Monday, September 29, 2014

Why Life is a Highway?

Choosing to have my own blog was an exciting, but fearful, move for me.  I had so many questions about how to begin, how to set it up, will anyone care what I write about, what will I call my blog?  

What name do I give my blog?

My blogger-daughter, Lindsay from Trial by Sapphire, told me long ago that I should be a fashion blogger. Well, I love putting outfits together and I think I'm really great at it, but I just felt there was more to me than trying to look good for work and play.  Then my eldest daughter, Summer, said I should blog about travel, which I love doing!

So I posed that question to my family -- thinking of my personality and how I've lived and am living my life, what song pops up in your head?  We are a musical family, and there are times when we'll break out in song when a sentence in our conversation sounds like a lyric from a song, then we'll start singing the song!  Sometimes we can't finish the song because we're laughing so hard.  It's so hilarious!

Anyway, here are the suggestions given to me by my sweet husband and daughters:

Come Away with Me (Nora Jones)
On the Road Again (Willie Nelson)
Come Fly with Me (Frank Sinatra)
The Long and Winding Road (Beatles)
These Boots Are Made For Walking (Nancy Sinatra)
Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)
Ticket To Ride (Beatles)
Life is a Highway (Rascal Flatts)
Leavin' on a Jet Plane (John Denver)
Proud Mary (Tina Turner)

You can see how the titles reference fashion and travel, and my long life going into my late 50's.  I was quite complimented with their choices, and Life is a Highway was my pick for the name of my blog. I chose this song because it spoke volumes of the past several years of my life.

You know,  I always considered my life charming.  I have a wonderful family, I had jobs that I loved, my children were making me proud, and I was traveling.  It was all great until the devastating news from my internist that I was seriously ill.  My first round of tests proved inconclusive, so I had to repeat the test.  A week later, I'm told that tests were showing that I might have multiple sclerosis but something wasn't quite right, and he wanted to repeat the test.  A week later, the diagnosis is very clear.

I have lupus.

I was beyond devastated.  After making some adjustments in my daily activity, I kind of saw my life a little differently.  When I had the energy, I felt like Superwoman trying to save the day -- go to work, drive the kids to where they needed to be, cook dinner, help with homework, yada yada yada.  But I was doing it faster, like I needed to make up for lost time,  for all the time I had to lay in bed and rest, calling in sick to work when I absolutely couldn't stand on my feet, and I just didn't want to look back on those sickly, horrible times anymore.

Anyway, Life is a Highway is a representation of the life I've lived/am living, and I'm going to follow that road to look for new travel adventures, to find more ways to fight the symptoms of my disease, to find and share ways to de-stress, and how to look good while doing it all!

Photo by Daniel Sevilla Photography

Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
If you're going my way
I want to drive it all night long

Listen to the song here, written by Tom Petty and sung by Rascal Flatts!

The graphic designs are courtesy of Google Images.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Be Careful What You Put on Your Feet

I am a woman who loves her shoes - all kinds of shoes.  Tall.  Flat.  Classic.  Trendy.  I have them all. Sadly, I had to give away four pairs recently because I'd never be able to wear them without experiencing pain. For the remaining pairs of shoes in my closet, most of them I'll be able to wear maybe two hours maximum.  So what gives?

Five days ago, I underwent my fourth foot surgery -- my fourth!

My first surgery was several years ago when I decided it was time to take care of my bunions. What began as discomfort when I put on shoes, slowly over the years, became constant, throbbing pain.  When it got to my being unable to have a good night's sleep, I knew something had to be done.  I sought out a podiatrist to go over my medical options.  He and I decided we would take care of the bunion on one foot, then a year later, take care of the bunion on the other foot.  Surgery was the only thing that was going to take care of the pain.  It took a year to fully heal and to walk normally in my shoes.  So that's surgery #1 and #2.

Bunions are a common foot deformity for men and women.  Wearing ill-fitting shoes over a long period of time is one way to get them, and inheriting the "bunion genes" is the other.  My bunions were due to both. When I was a working girl in my 20s, 30s, and into my 40s, I prided myself in buying shoes that no one had, or would dare to wear.  I liked wearing sensible shoes that everyone else was wearing, but I loved having those shoes that people noticed and admired right away.  The price we pay for beauty.  Oh, the pain of it all!


The photo on the right shows a foot with a bunion before and after surgery.  You can see the scar where the incision is made in the foot.

Foot surgery #3 was because of an inflamed nerve in my left foot, between my third and fourth toes, or between the long metatarsal bones of the foot.  By looking at a foot with an inflamed nerve, you can't tell that anything is wrong.  The danger sign is a warm tingly feeling which quickly becomes sharp pings of pain with each step.  It happens when the foot is in a closed-toe shoe or narrow flat shoe, even if the shoe is your correct size.  This condition is Morton's Neuroma, a very debilitating foot condition.  Again, full recovery took a year for me.  I also began shoe-shopping for wide sizes.

Click here for photos of a neuroma surgery.

So here I am, now recuperating from foot surgery #4.  It is not fun.  With my prior surgeries, I had to elevate my foot and was able to take showers using precautions, of course.  With this surgery, I'm not allowed showers and can only do sponge baths, plus I have to elevate my foot above heart level, and can only get up to use the restroom putting just 25% pressure on my left foot when I walk with crutches. Whew!  My surgery took place a week ago, and I have five more weeks to wear the beautiful, black boot.

What brought me to this point was that I noticed  months ago that every time I wore my thong sandals, the sandal on my left foot would keep slipping away.  My toes just couldn't grasp the middle leather strap.  I thought I was simply wearing out the sandal so I'd throw the sandals away and buy a new pair.  After doing this twice, I began to notice that any time I wore closed-toe shoes, it would be so tight.  Then I began to see how my big toe was pushing away from the rest of my toes.  What was happening was the muscle or ligament along the inside of the foot was tightening.  The surgery to correct my hallux varus condition is complicated at best. The condition was a result of the long-ago bunion surgery, and is quite common.

Other than being badly bruised, here is what my foot looks like immediately after surgery.  Yes, I have a long pin down the middle of my toe bone, with two smaller pins sort of running perpendicular to the big pin. The smaller pins will stay in.  The long pin with the green rubber nub will come out in a few weeks.  I'm kind of looking forward to seeing how this will be removed, other than just plain yanking it out!

So what's my point to all of this?  We have to wear the right shoes, folks.  I've always loved wearing my 2" heels to work and special events.  I have the most awesome, gorgeous shoes. People always complimented me on my footwear.  I love my fashionable shoes and I won't get rid of them.  Not just yet.

I have a pair of shoes similar to this with 3" heels.  I'll never buy 3" heels again.  How on earth do women walk in these all the time?
These shoes are so adorable and I'd buy them if the heels were shorter.  This pair is a deathtrap!

I can wear this pair never!

I love these boots, but only with a wider toe, or buy them a size larger.

But if I wear them, I always bring my outfit-matching flip-flops, sandals or slides in my handbag.  Like I said, I can manage to be in my heels for no more than two hours. My comfort means a lot to me.

Now that I'm retired, and don't have a place of work to show up at, I am mindful of the shoes that I purchase now. Eventually, I will give away my gorgeous heels because I do care about the health of my feet, and so should you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

And We Have A Winner!

Having my own blog page has been a joy for me over the past month. I officially launched on my birthday, August 12.

 I've always liked writing since junior high school.  That's what we called middle school way, way back in the day.  I wrote lots of poetry, kept a diary (I have no idea where those are now), then I moved on to high school and wrote more poetry and began writing for my school's award-winning news magazine.  I rose through the ranks to be one of the editors.  Then I got married, had babies, and began journals on each of my kids.  Yep, I love words on paper, and now on my laptop.

Anyway, back to my Starbucks giveaway.  We have a winner!  There were 141 entries, and I guess that's not too bad considering there was a huge malfunction in my Comments section that people weren't able to leave comments.  I'm still trying to fix that.  I'm not tech-savvy so dealing with this has not been fun.

Okay, back to the winner.

Congratulations Jeanlyn from Bulverde, Texas!  Your $25 Starbucks gift card will be coming to you today via your e-mail address.  I appreciate your taking the time to participate in the giveaway.  Many hugs to you, my friend.

I have a big favor to ask of my readers, and I know I have readers because my Blogger stats tells me that lots of you are viewing my page.  Will you please try to leave a comment, and if you're blocked from doing that, please e-mail me at to let me know.  Or you can private message me at  Thanks so much!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fashion-Packing Conundrums

Packing your cute wardrobe doesn't have to be difficult if you keep your fashion sense simple.  To make your outfits go a long way, you'll want to mix 'n match all of your pieces.

1.  pack only what you love.

2.   pick your neutrals, then add a pop of color to put everything together.

3.  great accessories extend the life of any outfit.

4.  three pairs of shoes is the magic number.

5.  leave extra room in your carry-on to bring back cultural treasures.

Keep it simple.

All photos courtesy of Pinterest.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Celebrating My Blog's One-Month Anniversary with a Giveaway!

I can't believe it's already been a month since I officially launched my blog website, Life is a Highway.  My blog was a birthday gift to myself, and I've been having fun with it ever since its inception.  I want to celebrate this special occasion by giving away one of my favorite things -- a Starbucks giftcard!  I always carry one with me, and reload it when it reaches a zero balance. It comes with me on my faraway travels, too!  Starbucks is worldwide!

This contest will run for a week, ending on September 19, 2014.

Entering is so easy!

Enter daily by leaving a comment at the end of this post, or any of my other posts, or all of them if you like! What should you comment about?   Well, would you like to make a suggestion for my blog?  Is there a topic you'd like me to bring to the table?  Or if you want a private travel consultation, let me know in the Comments section.  For the time-being, the consult is complimentary!  Comment and you get 10 entries! You can comment every day!

You can enter again by following me on Twitter.  It's 10 entries, one time only.

Please don't forget to type in your e-mail address in the right column of this page under "Follow By E-Mail".  This has nothing to do with the giveaway, but giving me your e-mail address means you won't miss any future giveaways and stories about my travels and other great topics!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 5, 2014

Greece 2008 Photo Book

Keeping up family photo albums was a very important hobby of mine,  but my home didn't allow for additional albums beyond what our large bookcase could hold.  So any photos that we took were saved to my computer hard drive, a USB flash drive, an external hard drive, and on Facebook.  Whew!  Am I a little obsessive with "saving"?
Anyway, my husband suggested I make a photo book to showcase the many vacations we've taken over the years.  Our eldest daughter, Summer, makes an annual photo book to show all of their special moments and they're really very nice.  I used Shutterfly because, at the time I was ready to put together a book, the company was offering a 50% discount and it was too good to pass up.  That's a huge savings!
It's time-consuming, and can be expensive depending on the number of pages you include in the book, but I found that putting together this photo book was lots of fun.  
Here's my very first photo book to share  This was my first international trip working as a tour escort!  My group consisted of teachers, their families, and students and their parents.  We were very excited to go to this sun-kissed country of Greece and the Greek Isles in 2008!

I hope you enjoyed my Greece photo book!

Click here to view this photo book larger
Click here to create your own Shutterfly photo book.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Italian Places That Took My Breath Away, Part 1 (2012)

When I travel internationally, I usually stick to one country and focus on visiting its many cities, towns, and villages.   Staying in one country helps me to really understand the culture, focus on understanding one main international language or dialect, and it just makes sense. Too many international travelers tell me how tiring it is to go from one country to another, and to another, and so on.  I've been there, done that, and will avoid country-hopping at all cost.  Let me share with you my love of Italy, and what I loved most on my first trip  there:

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline in southern Italy and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took this highway from Naples to Sorrento, where we spent a lazy day cruising the main street that soared above the white beaches below. The Amalfi coastline continues around the peninsula to the small villages of Palermo, Amalfi, Ravello and Salerno, which we didn't see but will on our next trip to Italy.  The heavy scent from the cliff-side terraces of lemon trees filled the air as we coasted the highway.  The bus ride was scary and exhilarating at the same time. The road literally hugs the cliff and curves this way and that way.  It was like being on a slow roller coaster ride. The views were gorgeous, though, and thus made everything about this day cosi perfetto!

Florence is an art lover's dream!  I appreciate all the different periods of the arts, but really know nothing about it.  I also love beautiful architecture and know nothing on that subject, either.  However, I don't think you need to be an expert to truly appreciate either medieval or renaissance art or architecture.  After two hot days in Rome, we boarded a train at the Rome Termini Station going to Florence.  I really had no idea what to expect there.  I can honestly say that Florence wasn't a city I would dream about, but did want to visit.  In Florence, though, I remember turning a corner and POW, the view dazzled me.  I'm not a fan of marble, but these buildings are exceptional beyond comparison!

This is what I saw when I turned the corner.  I nearly drooled, the buildings were gorgeous! This is the  piazza where the Duomo di Firenze, its cathedral and the Baptistery stands.

Giotto's Campanile (or the bell tower) is accessible to visitors, and offers a magnificent view of the city and the cathedral's dome in particular.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori  rounded out this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  These travelers are a just a few of the members in the group that I organized and escorted from San Diego to Rome. Great people!

The Isle of Capri is an island located off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy.  The main town shares the same name as the island, and there is where we spent most of the day -- at the very top of the island. Everything about Capri was so pretty.  It even smelled pretty, never mind that it has two harbors, the Marina Piccola and Marina Grande.  Harbors are supposed to smell like the sea and fishy.  Not this resort.  We took the funnicula from the harbor to the Belvedere of Tragara, the panoramic promenade at the top of the cliff.  The promenade is lined with villas and high-end shops. There are also the small shops intended for tourists.

A stunning 180-degree panoramic view of the Isle of Capri from the Gardens of Augustus.  From here, you can see Monte Solaro, the Marina Piccola bay, Via Krupp and the famous Faraglioni.

I took so many amazing photos of our cruise around the Isle of Capri and settled on this one to show you. I didn't bother to turn on the grid on my camera, and it wouldn't have mattered anyway.  Our small boat was gently rockin' in the waves, and about 95% of my photos didn't come out straight-on.  We sailed through rocks jutting out of the sea, past caves and grottos, and basked in the glow of the Mediterranean sun.  The beauty of the sea made me think of everything romantically Italian -- a glass of vino Brunello di Montalcino, a couple riding together on their Vespa, Sophia Loren, and Romeo and Julietta.

Pompeii is vast, creepy-ancient, yet beautiful in my imagination of what this wondrous city was like in its day. I must warn you that it's a pretty tricky place to visit.  Paving stone pathways take you in all directions, so if you don't have a map to guide you if you're lucky to read it well, you're going to waste a lot of time finding your sites of interest.  We hired a guide to take us through this ancient city that sits near the base of Mt. Vesuvius.  He spoke very good English and didn't skip a beat.  Every villa, courtyard, fresco, and the bath begged to have its picture taken. I couldn't keep up with my group because I was so busy taking pictures!  It was all amazing stuff.  A lot of artifacts, statues and plaster casts of citizens are locked in open-faced buildings that you can view through caged doors. However, better stuff can be found in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.  Absolute good footwear is required because you're going to slide off a couple of pavers if you're wearing flip-flops, and I guarantee you're going to trip at least once as the roads are not smooth.

That's Mt. Vesuvius in the background.  What a view!

Sorrento is this old town that straddles the cliffs overlooking the waters to Naples and Mt. Vesuvius.  The drive from Pompeii to Sorrento was so breathtaking.  The higher we climbed (actually, we were on a bus), the view of Mt. Vesuvius became more beautiful.  Cosi bello. Again, the scent of lemons filled the air. Such happy and natural aromatherapy going into this gorgeous town.  I had this micro-moment where I felt I could be happy living there.  The view from our hotel room was to die for.  When I pulled aside the curtains and threw open the shutters, oh mio dio, I couldn't speak.  I was utterly speechless at the view before me. The sea, the mountain, the town below.  Sorrento is quaint and cozy, and I saw families living a beautiful life there.  So perfect. My husband, Gerry, and I took a walk that afternoon along, and above, the beach, and followed children sporadically arriving and meandering down this road.  We decided to follow them and saw they were entering their school grounds.  It was a Catholic school and church.  There were lots of laughing children and adults present getting ready for what appeared to be an evening community event.  As the evening drew near, the sunset beckoned us to watch and watch until it was no more.  We were back in our room when the church bells tolled.  It was mesmerizing to sit at our window listening to the church bells, and viewing the cars driving that curvy road that hugged the cliffs.  We were in Sorrento mainly as a base for our next day's trip to the beautiful Isle of Capri.

I need more time here.  I will definitely come back to this place because as the song "Come Back to Sorrento" goes:

Then say not goodbye
Come back again, beloved
Back to Sorrento or I must die.