Cervical Stenosis Surgery

I finally had my surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital for a 2 level fusion for cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal cord in the neck. I will wear a support collar for one month and I am currently in very little pain. I can already feel the numbness abating around my shoulders and hands. Dr. Coufal was the attending neurosurgeon and he had a wonderful support team of all women.

While I was in the hospital recovering after the surgery, I was taken care of by Isabelle, Raquel, Carrie and Jean, all nurses of the utmost talent and compassion for taking care of patients. I found out that Dr. Coufal was the doctor on call when Victor Espinoza was thrown from a horse in training at the Del Mar Race Track. Victor rode California Chrome to wins and American Pharoah to the Triple Crown. My good friend, Dolly, who committed suicide last May took me behind the scenes to photograph him racing and warming up. She knew him well and he returned her familiar shout of “hello” with a hello right back. Dolly was always there to offer support and encouragement to the jockeys and their mounts. She could pick a talented horse out of the pack with great success. She will always be missed but I am comforted to know that she isn’t suffering anymore. Shortly after Dolly had passed away, Victor had sustained a life-threatening injury to C-3 and could very well have become paralyzed if it weren’t for the expertise of Dr. Coufal and the support team at Scripps and not only is he able to walk, he may be able to race once again.

And here I am now back in my awesome ICON 24ft Class C RV. There is a heatwave scorching a good portion of the country and I have the AC on and we are watching Cinderella Man starring Russel Crowe. It is based on a true story about a boxer during the depression that wins the world boxing title as an underdog. Michael had taken the RV in to have a leaky faucet fixed and our TV hooked up properly when I went into surgery. There was a bad connection and we never really have had the use of the TV until now. It isn’t something I like to do very often unless a program is well done and not too violent. I decided to watch this film because I admire Russel Crowe so much and I knew that it had a happy ending.

Our good friend Fred helped Michael pick up the RV and return it while I was in the hospital and even invited Michael and Callie to spend the night at his place. Callie adores Fred and I felt less stressed leaving her when I knew of the arrangement. She and I are so bonded that when we are separated, we both miss one another very much.

So, Callie, Michael and I are doing very well and our daughter is arriving on Monday. What a fun couple of weeks I am going to have while I get well after my surgery with my entire family all together once again.

Escape from the Desert Heat

Michael and I have our RV parked in Encinitas, California so that we can escape from the grueling heat of the desert. We are very fortunate in that this “escape” plan was formulated last summer when the temperature soared to 119 degrees. It is a home away from home and Callie loves living in the RV. She can run free and because the RV Park is fully fenced, there are no coyotes or dogs running around unattended that can harm her. The only problem that she encounters are with very territorial cats, but because she is a diminutive female, and cute as can be, she usually deters conflict and lands on our front step with a resounding thunk. The female cats around here pretty much behave themselves and don’t get into fights like the Tomcats.

Michael has worked hard on our surrounding little plot of land and he has planted jasmine, roses, gardenias, plumeria, camellias, and agapanthus. The trellis went up today and the result is no less than spectacular! When we first arrived, there was just dirt and weeds. Now there is a tropical botanical garden surrounding our little site, and the scent of jasmine and roses fill the air.

Callie has responded well to the prednisone and her asthmatic cough is once again under control. She is healthy and happy and all is good with her. I am waiting for a surgery date on my neck for cervical stenosis and should know soon when I can have it done. Our daughter, Lara, will join us for a couple of weeks while I recover and Callie will very much appreciate that. She loves Lara like a sibling and it will feel like my family is complete once again.

Summer in the Desert

The temperature is steadily rising, but life still abounds in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The birds that consist on a diet of reptile, seeds, and insect, flourish in the summertime. Early morning and dusk are the preferred hunting hours and most animals know to seek shade and retire during the day, people included.

I have been doing a lot of photography lately and appreciate that this form of creativity doesn’t make me too manic. Just a solid haaaaappppy! In the early morning hours, I head down to the pond and photograph dragonflies and damselflies that flit back and forth along the surface of the water. Black Says Phoebes are in hot pursuit of them and it is a free for all feeding frenzy. Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons stalk the shoreline and wade into the water searching for frogs and fish. The pond is teeming with life in spite of the heat. Kestrel’s swoop down from the sky at dizzying speeds and grab lizards sunning themselves contentedly on rocks. It is an eat and be eaten world in the desert, survival of the fittest, and probably because of the inhospitable conditions, (many people leave in the summer and I have the place mostly to myself) I have wildlife in abundance all around me, and the opportunity to record what I see uninterrupted by the impact of humans.

Callie has had another episode of asthma attacks but I took her to the vet in Encinitas and she prescribed oral prednisone. She hates having the pills rammed down her throat and has taken to avoiding me. It is helping though and she hasn’t had a bad coughing spell in days. The secret to ramming a pill down the throat of a cat is to have a towel wrapped tightly around them in a burrito style with the head sticking out so that they don’t claw you. Coating the pill with butter helps make the pill go down easier, and it most certainly helps to have a partner in crime assist you in the process.

We will be heading back to the beach tomorrow or Thursday, and I am waiting for a surgery date for cervical stenosis. It will be a relief to have this done and I am hoping for a positive outcome.

Happy 4th of July to all of my readers. Keep your pets safe during the fireworks display. Dogs in particular panic at the sound of fireworks and many pets are lost during this holiday celebration. Putting dogs in the bathroom with the fan running is a great way to help them feel more comfortable because the white noise drowns out the sound of fireworks exploding.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is probably without a doubt my favorite place to visit. I love that there is still ample wildlife and the RV Park is ideally situated for walking or biking down to the marina. The foghorn is a delight to hear and the sounds of harbor seals barking and seagulls arguing makes me smile. Today I photographed Sea Otters and Snowy Egrets and had a blast. Michael cleaned up the Tracker and the outside of our RV and I cleaned the inside yesterday. We had a BBQ last night and Michael grilled fresh halibut. Callie is getting in a couple of walks a day and there is plenty of sunshine and fresh salty air to go around. We will be leaving for Encinitas on Tuesday.

Returning South

Callie, Michael and I are returning south again after a 6-day stay at Carmel by the River RV Park in Carmel. It was a splurge and quite pricey but the grounds are beautiful and the resort well situated off the beaten path. I was able to do a lot of photography and we biked every day and visited Big Sur one day. There is construction on Highway 1 which backed traffic up for about a 30-minute delay, but there is nothing like the drive along this rugged coastline.

We are staying at Cypress RV Park now in Morro Bay and I highly recommend it. The grounds are clean and the bathrooms immaculate. The owners are friendly and Callie is able to walk around on a leash and check out the other sites. There should be ample opportunity for photographing otters and herons in the bay and I am excited about that.

Believe it or Not

We have finally hit the road again in order to escape the summer heat and have headed up to San Fransisco for a friend’s memorial service. We left Wednesday night and got a late start because we had to change out the tow bar for our Geo Tracker that we pull behind the 24ft Class C Icon. You can’t have a vehicle that is very heavy because the Icon just doesn’t have the strength or guts to pull a regular car, so the Geo it is.

It was close to 10:00 pm and we were on the James Dean Highway about an hour or so from Paso Robles when we decided to get diesel before we ran out. It is always a concern for me because not every gas station serves up diesel fuel. We spotted a sign with a good price and wheeled in to fill up. It was then that we noticed that huge trucks were lined up around the block, all waiting to do the same thing. These trucks use a different fuel than the RV and I had to run into the cashier to find out if the type we could use was sold there. Biofuels won’t work and she told me to go to #25. We were able to zip past at least 50 trucks and pull up to the right tank only to find out that the nozzle was on the wrong side of the tank. There was no way we could get back into line and start all over again, so guess what we did?

You will not believe it, but we actually rolled down both windows and got as close to the nozzle as we possibly could, and then I got out and nursed it upside down and through the two windows and handed it to Michael. We were about an inch short, so Michael handed me back the nozzle and I returned it to the handle and with my guidance, he gingerly crept a little closer by scrapping the hub caps ever so gently along the protective curb and we repeated the process all over again.

Voila, this time it worked, but only barely. Truckers were watching us and laughing and most of them were amused at either our stupidity, ingenuity or our craziness, or all three, we weren’t really sure, and I didn’t give a damn because it was late and I was tired and I was determined to make it a success no matter what. To be honest with you, I actually pulled a little bit on the hose just to stretch it out enough to give Michael enough room to plunge it in.

Once we filled up, he even had to run back into the cashier’s office and get a $2.00 refund because we weren’t able to use up all of the $60.00 worth. You had to pay in cash and in advance before you could use the pump. As we pulled out and gave each other a high five, we passed just as many truckers waiting in line to fill up. It was an amazing sight to behold and I was saddened to see just how desperate these truckers must be to save what money they were going to save. It was the cheapest diesel in town and the busiest by far. You would think that other businesses would get the hint. None of them had lines wrapped around the block…

After another 45 minutes of driving we came to a rest stop and pulled up alongside many of the truckers we had seen at the gas station. Our tiny little RV amongst all the big boys is a sight to see. It was midnight by then and we just put the slider out and climbed into bed relieved to be off the road. I listened to the huge motors idle that never turn off and appreciated the sacrifice truckers make to carry our goods across the United States. It is not an easy life.

Callie loves riding on the dash again and we made it safely to San Fransisco by Thursday early afternoon. It was a long two days of driving and we pulled into the San Fransisco Resort RV Park exhausted and happy to have finally arrived.

Visitors Not Welcome

Callie is about as antisocial as they come when other cats are involved. When we are staying in the RV at the beach, there are many neighborhood felines that wish to visit and make themselves available to her. She will have nothing to do with them though, and if they do come around, Callie hangs out the Do Not Disturb sign. In the safety of the RV, and leaning out the kitchen table window, she will also send a shout out that visitors are not welcome just for good measure! Bodie, the handsome ginger tabby that lives down the street, took a while before he got the hint. He just couldn’t quite believe that a cute thing like her, would not find it in her heart to fall in love with a good looking boy, like him!

A Purrito Burrito Baby

All cats search out a warm place in which to rest if the opportunity arises and Callie is no different than most cats. This morning when we woke up to a cold, dank, marine layer slowly rolling onto shore, I found her curled up in a compact little ball right next to our dinette set. She looked absolutely miserable but was determined to ignore the discomfort just as long as she could be close to us. When I saw how cold she was, I rolled her up into a tight burrito by wrapping her snug and cozy in a blanket with just her head sticking out. It did the trick for a little while; that is until she noticed that Michael was napping on the couch directly in front of her. With cat-like ease and with zero concern whatsoever of being rejected, she quickly sprung into action and jumped down without further ado, or an open invitation for that matter, and made a beeline for his inert body. After circling several times directly on his chest to find just the right spot, Callie plonked herself down with a grateful sigh, and with her bottom and tail twitching spasmodically, she cuddled herself up directly under his nose. He hardly noticed her though and opened his eyes up only briefly before falling right back to sleep again. A warm chest to rest on is far better than being a roasty, toasty, purrito, burrito, baby. Score one for Callie, she sure knows how to get her way.

It’s a Cat’s Life

If you had asked me when I first adopted Callie as a stray that we would be traveling in an RV together and that she would absolutely love it, I would not have believed you. But she took to traveling like a duck to water and we haven’t looked back since. She quickly demanded her rightful place on the dash of the RV while we are out on the road, and her favorite perch after that is the sofa with a big window to look out of. There are many areas that suit her including the dinette bench but she also loves the loft where we sleep above the cab. For some reason, I naively assumed that Callie would be unable to climb up there while we were sleeping, but it didn’t take long for her to figure out how to scramble up the side and quite proudly show off by walking on top of us with a cheery “I am here!” There are so many little nooks and crannies for her to chill out in with view windows to boot, that this is probably her favorite thing to do. It’s a cat’s life for sure!