Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"I'm going on a trip and I'm going to bring . . ."

Remember that old children’s game? -- I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring ____. The way I remember it, the next child repeated the sentence, and added an item. Around the circle we went with each child repeating the items in order and adding one. If the group was large – or if you went around long enough – the list of items repeated in order grew lengthy and it became more difficult to think of something to add to the list.

We’re going on a trip, and we’re bringing quite a lot, though someplace along the line we became rather more rational and decided to leave the kitchen sink. And I have one outfit that has been in and out of the suitcase three times. Nellie will also stay behind at a boarding facility where Ken will visit her from time to time. It has been more difficult for us to leave her behind than I had imagined. Be that as it may, everyone will survive.

Anyway, I’m going on a trip, and I’m going to bring my iPad. I’ve had more fun customizing it with podcasts, books, and documents, and therefore the usual bulky books and study materials that ride at my feet will stay behind since they are now digitized and riding in my iPad. The other day we bought a Zagg Bluetooth keyboard, and if I get used to it, I should be able to post the blog most evenings. I’m not sure yet how we’ll manage pictures, though. There’s a gizmo for that, but I don’t have one. We’ll just have to see. Perhaps there’s a gizmo in my future.

So, books and notebooks and my laptop will be left at home, but I did make one concession to hard copies. I have a collection of maps for our drive south from Philadelphia. We have about four gadgets that will show maps, but in my opinion, nothing shows the big picture like a “real” map. So, I requested maps from all the states through which we will travel. Most state tourism websites offer them free of charge, and that made me feel like they really wanted us to visit – and they should! Some southern states that shall remain nameless wanted me to pay for the maps. That seemed less friendly. Every state should encourage tourism by providing a free map and a “hope to see you soon!”

As Mike lit a fire to warm our little house this morning, he announced that this would surely be the last fire of the season because when we get back, it will be summer. He wishes! The fires may indeed become less frequent, but we will undoubtedly need a few between now and June. KW

Monday, March 25, 2013


Ken's puppy now has a name -- "Pepper." It's a name that's easy to say, easy to hear, and will carry in the field.

"Come on now -- give me that stick."

With Uncle Mike.
 Pepper with Nellie -- Taken this morning.
 Checking out the garden.
A momentary sit-down.
Nellie established the parameters of the relationship, i.e. -- no nursing available here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"What are you doing today?"

I slept in a bit this morning. Then I sat around in my robe and slippers, reading the paper and sending email messages while sipping cocoa. About 9:30 I began to think about what I would do today, but something told me that Mike would have a suggestion. I decided I should get dressed.
“What were you planning to do today?” asked Mike as I donned my sweatshirt.

“Work some more on my iPad,” I began. “Perhaps bake a batch of oat bran cookies. And I’d like to organize some sewing projects and straighten the sewing room.”

“What would you think about going to the farm?” he asked. “We could take stuff up there and check on things. And I could bring the 4-wheeler back.”

You know -- that’s the trouble with retirement. Life lacks structure. And that’s the beautiful thing about retirement – life lacks structure and there’s really no reason you can’t drop everything to pursue a whim. I could have said no, but on the other hand, we needed to go.

So – we got ready and off we went. When we got there, Mike went to the barn straightaway while I went to the house. I found a couple of things I wanted. Then I toured the yard with Nellie close on my heels. We could hear Mike trying to start the 4-wheeler – “*@%^&*” – and we agreed it would be best to steer clear of the barn for a while.

Instead we noticed the signs of spring in the yard:

 – a patch of spinach I planted late in the fall;

sincere strawberries well-mulched in a tire bed;


the Crown Imperial frittalaria growing rapidly on the sunny side of the house . . . 

and lagging behind somewhat in the shade of the porch;


rhubarb making an appearance at the pond;


and daffodils beginning to bloom in the grove.

Now, back in January when we closed the house, Mike managed to lose the only key he has to his Yamaha XT street-legal dirt bike. Searching for the key was difficult because of the snow on the ground, so son Clint came early in February with a metal detector and they tried again to find the key by re-tracing Mike’s steps between the house and the barn. No luck.

And we looked again for the key today -- on the ground in the barn and on what few surfaces we have there. 

At lunch, Mike mentioned how strange it was to have lost that key, whereupon I lectured him on the effects of distraction. (I guess I hurt his feelings, so it’s probably best not to mention this again.)

We took a quick ride on the 4-wheeler out south of the house, circling around June's place to the east. The fields are still wet and muddy, but the pond is not overflowing and we didn’t notice heavy run-off. It will probably be another dry summer. Some water stands in the fields and Nellie took the occasion to cool herself in one. (She had to have a bath when we got back to town.)

And then it was time to leave. As I stood at the edge of the kitchen porch I happened to look down – just where the lid to the septic tank access sits in the yard. And I saw it – THE KEY. I know Mike is really relieved to have that key. I know there will be a second key soon.

As we drove out we saw a swan at the Curfman Pond.  KW

Monday, March 18, 2013

Back Surgery

About 17 years ago as I was finishing a 10K run I ruptured a disc in my lower back.  I think this injury was the result of 55 years of my back enduring an imbalance due to a 3/4” leg length discrepancy with no shoe lift compensation.  (I should have listened to my mother).  At any rate, I was in a great deal of pain at the time and was ready to schedule surgery until I learned I would not be able to work for six weeks.  I had a new job and that was not a good option.  So I began physical therapy.  Conventional wisdom is that in most cases one is just as well off in 3 or 4 years with physical therapy as with surgery.  I was fortunate to have found an excellent therapist and have managed my pain over the years with exercise, stretching, naproxen and an occasional visit to my therapist for some adjustment.  I did try a couple of chiropractors over the years with absolutely zero success.

This past hunting season I was out on average of at least twice a week in very rough and steep terrain.  Although my back pain didn’t get more intense it did get more frequent.  However, it was still bearable and they are reluctant to operate unless it becomes pretty much unbearable.

As I retired from my tax work this year I undertook some volunteer work to fill my time.  One of these tasks was to drive a van for the Food Bank twice a week making pick ups from grocery and convenience stores.  This involved loading food products and beverages into 16 cubic foot bins and then unloading and weighing the food at the Food Bank.  Total weight was often between ¼ and ½ ton per load.

It was shortly after this endeavor that I noticed a big difference in my back.  Rather than the usual pain roaming around my lower back I was having a great deal of pain standing and walking but no problem sitting or riding my bicycle or motorcycle.  Very soon it got to the point where often I couldn’t walk half a block and had a great deal of pain even retrieving the paper from the box at the end of the driveway.

After two weeks of therapy my long time therapist and friend agreed that I should get an MRI and look at other options.  My final therapy session was Friday morning, March 7th.  Next I had to get a doctor appointment in order to get cleared for the MRI.  This is not always easy because after calling you invariably have to wait for them to return your call to schedule the appointment which could also be some time in the future.  After making the call after my therapy session I decided to go to the clinic and see if I could talk to someone in person.   I arrived at the clinic about 1:00 p.m. and made my request.  It just so happened that my doctor had an opening at 1:30 so after the usual wait I saw him.  He said it was much more difficult to schedule an MRI now due to insurance changes but after he examined me and since I had already tried physical therapy he asked if I would patiently wait a while and he would see what he could arrange.  After a 15 or 20 minute wait he returned and said he had an MRI appointment for me Monday morning.  I couldn’t believe it.

After getting the MRI Monday I got a call from the doctor’s office Wednesday morning saying I would be receiving a call from the orthopedic surgeon’s office soon.   That same afternoon while out on a bike ride a call came from the surgeon’s office and Kathy scheduled an appointment for me the next morning.  This surgeon is renowned as being one of the top back surgeons in the Northwest and has patients that come as far as Alaska for his services.  He’s the Perry Mason of back surgeons.  After discussing the situation and agreeing that surgery was the best option he checked with his nurse to see if he could schedule me the next morning for a microdiscetomy, and that’s what we did.  I got pre-admitted at the hospital that afternoon and returned at 5:45 the next (Friday) morning.  The surgeon repaired the disc by pushing the ruptured part back in place and removing some bone fragments that were impinging upon a nerve.

Immediately after surgery I could walk with no pain and was on my motorcycle and driving Saturday.  Of course, after the anesthesia completely wore off my back has been sore at the incision site.  It’s Sunday as I write this and I have been taking hikes and icing my back alternatively.  I’m supposed to wear a back brace for six weeks, not for the support but to restrict my movement and I’m encouraged to take several daily walks gradually increasing the distance.  I have great hopes of being free of back pain altogether.  It’s like a new lease on life.  In this day and time it’s absolutely incredible that I was able to get this procedure done so quickly.   M/W


These beautiful crocus bridge the gap between winter and spring and do much to lighten spirits. 

Mike had back surgery Friday, March 15. He's writing a post about that experience. Back issues became evident some 15+ years ago, but he decided to postpone surgery as long as he could. Meanwhile, doctors, technology and techniques have improved. I was really surprised this procedure has gone so smoothly. Mike can't sit still, so he's undoubtedly doing more than he should. On the other hand, he's not going to slow down more than he has to. KW

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Speaking of getting up early, I used to love to stay up late. No more. I might not sleep, but I shut down about 9:30 and move off to bed. In my growing up years, though, I thought that staying up late was the best treat in the world.

When I was about 12 (in the 1960 timeframe, let’s say), my mother began to let me stay up to watch the Saturday “late late show” on television, especially in the summer. Imagine if you will -- We could actually watch a full-length movie out of old Hollywood on our t.v. sets, and this was the stuff of dreams. Mother said she and Fairly used to talk about how one day they would be able to watch a movie in their own living room. And that day had arrived.

I think the movie began at 11:00 – maybe 11:30 after the news -- and was over about 1:00, give or take. Of course, there were commercial interruptions, most of them amateurish – because the movie was a presentation through the local station (Spokane) and not the network. All three of our network stations came through Spokane, and that’s all there were. Yes – just three channels for most of us.

It was such fun just getting to stay up and see an old movie. Today I might not even consider watching that same movie. Some of them weren’t so good, others were oldies but goodies. I remember seeing Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice – still two of my all-time favorites – for the first time on the late late show, and I was thrilled because I had read the books.

And what happened when the movie was over? Well, obviously we went to bed, but I mean, What happened with television? The television station went “off air.” No, I’m not kidding you. They played the national anthem and the announcer intoned, “This is KHQ-TV, Spokane, signing off. Join us again at 6:00 a.m for the ‘grain report.’” If you checked the other two stations, you would likely find that they were already off-air. Your screen went blank. Then you had “snow.” And you would say, “There’s nothing on,” because there was nothing on – literally.

When my kids were still at home – in the ‘90s -- they would surf through 30 channels and say, “There’s nothing on,” meaning there was nothing on that they wanted to watch. When I was growing up, I don’t believe I thought in those terms. We checked TV Guide and turned t.v. on to watch something we wanted to see.

I suppose we look back now and think of that old-time programming as simplistic and valueless. I probably wouldn’t watch it now if I had the chance, but I still think of those early years of television fondly. And television went on that way for a long time – mostly series (sitcoms, variety shows, westerns, detective shows). We’ve watched “Pioneers of Television” on PBS in recent years, and to me they just don’t capture the essence of those first 25 or 30 years when television was truly in infancy. I have to stretch to think of programming out of the ‘70s and ‘80s as pioneering, but maybe it’s all in the way one thinks of it. KW

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Our neighbor is a shift worker. Since his driveway lies behind our bedroom, we are aware as he comes and goes at odd hours. In my semi-conscious drowsy state I hear him leave at 5:15 a.m., except that this morning I knew instinctively that he was leaving early. A glance at the clock confirmed that it was 4:15. Then I remembered – daylight savings begins today and I must turn the clock ahead an hour. So, yes -- 4:15 today was 5:15 yesterday. That seems wrong. The effect of moving the clock ahead an hour just seems wrong. The whole day will be wrong. It will be wrong for a week until finally the inner clock gives up and accepts. When I arose at 6:15 it was already 7:15 and it felt as though I’d slept away an important hour.

We have just come through the first winter when Mike didn’t rise early to go to the office. He’s fully retired now, and we both had to adjust to his new schedule – or lack thereof. I was surprised that we took to sleeping in a bit, sometimes rising as late as 8:00. The school bus arrives on our street at 7:25, and old mother that I am, I like to be up before that time – “to see the kids off,” so to speak.
Really -- I don’t like to sleep in. I don’t consider myself a morning person, but I discovered while still a teen-ager, that getting up in the morning gives the day a boost. If you have a big project for the day, you need those morning hours. I was proud of son Clint when he figured that out. “Get up in the morning,” I heard him advise his older brother. “I get up an hour early just to stare at the wall.” And I knew that boy was going to be all right. And he still says of accomplishment – “First, you have to get up in the morning.”

I get up –but I don’t like to get dressed. My mother said that as a child I was an early riser and if she got me dressed, I wanted to go outside. So, she learned to delay dressing me in order to control that. I got bravely over wanting to go outside, but I do love my pajamas, old robe, and slippers in the morning and again after supper. Mike, on the other hand, dresses as soon as he’s up so that he’s ready for whatever.

Arising early isn’t the only life plan, of course. Others work it out differently. My mother, for instance, was a slow starter. Sometimes she didn’t get going until after lunch and she often sewed several hours after supper – sometimes until midnight if she had a deadline. I see those kinds of deadlines as self-imposed and refuse to accept them. If I can’t finish in normal daylight hours, then I need to find “Plan B.” For one thing, by rising early, I’m also ready to rest (if not sleep) by 8:00 p.m. I’m not a napper.
I will say this, though: when I told my elder friends about my mother’s late hours, they both said – without missing a beat – that they found some of their best work to be what they finished late at night against a deadline. Hmmm. Some vintage values elude me, which I guess is what makes them vintage. KW

[I had planned to illustrate this blog with some vintage photos. However, the scanner program disappeared from the computer. Instead we show Mike and Nellie playing in the field.]

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Today was a day for dogs. First thing this morning an antsy liver-colored shorthair bounded up to the house. We could tell that she wanted to be friends, but she was so skittish that her desire for a treat was not enough to let her take it from the outstretched hand. Eventually she went with us when we walked Nellie, though she paid no attention to our safety rules. She’s quite the runner and was all over the territory. Once we settled back into the house, she disappeared – thank goodness!

Our friend Ken lost his 18-month-old German Shorthair, Mac, about a month ago. Mac slipped his tether and was apparently struck by a vehicle within a mile of Ken’s place. We were sad for the situation – all of us. The loss was especially bitter since Ken lost his previous Shorthair, Duke, to cancer. Much time, effort and money had gone into the training of both dogs.

But – life goes on and after Mac, Ken immediately took up the hunt for a new dog. He has called frequently to report his findings. He found a litter of brand new pups in the region and today he and Mike went to see them – seven liver-colored German Shorthair pups – little girls all. While they were there, they helped the breeder cut the girls’ tails and remove their dewclaws. [The photo to the right as well as the one below were sent to my email from Mike's iPhone.]
Mike thinks Ken might get one of those pups. Oh, I hope so! Ken and Ginny have suffered a lot of male rambunctiousness in an effort to avoid the whole female cycle thing. “Have her spayed!” I advised. A female would be so much more docile – a better pet and a better fit for their home. I say that – I hope I don’t have to eat my words. Females can also be hard to handle, like our friend from this morning . . .
On our afternoon walk, Nellie and I again encountered the skittish female. We’ve seen her before and should have recognized her. I went to the door of the house there to inquire, but no one answered. As we left, she was running back and forth in the field. I hope Ken’s new dog isn’t like that. I hope any new dog I have isn’t like that.
March weather issues continue – moderate temperatures cooled by blustery winds. The rain is intermittent and doesn’t amount to much. Today we had some thunder and lightning, and Nellie insisted on waiting out that storm in her house. The sound of the wind snapping the vents on our roof makes her nervous.
This evening: Leftover pork chops and non-garlic cheese grits with green salad. I’m fixing to make cranberry-orange loaf with freshly juiced orange. KW