Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Things Are Looking UP

I just talked with Mom. She said it has been a good day (it's been awhile since she felt that way).

First of all, her quarantine was lifted today. She's been released from her little room, and was free to visit with others and, even, have her meals in the dining room.

And, secondly, she participated in a meeting this morning, where plans for her discharge were discussed. The plan is, now that she's free to go to the rehab room again, to intensify her therapy, working on strength and balance. They feel like she will probably be ready to go HOME in ten days to two weeks. She's so excited about it.

She's no longer in a lot of pain. She's still dealing with her right foot, which is swollen and sore from the medicine-induced gout. It keeps her from being able to wear a shoe on that foot, but, after all she's been through, she doesn't seem to be too concerned about this.

I might mention (though she probably wouldn't want me to) that she was pretty surprised by her cell-phone bill this last cycle. Of course, all those many phone calls were better than any medicine during those darker days of this recovery - and she appreciates that. However, I've recently taken to calling her after 7:00 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Time) or on weekends, when her minutes are free. If you are only going to talk a few minutes, I don't think you need be concerned; but if you want to have a nice, long chat, maybe evening or weekend hours would be best.

Thanks to all of you who have suffered through this time with Mom; who have sent cards and/or letters; who have cheered her on through phone calls; and who have kept her in your prayers.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Picnic - Rio Grande Zoo

Late this morning Dan, Tim and I stopped by Church's Chicken to pick up fried chicken and all the trimmings. We took it to the zoo where we hoped to find a nice, shady spot to enjoy our picnic. We weren't disappointed. Although there were lots and lots of people there, the park is large enough to easily accommodate everyone. We had no trouble finding a shady place on the lawn to spread out our blanket.

After we ate, Tim and I strolled around, looking at some of the animals. The polar bears were really putting on a great show today. I think they are my favorite exhibit. They had a big barrel, floating in the water, that they were playing with. Tim and I watched them from beneath the water line, as well as above.

The cats were all taking a siesta, during the afternoon heat.

The seals and sea lions, on the other hand, were very active.

People were tossing fish food to the koi, exciting the fish and disturbing this swan's serenity.

And this old fellow, who was giving rides, looked hot and tired.

After making our way through about one-third of the exhibits, I was getting tired and sent Tim on, by himself, to see the rest of the animals. I went back to join Dan, who had stretched out, with his baseball cap over his face, and gone to sleep (I should have taken his picture. He looked a bit like the napping lion - above). The temperature was not too hot, and the trees provided enough shade to make the day just about perfect.

When Tim had finished viewing the animals, we cleaned up and got ready to leave. Dan offered to go get the car and bring it to the front gate, so we didn't all have to walk to it (we had to park at the far end of the parking lot).

After we dropped Tim off at his apartment, did some grocery shopping, and arrived home, we discovered that we didn't have our blanket. It wasn't just any blanket. It was a quilt, that Dan's grandmother had made for him as a child. We've used it for years for picnics and for bed coverings, so it hasn't been pampered, and it's getting quite worn. But it is very special to Dan. Some of the squares are even made out of his "spacemen" flannel pajamas.

So . . . back we went to the zoo. We have a season pass, so it was no trouble for me to get back in the front gate. At first I didn't see it where, I was sure, we had left it. But on second look, I saw it nearby. A young couple and their child were sitting beside our folded-up quilt, and were thrilled when I came to retrieve it. They were hoping someone would come and ask for it, and if not, they were going to take it to lost-and-found. I thanked them, and carried the quilt back to the car, where Dan was waiting anxiously. All's well that ends well, they say. It was a very nice Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sweetpea Dances

Here I am swiping pictures from Kelsey's blog again! But this one was just so cute that I had to share it with everyone I know. (I realize some of you read Kelsey's blog, and she has several other cute new pictures out there - so rush on over!)

Anyway, Sweetpea is taking lessons this summer. The class is a combination of ballet, tap and gymnastics; and she's loving it! It seems she's always had a "thing" for ballerinas, or, as she says it, "balle-neenas." So here's our precious little balle-neena!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rio Grande Botanic Gardens - May Photo Shoot

After meeting for lunch today, Sherry and I went to the Rio Grande Botanic Gardens. Today turned out to be the hottest day of the year, so far -- above 90! -- so we limited our visit to the Heritage Farm. It was too hot to enjoy the rest of the Gardens. Neither Sherry nor I have much tolerance for heat. Here are a few pictures from Heritage Farm, a working farm, where visitors can catch a glimpse of farm life from the 1920s and 1930s.

One thing we hoped to see today was the Japanese Garden, which opened last fall. When we lived in Oregon, the Portland Japanese Garden was, perhaps, my very favorite place to visit. It was so lush, so green, so peaceful. I even loved it in the rain. But I am having a very hard time picturing, in my mind, what a Japanese Garden must look like, here in the high desert! I learned, recently, though, that the garden is a combined effort of park staff and Toru Tanaka, a Japanese-garden designer based in Portland! I hope to visit it soon . . . maybe when Gloria is here. If so, we will go in the morning, before the temperature rises.

Below are some scenes from other parts of the Botanic Garden, that we passed through in getting to the Farm. It's really a beautiful place, and I'm looking forward to returning, some cool morning.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Gallimaufry* II

* A jumble; a hodgepodge.

Tim has a second parakeet, to keep Quint company. This one is female, so who knows what the future may bring?! Last time I asked him, he hadn't settled on her name yet. You may remember that Quint is turquoise in color. I'm told that the new bird is also turquoise, but has a lot of white feathers, as well. She sounds pretty.

Tim's job is going well. He does a bit of in-state traveling for the company, mostly up to Santa Fe or down around Artesia and Las Cruces. He likes his co-workers, and enjoys the responsibilities he's been assigned. He took Dan and I out to dinner to celebrate Mother's Day, and we had a great time.

The Air Force is requiring many of their technical people (including Dan) to take and pass a Network Plus exam. Last week, Dan passed the test, on his first try, so it is no longer hanging over his head. Congratulations, Dan!

Lauretta is doing better than at my last report. Kathy still has help coming in a few times a week, but is even considering cutting that back. Marci and Sascha got to take a trip up to Montana to visit her recently, which was nice for all of them.

I have happy news, that my Mom is really doing much better this week. Although she is quarantined (in her room at Lakeview), due to an infection she picked up somehow, she is moving around, with her walker, quite independently for short distances; and she is no longer suffering the mental confusion that plagued her for so long. It was six weeks ago on Sunday when she first fell. I think she will be discharged in the near future.

Kelsey and Sweetpea are in the midst of "Operation Potty Chair." Kelsey has quite a system in place, with a sticker chart, and a little prize earned for every five stickers. Sweetpea earned her first prize last week, and we're all hoping, for Kelsey's sake, that "the system" will be the motivation that Sweetpea needs to master this rite of passage :-)

My friend, Gloria, surprised me with a call this week. We chatted on and on, and laughed just like old times -- just a little preview of what our few days together will be like. She arrives a week from Wednesday! Since we are going to stay in Albuquerque (but at a hotel), I'm calling it my "staycation."

Sherry has had her good times and bad, with some health issues, but is doing pretty well today. Tomorrow we plan to go on a little photo shoot, after lunch. We haven't decided where yet, but I'll blog about it after we return.

Chris has been on his new job, now, for two weeks. Last time I talked with him, he had finished his first week and was still enthused about it. I think I'll give him a call this evening, to see how it's going now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CORRECTION to Previous Entry

Mom just called again. They were able to get the IV in her arm there at Lakeview, so didn't have to transport her to the hospital.

Mom - Today

Mom, who is still at Lakeview, has been sick for three days or so. Her doctor ordered some tests and found that she is seriously low in . . . you guessed it . . . Potassium! She just called me to say that they are about to transport her back to the ER at the hospital, where they can insert an IV and get some Potassium into her system quickly. I'll try to talk to her later tonight, and find out how everything is going.

Thanks to those who are keeping her in your prayers.

The Ultimate Defining Moment

The moment that defined me in a way that no other event did was my baptism into Christ, some 45 years ago. At that moment I became a completely new person - one who aims to be "like Christ," while, gratefully, relying upon God's grace, because of my imperfection.

Everything that happened in my life following that decision was shaped by it -- the college I attended, the man I married, the choices I made in parenting, the way I related to our exchange kids, the faith I exercised in moving to Albuquerque, the thanksgiving I have for Sweetpea and the role I play in her life.

I assume other events will continue to define me, in the future, but those events and that process will be nothing more than a continuation of the refining that started on that day in 1963.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Defining Moment #8 - Sweetpea

Last evening we got a telephone call. On the other end of the line was a tiny little voice, proudly announcing that she had peepeed in the potty! Dan and I both celebrated the announcement with cheers, compliments and hand-clapping. Such are the joys of being a grandparent.

I've probably gushed over my granddaughter too much, already, in my blog. But it is that little girl who has defined me as a grandma. I promise to keep this one brief and to the point. Being a grandma has given me a new purpose in life, which, I guess, is the whole idea of a "defining moment." It's drawn me closer to my (very dear) daughter-in-law. It's given me many reasons to be proud of my son, who is now a daddy. It's added a new dimension to my prayer life. And it's brought telephone calls (like last night's), warm hugs and sloppy kisses from our Sweetpea.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Defining Moment #7 - Moving to Albuquerque

Dan and I have made a number of big moves in our married life -- from Texas to Alaska; from Alaska to Oregon; from Oregon to Alaska; and from Alaska to New Mexico. But it was that last one, to Albuquerque, that I consider a defining moment in my life. For every other move, we had employment all lined up, as well as a place to live. In coming to Albuquerque, we stepped out on faith.

Not that we stepped out foolishly or without preparation. We had saved up the money to make the move and to be able to live, frugally, for three or four months if it took that long to find employment. But, even so, it took a measure of faith that I had seldom had to exercise. Our son, Tim, left Juneau and moved with us, as well. So we were three unemployed, "homeless" folks when we arrived in Albuquerque around the first of May, 2003.

Once we arrived, we rented a furnished and equipped apartment that the three of us could use as home-base. We had only one vehicle, so we were very tied to the hip, so to speak. Tim, rather quickly, got a part-time, evening job at the theater, which was walking distance from our apartment. Of course, he knew this wasn't the job he wanted or needed in the long term, but it did bring in a little immediate money. The three of us spent two or three hours of every day at the employment office, where we searched for jobs, faxed off resumes and applications, and took tests.

We also began looking for a house, since the apartment was very expensive, and getting into a house would greatly reduce our monthly expenses. Within the first two or three days in Albuquerque, we found the house we wanted, and began the process of purchasing it -- even though we didn't have employment! Our realtor said the loan would be no problem, and it wasn't. A month later, we were moving into our house on Rio Los Pinos Drive NW . . . still unemployed! And still without any furniture. We did buy some patio chairs, which we used inside until we could afford to purchase "real" furniture.

Tim started working at a call center, and decided he would also go back to school. He enrolled at ITT Technical Institute, and began what would be two years of a full-time work/full-time student routine. (And he graduated with "High Honors" - way to go, Tim!) Not long after getting his first full pay check, Tim moved into his own apartment, across town from us.

I was the next one to get a full-time job, at SWCA Environmental Consultants. It wasn't a job I loved, but it paid well, and I considered it a true blessing. Dan was next to find work. He had thought he might like to do contract work, hoping for something like 6 months on/6 weeks off. But the contract work he found turned out to be more like 6 weeks on/6 months off! That wasn't going to work. So he eventually took a regular position -- the one he still has, at the air base.

Through all of this adventure, we never lacked for a roof over our heads, a vehicle to get us to appointments and interviews, or food to eat. By God's grace, we met every financial obligation, without fail.

Our preacher, tonight, talked about faith. He told us about the African impala, a beautiful animal that can jump as high as ten feet and leap as far as thirty feet. Yet, when enclosed behind a three foot wall, it won’t leap over it because it refuses to leap if it can’t see where it will land.

For much of my life, I've been like that impala, scared to jump if I can't see where I'll land. The move to Albuquerque was a faith-builder for me. My prayer for "daily bread" was more meaningful than ever before, and so faithfully answered. Because of this, I consider our move to New Mexico another defining moment in my life. I'm more willing to leap, even when I can't see where my feet will land.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Defining Moment #6 - Exchange Students

I've written about one of our exchange students, Takashi, in previous posts. He was the one who most completely immersed himself in our home- and family-life. He is the one who has come back to visit us, both in Oregon and in Alaska. He is the one who called Dan and I, "Dad" and "Mom," and talked of Chris and Tim as being his "brothers." He is the one I think of as our "Japanese son."

However, Takashi was only one of a number of international folks who lived with us. Most of them were from Japan, but not all.

The first was Akira, an uncharacteristically tall Japanese boy with a great sense of humor and a zest for American life.

Here are (left to right) my dad, Dan, me and Akira at the Newberg Old Fashioned Days parade.

The next summer Akihito came to stay with us. He loved tennis, and was happy that we lived walking distance to some courts.

Akihito, Chris and Tim, at a picnic

Then came Tadashi, who was not a student, but a teacher/chaperon for a group of students. Tadashi had a good grasp of English (he was an English teacher, in fact) and enjoyed engaging us in philosophical discussions . . . "You Americans don't kill whales because they are beautiful animals. But it is okay to kill ugly animals?"

Tadashi, arriving in Newberg with some roses for his host family (us)

Next came Takashi, our "son," who warned us, when he was about to depart for home, that we would never host another student like him -- who would be integrated into our family as completely as he was; who would be a "son" like he was.

Takashi loved to cook. Here he is preparing a meal for us.

Concurrent with and following Takashi's stay, we also provided a home to Fumi, another Japanese boy who had befriended Takashi, and was not happy with his assigned host-family.

While Fumi was living with us, his mother came for a visit. She was so pretty, and looked young enough to be Fumi's sister!

Victor, from Brazil, didn't officially live with us, but he spent a lot of time in our home, because he befriended both Takashi and Fumi. Victor was a joy! He had a wonderful personality, and the best laugh. He came back to visit us several years later, after becoming a judge in the Brazilian legal system.

Victor, Takashi and Fumi got to go through the graduation ceremonies at Newberg High. Dan and I helped chaperon the Senior all-night alcohol-free party, which was a lot of fun.

Then came Rodrigo, from Colombia. He was our one failure. Try as we might, Rodrigo wasn't happy in our home, and made life difficult for all of us. We requested he be moved to another home after Christmas (I guess Takashi may have been right!).

Here's Rodrigo at Christmas time. We always tried to make Christmas as special for our exchange kids as it was for our own.

And finally we hosted a young girl (our ONLY girl!) from the Ukraine, named Katerina. She was only in the U.S. for a three-week stay, so we didn't have the chance to get to know her as well as some of the others. (I can't locate a picture of her, but she was very pretty.)

Our experiences with these young people -- both the wonderful memories and the trying times -- defined me in several ways.
  • My American way of thinking was challenged and expanded, and I saw life from new perspectives. For instance, have you ever tried to help a Japanese student study for and pass a semester-long American History course? Consider, just as one example, explaining the Salem Witch Trials!
  • I became a better communicator, and fairly skilled at non-verbal communication. In their early days with us, most of these students spoke and understood very little English. We frequently relied upon pantomime or picture-drawing. Even after they had been with us for several months, there were miscommunications that had to be resolved; and I learned how vital facial expressions, body language and touch were to effective communication.
  • I became, in one sense, the missionary I always wanted to be. I had the opportunity to teach these young folks about the God of the Bible, through example and earnest discussions, without ever traveling to Japan, Brazil, Colombia or the Ukraine.
  • My desire to learn was stimulated, and opportunities were opened up to me. I became so fascinated with Japan, its culture and language, that I took six years of Japanese language study and even taught a couple of quarters of conversational Japanese at Portland Community College. I was then hired on as an adjunct ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at George Fox, where I worked with college-age students from both Asia and South America. I doubt that any of these rich and rewarding experiences would have been mine had I not been touched by these kids.
  • Besides defining and refining me, hosting was also a rich experience for our two sons, who gained an understanding of other cultures, while sharing their space, their time, their parents and their friends, and exchanging ideas with these young people.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog

On Tuesday, Mom's case manager asked me to decide between having her do skilled therapy in the rehab wing of the hospital, or back at Lakeview. Since Mom adores the therapist at Lakeview, and cooperates well with him, I decided that would be a better choice. Mom wasn't very clear-headed on Tuesday, but I talked to her about it, and she was fine with the Lakeview choice. The case manager said the move would happen the next day -- Wednesday.

Wednesday was a long day. After getting up in the morning, I stripped the bed in Mom's guest room, where I'd been sleeping; washed the sheets; and re-made the bed. I packed up my things and loaded the car. By 8:30 or so, I was ready to go see Mom at the hospital and find out what the plans were for the move. Sadly, a nurse had already been in Mom's room and said, "I hear you're going home today!" So Mom was sure she was going home. When she told me this, I said, "Oh, Mom, you need to get stronger before you go home! I think you're going to go to Lakeview for awhile." But she didn't believe me. I went and found the case manager, who confirmed that she was being discharged ("going home" as far as the nurse was concerned) today, but to Lakeview, not her house.

She was actually alright with this. I think she realized that she'd be in a pickle if she went home in the condition she is currently in.

I stayed and tried to get her to eat a little breakfast, but she wouldn't. I had made arrangements with Pat and Gloria, for them to oversee the move to Lakeview, because I had to start the trip home. It was hard saying "good-bye," but we did. Before leaving Carlsbad, I went by a flower shop to order some flowers for Mother's Day. I sure hope they get delivered to the right place. When I ordered them, I didn't know what room she'd have, in Lakeview.

The trip home seemed to take twice as long as it should! It didn't, really, although it did take a couple hours longer than usual. Part of that was because I went the scenic route to avoid construction on I-40, but it doesn't seem it should have added that much time! I stopped for about a half hour in Roswell to get gas for the car and a hamburger for me. And I stopped three or four other times, briefly, to take a picture or answer a phone call. Anyway -- I left Carlsbad at 10:30 a.m. and made it home by 5:00 p.m.

I just called Mom to see how she is doing, and she sounds good. She is planning to have someone wash her hair today, which she's really been anxious about. They've taken away her walker, and don't want her to walk anymore, right away. She'll probably have it back pretty soon, since she was walking short distances with it, while in the hospital.

Mom's in Room #59 at:
Lakeview Christian Home
1905 West Pierce Street
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Setback

Sunday morning I had a call from Lakeview, telling me that Mom had taken another fall, and was being transported by ambulance to the Carlsbad hospital. I called Pat, and he said he'd check on her and get back in touch with me.

After church and lunch with Keith and Sherry, Pat and I talked and we both agreed that I should go back down there, at least for a day, until she was stable again, in the hospital. Her vitals were out of whack, and they were working to stabilize them. I got packed quickly and left Albuquerque at 3:00 p.m. Since I knew I-40 had some serious construction going on, I went the scenic route, down I-25 and cutting across through Carrizozo, Capitan and Lincoln. It really was a pretty drive, but took more time than going the I-40 way. After stopping in Roswell for gas and then being stopped outside of Artesia at an alcohol checkpoint, I finally rolled into Carlsbad at about 8:45 p.m.

I found Mom in ICU, and heavily medicated for pain, as well as for heart and blood pressure. She was pretty comfortable and talkative. I didn't stay too late, but before I left asked a nurse about the x-ray report. I was so thankful to hear that no ribs were broken, which had been a concern. I didn't stay too late, but was back in her room around 7:30 a.m. on Monday.

On Monday they moved her out of ICU into a regular room - all vitals were looking good. The "game plan" is to keep her there for a couple days, and then move her to the rehab section of the hospital (again). She remembers this as a torture chamber, so I hope it goes better for her there this time around. I have no idea what all of this means for her going-home prospects. We're taking it a day at a time.

I plan to go home on Wednesday morning, and don't know just when I'll need to come back again. I'm running low on sick leave. I'm so thankful that my employer allows me to use sick leave for family members, though! And I'm grateful that my supervisor has been so supportive, reminding me of two things: "Family comes first," and "That's what sick leave is for." (Thanks, Betsy!)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Defining Moment #5 - Childbirth

Having children defined me as a mother. I remember, a few days before Chris was born, trying to wrap my mind around that concept. "Today I'm not a mother, but next week I will be." I tried to comprehend it, but really couldn't until the first moment I held my baby.

I learned many lessons through being a mother, not least of which is that God knows, better than I, what children I should have. If I could have shopped for my children through a mail-order catalog, and been allowed to choose every single characteristic I wanted, I doubt that I would have checked the boxes beside (just to name a few):

a Allergies and asthma
a Attention deficit
a Non-stop talking
a Delayed speech
a Slow to potty train
a Fearless and accident prone
a Overly cautious

And yet, as it turned out, I love each of my sons, not in spite of having some of those characteristics, but because of them! I gradually learned to treasure each small trait that played a part in making them the wonderfully unique little fellows they were (and big fellows they are). And if I had custom ordered designer-kids, I wouldn't have ended up with the two that I love with all my heart.

Having children defined me as someone who defends, protects, provides, compliments, encourages, comforts, disciplines, trains, teaches, enjoys, plays with and takes pride in her children. That would be a mother.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Spring Winds and Forest Fires

It's been a spring marked by continuing high winds in this part of New Mexico. High winds in country as dry as this are frightening; any lightning bolt, cigarette, or spark can lead to run-away forest fires, spread rapidly by the wind.

One such forest fire has been burning in the Manzano Mountains, not far from Albuquerque, for over two weeks now. On Tuesday it was reported to be 90% contained, but yesterday's roaring winds rekindled it, and sent it out of control again. As of this evening, it had consumed 11,000 acres. Albuquerque's normally blue skies are heavy with drifting smoke.

Officials are unable to say how many homes and businesses have been lost, because the heavy smoke prohibits visibility. Today's winds were between 40 to 60 m.p.h. and kept air tankers and helicopter crews on the ground. Approximately 500 people, from Torreon and Tajique and everything in-between those two towns have been evacuated, and others have been warned to be prepared to evacuate.

This fire is burning along the scenic route where Sherry and I did our photo shoot back in September.

My heart goes out to these home- and business-owners.