Monday, June 12, 2017

Baltic Sea Cruise 2017: The Ship

I thought I’d spend this post on the ship, instead of referring back to it from the various tours. This was only my second cruise. Maybe because I knew what to expect, I enjoyed this ship a lot more than I did the other (who shall remain Nameless). I liked the way Norwegian Cruise Lines planned meals, for instance: there were lots of restaurants to choose from and you didn’t have to sit in the same place with the same server every night. The crew seemed happier, perhaps better treated by their employers, than the staff on Nameless. The entertainment was far superior. The ship was probably not full, because the few line-ups were short and fast.

Something I didn't know, but Wendy made sure we were aware of: you can bid on an upgrade. Rita and I followed Cugina's advice, but I made a mistake and bid $10 more than Wendy and Carolyn. We all got upgraded! (Probably more proof that the ship was not full.) However, Rita and I got a bigger cabin - that $10 made all the difference, I'm sure.
Our room was awesome. Lots of space, even a pull-out couch along with our two beds, and a huge bathroom.
Not to mention the glorious balcony. It was warm enough in Germany to have breakfast on the deck, though the rest of the cruise, the wind and cool temperatures kept us from spending too much time out there.

Even though the weather was cool, I would  recommend doing this particular cruise in May.

The destinations were still crowded, but nothing like they are in the summer, according to our local guides. And you can move around the ship more easily, partake of the amenities and entertainment without too much elbowing for a spot.

Here's a prime reason for taking the cruise in May. No one else is brave enough to swim! You can have the entire pool to yourself all day long. The pool was heated and gorgeous and the sun was shining. So what if you shiver for a few seconds when you get out? (My answers to that dilemma are to get out as seldom as possible and to drink Bahama Mamas when you do.)

 The pool area on the ship was awesome. If only I'd had Zoe or Catey or Sydney or Livi or any of the boys to go climbing and diving with!
Everyone else lounged at the sides or sat in the hot tubs. Chickens!

They had big, comfy chairs to lounge in as we listened to music. Someone always appeared to ask if we wanted drinks.

Wendy and Carolyn.

Even Rita got her money's worth.

 The (alcohol) drinks package was the best bargain we ever made. Every day they had a drink of the day.

Rita and I discovered a delicious red wine that we've since purchased when we got back home.

Music by Into the Drift was especially great.


There be casino winners on this trip!

 'Twas not I, alas.

Too bad we couldn't bring our bartender back with us, too. 

Our husbands said no.

Views of the ship!

Centre deck chandelier and some fine dining areas.

We did a lot of walking on the tours - but on the ship, too.


 Oh my god, am I lucky or what?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Baltic Sea Cruise 2017: Day 2 - Copenhagen

May 14

Today we perform the Hop-On-Hop-Off trick.  We make a few missteps, as you will see. 

 We walk down Havnegade to purchase our tickets at the Red Bus office and lumber up to the top of the bus. (We’re without Rita, who has come down with a stomach ailment during the night.)

 In go the ear buds and we listen to the relentlessly cheerful voice tell us all about the bright and happy aspects of Copenhagen. Which, when I think about it, is the best way to tour. I don’t really want to know about the warts. All big cities have them, though it’s hard to imagine in this part of Denmark. Even the numerous bicycles – which Ear Buddy tells us everyone rides to work in summer and even winter – are mostly left unlocked.

We stop first at Tivoli Gardens. This area was the inspiration for Disneyland and the similarities are immediately apparent as we walk through the nifty artificial streetways.

One entrance to Tivoli Gardens
Oh what a ride! To be young and scare-free again!

Wendy and Carolyn

It’s a gorgeous morning, cool enough for lots of walking and sunny on our faces. Wendy, Carolyn and I stroll around admiring the rides and the flowers in equal proportions.

We’d love to be young again, just for the moment, for the thrill of the roller coaster or even the tilt-a-whirl.

We have the most delicious hot chocolate and whip cream, run into some pearl hens and a souvenir shop. The latter divests us of some money for Christmas ornaments.

Here comes our first misstep! We walk to the art gallery, but take the long way around and are too tired to spend an hour visiting. So we look for the art gallery stop – which is right HERE. Somewhere. It says so in this brochure. It’s on the map. It’s HERE, dammit.

We recall the long way home from the Trevi Fountain when we spent hours traipsing over cobblestones and bridges in the dark. Is Tripoli another Trevi? Not quite, but we’re still tired when we finally get to a different stop and hop on. Okay, we stumble on this time and sit downstairs.

Where Carolyn immediately makes friends with a banker. I have his address, phone number and email rights here on the map. We are invited to Indonesia for our next trip.

From the comfort of the bus, we eye the beautiful Copenhagen City Hall, which looks like a palace except for its clock tower. Bizarrely, it’s known for its pancakes, which they serve to the constituents whenever there’s a celebration – carnivals, jubilees, special events – and even weddings.

The area is a beautiful shopping mecca, says Ear Buddy, and the Latin Quarter has zillions of cafés and restaurants.

We peer at the Rosenborg Castle, a royal hermitage, but we’re not inclined to find a way inside. It’s surrounded by lush gardens, dubbed naturally, the King’s Garden.

We continue on into the heart of the downtown district. “There’s the ice bar!” I crow, but again we’re not motivated to get out and explore. After all, we have an ice bar on our ship. (Later...there's a story to tell, of course.)

At some point – even this close to the event, I can’t remember the sequence – we pass the Christiania district. In 1971, a group of “hippies” seeking freedom and weed squatted in a deserted military barracks. They proclaimed the area for themselves, set up makeshift homes, and fought it out with politicians over the years. Today Christiania is still a source of controversy and some violence (Pusher Street being a hotspot), but they’re leaning toward yoga and peace as time goes on.

We drive past The Citadel, the Swedish Church, and once again, the Little Mermaid.  Founded in 1626 by King Christian the 4th as a fortress to protect the city at the mouth of the sea, the Citadel still functions as a military base. But the original moat is now a lovely waterway, surrounded by green walkways, trees and flowers.

The Swedish Church was built to serve the community of “Swedens Abroad” and is also known as the Gustav Church.

We lumber past the Gefion Fountain, too. Ear Buddy tells us that the sculpture is based on a legend about the creation of Copenhagen (then known as Zealand). The Swedish king Gylfi promises the Norse goddess Gefjon that he will grant her land of any size – as long as she plows it out. So she turns her four sons into oxen and digs up Copenhagen. Nice mother, huh?

I mention the above for a specific reason, as they figure greatly in our future.

We rumble past Amelianborg, the palace area that houses Parliament and the Queen, but we don’t stop. Check on Rita, eat lunch, rest and hop back on at the stop just outside our Admiral Hotel.  The plan works well. Rita is better, though not up to hopping, the lunch is rooster (or chicken if you prefer the pedestrian name) and we’re ready once more.

Second misstep: we figure out that if we get on at the stop in front of our hotel, we’ll actually drive past the palace. So we walk the couple of blocks to visit Queen Margrethe the Second. We are certain she’ll ask us in for tea.

This is the view of the Palace-Parliament district. The street side of the compound is open to a beautiful fountain, gardens, the canal, and beyond that, the Opera House.

At the other end, we glimpse the Marble Church and its magnificent dome.

The Queen was born here at Amelianborg, since her daddy was the king and her mom a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She born one week after the Nazis invaded Denmark. At first, she was not the “heir presumptive” because the law declared only males could ascend the throne. But her daddy and his three daughters were very popular with the subjects, so it was agreed by referendum to tweak the law. As long as she doesn’t have a brother, a woman can inherit the throne. Hmmm. 
Queen Margrethe of Denmark

Margrethe became Queen in 1972 after her father died. Similar to Queen Elizabeth the Second of Britain, the Danish Queen’s role is constitutional rather than political. Margrethe apparently admires Elizabeth and performs her role as a unifier very well.

She’s popular – an artist in her own right – and a chain smoker. Margrethe is married to Prince Consort Henrik.

Why all the detail? You’ll see.

The cobblestone area of the Palace grounds is stunning.

We just happen to arrive as the changing of the guard begins. It’s interesting to watch this solemn tradition and I can’t help but find it a bit ridiculous at the same time.

Apparently, people randomly follow the guards as they march from here to Rosenborg Palace, and sure enough, a trail of tourists takes up the challenge.

Not us, however. We are back to the business of hopping on and off. This time we opt to take pictures of the Little Mermaid, since the bus, our driver informs us, will be stopped for several minutes.

The Mermaid is no happier than she was before.

She's also been pretty much deserted by the hordes, which should have been a clue.

When we return to our transportation, we discover that this was the last round for the big old Red Bus. It will stop at its final destination – cleverly known as Stop Number One. It’s nowhere near Nyhavn or our hotel. The bus driver kindly tells us to walk, because the Admiral is just around the corner.

Uh huh. Our hotel in Rome was just around the corner from the Trevi Fountain, too.

We buy a delicious ice cream to fortify us and start up the waterside path. 

We’re side-by-side with the Citadel moat and the beautiful pathways.

Copper green monuments, hedges, bushes, trees, flowers. 

More missteps: I get us lost again. Just a little. Not my fault. I told the group never to follow me. I have no sense of direction and read maps backwards.

However, we get to see the Swedish Church and the Gefion Fountain up close and personal. Really very impressive. Especially the lovely tourists.

 As we re-orient ourselves and drag along the canal side, two glorious things happen.

First, Wendy and I are reminiscing about our cousin Dave. At home, right about now, his funeral is taking place. We are silent for a few seconds and suddenly, in the shadows of a huge building to our right, stands a replica of Michelangelo’s David.

“He’s here,” we grin and admonish him for flashing.

Second, we glimpse a flurry of activity at the Royal Yacht. Sure enough, we approach and get to watch as Prince Henrik, the aforementioned Consort to Queen Margrethe, walks down the gangway to join a group of military types. He strolls down the same pathway we’d just traversed, casual and largely unaccompanied. Certainly no presence of guns or security in black suits. We enjoy the encounter immensely.

Especially the Royal Dog and Dogwalker.

Henrik, in the picture on the right, reaches out to shake a hand.

Recently, he has "retired" as Prince Consort. According to a newspaper, Denmark "sighed with relief." He's been unhappy with his role as a mere consort and more outspoken than many believe he should be. I kind of agree with his view that not being named King when you are married to the Queen - whereas the wife of a King invariably becomes Queen - is discriminatory toward both genders. I think it's an assumption that a woman would be unduly influenced by her husband if he were a co-ruler, but not the other way around.

Back at the Admiral, we’re too tired from hopping to go anywhere else for dinner. Rooster, anyone?

We’ll board our ship tomorrow for the cruise.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Baltic Sea Cruise Blog: May 2017

May 13

I arrive at the airport for the Baltic Sea cruise in a flurry of worry – leaving my husband, afflicted with Parkinson’s, alone; the cost, knowing I should be more fiscally responsible – and have a small meltdown disguised as fury at the machine which refuses to print my boarding pass.

If you read my blog on my Winter of Discontent, you know I've been in a strange mood for months. Just a few days before leaving, we'd visited our beloved cousin David as he lay dying from cancer, and now we must miss his funeral. I'm stressed and sad and afraid.

Yet as soon as I am transported by air, always feeling as magical that transfer of time and place, I am suddenly fine. I am eager and open and carefree. Without knowing it fully, I needed this.

Copenhagen Admiral Hotel

We are in Copenhagen, Denmark, a city and country that, for some reason, I’d never considered visiting.

I am, we all are, smitten immediately. It’s a big city, clean and gorgeous, bicycle-strewn and humming.

The architecture is stunning: glass, pointy-edged buildings, staggered balconies that look like eyes, colours deep blue or black trimmed with white mix side by side with traditional, ornate brick, cement and wood, rounded, hooded balconies, monuments, works of art, and brisk colours. Mustard, deep red. Silver steel.

We arrive at the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel, a former navy barracks, and fall in love with our rooms. Wooden arches and ceilings preserved and polished surround the modern amenities. The hotel stands on a canal that yawns out into the sea. The streets outside are full of people, biking, walking, pushing baby strollers. Drinking or eating in the open sunny air. Across the street and a short walk away are embassies and the residences of the Queen and Parliament.

We immediately walk the area, enjoying the sun and a warm salt-scented breeze. It’s crowded but feels friendly, though not in-your-face so. When we arrive at Nyhavn, a large canal-centred café-dominated bustling area, we’re enchanted. Despite the crowds, we’re able to hop on a canal tour without waiting in line.

We cruise in sunshine and a cheerful narrative from our guide. Past outdoor restaurant areas like the Papiroen – Paper Island, a former storage facility that served the Danish publishing industries. It’s now filled with art and eating. Outside are comfy chairs where people sit and enjoy the food and the ambiance.

The Opera House is one of the astonishing modern pointed, slanted glass and steel buildings, somehow precise and beautiful at the same time. A roof that’s two-football fields in size. Perhaps it’s the symmetry that gives the new Danish architecture its capacity to take your breath away. 

A crane hangs over the canal, enticing the adventurous, or foolish and much younger than we, to come and bungee jump. In fact, our guide gleefully tells us, if you do it naked, it’s free.

Willow trees dominate the waterside, weeping of course. Tile rooftops, copper-green statues, fill the landscape with majesty. A swan flicks its tail at us as we putter past on our artificial legs and wings.

We stare at the Little Mermaid statue, an unassuming bronze statue of a half-fish, half woman, her breasts proudly displayed and her tail tucked around her as she sits on a rock and sadly contemplates the water. Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, her face depicts the huge life decision she must make. Maybe that’s been her allure since she was installed in 1909. We can all relate to those choices in our collective journeys. Perhaps that explains the crowds of photographers, all vying to capture her face. Perhaps that also explains why she’s been decapitated several times throughout her history. She continues to be the most photographed woman in Denmark. We can’t get a picture from our boat, it’s too crowded, so we claim we don’t want to be members of the herd anyway.

From the water, we glimpse the Gelfion Fountain, the naval yard and the somewhat unadorned Royal Yacht.

Little do we know how these will loom in our journey tomorrow.

The Maersk Headquarters building reminds me of Manzanillo – our Mexican television, sitting on the shore watching ships carry Maersk containers to land. 

When the canal trip is over, we walk back to the hotel for a short rest. We have a drink in the bar and outside by the water. Glorious afternoon as we watch boats scatter back and forth along the canal to the sea.

Wendy, Carolyn, Rita and me at Nyhavn

We stroll back to Nyhavn when we’re hungry, and have a delicious dinner, though we opt for familiar Italian rather than a Danish meal. We are asleep early, which sets a trend for the rest of the trip. We’re not exactly party animals at night, to say the least, but we do make the most of our daylight hours. It’s hard to admit, but we are now the people we used to make fun of, the white-haired ladies traipsing through the world on planes, trains and big cruise ships.

May 14: Hopping on and off; Royalty

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Winter of Discontent

There have been other times in my life when I have felt this kind of malaise. Usually, though, it hasn't lasted long. Normally it doesn't tip into the edge of discontent the way this one has.

The kind that stays my writer's hand.

Logically, I could point to lots of reasons for this particular bout of despondency.

I was physically ill for a couple of weeks - which is extremely unusual for me. My constitution is normally robust. Not only that, the cold/flu occurred over Christmas, one of my favorite times of year, and knocked me out for most of it. Couldn't even see our friends on New Year's Eve.

In our area we only had 4 days of sun in January. It was mild but damp and dark.

Recently I've either personally or through family and friendship experienced a great deal of loss, disappointment or frustration, and it doesn't seem to stop.

I hurt my knee and spent weeks in pain.

This all adds up to melancholy, right?

Yes, but my gloominess also led to being unable to write. Often, it's been the opposite. When I'm happy, I spend too much time socializing and don't write regularly enough. This year, I had the space and the time, but no will.

Maybe this is simply Writer's Block, as defined by Wikipedia.
"Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown."

But no, it seems deeper than that. It's somehow aligned with a general feeling of disappointment.

My male* author hero John Steinbeck said, "The writer must believe that what s/he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And s/he must hold to this illusion even when s/he knows it is not true."
*Margaret Laurence is the female version.

I no longer believe. Nor do I have the capacity for delusion.  My books are not selling and my scripts have not been optioned.

I wonder if the lack of financial success is the problem. Have I become a salesperson instead of a writer? Is my hand stayed because I am a sore loser?

I begin to realize that, at my age, the chances of  becoming a famous (and rich) author - which were already low - are even more diminished than when I was young. By now I thought I'd have written a Grapes of Wrath. 

 I remind myself over and over that I have the best family and friends in the world. My network is incredibly supportive and loving. They're smart and fun and understanding and wise.

That doesn't help, because I miss them. I could have them swirling around on a daily basis and be very happy. I've dreamed of a family/friend compound for years and now, finally, I realize that it's just a dream.

I remind myself that I live in the best country in the world. That doesn't help because the news lately has been...well, horrible. Frightening. I feel like hiding under my desk again just as we did in school in the '50's.

I remind myself that I am rich in comparison to very, very many people the world over. That doesn't help because I just feel guilty (first world whiner!) and sad (I dreamed that we'd have abolished poverty by now).

I look around and notice that a lot of people - particularly women, particularly my age give or take a couple of years - are feeling a similar discontent. 

So back I go to my Johnny Steinbeck.

"When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something--anything--before it is all gone.”

I think he's right. I have a theory that I can trace my particular malaise (and that of many around me) back to the 1960's. We who grew up in the sixties (i.e. preteen to adult years) had such high hopes.

We marched. We believed in love. We thought we could overthrow the moribund, sometimes corrupt and evil systems and replace them with a world that would be fair and even kind. A world that fed everyone, put a roof over their heads, gave them something meaningful to do every day.

We did have some measure of success. The world appeared to be moving in the right direction. A little more peaceful, a little less poverty, a recognition that we must shepherd, not abuse, the earth.

But now? In 2016-17...what now...?

I cried through The Butler because the narrative made it clear that we haven't changed enough. I felt horrible after Hidden Figures because all those accomplishments appear to be for naught.

People..."don't get knocked out, or I mean they can fight back against big things. What kills them is erosion; they get nudged into failure. They get slowly scared...It's slow. It rots out your guts,” said Johnny's character Ethan in The Winter of Our Discontent. Is that what happened to my (our) sixties dreams?

We are still marching. There appears to be more hate than love. The corrupt systems are back in place and growing. "We can shoot rockets into space but we can't cure anger or discontent," said Johnny S.

But oh, I had such hopes and expectations! 

In desperation re my writing, I peek back into a book I read and reread for twenty years but haven't touched in ten: Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. There on the title page, an inscription from my friend Merci, who died two years ago and for whom I pine every day. "For the occasions when 'my hands have sprung shoots, crawled away from me like a deserting mother'." Her poem hits me in the gut.

Merci and I promised each other we'd make contact after we died. I had been waiting. And here it is, a message when I most need it.

"To be alive at all is to have scars." Johnny's character Ethan is, of course, perfectly correct.

Perhaps I am simply changing. 

"A day, a livelong day, is not one thing but many. It changes not only in growing light toward zenith and decline again, but in texture and mood, in tone and meaning, warped by a thousand factors of season, of heat or cold, of still or multi winds, torqued by odors, tastes, and the fabrics of ice or grass, of bud or leaf or black-drawn naked limbs. And as a day changes so do its subjects, bugs and birds, cats, dogs, butterflies and people.”

Johnny S. is eloquent, brilliant.

"Warped by a thousand factors of season", of sixty-seven years of seasons. Saddened by disappointment, by grief and fear and tragedy. Yet buoyed by new birth, by love and joy, by growing and changing relationships.  I am perhaps not so much warped as angled, twined, into another shape. Older, lumpier, lined.

Rather than say, I am the one who helps, I am the cheerful, optimistic one, not the one who needs help - open up to the possibility of reaching out, of saying, I need to walk slowly right now, not run.
I need redefined dreams and goals.

I must learn to not expect so much of myself (or the world). I am heading toward realistic goals, perhaps. Becoming, painfully, older and wiser.

In addition, perhaps my definition of success needs to change.

The world is a better place. Despite the rhetoric of politicians and competing noise-makers, poverty and violence have changed for the better. There are creative solutions to environmental problems being devised as I type. Maybe my definition of world success has been too grandiose.

Maybe, too, my goals of success in writing have been too lofty. I have won awards. I have sold some books; around the world, as a matter of fact. No, I didn't get famous and I didn't get rich, but I have an appreciative readership. I have committed words to paper and had them published by someone who appreciated them enough to invest in them. Maybe that's all I will ever achieve and isn't that all right?

Perhaps I'm ready to just write for me. For the pure bliss of discovering the exact word or phrase. For the rush when a character veers off on an adventure I'd never even thought about. For the ecstasy when my fingers fly across the keyboard as the subconscious overtakes the editor and I am lost in creation. Don't think about deadlines, editors, competition. No expectation of any other success.

Natalie Goldberg says that writers should ask themselves often: Why do I write? Her answers include this one. "I write out of total incomprehension that even love is not enough and that finally writing might be all I have and even that is not enough. There are times when I have to step away from the writing and turn to face my own life. Then there are times when it's only coming to the writing that I truly face my own life."

Perhaps that's what I am doing. Stepping away to face my own life. 

In the meantime, I will turn down the noise of the world. Write for pleasure and see what happens. Sometimes, do nothing at all. Walk slowly.

Encourage others to do the marching.

For now, step back, slow down, see what happens. Realizing that even this decision could change, or not be enough, and that I might turn back to the writing at any moment. I might get up again and march. In the meantime, let the expectations, the noise, fade away.

Move toward peace, calm, wisdom. Give myself a break.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


My husband has PD - Parkinson's disease. It's a neurological disease, a quirk of the brain in which the cells that produce dopamine wilt away. Dopamine helps control movement, among other things. If you don't have enough of it, things start to go awry.

It's a sneaky bugger and has probably been worming its way through my husband's brain for at least a decade, maybe two. The non-motor symptoms are often not loud enough signals to alert you that things are not right. Every one of these symptoms, as examples, can be explained by something else: change in taste and smell (that's just the way I am); swallowing difficulties (maybe I'm allergic to milk?); nausea and vomiting (I've got the flu); constipation (something I ate?); unexplained changes in weight (How come you're losing weight and I'm not?); dementia and cognitive impairment (Did you just forget and or were you not listening to me?); depression and anxiety (Maybe you need a change of scenery); sexual dysfunction (age?); excessive daytime sleepiness (age?); REM sleep behaviour disorder (you were sitting up lecturing while asleep last night ha ha); restless leg syndrome (body pillow in the middle of the bed prevents you from kicking me).

The symptoms hide and seek, too, play tag with one another; not one of them stays long enough, so you don't connect the dots. At least, we didn't. Three or four years ago, I noticed the depression and anxiety stayed around, however. Though my hubby is my opposite as far as introversion (him) and extroversion (me), he has always been friendly, funny (telling corny jokes til we begged him to stop), loving and happy. He sang like an angel! Played the guitar beautifully. When I coaxed him out for social engagements, he had a ball. He gardened, did handyman stuff around the house, snapped gorgeous pictures, took videos of life events, played with the grandkids and always, made me laugh.

It wasn't anything overt. I didn't put the signs all together. I thought he was bored and therefore depressed. I knew he was tired of the traffic around our city, so I coaxed him into moving to a smaller town. I talked him into spending a few months in Florida two years in a row.

Not until the resting tremor arrived did I start to think there was more to this "boredom/depression." First the right arm, then the right leg. Particularly at times of stress. On our way home from Florida two years ago, I thought there was something wrong with the car, but it was the jerking of his foot on the gas pedal.

It took a long time to get a final diagnosis. Many health professionals declared it wasn't PD because Vince didn't (and still doesn't) have all the motor symptoms. So far, the motor symptom part has remained in his right arm and leg. But no one should state categorically, "it's not PD" because it's a bespoke disease. Tailored just for you, dependent on how the individual's brain reacts to the loss of the dopamine chemical. As the guide for the newly diagnosed from the Michael J. Fox Foundation states:

"Which symptoms develop, and how severely and quickly, is unpredictable in PD and varies widely from person to person. Common symptoms include tremor, slowness, stiffness, rigidity, difficulty initiating or controlling movement, balance problems, unpredictable movements, cramping, and speech and swallowing problems. Cognitive problems, such as short-term memory loss, difficulty following complex instructions, or a loss of multitasking ability, may also occur. Clinical depression, anxiety and apathy are often caused by PD. Some people will have several symptoms. Others will have only a few."

We were eventually referred to a movement disorders clinic, where a neurologist with special training in Parkinson's gave Vince the diagnosis. It was almost a relief. All the mysteries were solved. Vince was relieved that, as bad as the news was, PD isn't fatal. He also wasn't crazy!

I've learned that my incessant questioning ("Are you happy?") wasn't just from my own insecurity. PWPD (people with parkinson's disease) have a rather grim or not easily determined facial expression. I realized I hadn't noticed the crinkly-eyed relaxed face for a long time. It's hard to describe, because he does still smile, but his natural countenance has changed over the years. It's most noticeable for a partner, since we all rely on body language so very much.

I also have to learn to handle Vince's anxiety. Know when to pull back or rearrange. Realize that his reactions to noise or a crowd or some little thing going wrong are sometimes exaggerated by the disease, not the situation. Learn different ways of calming him or allowing him to remove himself from the area. Which even might mean that I, the party animal, will have to slow down too! Learn some different ways of being happy and satisfied.

I admit I hate the unpredictability of PD. I like to plan ahead. So the fact that the symptoms might progress slowly, might never appear, or might lunge up unexpectedly at any time, drives me a bit nuts. In this case it's probably better not to know. Go with the flow. Something I rarely do but ought to learn. Focus on the present. It's a skill I've never acquired, but it's not too late. 

I have my writing and, while Vince is still independent at home, he doesn't mind when I flit about. So I've booked a couple of trips by myself or with others this year and one with Vince. I don't particularly like traveling without him, but I'll keep myself busy taking pictures to show him. I also have a few writing projects to complete.

Thus life goes on. Different perhaps than anticipated, but still wonderful.

We're incredibly lucky in many many ways. New babies in our family and extended families and all kinds of little ones racing around, whose voices keep us in awe and in love.

We're still learning, researching, talking about it with our wonderful adult children, our other family and our friends. Our neighbor in the condo corporation has PD and she has shared a lot of information with us. Our next steps are clear. Eat better, exercise, explore the medication options.  The eat better and exercise steps will be good for me too. Plus the learning to slow down...though I'm a bit of a slow learner there, ha ha.

Thanks for your emails and words of support and hugs and honest talk and just for being there.
(PS My daughter and her partner gave Vince a donation in his name to Parkinson's Canada as a Christmas gift. They're a wonderful organization and we've already gotten huge amounts of information from their website.