Life is What Happens


“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon from song Beautiful Boy

We planned to celebrate the end of my treatments for two awful viruses that invaded my body last year. Seven months of chemo-like treatments ended in early October, and the viruses were killed–along with my hair follicles. My husband was scheduled for a conference in Acapulco for mid-October so we decided to add some days to his travel itinerary and I would accompany him.

He’d only been to Acapulco once before, and that was with my brother more than forty years ago. My brother died in 2008, and Robert thought it would be nice for me to go to the same places they went as young bucks out for a lark. It might have been one of the few times was my brother was truly happy.

As soon as my treatments ended, I felt wonderful, even better than before. Robert had a cold when we started out, but he’s a healthy guy, and we both were certain with plenty of Vitamin C and lots of fluids, he’d be well by the time we started our journey, first to Mexico City, then by bus to Cuernavaca, and then by bus to Acapulco.

When we first planned the trip, we made reservations for a hotel in Pie de la Cuesta for one night. Pie de la Cuesta is only a few miles from Acapulco but a world away in beauty and pace. Robert and my brother stayed there for most of their month-long sojourn to Mexico. One month before we left, two major storms collided on the Pacific Coast and left Pie de la Cuesta in bad shape. We cancelled the hotel.

We spent our first day in Mexico City walking around the Zocalo and Alameda–the historic center of the city–with Robert sniffling and blowing his nose.

Templo Mayor, Mexico City

Templo Mayor, Mexico City

After a late lunch, we set out in search of the Diego Rivera Museum, but Robert’s sniffles turned into major chest congestion. We were at about 6,500 altitude in the city, and the pollution is omnipresent in any air breathed. He couldn’t walk fast and forget climbing any stairs. I managed to get him back to our hotel room and put him to bed. But he couldn’t sleep lying down, and I couldn’t sleep when he couldn’t take air in. He kept saying, “Get me to the coast.”


bus ride

So we went with an overnight stay in one of the oldest cities in Mexico. Cuernavaca has been inhabited since 1200 BC. Our hotel had a beautiful pool overlooking green hills. The air pollution lifted even though we were only an hour from Mexico City. When we got out of the pool and started to walk up the stairs to the elevators, he couldn’t make it. My active and athletic husband had to stop after each step. We managed a few hours in the historic district, thanks to the concierge at the hotel who arranged for a taxi drop and pick up in a place near the two main plazas of town.

By the time we made it to Acapulco, he was still in bad shape. He tried attending his conference for a few hours, but his coworkers sent him back to the hotel. We never made it to Pie de la Cuesta. We never saw the places where he’d been with my brother.

But as I prepared to get him back to the States, I realized that you can’t really go back because nothing is the same as it was. The trip home was agony as we faced a six-hour bus trip, an overnight at airport hotel and then eight hours of plane trips home. Through the kindness of strangers, we managed with wheelchairs and escorts provided by Courtyard Mexico City Airport and Delta Airlines.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, I drove him straight to the hospital where he was admitted with a severe case of acute bronchitis. They kept him in the hospital for four days. Now a few days later, I can hear him puttering around the house without coughing. I periodically poke my head out of my office to remind him to take it easy even though he’s feeling a bit better.

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans” reverberated through my head as we made our way home.

We lived our life from moment to moment in Mexico with our roles reversed for the first time in a year. At one point, he looked up at me from a wheelchair and said, “You have no idea what it’s like not to  be able to do things I could before.” I smiled, and he realized the irony in his statement. No one knew better than me what that was like. He gained instant empathy for what life must have been like for me when my body was attacking itself.

And I learned what it was like to be the helpless, worried spouse. I wanted to cure him and make it all go away. I realized that’s exactly what he’d been saying to me over the past months.

Despite our disrupted plans, we came full circle in our relationship. If we’d been able to go to the sites he wanted, we’d never have experienced this symbiotic reversal, which brought greater understanding of both our relationship and those around us.

United - Cuernavaca

full circle

Here’s to health, which I never really appreciated until it disappeared for a time.

Soon I’ll publish more on what we saw in Mexico.

The Well-Traveled Tomato Seeds

toms!By Patricia Zick @PCZick

We recently flew to Florida for a working vacation. When I put my large suitcase on the scales, it weighed in at sixty-one pounds.

“Either lighten the load or pay $90,” the airline agent said.

My husband went for the zipper of my suitcase. He pulled out four ping-pong paddles.

“Why are you taking those?” I asked.

“Because there’s a ping-pong table at the conference, but they have lousy paddles,” he said. He put the paddles in his briefcase — work-related materials. He lost at ping-pong last year when he played with a colleague, and for an entire year, blamed it on the hotel’s paddles.

Next, he pulled out a bulky plastic bag I hadn’t packed.

“My golf shoes wouldn’t fit in my suitcase,” he said. Those he squeezed into my briefcase. Another work-related item because his boss asked him to play golf. “You can rent clubs, but not shoes,” he told me as the scales announced we’d removed six pounds.

“Got to get rid of a few more things,” the agent said as I wondered how I’d manage to haul my now bulging briefcase.

My husband wasn’t finished. He pulled out a Tupperware container filled with packages of seeds and folded paper towels. Then he fished around some more and found Lleweylln’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, which contains a gardening guide for “conscious living by the cycles of the moon.”

“I need to start tomato seeds while we’re gone,” he said.

Even while traveling, the garden manages to come with us.

During the second quarter of February’s moon on February 22, 2013, my husband went into the bathroom of our hotel room  and layered damp paper towel sheets (the thinnest and cheapest kind of paper towel — that’s why he travels with them) over sprinklings of tomato seeds.

tomato seeds sprouting - from Florida to Colorado to Pennsylvania

tomato seeds sprouting – from Florida to Colorado to Pennsylvania

He usually starts them closer to March 1, but he believes in following the cycle of the moon for all phases of the planting stage, and this year that occurred in the third week of February. Who’s to argue with him? He’s been gardening for forty years with great success.

Robert's Garden 2012

Robert’s Garden 2012

“I like to start fruits with seeds during the second quarter,” he told me. “I’ll start some more during March’s second quarter so they’re not all coming in at once.”


The Moon Sign Book quotes Lao Tzu for the week of February 17-23: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” My husband knows himself, as well as knowing all he grows.

I remained in Florida when he flew to Denver for another conference. Guess what he took with him? That’s right, the container with tomato seeds beginning to sprout. A few days ago, he flew home to Pittsburgh where the container now rests in our bedroom on a dresser.

Maybe we can enter this year’s crop of tomatoes in the “Most Traveled Vegetable Seed” contest, if there is one. Let’s hope the tomatoes win because the golf and ping-pong matches didn’t fare so well, despite my husband’s best smuggling efforts, using my suitcase.

The seedlings went into small pots on March 2 and sit under grow lights along with onions, parsley, and lettuce.

Real Local Food - tomatoes ripening on the vine

Real Local Food – tomatoes ripening on the vine

Soon he’ll start spinach seeds. They only take three weeks to a month before they’re ready to go into the ground. He likes to start those seeds during the first quarter, which begins March 11. Again, he’ll start them in batches so we have spinach until the summer heat makes them bolt. I love having extra spinach to freeze (see my post on preserving spinach). We’re still eating it once a week and have enough to last until we can eat it fresh again.

Spinach 2012

Spinach 2012




That’s the gardening news from western Pennsylvania. What’s going on with your garden right now?


Super-sweet and Beautiful Blogger Awards

Super-sweet Award

My blogger colleague Marcella Rousseau has nominated me for two awards: Super-sweet award and Beautiful Blogger Award. Marcella writes one of my favorite blogs, For Your Good Health. Please stop by her blog, and I think you’ll discover why she’s an inspiration to me.

I’ve received several awards since I started writing Living Lightly Upon this Earth in April. Each time I’m honored to be nominated. The requirements for acceptance involve mentioning the nominator (thanks, Marcella), answering some questions about ourselves, and nominating others. I’m going to take a few liberties today with the requirements. The super-sweet award wants answers about our sweet tooth, and I try to pretend I don’t have one.  I’ve answered lots of questions about myself on the other blogs. Since my book Live from the Road is about travel and I’m going to launch a new blog with travel posts in the next month, I’m going to give a list of some not so common places I’ve visited over the years.

  1. Marrakesh, Morocco
  2. Cortona, Italy
  3. Leaning Tower of Texas
  4. Eureka, California
  5. Bocas del Toro, Panama
  6. Santiago, Chile
  7. Newquay, Cornwall
  8. Stockbridge: Michigan, Massachusetts, Georgia, and England
  9. Paradise, Michigan
  10. Hell, Michigan

These awards are a way for our blogs to be recognized and to draw more followers and comments to our sites. I appreciate that, and I appreciate the followers of both my blogs. I love getting comments because it tells me someone out there is listening/reading. I want the same for my fellow bloggers. I’m going to provide a list below of the blogs I read every time they write a post (I follow 30-some posts – I can’t read every single one!) because they are so inspiring to me. If you’re reading this post, please visit at least one of the blogs below and leave them a comment if you like what you read. That helps us bloggers as much as anything.

  1. For Your Good Health
  2. What’s Green with Betsy?
  3. The Museum of Forgotten Pickles
  4. Staci Troilo
  5. wvfarm2u
  6. Hazy Shades of Me
  7. Attempting zero waste lifestyle in a military household
  8. Olemike’s Blog
  9. Thriving Pessimist
  10. Life in the Blue Ridges
  11. Faithrises

I will leave it to these bloggers now nominated for the Super-sweet award and the Beautiful Blogger Award to do what they may with the award!
And please remember to visit at least one of them and leave a comment. Thanks!