Thursday, August 21, 2014

How NOT to Move to the Front of the Line

FINALLY! Mom has been here the required 30 days, and we had all of her paperwork in place to get her Texas ID. She's been waiting for this day, because she couldn't even open a bank account without ID, and she had let her NM drivers license expire before she moved.

The DPS opens at 8:00 a.m., so I suggested that we get there by 7:30 so we could be in the front of the line. Silly me! We did, indeed, get there by 7:30 - maybe a little before 7:30, actually - but there were between 40 and 45 people ahead of us, waiting for the doors to open. By the time they opened, there were another 25 people behind us in line.

Mom waited in the car and I held her place in line. When I was near the door, she came and joined me. Once inside we took our number and looked for a place to sit down. A nice lady offered to let Mom have her chair. As Mom started to navigate the row, another woman tried to move out of her way, but, instead, ended up accidentally tripping her, and Mom fell down. A young man jumped up and helped break her fall. I was so grateful to him, because she could have hit her head, but didn't. She was wearing a bracelet, which got shoved up her arm and peeled a large patch of skin back, but she didn't break or sprain anything. Since she takes coumadin, we knew we needed to control the bleeding. An off-duty fireman/EMT quickly came to her aid. The DPS provided a small first aid kit, which had some bandage material in it. Someone else had some tape. Besides the EMT, there was a doctor from Scott and White (I think someone said she was a surgeon) and a phlebotomist there. So we had lots of attention and help from several good Samaritans.

Once she was bandaged up, we sat down to get our breath - and to wait for our number to come up. But one of the clerks came and took all of Mom's paperwork while we stayed in our seats, did most of the processing, and then came to get her for her picture. That's one way to move to the front of a long line, but not a way that I'd suggest!

Our Good Samaritan - an off-duty fireman and EMT - who came to Mom's aid. 
We ended up going to the Urgent Care clinic. The doctor there repositioned the skin over the spot and used an adhesive glue to seal the edges, then re-bandaged it. Poor Mom. She was really shaken up (and so was I), but was relieved to finally have a Texas ID in her possession. Mom will be seeing Stoney Brook's house doctor tomorrow to follow up, but as of this evening she tells me she's doing fine.

Keeping Up With Clara

Clara has been waiting all summer - and so have we - for a visit to Grandma's and Grandpa's! Finally we found a couple of days that were free on both families' calendars. I drove to Somerville on Sunday afternoon and met Kelsey and Clara there. Somerville is about half way for both of us, so it has become convenient for our kid-exchanges.

It was a short visit, but we tried to fit in all the fun we could.

Sunday evening Clara kept herself occupied with the Legos from Grandma's toy box. She just got back from a big California vacation which included a visit to Lego Land, so there seemed to be a renewed interest in them.

On Monday morning Grandpa's physical therapist (for his new knee), Kimberly, came to the house. Clara enjoy meeting Kimberly and loved watching her take Grandpa's blood pressure, temperature and oxygen count, and then put him through his exercise routine. She even joined in for a few of the exercises.

Monday afternoon we baked cookies and put them in little baggies, which Clara decorated with stickers, and took them over to Nanny's (my Mom's) new home at Stoney Brook. While we were there, we walked around with Nanny, and Clara handed out cookies to all of Nanny's new friends. Clara loved Stoney Brook. She thought it was beautiful and said she wants to move in. She was especially impressed with the concept of someone doing all of the cleaning, cooking and laundry for the residents. (Of course, I think Clara has someone doing most of that for her already - right Kelsey?)

After dinner on Monday, Grandpa started teaching Clara how to play chess. She did a good job of catching onto how the pieces move, and said she was excited to have another lesson sometime soon. 

Tuesday was shopping day. We bought a new school dress and, since there were end-of-season sales going on for the summer clothes, we got a pretty summer sun-dress, too. It was big enough that it should be fine for next summer as well as for the remaining summer days this year.

We also went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a few things, including a set of bathroom fixtures for Clara's dollhouse. 

In between everything else, we did a lot of art projects, including some paintings and a magazine collage. I was really happy to have some original art work from Clara and have already framed it  so I can display it in the house. 

This is Clara's Water Series . . . Jellyfish, Sunset at the Beach, and Fish Bowl

And we worked a puzzle. Clara was eager to put the edge pieces together, but lost interest as we worked on the interior ones. However, she found one thing fascinating about this particular puzzle. It was made by the Yankee Candle Co., and some of the pieces were shaped like little candle jars, and had scratch-n-sniff scents on them! Not only that, but near the center was a large jar shape formed from several pieces. When we finished the puzzle, Clara had fun removing all of the "jars."

 Somewhere in all of the busy-ness of these two days, we also took a trip to Kiddo Kingdom to play on the bouncy houses. I didn't think Clara would have much fun there, since she didn't have a friend (or brother) to play with, and since she is getting older, but she told me, "I make friends anywhere, Grandma!" And so she did! She ran and bounced and made friends for about an hour and a half.

Tuesday night we made up a batch of home-made strawberry ice cream - Clara chopped up and mashed up the strawberries and helped measure everything - and had it for an evening dessert. Yum!

On Wednesday I drove her back to Somerville, where Kelsey and Robert met us. We all had lunch together before saying our good-byes. (Robert's lunch of choice: a Frito sandwich! Ha!)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Matched Set of Knees for Dan

It's early morning of day two following Dan's second total knee replacement. I'll be trying to start his day off right by taking him his morning Americano, from Starbuck's, a little later this morning.

Thursday was a long day. We checked into the hospital at 7:30 a.m. At about 9:40 they took him up to the operating room, and I settled down in a corner of the family waiting area. Scott & White does a good job of keeping the family posted. They have a screen that shows each patient (by an anonymous number, not by name) and a green line that indicates the progress and the estimated time until the surgery will be completed. They also make calls to the desk, with messages for the family such as, "Surgery has begun and everything is going well."

Despite their efforts, the wait is hard and always seems longer than it really is. I was so thankful to have our preacher and friend, Rodney, show up right after Dan had gone to the OR and stay with me the entire time. Good conversation really helps pass the time!

At 11:45 I was told that the surgery was finished, and that Dr. Allen would meet me in Conference Room A. Rodney went with me for that, as well, and we learned that everything had gone well. "He had a lot of damage in the knee, but we took care of it, and now he has a matched set of new knees." Dan was in the recovery room, and would be there, the doctor said, for an hour or two.

Since I wouldn't be able to see him for at least an hour, I took the opportunity to dash out and get a bite of lunch. As it turned out, I didn't need to "dash", because they didn't have a room available, so he stayed in Recovery until one was ready for him, at 3:00.

Dan was still in an anesthesia-fog when I left him for the night, around 7:30 p.m. He kept saying, "I can't get out of this fog!" And I was telling him just to enjoy it.

The next morning (yesterday) the fog was gone and he was in a lot of pain - much more pain than he had experienced with the first knee, back in May. The staff worked with him all day, trying to keep the pain under control, and were able to take the edge off, but never got him very comfortable. What really brightened up his day was a visit from Kelsey, Clara and Robert. They were on their way back to Houston, after visiting Kelsey's folks in Pecos, and stopped for an hour or so to see Grandpa. I went and got Mom, so she could be part of the "party" as well.

Afterward, while I was taking Mom back home, Dan's doctor came and made some adjustments to his medications, which we hope will help with the pain and keep him a little more comfortable. I will find out how that worked when I get there in a couple hours, with his morning coffee.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Our Town

It's been a long time since I've taken a couple hours just to go out and shoot some photos, but today I did. The sun was very high in the sky - really too bright and glare-y for good photos - but it was nice to get out with my camera.

These are just some City of Temple shots. Temple has an old downtown, featuring some architecturally interesting brick buildings, mostly built in the 1920s. The majority of these buildings are two stories tall, but there are a couple of tall (for their time) ones. Downtown Temple is the city's business district, not a shopping district, so the streets and sidewalks are mostly empty on a Saturday afternoon.

The Doering Hotel (later known as the Hawn Hotel), built in 1928 is nine stories tall. Next to it you can see the entrance to the old Arcadia Theater. Neither of these buildings are currently in use. 

I don't know the history of this white brick building, but my eyes are always drawn to it when I go by. I've seen, on-line, that it is for sale. There are some shots of its interior here.

The detail around the doorway of the building above. I wonder if the symbols have any significance?

City Hall

Veterans' Memorial

Sammons Community Golf Course

Fountain and flowers near the Community Center

Old Glory over City Hall

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking Care of Business

Getting Mom settled in her new home has proven to be a bit of a challenge. She is still in her temporary apartment, so she hasn't been able to unpack much of anything, knowing she would be moving very soon. This situation has drug on longer than we expected.

Mom wanted to open a local bank account, so we went to a bank near where she is living. They were very happy to have her as a new customer until they realized that she did not have a State issued Texas ID card, and that her New Mexico driver's license had expired ten days earlier. She hadn't seen any reason to renew her NM license or get a NM ID card, since she was moving to Texas and would no longer be driving. That left her with NO acceptable ID for opening the bank account.

"No problem," they told her. "Just go to motor vehicles and get a Texas one." We decided to put that off until Wednesday of this week, since she also needed to take care of some medical issues as soon as possible.

Stoney Brook requires either a TB skin test or a chest x-ray. Mom knew she'd need the x-ray, because the skin tests always come back positive for her. We thought we were good-to-go on this, because she had just had a chest x-ray a couple months ago, when she was experiencing some congestion. But nothing is that easy. We got the x-ray results, but they weren't accepted, because they didn't specifically rule out TB.

Secondly, Mom's NM doctor had sent her with orders to get a weekly blood test, for her coumadin levels, and have them sent to him to monitor until she is established with a Texas doctor (first appointment we could get was August 25). The clinic that did the x-ray couldn't do the lab work. We went from there to an urgent care clinic. They couldn't do the blood work either. Then on to the Belton Scott and White clinic, where they are willing to do the blood work AFTER they get her NM doctor entered into their system (he does hold a Texas license). So we're on hold for that for a couple days. (I pray they won't require an ID card . . .)

On Monday we checked with motor vehicles to find out what documents she would need to bring with her to get the Texas ID. The friendly young clerk at the front door told us: "Your birth certificate, Social Security card, and this form, to be filled out by Stoney Brook, verifying your residence." I asked if there was a waiting period before she could get an ID. "No, just bring these things in and we'll issue it to her."

So Wednesday morning we carried the requested paperwork to Motor Vehicles, and waited an hour for our number to be called. When we went up to the counter we found that 1) The form filled out by Stoney Brook wouldn't suffice. We need a notarized letter, on letterhead, with very specific information in it. 2) The birth certificate is, indeed, necessary, but she also needs to bring in her marriage license to prove that her name changed from her birth-name. And 3) There is a 30 day waiting period.

When I mentioned to the clerk that we had been given misinformation at the front desk, she just waved her hand and said, "They are just young hourly employees." As if that made it all alright.

So, we are waiting for Mom's doctor to get entered into the Scott and White system, so we can get her lab work done. We'll get Stoney Brook to write that notarized letter, dig into Mom's still-packed boxes and locate her marriage certificate, wait the required 30 days, and go get her Texas ID card. After that she should be able to open a bank account. Oh, and Mom was told, last evening, that she will finally get to move into her assigned apartment on either Monday or Tuesday.

It will all work out eventually.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


[Note: This is a true story, but I have changed "Josie's" first name, birth surname, married surname and current location.]

After hours of on-line research, I still had only a faint hope that the Josephine Jones, of Maryland, to whom I had sent a letter through the US Postal Service, would possibly turn out to be my childhood friend, Josie Marks, from Alaska. So when an email message arrived in my in-box, from jcjones, I opened it with little expectation of success. But there it was, not only an email letter from Josie, but an attached photograph of her with her grown children. She was 45 years older than the young girl I had last seen, but I saw in her mature face that same girl. She told me that she worked as a school social worker. I paused in reading the message, to think back on our young years together.
We had been an odd pair of friends, Josie and I. I was an only child. Josie, at the age of eleven, was the oldest of ten children. My parents owned a successful small business - Clark’s Bakery. Josie’s father drove a taxi cab in good times; he lived off the government in bad times. I never asked what Josie’s mother did for a living. I somehow knew I shouldn’t ask. I lived in a spacious apartment over my dad’s bakery, awakened every morning by the aroma of fresh baked bread and Danish pastries. Josie’s home was a three-room shack of an apartment, on the hillside, accessed by something like 60 wooden stairs. Children slept piled atop of one another like a litter of puppies. The littlest one had a cardboard box on the floor of the coat closet for her bed. The “aroma” of Josie’s house was nothing like the sweet smells that filtered up into my bedroom from Daddy’s bakery. Probably the most significant difference between Josie and me was that I was blue eyed and white as a pale lily, while Josie was a brown skinned, black-haired, full-blooded Tlinget Indian. She also wore a built-up shoe on one foot, since that leg was three inches shorter than the other one.
Despite our differences, Josie and I fell into a comfortable friendship that filled the emptiness caused by having no brothers or sisters. One thing we did have in common was the long hike, up-hill, from downtown Juneau, Alaska, to our school, Fifth Street Elementary. The three-story concrete schoolhouse sat on the hillside overlooking the old Capitol Building and the harbor below, where sea planes roared and fishing boats docked and unloaded their catch.
The walk up Seward Street, even in the bitterness of winter, with the Taku winds biting our cheeks and chapping our bare legs - for in those years, even in Alaska, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school - was made bearable by our constant chatter. Josie was quite a tease. Knowing how gullible I was, she sometimes strung me on for five minutes or more with some tall tale before laughing out loud and crowing, “Jokes!”, which was her quirky way of saying, “I’m just kidding.”

After school we played Seven-Up on the sidewalk, using a red rubber ball against the bakery wall. Josie was hard to beat! She could make it all the way from sevensies to onesies, even adding in two or three claps between each throw or bounce. She never seemed to consider her leg a disability, nor did I.

Downtown Juneau was built at the base of two mountains - Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts - with the Gastineau Channel licking at its feet. Until a fire claimed it, in 1965, the huge Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine Mill, built in stair-step fashion up the side of Mt. Roberts sat as a reminder of the glory of the gold rush days. Josie and I, along with a couple of her younger brothers, spent many a Saturday hacking our way through the thick hillside underbrush, in search of mining ruins and relics which had been eaten up by the voracious Southeast Alaska rainforest. 

Josie and I drifted apart and went our separate ways in junior high and high school. I never really knew why. But, for some reason, locating her and rekindling that friendship had become important to me in recent years.

I sighed, returned to reading her email, and was startled at the next paragraph:

When we were in grade school, I remember, my Native friends were challenging me and questioning me about my friendships. Race was a big issue. My friends made me steal something from you to prove I was not turning white. What an experience! After that I vowed that friendships would not be based on race or the color of one's skin. I am sorry I had to put you through that experience. I also learned that I could advocate for myself and that I needed to be true to myself. A couple of my friends made wrong choices and their lives ended at such a young age. I was fortunate. Recently, I participated in an in-service concerning poverty, and it hit me . . . I once lived in poverty, and I have come a long way, but I could not have made it without wonderful people like you and your parents in my life. Thank you for that.

I halted there. Stunned. I re-read the paragraph through a blur of tears. From my childhood perspective, our friendship had been such an easy, carefree one. But now I was humbled, knowing that being a friend to me had required a measure of courage and strength from Josie that I had neither realized nor appreciated.