Monday, December 4, 2017

A Long Road Home - and Still Traveling

 Cathedral Basilica of St John the Apostle - Eger, Hungary
I've spent the morning trying to put the last few months of my life into perspective as I go through my photos from a trip we took in September to Ukraine. Hubby went there to teach about how the US Forest Service manages their watersheds and I went along to be part of a Carpathian/Appalachian Mountain Cultural Exchange - they wanted me to bring some of my quilts. (You might remember that my Carpathian Mountain Sunset was inspired by Ukrainian photographer Leonid Tit's photographs.)

We flew to Ukraine and spent a few days there before we split up. He taught at a couple of Universities and I got to go to Hungary which was just a few hours away. It was an amazing time! Eger was a beautiful little city and I wish we could have spent more time there. 

Inside the Basilica 

The altar area

Looking UP!

Looking way up!

The organ
The streets in this part of the city were filled with little shops and lots of goodies to buy and eat.  It's so nice to walk along a street and not have to worry about cars. 
A street in Eger

Eger, Hungary
 We couldn't stay long in Eger because we needed to get to Budapest that day. I was traveling with 2 friends, one who works with the international forest service and our guide and driver Igor - a wonderful young man from Ukraine who was also our translator.

We arrived in Budapest in time for some wine and cheese on a plaza outside the Cathedral. I couldn't believe how wonderful it was. 
 We walked the roads and a bridge over the canal at night and I tried to capture the scenery with my little camera. Everything was lit up and gorgeous!

The next day my guide and I trekked over the bridge and up the steep hill to look over the city. The pic below is of their Parliament building. 

 I'm not sure what I'm taking pics of anymore! 

Parliament again
 Surely this has to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.  We walked back on another bridge and came right up to it - and to the monument built to remember and make tribute to the fallen Hungarians when Soviet Russia invaded in 1956. Many pro-democracy demonstrators were slaughtered as the Russians mowed them down with machine guns.
Memorial to the pro-democracy protesters

I'm not the best at taking selfies... but here I am.


What a place to have coffee!!!
 We were only able to spend one day in Budapest and then it was back across the border to Ukraine. We saw all sorts of things in Ukraine, from the forests to the cathedrals. It is a gorgeous gorgeous country rich with farmland and the people were so wonderfully friendly! (I had a translator remember.)

Alas it rained a LOT the first few days we were in the countryside and we were on the road a lot so I couldn't get good pictures. Their little villages are all built around beautiful orthodox churches.  Imagine it, those ornate steeples with a backdrop of evergreen trees and mountains. Definite quilt material!

One of the places I want to show you is called the polonyna. Far above the cities in the west are alpine meadows of the Carpathians. These are grazing areas for sheep, cattle and goats. We spent time on the polonyna in 2 places. One above Yaremche and one above Rakhiv. 
Sheep. Every time I see this photo I say to myself "Baa ram ewe, sheep be true baa ram ewe" the secret 'password' from the movie Babe. 

Hubby and goat love. I think he was missing his pup!
 Here are some photos from the polonyna. These are the Carpathian mountains and they are a lot like our Appalachians. 

Bails of hay
 There is an interesting story behind these hay stacks. The women - I was told the older women - hang on to that birch pole in the middle and walk in a circle around it while men lay down clumps of hay in front of her. She packs it down as she walks and the stack grows higher and higher. (Heaven knows how granny gets off the top - these things were way over my head!) 

We had fantastic multi course dinners at the couple of farms we visited at the top. This one is at a 'hotel' or kind of resort? above the city of Rakhiv called Rakhiv Plai. The food was to die for. Fresh homemade everything from smoked sheep cheese, fresh mushroom gravy, sausages, smoked meats, bograch soup, great cabbage salads with fresh dill, etc. And salo. Lots of salo.

Salo is raw pig fat that is specially seasoned. It sounds disgusting doesn't it? I loved it - especially the smokey flavored fat. It reminded me of bacon.

I would have spent time looking for a Ukraine cookbook in English but disaster struck. At this point in our trip though as I look at the photos I remember what fun we had and in my pictures I'm smiling. Even as I write up this blog, I can't remember feeling happy and carefree on this trip - it's been a long time since I felt that good.

I have a couple of links to sites which talk about Ted's work in Ukraine in case you are interested.

Rakhiv Newspaper - I'm in this one.
You'll have to use the translate to read it - it's in Ukrainian

Chief's Newsletter - Forest Service
In this article Ted is pictured with 
Lesya Loyko, one of the sweetest women I've ever met. Her parents had us over for tea when we were in Uzhgorod - you'll see a pic of their 'tea' in a bit.

After traveling in the country, we arrived in Lviv. 
High Castle Park, Lviv Ukraine

 Up up up you go and then you get to High Castle where you can get 360 degree views of the city of Lviv. Lviv is smaller than Kiev and is less traveled. It's beautiful old Europe though and the main square in the city is a United National Heritage site. 
Lviv Opera House
 While Ted was teaching, my guide took me all around the city. I went into cathedrals, underground coffee mines (!), and even a Cat Cafe.  The underground coffee mine is funny - they set up a fake mine and have coffee beans on the walls. They do serve you coffee that has been lit on fire if you order it. That was great coffee - it's topped with sugar and they light it on fire with a blow torch at your table! It was too dark to take pictures... but here is ONE counter from the Chocolate Factory.
 I lost track of the names of all the cathedrals I went into. Sorry about that! 

City of the Dead
One of the places I wanted to visit was the Lychakiv Cemetery, established in 1787. I roamed about the paved trails and took quite a few pictures of the statuary for possible quilt ideas. Yep, quilt ideas. 
Fresh graves of soldiers fighting the Russian invasion in East Ukraine.
In the US we aren't often told about the fighting that is going on in East Ukraine. The Russians have sent troops over the border and are trying to take over more of Ukraine than the Crimea. Ukraine has only been free since the early 90's and this fledgling democracy can use all our help. This section of the cemetery is dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives defending Ukraine in the last few years.

Back to the inside of some of the cathedrals in Lviv.

Inside the Armenian Church
I caught the light just right didn't I? A happy accident! 
You wander around the streets in the city, turn a corner and see things like this courtyard.

Beautiful pastel paintings and decorations
Whenever I go into one of these awe inspiring cathedrals I feel like our church building at home has lost the idea of trying to capture the majesty and mysteriousness of God.  You know that these buildings are not like any other place on earth; they are set apart for very special reasons.

The Cat Cafe. I was missing Ellie Cat so we had coffee there and I got my fill of kitty love. There are quite a few cats allowed to roam all over the inside of the little cafe and I thought it was delightful. 

Lesya's parents invited us over for tea. This is what they served!!!  Imagine being invited to tea and then walking in a home to find this spread arranged just for you. They fed us for several hours, these were only the first few courses!
 We traveled to several little cities.

This is a view of our hotel in Yaremche

Mukachevo Castle - just north of Uzhgorod

Ted and Lesya on a 'show me' hike in the forest outside of Uzhgorod
 We also explored some old ruined castles.
Nevytsky Castle
 Do all castles have legends? This one holds that an evil rich woman owned it and that she was so jealous of young beautiful women in the village below that she'd bring them up and throw them off the high walls.

I have no idea if this is true or not. (I can't imagine the men in the city would have let her do it more than once that's for sure.)
Nevytsky Castle 
Well, now we get to the part where our time there went from a rather exciting adventure to disaster. It's quite shocking how you can go along and then in the space of a blink of an eye be plunged into a nightmare of stress and trauma.

On September 30th Ted was going down marble stairs to the location of his workshop and he fell. He landed on his left knee and ripped the tendons which hold the quadriceps muscles to the knee cap. Not realizing what he'd done, he tried to get up and fell again - this time landing on his right knee and he then ripped those tendons away from the kneecap.

 He was taken by ambulance - cash only to pay for it-  to the local hospital, given pain meds and his legs were stabilized. He spent the rest of the day in an unheated dark hallway in that hospital. (Which had dried bloody bandages from God knows when laying on a cart next to him. When the doctor said that he'd need surgery and it couldn't be done in Ukraine I remember thinking "Thank God". I had been preparing to step in and say NO to having surgery there.)

I couldn't go in the ambulance and had to take a taxi to the hospital. No one spoke English and it took me a long time to even find him there.  I more or less wandered around asking everyone I passed if they spoke English...  If I had gone tourist shopping like I had wanted to, I wouldn't have had cash to pay for the ambulance and Ted would have been stuck at the bottom of those marble stairs for another hour or 2 until I found a cash machine. A cash machine where directions were in English. God was with us!

After spending the day there, he was transferred to a little clinic close to the down town area and it turned out that this nice CLEAN clinic was only 3 blocks from my hotel. 
Another God thing. They kept him doped up and comfortable.

  2 days later we were MediVac'd to Berlin for surgery.  While we waited, I needed to repack all our bags and ship them home - cash only. The jet to Germany could only take 1 small piece of luggage. I don't know how I could have coped without a translator.  We found a cash machine and it took 11 withdrawals to get enough cash to pay for shipping our big suitcases. 

Emergency room in Lviv. 
Here is my poor guy. The plaster went on the back of his legs to keep them from bending. Once he was done with surgery they put him in these velcro leg braces (see below). He had surgery the day after we arrived because it was a holiday in Berlin - the fall of the Berlin Wall - and that was a day they hadn't scheduled many surgeries. They got him it that quickly because of this. (Another God thing).

They did the surgery at night and kicked me out of his hospital room right after they brought him back. He was in agony and they wouldn't give him pain meds until the anesthesia wore off.  I took a cab to my hotel and just bawled.
By the time I got back in the morning he was on narcotics and feeling no pain.  
After surgery in Berlin
 We were in Berlin for 9 days. During that time I think I met 2-3 people who could speak English.  Plus, my cell phone wouldn't work in Germany. I had to have everything written down to show the taxi drivers where I needed to go.  Some people say that since the hospital - which was the Helios - was in old East Berlin and not West, that that is why there weren't many English speakers there.

Because Ted was in such good shape, they had him up and walking a bit after a couple of days.
He had to use crutches but managed to walk up and down the corridors for a bit only 2 days after surgery.
The view out his window
 The hospital was a lonely place at night. I took a cab to and from my hotel every day and I never met a cabby who could speak English. This was one of the most stressful things I've gone though - alone in a country where you don't know the language. It's like right out of a nightmare. At least German uses the English alphabet though, in Ukraine I had no idea what signs said. 
Empty creepy hospital at night....

He did get his own wheelchair. 
 After 9 days in Germany, we were put on an ambulance and taken to Frankfurt. From there we were sent home on a plane with special seats that could recline all the way back. He still can't sit up for very long, he needs to stand or recline most of the day.  We arrived in Chicago and then an ambulance took us home to Wisconsin. They got him onto our futon and I let the dogs in. There was much rejoicing! 

Yay -home!
 Since then we have put in a hospital bed and I no longer have to lift him up. Unfortunately he developed an infection in his right knee so for a week he was on antibiotics and twice a day I had to drain the fluid out of his knee through an incision they cut into the top. After more than a week, he still had a fever and that meant back to surgery to clean up the inside.

Once they opened him up they found that the infection ruptured the sutures and his tendon had to be reattached once more.  Soooo, about 3? weeks ago he had to start over with his right knee.

On the bright side, his left knee is getting back to normal. Almost. He can go up and down stairs and bend it enough to get in and out of cars, etc. more comfortably. 
Yay - he can step up on one leg now!

My life now has revolved around my husband's knees since Sept. 30th.  I've learned to build fences, winterize lawn mowers, put air in tires, chop down small trees - use power tools!, etc. All those little things he used to do around the house, I'm doing as well as my normal around the house work. (Cooking and grocery shopping - yuck!). 

It's been rough.

One highlight was a friend's gift of a box of chocolates from England. This is a woman who knew what I needed! (I'm giving her the little quilt pictured below as a thank you gift. THANK  YOU Hannah! )

We've made it through the worst of it now. I hope. We've had friends praying for us and we so appreciate it. I'd like to say that the end is in sight, but it isn't. It will be a long time before he can go to work, sit in a chair comfortably, before he can drive, and before I get back to a normal routine. Actually, I think this is my new normal.

I've finally caught up on enough stuff that had to get done around the house to get back into my sewing room and I  finished this little landscape. 
Path with Birches? I have no idea what to call it.
So, in case you've been wondering what happened to me.... now you know. I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Yet.
If this keeps up I might start jumping though.

There are a lot of things to be thankful for, I'm reminding myself of these as I mention them to you. Clean hospitals. Enough money to pay for ambulances.  An international program to help us when we get into difficulty overseas. (International SOS.) Good doctors and surgeons. Friends who help whenever you ask. Recovery - even when it is slow it is steady.  A son who came over to help haul away tree trunks and branches and clean the gutters. (I'm afraid of heights). Furry pets you can hug and pet when you need comfort. A sister-in-law who stayed with our critters and kept them happy and healthy. Chocolate. And most especially God who was watching over us and made a way through the storm.

I'm not sure when I'll blog again but hopefully it won't be as long. While I was gone The Perfect Nanny won 2nd place with the MQX Quilt Festival and was accepted into the National Quilt Museum's New Quilts from Old Favorite Contest.  My River of Life quilt also won a ribbon at the AQS show in September.

I'm hoping to get back to work on a strip pieced quilt of the Grand Canyon at sunset soon. Maybe even this week?

We'll see how it goes. Thanks for reading this whole thing. Keep Calm and Carry On has been my mantra for the last few weeks and probably will be for the next few as well.


  1. I’ll keep you and your hubby in my prayers.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your travails. What you've been through--surgery, revision, recovery--would have been difficult enough without throwing in the foreign country, the language difficulties, the isolation. My best friend from grade school lives in Berlin, and as I was reading your tale, I kept thinking, "Oh, I wish I'd known! I would have sent Rebecca right over!" But you made it through on your own, and you surely discovered how amazing you can be in harrowing situations (and how much you don't want to try it again).

    I'm glad you're home with a strong support system. I hope you're managing to find some time for yourself. In my experience that is hard to do in this situation, and those blocks of time are precious and restorative.

    1. Thanks. I didn't discover how amazing I could be but I did discover that I don't want to go back to a country where English isn't the main language, lol.

      I have been able to find time to sew now. It's felt good and I realized something that I've heard over the years but never appreciated and that was how difficult it is for care-givers to care for themselves. It feels selfish to want to get away and do something you want to do. I suppose it is a balancing act and you figure it out as you go. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. :)

  3. So happy you are both safe and sound now Cathy! You show amazing strenght and you have conquered your fears and soldier on, no matter how! Our Lord God is a mighty good god and he did indeed provide you both with protection and comforted when needed and considering where you both were in the world. I am certainly pleased to see and hear that your husband is recovering and that he is walking considerably well after his & yours terrible events. I think you should write a book telling your story to help fellow traveller's be prepare for events such as yours stating how you coped no matter what country you were in, be it Urkaine/Hungry/Germany! Congratulations. Julie Adelaide Australia!

    1. Thanks for your support and encouragement Julie. He is even better today than when I blogged - he's been able to take the brace off his right knee now and he can sort of walk. (Slowly slowy...) Someday I'd like to travel to Australia and since you all speak English I know I can handle it!! God is good - all the time was a phrase our Sunday school teachers taught their children. He is - even when you don't 'see' it clearly. I see it better now than when I was in the thick of things. :)

  4. What are the chances that your husband would have the same injury on both knees? Unbelievable. Speedy recovery to him.

    1. Thanks! He was able to take the brace off his right leg so he's getting better and better. Regarding his injuring BOTH knees, I've been teasing him that he has mad skills, lol.

  5. Oh my! What a difficult time you two have had. Not exactly an adventure you would have chosen to take, but God has been with you through it all and hopefully your faith has been strengthened.

    1. My faith has been strengthened, I'm just tired now I think. He is doing better and maybe in a month will be able to go back to work. He's walking slowly slowly now and can sit down for short periods of time without it being terribly uncomfortable. We'll get through this - it is just taking time. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

  6. I loved ready about your wonderful holiday and was shocked and dismayed when I got to the end and read what a nightmare you both went through. So glad you are home and things have improved. Best of luck for a speedy recovery.

    1. Thanks! It's taking one day at a time here and slowly but surely he is getting better. Then end of the trip sort of ruined the beginning that's for sure. Maybe that will change when he is completely recovered and we are far enough away from the disaster so remembering won't be as painful. Thanks again for the well wishes. :)

  7. Hoping that your husband continues to heal and will soon be fully recovered. Your pictures of the Ukraine are so beautiful. Looking forward to meeting you in Iowa City in May, when you are here to visit our quilt guild.

    1. Thanks!! I'm glad you like the pictures and we'll have fun at the workshop in May. I've ordered a bolt of fabric that I'm hoping will be perfect for the birch trees and it should come in March or April. See you in May Mary!

  8. Thanks Cathy! Looking forward to your lecture and workshop!