From outerspace. That's how I feel. It's 2:30 a.m. and I'm jetlagged and suffering from sinusitis. And I'm sad to be back, though that will change. I can't believe I went three weeks without blogging. Must be a record.
Lots happened while I was away:
1. I had a long talk with my mother about what her needs were. She doesn't want to move in with my sister after the stress of looking after my niece's three little girls (my niece apparently had Harry Potteritis before getting gastroenteritis). So I asked her what were the things she didn't want to/couldn't do. She doesn't want to cook, can't clean that easily, doesn't want to be cooped up looking after my stepfather all the time. I spent about 10 minutes going through the yellow pages till I found the appropriate agency that will supply home help. I handed my mother the phone and sat next to her while she made the phone call. The woman came out that day, said they offer cleaning at $10/hour (a bargain), respite care, personal alarms in case people fall (which my stepfather does a lot), and monthly meetings for carers. I suggested Meals on Wheels, but my mother said she'd prefer going to the Seniors Center for lunch as that would give her a bit of a social life. So, when I left she seemed much happier.
2. We went to Montana to visit Little Bighorn (Custer's last stand) and Pompey's Pillar (where William Clark carved his name). Along the way I saw heaven on earth -- the Bighorn Canyon Park. My husband, being the historian he is, always likes to visit these kind of places, and I'm so glad he does. I'll have more to say about this later.
3. On the way back we travelled over the Absaroke Mountains and were literally driving through the clouds at over 10,000 feet. My daughter and I sang all the songs from "Sound of Music" to take my husband's mind off the hairpin turns and to keep my mother from looking down.
4. Then we went through Yellowstone Park. In all the times I've been to Yellowstone I've never seen a bear, except when I was 6 and they used to come up to the cars. But we saw one this time. Yep, a black bear. We stayed in the car, unlike the idiots with their cameras. We saw lots of wildlife: yellow-bellied marmots, elk, antelope, deer, eagles, snakes, buffalo. I think it's because we came through a different entrance this time. Lots of Yellowstone is still somewhat barren from all the fires a few years back.
5. Then we went to Florida, which is always a different experience. Florida is my home state and so I have lots of family to visit. My kids love Florida, not only because of the theme parks but also because of the family. Lots of kids, though we saw none of my sister's kids and grandkids (I think we're a bit on the outs because of what happened at my mother's). I met up with some of my former classmates at the beach. That's what I love about Florida -- the beach. I grew up going to the beach most weekends, and I have the skin to prove it. What I find increasingly disturbing is my dad and stepmother's involvement in their extremely rightwing, conservative church. It's beginning to sound like a cult. The girls and women all wear long skirts and shirts with sleeves so they won't tempt men. When they go swimming, they wear baggy shorts and T-shirts. I met their pastor last year. I happened to be wearing (Bermuda) shorts at the time. The man would not look me in the eye and gave me the wimpiest handshake. Creepy! Normally, my kids like to go to church with my dad and stepmother because it means seeing their stepcousins (my stepbrother's kids), but we forgot the long skirt for my daughter and my stepmother made it clear she didn't approve of the way my daughter dressed (and my daughter tries so hard to fit in).
6. We did our annual Busch Gardens trip, but I was suffering from sinusitis by then so wimped out of Sea World. I did manage to go on most of the rides at BG, twice in some cases. And I got my free beer. My husband and the kids loved Sea World, had a great time, etc. We went to a water park one day. Never again. It was filthy and disgusting and probably the reason I'm not well yet.
7. I got to compare the U.S. and U.K. health care systems. I was suffering so badly I had to go to one of those Walk-In Clinics. The dr. and nurses there were very professional, but the first thing they wanted to know was how I was going to pay for the ($98) treatment. Then I went to a pharmacy to fill the prescription for antibiotics. $99!!!!! America, you are being ripped off bigtime by the drug companies. A prescription in the U.K. is £6 something or about $12-$13. A lot of people in the U.K. like to knock the NHS, but it does have its advantages. Compared to the U.K., the U.S. has cheap gas and expensive health care. What does that say?
I must try to sleep now. I'll have more to post later. My fingers are itchy to move around the keyboard some more.