Sunday, August 31, 2008

They're Baaaack

Mom and Dad are back in their home.

Four months almost to the day since Mom was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night.

Next week the folks celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.


(Photo taken at restaurant where we had our celebratory homecoming party. Yes, Dad's hair's afright - open car windows do that sometimes. ;)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Melted Snow and Huckleberries

Today Tom, Cassie, Caroline, Sam, and I spent several hours here:

Fed by melted snow, this lake is C O L D, but when one boldly jumps in, vigorously flails limbs, and shouts, "Melted snow! Melted snow! Melted snow!!" one gets used to it pretty quickly.

We were happy to find ripe huckleberries. Not many. Most of the little gems were either picked already or unripe. But persistence pays off. We'll have huckleberry muffins tonight!

Synchronized swimming is easy when performed singly.

This mountain lake is my favorite place in the whole world! As I floated and splashed, played and contemplated I realized that I was smiling. Smiling contentedly.

Repeatedly throwing water high above my head to watch it separate into a million sun-infused jewels, kicking my feet hard to see the clear water turn white and then catch the sun again, diving underneath the surface, pulling hard with my arms to glide through the lake I feel as though this water and I are one. For just a moment...or two.

As Cassie said, "I'd love to live here! I'd love it!"

While we can't live there, we can visit again and again, the way we visit good friends. Eagerly. Joyfully. And always wanting more.

(Check out my latest culinary experiment here.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Drug Abuse

"You are an inspiration!" I told a friend of my mom's.

T. has had shoulder surgery which required painful, determined therapy for half a year. She has curvature of the spine which keeps her in various degrees of discomfort or downright pain. But she tackles her physical problems head-on. Swimming twice a week at the local gym has strengthened her arms, back, and legs.

'Look, I've got big biceps!" she proudly grins as she pushes up the sleeves of her stylish blouse. She's not kidding. Hard as rocks. Best of all, her mindful activities manage her pain.

She told me, after my gushing praise, "You know, Cherie, the doctors just want to keep us older folks drugged all the time. When we visit them at their offices for ailments they hand out expensive drugs. Nursing homes and rehabs are full of people who could get well but are drugged into inactivity. It really bothers me. I'm not going to let them do that to me."

Like I said, she's an inspiration, and she's preaching to the choir.

It saddens me, frustrates me, sometimes infuriates me, this drugging of America.

I know a woman younger than I who has been told, via annual physicals, that she has "elevated numbers." Leaving the doctor's office with a handful of prescriptions she's left the world of freedom and entered the world of 'patient.' Prescription drugs require routine blood tests which require regular doctor visits. Ka-ching!

"Have you tried eating better and moving more?" I ask.

"Oh, no. I don't want to feel deprived. And I don't like getting all sweaty."

Enjoy the pills, lady, and the expense, and the side effects. I've noticed that since she's been on the pills she's lost a good portion of her personality. The spunk and spontaneity are gone, the imagination. She's just blaaaa these days. In fact, that's how I learned she was on the pills in the first place. I asked her husband if she was feeling all right as I'd noticed a marked difference. He smiled and told me the new pills keep her in a constant state of calm. Didn't seem to bother him. He admitted that he's on them as well. Oh, and did I mention they both have memory problems? Every day? "Just can't remember a thing, so be sure to remind me!" "We've become so forgetful in our old age."

They are younger than I am and I've never had the memory problems they have! It's not age. It's the pills.

Now, now, Cherie, what do you know. Not much I admit. But I do know of several cases where friends of mine have been prescribed statins, beta blockers, and other powerful drugs which moderate bodily functions only to find incredible side-effects the most common of which is memory fuzziness, forgetfulness. Once the pills are stopped, the mind returns. (A quick search on the internet yielded a great article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD. which details the use and misuse of statins.) One elderly lady, a personal friend, was told, after she'd been on statins for a month, that she'd had a stroke when she became unable to speak due to paralysis of her entire left side. The tests showed no stroke, however. It was the pills! Once off of them her body returned in time, but not to its previous condition.

Tom's doctor told him his 'LDL cholesterol' was too high. Out came the prescription pad. "I'd rather try to lower the numbers myself, naturally," Tom quickly interjected.

The doctor sighed, set down his pad, ran the back of his hand over his brow and said, "I wish all my patients felt that way. I had one lady in here just this morning who has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high glucose levels and she's obese. She asked me what I suggested then said quickly, 'Exercise is NOT an option!'"

Exercise would not only help her condition but cost less and have no side effects except for increased vitality.

I know a woman who takes seventeen prescription drugs a day. One she takes at two in the morning. More than one of these pills are drugs that counteract the side effects of other pills. She is the perfect picture of the 'apple' body type. Perfectly round, hugely so. She would not exercise or eat right if her life depended on it. Literally. "It's not my fault I eat the way I do. It's how I was raised!" Yet she complains about the cost of her drugs. "Hundreds of dollars a month! It's an outrage. And Medicaid doesn't pay all of the cost!"

The outrage is the total lack of personal responsibility.

The advances made in the area of helpful drugs is phenomenal. There is a place for treatments that restore life, quality of life, and vitality. But there must be a balance between aid and abuse and I fear that balance is off. Way off.

My dad has a lifelong, weird heart condition and has had a stroke or two. He pays attention to his health, eats good food, exercises a bit, and keeps his weight down. His doctor has him on all sorts of drugs. Dad sleeps a lot. He told me, "You know, sometimes I think it's not worth it to take all these drugs that make me so tired all the time. I think it'd be better to take my chances and feel good."

My sister-in-law has been monitoring both Mom and Dad as she continues to care for them during Mom's recovery. She noticed dangerous dips in Dad's blood pressure after he swallowed his 'noon pill', a medication he's taken for years. She notified Dad's beloved doctor who was alarmed. He took him off the pill. Dad's blood pressure is fine.

This lackadaisical attitude frustrates me. (Maybe I need to take a pill!) What do doctors do once they've created pill-popping patients? Don't they monitor them? Don't they review? Seems they only look at numbers from blood tests. It's not enough, I tell you. What if my sister-in-law hadn't been so astute? What if....

I'd better calm down or I'll have a stroke.

Then they'll put ME on pills.

And I'll lose my personality.

And that would be a shame.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


A blustery storm passed through our region this week. In preparation the patio table's umbrella was lifted for storage in a dry corner. Outdoor chairs were neatly slid under eaves for protection from splattering rain drops, potted plants gently shoved against the house to protect heavy laden branches from disorderly winds, saving flowers and fruit.

My efforts paid off, no damage.

The storm, while fully enjoyed for its wild and wet, passed. Furniture is restored to useful places, flowers fully cleansed and watered reach robustly for the sun once again.

It was a gentle storm, not a hurricane.

Violent storms, however, require more than mere rearrangement of precious things, they require full-on defense or evacuation.

To know the difference is to understand which procedure to follow. Rearrangement or boarding up windows, evacuating important possessions to safety. Eave protection or hunkering down.

For lack of attention and maintenance unnecessary destruction occurs.

In patio decor.

In homes.

In families.

While a storm brews on the horizon no weatherman tells me which way the wind blows, advises no procedure. Discernment is up to me, my experience, my knowledge, my feeble wisdom.

God help me make the right choice for it seems my eyes alone scan the horizon. Others, oblivious, foolishly rush toward damage or destruction.

This storm oppresses - the chance for mere rearrangement has passed. Too ferocious. Will I escape in time, my precious ones safe, or will I linger too long sacrificing my all to save a straw house?

Here comes the huff. Here comes the puff. Will it blow the house down?

Eventually, yes.

Will I survive the loss intact? I hope so.

I hope so.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

So Easy

Basil leaves harvested and picked. Tonight my daughters and I made pesto for the first time ever!

More photos of garden delights here.

Now we are going to go walk in the rain. The rain!!

Delicious air, wonderful wetness, fresh.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Enchanted Forest

The hour-long drive Sunday morning to Enchanted Forest was dominated by the beginnings of a series of thunder storms. Dramatic skies caused our adrenalin to surge in excitement at the adventure we sped toward.

At last we arrive at the theme park begun by a local man for his children decades ago.

One of the many delightful scenes dotting the lush forest along the Enchanted Walk.

In the castle I peer through a window hole.

Can you see the Spirit of the Tree smiling at you?

Yes, they dare go into the Witch's House!

Even I took a turn on the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe's slide that's been a source of fun for my kids for twenty years.

The Wild West was never more fun...or funny.

The soaking from the log ride felt oh so good on a hot hot day!

Caroline and Cassie tour the Olde English Village.

Inside where's it cool we watch the water fountain show. Dazzling every time!

An overhead V of geese guides us home.

You're never too old for Enchanted Forest!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Portland of a Saturday

Day Nine of our Thirty Days of Rest Between Projects found Tom, Cassie, Caroline, and I driving to Portland early in the morning where we met Ben and Sarah at the Oregon Zoo. The temperature rose steadily and we were glad to be finished before the heat peaked.

I feel a certain sadness when I see caged animals. This cougar paced - around and around - as cats do. I felt a kinship with her; sometimes this world cages me, too. She was beautiful!

Seal lions swam in a pattern, flowing and floating with the smallest of motions. Reminded me of my little sister and I in our backyard pool all those years ago. Relaxed, we watched for quite awhile.

Ah, the polar bears look harmless and playful behind the glass on a hot day. The paws tell a different story.

This guy was my very favorite! Dusting himself to prevent sunburn and bugs he leisurely scooped and splayed the dry dirt onto himself as naturally as you please. See the dust in the air above his head?

Okay. Not my favorite place. It's stinky in the Bat House and I still have Dracula movies rattling around in the Childhood Memories portion of my brain.

Living life upside down.

Crawling around the ceiling on those triangular wings, politely skirting one another, I dunno, maybe bats aren't so scary after all.

Gerenuks are gorgeous!

Ancient dino-birds were HUGE! What a sight it would have been to see them soaring and swooping overhead. Thankfully Ben's arms don't measure up with this ancient wingspan.

Cassie and I could only say, "Ouch," when we saw this beautiful Maasai woman's ear lobes.

Though unmoving of body this giant monitor lizard stared at me, eyes following my movements. Respecting his power I snapped a photo and moved on.

My little meerkat friend!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Lake

Triple digit temperatures require a lake.

That's a rule.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rediscovered Joy

When I was ten or so my parents gave me a Royce-Union three-speed bike. I loved that thing! Riding it to school, to the ice cream shop, to friends' houses, or just with my sister around the neighborhood I was happiest when astride my wheels.

While I have had other bikes and did ride now and again I've been given the gift of rediscovered joy this summer. Tom gave me a good bike for my birthday and I've been riding all over.

Our area is known for its intricate bike path system, most particularly the off road trails that lead through woods, along the sparkling Willamette, through gorgeous verdant parks, and along wildflower hugged canals. Shade or sun. A biker has her pick.

Cassie, Caroline, and I just returned from a fifteen mile ride. Besides mailing letters in town, we rode on secluded paths through the trees on curving paths and straight, beside wild, dry, grassy fields, and alongside cool, shady streams. The river to the south of us kept melody.

On the way home, we sat on a wooden bench under a shade tree where we listened to the riffles of the glittering water as we watched hawks soar overhead. Two rafts full of tween aged kids - one full of energetic boys, one full of laughing girls - drifted by while their guides taught the children how to paddle. We waved from the shore a friendly wave that was returned.

Today is supposed to grow hot for our area but this morning belonged to the early risers, the ones who ventured outdoors with the sunrise. The joggers. The walkers. The bicyclists like us.

Though my legs are shaky there is that familiar sense of inner peace that flows through my body after it has exerted itself. Surpassing age.

I feel just like I did after riding my Royce-Union. Only now I get to come home and make whatever I want for lunch - I don't have to wait for Mom.

We're having tacos!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Scandinavian Festival

Junction City, Oregon was settled by the fair of hair and skin, the Scandinavians.

For decades a lively festival has been held in honor of those rugged pioneers.

We attended again this weekend enjoying crafts, folk dancing, art, and...wait for it...FOOD.

I'll let my photos do the talking.

Ye Olde Windmill Information Center. Notice that we went to the festival on Norwegian Day, in honor of Tom's heritage.

Some people are so talented!

Joe mainly goes to the festival for the authentic food... does Tom.

Abelskivers are little round pancakes.

A batch ready to serve.

Abelskivers are served three at a time with a bit of Norse jelly.

Bellies full the boys head for the car!

Another fun year celebrating the Norse Land!