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Winter Park

Musings: A Big Lemon!

Almost three years ago I wrote a posting titled Musings- Life And Lemons.  About a month ago, life served me a big lemon.  I should be used to lemons by now, you’d think.  I mean life is a big  mixture of lemons and strawberries – or bananas, or mangos, or whatever other fruit is your current sweet-flavored favorite.  But somehow, I guess, there’s a subconscious part of me that thinks I should be exempt from lemons, despite the fact that they keep appearing on my plate, and so they tend to side-swipe me when they happen.

So what’s the latest and greatest in the lemon orchard you’re wondering. It may or may not help to understand why I think this latest event on the road that is my life is a lemon, a big lemon.  I’m sixty-eight years old.  So, OK, technically I was only sixty-seven when this lemon appeared on my radar.  But that’s another reason it was a big lemon – it messed up my birthday!!

On Friday 27 April, I headed down to Winter Park to participate in the last-but-one class of the second year of my Audire course. Ruth, my friend who has just completed her third and final year of Audire, drove us down in her truck/van/SUV (not sure which label fits her vehicle; suffice to say it’s big enough and strong enough to haul a good sized trailer).  We always go down on the Friday night before class so we can get a good night’s sleep and avoid having to get on the road at o’dark thirty to be at San Pedro retreat center by 8.30am on Saturday morning.

As always, I met up with my dear friend Bickley to enjoy a superb dinner.  The dinners with Bickley are always wonderful because we choose a different ethnic restaurant each month so that we can delight our palates.  She and I are food aficionados and most of her other local friends are “plain-American-fare” eaters, so she doesn’t get to indulge her more exotic taste buds very often.  We had a great Cuban meal that Friday evening and enjoyed even more wonderful friendship time as we caught up with each other since the previous month – which had actually been two months because of the strange class schedule we had this year. 

After dinner, Bickley dropped me back to San Pedro and I settled in for the night.  Before getting ready for bed, I called my husband, Richard, to tell him about my enjoyable evening with Bickley and to say goodnight.  Everything normal so far; not even the hint of a lemon.  I prepared myself for the night and got into bed and, out of nowhere, I started experiencing some serious abdominal pains.  My immediate thought was “oh no, food poisoning!”.  I got out of bed and made a mint tea (good for digestion) and made sure I had a large container of water beside the bed.  The pains continued and I resigned myself to “waiting it out”, flushing my system with the tea and lots of water.

By midnight I was worried.  The pain hadn’t eased up so I called Ruth who was in the room next to mine.  I could tell that she had been deep in sleep.  What I couldn’t know was this was the first night she had been able to get to sleep fairly early after two very stress-filled weeks and lots of disturbed nights.  I explained what was going on and asked her if she thought I should “call someone”.  Ruth sleepily agreed that it sounded like food poisoning and said that there wouldn’t be anything anyone could do and that I would just have to wait for it to “go through my system”.  She did however suggest that I lie down quietly and gently massage my tummy and think happy thoughtsSmile.

At 3am I was a little mentally hysterical.  It occurred to me that the pain hadn’t diminished and it had not even begun to “move through my system”.  It was a steady low-burning pain in both my upper and lower abdomen and there wasn’t a single sign of a rumble, a gurgle, a grumble anywhere in my intestines.  It was at this point that I made a decision to call 911 and get help.  I called Ruth and let her know and she said to open my door so she and the paramedics could get in.

At this point I will make a long story short.  A shot of morphine, a 4-mile ambulance drive, a three-hour ER stay, and one cat scan later, the ER doctor informed me that I had an acutely inflamed appendix.  Now I ask you, isn’t appendicitis a “kid thing”?  Or at very least, a “teen thing”?  When was the last time you heard of a sixty-seven year old having acute appendicitis?  So what was I to do?  “That can’t be”, I firmly told the ER doctor.  (Fortunately my husband hadn’t quite arrived at the hospital by then so was spared the embarrassment of that moment.)  Hopefully the ER doctor made allowances for the fact that I was under the influence of morphine.

So at about 2pm on Saturday 28 April 2012, I was surgically separated from my appendix. As I waited for surgery, I remember feeling irritated that I was missing class, especially as it was a class that I had been particularly looking forward to.  I also remember being frustrated because our next class was in just two weeks and I had to prepare an end-of-year integration paper as well as other homework and I wasn’t going to be in the best of shape for the next few weeks.  I found myself thinking that it was my birthday in a few days and how was I supposed to celebrate if my head was still full of anesthetic and narcotic pain-killers, and my body was still weak from the whole surgery thing.  This was a very bitter lemon indeed.

Thank God I got out of that kind of thinking pretty quickly!  I cannot remember if I got there myself or if it was Richard who spoke it into reality, but I do remember at some point being grateful that the acute appendectomy was happening now and not closer to our trip to Italy at the end of June; even more grateful that it didn’t happen during that trip!  I remember suddenly being grateful that I was being taken care of and receiving good medical attention (the staff at Memorial Hospital, Winter Park, FL were all wonderful!).  And I remember also feeling grateful that I had decent medical insurance that covered this care. I got to making lemonade fairly quickly, especially once I got my pain meds!

I went home just a little over twenty four hours after being taken to OR, thanks to the wonders of laparoscopic surgery, and I experienced gratitude on a whole other level.  I was truly grateful that Richard is retired now and is always at home (didn’t think I would be saying that so very sincerely!), and for the very intimate and personal care that he gave me as I made my recovery from this whole event.  I was grateful for all the prayers and cards that friends sent my way and the telephone calls that showed how much they cared. 

Another lesson in gratitude learned.  Another lesson in being flexible and to expect the unexpected.  I got my integration paper done in time despite having a befuddled brain for a few weeks (anesthetic can really mess you up mentally as well as take your knees out from under you physically), and I was well enough to attend my class two weeks later.  My birthday celebration was low-key and a little delayed but it was still a celebration.  In fact it was more of a celebration (internally at least) because I was still around to celebrate.  So, even though I’m a slow learner, I am still teachable and I am learning to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

Freedom: Also a Loss

Last Saturday I completed my last class of the first year of my Audire course on spiritual direction.  So, yeah – I have some freedom; no homework and no going down to Winter Park each month for class.  But, boo-hoo – no more interaction with my very special Audire family until September.  Actually, even though we have finished class for the year, we will be getting together in June for an end-of-year silent retreatSmile.

So, what will I be doing with myself for the next three months?  Well I have about two and a half month’s worth of writing to catch up on.  Between school and travelling and dealing with some chronic left hip pain, I have not done much writing at all.  Travelling is always very wonderful but then it comes at a price:  the trying-to-catch-up-with-life price.  What can I say about pain?  For me it is the sheer loss of energy that I put into dealing with the pain that is almost worse than the pain itself.  Thank God I have received some special healing, which is something else I have to write about.

There is much I need to write about, starting with an amazing Healing Prayer Mission at our church back in February.  Then I had another amazing experience in Sedona that confirmed/piggy-backed on the Mission experience.  And then there was my Qigong experience in Orlando at the end of April.  During this event, the Qi-Revolution, I received yet another confirmation of my Mission experience and also found the “missing piece”, or rather I was re-presented with the missing piece for my health – perhaps a couple of missing PiecesSmile.

So I hope I have given you enough “teasers” to keep you excited as I formulate my thoughts and get the words down on paper.  Actually, on the computer!  Back soon!

Musings: Eating In And Around Orlando

So here I am, back in my sanctuary.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue.  The birds are swooping back and forth to the feeders in my yard, and Mokka the cat lies lazily in the warmth of this November sun.  My heart is content and my soul feels peaceful.  I am “home”.

Our week away was lovely, even though we had a few stressful issues that came up.  In the bigger scheme of things they were very “high class” problems that were simply irritating but were really no more than infinitesimal blips on the radar of that particular week-long screen in our lives.  The sort of thing that was only as irritating as the amount of energy that we gave it, and we didn’t.

And beyond that were the joys we experienced.  A whole week just to ourselves.  No work issues or other people’s issues intruding on our time.  A time to be “lazy”.  A time to wake up and decide, with no hurry, what we wanted to make of the day.  We did “plan” a couple of things in advance but we also had the luxury of being able to change our minds and do something else – which we did once or twice.

I know I’ve already mentioned in previous postings that I really enjoy food.  Well I had the opportunity to indulge at various restaurants in the Orlando area.  Last year we enjoyed Bahama Breeze so much that we decided to return and we were not disappointed.  It’s an eatery that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area.  From the name you can guess that it offers a Caribbean flavored cuisine, and the menu is extensive and very mouth watering.

I love Indian food.  I had researched for a good Indian restaurant in the Orlando area and came up with the New Punjab Indian Restaurant on International Drive.  It had appeared as a recommended restaurant on several sites, and one in particular had described it as “quaint and unusual”.  On our various excursions out we had located what we thought was the Punjab place and so picked our night for Indian cuisine and went there.

As we walked from the car to the restaurant door I looked up and saw the name “Taj Punjab”.  A small warning bell rang in the back of my head but I couldn’t tie it to anything.  When we walked in the door I remember feeling disappointed and thinking, “hmmm, this doesn’t look either quaint or unusual, more like a regular diner or cafe”.  But the hostess was already upon us with a charming smile and asking “table for two?”.

I have nothing detrimental to say about the food or the service.  It was just “okay”.  Coming from London, where the best Indian restaurants outside of India can be found, I have a pretty high standard for Indian food.  This did not reach it.  The service was adequate and I did enjoy the Indian flavors and spices, but I knew that I was not “in joy”.  Imagine our frustration when we left the restaurant and discovered the New Punjab Indian Restaurant literally just around the corner.  Ah well, next year.

We had another excellent eating experience in the town of Winter Park.  I need to explain that this is what I choose to label an “elite” town.  It is classy, without appearing to be snobbish – although a few hours visit is probably not sufficient to determine that.  The main drag is pretty, quaint, and full of boutiques and some very interesting shops.  Here and there are small alley ways that open out onto minute courtyards with fountains and wrought iron and potted plants – very European.

A restaurant called Orchid Thai Cuisine caught our eye.  Richard is rather partial to a good Pad Thai and I’m always up for ethnic food of any variety.  This has to be a family run restaurant because our server (the only one,  and I’m sorry but her name eludes me) mentioned that her Mom made the ice-cream.  The service was excellent, the presentation of the dishes was superb, and the food was really delicious.  They also had the best Jasmine Green Tea that I have ever tasted, and I was so effusive about it that our sweet server gave me a few bags to take home:-).

The dinner that we had on our last evening was one that my husband had been promising me ever since we first visited Kentucky back in 1986!!  At that time he talked about going for a meal to Benihana’s Japanese Steakhouse, but we never made it.  Since then we have been back to Kentucky about seven or eight times but I never got my Benihana meal.

Well, as luck would have it, there was a Benihana’s located about a quarter of a mile from our vacation resort.  So Rich was finally able to fulfill his promise.  Over the last twenty six years of our relationship we have been to a couple of different Japanese steakhouses and have always enjoyed the experience.  Benihana’s didn’t change that.  The food was excellent as was the service and, of course, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the talented chef cook our food to perfection before our eyes.

However, I think the “eating experience” of the week was our Thanksgiving lunch at the Caribe Royale Hotel Resort.  This is the third year running that we have enjoyed Thanksgiving with them.  They prepare a truly world class supreme buffet that has something for everyone. Just to walk around, which I do so that, 1) I can look at everything, 2) decide what I will chose and what I will not, is a feast for the eyes.  The colors and presentations are superb.

There are huge platters of cheeses, fresh fruit, roasted vegetables, crackers, cold cuts, pates, and Mediterranean hors d’oevres accompanied by baskets of every kind of bread imaginable.  And that’s just the appetizer tables!!  Then there are more platters and fountains of seafood prepared in many ways from simply steamed to elaborately mixed with noodles or rice. And alongside these dishes are more platters with Sushi and vegetables and pasta salads of every kind.

This year I really paced myself and also made some very specific choices about what I wanted to eat so that I wouldn’t fill up in the first few minutes.  So, having eaten my fill from the previously mentioned dishes, I was then ready for the main course.  Yes, there was still the main course area to visit!  For those who wanted it there was soup available, then came the traditional choices of stuffing, a vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, marshmallowed yams, fillet of sole, smoked pork loin, turkey and wonderful roast beef.  Nothing was simple; everything had a specific flavor or sauce.  Absolutely divine!

And then there was dessert.  Four or five tables full of dessert.  Delectable cakes from Strawberry Shortcake to Spice to rich Chocolate Ganache to delightfully light Tiramisu.  Richard found some wonderful  sugar cookies that had an unusual caramel center and were drizzled with a white glaze. And of course their signature champagne flutes filled with a mousse and cream concoction rounded out the choices.   

I’m sure there are many more really good restaurants in the Orlando area, and as we plan to be there again next year I know that we will get to sample them.  Can you believe I’ve written such a long posting about food?  Well, if you know me well, you probably can.  Buon appetito!!