July 2008

 


 

 

Name Of Column Author Title Article Type
News Views Pat Sanders Old Stuff News & Events
VP Lisa M. Proper Pre-Op Speech Consult, Pt 2 Education-Med
Between Friends Donna McGary Impossibly Young Experiences
Practically Speaking Elizabeth Finchem Trust Your Gut Experiences
A Scottish Accent Rosalie Macrae Tea With Uncle Grigor Experiences
My Neck Of The Woods Paul Daniels Annuals Or Perennials Experiences
WW Letters Avis Kaeselau Pennies From Heaven Experiences
Travel With Larys Terry Duga Journal Of 2008 Cruise Experiences
New Members Listing Welcome News & Events

 

 

 

 

OLD STUFF?

 

 

When you hear the word Archives, you may think, "That's old stuff". Sometimes it is exactly that - documents and records that need to be saved for tax purposes or family history. Old stuff, but valuable in its own way. But our Archives are special. They hold the answers to a lot of your questions.

Our WebWhispers email list archives are where we keep our files of emails, neatly stored by the date they were written, easy to get to. In my own computer, I have bookmarked the archives address, said yes to having the computer save the password, so if I want to look up something, it takes one click and the page opens showing the subject of the latest email written to the list....a couple of minutes ago! Right below that is the next latest.

We started saving them at the end of 2005 and we have almost 10,000 messages stored. I see people write in to the list asking a question about the article last week about "the Club in TN" or the "Name of a medication for yeast that someone talked about on the list." Why would anyone spend the time to write a message questioning something that was on the list, have to send it in, and wait for someone to tell them? The archives address is at the bottom of every WebW email they get. One click lets them not only get the one they want but messages from others who wrote in on the same subject. Perhaps they don't know they can get there easily and that it will be simple to find and read what they want.

The emails are listed by date when you open them but you have these choices.

[Date Directory] by the day they were written (GMT).
[Subject Directory] This is why we need good subjects on your email...for a directory, so we can find them.
[Author Directory] Like to read what one member says about different subjects?

There is a user ID and Password (same as the one we use for Members Area). You on the list are reminded of the current password every Sunday in Michael's report on New Members.

Sometimes we have a person who is undergoing a treatment and writes about it at the time. If you want to know about that, asking now on the list may not bring out what the actual experience did at the time it was written. I remember some of our folks who are no longer with us but were very knowledgeable about certain issues. And, the guy who started it all, our founder, Dutch. We have about a year and a half of his knowledge and wisdom in the archives. I wish we had saved our earlier archives.

I enjoy looking at the archives of messages from people who were new members just a couple of years ago and learning all they could, compared to their current messages where they have become the person with the answers. That's what we are all about. Learning and sharing.

The Archives section is just another way of doing that. Please check it out.

Enjoy,
Pat W Sanders
WebWhispers President
 

 

 

VoicePoints written by professionals 

Coordinated by Lisa Proper, MS-CCC-SLP, BC-NCD-A, BRS-S

 

(LisaMProper@comcast.net)                      [© 2008 Lisa Proper]

 


Pre-Operative Speech Pathology Consultation for the Laryngectomy

PART 2, CONSULTATION

Lisa M. Proper

 

 

You begin the consultation session like any initial patient visit. A history should be taken, although the history will be much more brief than a traditional diagnostic session. The patient's educational background needs to be ascertained either prior to or at the onset of the session as your presentation may need to be modified to meet the patient's educational level. Current employment status and future employment plans following surgery need to be known to assure setting of appropriate rehabilitation goals. The patient's family status and post-operative support system needs to be addressed. Obvious other parameters to be included are an informal screening of visual and auditory acuity as well as reading and writing skills. The patient's abilities in these areas are important for the patient's ability to communicate post-operatively and will effect the entire rehabilitation process as well.

Specific consultation topics are numerous. A description of pre and post operative anatomy and physiology is a good starting point. It is an absolute "must" to use pictures and/or models when presenting this discussion. You will have much better results, generally, if you provide a thorough discussion of pre-operative anatomy and be sure the patient has a solid understanding of "normal" anatomy. I actually avoid the word "normal" in speaking to the patient, preferring "pre-operative" or, an even better statement, "as you are now". Included in the anatomy and physiology portion is a description of the oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal and upper esophageal systems. I utilize medical terminology first, adding layman's terminology as a definition when available.

Patients find it helpful to have a description of the size of the larynx, generally described as the size of one's fist. It is important that the patient understand that they are not losing the ability to articulate or "speak" but only losing the ability to "voice" as they know it now. The concept of separating voicing from speech is generally a difficult one but can be easily demonstrated during this session. Once the patient has been given the description of laryngeal function, including the vibratory motion of the vocal folds for voice, the SLP is encouraged to then demonstrate this notion. You and your patient, as well as all of those present, should place their fingers on their "Adam's apple". The patient and all those present are then instructed to prolong an /s/. Everyone is then asked if they feel anything - the answer, of course, will be "no". They are then educated to the fact the larynx is not used in the production of the /s/. They are then asked to produce a prolonged /z/, and asked again, if they feel anything? The answer is generally a resounding yes at which time you describe the fact that they were feeling the vocal folds/larynx vibrating. This is a good time to demonstrate voiceless consonants.

Within this discussion of anatomy and physiology, a discussion with regards to the specific surgery will occur. This may prove difficult as many times the exact surgery type is not known and will not be determined until the time of the actual operation. In these cases, it is best to begin the description with the total laryngectomy procedure. It is easier to understand and is a good jumping off point to describe any possible surgical variations. When there are surgical options, it is even more imperative that the SLP directly discuss the case with the patient's surgeon.

The anatomy and physiology discussion is not complete unless you address the issue of the stoma and stoma respiration. I briefly discuss stoma care and maintenance because our patients also see a nurse pre-operatively who will discuss these issues. One thing I do address is the fact that they will not be discharged from the hospital until they are comfortable with stoma care and once again will meet with the tracheostoma nurse, who will be sure of their stoma care abilities. If your patient is not able to visit with such an individual pre-operatively, it will fall on you to discuss this issue in more detail, therefore, the SLP must take the time to become highly educated in the area of stoma care.

I also encourage the SLP to discuss the issue of permanency with any issues that involve permanent changes. With this discussion of permanency, it is beneficial to show pictures of the stoma, tell stories of individuals going back to work in a highly talkative field, etc.

It is important to discuss the alteration that will occur in both tasting and smelling and to inform the patient that there are rehabilitation measures for these areas. Also, be sure to remind the patient that the first bite or sip they take post operatively may not taste as they remember.

A discussion needs to occur regarding the placement of a feeding tube and explaining they will not be able to eat or drink for a few days. The number of days will be dependent on the surgeon's protocol, which you should be able to describe to the patient. In general, with a basic total laryngectomy procedure, the tube used will be a nasal gastric tube.

The discussion of the feeding tube allows for a perfect segue into a discussion regarding swallowing and how swallowing will be altered as a total laryngectomee. It is important to discuss that there will be a progression of improvement post operatively and, hopefully, an eventual return to being able to swallow everything they did pre-operatively. At this point, I encourage the patients to inform the SLP, should their swallowing abilities not progress. The other issue that I like to point out when discussing swallowing issues, is the advantage of a total laryngectomy procedure - no more "food down the wrong pipe". This alone may improve the patient's outlook toward the surgery, especially those with pre-operative dysphagia.

Regarding the hospital stay. the SLP should know an approximate number of days that the patient will be in the hospital and if they will be in intensive care, for how long. This time period would be dependent on surgeon protocol. It is important to inform the patient, and, even more importantly, the family of what to expect during the immediate post-operative period. A patient described it as, "tubes and machines all over" but it is important to describe the types of equipment, tubes, drains, and, even more importantly, the ventilator and its placement. It is imperative to inform the patients loved ones that all this equipment is completely normal and they should not be concerned when they see the patient immediately after surgery.

It is also beneficial to discuss edema, the possibility of the patient's neck size being quite enlarged and possible post-operative hearing deficits due to the edema that may occur in the area of the Eustachian tube. The patient is encouraged to inform his surgeon of hearing problems as this can be improved with treatment. The issue of pain, is one that may be addressed if the SLP feels comfortable. I generally refer the patient to discuss this with the surgeon; however, I do mention that in my experience, many patients tell me that it was not as painful as they had expected. Other positive feedback from patients is that they were up and walking faster than they thought they would be.

Patients many times have the need for specific times and you may find yourself encountering this question not only from several patients but from the same patient again and again. I personally use time frames and state that because of healing and not presently knowing the exacting issues of the surgical procedure itself, specific time frames can not be given.

A very important topic is post-operative hospital stay communication. To initiate this discussion, I explain that upon awakening, the patient will most likely try to speak and find that "nothing comes out". The immediate reaction is generally one of substantial fear, which does subside because the SLP prepared them that this occurrence is totally normal and expected. I can't tell you how many patients, have told me how much this brief little discussion helped to immediately reduce their fear.

The patient needs to be provided with types of non-verbal communication tools for the immediate post operative stay. InHealth has a wonderful free communication board entitled "Laryngectomee Needs Chart" which is an 8 1/2" x 11", bright yellow laminated chart and it is available in both English and Spanish. The patient should also be encouraged to purchase a "Magna Doodle" or Magic Slate for specific written communication needs. These types of self-erasable devices are preferable to the less sanitary dry erase board as most patients end up using their fingers as erasers.

The patient is also encouraged to take a large pad of paper and several pens/pencils as it helps to ask questions to medical staff. The patient may then write the answer to share with family who may not have been present during this conversation. Even though a hospital based signaling device is available to call the nurses, patients have found it helpful to bring their own small bell to use for attention within the room as well as to use when the nursing staff forgets that you can't verbally communicate.

If the patient is computer savvy and has a laptop, this too is useful for communication. You may encounter a patient who is unable to read or write. In this case you will need to devise a more extensive picture type communication system. There actually was such a book, designed especially for the laryngectomee, published several years ago. Unfortunately, it is no longer in print but don't be afraid to ask your "more experienced" colleagues if they happen to have a copy.

It is also important to have the patient and family establish a telephone use technique, which will enable the patient to communicate with loved ones who are not in the area. It may be something as simple as one tap for "no" and two taps for "yes". It is extremely important to establish the technique and to inform the potential callers prior to surgery in order to assure communication. This system can also be used by the nursing staff with their call system as well. The SLP should remind the nursing staff of the patients inability to communicate. This may be done with a simple sign posted by the call box with the words "non-verbal" next to the patient room number within the nursing station, If the patient or family find that the nursing station is responding to the patient call bell with a response requiring patient communication, the family will need to remind the staff of the patient's inability to voice. This is where the aforementioned bell comes in.

There has been much covered in this article and we haven't yet mentioned one of our main information objectives of the pre-operative speech pathology consultation: Speech and Voice Rehabilitation. Immediate post-operative communication, already mentioned, should be portrayed as a temporary measure, which it is. The SLP must discuss all areas of post-operative voice rehabilitation including the artificial laryngeal device (ALD); esophageal voice, and tracheoesophageal voice. The anatomy and physiology should be addressed along with the progression of each in the rehabilitation process. Your patient's surgeon may only employ or "believe in" certain methods of communication; however, it is the goal of this session to provide the patient with complete and accurate information at all times. These methods may or may not be demonstrated within the session. I generally give the patient the option for this demonstration. The quality of esophageal or tracheoesophageal voice should be discussed, especially if no demonstration presentation occurs.

It is important to inform the patient that their voice will be "natural" but lower in pitch and loudness than their normal laryngeal voice. Additionally, it is good to inform them that their voice will also be a little "rougher". It is best to compare this quality with their current voice quality especially if it is abnormal because, many times the post-operative esophageal quality will be better than that of their immediate pre-operative voice. It is not generally advocated to introduce the patient to ALD use during this session, as "one size does not fit all" post-operatively as it seems to pre-operatively. There are of course exceptions, such as an individual who is blind and cannot communicate with any of the immediate post operative options previously discussed. There are some institutions who provide all patients with the same ALD pre-operatively, I have seen many individuals who encountered this practice and most of them needed another ALD. However, my experience may be biased as usually individuals don't seek a second opinion unless they are unhappy with their situation.

During this discussion of rehabilitation, it is the perfect opportunity to discuss the availability of visitation with a trained laryngectomee visitor. When this visitation is scheduled will be according to your facility and visitation protocol and is not the aim of this article, but such a visit should occur and the SLP should assure that this takes place if the patient so desires. If the patient defers a consultation, ask them once again at the end of the session and also while they are in the hospital.

After reading an article written on Web Whispers several years ago, I also provide my patients with a list on "what to take to the hospital". Items such as clothes which include shirts that open in the front, your own robe and pajamas, reading materials, a small radio or a CD player, puzzles, sudoku, a deck of cards, a laptop as well as many of the aforementioned items are on the list.

This may seem like a tremendous amount of information but it does not take much time to present. We still need to stop and ask ourselves just how much information should be imparted to this particular patient? You may need to depart from the recommended protocol specific to the individual needs of your patient. Therefore, it is also recommended that patients receive reading materials pre-operatively as well.

There are audio and videotape presentations available, however, I find the addition of these pre-operatively may be too much information at that time.

The SLP can also improve the patient's pre-operative feelings, by portraying confidence in your medical staff and specifically the surgeon. Your personal endorsement of the patient's surgeon does wonders to boost patient morale. This should be done at the end of the session after the patient has gotten to know you and has become confident and comfortable with you.

The last and most important point to the entire pre-operative speech pathology consultation for the laryngectomee is for the SLP to portray to the patient that "It's Going To Be ALL RIGHT! I tell my patients, that even if they get nothing from the consultation other than this fact, then the session was a success and that a positive prognosis for post-operative rehabilitation has been established.

 

 

 

 

 

Impossibly Young

 

 

Channel surfing the other night I came across the movie, “A Hard Day’s Night”, from 1964. I was only 11 at the time and didn’t really even “like boys” yet, but I had watched Ed Sullivan with the rest of America that Sunday night a year earlier and I loved the Beatles. I didn’t quite understand the hysteria but it was hard not to get caught up in it…especially when the 6th grade girls were picking out their favorites. To me they were just a bunch of older boys with a lot of hair who had this band everyone liked.


Now they look impossibly young and fresh and charming and I, of course, know a great deal about each of them…no longer just a bunch of older boys…two are dead…and one of the surviving Fab Four is a British Knight (there is an international campaign to make it Sir Ringo, as well).


This business of aging is very sneaky. Cancer didn’t make me confront my mortality with anywhere near the same clarity as does looking in the mirror these days. Or seeing once “older boys” who were interesting in ways I didn’t quite understand at the time and understand completely now, and realizing we all got old together. And we lucky ones are getting even older.


On those days when I look in the mirror and groan, I am reminded of a bumper sticker you see up here in Maine on more than a few pick-ups. “A bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of work”. Or in the case of this miserable rubble heap we are hoping to convert into a lawn at some point, better to be pulling out the crabgrass than pushing it up.


Today my son turned 32, and I know that for a fact. However, there seems to be Time Warp up here in Durham, because according to my calculations I should not be more than 37 or 38…maybe 41 (I did have a few bad years when I could have lost track of some time).


I can blame radiation for the crepe-like skin on my neck, but there are other, even more disturbing signs that time has moved on while I wasn’t paying attention. As one of those boys, by then a man and now dead, once sang, “Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans.” Interestingly enough, written in a song to his son, “Beautiful Boy”.


Generally speaking, I would have to say that getting old sucks worse than getting cancer…which may be one of the weirdest thoughts I have ever put down in print; since just about everyone sees the big problem with either one as the dying. I realize I am not THAT old, but I am a gerontologist and I have studied getting old, up close and personal. As a student learning about aging, one thing we looked at was institutional ageism. From a sociological point of view the big three “isms” are racism, sexism and ageism. Institutional bias is very different from individual prejudice. As an individual, you can dislike, distrust and disdain anyone you choose for your own personal reasons. It is not against the law to be an ignorant jerk. Institutional bias means it IS the law to discriminate against those people…whoever “they” might be at the moment. I do not need to recount the egregious examples of such laws in our recent history. I remember thinking, as a student, ageism was the only one of these three we might actually consider ourselves lucky to experience…at least we got old enough to be a target!


Although institutional ageism is not nearly as rampant as it once was, there are still stubborn pockets of it in corporate America and we are undeniably a youth culture. Even those of us who don’t mind GETTING older sure don’t want to LOOK older.

Whether it is cancer or old age or a confluence of both, I believe it is not that we fear death so much as we love life. Life is all we know. Aging, sickness and disability are tangible signs that our own hold on life, that precious and mysterious gift, is tenuous and fleeting. The face and figure I see captured in photographs these days testify all too loudly and clearly that not only has time marched on, its armies appear to have trod right over me.


Confronting one’s mortality is a sobering experience, whether it is sitting in a doctor’s office, getting that call about an elderly parent or looking in the mirror. It is, also, ultimately liberating. Once we have squared off against its awesome inevitability and realized it is what is and there is not a damn thing we can do about it, then we can get back to the business of living. I am thinking that today I am going to take my own kind of revenge against the ravages of time, like maybe tease my son about the flecks of grey I see in his hair. I will comfort him with the reminder that at least he has lots of hair to go grey. HAH! Misery loves company.

 

 

 

 

 

TRUST YOUR GUT

Elizabeth Finchem,
Tucson, AZ

 

 

Recently I wrote this statement, "Your gut will never lie to you". I was thinking of what some refer to as instinct, a hunch, or sixth sense. It is when you feel goose bumps or chills, or the hair on the back of your neck or arms standing up. Sometimes I even have a "confirmation" chill all the way down to my toes. We can be aware of this confirmation of the truth when we read a passage, or hear something that we know in our heart to be true. Some report being aware of a physical warning to take care if they're in danger.

One person took issue with my use of the word "never" in my statement. My point was the absolute trust we can be assured of in these situations. We are often advised to avoid the use of the words never and always in a discussion or disagreement; this is probably very wise. My statement stems from my own spiritual experience and growth. Someone else described this sixth sense as the "silver thread that connects us from our navel to our creator".

I think of it as the level of trust I have when I step off into an adventure I know little about such as a new friend, career, or home. One of my biggest leaps of faith in my adult life was the decision to have a laryngectomy. In fact, instead of asking, "Why me?", my question in the shower pre-op was, "Well God, what is this adventure all about?" I had exceptional pre-op counseling, but I was still fully aware that this was a very new world for me to explore.

How many times have we said, or heard someone say, "Trust your gut"? If only we would do just that, we could probably avoid some of our worst mistakes. I can look back and that see that a few important decisions were made trusting my head instead of my instinct. "Think long, think wrong" comes to mind as I write this.

I had occasion to pose a question about my original statement to a medical professional and one of his staff. His billing clerk got it immediately. She said, "It's a matter of faith. We arrive with everything we need to see us through this lifetime; including our bodies ability to heal itself if given a chance." The doctor, however, hedged. After he thought about the question more we discussed why he hesitated in his response. He admitted that he tries to follow the "rules". In his area of expertise I pointed out that he had to learn the "rules", but at some point he must trust his gut, and his care becomes an art. He could agree with that concept. It was exactly what he does with his patients many times each day.

Are rules made to be broken? Whether we are talking about writing, painting, cooking, or laryngectomee rehabilitation the premise is the same. There comes a time after we learn the rules that we can strike out on our own and do it our way. I am reminded of the typical public square, or a path to the lake. Perhaps it's a park, school, or neighborhood, where cement walkways are laid out according to the architect's plan. Soon the users of the area will create a dirt path that works for them. One of the things I celebrated while living in Beverly Hills, California, is that they painted pedestrian walkways to cross an intersection diagonally with the traffic light. Now, that is a practical solution if I ever saw one. I'll bet there are other towns that have done the same. How liberating and time saving!

Our individual choices for treatment and therapy and which option will end up as our primary means of speech are all very personal matters. It is all so new; there is so much to learn in so little time. One size does not fit all. We have a path to follow. Attitude, education, support and prayer are highly recommended. I'd throw in my own tried and true connection...that gut feeling. You're ahead of the game if you're already in touch with it.

I am so grateful for the many guides and teachers who helped me find my way along the path to total rehabilitation as a laryngectomee. My job was to make good choices for my own personal health and welfare. I must also thank the many new laryngectomees I've worked with over the years who helped me dig a little deeper, beyond all the technical and practical training I'd received. Each one of us has a purpose for being exactly where we are. Trusting your gut can help you find that purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

Tea with Uncle Grigor and Rosalie Macrae

 

 

The strong Ukrainian brew streamed down from Uncle Grigor's stately samovar, stained with the patina of many a chai party, into my glass tumbler and Miss Natalia, the solo trapeze artist, added lemon twisted in her special way which brings out the oils. I took a deep swig and my Servox thanked him in Russian. Spasibo. Grigor's TruTone answered in English that I was very welcome. His late wife Anna, pigeon-breasted and very pretty, smiled down on us from her photograph. The heavenly white cottage roses called Peace, "Mir" as Grigor's nephew Peter said, hastily picked when I was inivted to take tea, trailed across the picture frame shrine. Their perfume mingled with the herring and pickled gherkins laid out on the caravan table, and it worked. Mental note...suggest to Chanel as a new scent for the affluent Soviet clientele. Good commission. Back to the tea party.

It is so lucky, life-enhancing, to live in the hub of your area. Be it Lake Wobegone or Armistead Maupin's bit of San Francisco or Mrs. Gaskell's cosy, bitchy Cranford, or, in my case, the Old Heath Recreation Ground. The Rec. You soon know all the people, by sight anyway, and the new romances, and the ones who are going a bit dulally, as lots of us will one day unless they discover something in time for me. Of course, you get free tickets for all the shows and antique markets and circuses and artificial skating rinks because you are 'inconvenienced.' With these old joyous ballet records, slightly warped, one is enraptured rather than inconvenienced and would pay for the privilege.

This month it has been the Moscow State Circus. At first glance their Big Top is small but once you get inside it is like Dr Who's Tardis. The interior goes on impenetrably - Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. That's what Tardis stands for as a geeky grandson informed me. If he turns out to be a Bill Gates geek that is fine by me. I rather fancy caviare for breakfast in my retirement dacha. I will be able to afford a condominium anywhere. Sorry, but bye bye Rec. As this is real life, is I will probably stay where I am. Bill Gateses are churned out in every math class now.

I only know about the Tardis interior and the fun of Tea with Old Grigor because of Sally the dog. She has become disgracefully greedy and cringe-making in her senior years and can sniff out a goodie of any nationality half a mile away . She lurches wistfully around whoever has rented a bit of The Rec, making them tell people when they get home that we Brits starve our pets. She developed quite a dependency last year on Chow Mein burgers when the Chinese circus was here, despite my warning that the Chinese were partial to a bit of dog fillet themselves.

The smells from the caravans around the latest Big Top were robust. Like pork jerky...irresistible. The dog hurled herself with helpless lust through a gap in the canvas. I pressed the EL button and yelled--as much as a lary can--for her to come back. She had gone deep within and I followed, glad that Siberian tigers and Mongolian snake charmers weren't allowed in circuses any more. Global warming for animals. Thank goodness for people who send out petitions which actually work.

One of the pegging crew picked up Sally and handed her back, doffing his baseball hat. Ear flaps are so not the thing now. I thanked him and shook his hand. Wonderful. Horosho, remembered from my one weekend trip to Russia back in the Yeltsin days when being teetotal was SO not the thing! He looked at my Servox casually and understood what I was saying. You could tell he had seen one before. He beckoned a young god called Peter to climb down. Peter spoke perfect English, was studying it at Kiev, and could I please come for tea the next day with his uncle Grigor who used to waltz on the high wire. He would interpret. Uncle had lost his vocal cords ten years before. Which was why Peter would never smoke or drink vodka he said. They had a circus branch of AA and NA to preach to the unconverted and Grigor often spoke. He asked if I could be a guest speaker but I was, for once, too shy.

The following afternoon I was going through Grigor's laryngectomy scrapbook with him, the multi-coloured photographs of the operation supervised, he said, as we all do, proprietarily, by 'his' surgeon. In his case Mr. Ploushnikov and his team from St. Petersburg. Tears filled his eyes and he made the sign of the cross. My Mr. Maheshwar and his Mr. Ploushnikov were, we agreed, up there with Nelson Mandela and Yuri Gagarin and Tchaikovsky. He wanted to linger over every detail of his operation. Peter's father, a lab technician, had been given special clearance to take the happy snaps throughout the six-hour operation. I told Peter I had seen enough to know how wonderful it was after a long ten minutes. I said the pictures were cute. Milaya. I couldn't remember the word for interesting. Grigor laughed and said that cute wasn't quite the word he would have used.

Then I showed Peter something that he thought was definitely Milaya. A photograph I had in my wallet of 17-yeat-old red-haired granddaughter Georgia at her Prom. He said that when the circus state tour was over he was going to stay behind to improve his English and would pay, of course, to stay with a nice family. I said Georgia's mother would love to have him to stay. That would be real one-upmanship for their next-door neighbours who could afford to buy Prada. Peter was much more exotic. I would have to deal with the sudden remembrance of her grunting, charmless boyfriend later.

The Baptist Church Strawberry Fayre was being held that day at the other end of The Rec. Would Grigor like to come I asked, with suitable hesitance. Peter said that wild Caucasian horses wouldn't keep him away. And so it was that Rosalie and an Antony Quinn lookalike, were spotted, by many I am glad to say, having strawberries and sharing a big mug of real farm cream from one of the Methodist farmers. And getting our ELs so jammy sticky that Peter was texted to bring some vinegar. I was aware of being watched. Scrutinised you could say.

My best Rec friend, Lilian, currently being pursued by a persistent park attendant, rang up later and said she had tried to call me to come for strawberries. She saw later that I was otherwise engaged. Was I, by any chance, a circus groupie?

Da, Da, a thousand times Da. It wouldn't happen in the suburbs.

 

 

 

 


 

Should I Plant Annuals Or Perennials?

 

 

I talk funny, well different, that is I communicate with an electronic device called a Servox, as I lost my vocal chords to throat cancer back in 2000. I've gone 3 rounds with throat cancer, first time I was scared to death, second time I lost my vocal chords and hence my natural voice and the third time it nearly killed me. After I lost my voice I took early retirement. I was a salesman; I decided that the market for salesman that couldn't talk was small to say the least and would only get smaller... So what else could I do? I started gardening!!!!......And boy my life ain't been the same since, I thought losing my ability to talk was a life changer, hey gardening is even more so but in a good way.

When you've had cancer you're always worried it's coming back or has it already come back and I don't know it, all natural responses to having had the disease. Will I still be alive this time next year? I had thoughts like that a good bit of the time, tried not to let on to my loved ones but hey I was scared. And then it happened, not all at once but slowly slowly. I kinda got involved with gardening through the back door so to speak. I had a friend who fed birds on their back patio and raccoons came there too and one evening the birds and the raccoons really put on a show and I was hooked, hooked line and sinker. I was going to feed me some wild birds and have wildlife come to my yard to visit me (as I interpreted it. Why I'd have company all the time, birds, squirrels, coons, hey who or whatever wanted some food and water....And I'd watch them every day and evening as I sat out there while reading or listening to the radio. And then I started reading books about feeding birds and read about this other foreign thing I'd never heard of before, 'gardening for birds'.....Gardening for birds?.....What the heck is that?.....Well 3 or 4 hundred or so perennials, annuals, shrubs, roses, vines later, I know what gardening for birds is all about.

Oh back to that other thing, cancer and my doctor....Well I'm tooling along again in life going to every nursery I can find without a GPS in the car, bought every plant that would even remotely provide food for birds and critters, bought so many kinds of bird feeders my wife threatened to leave me if I bought another one, and bird seed, good lord I went through 200 lbs. a month in bird seed like it wasn't nothing. And not regular black oilers like I feed them now but hulled sunflower seeds, the kind they don't even have to crack to eat, the filet mignon of bird seed.....and then low and behold on one of the checkups come to find out I'd had a reoccurrence of cancer, in my case about as close a thing to a death sentence as you'd get with the kind of cancer I had and the stage etc.

Well I might be getting ahead of myself here, you see I'd been immersed in the world of plants by now for several years and all I looked forward to was seeing them little perennials poke their little heads outta the ground about February, March or so.....I got to thinking about them plants coming back instead of me dying this week or next month or next year, I just about forgot about me and mostly thought about the plants, the flowers, the fragrance of the flowers, the bird's songs, the flittering movement of birds among the flower beds of our yard......Heck I'd about plumb forgot about cancer....I wasn't going to die, heck I needed to be here to mulch them coneflowers next year, I mean who's going to weed?....Hey I'm going to be here, I got a reason to be here.....One that's not so much about me but about something else.....No doubt about it boys and girls, gardening gives you a reason to look forward to next year and the next and the next without just the fact that "hey I wanna be here and don't wanna die", which is a reasonable expectation I guess but not completely satisfying in certain respects......

Oh back to that other thing, cancer and my doctor......So I'm sitting in his office and he comes in with his surgical nurse and she grabs my hand tenderly and squeezed it like I might die while I'm sitting there in the chair, right away I know the news ain't good and it ain't....most folks in my situation now have a year maybe, proably less but before he has time to tell me anything substantively about what's going on with me I just ask him one question, "Hey doc, give it to me straight, should I plant annuals this year or perennials?" Well I kinda had a goofy grin on my face that I have when I said it and I looked at him and he looked at me and the surgical nurse looked at me and they both looked at each other and then we all burst out laughing at the same time......That was 8 years ago, I've been growing perennials all these years and I'm still here, you see I gotta be.....I mean who's gonna mulch the coneflowers....Who's going to weed? And everytime I go for my yearly checkup I ask the Doc the same old question after he checks me out, "Do I plant perennials or annuals this year Doc?" and then we all burst out laughing.......

One caveat, some folks aren't as lucky as I've been so far, they're situation is grave and the humor I implied in my own situation in no way should belittle the fight these folks have on their hands even as we speak. I wish them all well.

Paul from Alabama

[editor's note: This wonderful piece is from Paul's blog and I thought it
well worth re-printing here. Here is the link to the original should you
wish to read more.]

 

Paul's Blog

 

 

 

 

 

“Pennies From Heaven”

 



It’ll be a miracle, if anyone remembers me! I’m Avis, from Cape Cod, Ma. My husband, Jean, died on 10/4/00 and for the 7 months that he lived, I communicated, as his caregiver, on Web Whispers, with all you wonderful people.


You were 600 strong, then. I can’t even recall how or where I heard about WW, but I thank God for it. I believe there are NO coincidences and that it was meant to be.. Little did I realize that you, all, would guide us through his problems, pain and suffering, giving us the hope and courage we needed to survive this difficult journey, not to mention, the ability to be with him, in his last days, despite my 50 hour work week. This, and so much more, from you, no matter what I asked or what time of day or night it was, there was always an answer, or should I say 40 + answers at a time. You kept me going. You held me up and gave me the strength to carry on. Your compassion and wisdom, was beyond mere words.


Eight years have passed, since then, and I feel compelled to continue my story, because it may bring a glimmer of sunshine to other lonely spouses.


For the first 2 years, after his passing, all I did was go to work, go to the grocery store, and go to the dump. That was my life. I was numb, in a fog, could not focus and was certain that I would be going with him very shortly. Life contained no joy and no laughter, even though I have children in nearby towns. I began to notice that many other people seemed to be in the same situation as I, very lonely and sad, for various reasons, losing a spouse, divorce, never married... it didn’t matter. So I decided to gather those, I knew of, and put a couple of notices on the bulletin boards, at the grocery stores, and started a group called “Common Ground”. It’s purpose was to find the commonalities of the group and do them, together, such as; dining out, movies, dancing , walking, potlucks etc. As time marched on, it snow balled! It is, now, in it’s 6th year with some of the old faces, always there, and many new ones. We’ve even had 1 marriage, 2 engagements, and several, meaningful relationships. However, the only thing I would guarantee is... great friendships. You might say that, we’re alone, together. At this stage of life, in our 70’s, plus, that’s a very comforting thing, to feel you can call anyone, on the list, and connect with them. It also took me out of the house and put me back into LIFE again.


Two more years passed, and I had to pick up some house cleaning jobs to make ends meet. One of my clients recommended me to their neighbor, whose wife passed away, quite recently. At this time I wasn’t eager to take on another client, I was exhausted but my heart went out to him, since he was a new widower. I knew his pain.


Of course, I encouraged him to come to my “group’ and meet others of similar circumstances. He did, and as time went on, he began to show an interest in me, personally. I must admit, that it was new to both of us. We had only been married once in our lives and seeing someone new wasn’t something my loyal mind would even think about! He felt the same way. We talked for hours, about our beloved spouses, and respected one another for the love and years we shared with them.


I kept wondering if my husband was approving, of this new friend, in my life? Was I betraying my husband? Disrespecting him? Was I disloyal, by going out with this new companion? I asked for signs from “above” and immediately began to notice “ pennies,”... on the ground, on a seat, near a fence ,on a rug, in the movie…all over. A penny would always appear when I needed special reassurance that it was o.k. to be happy, to laugh, to go on living, to even dare to love another person, too! The pennies said “yes”. I knew this, because I felt so excited, when I found one. It was definitely a positive sign. I can’t even tell you how many pennies I’ve found, one by one. I know Jean would have wanted me to be happy and move on, which, I honestly never expected would ever happen.


Leon and I live together, now, starting anew. We are officially engaged, but in no rush to get married. We are a great comfort to one another, caring for each other, through some rough times. It’s so wonderful to have someone to talk to, that is your “equal”. Your kids are great, but it’s just not the same, because they aren’t in the same place in life, that we are. They lost a beloved parent, we lost a beloved spouse! His children and mine, approve of us, (but ,if they didn’t, we wouldn’t let it change our relationship any) and the best part is… our dogs get along great, too ! Who could ask for anything more?


You never stop loving or remembering your spouse, but there is so much room, in a loving heart. I read this once and love it; “Loss is forever and decades after, there will be those occasions, when something in you cries out, at the continuous presence of an absence.”…


But a heart that has loved... has love, still. (this last line is mine)


Love, Avis
 

 

 

 


 

Journal of 2008 Cruise

by Terry Duga

 


Saturday, April 26, 2008

 

The morning comes way too early. I got to bed a little after 10 p.m. knowing that I had to get up about 3:45 in the morning. I sleep and wake, usual for me. About 2:55 a.m. the rain comes and starts through the window over the head of my bed. I close the window. I finally awaken at 3:33 (hey, my alarm clock lights up and has large numbers). So, I get up and shower. A final shift in packing and I am done. Then a quick read of comics on the Internet and I am ready for my ride. I am lucky. A good friend has offered to drive me to the airport for my 6:45 a.m. flight. Any friend who makes that offer on a Saturday is a good friend. I will have to shop for appropriate thank you gifts.

There are a surprising number of people at the airport at 5:15 a.m. I have pre-checked in on the internet so all I have to do is check my one bag. This is a snap. Then, at the security check, sleep deprivation sets in, and I forget to remove my cell phone from my pant pocket. Sooooo, off I go to do stupid human tricks for the very nice gentleman from TSA. A short time later, I am at the gate. My Co-Commissioner and three of her friends are joining our group for most of the trip actually beat Betsy and her crew to the gate. I am surprised, Betsy usually gets to airports early (or so she claims). The visitors from TSA are there doing spot checks of boarders. Guess who gets to have his bags checked? So it goes.

The flight to Houston is crowded, but not too crowded. We get a muffin and a drink. Whoo Hoo! We are a bit late getting into Houston. Fortunately, the gate for our connecting flight is very close. Pat Sanders greets us. She has had the chance to use the "facilities" but we didn't have time to do so. We rush aboard the plane. I am sitting next to Peggy and Don Byron. Life is getting better. But the plane is slow getting off since it had to wait for baggage (I don’t complain there, some if it is mine). Then another delay. There was a fire engine driving down a runway, never a good sign. But, finally, we are off. The plane is moving. Another, bigger muffin! Whoo Hoo!

We took off more than a half hour late, but we get to Acapulco on time. Acapulco is hot, but sunny. This is a great improvement over the Indy that I left. We go through customs and get our passports viewed and maybe stamped. We go to the bus to take the ride to the ship. The drive takes about an hour. Acapulco is, indeed, lovely. Hilly, almost mountainous with a beautiful bay. I think that Acapulco is where VW Beetles go to live their lives. There are slews of them. Kind of a Beetle convention with the old model, rear engine, Beetles filling the streets.

We reach the ship none too soon. We are hungry, but take just a few more minutes to get our room key and have our pictures taken. Then to the room. As I get in, my large suitcase arrives. I am impressed. This is the earliest that a checked bag has ever made it to my cabin. But, no time to unpack, the buffet awaits. Two muffins do not tide one over, they just don’t. Lunch is yummy. I try to be careful to not overdo. Dinner is only a few hours away. Jim Lauder arrives. He has had what he calls a "Duga Beard" prior to today. He has been trimming it the last few days. Today, it is down to a Billy-goat beard from his chin. Tomorrow, with the grace from above, it will be gone. After lunch, I unpack then Pat and I start at the top and start a tour of the ship. We run into Tammy, Mark, and Tammy’s parents. Hugs and handshakes around. They are going to eat. We will see them later. Next we see Bob and Lesley Herbst. Things are picking up. We are among friends!

Skywalker’s Lounge is a tower, accessed by a bridge with a moving walkway. I can tell that this will be a place to go for a drink with a view. We continue. At some point, Pat poops out, waves goodbye, but your author continues bravely to get a feel for the ship. There is a great main theater and a second theater. Many great bars, shops, swimming pools. A miniature golf course and other things to keep the body busy.

Dinner is at 5:30. While we don’t have assigned tables, we have a large enough group to merit a reserved area, though they would hold them open for only a short time. . Jan Lewin and friend Stuart join Pat and me at our table. We chat, eat, and share bites. A delightful meal with good company that lasts until almost eight when we have to have the disaster muster drill. So back to the cabin, grab a life vest, walk down flights of stairs to the Explorer Lounge, which is our mustering station. Whoever decided to make muster stations be in comfortable spots has my vote. Our M-C is Mexican. A nice gentleman. Then "THE VOICE" comes over the crackling speakers. The accent is British as all serious announcements should be. He tells us how to don the vests and how to step (don’t jump) into the water. Of course, for many of us, if we have to step into the water we are, how shall I put this delicately, screwed. Muster test over, we walk up flights of stairs to our rooms. Tomorrow, shopping in Ixtapa.



Sunday April 27



I wake about 6:30 and it is still darkish. I go out on my balcony and see the tenders getting ready for the day. We are anchored off Zihuatanejo, which is close to Ixtapa. The bay is nice. I take some pictures. The area around it is rocky and hilly. I relax and go back to bed for a while. Finally getting up because I have slept and don’t feel too tired. I play on the laptop then take a shower, get dressed, slather on 50 SP sun block and get ready for breakfast a little after 8. I put the "clean the room" card in the door and go to eat. I run into no one that I know. This is unusual. Pat has eaten already (surprise).

After breakfast, I pop down to my room. Jan, Stu, and Karen and I are planning on going shopping, but, of course we don’t set a time. I try to get information, but no on answers. I discover that my toilet is blocked. It isn’t an emergency, yet, but I call. Not finding the number I need, I decide to walk the hall and look for names. I put the card back in the door so my toilet will be fixed and the room made. I go to second breakfast with Jan and Stu. I drink iced tea and am charming.... really. Lauder arrives. Things pick up. Pictures and movies are taken. Oh, what rogues? We go back to the cabins with plans to meet shortly. I wait outside what I think is my cabin while it is being made up. The maid tells me it isn’t mine. I think otherwise. She is right, I am wrong. Maybe I needed a little more sleep.

My room isn’t clean, the toilet, still doesn’t work. Maybe the problem is that when I put the card in the door, I put the "Do Not Disturb" side out. Ooops! I correct that error. We gather and go to the tender to sail to shore. It is really hot. The shore is nice. We hit shops. I get a Harley Ixtapa T-shirt for my friend who gave me a ride to the airport (he has a Harley as his mid-life crisis purchase [mine was a Cabrio convertible]). Karen Griffin speaks Spanish and haggles. The price is good. I find three small bowls with bird images. I get a good deal on three. They are for the support staff at work. Later I find a nice T shirt for the friend who will pick me up at the airport on Sunday. Life is good.

We see classic VWs. We watch a church gather its flock. We sweat, because it is really hot. About 12:15 we head back. The line is long and getting longer to get on the tenders. But it moves. Back on board, we are too late for the one dining room (or maybe it is not open for lunch and we don’t know). So we head for the buffet. A light lunch, until the chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Yummmmmm! Up to Skywalker’s lounge for a meet and greet with Pat and Peggy. The gang is there and gathering. Skywalker’s is a nice place to sit and view the ocean. We all chat. Soon it will be time to get washed (heat, sweat, remember?), and nicely dressed. Tonight is the captain’s reception and the first formal dinner. Tiger shrimp with Newburg sauce awaits me.

The formal captain’s reception is on. We gather at the bar on deck 5. We get any drink we want as long as it is a bar brand. Not bad. Too many drinks later, it is time to go to dinner. We take our drinks. Dinner is yummy, as only it can be. I have smoked duck breast as an appetizer, lobster bisque, and tiger shrimp with Newburg sauce. All are very tasty. I am undecided about dessert, but take our waiter Juan’s advice and get a dark chocolate mousse made with Godiva liquor. It is outstanding. Dutch would have been beside himself.

After dinner we hit the theater. The comic is very funny, but there is a lady in the front of the audience whose laugh stokes the humor. Enjoyment by all. A trip to Skywalker’s to sit on the side and listen to vintage music. A nice end to the evening. Tomorrow is Puerto Vallarta.



Monday April 28



OK, we drank too much last night. The day starts slowly. As it turns out, I am not alone. Eventually, I rise, get showered and go to breakfast. I eat with Pat, the Armanis, Louella and Herb Wilson. Then I walk the area, get more tea to get hydrated, and return to my room. About ten is second breakfast with the Griffins and Jan and Stu. We plot the day’s activities. About noonish give or take a bit, we get off the ship and catch a van into Puerto Vallarta. The city is interesting. The traffic is there but not overpowering. While the temperature is in the 80s, a breeze off of the bay keeps things sufferable.

Jan and Karen shop for jewelry for their secretaries (or whatever the PC term is nowadays). Cliff and Stu are good sports and patiently abide. Yours truly shops for cheap T shirts and shot glasses for my pseudo god-kids and some other friends, and a poncho for myself (yes, I may never really wear it, but I have been tempted to buy one in the past and the price was right). We spend a couple of hours. Then, the Griffins and I split and return to the ship while Jan and Stu continue exploring. Our cab driver is very nice. He has never met a laryngectomee before. Karen, whose Spanish works (as opposed to my one year in college, 40 years ago) explains that I had cancer and had my voice box removed. He is muy sympatico. He is also interested in how I speak and how well I do talk (although with the heat, my seal has broken). We get to the docks. The Griffins buy postcards and write notes and mail them. I am impressed that they remember the addresses. Then, on to the ship, drop off purchases, and get a light snack. I go back to my room to download pictures, get a shower and relax a bit before dinner.

We get in line early for dinner. Ed and Barb Chapman arrive. Barb kids me about my wheelchair driving abilities. I tell her we could push her down the stairs to my left like we did in Vermont. The older couple in front of us seems upset. We laugh. Pat has many seating suitors. She is, after all, the Golden Goddess. There is one person more desiring to sit at her table than there are seats. So, gallant that I am, I volunteer to go elsewhere. I sit with Jan and Stu. I try the Buffalo pot roast. It is very interesting. Low in fat. The potato pancake with it is good as is the red cabbage.

Afterwards, we walk the promenade deck. The outdoor walk truly circles the ship. A person can stand at the prow and face the wind. We know we are heading almost due west because the sun as it gets ready to set hits us in the eyes. There is a couple that seems to want us to move on. I think they want to get frisky. I can’t blame them. I have envy.
We run into the Chapmans and their friend,Yvelle, in the bar amidships. We have a drink and chat. People walk by. Some we even know.
The show in the theater is a singer. He is decent and has an enjoyable patter. The crowd enjoys him. Afterward, we go to our cabins to prep for a day in Cabo.



Tuesday April 29



Cabo is in a desert. The tall parched peaks that surround it contain little that is green. Most is red and brown. The sea is lovely. We ride the tender into port. Ours is not the only cruise ship in Cabo that day. While the sun is hot, a breeze comes off of the water that makes things tolerable. There is a large, covered, market off the dock. I bargain for a luche libre mask to take as a gift and an Emilio Zapata t shirt for myself. Jan Lewin finally finds bracelets in a size and style that satisfy her. Stu, as always, is a good sport, though he disappears at one point to make a phone call. Jan buys 8 bracelets.

We walk into town along the marina. All sorts of boats abound, from expensive yachts to small fishing boats. Vendors are all over the street. A mime, hands and face painted bronze wearing a bronze fireman’s outfit poses for pictures. Another man has a large iguana wearing a tiny sombrero. We stop at a bar and sit under umbrellas and drink Does X’s. The cold beer tastes good on a hot day. We watch the world walk by. Jim Lauder, the Herbst’s, Rob, Carolyne, and daughter come by. We chat, take pictures and sip beer. The idea was to go to the beach. That idea never materializes, but we don’t care. We walk back to the tender and, this time, climb to the top, open area for the ride back to the ship. Dinner that night includes my yearly helping of escargot, duck with orange sauce, and a harlequin soufflé with Grand Marnier sauce. The entertainment in the theater is a magician/comic who is adequate, and a comic who is fairly entertaining. Afterwards, I go to the Explorers lounge and listen to a fairly good band play vintage music. Another enjoyable day.

 

Wednesday, April 30.



First full day at sea. The day starts overcast. Later the sun burns off the clouds and haze, but the air is cold. We are no longer in the protected gulf, but are in the main Pacific. Somehow, my sunglasses fall out of my pocket at breakfast without my knowledge. I will miss them. WebWhispers has its first meeting this morning. Jan Lewin is the speaker. She gives a fascinating talk on Laryngectomee speech rehab. She has a passion for her work that makes her a great speaker
.
At the end of the meeting, Peggy motions me aside. She has gotten an e-mail from my office (I used Peggy’s e-mail as a contact because she would be checking her e-mail and I wouldn’t be checking mine). I have been reappointed to my position. This makes the cruise even more enjoyable. I join Stu for a drink at the atrium bar on deck 7 while Jan and Ed Chapman look for an open computer terminal. Princess has not gone fully wireless yet, so open terminals are at a premium.

Tonight is the WebWhispers cocktail party hosted by Peggy and Pat. Ah, Skywalker’s as a private venue. An attractive young blond lady guards the entrance. You have to say the secret password to get in (OK, no real password, just identify yourself as a WebWhispers guest). We are on the 17th deck, the highest place on the ship. It sways but has a great view. Waiters and waitresses take drink orders. Those sitting in the back have to hope that those congregating closer to the center don’t take their drinks. I think that just about everyone in the party is there.

We drink and chat for an hour, then, try to find our way to the dining room. See, the elevators that go to 17 only go down to 6, but our dining room is on 5 and you can’t walk down to there from the 6 where the aft elevators go because there is another dining room blocking the way. So we go down, then up and over, then down again. Think of it as exercise.
Dinner is Italian night. I have the veal chop. Now, I am not the biggest fan of veal. To me it is weak beef (don’t write in and say I am wrong, we are all different both in throats and in tastes). The veal chop, however, is excellent. I am glad I made that choice. After dinner, I wander a bit. I go to the Explorer’s Lounge to listen to the band. It is the same one from last night. I sit for a while before going to the Vista Theater to see the production number. At 8:10 I wander to the theater for the 8:45 show. Already the really good seats are taken. I find an adequate seat and sit and wait. The room fills. A group of Chinese behind me occasionally speaks a word of English. The show is only adequate. I have to admit, the shows so far have been a bit disappointing. They were much better on the last Princess cruise I took. I did hear a rumor that two of the dancers had been hurt in a ski jet accident and that the ship has had to juggle performances and performers. That is too bad. After the show, I wander to my cabin to unwind.



Thursday, May 1



Mmmmm. Somehow, Thursday got away from me (I am writing this on Saturday, May 3). Another day at sea. The day is chilly, although there is sun. The seas are rough. The ship is rocking, though not terribly so (at least to my thoughts). The waves are 7 to 12 feet. You can see the spray off of the sides of the ship.
Rob and Carolyne Craig have a full suite. One of a very few on the ship. They are kind enough to host an open house so we lesser mortals can see the suite. It is spacious for a ship’s cabin and has a very large balcony with real teak chairs and tables. The bathroom is full with a tub and shower stall that doesn’t cramp. There are multiple TVs and there is a wet bar in the living room. People come and go and chat. Their daughter, Jody, sits on the bed eating a hamburger. A good choice, the burgers by the pool are excellent. He is dressed in her black hoodie and a t-shirt showing the periodic table of the elements. She is the reigning Sith Empress. She has been a lot of fun on the trip. I have worn my "Black Death Tour" t-shirt which honors the black plague’s trip through Europe in her honor.

That evening, Bob Herbst hosts a birthday party. He turns 58, making him only a few months older than I am. The party is in Skywalker’s. Being at the top of the ship, we do feel the sway of the boat, but the stability is really amazing all things considered. Dinner is cruel to me, a choice of rack of lamb (which I dearly love) and king crab legs (also a fave). Juan, our waiter to the rescue! He ensures that I get both treats! OK, a word about Juan. We have not been able to get assigned seating. Instead, Princess has reserved an area for us so we can eat together. I have been fortunate to have Juan as my waiter each night (actually, after a while, I made sure that I was in one of his tables). Your waiter makes a big difference on how much you enjoy a cruise. A good waiter makes the cruise memorable. A bad waiter does too, but in the wrong way. Juan is exceptional. He is cheerful and pixilated (ah memories of Dave Maguire – Dave, we miss you). He anticipates our needs. Makes great suggestions, and is a master at dessert. For some reason, exceptional waiters on cruise ships know how to entice desserts. Fred Armani has been getting larger and larger sundaes each night. More on that later.



Friday, May 2



I have ordered a wake up call for 5:30 a.m. Yes, you read it right, 5:30 a.m. We port in San Francisco (". . . open your pearly gates. . .) this morning. So, we have to go through immigration at 6:30 a.m. Pat, Jan, Stu and I meet and go to the line for the Vista Lounge, the inspection venue. The line has reached mid ships by the time we get to it. Not a happy sign, but, miracle, the line starts moving and moves very quickly. Immigration is a snap. Show your passport and get a card to go.

We are meeting the Griffins in the dining room for breakfast. We usually eat in the buffet, so we are trying something new. The problem is that with immigration, the ship is awake, and what do waking passengers do? They eat! The dining room fills quickly. Our waiter is slow and, believe me, he is no Juan. In fact, we see Juan. He is delivering bread and pastries with a smile. He should be waiting tables....well, anyway, our table!

After breakfast, we take the elevators to the embarkation point on Deck 4. We encounter the line that goes up the stairs. We give up trying to get to the end, and just meld in. On shore, I see Betsy, my Co-Commissioner. She and her friends are leaving the ship in San Francisco. They are returning to Indiana so they can attend a Democratic dinner on Sunday. Indiana has been a non-player in selecting the president for many years (I don’t remember the last time we mattered.). This time, however, is different. . just suffice to say that Indiana matters in a presidential primary for the first time in over 30 years and we are being courted by both candidates. Both Obama and Clinton are speaking at the dinner. Betsy has said that after attending these events for 20 years and eating rubber chicken and cold vegetables to hear mediocre speakers, she wants to see one that counts. I don’t blame her.

Stu, Jan, Karen, Cliff and I walk along the bay side in search of a market that is supposed to be about a 10 minute walk. About a half hour later, we get near. We get final directions and use a bathroom. The morning is sunny, but crisp. I am glad that I am wearing my WebWhispers logo jacket. I take a lot of pictures (hey, it is my job). We reach the market. It is inside. There are vendors. On two days a week, there is a farmer’s market there, but, alas, this is not one of the two days. We get coffee and sit and chat. Two lovely art students are sketching the room. I take a picture.

Cliff and Karen, take off to return to the ship. Stu, Jan and I grab an electric bus and ride to Fisherman’s Warf. We stop in a drugstore to get Stu some Aleve and Jan some meds for a hoarse throat (I think she is having sympathy for us funny talkers). Tacky shops abound. I am in tacky shopping heaven. I end up buying 7 t-shirts for $20. Final gifts for home (along with one of questionable taste for Bwana Jim Lauder, patron saint of Larys everywhere). We end up walking back to the ship. Our time in San Francisco has been too short. I would like to return (this is a blatant hint to the IAL – although expensive, Frisco would be a good place for a meeting, certainly better than Little Rock).

We get burgers and pizza and sit on the Lido Deck in a partially covered area to try and not get too cold. The ship starts to slowly move. It picks up speed. Liquid Blue, a band (see comments below) sets up on deck by the pool and plays appropriate music. As we pass under the Golden Gate Bridge, they play a good cover of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song, "Under the Bridge." I get a movie going under the bridge. I also take some videos of their act. The passengers and watching crew members definitely groove to their songs. OK, a word on Liquid Blue. They play in the Explorers Lounge. Three men, one on drums, one guitarist and a keyboard/singer/manager, and three girl singers. They play really nice music from various eras. The female lead singer and the male singer trade off jobs singing and playing keyboard. Oh, and the ladies are really hot. I mean get into the music and dance hot. I have seen a few of their performances. The one by the pool with the wind blowing has gotten the crowd jumping. Go see them if they come by. Their web site is www.LiquidBlue.net. I haven’t been there yet (the internet on the ship is slow and expensive). Enough advertising. This evening is the Captains party for frequent cruisers, which means free drinks. Jan and Stu join Pat and me. We fight the crowd for a sample, and then go to the dining room. Our usual table is taken. Pat goes off to eat with someone else. I grab a table in Juan’s area. Tonight is lobster night, always a favorite of the cruisers. Lobster and prawns. Yummmmmm!!!!!!!!
Fred Armani, one table over, gets his usual heaping sundae. Jody, not to be outdone, gets one to go with her dark chocolate soufflé and the challenge is on. We take pictures and heckle Fred (or is it Ferd???). Lo and behold – Jody wins. That does it, she has to come on future cruises, she has proven herself to be a major player! After dinner, Stu, Jan the Griffins and I go to the Vista Lounge. A juggler/comedian is featured. He is really good. He has a certain Jack Black quality. Not only in stature, but also in attitude. Now juggling is not easy, but factor in a moving deck, a low stage ceiling and bright lights in the eyes, and he really excels. This is not a sub par show, rather, it is excellent. After that show, Jan and I end up trekking to the Princess Theater to see the singers and dancers perform the big show piece. It is a collection of Broadway show tunes. Very well done. A successful evening all in all.



Saturday, May 3



I rise, eventually. It is another day at sea. I shower and get dressed, then, what else, head for breakfast. I look for people, but find no one. They must be sleeping (it is about 8 or so). So, I get breakfast, which, of course, includes bacon (one of the sins of traveling. For a better understanding of the goodness of bacon, read "Lamb" by Christopher Moore).
We have the second part of Jan Lewin’s lecture today. About 9:44 a.m., I head to Skywalker’s Lounge. Jan is setting up her computer for the slide show. Her voice is getting a bit better, but she truly feels how we sometimes feel, not having a full voice.

People come in. The second half starts. The lecture is very interesting. At one point, I take a sound movie of part of the lecture, but you won’t see it, I value my life too much to share the diminished voice with anyone but Jan and Stu. Then there is a glitch. The batteries in the cordless mike die. So much for Jan’s amplified voice. Stu to the rescue. As he goes to the cabin to get two AA batteries, Pat gives some info on what is happening with WW. The info includes the next cruise which is set for October 1, 2009, and will sail out of New Jersey and up into Canada (Oh, Canada . . . ). The excitement starts to grow even as we are winding down the present cruise. After a bit of a side track, which includes some talk about the IAL, Tammy brings us back on point and Jan takes off with new batteries. The informative talk ends a little after noon.

There is only one thing to do – head for lunch. We have a nice lunch which includes fried shrimp and blue cheese (not together, but both good in my book). After lunch we return to our cabins to pack. Our bags will be taken tonight. Tomorrow we land in Seattle. A little after 4 is cocktail time in my cabin. Pat, Jan and Stu help me consume some nice Irish whiskey. Dinner has mixed feelings. It is the last meal together. Always a mixture that is bittersweet. We eat once more, and chat once more. After dinner, I thank Juan for his excellent service and give a little extra gratuity for a job very well done. As I said earlier, a great waiter adds a huge amount to the cruise, and Juan is great.

After dinner, I eschew going to the show in the Princess Theater. Instead, I sit in the Explorers Lounge to hear Liquid Blue play one last time. They are getting off the ship in Seattle and will, eventually, be in Vegas. The play list tonight is more contemporary, but they are still great. I return to the cabin. My main bags, which I had set out earlier, are gone. I take care of the remaining carry-ons then set a wake up call and go to bed.



Sunday May 4



The ship is slowly moving into dock. Seattle is enjoying an unusually sunny day. I rise, get cleaned up, put things in my bags and head for breakfast. I will have a long day of traveling. After breakfast with the Fortroys, I return to my cabin, brush my teeth, look to make sure I am not leaving anything, and then go to the casino to wait to disembark.
Tammy and Mark and Tammy’s parents join me. We chat. Bob and Leslie Herbst come up, and then my color and number are called. I head out. I hand over my customs sheet. I get my bags and head for the bus to the airport. The bus driver is very friendly and helpful. We have a short drive to the airport. At the airport, red shirted Princess employees help with the luggage. I opt for help with my bags. I am glad that I did so. I have a bit of a walk to the check in counter.

A wait in the Seattle airport for Southwest. I try to sign into the Internet. They have WiFi, but alas, it requires a code that I lack. So no surfing for me. Instead, I work on this journal. Southwest has more legroom than Continental. I am thankful for this difference. The first leg of the flight goes to Kansas City (which Kansas City, I don’t know, but the airport is dinky). The person in front of me is kind of a wise acre. The stewardess, who is experienced, verbally deals with him. Me, I would probably have just popped him or thrown him off, but I can be irritable.

Kansas City is a small airport. You have to go outside of security to change planes. I hate doing the stupid human tricks twice. I have a real jolt back to reality. Dinner is a Burger King burger. Quite a come down from the previous week’s menus. Oh well, it does what it does. The flight to Indy is uneventful. A friend picks me up at the airport. I get home around 11 p.m... relax and watch some TV, then head for bed. The cruise is a good memory, but a memory, none the less.

 
Volkswagen Heaven in Acapulco Armanis & Craigs Chapmans & Yvonne
     
Carolyne & Rob Craig Don & Peggy Karen & Cliff
     
Pat & Terry Jan & Richard Charlie & Nancy Blair
     
Libby & John Maryann & Len Laura & Tony
     
The Lauders Cruise Vacations Bob & Lesley Herbst
     
Peggy talks with the Blairs Party Time The Fortroys
     
Acapulco Bay Acapulco Fort Leaving Acapulco
     
Puerto Vallarta Beach Puerto Vallarta from ship Puerto Vallarta Beach and Mountains
     
Cliff and Terry Jan Lewin shopping with Jim and Stuart Linda & Miguel
     
Dianna & Don on moving walkway Madam Pres & Dr. Jan Lewin Ed Chapman & Anne Reed
     
Under the Golden Gate Sea Lions love it here Hmmmm
     
SF Waterfront Park Go for a cruise? Alcatraz
     

 

Welcome To Our New Members:

 

I would like to extend a "Warm Welcome" to our most recently accepted laryngectomees, caregivers, vendors, and professionals who have joined our WebWhispers community within this past month. There is a great wealth of knowledge and information to be accessed and obtained from our website, email lists, and newsletters. If ever there should be questions, concerns or suggestions, please feel free to submit them to us from the "Contacts" page of our website.

 

Thanks and best wishes to all,

 

Michael Csapo

VP Internet Activities

WebWhispers, Inc.

 
 

We welcome the 49 new members who joined us during June 2008:

 

Cynthia Avelar - (Caregiver)
Harrow, Ontario, CAN

Carolyn Bland M.A. CCC/SLP
Houston, TX

Itzhak Brook
Washington, DC

     

Gordon Summers Brown
Seattle, WA

Ronald Burton
Carmi, IL

Maria E. Chisolm - (SLP)
Albuquerque, NM

     

Joan Cronk
Pocatello, ID

Patrick J. Dangerfield
Rome, NY

Bethany Davis - (SLP)
Omaha, NE

     

Debbie DeYoe
Manning, ND

Howard Fenner - (Caregiver)
Lompoc, CA

Ronald F. Fischer
Charlotte, NC

     

Ray Hardy
Glen Mills, PA

Joyce Hidey
Archdale, NC

Jamie Moore-Holmes - (Caregiver)
Elk City, OK

     

Cyrus James Horn
Elk City, OK

Teresita Jaye
Iselin, NJ

Kristin Y. Johnson - (SLP)
Gulfport, MS

     

Dilshad Khan
Bradford West Yorkshire, UK

Sharon A Leger - (Caregiver)
Rome, NY

Tom MCCullough
Earlville, PA

     

Katherine McElroy - (SLP)
Albuquerque, NM

Anibal Mendes
Harrow, Ontario, CAN

Gevena Milbry - (Caregiver)
Trotwood, OH

     

 Clyde Moorer
Trotwood, OH

Michael Mulcahy - (Caregiver)
Dunn, NC

Sarah Mulcahy
Dunn, NC

     

William T. Myers
Perryopolis, PA

Joan Olson
Anchorage, AK

Delbert Perry
Logan, OH

     
Kathleen Phillips - (Caregiver)
Oliver Springs, TX
Kim Poggemoeller - (Caregiver)
Logan, OH
Drew Randall
Monmouth, ME
     
Grumpy Reed
Newfane, NY
Eva Marie Rieck - (SLP)
Troy, OH
Ken Rogers
Coventry, RI
     
Mary Rudarmel - (Caregiver)
McMinnville, OR
William Rudarmel
McMinnville, OR
Jay H. Sayers
Wytheville, VA
     
Robert Scalise
South Charleston, WV
Peter Searls - (Returning Member)
Victoria, AUS
Barb Shults - (Caregiver)
Tunica, MS
     
Lynn Thompson - (Caregiver)
Pocatello, ID
Susanne Weese - (Caregiver)
South Charleston, WV
Sarah West - (SLP)
Cambridge, UK
     
Carl Wilbanks
Pomona, MS
Mary Wilbanks - (Caregiver)
Pomona, MS
Duncan Wishart
Brandon, Manitoba, CAN
     
Lisa Wishart - (Caregiver)
Brandon, Manitoba, CAN
   
     

 

WebWhispers is an Internet based support group. Please check our home page for information about the WebWhispers group, our email lists, membership, or officers.
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The information offered via WebWhispers is not intended as a substitute for professional medical help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition. The statements, comments, and/or opinions expressed in the articles in Whispers on the Web are those of the authors only and are not to be construed as those of the WebWhispers management, its general membership, or this newsletter's editorial staff.
 
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