Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday, After Church: 2:30 P.M.


And that was after I drove home and parked in the shade. We all hail Willis Carrier for his ingenious brain, because without the modern convenience of air conditioning....there's NO WAY I'd live here in the summer. Swimming pool was my friend for about an hour around 6:30 P.M. The sun was an orange orb shimmering just above the horizon at that point. The air temperature had dropped to 110 degrees. The water was perfection...

I saw this on Facebook tonight! Tee hee...I think that Utah and parts of California are in there, too.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Well, Yes...

It is HOT. Even for Las Vegas in the summer, it is definitely hot. I remember one of our first drives from San Diego to Wyoming after we were married. It was also the last week of June. We got to Baker, CA. (I think it was probably named for some person, but a more apt name couldn't be for one is truly baked in Baker, California, in the summer.) It was about 5:00 P.M. and we went into a restaurant to cool off for a bit. We didn't have air conditioning in our 1950 blue Ford pick-up, and we were feeling quite fried, having left the cool ocean air about noon. We had one little kid then; he was almost a year old. We asked the waitress when it would start to cool down. She replied, "About midnight." Little did we know that the "cool down" she referenced meant it would drop from 105 to about 95. So, we just girded our loins and kept driving northward, through Vegas, the Virgin River Gorge, St. George, and then finally we got up the hill into Cedar City where the altitude made the night air cool enough for us to feel that we might survive this summer trip after all. For our future journeys to visit the grandmothers, we learned to time our departure from the seaside so that we were driving through Las Vegas around midnight.

Last night, about 11:00 P.M. we went out to do a little hot tubbing (really it was just 99 degrees in the water) and the air temperature was still about 95 degrees. Without the sun shining down, however, it's really quite pleasant. I actually swam a lap in the pool first--the water there is 88 and it feels fine.

Today, as I drove around to do a few errands, I took this photo of my truck's thermometer at noon.
So when you listen to your newsreaders today, whether it is radio or television, and they breathlessly exclaim about the Western heatwave, they're only exaggerating a little. (I heard an opening line today in which the speaker declared "millions of people's lives at risk today" because of the heat. Well, yeessss....if they go outside and lay on the ground and don't drink any water...sheesh). But, even the homeless people are being gathered up and put into shelters where they can be in the air conditioning and drink water during the really hottest parts of the day. Local officials open "cooling shelters" in school gyms and rec centers when it's super hot. Some people don't have decent air conditioning, so they come over, too.
I often say, "Well, it's a dry heat" or "It's the desert in the summer" in discounting the heat. But, not today. Today, I agree: IT IS HOT and IT IS UNCOMFORTABLE. That's right. It is. We'll lie low inside and when the sun starts to set, we'll head to the pool. Too hot for daytime, but perfect for night.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Franken Feet--The Never Ending Saga

After Grandma Camp ended, I returned to the Mojave Desert (!!) and went in for a small surgery the next morning. Yes, yes....yet another attempt to make walking a pain-free event. This time, we were after the sural nerve. Each and every step I have taken with my right foot, for over a year, has resulted in the feeling of an ice-pick jabbing into my foot. As first, I thought it just needed more healing from the initial tendon repair surgery. However, as time passed, I knew it had to be more than that. The doctor tried to kill certain nerve ends in that area by injecting alcohol there to sclerose the nerve. But, those ultimately didn't work. He sent me to a neurologist and who experimented with a couple of different options....none of which were the solution. But, when I commented to this doctor that I thought the trouble was with my Achilles tendon and told him my symptoms, his eyes lit up and he exclaimed, "Oh, that's not your Achilles tendon. That's the sural nerve!." He injected it with Lidocain, and for eight hours, no pain! So, we scheduled this surgery on June 19th.

It's a little crazy when the nurses at the hospital surgical suite recognize you! Oh, she's back! But, we did the procedure, I laid around on the couch for several days resting and clearing my head from the drugs. It involved a deep incision at the top of my calf muscle, so it was important to just rest and heal for a while. Then, after  week I took off the bandage and it looks like it's healing very nicely. The outer incision is closed with skin glue, so it takes a great deal of concentration to avoid picking at it. But, I learned from the first nerve surgery to just leave it alone and as my leg heals, the glue will dry up and peel off on its own. I can shower, but not soak. So, I'm out of the swimming pool for a few more days, but I'll be ready by Sunday afternoon. (It's supposed to reach 117 degrees by then...and yes, even I agree that it's hot. It's simply ridiculously hot.)

So, the result?  NO ICE PICK!! I can walk without winching every step. Right now, I still have the tingling/burning effect in my leg and foot from the nerve being cut, but I know that will go away soon. The ability to use both of my feet equally when I walk is simply awesome! I have been limping and trying to avoid using my right foot for sooooo long, that I actually have to think about my gait as I walk. I need to use a proper stride instead of my gimpy-don't-use-the-whole-foot thing I've done for months and months. I walked down a flight of stairs on Tuesday, and realized that my foot only felt sore because I was using muscles and tendons that had been under-utilized this past year. It is an exciting time. I've been exer-cycling and doing sit-ups and (before the surgery) working out in the pool for about three weeks, and I already feel the difference in my core strength and my cardio/breathing. It's very exciting...I'll go see the nerve doctor in another couple of weeks and he's going to be excited too, I know.

I realize that this may not be the end of my stupid feet troubles, but to have it been the end of the Ice-Pick-in-the-Foot is a delightful phase. I missed walking did my hips. They already feel better, too. Actually, I don't know how much to attribute to not standing up all day and how much to the renewed gait. But, I'll take it, no matter why!

This makes five surgical scars on the right leg and foot, and five on the left foot. Some of the surgeries resulted in multiple sites, so that doesn't reflect the number of surgeries. Let's see...for the left leg/foot: there have been three operations. For the right foot/leg: there have been three as well. So, there you go! Franken Feet---hopefully there will be NO MORE sequels.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Family Fun

I was going through my phone and found a few more photos of Grandma Camp. This guitar shot is great because of the resemblance to an uncle who used to make a similar face.

It runs in the family to imitate Billy Idol, I guess.

He makes music for a career now.
 (all-star Baltimore engineer...)
Here's sister riffing, too.

And, a popular favorite: We went to Tournament of Kings. There are similar medieval-themed dinner shows in several other cities, and if you haven't gone, I highly recommend it. First, you get to eat with your hands. They bring dinner, but no silverware. You can tear apart the chicken with your fingers and raise your mug high and shout "Huzzah!!"  In fact, you are instructed in the proper way to shout it and how to raise the mug. It is a very interactive event. It's like a rodeo in armor. Nice horses, daring riders and dancing girls. Very family friendly...Plus they sell swords and helmets.

Somehow, I need to incorporate this into my classroom to let
 my students realize that I am the boss and they can't mess with me.

Sister was leaning back and trying to avoid the sword play.
So I gave her the helmet to show that she had the authority to tell them to behave.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Being Grandma

The reason I live in the desert is because of the geographic location of the grandchildren. I live here because it is close enough to visit them regularly and I could find a good job. Friends ask why I don't live even closer than I do now.  Well...because it doesn't snow here and it does snow where they live. And that is pretty much the main reason. You know how I go on and on about the sunshine. But, I do live within a few hours' drive and previously I lived a very long three days drive away. So, this is completely tolerable. This proximity permits frequent visits from them and even more frequent visits by us. We can buzz up there for a weekend event, like baptisms and baby blessings or even birthdays or performances. We end up traveling north most of the time for the big holidays because it is easier for us to go to them than for their lives to be uprooted on those events. It's all good. And, we've instituted Grandma Camp.

This year was the Third Annual Grandma Camp, as the seven year old Captain of Precision Language son of our daughter continually referenced it. He's the one who also pointed out each time we passed Mojave Street in our travels about town because -- hey! It's Mojave Street and we're in the Mojave Desert! Finally his almost-ten-year-old sister rebelled against this mention and shut down that repeated exclamation. See? Just one of the awesome opportunities you get to enjoy when attending Grandma Camp! (No, seriously---it's just their parents' childhoods redux---we LOVE it!!)

So, after the wedding, I loaded up the two kids who were free to attend this summer, and we headed south. When one travels on the interstate actually going from one state to the next, one passes so many enticing signs. They direct you to stop here to see that, and they mark historic events and buildings and routes. Usually, when driving up and back, we're on a mission to just travel as quickly as possible, with as few stops as possible. But, Grandma Camp is different. So, this trip we stopped at one of those sites that had teased us the many years we've been driving up and down I-15: The Utah Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore. Our granddaughter just finished a year of learning Utah state history in her fourth grade class, so we were ready to see it for real. It was an excellent state park and you should all plan to stop in someday. It also was a perfect opportunity to stretch our legs about 1/3 of the way along our drive.

Then we arrived in the Mojave, at last. When I plan this week of fun, I usually try to think of new things to do that we haven't done in previous years, but, silly me! That's because I'm a grown-up! The kids want to do all the things we've done before! So, the agenda is mostly: swim, eat, swim, go to Shark Reef, swim, watch movies, stay up late, go to another museum, swim, eat, play with their parents' old toys, swim. This year we also went to the Tournament of Kings show, too. The whole purpose is to spend a lot of time talking, laughing, swimming and just enjoying one another's company. We've gotten quite good at it.

So, if you have grandchildren, don't fail to spend time with them. I don't mean just a couple of hours, or a trip to Disneyland. I mean bring them to your house and spend a few days. We scrubbed the bathrooms, cooked dinner, cleaned up the kitchen. They had to make their beds each day. CoolGuy and the little brother spent some time in the garage tinkering with the motorcycle. We had some down time in which each of them just read books or worked on a craft they'd brought.

Real was fun for me because it reminded me of the days being mom. Which days seemed like they'd go on forever, yet zoomed past in record time. Now that these kids are back home, it also reminded me why it's good to be mom in your 20's and 30's: you have a lot more energy and vim and vigor at that point! One of the great parts of Grandma Camp is that it is voluntary and can end when we choose. We try to conclude while people are still feeling like our grandson on the last night. "Grandma, do you know what is the worst part of Grandma Camp? The end!" Yes, but we'll do it again next year for sure!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

Really, I'm still around. But, that's part of why this blog has had no new posts: I've been around! After the Oregon graduation, I returned to finish the last crazy three days of school. We did the usual: awards assembly, memory book autographs, cleaned out our desks. Then on the final day, it was Pancake Day and stack-up-the-desks and all the final fun moments of The Last Day of School. We teachers rushed about filing, filling out, packing up and tearing down. I checked out from my school on Thursday afternoon early, went home and unloaded a couple of boxes of junk.

Then, I pack my suitcase and hopped in the truck for the drive north. On Friday,  I attended a beautiful wedding for my niece at the Salt Lake Temple. On Saturday, I drove even further north for the reception in their family's exquisite yard in the most beautiful place in the world in June: Star Valley, Wyoming. Don't believe me? Just look:

I also got to hang out with family members and line up for the photo that we've been taking for nearly fifty years:
June 2013
December 1963 

Yes, there are only seven of us in each photo. In the top photo, we're missing Trish, who left us eight years ago. In the bottom photo, we don't yet have Shelly, the mother of the bride in the top one.
So, after the wedding fun, I drove half-way back to my daughter's house in Utah, then stayed in a motel. The next morning, I drove the final two hours and we attended church. My son's family came down for dinner that evening. Much playing and shrieking followed in the basement while the adults talked and laughed up stairs. Monday, I had a wonderful day with an old friend, talking and eating and catching up. Tuesday, I loaded up a couple of grandchildren and we headed south for the desert. It was Grandma Camp time!! Stay tuned tomorrow for more adventures.
But today, enjoy the Summer Solstice---the Longest Day of the Year. That fine, fine day when sunshine rules and cold darkness drools. I'd really love to go to Stonehenge some time on June 21st and watch the celebrants. But, mostly, it would be to honor those ancient ones who recognized how delightful it is to enjoy the sun on this great day of its Northern Hemisphere apex. Yes, yes, now the days will gradually grow shorter and we will be aware of that in a few weeks. But, today, revel--glory--celebrate with swimming, picnics, hiking, whatever. Enjoy Old Sol. Here's my take on those two photos up there: Winter vs Summer in Star Valley, Wyoming.
(In the early 90's, I was enrolled in college to finish a bachelor's degree and one class was a writing course. I learned a great deal from that teacher, so I'll always appreciate my time there. The other reason it was a great experience is that it forced me to write regularly. Here's an essay from that class in which I had to compare/contrast something.)
Milking in January or June
      Growing up on a dairy farm, I had the cow milking as an ever present part of my life. It was as constant as the change from darkness to day, as the sunlight spilled over the mountains that formed the backdrop to our farm. Every day it happened: the cows never had a vacation. The only thing that changed was the weather--the extremes of the region creating a dramatic contrast in the conditions of our never-ending ritual.
     Winter prevailed for more than half of the  year. It made milking cows in our old wooden barn an endurance contest. Each January afternoon the school bus deposited us at home and, with great determination, my sister and I would resolve to get right out to the barn. The sooner we got to it, the sooner we could be finished. But, once inside the house, it was so hard to leave. If mama had baked cinnamon rolls or cookies, the air smelled so enticing. Even the damp, clean scent of the drying laundry, hung in the stairway, created a coziness that drew us closer to the heater and slowed the donning of our chore clothes, chilled from hanging on the porch.
     I pulled on layer after layer---thermal, denim, knits---whatever I thought could ward off the outdoor chill visible in the ice crystals creeping up the inside of the kitchen window. Two or three socks on each rubber-booted foot, a dishtowel tied around my hair and arms jutting out from my sides because of the thick layers, I stepped out the door with the house-milk bucket swinging from the crook of my arm, while my hands hid in my pockets.
     The first breath of that tingling air shocked my lungs, and my nose and cheeks immediately began to chill. The sun was still hovering over the west hills, but its pale light was useless as a source of warmth. The atmosphere was thin and brittle, and the snow squeaked dryly under my feet. I walked quickly to the barn just to get under shelter and hopefully find relief from the sharpness of the cold. Leaving the bucket in the milkhouse, I went through the gate to fetch the cows from their housing shed. Even the cows were reluctant to come out on a night like that. I had to prod, coax and threaten them with the dog to roust them from the the coziness of the shed where their collective warmth and moist breath gave a foggy boost to the temperature by many degrees over that outside.
      Tripping over frozen cow pies in the gathering twilight, I slipped and trudged behind them as we approached the barnyard. By now, my dad, finished with the school bus route, was on his way out, similarly bundled, to refill all the feed mangers and carry loads of hay to sustain the other animals in the rest of the pastures. We exchanged signals, not wanting to open our mouths in greeting because then the cold air went straight into our chests without any prewarming.
      If the vacuum lines weren't blocked by ice, the milking proceeded smoothly. During the few minutes it took each cow's milk to be extracted into the machine's bucket, I slid my freezing hands into the warm place between her leg and udder until my fingers tingled, signifying the return of blood flow. With the outside temperature dropping to a negative twenty-five degrees and only the wooden walls of the barn to protect us, I appreciated the living hand-warmers.
      If it was storming, I had another sensory delight: dripping snow sliding off the cows as they warmed up standing in the stalls awaiting their turn. It usually landed right on the back of my neck and quickly slid down inside my coverall. Often an irritated animal would stamp her foot and flick her tail threateningly This was a tail that ended in a mass of of ice coating each hair so that you could hear clicking as it flew through the air, straight for your face.
       At long last, the two hours came to an end. I turned the last cow out to return to her warm bed, washed out the milkers, and put the cans of warm milk in the cooling trough, always stepping with great care to avoid slipping on the thick sheet of ice that inevitably coated the cement floor of the milkhouse. As I turned out the lights and crossed the barnyard by the light of the millions of stars shining over the brittle landscape, just seeing the glow from the house windows began to warm me, knowing I'd be inside in moments, comfortable---for another ten hours at least.
     One might ask, "How could you endure this, twice a day, for the whole winter?" Because I knew that winter would end, and spring would come and so would June. June in Star Valley, Wyoming was worth the entire seven months of winter. Summer had truly come by June with leaves on the trees, flowers blooming, pastures lush with grass, and long, warm days.
     At milking time in June I was almost grateful for an excuse to be outside. A refuge in winter, in the summer our house was only a barrier to the sensory pleasures of the outdoors. Dressed only in cut-off jeans and a light blouse, barefoot in my rubber boots, I cheerfully whistled up the dog to accompany me up the field to call in the herd of cows. I broke off a sprig of lilacs as I went through the gate, and buried my face in the sweet purple trumpets clustered along the twig. I could see the cows had wandered halfway to the mountain. They were scattered across the deep green landscape: fawn colored Jerseys, orange and white Guernseys, and the standard black and white Holsteins, grazing in clover up to their ankles. Meadowlarks, perched on the fence posts whistled their distinctive melody as a mother kill-deer ran along in front of us, doing the broken wing diversion, to keep us from her babies nestled in the tall grass by the ditch.
    The sun was low enough in the sky to be comfortable, but the evening chill had not begun. The heat of the day rose up from the grass and combined with the slight dust from the herd's hooves as they trailed leisurely down the road to the barnyard, sending a soft cloud shimmering aloft. Through this cloud a flock of tiny white and yellow butterflies swirled, disturbed from their resting place as the cows passed.
     In the barn, with the top half of the divided door open, the sunbeams stretched through the hay dust from the loft and striped the cows as they stood, sleek and clean from living outdoors, away from the close quarters of the sheds. Their sun-warmed hides felt soft against my bare arms as I crouched down to attach the milkers. Waiting for the milk, I gazed out the open door watching lambs caper in the adjoining field. The cats, bulging from the day's mouse hunt, twined around my ankles purring for warm milk in their dish. Since no one but cows could hear, I usually sang Rogers and Hammerstein songs. Sometimes, I brought my mother's radio out and tuned into rock and roll before the sun set and the station went off the air.
     Even when all the clean-up was finished, and the milkhouse floor was swept dry, I lingered outdoors. I'd go for a ride on my horse, or play softball with my sister, or hang around on the lawn watching my mother work in her flower beds. The sun went down behind the mountains, but twilight lasted for another hour. It was the best time of day to swing, or pull tiny carrots from the garden. As it got darker, we'd scare ourselves with a game of "No Bears Are Out Tonight." Only the total darkness finally forced us inside.
      June was a month to be outdoors. January is a month to live in Southern California.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Graduates

We attended our daughter's graduation on Monday. She is now a Master of Nursing Practice. We went up to Portland to eat and visit and applaud and we accomplished all three. Here are some photos we took to commemorate the grand event.

Yes, she is tall. However, she was also wearing four-inch heels
 therefore dwarf-izing her parents.
Dad and daughter beaming with joy and pride.

Matching outfits---aren't we cute??