Monday, September 21, 2009

Hi everyone -
Just an upfront warning - this is a long one as we have a couple of weeks to cover and lots of events in our lives.

First - the future
Ted's "graduation" date from Marion Joy's outpatient program is scheduled for Friday, October 2nd. Completion of the therapy paves the way for Ted's return to work the following week. He will start out part time in October with the goal of being full time in November. He has made a career decision to move from his long time role of Technology Coordinator (over 10 years) to the Junior Room as a Children's Librarian. We continue to be most grateful to all the support from the library board, administration and staff. You all are the best!

Getting back to work was just one of the goals set by Ted - another was to rejoin the bass section of our Downers Grove First United Methodist Chancel Choir. Though he does not process with the choir, Ted is back in the loft singing as his voice continues to grow stronger.

Ted is becoming a sought after speaker regarding both the experience of having a stroke and the journey back. This week he is speaking to a group of College of Du Page physical therapy students, later this month he will be talking to a student group from Midwest University in connection to the study he did earlier and to our church as part of Laity Sunday. (He's thinking of getting an agent).

As another element of Ted's recovery, he completed his first Acupuncture treatment - quite an accomplishment for someone with a strong aversion to needles. He overcame the fear and made the commitment to treatment based on the number of people who testified to the power of Eastern Medicines and what the treatment did for them - including Jerry and Michele who are fellow stroke recovery patients. Their recovery of fine motor skills is nothing short of miraculous and a convincing argument for giving the therapy a try. We were rather surprised by the discussion over diet as part of the treatment including the requirement to adopt a dairy free meal plan. (Ted is discovering the joys of alternate products including Rice Milk and dairy free "ice cream").

Now to what we have been "up to" lately -

In early September we took a much needed vacation to Baltimore including a cruise to Bermuda. (I think we told you we were planning the trip). Ted had an adventure prior to the trip due to Michelle's expired passport. Luckily Ted caught the fact that the passport was expired and made a trip into Chicago using the Blue Line and cabs to get him where he needed to be to expedite the passport renewal. He was very pleased with this accomplishment - his first "solo" trip into Chicago since the stroke and Michelle was very happy to have the documents needed to leave (and return to) the U.S!

We spent 2 lovely days in Baltimore at the Inner Harbor Residence Inn. It was our first but not our last visit to this beautiful area. We explored the inner harbor area by foot and wheel chair including a daytime visit to the Camden Yard home of the Baltimore Orioles. Though the team was in town we did not have time to go to a game but were able to "peek in" to the ballpark. (You can see pictures of the stadium and the rest of the trip on Ted's face book page). Our bargain of the trip was the Giapetto Entertainment Museum, also in Camden Yard. On game days the admission is only $1.00! We had such a good time we would have paid full price! The main focus of the museum is the history of cartoons and animation with exhibits arranged by decade. Included are a room dedicated to those comic books that we gave away / sold at garage sales after we "outgrew" them, Howdy Doodey, the Beatles and a lot of Disney posters and animation cells.

The experience was made complete with lovely meals at local seafood restaurants. We experienced our first steamed crab fest courtesy of our good friends Apichart and Trish Chalungsooth and their sons Sam and Sean. Since cracking crabs is a two-handed endeavor, Ted had to "settle" for being fed peel and eat shrimp and steamed crab by Trish and Michelle. As a late birthday treat / early anniversary event we treated ourselves to a special dining experience at "Charleston" (check out their website at for sample menus). Though it is rather an understatement of Charleston's service and cuisine, the closest we can come to describing our evening is to say that Disney emulates the experience in their Victoria and Albert's restaurant at the Grand Floridian. Charleston is multiple course gourmet dining at it's finest (at least in our experience).

Though we were reluctant to leave Charleston after only 2 days, we were excited to move on to the next part of our vacation - our Junior Suite (an upgrade courtesy of a great travel agent and platinum status with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) for a 5 day cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas. Transfer, in spite of transporting the folding wheelchair and too much luggage, was made much easier courtesy of the terrific people at the Residence Inn and Apollo Transport service and the RCCL staff. Though you never want to need a wheel chair, using one certainly gets you to the front of a lot of lines (without asking!).

On board ship we were able to stow the wheelchair (except for one rough day coming home) and enjoy the grandeur of the Grandeur of the Seas. Our cabin steward, Alfonso, catered to Ted's every need including a bench for the shower and extra pillows for his left arm. The ship's personnel were very courteous in allowing us to remain inside in a comfortable lounge during the required mustering drill. Nice!

Our days at sea were filled with morning and afternoon trivia contests (we won some and lost some - it's amazing in name that tune how similar ALL 70's disco songs can sound!) and reading on our lovely balcony. Didn't make it into the pool though had some nice naps and reading time in the adult solarium and out on deck.

Evenings on the ship were devoted to lovely dinners followed by shows in the Palladium Theater or South Pacific Lounge. Our dining table for 8 was expanded to 10 due to a happy "error" by the cruise line seating 2 extra persons at our table. Lucky for us that Julie and Shelly liked our table group so much they decided to stay! Conversations were varied among Julie, Shelly, Jim & A.C., Scott & Kari and Mike & Paula (who we at first thought was Twala thanks to Mike's rather pronounced Long Island accent). Our waiter Ercan made sure we were all well supplied with lovely food including sufficient chocolate supplies. Between Ercan and our head waiter cutting up his food, Ted was easily able to manage prime rib, lobster, etc. including chocolate donuts for breakfast!

After dinner we enjoyed the ship's production and comedy shows - in particular the "adult" comedy late shows. Though each of the comics got a bit "blue" at the late shows we were more amused by their comedy around word play - including the creation of verbs out of nouns. In particular - the creation, in the Nancy Sinatra hit "These boots are made for walkin", of the verb "truthin' ". ("You been lyin' when you shoulda been truthin' ") After the show we shared our favorite example with him - Karen Carpenter's "Merry Christmas Darling" and the line "I'm Christmasing with you". Stay tuned on your next cruise - you may just hear that line in a show somewhere!

We spent two days in our only port, Bermuda. On the first day we used the free shuttle to take us around the Royal Dockyards and to the Maritime Museum. Lovely area and museum but we should have taken the wheelchair. Between the distance and the heat we both got a bit overtired and were very grateful to a cab driver kind enough to take us back to the ship (for no charge!) On the second day we went back to the Royal Dockyards (this time WITH the wheelchair) for a bit more exploration and some souvenir shopping. (We decided this was not the trip to do the adventure kayaking or snorkeling excursions!) We bought an early anniversary present to our selves - a limited edition print from a lovely local artist who paints scenes of the islands and their people. We fell in love with her painting of sailboats in commemoration of the 100th (I think) anniversary of Bermuda. (Ted will be posting a picture on his face book page soon). Ted did some solo shopping (looking for an anniversary gift for Michelle) while Michelle wandered around the dockyards trying her hand at some artistic photos of the old fortifications and the ship from across the bay.

All too soon we were docked back in Baltimore then headed back home to Chicago. As always with our cruises, too short, but a wonderful vacation full of wonderful experiences, memories and new friends.

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