It’s Now November

My list of things to write about keeps growing. I have all sorts of topics on my list — each of which I’m passionate about: personal experiences, news from the ACR meeting, updates on healthcare reform, health and the absurdities of life in general. But as anyone who writes will tell you, sometimes the writing muse just goes missing.

I’m doing really well. I’m still off MTX since the end of July. I’ve also extended the time between biologic infusions. I was on a six week infusion schedule. I stretched it last time to seven weeks, and have my next infusion scheduled for the standard eight weeks. While I’ve been a bit more achy and have a bit more morning stiffness, I actually feel great. My last labs were the best they’ve been in years, including my liver tests which are now normal after I’ve abandoned methotrexate.

I am having conversations with a former client about a longer-term, part-time working relationship. This will allow me to work with some great, smart people; be productive and put some extra $$ in the bank. At this point, it will no doubt be after Thanksgiving before that launches, but I’m looking forward to being professionally engaged again.

There is one fly in the ointment. Just in time for the holidays, I seem to have developed a tree-nut allergy. Fall in Texas means pecans: roasted salted pecans for munching, pecan pie, pecan waffles and muffins, pecan pralines, pecans and chorizo in the turkey stuffing, etc. etc. I had a pretty severe reaction the other morning when I had a small amount of granola and fresh raspberries with cashew milk for breakfast. I’ve occasionally had itchy skin/hives when I’ve overdone snacking on mixed nuts, but this time my mouth and throat were involved and the skin reaction was both immediate and significant. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve backed off the immunosuppressive medications or whether I’ve just naturally developed the allergy. I don’t think there’s anything to be done except avoid nuts but I have an appointment with an allergist in a few weeks to have the conversation. The good news is that peanuts are legumes, not tree nuts so I can still eat granola bars with peanuts and have peanut butter toast for breakfast. (Yes, I know that there is a chance for cross contamination because peanuts are generally processed in facilities that also process other nuts. Right now, I’m willing to take that chance.)

So I’m here. I’m doing well. I’m stalking all of you through your own blogs and social media posts and I promise that I will starting writing again.

Hugs to all. Thanks for checking in.

Advertisements

I’m still here

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted.

I went directly from our wonderful vacation to a major client project that has kept me slammed from early morning to late evening. It’ll be over in about 10 days, so hopefully I can provide more of an update.

I guess the RA news I have to share is that I went off MTX before the trip (end of July) and haven’t been back on it since. I didn’t really want to go through customs in multiple countries with hypodermic needles so I left them at home. I’m actually feeling better than when I was on MTX. I think part of my issues were the side effects of the drug (such as fatigue). I see my rheumy in a couple of weeks and we’re going to discuss staying off it.

Other than that, life is good and very, very busy. Even if your life isn’t busy, busy, I do hope its good. Thanks for checking in.

2018 Trip: Last Stop – Amsterdam

Tags

Total time: 1 travel day, one exploration day, then travel day home. Total steps walked: 21,875. Total miles walked: 9.

Our trip from Berlin to Amsterdam was a great example of how international our travels really were. We shared our train compartment with a couple from Argentina. With our limited Spanish and their lack of English it seemed like it would be a very quiet six hours (which turned into eight because the train was late). But through the use of those limited words, Google translate and a lot of non-verbal communication, we were great friends by the time we got to Amsterdam.

We would up going to Amsterdam quite by accident. It just turned out that Amsterdam had the best direct flights back to Dallas from that part of the world, so it was a “why not?” kind of moment. We got there one day, had one day to truly explore then came home on the third day. I truly enjoyed the city and wish we had scheduled a real visit.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was Amsterdam’s airport. It’s huge and chaotic. Check in was a nightmare. The waiting lounge (equivalent to an Admirals Club) was a 20+ minute walk from our gate (dragging bags). We were then loaded on buses to the plane and got to climb up the equivalent of two flights of stairs to board our 777 airplane. Not the best ending to a great trip.

But Amsterdam was great. It was scenic, the people were great (when they didn’t run over you with their bicycles), lots of English spoken, amazing art and performances and the best food we had on the trip. The tram system made it very easy to get around and I’m already trying to talk my husband into our next trip. And before you ask, I didn’t “indulge” in the flourishing cannabis trade. I actually only saw two “coffee shops” and didn’t care for the looks of either, so I passed.

These pictures express my experience better than I could. A great city to finish our European adventure before returning home to Dallas!

Thanks for going on this journey with me!

2018 Trip: Berlin

Tags

, ,

Total time: 1 travel day plus four nights. Total steps walked: 40,623. Total miles walked: 20.46.

Are you worn out yet? I was starting to be by the time we got to Berlin and after the first day futzing with missing electronics, I was really getting frazzled. But we soon found our footing. There is just so much to see and do in Berlin. And there is just so much history — not only recent, but centuries old.

We stayed at the Moxy Hotel which is actually in what used to be East Berlin. The East Berlin side is still not quite as developed as the western side and there are some strange things with the transit system where things don’t go east-west like you think they should.

The Moxy is a Marriott Hotel brand and I would describe it as very millennial. You check in at the bar. There are shared working spaces in the lobby (as well as a bear in a bathtub). There are all kinds of neat tech touches in the room like lights under the bed that come on at night when you get up and lots of built-in USB charging ports. The staff was great. What wasn’t great was that directly across the street was a park occupied by a community of homeless people and you had to walk by the park to get to the train station. And you had to go to the train station to get anywhere, including someplace to eat. I thought the hotel was really cute but my husband didn’t care for it as much — partly because the room was small and the bathroom was smaller than my home closet. If it were in a different location, I would definitely stay there again because it was just so fun.

The days were filled with sightseeing. I’ve included pics below. We visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which is both thought provoking and inspiring. We also visited the Topography of Terror that originally housed the Gestapo and SS headquarters as well as having the longest piece of the Berlin Wall still remaining. Out of respect I have not included pictures of those sites.

My husband celebrated his birthday on our last day in Berlin. I was able to get reservations at the rooftop café at the Reichstag. It includes admission to the famous dome. Breakfast was a feast, but have I mentioned the bees? There were bees everywhere we went in Germany. Outdoor restaurants would literally be buzzing with them. The bees even found us in the rooftop garden!

After a travel day into Berlin and three full days of sightseeing, we were off to Amsterdam!

2018 Trip: First Day in Berlin

When the Kindle ran away with the iPad.

I’ll get back to the actual trip in the next post, but our first 24 hours in Berlin were quite memorable for some very wrong reasons.

We took the train from Nuremberg into Berlin. Without really explaining what happened (because it was at least 85% my fault), my Kindle (tablet/eReader) and my husband’s iPad got left in the seat back pockets on the train. When we got off the train in Berlin, the Kindle and iPad continued their travels. We didn’t know it then, but they made it all the way to Hamburg (four more hours by train).We didn’t miss them for more than an hour later after we had disembarked from the train, found a cab, made it to our hotel, checked in and were unpacking. That’s when my husband asked me what I’d done with his iPad. (He should have asked me that when we were still on the train, but that’s a different story.)

My Kindle really doesn’t have anything on it besides books. I don’t use it for anything but reading and occasionally accessing the Internet. My husband’s iPad, which was not password protected, basically had links to accounts, passwords, credit cards, etc. etc. etc. It was critical that we locate or disable it.

Let me interject here that, based on observation, the German people are some of the most law-abiding folks I’ve ever seen. We’d just come from London where pedestrians tend to view those walk/don’t walk lights merely as early Christmas decorations, crossing the street whenever and wherever they’d like. Not so in Germany. It could be 3:00 am with no traffic in sight and a German pedestrian would wait for the green “walk” light to come on. People are chided if they leave trash on public transport and children are carefully school on putting the trash in the proper recycle receptacle. Everyone appears to be amazingly honest and respectful of the rules.

Had we lost our electronics on public transportation in the US, I don’t think we’d ever seen them again. Either the person who found them would have kept them or they would have been forever missing in the quagmire of lost-and-found. But in Germany, we felt we had some hope of getting them back. Complicating everything, of course, is the fact we don’t speak German. (We did log into our Kindle/iPad accounts and did the “find device”, “lock device”, etc., but neither device was connected to Wifi so it didn’t do much good.)

While we came into the main Berlin train station (below), our hotel was less than a block from Berlin’s east train station, or Ostbanhof. We started there.

Thank goodness for the Google Translate app on my iPhone. I was able to put in our problem in English and it translated it well enough that the Deutsche Bahn (German trainline) person understood. She wasn’t able to help us directly, but said their website had a lost property form we could fill out and that was our best course.

We went back to our hotel and while my husband tried to remember (and put on hold) all the accounts available through the missing iPad, I struggled with the English translation of a German lost-and-found form. I also found an email address and tried email as well, to which I got a prompt answer saying that they hadn’t found anything.

We spent a stress-filled evening, but things changed the next morning when I got a notice (in English!) that the electronics were at the lost-and-found in Hamburg and that we could either claim them in person or have them sent to us.

Since Hamburg was four hours by train one way, we requested that they just send the items back to our home address (which we would pay for). Great plan, except that both the Kindle and iPad have lithium batteries and aviation regulations prohibited them from being shipped via air (which they would have to be to be sent to the U.S.).

Then, the most glorious thing happened. I was in touch with someone who actually cared. After several emails wherein they determined we were going to be in Berlin for a few days, they instructed us to go to the Berlin main train station lost and found and have those folks call the lost-and-found team in Hamburg.

Again with the translation app — this time it was more complicated because we not only had to explain the situation, we had to explain that we wanted them to call Hamburg and talk to a specific person. (Why they would do that for stupid American tourists, I don’t know …) The Berlin person had very little English, but had a great attitude of trying to help us, which made all the difference in the world. At this point it was 7:30 in the evening and our Hamburg guy was scheduled to end his shift at 8:00, so time was short that day.

The Berlin lady called and connected (after several tries and transfers) to our Hamburg guy. He had apparently taken the initiative to put our electronics on a train headed back to Berlin arriving at 9:30 that evening. He arranged with our Berlin lady to have it retrieved from the train and, with the proper identification, available for us to pick up.

Relieved, we went to dinner and made it back to the Berlin train station with time to spare. Our lady was still on duty and waved us over (ahead of the line) when the electronics were delivered to her. A few pieces of identification and signatures later and we were reunited!

The electronics were missing just over 24 (very stressful) hours. During that time, I exchanged 11 email messages with staff as well as in-person “conversations” and multiple forms filled out. The miracle that we retrieved the Kindle and iPad is a credit to the dedication of the Deutsche Bahn staff to help us. I’m sure they considered it just doing their jobs but it meant the world to us.

We exchanged 11 electronic messages within 24 hours

After this tumultuous beginning, we had some great times during the rest of our visit to Berlin. I’ll tell you about them in the next post! Needless to say, my Kindle and my husband’s iPad spent a lot of time locked in the hotel safe!

 

 

 

2018 Trip: Next Stop – Bavaria

Tags

, , ,

Total time: 1 travel day plus four nights. Total steps walked: 40,279. Total miles walked: 16.5.

Bavaria is the largest state in Germany and Munich is its capital. We decided to go to Germany in the first place partly because of our interest in WWII history. While we’ve visited many US and UK places of interest, it dawned on us one day that we’d never been to the “dark side.” My husband and I are of an age to remember a Germany divided after the war into East and West as well as when the Berlin wall fell. We grew up on cold war spy thrillers, of which both Germany as a whole and Berlin specifically played major roles.

So that’s part of how we chose Germany. Why/how we decided to go to Bavaria/Munich is still a bit of a mystery to me. I’m sure it had to do with some travel show we were watching and since we were going to go to Germany anyway, it made sense we should stop in. It was an easy flight from London and from there we were going to catch trains to Berlin and then Amsterdam.

So after spending months trying to learn a bit of German on Duolingo off we went. The original plan was to fly to Munich from London and use it as a home base for various day trips into the Bavarian countryside. One of the planned day trips was Nuremberg. Once we figured out that our train to Berlin was going through Nuremberg, we made Nuremberg its own stop. We did make a day trip to Ulm which has a gorgeous church. So this part of the trip was a “get there day” in Munich, two full days of exploration there, a day trip to Ulm, and then on to Nuremberg for an afternoon/night.

Munich

Unlike London, which is like old home week for us, going to Munich caused me a bit of stress. We’d never been there, we don’t speak the language (although I found out I’m pretty good at reading menus, signs, and train information). But that’s never stopped us (or slowed us down much) before so no reason to slow down at this point. Actually I’d try to say something in German and they’d just smile and say something back  in English.

When we arrived, even though we were sitting close to the front of the plane, we wound up being the absolutely last people to get through immigration and the last people to get their bags. Things got much better from there (except for the cab drivers who are the rudest I’ve met anywhere, ever — it was actually kind of funny in a perverse way).

We stayed at the Courtyard close to the east train station (or Ostbahnhof) which was comfortable and access to the train station made it easy to make it to the central part of the city. Much of what makes Munich famous is found around Marienplatz — only a couple of stops from our hotel. When I came up into Marienplatz from the underground elevator (tired and beaten up by travel), the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh, Wow!” We spent the arrival afternoon and two full days exploring the area and found yet another small Italian restaurant with great food.

Here are some pictures that say so much than I can (you should be able to click on them for a larger view).

Ulm

The third full/final day we were in Munich, we decided to take the train over to Ulm (about two hours each way). Again, we had seen a terrific travel video showing a quaint Bavarian village. What we found was modern, high-street shopping terminating in a magnificent cathedral (under renovation). Neither quaint nor Bavarian were much to be had (although I found more Radlers and they were good).

Ulm appeared to be modern, high-end shopping and a church.

Nuremberg

Our fourth day in Bavaria found us heading to the train station early for the trip to Nuremberg. I enjoyed the city, which is walled with a huge castle on a high mount on the north end of the city. We had a cab take us up the road to the castle but neither I nor my husband were brave enough to scale the seemingly vertical driveway up to the castle itself. Nuremberg isn’t as hilly as, for example, Edinburgh, Scotland but it’s pretty challenging. I found the city charming with some great architecture and lovely scenery.

After spending the night in Nuremberg, we caught the train to Berlin, leaving Bavaria behind us.

I’m really glad we visited the region. However, if I were to plan the trip differently, I probably would have taken the four nights we spent in Bavaria and added them to the Berlin and Amsterdam itineraries. A lot of it just had to do with just the stress of added travel – bags, trains, hotels, etc. As much as I enjoyed Munich, Ulm and Nuremberg, if we had flown directly to Berlin from London, we would have been much less beatup by the trip.

Next stop – Berlin – where the Kindle ran away with the iPad! (Stay tuned!)