Monday, November 6, 2017

11/16/17 Wants and Needs

Dear Family and Friends, 

  The headline on Spain’s main tourism web page says, “Spain is what you want—Spain is what you need.”  I spent the first two weeks of October there, and let me tell you—truer words have not been spoken!

·      I needed time away from chemo to relax and recharge with family.  Somehow we squeezed eight people into my aunt and uncle’s 500-year-old home (lovingly renovated!) in old-town Altea, Spain.  Julianne and Oliver, our hosts, were there to greet us with an enormous pan of delicious homemade paella. Steve, Daniel, and I settled in for two weeks, and Renee, Riley, and Adrienne, each joined us for a week.

·      I wanted to see old friends—Paco and Esperanza, my aunt and uncle’s dear friends and home caretakers who live a few doors down and chat at me so rapidly in Spanish it’s as if they actually think I know what they are saying; David the photographer, who used to live across the cobblestones from our door, but who is now about one mile away in a rehab facility; Pepa, who runs a tiny bakery out of her home about a five minute walk from our front door and who saves my favorite pumpkin seed rolls for me; and my dear, sweet Ahmed—a handsome, newlywed waiter, originally from Algeria, who has worked a block from our door for years and who loves me (us)—despite the fact that we never eat at his restaurant because it doesn’t have enough Yelp stars!

·      I needed to lay on a lawn chair under an umbrella with a picnic lunch and a magazine, on my favorite beach in the nearby town of Villajoyosa, getting up from time to time to walk up and down the beach on the warm, beige sand, and to swim laps in the clear, warm, blue-green waters of the Mediterranean.  Oh, and I needed to pay $20 euros for a massage on the beach in that same lawn chair to help out a sweet young Spanish woman with five children…while helping myself into relaxation heaven!  And no, I didn't know that she would flip me over half-way through and finish the massage with me topless!  But heck--I was half-way around the world.  Who was ever going to see me again?  Except for my traumatized children!!!

·      I wanted to watch my huge basket of churros being made in the cleanest, most gargantuan pot of hot oil, and then to see them brought to our table piping hot, to be sprinkled with sugar, dipped in individual cups of thick, hot, homemade dark chocolate sauce, and then quickly devoured at Valor Chocolate shop, overlooking the sea, after a hard day at the beach.

·      I needed to visit the tiny town of Gata, where you will find the mother-son owned “Monfort” ceramicas shop of authentic hand-painted, Spanish pottery, and to buy my mandatory new bowls and plates to bring home to remind me of my trip.  I also like to bring home bottles of gold-medal winning Spanish olive oils.  Pottery.  Bottles of olive oil.  Steve wonders why I don’t collect tiny teaspoons when I travel.

·      I wanted to take Daniel to see the enormous, ancient castle in the seaside town of Denia, where I came upon a starving stray cat, and, having already eaten my own sandwich, proceeded to make the kitty very happy by feeding it Daniel’s turkey sandwich with garlic aioli.  Then we hit the miles-long Denia beach for swimming in crystal clear waters and watching a bikini-clad young Spanish woman hit on Daniel while her mother (and HIS mother) watched!  I quickly texted Adrienne not to worry—that I had her back! 

·      I needed to visit Spain’s third largest city—Valencia—as I had never been there before, and naturally, the day I chose for the hour-and-a-half drive up there was a Valencian holiday, so most everything, including the famous one-thousand stall public market that I had dreamed of seeing, was closed!  Having said that—we still got to see amazing old buildings with stunning architecture, got to drink fresh-squeezed Valencian orange juice and eat all manner of fresh baked things, got to walk for miles along a self-guided (I should say "Daniel-guided") and beautiful historic walking tour, and did get to enjoy the Valencia Aquarium, which is Europe’s largest, and thankfully, stays OPEN on holidays!  The dolphin show there was almost worth traveling around the world for—truly incredible, as were the SHARKS!

·      I wanted to stay healthy on this precious trip to Spain, since it may be my last.  My aunt and uncle are selling their home there after this fall, and despite three of the eight of us being sick in that house during this trip—God miraculously kept me, the one with no immune system, healthy!  Thank you so much, to those of you who pray for me.  I felt those prayers! 

   So I don’t know if the Spanish Tourism Office slogan hits home for everyone, but it sure did for me.  Those two weeks in Spain were exactly what I wanted, and what I needed, and what “filled my tank” to help me get through the sicker weeks to follow.

   As soon as I returned home from Spain, I had two weeks of chemo and then became terribly ill with a horrible head and chest cold, cough, and sinus infection.  I was unable to have the third chemo in the cycle due to how sick I was.  As an example of just how sick I was, I tried to vacuum our bedroom one day, and had to stop every two minutes to sit and catch my breath—there was that much crud in my lungs!

   Having said that, I am filled with gratitude to report that I am at the very tail end of that illness and am finishing this blog post in my chemo chair on Monday, November 6!  

   Would you please pray with me that I remain healthy enough to complete two more chemos before my break week at the end of November?  And that I have the wisdom to say “no” to events and even to visits with people I love so much who may have been exposed to bugs that will make me sick while I’m immunocompromised?  It’s tough—I'm a person who likes to see everyone and do everything, and who gets energized from being with people.  But I guess for now, seeing everyone and doing everything is not what I'm supposed to want nor what my body needs.  Somebody lock me up in a sterile room for a few months until chemo is over!

   I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Ours will be at home, very small, very quiet, and as germ-free as we can make it.

Love to all,

The old town Altea hill my aunt and uncle live on has several viewpoints like this one.  They are good places to catch your breath as you walk up the huge hill from the beach or the town to the house!

Every Tuesday Altea has has a Farmer's Market at the foot of our hill.  The fruits and veggies are so fresh and inexpensive.  We buy many bags full, then look up recipes to make with them!

The Farmer's Market also has some things ours don't in Seattle, like olives and churros!

There are about 220 of these big, wide old cobblestone steps leading from the sea and downtown up to the top of our hill, where the church and plaza are, and where our house is.  It's easier to walk DOWN them, as we are here, than up them!

This is another viewpoint I like on our hill.  It is looking north to the town of Calpe way off in the distance and that rock you see, sticking out in the sea, is called Penon de Ifach.  You can hike up to the top of it--a very hard and treacherous hike which I have done twice.  But not this time!  

This is a photo of me standing in the clear water at Villajoyosa and the camera is looking back at the beach and town.  The houses are all painted in vivid colors.

Two of my precious ones--Renee and Riley!

Daniel, posing next to my aunt and uncle's house and bougainvilla.  As you can see, the narrow "streets" are cobblestone and pedestrian-only!

This is my uncle Oliver standing at the front door of his house.  The house is over 500 years old and he and my aunt renovated it when they bought it about thirty years ago, but they kept parts of the original wall on the main floor.  The bucket by the door is for us to rinse off our sandy feet after swimming at the beach!

This is the ceramics shop in Gata--Monfort!  You can get some inexpensive things here (like what you see in front), and some very pricey, high-end keepsake pieces by top Spanish artists!  

The homes in old towns in Spain have incredible doors.  Here is Adrienne, looking like a model, in front of one such door!

There is a town about an hour from us called Guadalest with views like this!  

We had only one day of rain in our two-week trip.  Of course, it was the day we hiked six miles along a mountainside to a lighthouse.  Here we are at the end of our hike, back home outside our house, looking like drenched rats!

Here, Riley and Renee relax at home, and note--the stones behind their heads are the original ones, more than 500 years old!!!

Daniel and Adrienne on the beach at Villajoyosa.  This is them BEFORE we fed them churros y chocolati!  

Renee and Riley having some fun with the floaty they bought for five euros.

All my sweet ones, minus Steve, at one of the many viewpoints on our hill.

My aunt Julianne and me out walking.  See the church in the background?  That is the church atop the hill she lives on.  Her house is about four short "turns" from the church plaza.  

A closer view of the church.  I love the tile work on the top!

All around the hill where we stay they have the "stations of the cross" done in tile work.  I like to pause and look at them and remember that 2000 years ago, Jesus was thinking of me when He endured such suffering.  He was thinking of you, too.

My beloved.  We walked from our town of Altea, south three miles along the beach to the town of Albir, where I photographed him as these fierce clouds rolled in.  In the far distance is that Penon de Ifach again--way beyond Altea in the town of Calpe.

As Steve and I arrived in Albir on our walk, we ran into Daniel and Adrienne on their walk!  Small world in Spain!  Behind them, that green bluff in the distance is where we hiked out to the point to the lighthouse.

Here again is my amazing uncle, Oliver, at the lighthouse in Albir, which he and Steve hiked to while I was off buying pottery in Gata!  (Second lighthouse hike for Steve.)  I hope I can hike like my uncle can when I'm in my 80s.  I won't tell you how late into his 80s he might be--I don't want to get into trouble!

Steve at a stop on the lighthouse hike!  Way back there on the shore in the distance is the town of Albir.

Daniel and me exploring the castle in Denia, with the town and beach in the background!

Daniel in front of the Valencia Cathedral which is "supposedly" the home of the holy grail--the cup that Jesus drank from during the Last Supper.  Lots of churches claim to have things like this, however, so I don't get too excited about the artifacts themselves.  But the churches are magnificent works of art and grandeur.

Aahhh...churros y chocolati at Valor Chocolate Shop!

Last but not least, when I'm climbing the 220 BIG, WIDE, cobblestone stairs to my aunt and uncle's house, after being in town at the market or beach, I love saying hello to all the many cats in Altea.  One of the few Spanish phrases I have truly perfected is "Hola, gato!"