The simple life...Ireland elicits a slower pace...

This morning's catch when John stopped by with fresh caught Atlantic salmon, a container of crabmeat and another container of prawns.  The cost for the above was Euro 25, US $27.85.  There's enough salmon for three meals and a fourth meal with the crab and prawns on a lettuce salad.  The average cost per serving Euro 6.26, US $6.97.  We paid John the Euro 14, US $15.60, we owed him from last week's fish.  I asked if he could bring salmon each week.  Tom doesn't care for fish so I'll happily enjoy every morsel.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland" 
"Northern Ireland is governed by the United Kingdom, while the rest of Ireland is an independent nation."

Living in Ireland is very different from anywhere we've lived after over 6½ years of world travel.  The environment, the people, the chosen pace of peace, calm and good humor is present in every situation we encounter.
Today's mist and clouds over the sea.
This is appealing.  Thank goodness we have this website requiring new photos daily and a goal to research Tom's ancestry.  Otherwise, we'd be so content, we'd hardly go out other than to shop and dine out on occasion.

We're far from many restaurants but now that I'm beginning to feel better, we'll go out to dinner more often.  Since our arrival on May 12th, we've only dined out once.
A gate to a private drive or boat launch.
We've so enjoyed the wide array of fantastic food products from the SuperValu supermarket in Clifden that cooking has become such a treat.  We can now find ingredients we like to use that we never could find in the Spar Market in Komatipoort.

Now that I can cook again, we're making a few more interesting dishes I didn't burden Tom with when he was cooking all the meals by himself.  That's not to say, he's not helping.  
Many homes in the countryside have this similar look and are very old.
He's right beside me in the kitchen doing all the "heavy lifting" including washing dishes, hauling food and pots back and forth to the laundry room where the second refrigerator and another bigger sink is located.

This morning feels like a typical Irish day.  Ann, the lovely house cleaner arrived at 9:30 am informing me that she'd lit a candle at her church for my continuing recovery.  How sweet is that?
Fishing boat in the bay.
Moments later, Eileen, the owner of this house who lives in the house next door, also stopped by.  They both possess a wealth of fascinating information about Connemara and Ireland in general.  We love their accents, warmth, easy smiles and enthusiasm.

We'd planned to head out today but it's raining, not uncommon for Ireland.  Also, Eileen called the fish guy, John to find out if he was coming by today.  He stopped by before noon. Note the above photo and caption for further explanation.

We paid John the Euro 14, US $15.59, from last week when he'd insisted we take some fish when the package had yet to arrive containing our new debit cards leaving us with no cash (euros in Ireland).
A boat at the organic salmon station.
After the ATM cards had arrived we immediately drove to Clifden to an ATM to get enough cash to last for quite a while. Weekly, we pay Ann Euro 60, US $66.82 for three hours of housecleaning, the highest we've ever paid.  That's not to say she isn't worth it.  She does a meticulous job.  

Housekeeping wasn't included in the rent as it was in South Africa where we had two cleaners, Zef and Vusi, each day of the week.  We've been spoiled.  But, knowing we have a cleaner only once a week, we're being diligent about keeping the house tidy and organized in between Ann's visits.

No, we don't have a social life here yet and may not be able to make lifelong friends here as we did in Marloth Park many of whom we are staying in touch, particularly, Kathy and Don, Linda and Ken (we spoke on the phone yesterday) and Louise and Danie.

Now that I'm beginning to feel better, we're planning on getting out more.  In the interim, this simple life is suiting us just fine.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 23, 2018:
This was our first sighting of a good-sized herd of cape buffalo we spotted from Marloth Park yesterday, on the banks of the Crocodile River.  There were from 24 to 30 in the herd.  For more photos, please click here.

The scenic beauty continues as we get out more and more...

At every turn the scenery is breathtaking.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland" 
"Most Irish people believe that fairies exist. In their culture, fairies have magical powers and bring happiness and great things to families."


The scenery from every turn in the road, let alone the views from the windows in our holiday home, are nothing short of spectacular.  This morning overcast and cloudy with rain predicted is still gorgeous as the clouds gather around the mountains known as the "Twelve Bens."
Wildflowers are often found blooming on the side of the road especially this time of year as summer nears.
From this site:
The Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins (Irish: Na Beanna Beola; the peaks of Beola) is a mountain range of sharp-peaked quartzite summits and ridges located in the Connemara National Park in County Galway, in the west of Ireland.

Topographically, the range is partnered with the Maumturks range on the other side of the Glen Inagh valley (a Western Way route). The highest point is Benbaun at 729 meters (2,392 ft). The range is popular with hill walkers, rock climbers, and fell runners. The 15–kilometer "Glencoaghan Horseshoe" (Irish: Gleann Chóchan) is noted as providing some of the "most exhilarating mountaineering in Ireland," and "a true classic". A more serious undertaking is the 28–kilometer "Twelve Bens Challenge", climbing all bens in a single day."

The plural word for a group of sheep is flock, dove or herd.  A very large group of sheep is a band of mob.
Now, as I write here I can see the "Twelve Bens" from the house as we gaze across the Bertraghboy Bay.  On any cloudy day, we can peer out the window to see the fluffy clouds leaving trails of mist over the mountains.

Views are even more spectacular on sunny days as soon in a few of today's photos.  We often choose to take a drive when it's a sunny day to enhance the quality of our photos.  But, still, there remains the magic and mystery of clouds filling the skies on days of predicted rain, such as today.

An abandoned boat in part covered in vegetation creates this classic scene.
Tomorrow, when lovely Ann, our house cleaner arrives at 9:00 am, we'll let her inside and take off to explore areas of Connemara we've yet to see of which there are many.  Connemara is described as follows:

From this site: "Connemara (Irish: Conamara; pronounced [ˈkʊnˠəmˠəɾˠə]) is a cultural region in County Galway, Ireland. The area has a strong association with traditional Irish culture and contains a major part of the Connacht Irish-speaking Gaeltacht, which is a key part of the identity of the region and is the largest Gaeltacht in the country."

Rocks are seen everywhere in Ireland.  From this site:  "The geological map of Ireland displays a wide variety of rock types which have originated at different periods of geological time. The oldest rocks are metamorphic gneisses which are to be found on Inishtrahull, several miles off Malin Head in Co. Donegal, and elsewhere in the north-west. They originally formed as igneous rocks 1750-1780 million years ago."
"One common definition of the area is that it consists of most of West Galway, that is to say, the part of the county west of Lough Corrib and Galway city, contained by Killary Harbour, Galway Bay and, the Atlantic Ocean

Some more restrictive definitions of Connemara define it as the historical territory of Conmhaícne Mara, i.e. just the far northwest of County Galway, bordering County Mayo. The name is also used to describe the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking areas) of western County Galway, though it is argued that this too is inaccurate as some of these areas lie outside of the traditional boundary of Connemara."

Ireland consists of many boggy areas which are prevalent here in Connemara.
There are arguments about where Connemara ends as it approaches Galway city, which is definitely not in Connemara — some argue for Barna, on the outskirts of Galway City, some for a line from Oughterard to Maam Cross, and then diagonally down to the coast, all within rural lands.

The wider area of what is today known as Connemara was previously a sovereign kingdom known as Iar Connacht, under the kingship of the Ó Flaithbertaigh, until it became part of the English-administered Kingdom of Ireland in the 16th century."
Clouds reflecting on a lake.
The population of Connemara is 32,000. There are between 20,000–24,000 native Irish speakers in the region making it the largest Irish-speaking Gaeltacht.  The Enumeration Districts with the most Irish speakers in all of Ireland as a percentage of the population can be seen in the South Connemara area.  Most Irish speakers are of school age (5–19 years old)."

There is so much for us to learn about Ireland, the birthplace of Tom's ancestry.  Soon, we'll begin visiting some of the towns/counties from which they originated.

In the meanwhile, we're so much enjoying our sunny day drives through the winding, hilly roads, occasionally encountering a one car road or bridge.  One must be extra careful driving through the area with many blind spots and farm animals standing, walking or sleeping on the road.

Today, we'll stay in.  We're making mozzarella-ball stuffed meatballs with a red sauce and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, along with grilled vegetables on the side.  Lately, both of us have become tired of eating side salads and are taking a break for a while, having more cooked or raw vegetables as an alternative.

We hope each of you has a peaceful and pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 22, 2018:
Although it's impossible to conquer all of the alien plants in Marloth Park in order to protect wildlife and humans, the dedicated Marloth Park Honorary Rangers spend considerable time (their own free time) pulling out invasive plants.  In the case of "Mother of Thousands" every last bit must be pulled since it will regrow from even the most minuscule portion left behind.  It was this morning that we met friends Uschi and Evan (not in this photo) with whom we've since become great friends.  They are leaders in Honorary Rangers in Marloth Park.  For more details, please click here.

Weakness...Working my way toward familiar every day life...

Donkeys are highly regarded in Ireland to the point there are special programs available to adopt and a specialized Donkey Sanctuary in Cork.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland" 
"Irish people speak English, but Irish school children are still taught Irish, which is the Gaelic language."

It doesn't happen overnight.  The past challenging three months have left me longing for our form of normalcy, by our standards, which includes getting out, exploring an unfamiliar country, learning about its people, customs and culture.
Yellow irises growing wild in the countryside.  Please click here for information on the wild yellow irises in Ireland that often grow along the road. 
However, after lying down for almost three months with my feet up, I am weak, unconditioned and every movement requires a concerted effort.  Now that the withdrawal has abated, I'm back to walking today, adding some lunges and arm exercises to the mix.  It's slow going.  

Many patients after cardiac surgery go through a rehabilitation program for a few months.  With my legs being infected, leaving me unable to walk and with the program only available in distant Nelspruit, that option wasn't available to me.  Nor could I have handled the 90-minute drive every other day.
We love the reflection of clouds in the water as we drive through the countryside.
Instead, I have researched typical exercises suitable for my situation and am determined to rebuild my strength and flexibility.  I worked out for most of my life. I am very familiar with different modalities useful for rebuilding strength and mobility.  

The doctors informed us that the strength of my heart kept me alive with my outrageously bad arteries.  It was through years of ardent exercise that I was able to keep my heart strong enough to keep beating while it's arteries literally collapsed.  And now, I refer back to my years of exercise experience for this important task ahead of me.
A little sheep family resting near the road.
The key word here is "motivation." Mentally, I am highly motivated but my weak muscles and body defy me.  I must work past this feeling of being somewhat "feeble" to being able to move about freely and with confidence.  

I only started walking again two weeks ago.  And yes, there's been some improvement within the past two weeks with the walking I've done each day but it simply hasn't been aggressive enough to affect the type of change I need to stop feeling so weak.
As we approached the town of Clifden we noticed a number of apartments and townhouses on the inlet.  Clifden, our area to shop, only has a population of 1,597.  "Clifden is a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. As the largest town in the region, it is often referred to as "the Capital of Connemara". Frequented by tourists, Clifden is linked to Galway city by the N59."
Today, I decided to step it up, literally and figuratively, as hard as it is to muster the energy, to become more aggressive.  I've been able to manage 7000 to 8000 steps a day on my fitness device but sadly, this is not enough.  Strength building is a vital part of the equation.
This precious photo was my favorite of the day.
Last night, I slept poorly.  Without the pain meds, my leg is painful and woke me several times during the night.  I don't think I slept more than three or four hours.  

I'm exhausted but still, during the day, every hour I will get up and walk at least 1000 steps, do a few lunges at the kitchen counter and use the spring water filled plastic one-liter bottles of  Pellegrino as hand and arm weights, performing a variety of movements.  I'll add repetitions and other exercises as I become stronger.
A dark brown ram along the side of the road.
The amount of discipline I'll need today is over the top.  Perhaps after a better night's sleep tonight, it will be easier tomorrow.  But, I've resigned myself to this hard reality: no excuses and no rationalizations.  It's a "must do."

It's necessary to keep reminding myself...I don't want to continue to be unfit and feeble with a likelihood of falling that I've been over these past many months. Perhaps, I was in this state, justifiably so, but no longer.  The time has come for change.
Yesterday, we crossed this single lane bridge on the way to Clifden.  There are a few different routes we can take from here to Clifden and will change it up each week.
I write this here to enhance my commitment, to declare to our readers that there is a better and more fit life awaiting me as I continue on this mission.  Are you experiencing a similar state of being?  if so, join me in this process and let's get up and get moving!

Happy, healthy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, May 21, 2018:
After dark, "Mom, Two Piglets and Auntie" came back to see us along with another male group of four zebras.  For more photos, please click here.

It's over...

Appealing view of clouds reflecting into the body of water.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
The country’s major exports include food products such as potatoes, lamb and beef. They also export a large amount of zinc, lead, machinery, and pharmaceuticals. Their imports include oil, aircraft parts, vehicles, and petroleum gases."

Finally, the withdrawal is over.  It took one more night's sleep and three full days to recover.  Yesterday was a nightmare.  I was lethargic, agitated, and anxious.  I couldn't find a comfortable position as I lounged on the sofa all day and evening.  
Flowers are beginning to bloom all over Ireland as the temperatures warm.
I ate more than I usually do in an effort to not only distract myself from my state of malaise but in an attempt to nourish myself with healthy foods. I drank no less than a gallon of liquids including herbal teas, spring water and two full mugs of my usual protein smoothie.

At least twice during the day, I fell asleep on the sofa and then in the evening when we attempted to watch the show "Victoria" using the HDMI cord from my laptop to the TV but I kept falling asleep.  It was only 20:00 hrs., 8:00 pm.
Taken through the dirty windshield glass, a family of sheep "movin' on down the road."
Off to bed by two hours later, I slept another eight hours awakening at 5:30 am.  It was light when I went to bed and then again when I awoke.  The curtains in the bedroom are thin and light colored and the morning sun easily awakens us each day.  

Oddly, there are 17 hours of daylight in Ireland which will only increase as we get closer to the summer solstice.  From this site:  "What is the Summer Solstice? In Ireland and Britain, the Summer Solstice – also known as Midsummer – traditionally takes falls on June 21 each year. It is the longest day of the year, i.e. when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere."
The colors on their fleece are meant to identify them from farm to farm.  As mentioned in a post a few days ago:  Set against backdrops of rolling green hills and mountains, farmers often paint their sheep. ... Besides pure identification of the sheep in Ireland, during mating season, rams spread some color of their own. With a bag of dye tied around their neck, they leave their mark on the upper back of any ewe they mount.
As I lie in bed contemplating arising, I wondered how I'd feel when I stood up. The withdrawal symptoms after three months of painkillers, although considered relatively mild, were disabling for three days.  I didn't expect to feel better until five to seven days had passed.

As I stood up and made the bed (Tom was already up and about) I knew I was better.  I'd done the same each of the past three days forcing myself to perform small tasks and it took everything I had.  This morning, for the first time in over three months I could do so with ease.
Mom, dad, and babies sticking together.  In some breeds both the male and females have horns.
Of course, in Marloth Park, we never had to make the bed with the boys coming six or seven days a week to clean the house.  It's a big adjustment now without all this help.  The biggest issue is keeping the kitchen floor clean until Thursday when lovely Ann, our cleaner comes for three hours to do the entire house.

We were desperately needing to grocery shop today.  We had no idea what we'd have for dinner when we'd depleted all the main dish items we'd purchased a week ago.  With the small freezer, most of which is taken up by our ice cube trays, we have little room to store meats for future meals.
This sheep was fascinated with us until we made a noise and then he ran off.
Subsequently, each week we'll purchase two roasted chickens, one for shopping night and the other for the next night.  Then, if we dine out once a week, we only need freezer space to store meats and chicken for the remaining four evenings.  

The fish guy comes once a week and most likely I'll have the fresh fish that day for at least one night, while Tom has whatever we've made to last two nights.  The food storage situation is merely one of those adjustments we need to make as we continue to travel the world.

We've postponed our trip out of town that we'd mentioned a week ago.  With the challenge of the past three days and our need to purchase groceries, we'll save that for another day. Today, while out and about we'll be able to take photos to share.  

Have a spectacular day!
Photo from one year ago today, May 20, 2018:
I sat at this table with Gail, Leslie, Pat, and Jeanine while we participated in the Royal Wedding Watch Party.  There were others that attended the party but aren't in the photo.  It was a fun day!  For more photos, please click here.

Pain killer issues...More discomfort...

This morning view!
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
"Northern Ireland is governed by the United Kingdom, while the rest of Ireland is an independent nation."

I deliberated over writing about today's topic.  There's a certain amount of embarrassment and shame associated with withdrawal from necessary pain medication.  We are not talking about non-medically prescribed addiction to opiates which is rampant in today's world.

Patients often take opiates for medical issues and when its time to stop, they cannot do so or choose not to do so and end up spending months, years or a lifetime drug seeking. In a desperate need to acquire more medication, crimes may be committed, relationships destroyed and even death may occur from overdoses.  For more information, please click here for information from the Mayo Clinic in the US.

That's not what we're talking about today.  Today, we're sharing my personal experience over the past three months of taking a prescribed combination drug, Ultracet which is described as follows:  This product is used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. It contains 2 medications: Tramadol (37.5 mg.) and acetaminophen (325 mg.), such as Tylenol or Paracetamol.

Although the dose of Tramadol is low, it is a scheduled substance* and considered to be an opiate, a class of drugs described as follows:  "Opiate is a term classically used in pharmacology to mean a drug derived from opium. Opioid, a more modern term, is used to designate all substances, both natural and synthetic, that bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Opiates are alkaloid compounds naturally found in the opium poppy plant Papaver somniferum."

*Scheduled medications are described as follows from this site.  Please keep in mind that we don't profess to have any special education or knowledge on this topic.  Please see your physician for assistance in this manner. However, I do have a story to tell with the hope it creates awareness and support for those who may have experienced similar issues.  You are not alone.

Three months and one week ago, as most of you are aware, I had emergency triple coronary bypass surgery on February 12, 2019.  Three of the four of my cardiac arteries were 100% blocked.  Angioplasty was not an option.

With the necessity of taking veins from the legs with long incisions, inserting chest tubes and neck IV (PICC line), and opening the chest via another 30.5 cm, (12-inch incision) and then cutting through the strong breastbone.  No ribs are broken during this procedure.

After surgery, upon awakening and discovering a tube in my throat (intubation), I was in agonizing pain in each area of my body involved in the surgery.  At that point, I was given morphine both to reduce pain, cause sleep and reduce the memory of the experience.  

No doubt, the morphine worked when it was added to my IV. Upon waking, hours earlier than expected I remember asking using hand signals for pen and paper to write, "Take out the tube!  It's hurting my throat."  

They didn't remove the tube.  They gave me more morphine and I slept for several more hours.  This next time I awakened, the tube was painfully removed while I was awake.  More pain.

Over the eight days in ICU, I was given pain medication via the IV in my hand, morphine for the first day and Tramadol, for the remaining time.  By the time we went back to Marloth Park, 11 days post surgery, I was still in an enormous amount of pain.  

In the first 24 hours back in Marloth Park, I pulled a muscle in my right chest in the middle of the night and the overall pain exacerbated by 100%.  Although Tom provided professional caregiver attention, the pain was unbearable.  

I was sent home with a box of 60 Ultracet tablets with instructions "not to worry" about the drug since the low dose wasn't addictive and wouldn't cause any issues upon stopping.  

The doctor suggested I take two tablets every four hours or as needed.  I chose to take one tablet every six hours.  It helped make me more comfortable but didn't totally relieve the pain.  I chose to "suffer it out" with this lower dose preferring not to take any pain medication if I can avoid it.

Then, less than a month after the bypass surgery, both of my legs became infected and after two surgeries, more morphine and IV Tramadol during the five days I returned to the hospital for two surgeries, three days apart, on both of my legs.  I was sent "home" with another 60 mg box of Ultracet tablets.

The pain in my legs proved to be more painful than the recovery from the bypass surgery, although it was a close second.  I continued to take the tablets, every six hours as I'd done previously.  The pain continued, if not fiercely, even when I was instructed to be on total bed rest for almost a month.  Walking was limited, using a walker from the bed to the bathroom or from the sofa to the bathroom.

It was less than two weeks ago that we returned the walker to a kindly Marloth Park resident who loaned it to us thanks to Louise for posting a notice on the Marloth Park website and getting several kindly responses in minutes.  I was instructed to start walking.

The pain continued since I still had a massive open wound in my left leg which required debridement at the doctor's office every other day, and I continued to take the Ultracet, never more than three tablets a day, one upon awakening, )

The pain continued on the long 26-hour travel day and for the next several days since we arrived in Ireland.  Then, a miracle of all miracles, the leg began to improve.  On Friday morning at 6:00 am, I took the last pain pill, knowing the pain remaining until the wound closes, would be manageable.  I still have two almost full boxes of Ultracet.

By Friday evening, something was wrong.  I had the chills, my hands were shaking, I bordered on nausea although I could eat and I had such a degree of malaise I could hardly move from place to place. It hurts to raise my arms.  Walking up and down the steps took everything I had. I knew what it was after considerable research on reputable medical sites.  

I was in withdrawal, not unusual after such a long run of pain medications including four surgeries, two hospital stays and a long difficult recovery.  So what am I doing to get through this?

1.  First and foremost:  Not taking more tablets to alleviate the symptoms.  This would be the worse thing I could do.  I put all the tablets away, knowing full well, I wouldn't be tempted to take more.  I want this over with, not prolonging it by taking more pills.
2.  Stay hydrated and eat - Somehow drinking non-caffeinated herbal tea is comforting and an easy way to consume fluids.  Plus, its cool here and the tea helps me warm up.  We made a great dinner last night...yes, I helped and I had seconds a few hours later.
3.  Sleep - I wish I could sleep straight through until this goes away.  But, that's not possible.  Although I had two good night's sleep both Friday and Saturday nights and dozed off and on all day on the sofa, I still feel extremely tired and listless.
4.  Keep active - This sounds like an oxymoron when I mention sleep above.  But, I've found doing light household tasks, cooking, laundry and continuing the walking seems to help.  
5.  Keep a positive frame of mind - Easy to say, hard to do.  But, this will be over before too long.  Based on the length of time I was on the medication and the dose, I'm am expecting the withdrawal to last about five or six more days.  Today, its better than yesterday which is encouraging.
6.  Tell loved ones about the withdrawal - For some reason, there is shame associated with the word "withdrawal."  For those who've taken the appropriate pain killers for medical reasons under the care of a physician, there is nothing to be ashamed of.  If I'd continued the meds when I no longer needed them, started "doctor shopping" for more, lying to family and friends and many more negative forms of behavior, this could be construed as addiction.  Tom is supportive, as always and will do anything he can to help me get through it although I am forging ahead trying to stay active.

Why did I write about the personal situation?  Take away the "shame" as mentioned above and we're hoping this post even if it only inspires one person, will make it all worthwhile.  We are all in this world, in this life together.  Reaching out, regardless of the cause may open our eyes to new possibilities.

Based on the exacerbation of the symptoms, we decided not to go out last night to the pub in Carna for drinks at the bar and dinner.  Once I'm over this period, I'll be ready to start "kicking up my heels" once again.  

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 19, 2018:
There were many rainbows at the falls.  For more photos, please click here.