Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What a Vacation!

I just finished the first vacation I've had in about 15 years!

Let me clarify that statement. I've had the first time of relaxation to spend with my family and friends when it wasn't for a sad occasion. The last few times my family and friends got together was to bury a loved one, visit a loved one who was dying, or to let a loved one see the rest of the family for the last time.

This vacation was an actual vacation - courtesy my generous family. I'm thankful every day, but this Thanksgiving, I felt truly and extra special blessed.

The weather was awesome - not too hot for me because it's what they call "winter" (ha!). My doctor let me take an alternative to my methotrexate just long enough so that I could enjoy the time there and not spend it sick in bed. I'll pay for that, I'm sure, but it was worth it just to have at least a little it of time with the loved ones.

Now... Let me tell ya! No. Let me show you:


First, I had to take a couple of gifts to my oldest brother and his wife. They are first-time grandparents and you know I had to do this...




I spent most of the time in Arizona where my two oldest brothers and one of my nieces lives. Then there was to 2 nights and 3 days I spent in Vegas with one of the brothers and sister-in-law. I hit every black beauty supply store we passed and I made sure to eat at Famous Dave's so that I could have some of that yummy bread pudding they are famous for. Mostly, I just spent time with my family and friends. We laughed a lot, talked and caught up on chit-chat, and... yes, there was drinking involved!

We had an amazing Thanksgiving. We started celebrating the day before because that happens to be the birthday of one of the sis-in-law father. There was preparation for his special day. It involved wine.


Thanksgiving Day was awesome! There were about 30 to 35 of us together in my second oldest brother's house. We fit and we had a lot to be thankful for.

Appetizers and mingling while waiting for the main event

Me with the 2 oldest Conway men <3 td="">

With one of the niece's. My sister would be proud!


These 2... Crazy-fun.


The men getting impatient for the main meal
Annual Turkey Bowl game

Everyone got banged up but had lots of fun

One highlight of the season was going to see the Christmas light display at the Mormon Temple in Mesa. My poor photography skills don't do the show any justice.







The lights were amazing, but my favorite thing to see was the nativity displays in the Visitors' Center. There were displays representing states and nations from all over. Alaska was represented. Yay!



And, of course, Israel.













Most beautiful was the large Christ in the entrance to the Visitors' Center. Just glorious.



The Mormon Temple is large and every part of the grounds was lit up with displays. I loved the reflecting pool but didn't get decent photos.

I spent a couple of really fun day with my second oldest brother. Had so much fun, I didn't get photos of anything but my food. Isn't that the story of my life?




Just look at those rib tips!
 One day, he and I were in a mood for some good music and a couple of drinks. We hit up a place that served catfish so good that I almost hurt myself eating it.


That catfish... You just don't understand!
The fam in Arizona is trying to do a monthly get-together. I missed the family fishing day event. That sounded hilarious since none of the Alaska fam was there to show the Arizona clan how to actually fish! I was there this time for the day at Top Golf. We all suck at golfing but we had a ton of fun trying.

Yeah. He only looks like he knows what he's doing!

Wow. We really do such at this.


When it got time to go to Vegas with the oldest brother and sister-in-law, I was worried I was going to be too worn out. I was tired but really excited. The plan was to see Lionel Richie. That was the plan.

Just as we were in line to board the plane, my brother got the alert from TicketMaster: Concert canceled. Turns out the band members were affected by the fires in California.

We decided to make the best of the Vegas trip and, boy did we.

It was on the plane that I learned how liberal a town Vegas is...

I was thinking, "No WAY!!!"

Yes, way. As soon as we hit the Strip, I could smell that people were taking advantage of the liberalism.

Also learned that the NFR was in town at the same time we'd be. That meant out hotel was going to be full of cowboys. Even the lion was decked out for the festivities.

LOVE it!

First, let me laugh at these two for being bundled up like it was winter in Alaska! It was, at the lowest, maybe 55 degrees! I just shook my head and enjoyed the balmy weather...



 I was such a tourist! I loved all the different themed hotels. New York, New York was so cute. The whole strip was great but would have been more fun without the street hustlers ganging up on you every 5 feet... Thankfully, my brother is 6'3" and can be grim looking, I just walked in his wake.



The M&M store



Sammy Davis Jr's suit was like for a little boy


somewhere in New York, New York

 My one sister-in-law loves the trick pics





 I could not get over how expensive the food was. If my brother had not been paying for everything, I would have starved. The buffets I remembered being around $9.99 were in the $50 range. I kid you not. For the first time in my life, I ate a $25 hamburger. Almost couldn't enjoy it. Ugh.

But let's get to the reason we wanted to be in Vegas. Lionel Richie had canceled and my family has been to Vegas so much that they are jaded with it. They let me choose a show to see. There's a story behind this...

So, my sis-in-law are walking back from spending a little girls-only time in a bar downstairs. As we are walking back to the room to meet my brother, I pass this:



It's the Jabbawockeez storefront in the hotel. I LOVE the Jabbawockeez but have only seen them in videos. I'm a little bit drunk (it only took one drink!) and as I pass the storefront, I see that there are four mannequins instead of the usual two. I pause to think about this and one of the mannequins moves. What??? I move closer and concentrate. He waves. I'm so excited! I'm seeing a couple of the actual Jabbawockeez! I catch up to tell my SIL and she's laughing at me. Another lady passes by and asks if she might be drunk or did she see the mannequin wave to me. It's great. And, guess what? I didn't get a photo...

That decided me about what show to see. Jabbawockeez!

It's Jreamz

There was no filming/photography allowed so my fam didn't get the photo of one of the Wockeez interacting with me right before the show started. I loved that but am SO glad I didn't get pulled in front of the audience like a few people did.

Another thing I loved best about Vegas was watching the dancing waters at the Bellagio. I couldn't get enough. I can't decide which is more moving - the music or the waters. Every time, we walked by, my camera battery was running low. I did get a short clip.

 

So, I didn't miss Lionel Richie that much. I prefer the Jabbawockeez. Loved my couple of days in Vegas but it wore me out.

My family is so funny and sweet. My second oldest brother sent me home with a whole pound of See's candy and a winter coat.


He heard it was 30-some degrees here in Iowa! LOL



 He was worried about me coming back to an Iowa winter!



Sometimes, I want to feel sorry for myself. Times like this remind me of how much I have to be thankful for. I have people who love me and I'm so blessed to be a part of this big, crazy, loving, family of mine. We might be a little nuts, but we know how to put the FUN in dysfunctional.

Peace
--Free

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

**RESOURCES** Chronic Disease Support Groups

Sorry, all. Haven't been posting because my sarc has been raging and keeping me too wiped out to get up and about much. Still pretty exhausted and feeling super cruddy, but wanted to share a couple of helpful resources for those living with chronic diseases. Since I am wiped out and writing this from the bed, I will keep it short.

  • Inspire is a site of groups and communities for people dealing with all kinds of illnesses. Sarcoidosis brought me there, and the people are very supportive.
  • Facebook group, Sarcoidosis UK is awesome. Nice to communicate with people who understand. We share wellness info and commiserate about the lack of awareness in society and the medical profession. Felt weird to join a UK based group, but I'm glad I did. The next 2 groups are also on Facebook:
  • Sarcoidosis Support Group This is the smallest of the 3 groups and it might be a good starting place for newbies.
  • Sarcoidosis Support This one is the largest of the 3 groups. There is a lot of sharing of stories about when and how people found out they had sarc. Helpful on days when you are wondering if you're the only one with certain symptoms.
You all know that I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. The groups are one thing that keep me using it. These groups are helpful mostly because they help me realize I'm not along. That's so important. Now that I have moved to another state and lost my original care team, I feel more alone with this disease. I'm often terrified at the lack of knowledge about sarcoidosis and it's sometimes hard for me to communicate with other people about symptoms. No one wants to feel like a "big baby" or to seem like they are whining. Even with your doctors, you feel like you might be leaning on them too much. At least when I am communicating with other sufferers, I know that they really "get it".

Anyway, I hope that some of you will find these resources helpful. Remember, there are support groups for almost any kind of disease or struggle. Reach out, don't give up, and don't give in. 

Peace
--Free

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Out of Seasonal Sync

It's mid-late October and I'm just amazed by the weather in my new hometown. The evening temps have been in the high 40's while it's gotten up to 60 during midday. For a chick coming down from Alaska, this is just crazy.




I thought this great weather might be a fluke because, well, weather all over the world seems to be fluking out lately.

The other day, one of my neighbors asked when I would be getting a car and if I would be joining the Plow Club. Plow Club? Apparently, there is a guy who comes around to plow the parking lot during the winter. He not only does the plowing, but he cleans off the tenants' cars. And all that service is for a very reasonable price each time. I asked how many times a year the service is needed and was told, "Oh, maybe 3, sometimes 4, times." What??? Back in Alaska, we'd need that dude to just park his plow in the driveway for an every morning clean up.

Of course, I don't want to get too happy about having milder weather. It will be my luck that this is the year everyone will remember as the one when we got freak snowstorms every day.

Like I tell people here, I don't mind winter. I've done over 40 of them in Alaska. What I mind is a never-ending winter. We had 3 seasons in Alaska: Winter, Snow Breakup, Great Summer, End of Summer. Right now, I'm still able to take my trash out in the mornings without the cold making my nose run. Yesterday, I forgot to empty the garbage in the morning and some thrown out food started to smell. I made a midnight run out to the dumpster in my PJs and no jacket. I couldn't believe the mild temps. I actually stood outside for a few minutes to look up at the night sky. Wow.

Now, I haven't been taking many photos lately because I've been a little sick, but here's a shot I got yesterday while out looking for used cars.

That tree was dazzling
 This one is from around a week ago. It's out back of the building where the trash dumpsters are.

Probably taken mid-day

Nevertheless, I did make sure to get a nice winter coat and some boots for the winter. Since the weather will be (hopefully) seasonal and mild, I think I might not get as depressed as I usually do during the winter months. I still have my cheap little SAD light out, just in case!

Peace
--Free

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Candle Love and Candle Hate

I'm taking a break from writing to vent about my recent experiences with some candles I ordered.

First, let me say that I love a good scented candle. I've got a thing about fragrance and scented candles are a cheap therapy for me. No matter how sick or depressed I feel, a nice fragrance can help my mood.

Now here's the thing: candles can be so expensive! I'm not 'fancy' like that. I don't need a candle that, ounce per ounce, costs more than my food for the week. That's a real thing. This one looks gorgeous, but is a 2.5 oz, single wick candle for thirty four dollars. 



Eek, right? I knew this was going to be pricey because the description reads like it's for a rare 'House of Somebody' perfume. It has notes of "black-currant leaves and Bulgarian roses". For that kind of money, it ought to have 'notes of the only flower of its kind'. On the Plus side, it is made in France. Oh, well, that makes all the difference except I'd be paying with Made In the USA dollars that I can't spare. If anyone would just like to send me one of these, though, I wouldn't be mad.

Truth be told, I can't even afford a large sized Yankee Candle candle because they cost almost as much as Frenchy up there!

Just $27.99


Yikes! It's a candle, people! I know it says "Vanilla Cupcake" but you can't actually eat it and, even if you could, that's more than I want to pay for one meal...

So... $30 candles are crazy out of my price range. I don't see myself spending that kind of money on a candle even if I won the Powerball. But I will sometimes spoil myself and go as high as $10 for a large candle. I will and I recently did.

This candle had great reviews on Amazon and I loved the idea of trying a Baby Powder scent.

The product description (obviously written by the Seller) made me oh so hopeful.


 And just in case I had second thoughts, the "highly scented" teaser was reiterated.



As a product reviewer, I like to trust other reviewers because they have (usually) no incentive to exaggerate, right? The reviews stacked up as all positive. One review was even titled "Make your friend weep with joy". I wept all right. I cried over my wasted $10 while I ate tuna and noodles for a week.

After I finished crying, I went back and checked reviews again.

 Oh, by the way, I'm the only 1-star reviewer...

(I won't go back into my whole rant about Amazon tightening up the rules about compensated reviews. I mean, at least I never rated a lousy item as something to weep over. Maybe they ought to crack down on non-comp reviewers...)

So anyway. I basically stuck this candle in my bathroom and only burn it with the door shut just before any company arrives. If I let it burn for about half an hour, it covers the smell of any cleaning products I've used.

Next,going back to my lemon-based scents, I tried this candle:


It smelled exactly as described but, again, they were stingy on fragrance oil. It smells strongest and best if I use it on a warmer so that's what I do. My apartment is small so, after about an hour, you start to notice that something smells delicious. This one also at least comes in a great looking jar that I will be able to reuse later for holding something decorative. Still, it's ten bucks for something that I could only give a 2-star review. Too bad that after that other candle I wasn't more trusting of reviews since more buyers agreed with me on this one about the too-light scent.

I have decided to never buy another candle without knowing the brand. I don't need to. I always have my favorite scent in affordable wax melts.





The smell is heavenly! Also, even though the price for a $10 5-pack of these is right in there with those other candles, this is still the better value. For one thing, the scent is stronger and lasts longer so I only need to use 2 of these in a warmer. They will last at full strength for about 3 days before I have to add another single cube. In winter, I will put the used cubes in a glass jar and set them near a heating vent in the bedroom for a light fragrance. Finally, I will toss the old cubes into the bottom of my trash cans under the trash bag. Yeah, I'm frugal and will get all the juice out of these! Another plus is that, if I don't want to spend ten dollars, I can get 1 pack for two dollars.


You get 5 o these packs for $10 delivered to your door!

I can't even begin to describe how delicious this scent is. When one of my nieces visited Alaska and came in my room, she fell in love with the fragrance. I ran right out and bought her a pack to take back home with her. Now that I live here, I order most of my home goods (including groceries) from Walmart.com and the delivery people always tell me how good my apartment smells. One of the delivery people said they were going to look for the same "candle" the next time they were at the store. They were a little surprised when I told them I can get these at the local Walmart for two bucks.

By the way, I have tried a couple other Scentsationals scents. This is my all-time favorite, of course, and I like one called "Egyptian Cotton" which sets a romantic mood. My niece likes the duo packs from Scentsationals. That's where half the cubes in a pack are of one scent and the other is another compatible scent. Me, I will just stick with my lemons!

By the way, while I love Amazon, I would never buy my Scentsationals there. Walmart has the best prices so..

If any of you know of any other wonderful lemon or lemon-vanilla candles or melts, please let me know. They must be affordable and accessible.

Peace
--Free

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