Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Here's a photo of the wall around our pool---or rather, our bird drinking fountain. Count and you'll see five pigeons and one owl.

The owl is plastic. We bought him several years ago because the packaging alleged that he would be a deterent to "pests" like pigeons that drink from the pool.

The pigeons seem to really enjoy his company. They also don't mind the large rubber snake we tried next.

We don't mind sharing the water. It's the poo they leave behind that is the problem.

We were thinking that maybe we ought to get some type of living guard animal to frighten the pigeons away. Like a cat, maybe.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Biblio-biography, Chapter 6

One of the books that had an impact on my life was Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Millions of people know all about Laura and her family from the television show "Little House on the Prairie" that was broadcast from 1974-1982. I didn't own a T.V. during most of that time, but I have seen a few of the shows as reruns; it was a lovely show and did justice to the books. I read the whole series from Little House in the Big Woods to The First Four Years. There were ten books, ultimately, and, Little House on the Prairie wasn't the first one. I loved these books. I read, and re-read them. I read the entire series to all of my children.

My sister and I have contemplated traveling to the Midwest and doing the Wilder Circuit, in which you travel to the sites of the books in Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Kansas. In Mansfield, MN, there is a big festival each year to celebrate her life and the books. I imagine the town is filled with middle-aged women and nine-year old girls, kinda like Pony Penning Day in Virginia.

But, the one book in the series that really caught me was the story of her husband, Almanzo Wilder, as a child on a farm in upstate New York during the 1860's. I was taken by this book because so much of his life was similar to mine.

He lived on a farm.
He had to milk cows.
The weather was really cold.
He attended a one-room school.
His mother was an amazing cook.
He had pesky big sisters.
He craved a horse of his own.
In the summer they had to haul hay.
He had chores every day.
The family attended church every Sunday.
The similarities went on and on.

Of course, he was a boy, and I didn't have to cut ice blocks (but lots of winters we did haul water...) and I didn't have to sit and do nothing all day on Sunday, and we didn't use a horse and buggy for our transportation. Oh, and we had electricity and all that. But...There were just so many things in his life that resonated with my life, that I felt like we must have known one another.

In my previous school in Maryland, we had a yearly field trip to visit a county history site: a restored one-room school used in the 1880's. It is run by a group of retired teachers who were born and raised in that county, and so have a serious interest in teaching modern children about the history of our area. It was simultaneously foreign and familiar to the students when we visited. It was small, the rules so strict and the tools they used (quill pens and inkwells) are unusual, but the flag ceremony is the same, and the maps and pictures of presidents on the wall are so today.

Before or after our trips there, I would read the first chapter of Farmer Boy to the students. It told of Almanzo's experience at his one-room school with some mean, older boys who made a sport of beating up and driving out each school teacher who came to their village. The current teacher is determined to avenge his predecessor---his good friend--and so, unknown to Almanzo, has learned a few good skills from Mr. Wilder. As usual, when I started out the chapter, there were yawns and murmuring. It was just so removed from modern kids' existence that they had a hard time finding any reason to care. But as the chapter progressed, and then got to the exciting conclusion, they were hooked and insisted that I read more the next day.

You don't have to have grown up as a Farmer Girl to appreciate Farmer Boy, but it is one of my favorite books because it revealed to me that everyone can tell a good story, even if you grew up milking cows.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why We Celebrate Father

Today is the day to celebrate fathers. In our family we celebrate our dad for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them.

We celebrate Dad because he has always loved and cared for us. Even when the kids were infants, he never hesitated to be a hands-on dad. Diapers? Vomit? Bleeding? Chicken pox? Pshaw---nothing gave him pause.

We celebrate our Dad because he is a very handy guy. He can fix just about everything. And he used helpers. Once I read a column about "helpers" and it explained that the when you wanted to make a job take twice as long as it should, and to have your tools mysteriously disappear, and to need to improvise repairs that were made worse by your assistant, then by all means, utilize your five year old. Who wouldn't?

We celebrate our Dad because he loved his dad and knew that grandpas are important.

We celebrate our Dad because he liked to chronicle our lives in photos. He knew that we'd all appreciate these vignettes someday, even if the current moment was not one of joy every time.

We celebrate our Dad because he went places with us so we could learn about new things and see historical sites. Again...not every moment of every trip was a pleasure for everyone, but hey...that's life. (Santa Barbara Mission, at the end of a few too many "historical sites.")

We celebrate our Dad because he taught by example that reading was a great pleasure and privilege of life. He read for fun and he read fun stories for the rest of us.

We celebrate our Dad because he came to special events and recognized achievement that was worthy of accolades. He promoted education and learning and encouraged all the family members to improve.

We celebrate Dad because he he knew that church was good, he insisted we always pray before meals, he taught us to follow Jesus and he believes in God.

We celebrate our Dad because he loves us and always shows it. No one in our family has to wonder if they are beloved. They know.

Happy Father's Day to our Dad--a man worth celebrating.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bumblebees Love Us

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "Bumblebees love our plant." The Dr. Seuss-like plant tower that errupted in our back yard a couple of weeks ago is now covered with itty-bitty flowers. I guess I was hoping for big, showy flowers, but these teeny ones are a big hit with The Pollinators. Here's a video.

The sound at the end is CoolGuy attempting to start his chainsaw. Because, of course, it's yardwork time at our house--it's summer. We're slow learners....when the temperature is close to 100 we think, "Oh, we ought to trim that palm tree." Actually, it's only 95 today and if you work slowly, and take lots of drink breaks, and periodically jump in the pool, yardwork is fine in the summer heat. (At our age, work slowly is SOP anyway...) (And when you live in a year-round growth environment, it actually is yardwork time any time.)

And by "we" I mean "him" because I'm just sitting in the shade saying, "Yes, that looks great!" while I keep The Foot propped up. Yesterday I was a little optimistic about my healing status, and after a dermatologist appointment, I went to the grocery store. I stumped around on my boot for a couple of hours. Tsk, tsk,, I am lying down and propping--all day! My hips hurt, my knees hurt, and my sore foot is aching.

Monday, June 14, 2010


We went to the foot surgeon today for the first post-op visit. They took X-rays and we could see the wires that go into my toes about two inches, and then they removed the bandages. I took photos because I wanted to share, but you may not want to look. It's quite graphic. They'll be at the end.

He ended up removing the wire from alongside my big toe. Its purpose was to hold the toe straight up and down and keep it pushed over toward the other toes. He said he "released" [cut] the tissue that was grown over my joint that kept my big toe pointing the wrong direction, and, when I asked, replied that it should now remain straight because he also severed the tendon along the instep of my foot that pulled the toe outward. He removed a piece of it so it won't grow back. The second and third toes also have wires coming from them to keep them straight while their tendons and joint tissues regrow. The tendons were cut and shortened to pull them back into alignment.

He pointed out that he has never had a patient's foot return to the messed up condition after this procedure has been don't be the first. (He's an amusing doctor...really--very sweet.) I go back on July 5th and I will be in the foot cast until then. Blah. At that time he will remove the other wires from the two toes. I should be back in the pool about a week after that.

It still hurts quite a bit. We went to lunch after the doctor and I propped up my foot in the booth. But the effort of walking the amount that I did, and having my foot down while we drove, made it ache. One amusing discovery is that now I walk slowly enough for CoolGuy. For years we've had this disparity between my longer legs' natural stride and my impatient "teacher walk" and his slightly shorter stride and current foot pain caused by pinched back nerves. We'd be out somewhere, and very quickly I'd realize that I was steps ahead of him. Well, that's not a problem now. Also, I got a hang-tag from the DMV, so I can choose handicapped parking spaces for the next two months.

Patience is not one of my best qualities. It's in my DNA to hurry. This foot/cast does not hurry. It isn't hurrying to heal and I can't hurry when I move about. So, I am glad that I don't have big plans for the next month, because they wouldn't be happening anyway. I will take slow, deep breaths, and saunter carefully from room to room. I'll go over to the church on Thursday to see if I can figure out how to use the organ with this cast thing in the way (I'm not proficient on pedals, so I just prop my feet on the bench edge...hmmm...maybe, maybe not with the storm trooper boot.) I ought to be able to play. I hope so. Again, breath in, breath out. Stop and smell the flowers. Sit and rest. Heal, heal, heal.

The yellow knobs are just cushions on the end of the wires. One came off when the bandage came off. He's put it back on before re-bandaging it. The wires are the diameter of coat hangers.

My little toe had a bone spur removed. You can see where he wrote "yes" preoperatively to assure that the surgery was on the correct foot. It is very bruised and swollen, yes.

He removed the wire that is protuding from the side of my foot, alongside my big toe. Then he wrapped up the toe in a soft splint to the rest of my toes. This should help the healing. It only stung a little to have him pull out the wire (about two inches) but it was a creepy feeling knowing he was doing it.

So, there you go: FrankenFeet. BWWWAAAAHHHAAA.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Over Achieving

One of the reasons we were attracted to this house was the backyard. For one, it has a backyard. There is a section with grass and a nice, mature tree. Then, fenced off for safety, there is the section with the pool. At first there were only a couple of small desert plants by the pool, and one stand of ornamental grass. Mostly, there were landscaping rocks. We really didn't like it so barren, plus, we could help cool our house by planting things along the wall to create shade.

So, we added drip lines to plants already there, and planted more things, and after five years, our pool surround is really pleasant and green, with a lush, flowering bush climbing up a trellis and shading our living room. There is a palm-like tree growing near it, and some Mojave yucca. Which brings me to this post...

About a week ago, Cool Guy called me outside to look at something. I was astounded. Instead of this pointy, sword-leafed yucca, shaped like a ball, that had responded to the regular watering of the drip lines to grow slightly in diameter....
We had this bizarre development:

That is a shaft that has grown out of the center of this round, spiky yucca and on it are growing little pod-like tufts.
I have looked it up on-line and I believe that each of these pods will become a flower. In the meantime, it continues to grow taller each day. The speed with which it got from a round ball-shaped plant to this bizarre Seussian object is the astonishing part. It seemed to sprout almost within days and become a towering pole overnight. Here is a shot with a human in it to give it more perspective.

One of the reasons we are so impressed is that it is a native Mojave desert plant, and it is so outlandish in contrast to the usual features of desert plants. Generally, the flora here is subtle and subdued, carefully hoarding life force through small flowers and tiny, waxy leaf structures. One doesn't usually see a display of natural extravagance in Las Vegas. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!

Time Goes By

I can't believe it's only Friday. Blah. This is incredibly boring. However, enforced laying about is needed because even a little bit of walking soon results in searing pain. I'm going to need to get a different routine, though. Today I watched eight episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress"--about brides looking for their perfect gown. I can't do that anymore. I do spend a lot of time sleeping, however, because of the drugs. I am taking fewer and fewer of them, though.

It was only 80 degrees about 7:30 P.M. It was so balmy and beautiful, I went outside and sat on the patio for a bit. I watched CoolGuy water my geraniums and then I thought I'd totter over to my garden and see if there were some ripe tomatoes. The storm trooper boot does not do grass. I almost fell over. Bad idea. I'll just sit on the chairs and leave the picking to him. It was cloudy and windy here all day. These swooping weather changes are so bizarre. On Tuesday, it was 109 and today it is 80. It's amazing the barometers don't just implode.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Left Foot

Here it is. The storm trooper boot is affixed to my leg. Cool Guy keeps a steady supply of ice on it. I keep it propped up above my heart. Hurray for modern narcotic pharmaceuticals. Last night, about 3:00 A.M. all of the anesthesia wore off---woowwweee. Bring on the drugs. But the pain killers are effective when they're consumed in a timely way, so I'll be fine. It is already boring to lie around. But, I will obey the doctor, and just lie around for the next five days, because I want to heal up nicely for the rest of the summer. I go back in on Monday for a check up and perhaps then I'll have a cool photo of the pins sticking out of my toes (I'm told they are there.) In the meantime, I'm reading, sleeping, being massaged by Kitty Cat, and fed by Cool Guy. He's a good nurse--stern, but caring. I've got several books to read to help me step up the writing curriculum next fall and I'm excited to get to them. Thanks for all your prayers and good messages.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Endless Summer

Isn't it weird how a small difference can have a big effect? Yesterday, the high was only 101 degrees. But because the temperature had reached 108 for the previous three or four days, suddenly, 101 seemed moderate, not so bad.

I got almost everything finished that I'd written on my to-do list. One thing about summer vacation that I really missed while teaching at a year-round school was the opportunity to tackle big projects. Yes, there were the three-week breaks, and that would seem enough time to accomplish many things. But, the difference with that schedule and summer break, is that with only three weeks, there remains the sense of a finite time.

Perhaps I suffer from "little kid-itis"--that sense that summer is here now, and it will never end, and we have endless free time looming ahead. The next school term is far, far away--too far to even worry about now. At any rate, the reality of having those weeks of time, that aren't obligated to the daily go to work routine, enables me to look at the piles of papers built up on the kitchen counter and this time, clean up and file, or toss, every last one of them. I don't have to interrupt the job with thoughts of "I should be in bed" or "I need to correct those essays" or "I've got to spend time on my homework for the graduate class." Instead, I know that I can devote the hour or two to a specific--but not vital--task, and it will not be deducted from a more pressing concern that the clock imposes on me. The piled up kitchen counter can be re-shuffled, and made neat in five minutes, but really, truly looking at each and every item, and making a decision about where it can be put away for good (or thrown away for good) takes time. (If for no other reason than the inevitable old-lady ADD that inflicts me when I take something to another room and get distracted there. When I finally get back to the kitchen, I still have time to resume the archeological dig that I'd started previously.)

So, here it is, the first week of summer, and I've got a checked off list. There are many tidy places in my house, and several more that aren't. But in about 20 minutes, I'm headed out the door to the foot surgery, so those other untidy parts will just have to wait. For the next four weeks, I'll be lying down a lot. But, never fear---I have chores assigned during that period, too. I'm going to change up my teaching for writing next fall, and I have books to read and ideas to write down to facilitate that. Unlike my students, I really do know that summer will end--sooner than we can all imagine. In the meantime, you go swimming, eat some popcicles, lay around, waste a little time. It's good for you.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

It's Vegas, Baby

The entire month of May we had very lovely weather here. In fact, a couple of days, it was a little chilly. (By that I mean it got down into the low 50's at night.) (But in May, that is chilly here.) I got back from Portland, Oregon, at 11:00 P.M. Tuesday, and walked out of the airport into a real Las Vegas night. It was warm. The next day was the last day of school (!!!) and it was hot. It has been hot every day since, too. What a nice thing it was to simply put all my things away into a closet instead of packing it into boxes. In five of the last six "last day of school" I have packed it all into boxes. (I moved to a new state, had to change classrooms, and then I changed schools, and finally we were remodeling at my current school.)

Yesterday I went into the pool. My plan was to scrub a little algae off the sides that had grown while we were out of town. The water didn't even make me gasp. Summer is here! I also discovered that all that exercise I haven't been doing takes a toll. I could barely kick across the pool twice...So, today, after I spend the super hot hours indoors, vacuuming and dusting, I'll go back out in the late afternoon and do some more swimming. has been two days now since I last took any ibuprofen products, at the request of my surgeon, so I won't have blood thinners in my system on Wednesday. Oh. Who knew that so many parts of me depended on that anti-inflammatory coursing through my bloodstream? Actually, the internist I saw on Thursday, after checking my pulse by clasping her hand around the wrist that hurts so much from the arthritis, exclaimed that my swollen thumb joint was hot. "That doesn't sound like arthritis to me. Gout creates swelling and heat." She added a gout blood test to the list of things the surgeon wanted checked out before the surgery. So...we'll see.

Whatever it is, it likes to be medicated with NSAI products. So, I'll just keep powering through the vacuuming and dusting, because no one else is going to do it and it will bug me to look at it while I lie around convalescing. I'm not taking classes or going on a long trip this summer. It will be actually pretty nice to stay home. Even if I have to prop up my foot for three weeks.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Post Graduate

The graduation has occurred and the ceremony was very classy. We were in an elegant theater in downtown Portland. The processional and recessional were played by a brass quintet. The faculty and presenters were all professional, with an excellent balance of humor and dignity.

The graduates were an interesting mix because it was the nursing school and many people who were earning graduate degrees and even the bachelor degrees had been in the profession working. Some were clearly long-time nurses, and some looked like they'd powered through to this stage in one burst.

Here's the evidence:
Nurses get a Florence Nightingale pin in honor of the First Lady of Nursing. Nurse Treat had her initials engraved on back of her pin. It was cool at the graduation. About eight faculty members came forward and each graduate went up on stage, handed over the name card to be pronounced by the person at the mic. Then the graduate walked over to a faculty person, handed the ribbon to her, and the ribbon was put around the neck of the graduate. It mimicked the hooding ceremony of the master's degree candidates. Nice touch.

So, I'm off to the airport now. I've had a pleasant, relaxed weekend. I slept until my body woke up (without the blaring assistance of an alarm) for three straight days. I feel invigorated and capable of surviving the next three days of madness till school is out!