Postcards from Home

This is the time of year many of us have kids or grandkids moving out for the first time. It can be an adjustment as it was for Rebecca when she made the move to the college campus. Away from home for the first time can be a little lonely. At first I wrote letters but in today’s digital age where we could talk regularly, Skype and see each other, plus email it soon seemed that there wasn’t enough news to compose an entire page. Eventually it occurred to me that Rebecca, who still wanted to find mail in her box, might enjoy postcards from our past travels.

Postcards.

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

And so began my Postcards from Home project. I remembered that when Rebecca was in camp we would send her notes and cards but what always received the most comment were the postcards, particularly the ones from her brother with the Ninja Turtles or Pokemon characters. After all, my ‘girly girl’ daughter didn’t seem the type to be a Power Ranger, etc., fan and her fellow campers delighted in seeing this other side of her. With this in mind we began sending postcards more regularly until now, if I remember; we put one in the mail each week.

It’s a simple project especially if you are like me and collect postcards every time you see them. When we were homeschooling we often shared postcards with families from other areas increasing our variety. As I became organized I began adding inspirational quotes related to my daughter’s current situation. (Because I have a short memory, I copied a whole bunch to my word processor and then add the date when I used it in order to not use the one favorite saying over and over…)

Superhero stickers are added to each card to let the recipient know Matthew is thinking of them.

Superhero stickers are added to each card to let the recipient know Matthew is thinking of them.

Over time this little project grew when I realized that people still do like to get mail and others could easily be into my week. I admit that I am probably the world’s worst when it comes sending a get well or anniversary card in a timely manner but these postcards were right here in the house and as long as I keep a sheet of the less expensive postcard stamps in stock it takes less than five minutes to put one in the mail. When my postcard selection began to dwindle some of my well-travelled friends were happy to share from their stash giving me an even greater selection.

Postcards—they’re not just for travelers.

You can do this too. We know the elderly aunts love to hear from us and just a postcard is enough to elicit a newsy letter from them. We have lots of instant communication via the social media with family and friends across the country but they still like to get something to hang on the frig, a little reminder that they are loved. If you have friends going through a trying time or maybe with health issues like chemo a postcard can be a little smile in their day.

My friend Megan liked her card so much she shared it with everyone on Facebook!

My friend Megan liked her card so much she shared it with everyone on Facebook!

Buying the stamps does require a trip to the post office and then you have to find your stash of cards which, if you’re like me, are not sitting neatly at your desk waiting to be used. Even an arthritic hand can usually manage to write one postcard. Oh, and I do have one caveat. If you are sending cards to someone who is so unimpressed as to not even send you a text message then cross them off your list (unless it’s your grandson).

Life is short. Send a postcard.

A Harrowing Experience

Though this story happened years ago I still feel the chills and remember it as though it were yesterday.

To set the stage I must share one key bit of information about myself that I never tell anyone but I’ll disclose to you today. When I was 12 our family relocated to a small town on an island in Southeast Alaska. Sitka was a beautiful area especially when the sun was shining (which did not happen every day since it received over 100 inches of rain a year). Because it was on the edge of the ocean the townspeople decided that all children should know how to swim so they built an Olympic size pool at the junior high which was open for summer swimming and during the school year used for lessons. Fine and dandy, right? Well, except when my family moved there my sister and I thought we were too old for lessons since everyone else knew how to swim. This did not pose a problem to me until the semester before high school graduation. You know, the time period when school officials are reviewing your transcripts to make sure you didn’t miss an important required subject. They looked at my records: Good grades? Check. All required classes? Check. College application turned in? Check. Passed Basic Beginning Swimming? Whoops…where was that? After questioning me, and probably my parents, it was discovered that I had missed that important requirement for graduation and the swim teacher would have to tutor me or I wouldn’t graduate.

Oh the trauma I faced. Like a cat, I did not want to get into the cold pool, hated water up my nose and was scared when my feet couldn’t touch the bottom. But the swim teacher (who deserved a medal) did not let my protests sway him from his work and we practiced and practiced until finally I could jump off the low diving board, swim the length of the pool (without crying) and tread water for what seemed like an eternity.

Whew. I could graduate.

There you have it. I don’t call it a fear, I call it a healthy respect of water…naturally Matthew has the same feeling.

Back to my story.

Years had passed and I was married in Arizona and son Matthew was about five years old. In the mountains of Arizona there are many small manmade lakes. The Mogollon Rim country is idyllic especially in the summer, large puffy clouds skate across the sapphire blue sky. I often romanticized about wafting along leaning back in a small boat with my fingers gently skimming the clear deep water. Yes, I read too many romance stories when I was a teen… but I thought we needed to have a small little boat, big enough that we didn’t have to row but easy to transport to these mountain lakes.

In any case, the more common sense and practical spouse of mine suggested that we first try renting to see whether boating would fit our lifestyle, a smarter choice before running out to buy a craft we might rarely use. And so rent we did. Since Bob, Matthew and I were spending a week’s vacation in the mountains at my parent’s cabin it seemed this would be a great time to hire a boat for a day at one of the closer rim lakes. We picked up a nice 12-footer just a short drive from Blue Ridge Reservoir with plenty of room for the three of us.

The lake is contained in a long, steep and narrow canyon and is extremely deep. Tall Ponderosa Pine trees line it but few are able to grow roots in the bedrock so are only found higher along the ridge. From the boat ramp the reservoir snakes around to the dam. It is spectacularly beautiful. And for reasons that will soon become apparent you will have to be content with this picture from The Payson Roundup.

They changed the name to CC Cragin recently. Don't ask me why. The shoreline doesn't look nearly as steep from this areal view.

They changed the name to CC Cragin recently. Don’t ask me why. The shoreline doesn’t look nearly as steep from this aerial view.

Or you can use your imagination and look at this photo I took last week up there when we discovered the lake has been drained for major maintenance on the pump system.

This is at the head of the lake but very green and low because it's been drained.

This is at the head of the lake but very green and low because it’s been drained. Note those delicate wispy clouds.

The day was everything I imagined: the puffy clouds, the big blue sky, the cool clear water. For a while we putzed around the dam, throwing our fishing lines in but not caring whether we caught anything. The remote location meant it was not a crowded lake but still we saw several other boats and fishermen angling for one of the native Arizona trout but happy to catch a still delicious stocked trout. It was just as peaceful as in my dream.

Until the sun disappeared behind the clouds.

We had lived in Arizona long enough to understand the threat of Monsoon storms but hidden down in this canyon we could see no sign of a significant weather change until the clouds were nearly overhead. Still, we weren’t concerned and just decided it was time pack up our stuff and head back. As we putted along with the little five horsepower motor it soon became apparent that the wind had shifted and now was blowing directly down upon us making forward progress difficult. The idyllic day was rapidly deteriorating, my bright blue sky dotted with cottony clouds of a happy Bob Ross painting was hidden now by dark angry strokes from a tortured Van Gogh scene turning into a full-fledged summer deluge with thunder and lightning bringing with it wind and rain. It happened that I was handling the motor at the time and we decided we needed a more experienced driver so that we could get off the lake as quickly as possible therefore we would need to trade seats.

Matthew was up in the bow of the boat enjoying the bouncy ride. But we knew changing seats in a small boat requires coordination so Bob and I talked about moving as we had done before. Everything went well, I moved to the middle seat and Bob to the rear…

And just as he sat on the bench a ferocious gust of wind pushed the bow of the boat up in to the air with such force that everything changed! In an instant Matthew was thrown out of the boat, our belongings dumped into the lake and the back of the boat rapidly filled with water. A half second later Bob realizing the crisis jumped out of the boat to take the weight out of the back end. He snagged Matthew, who was screaming his head off, but quite safe wearing his life jacket and at the same time with Herculean effort pushed the back end of the boat up out of the water. Where was I? Well, it turns out I was going to take that Basic Beginning Swimmers Certificate down with me to Davey Jones’ locker. Yes, I was hanging on for dear life in a sinking boat.

There we were, a screaming mess, a half sunk boat on the far edge of the lake. Not another boat in sight. Fortunately, our hero Bob still holding onto Matthew and holding the boat from completely submerging somehow managed to swim and pull us to shore. As Matthew and I scrambled onto the steep ledge soaked, covered in mud and crying our hearts out we watched Bob bail water out of the boat. In typical monsoon fashion, nature’s fury was pelting huge rain drops down upon us but the rocky shore was so steep we could not climb to any shelter. There we sat huddled in the cold rain.

And when I say ‘we’ I mean me because Bob did not stop to cry, instead he bailed out the boat and somehow managed to get the motor running. It took him a good amount of time to convince Matthew and me to climb back into the boat if there had been any other way to walk we would have taken it. The rest of the ride was uneventful; by then the storm had died and there was only the chattering of our teeth to be heard above the motor. It didn’t take us long to unload the boat when we got it back on its trailer because everything was left at the bottom of the lake; the camera, our fishing poles, everything. Bob’s company ring, long a source of pride like a fraternity, was gone slipping his finger off as he pushed the boat out of the water.

Even though this happened years and years ago none of us has had a desire to do anything but fish from shore since. So there it is: my most harrowing experience. A day I never ever will repeat because I never ever will get in a small boat again.

Ever.

A Bit of This and A Bit of That

Lots of little things to share this week starting with:

Cats

Do you ever take your cats for a drive? We did. This week we traveled back to the mountains. And this time we brought the cats! Our cats don’t leave the house, in fact nine year old Socks hasn’t been outside since the time he got lost for a month when he was still a kitten, finally finding his way home scared and scraggly. The Black Cat, sometimes known as Spooky thinks she would like to be outside but scares herself so much that she won’t go three feet beyond the door. The cats are content in their home but they are my cats and they are so particular about even being seen by others I feel guilty being gone too long, hence the plan to take them on an adventure.

Sophie checking on her friends.

Sophie checking on her friends.

 

First goal accomplished when we managed to catch both and stuff them into the kennel.

The guard dog.

The guard dog.

The ride was not as noisy as I expected, little meowing or crying and fortunately, nobody threw up. But two days later they are still hiding underneath the bed. Of course, it doesn’t help that the little dog thinks she needs to greet them any time one starts tiptoeing out of the room or that she feels the need to show them compassion by crawling under the bed and lying next to them, thumping tail and all.

In no rush to venture out from under the bed.

In no rush to venture out from under the bed.

Puzzleman

Matthew has been recovering this month from major dental surgery complete with bone grafts in his jaw. He finds this is a great excuse to not do anything too strenuous (any excuse in a pinch…) So when we are inside he has been working his old puzzles. Some are pretty simple and he gets them together in fifteen minutes, some he hasn’t quite got memorized and they take a little more time. This picture is from his marathon afternoon working three puzzles simultaneously.

Puzzleman!

Puzzleman!

Matthew and the Soldiers

Speaking of Matthew, we have started a new web page featuring Matthew. Over the years we have taken a fair number of pictures of Matthew and his heroes including soldiers, veterans, and first responders and now we are sharing them with everyone. If you want to follow along it’s easy to sign up and receive a notice of a new posting. If you know of a hero who wouldn’t mind posing with Matthew please let me know. MatthewAndTheSoldiers

The New Cheerios

Here’s my nutrition pointer this month… With a strong family history of diabetes and one person hovering at the borderline of diabetes (I’ll not mention who but it is not me and it is not Matthew) we have been paying attention to our carbohydrates. You know how it works, eat more vegetables, especially green ones and less grains, especially processed and you’ll be healthier. The other day we saw an ad for Cheerios. Cereal is often a source of high carbohydrates so when I saw the ‘Protein Cheerios’ I was hopeful that it would be a better alternative food. But I had my suspicions because I have looked at cereal labels and remember how Bran Flakes and the like often use extra sugar to cover up the cardboard flavor. Anyway, we bought a box of the new Cheerios to check them out. The flavor is good but…Yikes! One serving has DOUBLE the carbohydrates of the already sweetened Honey Nut version. A major disappointment…and a good reminder why it helps to read the labels.

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Our Med Student Update

And finally, you have been asking about Rebecca. She is already into her third year of medical school. Time sure flies. The break between second and third year was officially only seven days because they had to take a major test before continuing and as you can imagine the students studied up until the very last minute. I am pleased to report that Rebecca and all of her friends passed this challenging test and now they are into rotations. She is absolutely enjoying the actual hands-on portion of school now. She also thanks you all for your prayers and support. If you are planning to come for graduation you better start making plans since it will be here before you know it.

Just checking in...

Just checking in…

Next Week…a tale of harrowing fright, when my life flashed before my eyes… Don’t miss it!

Life Lived Differently

A Lesson to be Remembered

Today was one of those days when I remember life with Matthew is always different. Not necessarily more challenging than raising one of your kids…just different.

We’re up in the Arizona mountains this week and have been working on yard projects so I told Matthew that we would do something fun today and go hiking. He was all for it and gathered his things as requested ready in short order to head out. This was a surprise to me as Matthew is like many people who believe walking is just a reason to get from point A to point B and that it’s only necessary to get to point B if they have something really worthwhile, like say, French fries.

No matter, I took Matthew’s enthusiasm as a sign of, what, maturity(?) and we jumped in the car. It was only a few miles to the trail head and I was talking about what we might see along the way when we came to the turn off sign. Suddenly reality hit Matthew and he let me know in no uncertain terms that turning off the road was not what he had in mind.

Most of you who know Matthew have not seen some of strong negative autistic traits like hand flapping because they are infrequent but he does do them when stressed or particularly frustrated. And there it was, as we drove into the parking lot he started telling me, “No, no, no…” with both hands flapping.

Still, undaunted and because the little beagle was excited to be on such an adventure, I convinced him to get out of the car…and then out to the trail. The hike I chose was a trail I had been on years ago just before being diagnosed with cancer. That trip we hadn’t made it very far before I pooped out and in hindsight I blamed it on my health, not the trail. So I told Matthew he could make it; that it wasn’t all straight up the mountain; and that we might see some elk or deer.

The sign said it was a short two miles to the springs and hey, we’ve been walking on the treadmill so it should have been pretty easy. Well, maybe it was easy for the dog but for Matthew, it was not so good. Much of the trail was eroded from rains and so narrow that we had to walk single file. Matthew is not brave when it comes to walking downhill when one side has a steep drop off especially if he could not hold on to my hand. But I was determined we would complete the task and my running commentary as we trudged along was filled with positive affirmations and prompts to hang on to the dog’s leash (in Matthew’s case, it is helpful as well as distracting to be responsible for something besides himself) as well as reminders to quit protesting.

Here we are. Oh, I know it doesn't look too bad but you can see the trail is worn down about a foot from the surrounding hillside even on this nice stretch.

Here we are. Oh, I know it doesn’t look too bad but you can see the trail is worn down about a foot from the surrounding hillside even on this nice stretch.

I hoped once we reached the ridge line the hike would become more level and easier walking but it didn’t and gradually I began to realize that with every uphill step how much of a challenge the return going down would be. But the fates intervened and just as we neared the end of the trail we ran into some high dollar mansions built on the top of the mountain. A spectacular view of course, but I knew that those rich people probably weren’t driving a dirt road with their Maserati’s and that we might be able to walk back down the mountain on paved road. Sure enough, with a small amount of trespassing we managed to find a road for this gated and very secluded neighborhood.

Protests and all, it was still beautiful.

Protests and all, it was still beautiful.

As we walked back Matthew decided he no longer needed to cry and the city boy was much more comfortable…until his leg started cramping and I was reminded that those legs have to work so much harder because of how he has to walk.

A challenge in deed. I tried to get Matthew to stop and rest but once we hit pavement his only thought was to find the car, which we finally did.

At the end Matthew was very happy with himself for making the whole trip but when I mentioned that we could take Dad along next time I was met with more very loud protests.

On the plus side, the little dog was a great walking companion but curled up like a pill bug once she reached the back seat of the car. Whew.

So, what’s it like for you? Have you ever said, “Hey, let’s go for a hike!” and everybody piled in the car because they weren’t really listening and thought you said, “Let’s go get an ice cream.” only to realize the truth after you passed Dairy Queen???

Matthew do you want to go on another hike???

Matthew do you want to go on another hike???

By the way, I haven’t yet figured out what Matthew thought we would be doing that was fun, though maybe it was going to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie, that he would think is fun and he would willingly jump into the car for.