We looked ridiculous, which is why mom insisted on getting this photo.

Travels with Mom
I have been to Hawaii many, many times. I always hope for an eruption so I can see lava. This is as close as I ever got.

Travels with Mom
This photo is deceptive on a number of fronts. First of all, the volcanic rocks are sharp, and falling could cut you up good. Second of all, you can't tell here, but there is a massive drop off a rocky cliff behind my mom, and if she had slid on loose rocks, she'd probably go over the edge and end up dead. Or severely broken. I was distracted taking photos and the next thing I know... there she was... being a total daredevil and completely unaware of it. So naturally I took pictures.

Travels with Mom
One of many, many helicopter rides we took. This time on Kauai. Mom loved helicopters to a crazy degree, so I always tried to get her a front seat. Sitting next to the pilot was her favorite thing.

Travels with Mom
"Do you think we can go down there?" Um, sure mom... we just need to rent a boat or hike miles and miles! From a previous trip to Kalalau Lookout, I knew that the it was mostly cloudy most of the time and that the saw-tooth ridge there photographs as a jagged black blob. And so I looked into HDR photography so I could pull some detail out of the shadows. This is the result.

Travels with Mom
Neither one of us were beach people, but hanging out on a really nice beach was still a great way to spend time in Hawaii... especially when there was nobody else there!

Travels with Mom
I had work in Orlando for many years... both for contract jobs with The Mouse and later for charity presentations. I'd often ask my mom if she wanted to tag along and we could stay an extra three or four days to play at Disney World. She never refused, as she loved to have something to do that wasn't work or sitting around the house.

Travels with Mom
I love Mickey Mouse, and will gladly stand in line for a half hour to get a photo op with him. Mom always thought I was nuts, but would stand in line with me without complaining. And she had to do so many, many times.

Travels with Mom
Of the many helicopter trips we took, this was our hands-down favorite. A ride up the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Amazing scenery and a fun hike on top!

Travels with Mom
Mom had this photo on her dresser for years, but it got lost when we moved. I always meant to print out another one, but never got around to it. I try not to have regrets, but that's one of them.

Travels with Mom
On top of the Mendenhall Glacier. If you look next to my ear, you'll see hikers scaling the glacier in the background. We actually got in trouble here. The guide told us to have fun wandering around but stay close. So we headed out. Then the guide yelled at us to come back because he wasn't done talking. We were both rolling our eyes at that one.

Travels with Mom
My mom fell in The Icicle River when she was a kid and nearly drowned. She has been terrified of moving water ever since (but joined the Navy!). When I booked this eagle-watching rafting trip in Alaska, my mom (who was usually fearless and up for anything) was constantly telling me how worried she was and saying she didn't want to do it. I told her "fine, you can ride with the trailer driver to the pick-up point and I'll meet you there. When we got to the drop off and told the guide our plan, he walked out into the river... which was around six-inches deep. "If you fall out, you can always just stand up... it's not much deeper than this the whole way." Mom was then all "Well I can do that!"

Travels with Mom
You can't see it here, but our vests have names written on them. Mine was "Digger" (or something like that) and my mom's was "Buzzard" (which you can kind of see in the previous photo). She absolutely loved it, and I had to call her "Buzzard" for the rest of the trip. I got a lot of Eagle shots, which was amazing. We loved this so much that mom said she would do it again.

Travels with Mom
We took a float plane to a fish hatchery for bear watching... and I got some fantastic black bear photos. Mom had to inform me that the plane ride was more fun than she thought it would be, but she'd still rather ride in a helicopter.

Travels with Mom
We had a day's layover in Atlanta before flying to Barcelona, so I took us to World of Coke. My mom was a serious fan of Coca-Cola, so it was kinda a no-brainer. She loved bears, so we had to stand in line so she could get a photo with this one.

Travels with Mom
My mom decided she wanted to go back to Italy after watching the movie "Only You" starring real-life couple at the time Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei (decades before they would appear together in Spider-Man). In the film Fisher Stevens plays a roofer trying to find out what happened to his wife, so he calls the credit card company to find out where the charges on it were from. They tell him and he says "Positano? Where's That? It-lee? What's my wife doing in It-lee?" And, just like that, my mom decided that we needed to go to Positano on our next vacation. And so we did. This is actually Amalfi, but we went to Positano too.

Travels with Mom
My mom told me on several occasions that The Colosseum was one of her favorite spots. And so we went back again and again. I'd ask her why she loved it so much and she'd say "I don't know... I just do." When I told her that maybe she was a gladiator in a previous life, she thought that was funny and started telling people that when showing this photo.

Travels with Mom
After standing in line for yet another Mickey Mouse photo with me on a Disney Cruise, mom saw a line for Donald Duck and said she wanted to get a picture with him. "Really? You like Donald?" I asked. "Sure! We were both in the Navy!" she replied. What you don't see here is that "The YMCA" by the Village People started playing and Donald grabbed my mom's hand to get her to dance it with her. So, yes, I totally have photos of my mom doing The YMCA with Donald Duck.

Travels with Mom
Eating Fettuccini Alfredo at the restaurant where it was invented... Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome. It is my favorite restaurant on earth, and I never pass up a chance to eat there.

Travels with Mom
Santa Margarita Legure, I think? I was trying to gain weight in preparation for a medical ordeal where I'd always drop 12-16 pounds, so we ate a lot of gelato this trip. Like... gallons of gelato.

Travels with Mom
Pirate Night onboard the Disney Magic. Mom and I were totally up for the pirate bandanas they handed out. We were probably the only ones who kept them on for the whole dinner. We were goofy like that.

Travels with Mom
Okay... on our first trip to Venice, all mom wanted to do was take a gondola ride. But when we arrived in the city on a gorgeous day, I was not feeling well and asked if we could wait until tomorrow. So we did. And it rained every day afterwards. So she didn't get her gondola ride and I felt awful about it. So when I got free tickets to Europe anywhere British Airways flew, I asked her if she wanted to go back to Venice for that gondola ride. Of course she said yes. I was worried the entire flight that it would rain the whole time (again)... but the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We're in the shadow of a building here, but once we got out on the Grand Canal it was fantastic. It ended up being a really fun trip, so I was glad we went back.

Travels with Mom
Aruba. I love taking pictures of storm clouds and was taking a lot of them when I looked over to see where my mom was. That's when I saw this, her pink sweater and blue jeans standing out against the gloom!

Travels with Mom
At a turtle farm in Grand Cayman. I asked mom if she wanted her photo taken with a turtle. She said "no" because she thought it would be mean to the turtle... but a guide there said they weren't bothered by it, so she relented. After we got home and she saw this photo she told me "I'll bet that guy was lying, that turtle doesn't look happy at all."

Travels with Mom
After a dozen trips to Disney World for work, I was tired of doing the same thing over and over and stopped going to the parks. This trip my mom came along, so I knew we'd be visiting them and so I was asking co-workers if there was anything new to do. I was asked if I had done the "Wilderness Trek" in Animal Kingdom, which I hadn't. It's a kind of "behind the scenes tour of the fake 'Africa' they had built. We both absolutely loved it. Here we are harnessed up and ready to go.

Travels with Mom
Mom climbing on a hanging bridge over gators (or crocodiles?). She thought this was an absolute riot. Me, being afraid of heights, was slightly less enthused. Disney went to great lengths to make the journey seem perilous... breaking boards on the bridge and having the netting fall away and stuff... but it was Disney, so 99% safe. But it looked dangerous and cool.

Travels with Mom
After we finished the "Wilderness Trek," my mom was gushing over how much she loved it. One of the cast members said that if she liked this, she'd love an "Adventured by Disney" vacation! You know... one of those hideously expensive vacations where everything is Disney-fied and the opposite of what I want on vacation? Mom, of course, loved the idea.

Travels with Mom
Mom got the Adventures by Disney brochure and declared that she wanted to go on the Africa trip. It was heinously expensive, but I thought "Hey, I've always wanted to go to Africa!" and so I called them up. Alas, the only times I could go were sold out, so I asked mom if we could do it next time and have her pick somewhere else. So here we are at a cooking class in Vietnam.

Travels with Mom
We made those lanterns! Adventures by Disney is geared towards families with kids, but they have trips which are "Adults Only." Needless to say, I booked the first "Adults only" trip because the last thing I want on my vacation is a bunch of screaming kids. But here's the thing... even though it's an "Adults" trip, the itinerary is the exact same as the "regular" version... so there are lots of activities geared towards kids that you get to do. Like lantern-making. We both loved it.

Travels with Mom
Mom loves animals and won't hesitate to get her picture taken with them. Our resort in Hoi An has an ox that rakes the beach smooth each morning. When my mom found out about it, she wanted to go meet him. And so here we are... up at some gawdawful time in the morning. Mom asked the guy what the ox did when he was done with work... "eat and sleep!" we were told.

Travels with Mom
Another crafting project. This time we got to pick out a paper maché mask and paint it. Mom had them hanging in her room for a while, but I eventually took them down when she didn't know what they were any more.

Travels with Mom
Remember what I said about mom hating wrinkles? Here we are in our perfectly-pressed tai-chi exercise outfits, because mom was up ironing them at some ridiculously early hour. Oddly enough, it was while ironing these that I remember my mom having her first serious memory lapse. She was standing there with an iron in her hand and it was like she forgot where we were and what she was doing. It passed quickly, and so it was forgotten. Little did we know that it was just the start.

Travels with Mom
Mom rubbing a turtle's head for luck in Vietnam. She always thought the perspective on this photo was funny.

Travels with Mom
The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. Normally, you can get a ticket to view his preserved body inside, but "Uncle Ho" was out for his annual cleaning, so we didn't get to do that. Mom said "I don't know why, but I would have liked to have seen that."

Travels with Mom
Getting ready to offer Buddhist monks some rice as they make their morning processional to a nearby temple. Mom and I were totally into it... nobody else seemed to care. That happened a lot. We loved new and different things.

Travels with Mom
Many great photos as we climbed up to the temple. Here we are taking a break along the way.

Travels with Mom
Mom having big fun with an ox again. And once again she was concerned that the ox was working too hard and was asking if he got to have fun after he got off work. "Of course," the Adventures by Disney guide said.

Travels with Mom
"Do you want to feed him?" they asked. "Sure!" mom said... "Do you have some soap and water so I can wash his face first? He can't have lunch with a dirty face!" Holy crap I loved traveling with my mom. If you ask me why, it was moments like this.

Travels with Mom
And here we are in Cambodia. As we went hiking around from temple to temple, I kept asking her if she was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. "No. I want to see them all!"

Travels with Mom
The next day, still trying to explore every temple in Cambodia.

Travels with Mom
And... Africa (two years after mom had asked about going... we had a cruise around South & Central America and through the Panama Canal before this). At this point my mother couldn't make new memories. Our lovely guide was so wonderful about it, and never let on when my mom would introduce herself five times a day. Eventually he told me that one of his wives had the same condition, so he was used to it. Fate, as it turns out, is always the best guide.

Travels with Mom
Mornings in Africa were surprisingly cold. Fortunately, we were well-prepared. Because she got cold easily, I packed her different sweaters and jackets for layering. As it started getting warmer and warmer each day, our guide would say "Pat, aren't you getting hot? Can I take your jacket?" Mom, without missing a beat, would respond "I just put it on because I'm cold."

Travels with Mom
When you can't remember where you are or how you got there, seeing elephants outside your window is an amazing thing. Which means my mom was in a constant state of disbelief... "My goodness! There are elephants out there!"

Travels with Mom
The sunsets in Africa are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. After this photo, my mom asked if we were going back to the house or if we were going out to eat, which I found really funny for some reason. "Well, we're in Africa and our house is thousands of miles away... but we might be able to find something to eat back at camp." "Oh. That would work too."

Travels with Mom
Hiking around Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya, as the non-colonizer locals call it). We also took a helicopter ride over the falls, of course. Her memory may be screwed up, but she totally loved it... as I knew she would.

Travels with Mom
The end of our last trip together... high tea at The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe where we were staying. It was a good run.

Our last vacation together was to Africa in 2014. When her health declined too much for trips like that, I tried to come up with something a little closer to home. I had booked us a trip to the Dakotas, since North Dakota is the one state I haven't yet been to, but it had to be canceled. In many ways I'm thankful for that. Africa is a heck of a place to go out on, and the memories made that final trip are some of the best travel memories I have.

Where my mom is at now, I don't know. Hopefully it's someplace at least as amazing as all the places we've been.

   

Mom and Me

Posted on June 28th, 2018

Dave!We were best friends from the start.

So many days spent being so grateful that I had such a kind, caring, wonderful person as my mom!


Mom and Me

   
Love you always.

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Categories: DaveLife 2018Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

The Hardest Part About Leaving Is Goodbye

Posted on June 27th, 2018

Dave!Another trip over the mountains today.

This will be one of the hardest trips I've had to make in this life. I wish my cats could come with me, because oh so many days lately they've been the salve that soothes my grief... but I don't think they would do well on a car trip.

Not well at all. Though they love to sit and watch the occasional car drive by, I think a highway full of cars would be too much...

Cats on Lookout

Sad to be leaving. It's so hard to say goodbye.

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Hardwood Therapy

Posted on June 21st, 2018

Dave!My cats have been stalking each other as I sit here trying to figure out how to not say what I can't talk about. Every once in a while, one of them will make a break and a chase ensues. Then they are all over the house. The living room. The dining room. The kitchen. The stairs. My bedroom. Their bedroom. The guest bedroom. The catio. Then the tables will turn and the chase will reverse itself.

Truly the best entertainment that a can of sardines can buy...

And the best therapy.

I don't think there's anything that makes me smile quite so much as kitty claws on hardwood floors.

   

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