Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some Shocking News....

Eldy has been feeling really really tired lately....although he's been playing golf two to three times a week, the rest of the time he's been feeling exhausted. He's been taking way too many naps in his recliner lately. He's also had a few episodes of major heartburn, a little bit of chest pain. (Sparky told him to get it checked out but he didn't feel it was serious enough and the times that he had it were very few and far between up till now). His cholesterol is very good, there is nothing elevated there. But we noticed in the last six months in addition to his fatigue levels, that his blood pressure had been climbing a little bit. He has been complaining of shortness of breath off and on over the last two years. He has had yearly checkups but nothing stood out as alarming to doctors that he saw. He always attributed that to "white coat syndrome" because he gets nervous when visiting the doctor. He went to his family doctor, and after looking at different possibilities--dehydration and a few other things, his family doctor suggested that he see a cardiologist.  He was given blood pressure medicine to help regulate the pressure for the time being. Heart disease runs majorly in his family. One brother had six bypasses, and two heart attacks after that, a sister had a stent put in. There definitely seems to be a structural heart disease genetic component in Eldy's family.

There are several different types of stress tests. Many people are familiar with the treadmill/exercise stress test. Depending on your age and physical fitness, the doctors can do different types. The doctor did not do the treadmill one, but one of the others instead for Eldy.
  • Dobutamine or Adenosine Stress Test: This test is used in people who are unable to exercise. A drug is given to make the heart respond as if the person were exercising. This way the doctor can still determine how the heart responds to stress, but no exercise is required.
  • Stress echocardiogram: An echocardiogram (often called "echo") is a graphic outline of the heart's movement. A stress echo can accurately visualize the motion of the heart's walls and pumping action when the heart is stressed; it may reveal a lack of blood flow that isn't always apparent on other heart tests.
  • Nuclear stress test: This test helps to determine which parts of the heart are healthy and function normally and which are not. A small amount of radioactive substance is injected into the patient. Then the doctor uses a special camera to identify the rays emitted from the substance within the body; this produces clear pictures of the heart tissue on a monitor. These pictures are done both at rest and after exercise. Using this technique, areas of the heart that have a decreased blood supply can be detected.
The doctor found an abnormality in one of his chambers. The doctor said he couldn't tell from the test whether it was major or minor, it was somewhat hidden. He said that sometimes medication could take care of it or sometimes it necessitates surgery, so he scheduled an angioplasty this past week to get a better idea of what we were looking at. We were expecting a stent possibility, a minor blockage, something like that.

After the angioplasty, the doctor told Eldy he had blockages all over the place. He said that Eldy was looking at SIX bypasses. We were shocked! The surprising part of all this is that they did NOT put him in the hospital immediately, but that a couple of days have gone by since we found this out. We are thinking that although six bypasses is severe, that perhaps the degree of blockages are not severe enough to warrant immediate hospitalization. The report is currently being sent to the surgeon and on Monday, we should be hearing when the surgery is going to take place. It should be sometime this coming week....

Before anybody says that Eldy should be in the hospital NOW and not waiting, (which is the hard part), know that this area has many, many qualified cardiologists and surgeons. If the cardiologist felt that it was not necessary for him to be admitted immediately, we trusted that decision. The cardiologist has excellent credentials. What we didn't realize is that the cardiologist does not perform open heart surgery. It will be done by a cardiothoracic surgeon. The open heart surgery is going to happen this week so we know that he's going to be well taken care of and soon. He is resting and taking it easy till that happens.

If anybody has experience with bypass surgery and what recovery is like, we'd be grateful to hear. We're just not sure how much assistance will be needed at home. We're sure we will be much better informed after hearing from the surgeon's office on Monday. Sparky will do her best to be a good Nurse Sparks.

We will keep everybody informed as to his progress and recovery.....Thanks for still being here to read us!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Terrific Visit to Houston

A short, catch up blog today....Sparky went to Houston over the holidays to visit her youngest daughter and her little grandson, who's now 3 1/2.  It was a busy time but we managed to cram a lot of things into our visit...

We went to the Houston zoo, a really beautiful zoo, which is nicely laid out and saw elephants tussling with their tusks, and rhinos pushing and shoving each other....among many other wonderful exhibits. there's a marvelous children's section where kids can explore and play and have a great time. For more about the Houston Zoo, see here....http://www.houstonzoo.org

Sparky babysit her little grandson while her daughter went to work and participated in wrestling matches and tussling contests. Barron accidentally head butted Sparky one day and she heard a loud CRACK! And it wasn't her glasses that broke! We're not sure, but think there was a possibility of a slight fracture. Sparky iced it immediately, but it remained swollen and sore for several days....Three weeks later, and it's still a little tender....

We had fun making faces with each other...Barron would say, "GRANDMA!" as in "LOOK!" and he'd make a funny face.

Sparky would try to outdo him with an even crazier expression and he would erupt in peals of laughter. Every night he would ask Grandma to read him a story and tuck him in, quietly talking a little bit before going to sleep. We had some amazing conversations. He had five dinosaur silhouettes on his wall, and Grandma called them out one by one, "Oh, I see you have a Tyranosaurus Rex, a triceratops, a pterodactyl, a stegosaurus...." making conversation. But she accidentally got one out of order. HE says, "Actually, it's a...." and proceeds to name all five of them with their full scientific names IN ORDER. All righty, then...this kiddo is going to be a mover and a shaker some day! At least, that's what we hope for our grandchildren, and for them to be happy and healthy, too...Kerry is doing a great job of taking care of him and nurturing him to his fullest potential. He's almost ready to read, his daycare says!

We went to see a great kids' movie called The Good Dinosaur, by Pixar and put out by Disney. Sparky just loves Pixar movies... It was very good but a little on the scary side at times for a three year old. He managed to sit through just about entire movie with the help of popcorn, and then sat on Grandma's lap for the last fifteen minutes. Grandma didn't mind that at all....

The days went quickly by...Christmas was over in a heartbeat, and soon it was time for Grandma Sparky to head back home.....  :-(  Thank goodness for technology and being able to stay in touch a lot more easily when there's a lot of distance involved.....Until next time......

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend in the Keys Part 2

We had rented our bikes yesterday, so today we rode around town and checked out a few things..We rode our bikes to the Eco Discovery Center in Key West and explored a bit. There's lots to learn here about the reefs...The center has over 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, and a mock up of Aquarious, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory.  The exhibits show the ecology of the Keys' habitats. You can learn about the seagrass flats, the hard bottom, the coral reef, and deep shelf habitat.  Sparky did not know much about the reefs, as she has never snorkeled nor scuba dived, nor has she lived in a coastal area till now.

There's a theater there, too, where you can watch a short film about the ecosystem of the Florida Keys by Bob Talbot, a famous filmmaker. It was a very beautiful center and very informative. You could easily spend a couple of hours there. AND--it's FREE!
We didn't have much time to stay and learn today, but we'll definitely return on our next visit and soak up more information. Excellent family destination and highly recommended!

We then explored some of the back streets of Key West and found Fort Zachary Taylor Public Beach with the fort nearby. Beautiful public beach, you can get into the park on your bike for 2.50, for cars it was a 4.00 admission. The beach reminded Sparky of Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island...

Lots of shade, lots of picnic benches, trails to walk, yoga classes, it's a beautiful beach area with lots of amenities, even a restaurant that looked nice! We had a cookout there....

Sparky decided we didn't really need paper plates for burgers, how about coffee filters in a pinch? Except she brought salad and dressing which promptly soaked right through. (Silly girl! says E. I tried to tell her maybe we should get some....)

You can even watch cruise ships leaving the Keys right close up and personal in the channel next to the beach! We stayed long enough to watch the sunset....


Our three days passed by way too quickly...Kelly even made time to run a 5K in and around Key West Saturday morning. It was fun getting up early to see her run... The early morning markets hadn't opened up yet.
Kelly and Eldy

Bike riding, the Eco Center, even a little night life....Key West has some WA-A-A-A-Y out there night life....Sparky wishes she had gotten a photo of the 6 1/2ft tall lady, er, guy in drag that almost dragged Eldy off the street and into the bar! Yikes! He couldn't walk fast enough to the opposite side of the street! :-)

We listened to some GREAT music that night at Willie T's....By the way, if you take a pedi cab, which we did just down Duval Street, don't be surprised if one of the drivers drops you off at the same bar we arrived at, which seemed at the time, a random suggestion. Later we figured out, that the pedaling driver actually probably got a tip for dropping us off at that particular bar, as he was wearing a tee shirt from that bar! An astute observation from Sparky's daughter, as Sparky was a little two sheets to the wind by then. :-) Eldo was hanging in there....

What else did we do while in Key West? Sparky ran around after chickens and roosters trying to catch a photo of a beautiful rooster that remained elusive to photographing, Sparky and Sparky, Jr., (that's Kelly, explains E.) climbed the lighthouse, all 88 steps, a small one compared to most, but still beautiful and a great view at the top.

And of course, we biked to the southernmost point on the island. There was a line halfway down the block, so we didn't wait. We did a drive by shoot. (oooohhh, that's bad, frowns E.) First Sparky, then Kelly.....

We heard some great street steel drum music from the reggae "mon"..... :-)
Reggae "Mon"
We watched some dancin' fools have a great time....And if you're there on a Sunday, on Duval Street, a bunch of guys dress up in sundresses just because it's "Sundress Sunday".

We ate at Sloppy Joe's--don't forget the web cam while you are there, go stand in front of the stage, and your friends and family back home can "look you up" on the cam. Wave HI! Then go buy some goofy souvenirs like these painted coconuts.....
Buy a risqué tee....(this one is mild, really...there are FAR FAR worse! )
Try Amigos Tortilla Bar if you crave Mexican food...the corn was AWESOME!

And don't miss, absolutely don't miss eating breakfast at the Blue Heaven, one of the coolest outdoor restaurants we have ever seen...pricey, but amazing atmosphere and excellent food....Tell 'em Sparky and Eldo sent you. :-)

Safe travels....It might be awhile till we meet again and have something to report.....Happy Holidays to you and your family...

Love, Sparky and Eldo     (Jeannie and Eldy)

Thanksgiving in the Keys? Why Not?

Sparky's daughter, Kelly, had the wonderful idea of getting together in the Keys for Thanksgiving this year. She wanted to get out of the cold, Sparky was thinking of getting INTO the cold, but the Keys? That's a no brainer...Keys-- or sleet and possible snow? Even Sparky will take the Keys over a dreary, bleak winter day. :-) Since Kelly is in the military, we were able to stay at a VERY reasonable price of 75.00 a night over the Thanksgiving holiday at the naval air base located there.

Sparky was excited to be on the drive to the Keys. She knew we were going to stop at the Oasis Center in the Everglades on the way down. It's in the Big Cypress National Preserve right on highway 41 heading south..It's always FULL of alligators. (And bear with us, Sparky just HAS to post these multiple photos of gators, explains E.) More to come on our way back home... :-)

There are BIG gators here in the drainage ditch right in front of the center. And, although you are NOT supposed to check out the drainage ditch/swamp Everglades area to the right of the driveway entrance to the Oasis Center, there are ALWAYS more big gators much closer and on about the same viewing plane as they are just beyond the guard rail from the road, Part of the guard rail has additional fencing to keep the gators away from the drive in entrance, but that fencing extends just a couple of yards. After that, a gator could easily come up the bank and right into the road (where Sparky was standing, says an exasperated E.)

Sparky counted TEN big fat gators today, with a ton of egrets and herons eating just beyond them to the right of the Oasis Center and seven inside the observation area of the boardwalk. Gators don't normally eat birds, they prefer something more along the lines of fish, but we have seen them chomp a duck. Sparky spotted this gator with a feather right on his snout, which made her think he had decided to eat a bird lunch today, not long before we got there!

Nice boardwalk and you can see lots of things besides gators...Sparky spotted this green heron below the boardwalk, as she was walking. The tail feathers were GORGEOUS! We hardly ever see this particular type of heron.

And here's a sign of the times.....Sparky finds this drone trend to be disturbing in more ways than one.

Back to our accommodations...The Navy has several locations around Key West, but we stayed in a little mobile home parked in a row of multiple mobile homes in one area of the base called the Trumbo Point. The one we stayed at was spartan but nicely furnished 2 bedroom (double beds), one small bath, with bed linens and all the basics for family living. No patio, no outdoor furniture or grill, but we did just fine.

The roosters woke us up every morning. EVERY morning. Bright and early. :-)

For Thanksgiving Day, our first day there, we had arrived late. We ate at the VFW post, which was advertising Thanksgiving Dinner for 19.95, a bargain in Key West! Kelly is like her mom, sometimes very non traditional...We had the prime rib! Eldo had the advertised special, turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing.

The next day we headed to the bike shop to pick up our rental bikes for the weekend. Nice big coaster style bikes, pedal brakes, no gears, and a basket on the front. You don't see road bikes in Key West. Come to think of it, Sparky doesn't think she saw a road bike there all weekend! You just see big fat tire bikes suitable for biking on crushed rock paths and sandy roads. Everybody is taking their time riding around which was fine with Sparky, as there was LOTS of road traffic. The bike rental places are all over the place but we rented from a bike shop called Sunshine Scooters just across the bridge on N. Roosevelt Road which was just a short drive from our place where we were staying. The rental was very reasonable, 12.00 a day, or 50.00 for a week. They also rent electric cars and scooters as well, natch!

If you want to bike around Key West, that's not a problem, but the bike paths sharing the road with cars seemed to be inconsistent. Sometimes a nice wide marked bike lane was visible, other streets you just shared with cars. It was a very slow pace all around town. If you wanted to be able to do some more serious riding, you'll have to ride elsewhere! Sparky saw a headline on a newspaper stand that said, "Key West #1 in Bike Accidents" or something similar to that which made her a little nervous. But, we rode anyway.... It was fun! Nobody is in a hurry, so that helps. It's the island way.....

And with that, we'll wrap up our visit today and have more for you tomorrow...



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Best Kind of Therapy is Beach Therapy

So they say.....There should be a lot of happy, mentally healthy people living in Florida on the coast, right? Well, that's a topic for another day...There have been a ton of articles in the local newspaper lately about how Florida's mental hospital/clinic funding has been cut and how dangerous the repercussions have become....Scary....

Back to more positive vibes for the day, BEACHY vibes...How about the Siesta Key Crystal Classic sand castle competition last weekend? It was FABULOUS! Not only is Siesta Key one of the top beaches in the nation, but it has AMAZING crystal sand quality, which happens to be a HUGE attraction for sand sculptors. They LOVE Siesta Key Beach and come in each year to build the most amazing ephemeral sculptures which are----(WAIT! says E. You'd better explain what ephemeral means...Not everybody will be on board with that...) Sparky just had to throw out a big word for today...Her vocabulary has been declining a bit since she's been working so much at school with kindergarten and first graders. Not that kindergarten and first graders shouldn't learn big vocabulary words, it's just that Sparky is on a different wavelength when she is in the lower grades. (AHEM! The blog, Sparky, the blog? In case anybody new is reading, Sparky has ADHD, and it seems to have kicked in high gear lately, explains Eldo.)  Ephemeral sculptures last only for a short time, the wind and rain will start eroding the sculptures almost immediately.

The process is really cool to build these....The sculptors get their sand really really wet and pack it down to get rid of air pockets. They use all kinds of cool tools of their own design or from other sources. After they carve, spray, smooth, cut, and define their designs, they spray a solution of water with less than 1% of Elmer's Glue mixed in to keep the surface smooth so there is a tiny bit of protection against the elements and drying. As far as the designs, there is no theme like the Chalk Festival, (see previous post just before this one) the artists just wait for the sand to "speak" to them and look at what they came up with!

And then they hope for good weather...It was a terrific weekend...Not too hot, no rain, light wind...There were about 12 sculptures in a roped off section of the beach. It costs 5.00 to get in to get closeup views of the sculptures, otherwise you can walk around the perimeter and get some pretty good glimpses of the artwork.

Here is the first place winner for 2015.....A cathedral with arms around it. Entitled "Tender Loving Care"...
The detail was amazing!

There were some kind of "out there" sculptures....This one had something to do with the mind....(Looks kinda like the way Sparky's brain operates when she's crafting a bazillion things at once, laughs E.)
And there was a fabulous traditional, well, not really, sand castle.....
Sparky loved the little drip castle trees along the edge....
Here's another view -- you can see another sculpture through the portal arch. There was even a little fire in the castle fireplace at the front entrance.

And Sparky thinks the sculptor might have added a last minute touch(?) in reference to the attack in France as it was unfolding the same weekend as the contest.....

 This one was a little strange....But beautifully done....
Here is another one, the title had something to do with "when I grow up, I wanna be...."
The details were so defined...Sparky wishes she could have seen the sculptors at work to see how they did it and what tools they used. See the detail on the shorts of the large dragon?  But she got there the very last day of the exhibition and the very last half hour due to work.
There was live music, and even an amateur competition ...This person did a wonderful job!

Not only was the Chalk Festival and the Siesta Key Crystal Classic going on on the same weekend, there was the Medieval Renaissance Fair this past weekend also. Sparky might still make it to that. It's the last weekend for it.....Thanks for stopping by today.........


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Amazing Fall Festival....


Every year about the second week in November, there is a big weekend where the Chalk Festival takes place AND the International Siesta Key Sandcastle competition happens on the same weekend. WOW! Sparky's favorite of the two is the Chalk Festival. It used to be held in Sarasota, and the festival leader didn't get the best help from the city as far as support and assistance, so she moved it to the beautiful city of Venice, where it begins at the Venice Airport grounds. It is the ninth year for the festival. Tens of thousands of people show up to see incredible pavement paintings in chalk. Ten dollars to park your car at the airport where the festival begins, then free bus shuttle service to downtown for more artwork.

This year's festival theme was "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry." At the airport, there is an emphasis on the art of 3D which Venice is becoming renowned as far as the largest demonstration of 3D chalk art drawings. The one they did last year, of a shark, held the Guiness Book of World Records for awhile. For these record holding chalk paintings, they used Sherwin Williams paint to preserve the painting. Sparky saw a little girl posing a few minutes before this couple and she was being coached to pretend scream while they took her photo. It costs 5.00 to go up on a viewing platform to get the full effect of the 3D artwork.

And here is this year's 3D attempt at the Guiness Book of World Records....A 22,000 square feet of runway pavement artwork titled "Feast of the Gods".
This year they added some music venues with local and regional bands, and a "senior vertical wall" where senior citizens could do their own chalk graffiti without having to get down on their aging knees. Sparky and Eldo declined to participate in that. :-)

After viewing some cool 3D artwork on a smaller scale.....

Sparky and Eldo hopped on a free luxurious bus shuttle to downtown Venice to see more artwork. The shuttles ran back and forth constantly. It was great not to have to stand and wait for another bus when ready to return. No set schedule, just coming and going as soon as a bunch of people got on the bus.

The street was beautiful....The colors were eye popping. The artists work 12-14 hours days over a period of about three days to create this amazing art.

You can see the grid markings as this painting was being worked on. The artist works from a smaller gridded drawing on paper or tablet, kind of like those "learn to draw anything" art courses from years ago, where some of them used grids. Anybody can copy lines inside a single square and then color them, right? HA!

The artists' talents were amazing!

The artwork goes up and down West Miami Avenue in the heart of Venice....

There were so many wonderful photographic moments....It was hard to pick out the photos for the blog today! Sparky loved looking at the artists' tools of their trade....Oooooohhhh, so many pretty colors!
And this funky chalk holder....with the funky drawing underneath.....
Another shot of an artist close up, Sparky loves the colors from the photo and in his hands compared to the kids' shirts and hands...

Here they are, hard at work....You are right there, just a few feet away, so you can ask questions if you want to...We just watched in awe while they created.

The details of the eyelashes on this one were the conversation of the day from the bystanders...
Most of them wear gloves while they work....And they aren't afraid to get down and get dirty!
Like this gal.....

A fabulous day in downtown Venice today....Sparky leaves you with this particular shot from another angle, it's her most favorite of the day.... Come back soon and see the sandcastle competition, the blog will be back sooner rather than later! :-)   Bye for now......