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Archive for November 2019

The Apple Stone podcast feed

November 23rd, 2019 — 11:00am

I have made a podcast feed for my recording of The Apple Stone, a beautiful magical adventure by playwright Nicholas Stuart Gray about 5 siblings and cousins who find a magical golden stone in the middle of an apple. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!

Copy and paste this RSS link into your favorite podcast app:

You can, of course, still access all the chapters individually on this page:

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I have a new bed!

November 18th, 2019 — 8:06am

I was sooooo comfy on the mattress (Serta Perfect Sleeper) in New York that it made me realize how uncomfy I’ve been on my 8-year-old foam mattress. So my wonderful Mom bought me a new mattress! I like a FIRM mattress, so I chose a Serta Perfect Sleeper Trelleburg II Firm, and I got it from who were having some kind of pre-Black Friday sale and threw in an adjustable bed frame!

It arrived last week on Wednesday. A pair of highly competent and professional delivery men brought it in, set it up, and took away my old mattress.


I’m a hot sleeper. My old foam mattress seemed to amplify and hold my body’s heat so I was always rolling around trying to find a cool spot. The Perfect Sleeper line of mattresses has some kind of cooling gel merged into the top layer, so I’m not noticing that problem anymore. Also it is wonderfully firm and non-bouncy and non-cushiony! I fall asleep best on my stomach, and then I roll onto my side or back in the night. It’s comfy all three ways.

And the adjustable bed frame has changed my life. I have trouble breathing at night now even with supplementary oxygen so I’ve had to build mountains of pillows in order to elevate my head, but it’s hard getting the angle just right. My new bed frame has a wired remote that lets me raise the head of the bed to near vertical, or lower it completely flat, and stop anywhere in between. Amazing!

If I know I’ll have an easy time falling asleep on my side, I can leave the elevation a bit higher than if I’m having insomnia and need to lie on my stomach. And of course it delights Em to be able to raise it up and lean against it when it’s iPad Minecraft Time!

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A brand-new ailment

November 14th, 2019 — 7:44pm

Went to the doc today for two reasons.

1) I’ve had a strange red rash on my face for several months; it started around my mouth and has spread all the way to my eyelids. It hurts, itches, and burns; looks raw and red; and has little zitty bumps everywhere.

Doc thinks it’s rosacea — another incurable, chronic, difficult condition to add to my plate. ARGGHHHHHHHHHH.

I’ve had facial flushing for years because of the high-powered vasodilators I’m on for the PAH. Looks like that, plus being a fair-skinned middle-aged woman, is a good enough reason for rosacea to get going.

“Rosacea is a common inflammatory skin disorder that can seriously impair quality of life.”

So now I have an antibiotic ointment: metronidazole. Let’s hope it works, and works fast. This condition is driving me absolutely crazy. I want to claw my face off. I miss my beautiful skin :( :( :(

(The second reason I went to doc is kinda gross. Sorry.)

2) Stomach Issues. My remodulin (for PAH) causes severe diarrhea, so I take tons and tons of Imodium to try to keep things on track. My poor stomach is a battleground. But lately I’ve been feeling just really crummy, like I always feel full, everything I eat makes me bloated and gassy, I feel constipated but then I have diarrhea… etc. Doc says massage my abdomen and skip the Imodium for a few days, then start back up gradually and add Pepto to the mix. So…. I will be in the bathroom 24 hours a day for the next few days I suppose. UGH.

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The Moffat Tunnel

November 13th, 2019 — 4:22pm

There was one moment in my total of, let’s see, ten full days of train-riding that I felt nervous, and that was in the six-mile long Moffat Tunnel in the Colorado Rockies.

We had had some engine trouble in Nebraska, so we borrowed a Union Pacific engine in Denver and chugged along on our merry way. Ok, fine. But then, midway through the Moffat Tunnel, under I don’t know how many thousands of feet of rock in the middle of a goddam mountain, the train slowed… and stopped. For several minutes. There was an announcement telling us not to worry and I didn’t panic but I did have a few uncomfortable moments of wondering how exactly they’d get us out of the tunnel if the engine had died. I knew they’d get us out… but it was the HOW that worried me! Ughhhhhhh tunnels. But then we started back up and everything was fine. *whew*

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Amtrak tips

November 13th, 2019 — 9:02am

Here is a bunch of stuff I have learned on my Amtrak travels. Traveling by train is the only way to travel — if you’re not in any particular hurry and have a few bucks to spare :) No hectic airport, no need to hurry-up-and-wait, no strip-search, no x-rays, no narrow uncomfortable seat in a claustrophobic tin can, no aircraft engine whine, no thin dry air.

These tips should really help you if, like me, you have some disabilities; I have PAH, a heart/lung condition that makes it difficult for me to breathe, so I travel with a small electric oxygen concentrator. I need help getting from place to place if there’s much walking involved.

Two top tips:

1) BE FLEXIBLE: One of my trains ran three hours late; one ran four hours late; one leg of the journey was impassable due to flooded tracks so they put us on a tour bus for a couple hours. (Syracuse to Albany). I was lucky that I had multi-hour layovers in Chicago so I never missed a connection, but it could happen. Amtrak will make sure you get where you’re going eventually, though. :)

2) TEMPERATURE WARNING: trains can vary wildly between freezing cold and boiling hot, so bring enough layers so that you can strip down or bundle up!

My Amtrak history so far: I traveled coach class on the Coast Starlight from Oakland to Portland overnight, and took a sleeper home (roomette). I traveled coach from San Jose to Santa Barbara (Coast Starlight) and then Santa Barbara to San Diego (Pacific Surfliner) and back again. My recent Big Trip was on the California Zephyr from Emeryville to Chicago (two nights in a roomette), then the Lakeshore Limited from Chicago to Rhinecliff NY (one night in a roomette) and back again.

Coach Class:

Coach class is absolutely fine if you aren’t traveling overnight. The seats in coach are wide and comfy. There are two seats on either side of the aisle, and one electrical outlet per seat. There’s no armrest between seats so if you have no seatmate you can curl up or spread out, and the seats are wide enough that even with a seatmate you won’t be squished up against each other. Seats recline, and there’s a ton of leg room. There are plenty of toilets (downstairs, in double-decker trains). You can leave your seat any time and walk through the train. You can explore the observation car, the dining car, the cafe car, the lounge.

There are overhead compartments for small carry-ons, and you can also keep a bigger bag at your feet. Every car has a large luggage rack (downstairs) for any carry-ons that you don’t need at your actual seat. In theory there is a size restriction for carry-ons but I saw people with BIG bags.

Food/drink is bring your own (no restrictions!) or buy it from cafe car or dining car (on long-distance trains). If you’re on a train with a dining car, do try it out! Fresh-cooked food, real chairs and tables, a menu, expensive but tasty food. There are several options for each meal, including always a vegetarian/vegan option. I love the Entree Salad, which has good lettuce, onion, dried cranberries, nuts, grapes, and your choice of dressing. It’s filling as-is but you can also have them add grilled chicken. The Angus Burger, Salmon, and Steak were also delicious meals. Remember to tip your server.

Now, if you’re young and have no sleeping issues, you can sleep in coach class. The seats don’t recline flat but they recline a lot. The whole train has Quiet Hours between 10pm and 7am.

If you have any special needs, coach can be tricky because there isn’t a dedicated attendant to help you wrangle your gear or take care of you.


If you’re traveling overnight and are older, disabled, have sleep issues, and/or need the best quality sleep you can get, book yourself a roomette! This is a tiny room, a bit wider than a wide seat, with two seats facing each other in front of a big window. There’s a sliding door and curtains for privacy from the corridor. The two seats can recline or pull out flat to make one bed and there’s a bunk that folds down above the seats so that two slender friendly people can travel together in one roomette. If you’re traveling alone, your roomette is just for you — no stranger to share with.

Book your tickets with Amtrak over the phone. Their ticket agents are really nice. Make sure you let them know any special needs that you have — I let them know about my oxygen machine, that I need assistance in stations, and that I needed my sleeping car attendant to being me my meals. More about that further down.

Your roomette will have ONE ELECTRICAL OUTLET. One. So if you need to plug in more than one thing, and especially if you’re traveling with a friend, bring a splitter! Roomettes have rudimentary temperature controls, but I found them always to be a choice between cold and very cold OR hot and very hot. Pack your layers! In one much-too-hot room I got washcloths from the shower room, dampened them, and stuffed them into the uncloseable heating vents.

People traveling in sleeping cars are considered First Class Passengers so you will have much more help than the commoners in Coach. Your sleeping car attendant will look after you on your journey and will make sure you have Red Cap assistance at stations if you need it — just ask. Sleeping car people get first dibs for dining car reservations. The sleeping car in a Superliner (double-decker) has toilets and a shower downstairs, and a toilet upstairs. Your attendant will make your bed for you with sheets and blankets and pillows and will fold it all away again in the morning.

Meals are included in your sleeping car ticket which is a HUGE HELP, I mean that’s like $75 a day you’re not spending if you want three hearty meals. (you still need to tip your server, so bring cash)

On my first trip I discovered that I have trouble walking through several train cars to get to the dining car, especially at higher elevations, so when I booked my tickets to NY I asked if my attendant could bring my meals to my room. No problem at all! Johnny (eastbound) and Tony (westbound) brought me all my meals with a smile.

You must tip your sleeping car attendant! The Internet suggests $5 per night per traveler as a minimum. I tipped $20 per day, because I needed extra help and I figured Johnny and Tony deserved the tips I wasn’t giving a waiter.

Chicago’s Union Station is huge and confusing. If you’re in a sleeper, though, they make it easy for you. A Red Cap will take you to the First Class Metropolitan Lounge on a cart. There you can lounge on a sofa, have some coffee, take a shower, or stow your luggage if you have a long layover and want to go exploring. I listened to podcasts and knitted and the time flew. When it’s time to catch your next train, the loudspeaker will tell you where to stand so a Red Cap and cart can take you to your platform. Easy, and almost no walking for me!

There are several different types of trains depending on route. The longest routes have the nicest trains, the best seats, real dining cars, showers, etc. The Coast Starlight and the California Zephyr were super-nice double-decker Superliners.

The Pacific Surfliner is a shorter-distance train, so no sleeper, no dining car, SLIGHTLY less cushy seats (still super comfy). Double-decker, so if you have trouble with stairs be sure to book over the phone and ask for a downstairs seat, which are reserved for the elderly and disabled.

The Lakeshore Limited (Viewliner type) is an overnight train so it has sleepers but no proper dining car with a chef — meals are pleasant but microwaved. It’s a single-decker train. And, oddly, there is a toilet and sink in each roomette. I don’t know if there are showers.

I might think of more to add to this post later, but I will now take questions from the class. :)

Question from Susan: Is there wifi 100% of the time?

NO. There is wifi 0% of the time! (The Surfliner offered onboard wifi but it was a crummy unsecured network… no thanks.) The long distance trains offered no wifi, and there were hours on end without even any cell service! It was delightful how much of the route was through the middle of nowhere, scenery-wise, but yeah, that means no cell service. Take your knitting and download your audiobooks ahead of time!

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I’m home!

November 11th, 2019 — 7:20am

I’m home from my big adventure. The homeward journey was uneventful and pleasant. Tony, my sleeping car attendant, took good care of me, I ate well, I slept well, I watched America roll by. Wonderful. I’m sorting and uploading photos now so I should have a good big Photo Post one day soon, and I’m also planning a big post of tips for traveling by Amtrak!

Now I’ll fill you in on the wonderfulness of my stay in New York.

Not only did I get to spend a day with my cousin Jon, but my dear Aunt Susan and Uncle Jack invited my sister Kathy (who lives in Kentucky) and my brother Ken (who lives in NYC) to come visit me too!

Jon went home Sunday morning, and then Kathy arrived on Sunday night (after a bit of a kerfluffle over an expired drivers’ license at the rent-a-car place led to a very long Uber ride) I hadn’t seen her in years, maybe not since Dad died in 2005. We sat in cozy companionship and knitted socks and talked about our bizarre childhoods — and then Monday afternoon Ken arrived on the bus from NYC! I hadn’t seen him since 2005 either. It was the most amazing treat to get to sit quietly with the two of them and catch up and just be together. They have always been the best elder siblings in the whole wide world (8 and 10 years older than me). Kathy left on Tuesday morning and Ken left Tuesday evening, and then I started my return journey on Wednesday afternoon.

In the evenings when Jack and Susan were home, we ate the wonderful dinners that Jack cooked and watched Jeopardy with Susan (it’s her martini). I introduced everyone to Only Connect, a super-nerdy, fiendishly difficult BBC quiz show which we Americans can watch on youtube thanks to youtube user Wheelsongenius who uploads every episode after it airs! I don’t know why the BBC lets her do this but I’m so grateful.

Things I want to remember: Susan’s stories: the couch, the rotting piano, Jon’s birth. Susan and friend having a cello and clarinet rehearsal on Sunday morning. Jack being his wonderful calm, creative, interesting self. Enthusing about Bach with Jon. Sheep may Safely Graze — worst earworm ever. The salmon that Jack cooked perfectly. “That’s not tea, it’s lasagna” (Kathy) The trickling toilet, which I helpfully reminded everyone to jiggle by removing the top of the tank, which then crashed to the tile floor and broke into smithereens. Sleeping on the world’s most comfortable mattress (Serta Perfect Sleeper) in Chloe’s old room. The minor flood caused by a very enthusiastic humidifier. Hating and loving people on Survivor with Susan and doing The Puz with her! Remembering childhood freedom-filled summers with Jon playing in the dirt, the croquet-ball track, the algae-filled swimming pool, Archie comics, our audiotape of made-up commercials (Jon! If you really still have it please digitize it!) The gratifying compliment that my siblings and I are easy, low-impact, non-demanding houseguests :)

Special thanks to my dear mom for making this dream vacation possible for me <3 <3 <3

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On the way home

November 8th, 2019 — 8:33am

Oh lordy I had a wonderful time in New York. On Sunday Jon went home and then in the evening my sister Kathy arrived from KY and then on Monday my brother Ken rode the bus up from NYC! So we siblings spent a couple of quiet days together, knitting and talking and not-talking. It was so peaceful and comfy and perfect.

Wednesday evening Jack took me to the train station and I started my return journey, on the Lakeshore Limited #49 overnight train to Chicago, arriving Thursday morning, where I spent a few pleasant hours in the 1st class Metropolitan Lounge, and then my California Zephyr #5 left in the afternoon.

This morning (Friday) I woke up in Nebraska, and now we’re in Colorado and I can see The Rockies coming up!

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A great day

November 2nd, 2019 — 8:18pm

I had the best day. Lots of time just hanging out with Susan and Jack, some alone time while they ran errands, crossword puzzles, Susan’s stories (The Couch!). Best of all my favorite boy cousin, Jon, rode the bus three hours from The City just to visit me!! He’s three years older than me. We spent five summers together as kids, running wild on a mountain with almost no adult supervision, playing in the dirt, swimming, being hooligans. We haven’t seen each other in years, 25? 30? but it was like no time had passed.

We chatted a bit and sat quietly for a bit. Susan and I worked on the NY Times puzzle and Jack made us the most delicious dinner of perfect salmon, baked potatoes, and roasted veggies.

I’m in heaven.

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New York, I am in you!

November 2nd, 2019 — 5:30am

Thursday evening we got to Chicago three hours late, but there was still plenty of time to catch my connecting train. Chicago Union Station is immense and confusing, but I got through it ok, with help :)

Got on the Lakeshore Limited at 9:30pm and asked my attendant to make my bed right away, and went to sleep. The Lakeshore Limited is a single-decker train (Viewliner), and the roomettes are a bit different than the ones on the double-decker California Zephyr (Superliner). Two main differences: there are plenty of temperature controls in the Viewliner roomette, both for warm and cold air, so you can get the temperature just right. Also, and this is so odd, there is a little toilet and sink right in each roomette. They fold away nicely, and it’s convenient not to need to leave your roomette at all… but it takes some getting used to!

Northern New York was hit by a huge rainstorm the night before we got there and a section of track between Syracuse and Albany was was impassable, so at Syracuse they put us all on busses (we first-class people got a really nice comfy tour bus), and a couple hours later we got back on a train at Albany. It was a bit hectic, but not too bad. I knew they’d make sure I got where I was going.

Arrived in Rhinecliff around 6 and my Uncle Jack was there to pick me up! Now I’m in a beautiful little house in the middle of the woods, just chilling with Jack and Susan. More later…

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