Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gollum and Sam

Since so many of you find the little opossum in the previous post interesting, and since I've not told the 2006 opossum story on this blog as I thought I had, I will now tell the tale.

July 4, 2006. My parents were up for a few days of holiday fun. We were roasting marshmallows by the backyard campfire to make s'mores. Sam began to bark and bark and bark his urgent bark. Tom and Joe found what the ruckus was all about - Sam had found a baby possum (pictured below) under the squash leaves in the garden.

Tom picked him up, we each took a peek, I took some pictures, then Tom set the little guy (gal?) free in the neighbor's backyard where an overgrown blackberry thicket tangles. Tom has always wanted a pet opossum but I've always thought it would be a bad idea. For better or worse, we did things my way on Independence Day.

A few weeks later who should appear but this same little possum perched unperturbed on the six-foot fence under the purple-flowered shrubs. At the scent and sound of the schlumpy critter Sam shot out of the house, low and fast, toe-nails digging into the dirt as he streaked to the fence. Our overly-excited beagle positioned his trembling, tense, muscular body below the intruder and commenced barking bloody murder.

It was midnight.

Tom sauntered toward the crazed beagle where he spotted the possum, surprised to see familiar markings. It was unmistakably the same little one grown up a bit. My just-home-from-work husband stroked the stiff-haired animal's head. Yes, you read correctly, stroked its head. Right between his beady eyes and behind his perky ears.

Naturally Sam went bananas with his barking as if to say, "Tom, don't you know, it's an enemy in our compound. What are you doing scratching its HEAD! Stop! Cease! Desist! Pu-lease!"

Tom didn't stop.

The girls named the opossum Gollum for in The Lord of the Rings Gollum and Samwise are adveraries. Sam, the beagle, is named Samwise after Frodo's true and loyal companion, for that it was Sammy is to us.

Gollum came by every single night until the rainy season began. Weeks, weeks of midnight beagle dash-and-bark and freshly-showered Tom walking out to stroke his fence-roosting friend, Gollum. Weeks of summer and early autumn nights when I stared at my bedroom ceiling listening to backyard racket wondering how I ended up in this circus of a life.

Maybe this story helps you understand why, when Sam discovered another stray baby possum the other day, I said in no uncertain terms, "No. No. No. Don't even think about it, no more possum pets, no Gollum #2, fuggedaboudit."

Tom, who's experienced his pet possum dream, has agreed that once was enough. It's fun for awhile, sure, but midnight barkings and scratchings get old, even for a possum enthusiast. It was fun (funny!) while it lasted.

Happily, little Gollum 2 from the previous post is more shy than his predecessor and we all remain asleep at midnight. Even the dog. Most of the time.

It is as it should be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little o' This, Little o' That

Our first picking of green beans with a few sugar snap peas tossed in as well.

Sam discovered this baby opossum lost in the back lawn. We helped it find its momma.

Tom cooked up some ribs. Tasty, yes indeed!

Uncle Bob and Cousin Tim's squash gratefully received and cooked up. Delicious!

I LOVE summer! (Remind me of this post and my love of summer when the heat of August croaks me and I start to complain, will ya?)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mom's Safe and Sound

Just a quick post to let those of you who are following the Saga of Mom know that she did indeed check out of the rehab center and is now living with Dad at my brother's house. She goes to therapy three times a week, is getting around with a walker, and both she and Dad sound realllly relaxed over the phone. (My brother lives 200 miles from me.)

The therapist said yesterday that she recommends the sessions continue for at least six more weeks. She's certain she can get Mom's strength to return so she can once more walk without aid.

Dad is anxious to get back home (I mean, it's been five whole days!!) though he's staying pretty calm on the surface which helps everyone. He enjoys having Mom around again and LOVES the little great-grandkids coming over for visits.

My life has certainly opened up - sigh of relief - even as my brother and sister-in-law have taken on a whole lotta new. I told my sister-in-law last night that by the time she's seen Mom through this recovery phase with its procedures, pills, appointments, and whatnot that she'll be qualified to be a nurse!

It will be interesting to see where this all leads. So many unanswered questions but for the moment, all is well.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


To supplement the fresh produce that we grow in our yard, we receive CSA boxes each week. This is such a wonderful opportunity that I wanted to share the concept and possibility. While we have farmers' markets - and they are terrific - there is another way to become veggie-educated and nourished with newly-picked from the earth produce.

This summer my family and I have tried produce we've never encountered before in its freshest form. Beets (Mom always pickled them and I don't like all the vinegar), Swiss Chard (just plain scared me!), turnips (good raw in salads - who knew?), pac choi (you've read my soup post, right?), and fennel. What a blast! One of the biggest perks about CSA boxes over the farmers' market for us is that we are given food we may not have purchased at the market, encouraging these new encounters.

I wrote a little about CSA boxes on my other blog here.

I hope you'll read the post and let me know what you think. It's a good way to support local farms and to eat food that satisfies our bodies rather than eat food from heaven knows where that can potentially make us quite sick. It's a good idea to at least think about what we chew and swallow, no?

(I'm going to go make a salad. All this veggie talk has made me ready for supper!)

Contemplating the Moon...Again

Did you see the moon last night?

It was weird from where I was standing. Haloed, then partially shadowed, yellow, then dark orange, high in the sky, then low. It seemed to take its own sweet time wandering from east to west in the inky black sky.

The moon holds me in its spell, that silent satellite. A heavenly object visible to the naked eye, pulling the waters of Earth, mesmerizing its creatures. No light of its own yet some nights a full moon offers enough light to read by. Reflected light.

To find the lights of life, the bright spots, the inspirational people, the thoughts and deeds which enlighten in a world that can seem eternally dim, and then to reflect them. To offer enough light to others that they can journey forth - one step at a time.
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus, John 8:12
Jesus comes to mind and his life of wisdom and understanding, compassion and salvation. Not overbearing like a scorching summer sun, but gently, consistently finding us in our quiet places; like the moon he effects us whether we know it or not.

An analogy such as this breaks down pretty quickly. But I like to think of Jesus being a constant in my life, like the moon, one which offers many perspectives, much mystery, and opportunity for my human heart to look up and discover what is real in a world of fakery.

It was just a big ol' orange moon to some, but to me it was a chance to contemplate.

A pleasant frame of mind on a summer evening.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Together Again

My very kind, compassionate, patient, generous brother and sister-in-law have offered their newish home with it's king-sized guest bedroom and open floor plan for the caregiving of our Mom and Dad. The limitations of my parents' home - too narrow doors, too many twists and turns - are not present in my brother's house. It makes all the difference in the timeline. My brother and his wife are welcoming our folks into their home to share their lives for as long as is necessary.

Because of this gesture Mom won't have to wait until August 15th but gets to bust out of the rehab center this Thursday - that is the plan. And Dad gets a much deserved rest from all that he has been through.

Medical equipment is being put in place, furniture moved around, phone calls being made. It's the perfect solution for Mom's transitional phase, the strengthening of her body so she can return to her beloved home. Mom's therapists are thrilled at this opportunity. Happy for Mom to be freed to live with her loved ones once again.

Dad is happy - joyous! - that he will be united full-time with his wife of sixty years. This has been extremely hard for him, to watch, to wait, to not know. To just not know.

And Mom is excited to be able to rejoin the 'real world' once again. Back in the fresh air and love that have missed her so.

I'm so proud of my brother and sister-in-law for demonstrating what it means to be 'family.' Their unselfish gesture speaks volumes. It won't be easy for any of them, but a routine will be recognized, and humor found in those odd little places and spaces of daily life. They are not alone; there are many of us who support and help where we can.

Words are not coming to me now, the right words, the sentiments that communicate my heart. This is love, this unprompted generosity. It's unselfish. It's humble and heartfelt. It's true...and it's an example for all to witness. Where aggressive pride and loud self-seeking have failed, love has tip-toed in on whispers of genuine compassion and care...and saved the day.

(The photos are not current - just happy reminders of what we hope is returning to us. Happy, contented parents.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Last Boast...I Promise

Cassie passed the driving part of her license test.


She's a great driver. At this very moment she and Caroline are out on their very first trip without supervision. To the grocery store. Hey, works for me!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Splish Splashing!

It looks sorta like Sammy has a vertigo problem...

But he's just getting his doggy shakes out before he gets out of the shady creek.

And Caroline finds splashing water onto her head the perfect way to cool off on a hot July day!

The relaxing part of summer has finally arrived! And not a moment too soon.

Mom Update: Looks like Mom will stay in the rehab center until the middle of August since there are some obstacles in Mom and Dad's home that require her to be a bit stronger and more agile. Their bathroom doors are not even two feet wide which means she has to squeeze through with her walker sideways. This requires some more practice. She doesn't mind, though. She LOVES rehab, all the social things there are to do, the staff, the other patients. She's having a blast. Dad on the other hand, well, he's kinda sick of being alone and doing all the chores. But he's doing just fine. Mom enjoyed her Day Out at home for Dad's birthday party. She was surrounded by kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids for the better part of a day. Smiling, relaxing, talking, scooting around with her walker now and then - with supervision, of course - she was quite relaxed. Dad had a very happy birthday celebration. He was more smiley and ready to laugh than he's been since Mom fell ill. It was a good day all the way around! More later!

Driver's License - Part One

Is it bragging to post here on my blog that Cassie took the written part of her driver's test today and scored 100%?

It is?

Okay, then I won't say anything.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Banks tell their employees that the way to discern counterfeit money is to handle real currency until it's known instinctively by sense of touch. Counterfeit money might look like the real thing, but sensitive fingers do not lie; it will be found out.

In the book of 1 Corinthians Paul graciously sheds light on what genuine love is and isn't so we can measure our experiences.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres."
What I'm walking through 'out there' isn't love. It talks like love but it walks like 'not love.' To an untrained eye it looks ideal. But it's a sham, a whitewash.

No, what I'm experiencing is not love. In my attempts to improve the situation I find myself pulled into the vortex of deceit and manipulation. I am deceived and a deceiver. I am manipulated and a manipulator. I feel myself staggering, the ground under me shifts.

The disorientation confuses me. I find myself assimilating. My own ugliness grows while the good recedes. The genuine battles the counterfeit. Up is down, wrong is right, what is happening?

Suddenly I recognize the trap. In near panic I search for an exit. The only way of escape I can find is to avoid the people who plot and scheme, who lie to me, who use me, who bite and devour each other, the greedy, self-seeking, deceitful, proud, rude, and angry ones who keep records of wrong.

Can this be the answer? To avoid? To give up? To run away in order to save myself? Can I help others when I myself am critically wounded?

Is it a matter of preserving myself and my integrity now in order to live to fight another day? Another year? Does perseverance mean I intend to return after my wounds are attended or must I stay in the grueling conflict until I am crushed?

Here in the shelter of my family of six - my husband and children - there is unmistakable, recognizable love. I am given space to be confused and work it out, to brood until peace is found, to love with too much enthusiasm and not enough, to be honest. I stumble, I fall, they help me up. This is love. This I understand. My senses recognize this genuine love as the real deal. This - my home - is not the 'out there' that plagues me. This is my sanctuary.

Just now the morning light awakens me before the star itself rises. A new day, freedom to straighten myself out or at least the opportunity to try, to begin. Here in the safety of my immediate family I can rest and ponder, struggle and relax, come to conclusions - or not - and know that I am safe.

They give me strength to continue on in the 'out there', they have faith that I will prevail over my sins, they give me hope that what is at the end of this immense pain is worth it.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Genuine love.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Where There's Smoke...

Smoke from hundreds of lightening-caused California fires swooped north smothering our western Oregon skies and turning our mellow yellow sun into a blazing orange orb hanging in a sepia sky.

After a few days of cough-cough, sniffle-sniffle hazy conditions our skies were cleansed at last around sunset yesterday when fresh marine winds blew the the smoke away.

Breathing free this Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day to my fellow patriotic Americans!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

And.....She's Up!

Under the supervision of her physical therapist Mom walked with her walker all the way to the therapy room and back on Sunday to the amazement of all of us - including the nurses.

But she didn't stop there. No way!

She played a round of Wii bowling with my dad and Caroline. She had to push herself up out of a regular chair, stand at her walker, get the WiiMote ready, and then bowl. There were times she was free-standing with no hands on the walker as she fiddled with the WiiMote, figuring it out. She didn't even realize she was standing there on her own until I told her once she got back to her room.

The word in the rehab center is that she'll be released to go home in two to three weeks, this week being week one.

But wait....there's more!

We're having a birthday celebration for Dad at my parents' home on Saturday. I inquired of the nurse if it's possible for Mom to have a Day Pass to join us. SHE SAID 'YES'! I've had the head nurse put in a formal request to Mom's doctor - just a formality, I'm told - and once she approves, we are set.

As I write, Mom's therapist is teaching my older sister and my dad how to get Mom into and out a car safely. So exciting! Mom's first taste of her normal life - her beloved van!

I wish you could have seen her face when she heard that she'd get to go home for a day! Such joy, excitement, motivation. The nurses told my dad and I that it'll do her a 'world of good'. They've seen people go home for a few hours and come back positively inspired to get their rehab done quickly so they can return. Mom hasn't been home since May 1st. She joked, "I probably won't even recognize the place."

My family and I are very excited about Saturday.

Very excited.

The first photo is Mom bowling on the Wii while Caroline, the therapist, and Dad watch. The second is Mom doing her thing, notice the Wii Mote in her left hand as her right shoulder has been 'bum' for years. She wears a belt around her waist as a precaution, a place to grip her if she totters. Also, she's wearing a very bulky back brace under her jacket which she'll wear as she recuperates from the surgery. It supports her until her muscles are strong enough to support themselves. The last photo is Mom and Dad saying grace for the turkey meal they shared in her room just before therapy.