The Art of Asking Questions

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
― Voltaire

A Skilled Interviewer

Are you good at asking questions? Can you strike up a conversation with a stranger and learn something about him or her? It’s part of primate cognitive ability; one of those things that thankfully separates us from apes.

Asking on the spot leading questions is an important skill and not as easy as it first seems. I think I should be good after all; the interview process was always a critical part of patient care when I was working. And yet, outside the hospital setting I pretty much retreat into my own little world mostly because my experience talking with strangers usually is met with surprised stilted conversation or worse, I discover that I monopolize the dialogue and discover I forgot to ask questions of the other person. Bob is great at small talk and is especially adept at conversing with strangers but even he is overshadowed by the skill of my mom and her ability to ask the right questions, learning much about the other person.

Watching the master at work...no, not the stylist, the customer.

Watching the master at work…no, not the stylist, the customer.

Case in point: Last week Mom needed to get her hair trimmed so we ran over to the local discount stylist shop. As we walked in I noticed immediately how quiet it was. There were three stylists, two were with customers and the third was sweeping the floor. There was no conversation except for hair related questions like, “Do you want it shorter around your ears?” The stylist who had been sweeping invited Mom over where they spent the first few minutes talking about hair, length, etc. But as I sat there watching I saw Mom in a very unassuming manner start really talking to the gal. Before I knew it I overheard that not only was this woman pregnant but she was a high risk and she was openly discussing and even asking advice on all these personal issues with Mom.

It was a wonder to watch. And I was reminded of a conversation with Rebecca where we laughed when I told her how I stood in the same line as Mom a while back (for some unforgotten reason), got my item and walked out. A short time later Mom comes out and starts to tell me about the guy behind her and in that same short line she pretty much had learned his life story.

Come to think of it, I think Mom would have been a good spy with the ability to obtain information divulged during a casual exchange. Or maybe she could have been the ‘good cop’ in a good cop-bad cop scenario, the person you would feel comfortable talking to while the other guy’s questions were offensive causing you to clam up.

All I know is that I am going to start working on my own questioning skills and instead of standing in line reading the latest rag mag maybe I’ll try again and strike up a conversation with the person behind me or maybe I’ll just continue to learn from my mom.

Not only a good interviewer but a great grandma!

Not only a good interviewer but a great grandma!

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WWMD –What Would Matthew Do?

WWMD

Or, “What would Matthew do?”

Most people are familiar with the slogan WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) and many of my friends use this as a great moral code for their lives. I like it. It’s a good pause before doing or saying something really dumb.

View from the top!

This summer though, I have been thinking on a different line. Matthew and I have been here in the mountains alone during the week and we, meaning I, have been up on ladders painting, cleaning etc.  It may be a little house but there always is plenty of upkeep. Remembering that no one ever called me Grace, sometimes what I do is, well, a little precarious. It takes a whole lot of angels to hold me up on those steep extension ladders.

And so I have been thinking, “What would Matthew do?” What would he do if I fell or was severely injured?

It’s a scary thought for me, often haunting the back of my mind. Those who know Matthew know and regular readers likely have gleaned that he does not talk. Even though he is very caring he shares many of the frightening autistic traits including introspection. He lives in his own little world. If the TV is on, if there is food available and if his computer runs, he is content. No doubt, visitors to our house have seen Matthew come to share news of something exciting on television or to show a great find in his TV Guide. But he only shares things of interest, convincing him to do something else, well, that’s a bigger challenge.

So would he come just to check on someone? I’m not sure. I know if I was conscious I could count on Matthew to seek out the phone but what if he couldn’t find my phone? (Yeah, a common occurrence in this house.) Would he walk down the road to Grandma’s by himself? If he did would he stand outside the gate because emotions are so intense that he can’t stand any extra attention?  (When Matthew sees someone he loves i.e. Grandpa or even Dad his first inclination is to run and hide only coming out after they call his name. Strong emotions are very difficult for him to handle.)

Computer AND TV in one spot. Life is good!

Computer AND TV in one spot. Life is good!

Are we any different from so many of our caregiver friends? Or those who live alone? Am I just whining too much as usual?  There is no doubt we are fortunate in that Matthew’s brain injuries came with birth allowing us to adapt and accept with him over time. We see daily the television commercials with the wounded warrior veterans whose severe injuries caused swift change and upheaval for the families. We can’t imagine their trials. We also know we are lucky that Matthew’s problems do not confine him to a wheelchair and that he can be mobile.  We are blessed to have this son. Our lives and our focus on what is important are so enriched because of him.

Still, as I get ready to put the ladder away having finished painting I have to wonder. WWMD?

PS Now dear friends, do not go into a panic that tomorrow morning I might fall off the ladder and be stuck there for days. Our folks live just down the hill and you can be assured they check up on us regularly. In fact, if we don’t check in by three o’clock the phone rings and I’d better answer it 🙂

Five Years and I’m a Survivor!

Please note: almost everything I ever write is wrapped up in two pages. Today’s story got carried away. Hang in there.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is also the month I was diagnosed.

Five years ago. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday. So much changed that fateful day.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and looking back after the diagnosis certainly made everything clear. For me the cancer was insidious, sneaking in slowly, so slowly that when the fatigue and need for naps was explained away as just part of nearing 50; the shortness of breath was just the darn altitude in the mountains and being out of shape. It was easy to excuse everything.

I even managed to excuse the thickening in my breast. I was certain it was due to an ill-fitting bra. Until finally the Good Lord got my attention saying, “Hey dummy! That’s not just an irritation and look, it’s only on one side…Get it checked!” (Yes, I heard that voice clearly.)

100_3556

Like the temperature balls in a Galileo thermometer my priority list rises and falls.

Interestingly, I had an order for a mammogram given to me more than six months ago at my last visit. I went because my hands were bothering me and the doctor thought it was probably early arthritis for which she prescribed an anti-inflammatory and ordered an xray. She also suggested that it was time for a screening mammogram. Even with no family history she thought all women over 40 should have that first check. Well…priorities… Life for me is like a Galileo thermometer. Priorities bubble up to the top and only those that make it to the top are worried about. As a caregiver scheduling that mammogram just never rose to a top priority. I carefully filed those orders away.

Until that day.

Lesson learned: Just because you are a mom or a caregiver to someone else doesn’t mean you can let your own health slip. Don’t put it off. Don’t be like me.

So I had the mammogram. Let me tell you that, as a former mammographer I already knew what the xrays would show. And when the radiology office called to tell me to get in ASAP to see my doctor I was doubly sure. Within three days of my ‘awakening’ I was in the doctor’s office where she said, “I have your xray report. Yes, you have a little arthritis in your hands BUT THIS and she pointed to the one inch mass…” then she went on to tell me that I needed to go back to the radiology office for more tests and then to a surgeon. My priority bubble had shifted suddenly.

Warning: these are my real insides. You don't have to be an expert to see the picture looks a lot different from the one on the left.

Warning: these are my real insides.
You don’t have to be an expert to see the picture on the right looks a lot different from the one on the left.

The next month changed to getting a diagnosis. Ultrasound, needle biopsy and surgery were scheduled as I had the most frightening disease. First you get the diagnosis and then the staging. It’s quite a pace changing situation. Hurry to get one thing scheduled, then wait impatiently for the results knowing that if A happens you go on to the next step but if it’s B then there’s another detour while everything is evaluated and then you start all over again. As an aside, all of my doctors pushed for expedited care something for which we were very thankful.

Six weeks and four surgeries later I was finally to the next step.

Another lesson learned: Early detection means less surgery and easier treatment options. Don’t be like me.

I told Bob, chemotherapy takes you to the brink killing off all the cancer cells and then hopefully your healthy cells take back over. It’s rough.

But I didn’t feel any different. I wasn’t sick. At least not initially. The effects of chemotherapy are cumulative. Some of the medicine used is so toxic they have to make sure your heart can tolerate the damage it will do. Some of the effects are long lasting. But with newer treatment methods and better pre-chemo medicines the therapy is tolerable and the staff makes sure your body is well enough to handle each dose. In my case the nurses told me my hair would fall out. They guaranteed it. It depends on what drug is being used but they were right. Within two weeks I looked like a Chinese Crested Dog. I held on to the little hair I had until it finally dawned on me that bald was a much better look than tufted.

After sixteen grueling weeks I did finish. Then it was time to jump right into six weeks of radiation therapy.

Another lesson learned: if the tumor is small and if you don’t have any spread of the cancer there are much simpler radiation treatment options including one that only takes a week. The surgeon never did give me much hope for that treatment because the tumor was too big and it had spread to the lymph nodes.

Yes, this is me. Poster child of what not to do. No hair, sad puffy face. Toxic chemo drugs running in. Ugh.

Yes, this is me. Poster child of what not to do. No hair, sad puffy face. Toxic chemo drugs running in. Ugh.

So, for gosh sakes, don’t be like me.

The radiation therapy was fast and definitely easier to handle, which is not to say it was without challenges. Basically it’s like you are sitting out in the sun for hours on end. Depending on the location of the tumor a person would have more or less burns. Mine were mighty. You could still see the redness a year later. Along with the radiation burns comes scarring. I still have to consciously s t r e t c h the muscles in my affected arm. They don’t move like the other side.

To be alone during this ordeal would be miserable. I could not have done it without the support of family and friends. Going to my folks and telling my family the news that first week was the most difficult thing. My parents immediately went into gear pulling up stakes and came to take care of Matthew. We also realized how great our friends are. Every treatment day one friend (who is the busiest person I know) would bring a crockpot of food because she knew I wouldn’t be up for cooking afterwards. When I started whining about food not tasting good another friend brought a whole Butterfinger Tree! The surprise packages and mail were tremendously encouraging. Interestingly, some people admitted that they were afraid to come visit. Better, some people admitted they were afraid to come visit but did it anyway. (Be the second person.)

Nearly eight months after finding the lump I was finished with treatment. Eight months of my life gone in the blink of an eye. You can’t beat yourself up for ‘should‘ve, would’ve, could’ves’. But I know it’s hard not to. Sure I wish I’d done things differently but I expect the Good Lord above had some plan in mind. After all, caring for a sick mother really worked out well when it came time for Rebecca’s life story in her medical school application. Who knows.

Enough of that. Let’s skip forward a few years. Just imagine that I had MRI’s regularly and in my claustrophobia induced panic pushed the RED EMERGENCY button more than once and know that once these doctors get hold of you they don’t let go so visits to the clinics, doctors and labs continued until today.

Here we are today. Five years is no longer the magic cure length of time. But it is a major milestone. I no longer have to take the chemo pills that make my head feel like it’s being held on by a toothpick. Mammograms and the cancer check labs are finally annual. And with this new schedule I don’t expect to see the chemo doctor again after December. Still, there is no doubt that always in the back of my mind is the idea that the cancer could come back. This has been a life altering change. Earlier detection certainly would have made it less impactful.

But that said, life changes are not always bad. We now celebrate life. We use our good dishes instead of saving them. And what’s that saying, “Life is short; drink good wine.” Or maybe it’s cheap wine…or maybe it’s just wine… Something like that. But I’m rambling…

Something about wine...  Salut!

Something about wine…
Salut!

So what’s your take away if you managed to read this far? Two things, I hope. The first, that if you are a woman or know a woman who reaches the age of 40, get that screening mammogram. Don’t let your mother tell you she’s too busy. Don’t let your sister slide on this just because you have no family history, remember I did not. Don’t put yourself at the bottom of the priority list. YOU are IMPORTANT. Take care of yourself. And secondly, there is hope. You can have a mass that is 2.5 centimeters that has spread and survive. The doctors told me at each step what my odds of survival were. Each point improved my odds; I had surgery, if I had chemo and each different drug’s impact, if I had radiation, etc. Modern technology is amazing. I don’t know where they put prayer on that list but when our friend invited the family down to the altar and prayed with us and I felt a peace wash over me. Take it to the Lord. Prayer is powerful and I recommend adding it to your arsenal.

Along with that hope is where we are today. Physically I don’t need those naps anymore and have energy to work on all the projects that piled up, though my list still is long. Each morning we walk on the treadmill. When I say we I mean Matthew and I take turns. He walks 2.5 miles and I walk 5 or 6. He has trimmed down to a lean fighting weight…me, well, I’m still ‘full figured’. I blame the chemo. In fact, I blame the chemo for every health issue I now have from having thin hair to a short memory. Is it unfair? Probably, but too bad. I can still garner sympathy points with my family and you bet I use them.

And that’s my story. As Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to an end you can now say that you know far more than you ever wanted to know about one woman who putzed around and didn’t get her tests done in a timely fashion and ended up being put through the wringer due to her own negligence. But that you also know she managed to scrape and crawl her way back out of the dark hole and today she sees every sunrise as a fresh chance to begin a new chapter.

And for crying out loud don’t let a year pass without pestering your mother, sister, aunt to have her mammogram.

Love you all!

I hope Maxine doesn't mind that I borrowed her picture.

I hope Maxine doesn’t mind that I borrowed her picture.

In the Midst of Tragedy

It’s been over 40 years but I remember it like yesterday.

September 4, 1971.

Our family had recently moved to the fishing town of Sitka, Alaska. We were there to start a new life as my parents looked forward to joining together in marriage. The plan was that my new stepdad’s father would come for the wedding and then stay for a visit. I only knew John the elder, as a grandpa; a kindhearted story teller who would sit back with his pipe and entertain the children with stories of his adventures. We all looked forward to his visit.

But, it was not meant to be.

It was a typical rainy fall day in Sitka clouds low in the sky limiting visibility even at the ground level when we headed to the airport to meet the plane. What should have been a short half hour trip turned into an agonizing affair marked by extreme darkness. Today, it’s hard to imagine, but back then we were without the benefit of 24 hour news running in the terminal or the immediacy of social media, even cell phones. As we waited with other families for the flight’s arrival we began to observe whispering agents in the small one-terminal airport. Late planes were not unexpected in our rural setting but the continuation of the flight from Juneau to Sitka should only have taken thirty minutes so when hours had passed we knew nothing was right. Eventually, our family learned that the plane had not reached Juneau. Officials still just told us it was delayed though my parents knew better.

My sister and I were sent home with a cab driver friend who shut off the top news story on the radio, but not before we heard the announcement that a plane was feared crashed on approach in the rocky mountain range near Juneau. It helped prepare us for when our parents returned home in a very shell shocked and unbelieving mind. The announcement and the reading of the passenger list on our town’s one radio station also alerted friends who immediately surrounded my parents with amazing love and support. As they gathered together they learned that the folks could be flown by the airlines where ever they needed to be with the rest relatives while waiting for confirmation but only ‘immediate family’ was included in the airlines offer. This was in the days before a ‘significant other’ could count as anything important and for a few moments they all pondered the situation but only a few moments, because it was realized that my parents, already planning to get married, had their wedding license in hand. If they got married we would be immediate family. And with amazing speed the wedding was organized.

Each day has only 24 hours but it seems this day lasted far longer as that evening we proceeded to the little Lutheran church we had been attending where we were met by Pastor Ted. One of the church members had been cleaning up the church when she heard the news and quickly rearranged the altar with flowers for a wedding. Small town news travels fast and another friend arrived to play the organ while several others appeared in time for the ceremony. It almost seemed like a real wedding.

I don’t know how much my parents remember of their ceremony but my young impression was that everyone in attendance, rather than being seated, was gathered around them in a circular arrangement, like angels shielding them from the pain. After the service a friend who worked in the jail next door provided an impromptu reception with jailhouse cookies and juice. It continued to rain but I remember the church appeared to glow that night. Was it from the lighting…or was it from the outpouring of love? We were not deserted in this time of heartbreak breaking pain; even in our worst grief we could feel the comfort of peace. God was with us and there is no doubt that Jesus was carrying our family through this trial.

The disaster ended, as they do, with a huge painful loss, sorrow not just for our family but the many others impacted by the crash, followed by a slow recovery marked often with regret, guilt and survivors remorse. In the short term, it was tremendously difficult; many families never do overcome such sorrows. Still, over the years my parents chose to embrace a life well lived and move forward with the help of their faith, family and friends and on this day they also celebrate 43 years of marriage.

Today I am reminded that in the midst of tragedy, there is still love.

4th of July family gathering. After 43 years they still hold hands. There is love.

4th of July family gathering. After 43 years they still hold hands. There is love.

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!