BACKGROUND

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hot Head

Last week, I nursed Dear Husband through the flu and then on Saturday, it was his turn to nurse me through it. I felt achy all over, had a cough, and was just generally blah. Sunday, it really hit hard with the aches, the fever, the coughing and the general misery that brings about that oh so unfair irony - you feel like dying, but you have no strength to commit suicide so you bitch and moan instead.

My highest fever was 101.8, but Tylenol Warming helped that a lot. It also helped me to sleep, which was a blessing. My days since Saturday have consisted of sleeping, getting up for a couple of hours or so, and then sleeping for several more hours. I've been sleeping more than I've been awake, and when I am awake, I eat a lot of soup and Popsicles, and I drink a lot of orange juice, Sprite, and water.

Today, I am starting to feel a little better. Basically, I've gone from being on my deathbed to thinking they might be able to save me. I'm still coughing, still very tired, but not as achy as I was. At least not during the day. I seem to get more achy and icky feeling at night. Last night, my dear friend brought me a sickness survival kit consisting of Kit Kats, Swiss Miss cocoa, Celestial Seasonings Echinacea tea, a 12-pack of Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale, Puff's Plus with Vick's tissues, hand sanitizer, honey, Johnson & Johnson's Soothing Vapor bath, and two boxes of soup. Rounding out the sickness kit was a bouquet of yellow roses and white carnations. I love my friends. I truly have the most wonderful friends in the world and I am very grateful.

I'm going back to bed now. Stay healthy my friends!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breezing Through the Flu

Dear Husband has been sick for three days. He had a scratchy throat, which turned into a full-fledged flu. He stayed home from work on Wednesday and was not doing well at all. Yesterday, I took him to the doctor's office and he was diagnosed with the flu, given some "get well" instructions and a prescription to ward off secondary infections, and we headed home. Today, he is doing slightly better, but still suffering. He's coughing and has a terrible headache. I think if he gets some rest over the next two days, he'll be a lot better by Monday.

Today, I made sure he was comfortable then I headed out with one of my textbooks to Starbucks so I could get some reading done. It's easier to do it away from home because there are just too many distractions at home, chief among them the Internet. Reading outside Starbucks was fantastic because there was a nice little breeze, which I desperately needed. I was getting tired of the stagnant heat we've had in Houston this summer. Anyway, I got some reading done for my Advanced Research class and did a little grocery shopping. I decided to make chicken and dumplings because it's easy to do and I thought it would help Dear Husband with his flu.

It did seem to help and he's now watching TV with Sprite in hand and his laptop on the table so he's happy. I'm rather tired and am planning on an early night although I do need to find a new topic to research for my class. My friend, Jaime, gave me a good idea this afternoon and I am going to see if it's a viable topic then I'm heading off to a nice bubble bath and some relaxation.

Stay well everyone!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I left my heart in San Francisco...and some money too!

Saturday morning found us up bright and early so we could head to San Francisco. Saturday was my father's 65th birthday and I had brought him a card and a gift so I gave those to him that morning before we left the hotel.

We drove into San Francisco and were looking for the street we needed to be on. My father is not one of those men who thinks it's an insult to his pride to ask for directions, thank God. We pulled up next to a taxi driver at a stoplight and my dad asked him how to get to the street. The taxi guy told us and then he went so far as to lead us to a parking garage near our destination where we could park. Very nice of him!

We found the place we needed to be to pick up our tickets for the City Sightseeing Tours and Alcatraz, which my dad had arranged for in advance. With tickets in hand, we set out to find something to eat. We encountered a couple walking along the street who told us of a few different possible eateries and then, as we rounded a corner, we saw Denny's! You cannot go wrong with Denny's for breakfast.

An hour or so later, we were full and happy and we headed back to catch our first bus tour. These tours are a wonderful way to get a great overview of the city! You can get on and off the buses at any of the stops they make along the way and the ticket is good for 48 hours so you can use it for more than one day. My dad and I both really enjoyed the tours. The tours are conducted on double decker buses so you have the option of sitting on the top of the bus in the open air. My dad and I did that for both of our tours and it was awesome.

We took the Golden Gate tour, which was fantastic. Our tour guide was great and we saw not only the Golden Gate Bridge, but also Palace of Fine Arts, which was beautiful, the Lone Sailor Memorial, The Presidio, and various other areas of town, including the section where the rich live. We drove past Danielle Steel's home, which is absolutely gorgeous.

After that tour, we hung out at the bus stop and waited for the next tour, which was the downtown bus tour. That was a lot of fun! We saw Pier 39, Union Square, the Tenderloin, China Town, City Hall, Coit Tower, and several other places. I took a lot of pictures and learned a lot about the city.

After the downtown tour, we made our way to Pier 39 and had some lunch before I set off for Alcatraz. My dad had already seen Alcatraz on a previous trip, but it had been many years since I went there so I set off for the prison. The ferry ride over was a nice short trip and I stood outside feeling the spray of water on my face. The weather was FANTASTIC for all of our trip, which we were both grateful for.

Alcatraz is a rather interesting place. Like any good ghost enthusiast, I got up early on Saturday morning before we left for San Francisco and did my research about the most haunted spots in the prison. I found that there were several, one of which is Cell Block D and specifically Cell D-14, which was part of the cells collectively known as The Hole. This was basically solitary confinement for the prisoners. I took a lot of pictures of that cell in particular and of course, stood in it for a few minutes to get the feel of the place.

Alcatraz is a great place to visit because you aren't limited to being with a group or a guide. If you want a guided tour with a live person, you can get that, but you can also get an audio tour that will take you around the place at your leisure. I did that because I like to stop and explore places along the way if I can and the audio tour was the best way to do so. They give you a pair of headphones and an audio device, which you can stop and start whenever you wish.

I really enjoyed Alcatraz. I'm sure none of the prisoners ever said that, but it is fun for a tourist. It's interesting to see the lives people led there, not just the prisoners, but also the guards. Many of the guards actually lived on the island with their families, which must have been very interesting. It's not exactly a great place to raise children, I wouldn't think, but it worked for them.

I spent about three hours in total on the ferry, on Alcatraz, and then coming back and it was great! My dad got the rental car and picked me up at the pier and we headed to Lombard Street, which is one of the most crooked streets in the United States. Dad and I decided that we just had to drive down it because you can't have a crooked street like that and NOT drive down it. Many years ago, my dad had driven down it so this was a refresher for him, but I was a Lombard Street newbie. We both enjoyed it.

Lombard street marked the end of our day in San Francisco. We were both ready to go find some dinner by that point. We had decided on driving back to Fremont and eating at Round Table Pizza. We don't have Round Table Pizza here in Texas so this was something we can't get at home. We split a large pizza between us and it was SO good!

Full from dinner, we headed back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation. Such a great time was had by us both in San Francisco and we are both planning to return!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Winchester Mystery House

There are no sufficient words to describe the wonderful weekend my dad and I had in San Jose and San Francisco! We met up at the San Jose airport on Friday, got the rental car, and drove straight to The Winchester Mystery House. We had to wait about 30 minutes for the tour so we looked around the gift shop and chatted a bit. Then...it was time to cross off another one of my life's "to do" items! I have always wanted to see The Winchester Mystery House and I couldn't believe I was getting the opportunity to do it.

It was a VERY interesting place. Sarah Winchester, the owner of the home, visited a medium in Boston during her grief after the death of her husband. Sarah had married into the Winchester family. Two tragedies befell her when her daughter died at 6 weeks old from a rare childhood illness and, several years later, her husband died from tuberculosis. Sarah was told by the medium that she needed to move west from her residence in Connecticut and continually build a home to appease the spirits of those who had been killed by the Winchester rifle. Sarah believed that this would somehow stop the tragedy in her own life.

She followed the advice of the medium and moved to California where she began building the home. The house contains 160 rooms, which were continually constructed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 38 years until Sarah's death in 1922.Interestingly enough, Sarah died on September 5, 1922 - 22 years after that, my dad was born. He shares his birthday with the day of her death.

There were no blueprints for the home. Sarah's construction crew built according to her specifications, which were "granted" to her by the spirits during her nightly seances in her special seance room. Much of the house makes no architectural sense at all, which is understandable since there was no building plan of any kind. Doors open onto walls, stairs go up to the ceiling, and one door opens from the second floor onto nothing. It's known as the door to nowhere.

After all was said and done, the house cost $5.5 million to build over 38 years. In today's money, that would be about $70 million. Because Sarah was heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, she didn't need to worry about money. She made $1,000 a day thanks to her inheritance so she could afford to not only build the house, but also furnish it with some of the best furniture of the time, as well as decorate it with beautiful stained glass windows and expensive building materials. It's interesting to note that money was not taxed in the U.S. until 1913, so all of Sarah's money was hers to keep. Imagine making $1,000/day in modern times - that's a lot NOW, it was an unbelievable amount in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It would be like winning the mega millions lottery every single day.

The house is reputed to be haunted, but one thing that strikes me is that it's a good thing ghosts can walk through walls and such because if they had to walk around the house like the rest of us, they'd get exhausted and leave. It takes a good hour just to walk through the rooms, let alone the gardens.

I have always been interested in the oddities of the world. This may be why I am drawn to psychology. I am very interested in the odd and interesting building that is the Winchester Mystery House. But...it is so very sad to think that Sarah Winchester, a woman who was reportedly very intelligent, and rich beyond measure, should have suffered and been so miserable over the deaths of her daughter and husband that she embarked on 38 years of wasteful spending and construction. It yielded nothing in terms of alleviating her mental pain. If anything, it contributed to it.

In any case, the house is worth seeing and I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of San Francisco!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Frisco and Jose

On Friday, I will be heading out to San Jose and then down to San Francisco with my dad. He turns 65 on Saturday so it will be a wonderful birthday trip for him. I will be meeting my Great-Uncle Bill (my dad's Uncle) and his family for the first time and I am looking forward to that. I hear he is literally a great uncle so that is exciting - finally a branch of the family tree that isn't psychotic. Right on!

Dad and I are taking separate flights as he lives in San Antonio and I am in Houston. We'll meet up at the San Jose airport and then head over to the Winchester Mystery House! I am SO excited about finally getting to see it. I lived in California until I was 9 and I never got a chance to see it. I didn't think I would for a very long time, but then my dad talked about going out to California to see his uncle and suggested we see it. WOO!!

After that, we'll hit up a good place to eat (Dad and I have been researching the food) and we'll head to our hotel. Saturday, we're planning on driving to San Francisco where I'll take the tour of Alcatraz and Dad will hang around Fisherman's Wharf. Dad saw Alcatraz a year or so ago and he's not interested in going again. I, on the other hand, have not seen it since I was in second grade so I'm really excited about it. After Alcatraz, we're both going to take the city tour on a double decker bus. We're thinking of eating Chinese food after that. China Town in San Francisco is very popular and we've looked up some restaurants so it should be easy to find one. We are also going to try our luck with Lombard Street. It is famous for being a steep, crooked street. I told my Dad that we will be climbing the street. Truth be told, neither of us are in the kind of shape necessary to climb it, but we're going to do it anyway. :)

We will meet Uncle Bill on Sunday and then fly back to Texas on Monday. I am SO excited about this trip. I've passed through San Francisco's airport several times in the last few years, but I haven't been to the city itself since I was a child, and of course the Winchester Mystery House has always been on my "things to see" list. I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend and I will report back with pictures next week!