Don’t Forget The Passport..

And The Countdown Is On..

The Colosseum with Fireworks!

The Colosseum with Fireworks!

Remember the old song…” Leaving On A Jetplane “? Well, my bags aren’t packed and I am not quite ready to go. Literally, that is…in my head however, I departed weeks ago. When our son became a Marine Embassy Guard and was assigned to the Embassy in Rome, Italy, we were both relieved and thrilled.

We did not expect that he would land such a peachy first assignment and expected to have a year or two to save for what we hoped would eventually be a vacation-worthy location. So off we launched into what has been a manic saving of vacation funds. Yes, every extra penny has been earmarked for the ” Rome fund “ for many weeks and months. This trip will include a celebration of my birthday (June 1st, the first day we arrive); a May 23rd Anniversary; the Mother’s Day that I spent in a coma: and several other upcoming holidays thrown in for good measure.

Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel

Just Around The Corner

And now here it is 9 days until take-off! And I have to tell you, the truth is.. I am just PLANE nervous, and not because I’m scared of flying. About what you ask? Well, let me count the ways: You may remember that I have a severe immune deficiency which has manifested itself by plaguing me with a lifetime of sinus & respiratory infections. I began taking IVIG infusions about a year and a half ago. They worked well for about a year and I did not have any infections for awhile. But something has changed. I have gotten 3 very challenging infections since December. The most recent one (Pneumonia) arrived as my gift for Mother’s Day. My husband & I  also recalled that on my last two plane rides, I have gotten a terrible infection almost immediately after being on the plane (typically in time to ruin my trip to wherever it was that I had just arrived to). So I have begrudgingly agreed, that wearing a nose/mouth face mask will be needed for this LONG international flight. In a recent airplane trip last month to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Patient Conference, I tried out my new mask. My appearance with my eyes peeking out from over the top of the mask silently screams…’Wonder what kind of cooties she has’? It is what it is…I don’t dare want to take a chance of getting sick on my gourmet vacation. I even ordered some stylish pastel floral, ear loop masks.

I Remember When…

All I had to do was narrow down my choice of vacation outfits, jewelry and shoes and hope it did not exceed the weight limit. Sadly, it has become an anal list of  trying to anticipate & purchase every aid I will need for my broken-down body parts. For instance, my new CANE SEAT. I do not typically walk with or need a cane. However, I have been experiencing a huge amount of pain in my back and neck from both my autoimmune neuropathy and my diffuse bulging discs which are pressing into my spine (according to a recent MRI). So I came up with the brilliant idea of purchasing a cane seat.  After spending a ridiculous amount of time and consideration of every cane seat that is manufactured and featured on, I made a decision. I chose a rather sporty-looking option that features cute, colorful bubbles on a black background. It does not look too medical & will likely match any outfit I choose for the day. It weighs only 2 lbs. As I read the directions, it made me laugh. For safety & stability sake, I must sit on my new purchase like it’s a hobby horse. Yee-haw, where’s ma cowboy hat ya’ll?! But seriously, I know I will be the envy of every equally back broken tourist there. And with my flaming back, I won’t care what anyone thinks!  Hey..if the seat fits…ride it!

SjoDry's "Old Lady (yet fashionable) Cane Seat"

SjoDry’s “Old Lady ( Yet fashionable) Cane Seat”

Which brings me to riding and the very long flight..

Let’s see around 8 hours or so to Paris and then another 2 hours to Rome. Can you say…Oh, my aching back! No worries. I’ve already planned for this. SjoDry found a Samsonite matching Memory Foam neck pillow & lumbar wedge to combat the discomfort of those economy plane seats. Just once, I would love to be able to afford the luxury of first class seats that flatten into a bed…and I may some day…just not to Rome and probably not in this decade. Of course..SjoDry is always like a hyperactive child on a first flight. I don’t sleep. The last time I gave it a serious try, I was stopped in my sleepless tracks by the man next to me who decided to work on his laptop all night with it’s bright penetrating light. The glare from his computer was almost as bright as the glaring look SjoDry was giving him. Good news..I have planned for that too. I found and purchased a solid black, molded eye mask. I was rather tickled with my purchase as the eye coverage part does not actually touch your eyes/make-up. It seemed like the perfect purchase until I tried it on & Steve told me it looked like I had a Victoria’s Secret Bra on my eyes. Between my eye mask & the protective nose/mouth mask, I resemble some kind of creepy figure who lurks in the shadows.

Plane Entertainment..


Of course, I always enjoy the fairly current movies that are shown on international flights. What I don’t enjoy however, are the flimsy, painful ear plugs that are handed out from the flight attendants. I don’t recall if I had to pay money to have the privilege of using them. But I certainly had to pay a price from the ear pain. I think I spent a good portion of the trip trying to wrestle to keep the darn things in my ears. Inevitably, one of the ear plugs is static-ky or somewhat distorted. Well no worries for me…SjoDry found a hot pink set of Ear “Buds” that promise a noise reduction feature & appear to have the same design as many of the pricey competitors next to them. That is, I am hopeful that they will fit comfortably in my ear for my listening pleasure.

And The Research Says…

SjoDry researches EVERYTHING and this trip is no different. I have read Rome Forums; Fodors & Rick Steve’s Rome, Italy books, and on & on. On one particular forum in which I was reading, a woman who had just had her hip replaced, asked about the ability to walk in the Catacombs & did the folks handing out the advice on this forum, think that she would be able to handle that. The response was that she might want to take a flashlight and also that it was incredibly hot & humid & she might want to take a fan. A FAN!! That’s it..Rome in June is crazy hot. SjoDry is going to be ready. So back to I headed to compare personal fans. And I found it. A fan with many positive ratings. Of course my macho Marine son & former military husband don’t require such fans. They will just sweat & suffer as most men do. So I ordered a little mother & daughter fan action. After putting in my double-A batteries yesterday, I must report that this little fan may be my best trip purchase. It has 3 speeds & puts out an impressive amount of cool air. Not only that, I can wear it around my neck blowing at the perfect, strategic angle right at my face. I can even use it on the plane to blow away any germs coming my way.Personal fan

Of course I always purchase the miniature travel sizes of bathroom essentials; hair products and the like. Steve & I both made a trip to the shoe store to purchase comfortable walking shoes that we have been breaking in. Sadly it was necessary for  SjoDry  to find shoes that would accommodate her custom orthotics. And guess what, now we both have shoes that also have memory foam. Now granted, my neck and lumbar pillows & shoes are the only things that will have any memory for this trip as far as SjoDry’s brainfog & memory-challenged mind is concerned, but I have two good cameras to document everything else.

Don’t Forget The Pharmacy.. vector pill bottle

My prescriptions have crept up just like my age. I have been busy re-filling the meds in anticipation of the trip. The last time I packed them, I decided to throw in all of the bottles instead of using ziploc bags (my usual plan). I am not sure how much extra weight I added to my suitcase, but that was not a good idea. I think I will be leaving all of the supplements in their larger bottles at home. If my suitcase is going to be challenged to it’s maximum capacity, it will only be because of my wonderful Italian purchases.

It’s Worth Every Anal-Planning Moment..


Yes, a vacation takes a lot of planning that the Matriarch of her family typically has the pleasure of doing (If you think that is a stereotype I am making, prove me wrong). But it is worth it. I have no complaints, only excitement. I am already planning on making the ultimate scrapbook to re-live our trip for years to come. I worry that some of my chronic pain and fatigue will slow the family down, but I have tried to plan for everything that I am able to. SjoDry wants to go, go, go at the same pace that our family has always enjoyed on our family vacations together. With grown kids who have moved away and the rare opportunity to have a family vacation t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r, I want to soak in every moment with joy and without interruption.

Until Next Time…Ciao Baby!

Here We Come Rome!!

Here We Come Rome!!


About vitalsignspgh

Sandy Burkett is the Creative Engineer, President and Owner of Vital Signs. Vital Signs is a certified Native American/Woman-Owned custom sign and graphics company located in Carnegie, PA.
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