Sunday, December 13, 2009

Home for Christmas

He was a handsome young man and he came through the airport terminal late last night with self assurance and with confidence beyond his years. He must have been the last person off of our plane, which was so late in arriving that the terminal was all but shut down for the night. Perhaps he waited for the pineapple-toting vacationers, some college kids, and the rest of us to disembark and clear out of the public area, or he took a minute to compose thoughts and feelings, to wash up and look at his reflection in a mirror on the Men's' Room wall.

Wearing civilian clothes, he could be mistaken for a student, a musician, or a junior partner in some law firm . He is none of those; he is a soldier coming home for the Holidays.

I was privileged to watch.

Family members that included an anxious Mom, a preteen girl holding a hand drawn WELCOME HOME poster, and a few other adults and children had been waiting a long time. They were restless. A gentleman in a suit and tie waited with them. He wore medals of combat on his chest and a VFW hat on his head. An honor guard, of sorts. They were positioned where they could see the passengers descend on the escalator , head for baggage claim, and then to the cars idling at the curb.

I stood back, unnoticed, to wait with them.

The kids saw him first, and the excitement escalated. He rode the escalator down and saw them waiting. Hugs, tears, and camera flashes from the family; then a quiet handshake from the older veteran said what words could not. The young man then turned to his mother she fell into his open arms. This was the moment she had waited and prayed for, the hope that kept her strong. He lifted her off the ground and hugged her for a long time. He had waited and prayed and hoped, too. Their laughter and tears collided. Mine did, too.

As they all began to walk away, I touched his arm and when he turned to me I thanked him for his service, welcomed him home, and wished him a Merry Christmas. I'm sure he will not remember me, but I will never forget him.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Summer's Over

The cooler, wetter weather has settled soon, so soon. The summer flew past me this year and I miss it, already. We are getting the place ready for whatever snow falls this year. (Please, God, not another one like the last two!!) One last trip for the bulls next week, as Jim and I head for the PBR Finals in Las Vegas. Then we just hunker down until Spring.
Now, I have time to read, write, create some crafty doodads and gifts, and get some indoor projects finished. When the sun is warm and bright, and long in the summer sky, I have a hard time being inside the the chores have piled up.
Fall changes are everywhere, the trees are beautiful in such bright colors. The moose are around more, even had a big bull running around in the horse pasture a week ago. The elk herds are here in the hills, they know that snow is coming and have left the summer graze in the higher elevations. Wild turkeys that we watched grow from little poults are all full sized and noisy. There were about thirty in the middle of the road as I pulled out of the driveway yesterday.
Every season has it's own beauty. There is a rhythm and a routine that I look forward to as the changes unfold.
The sun is shining as I write, and even though it is cold, it is drawing me out. Horses and cows to feed, water tanks to top off, and I have the gift of another day to experience the beauty that surrounds us here on the ol' Brand X.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Change in Seasons

Cooler weather has arrived. The days are shorter, the air is brisk, I enjoy a little wind and a little rain.... after a summer of sunny sameness. Fall is my favorite time of year. We are working around the ranch, getting ready for winter; hard to believe it is right around the corner. All the summer toys are put away, flower beds mulched, fields cleaned up, and fences tightened.

So, I returned to my blog. I realized today that I am a foul weather blogger. It's not that there is a lack of things to write about in the summer, it is just that the outdoors holds me captive and it's difficult to sit inside and write when there is outdoor fun to be having.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where are all the Workers?

From everything I read in the news, there is an unemployment crisis. Well, can't prove it by me!!! We have been looking to fill a spot here at the Ranch with an in-home personal care provider to help with the kids. We have a great staff and need to add one person. It's a pretty good job, fairly decent pay, and flexibility to swap shifts to accommodate things like dentist appointments and camping trips.
I have an ad on Craigslist, fliers at the grocery store, and an agency actively trying to recruit a viable candidate. This has been going on for several months now. The results??? One person that is actually willing to try it out.
Quite a few people contacted us and several actually showed up for an interview, but the vast majority decline the offer of a job. They have such rigid parameters for employment; no weekends, evenings, need this, that, or the other thing. It seems that we were being interviewed, not the other way around.
Here we are offering a good, steady job, and no one wants it. The reasons don't make sense....this is health care, not banking. Weekends and holidays are a given part of the program. Don't go into the field if you want Monday through Friday, nine to five or if you don't want to care for other people and all of their daily activities.
So, here we are with an opening, we have been interviewed over and over again, and I continue to hear about people who are out of work, and unable to find a job. I now believe that many of these folks really don't want to work. They are content to collect unemployment and watch NCIS reruns all day. I now look at the unemployment numbers that have been rising steadily a little differently, with a bit of cynicism born of meeting way too many people of late who are out of work, but not really interested in work.
Just sayin'.....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Song for the Singer

He saddled up a good horse

His faithful companion

They rode across the prairie

Headed for the canyon.

He’d never come this way before.

This trail was not well traveled.

He left a broken heart behind

With a life that had unraveled.

The trail was steep and narrow

As it crossed the great divide.

There was no other way to go

To reach the other side.

The canyon walls grew high and dark,

They closed in like a prison.

This journey wasn’t in his plan,

It wasn’t his decision.

They rode on through a cold, dark night.

And he began to pray.

He asked for strength to make this ride

And for a brighter day.

All at once a still small voice

Seemed to fill the night.

He was suddenly surrounded

By God’s love and peace and light.

It said:

Keep looking up, Buckaroo

This trial is nearly over.

Ill lead you to clear water

And green pastures of clover.

Keep looking up, Buckaroo

You will never ride alone.

I will always be right by your side

And lead you safely home.




Friday, July 17, 2009

Motorcycle Madness

Every weekend this summer, there have been accidents, some with fatalities, involving motorcycles. Each year the number of crashes seems to increase. Perhaps, because of the new popularity of bikes for "non-bikers", and the draw of an economical form of transportation, there are lots more motorcycles on the road than ever before. Not every rider is as competent or as observant as they could be; and not every motorist is looking for a two-wheeled rider in the oncoming lane. I see helmetless folks all the time. Many aren't wearing protective gear, like jackets, chaps, or goggles. Then there are the dozens of bikes parked for a social break in front of a couple of local watering holes. Everyone knows that drinking and driving don't mix, and the risk increases considerably with bikes. Do these people have a death wish, or do they just think they are invincible?? The laws of gravity and inertia don't give the poor guy a chance against a car, tree, deer, gravel, oil slick, pothole, or any number of other potential hazards. So why not boost the odds in your favor and wear the gear that might save your life? Rhetorical question, I know..... but, I needed to ask.
That, being said, I don't like over regulation of anything. We have plenty of laws and rules already. But there is a point where the freedom of the individual to feel the wind in their hair, and the public cost to rehab and support their subsequent traumatic brain injury intersect. We already have excessive governmental support of personal irresponsibility, we are saturated with it. So, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised or outraged with small potatoes like a helmet on a motorcycle...... but I am, every time I see it.
I used to ride, my last bike was a beautiful States Blue HD with an almost obscene amount of chrome. It was wonderful! As I was strapping on my helmet one day, a small voice in my head or heart or from somewhere said no. I had always told myself that I would quit when I heard that voice. I have taken care of trauma patients that told me they had heard it, but didn't listen..... they wanted that last ride. I listened then; be it wisdom or fear, and I never took the bike out again.
How many of these accidents have happened when folks did not heed a warning or premonition of some sort. I'll never know, of course, but I do believe there are guardian angels, or the like, out there that will protect us... or try to... even when we aren't protecting ourselves. Of course, when they fail, the taxpayers can foot the bill.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who Let the Air out of Dad?

The phone call came early in the morning; Dad had a stroke and was in the hospital. He had just had his eighty-ninth birthday the week before. He is in good hands, some medication changes and rehab, then home with lots of help in a few weeks.... hopefully. It is difficult to picture him like this.

He was always larger than life; not in the physical sense, but in his presence. He was blind in one eye from a birth injury, and polio left one leg a little smaller than the other. He had overcome a stutter to become a gifted preacher and teacher. He never saw these as disabilities, so no one else did, either.

He was charismatic, articulate, brilliant. He was also alcoholic, bipolar, narcissistic. His childhood was dominated by an unyielding tyrant for a father and a very talented, but oppressed, passive mother. His only brother hanged himself one winter day. Dad told us stories of the cruelty inflicted upon him by his father in an effort to mature him, make a man out of him.

It is no surprise, then, that he parented rather poorly. Rules are rules. "Look at me when I talk to you." and "Don't make me take off my belt." still ring in my ears. I was the unruly one, his challenge and his trial. Lacking a role model for fathering and given a wild child for a firstborn, it was a "perfect storm" in dysfunction. He drew lines, I crossed them; he set curfews and boundaries, I broke them . He demanded good grades, I failed miserably. I was afraid of him, he was a huge, intimidating figure to me then. He was the Wizard of Oz and I was Dorothy. I needed his love, he didn't know how to give me what I needed.

We were out of touch for many years after I left home. I didn't make an effort, nor did he. He went through his own hellish seasons, divorces, losses, rehabs for booze. His life seemed to smooth a bit in later years, but then health issues appeared. A pacemaker, prostate cancer, and post polio syndrome beat him down a bit. He continued in his calling as a minister, and somehow had maintained a circle of friends that supported him through the hard times. I know that his life has not been a bed of roses, but I hope he has found some happiness.

I took the high road a few years ago and contacted him when Jim and I travelled back east. It was to clear my slate more than anything else, and to make whatever amends I could on my part. It was good, and we now have a relationship that, if not loving, is caring and respectful. I have a father, he has a daughter. I am no longer afraid of him. I see the man through my grown up eyes now, and he is not the big, scary Wizard. He is small, elderly, and frail. The image I once held is the opposite of the reality I face today. He needs care, and love, and comfort. I can hold him in the way he was never held a child, accept his frailties as he never did, love him in the way I would have liked to be loved by him.

So, who let the air out of Dad? I did. I grew up. I learned forgiveness and acceptance. I battled my own demons and in doing so destroyed some of his. I will make the best of what time we have left to make some memories, to love him without condition, to be the best daughter I can be. Healing runs both ways.

Beginnings and Endings

The wedding invites have filled the June and July weekends on the calender. Young couples, full of hope and joy, reciting vows of forever before smiling friends and families. What wonderful, happy occasions are these..... the culmination of dreams and plans, the future looking so bright.
I wish these young friends of ours the best. I wish them success in this partnership. I hope they are able to remember the joy of this day when the dark clouds loom overhead, and they recall the promises made to each other to love and respect and honor one another for a lifetime, when leaving seems like the only option.
My happiness for the newlyweds is dampened by an equal number of couples we know that have ended their marriage this summer. Lives are torn apart, so much heartbreak and anger, friends and family divided and saddened. These same people had their day in the sun once, the music, the flowers,the champagne, and the promises. What happened to them? Where did it go wrong?
Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It takes commitment, compromise, courage, and care to make it last. That Love that brought our happy young couples to the altar, ebbs and flows through the years, becoming more the action verb than the heart-fluttery noun. Feet must be planted in facts and rooted in those vows, not to be led astray by feelings. There is little room for the "I, Me or My" mentality.For a marriage to succeed, each party must give 75% and take 25%..... at least.
The happiest couples I know, are each committed to the fulfillment of their spouse, through the good times and bad. They pull together over the rough spots, ease each others burdens, respect and encourage each other; they complete each other. They are committed to making it through whatever comes their way; together.
It takes such hard work, but is so worth the reward. I see the result of such commitment in our friends, Jay and Janey. Their marriage of forty two years; decades of changes, joys and sorrows, held fast by perseverance and commitment. I love the way they look at each other, smile and connect on a very private level. The love they share is not an accident, they have cultivated something special.... something that is rare in this day and age of throwaway marriages, but, by the same token, available to anyone willing to make the effort.
My hope, my prayer, for the young couples making promises to each other this summer, is that they live a long joy filled life together, loving and learning and growing closer, where ever the road leads them. And for those who would like to erase the vows they made, I hope they are able to step back in time to a better day, remember the dreams and the plans, and perhaps heal the hurts and dissolve the disappointments that have pulled them apart.
I wish forty two years and more for us all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sun Valley

Here we are in SunValley. This is where Jim and his Siblings made some wonderful memories when they were younger. We have all come down here to celebrate with Brandon, Jim's nephew (Sister Sandy's son) who will be forty on Sunday. What a hoot. There are a ton of relatives staying in various rental houses. We are in a nice condo at Elkhorn, complete with golf, tennis, bike and hiking trails, and a huge pool and hottub. We are right below a ski lift and right on the golf course. Pretty fancy for this bunpkin!!
There are lots of plans to keep us entertained all weekend. I'm looking forward to the rodeo tonite. It feels more familiar and more Me. Karen and I went into Ketchum yesterday and wandered around the shops with other tourists and some locals. Too ritzy and too crowded for my liking. We did find a secondhand store that was fun to search through finding a few books and other treasures.
Well, off to the rodeo with this crowd of family and friends. Yee-haw!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


It has been a long time since my last post..... not because I don't have anything to say, (like THAT could ever happen) but because it is Summer. I am living outside from dawn to dark, soaking in the sun and warm weather that we all longed for during those long, dark winter nights. Summer brings so many chores and activities, and with the clock ticking toward Fall, I don't want to waste a minute of daylight. As a result of my new daytime routine, my blog has suffered. I didn't mean to be gone this long, and I didn't realize how much I have missed sharing my thoughts and connecting with others through HBO.... I have really, really missed the online relationships and the sense of community that exists.
I want to make this journal a priority, no matter what the season. It is therapy, prayer, confession, supplication..... It allows me to connect with a bigger world than I would otherwise know. It helps me think more clearly and objectively, more creatively.... like living in high definition .....because I have been exposed to so many other thoughts and ideas through this medium.
So, I have lots to say; but won't do it all today. This is to get back on the horse, to post something to start to close the gap that has grown silent and wide since May when I was last here, to check in with friends I have missed, and to touch base with family who read the blog, too.
I'm back.
It's always nice to come home.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Music and Old Friends

My Ipod is full of old tunes that have travelled with me through the years and over the miles. They elicit all sorts of memories, each one evokes a place, an event, or a person that has left a mark on some part of my life. The memories run a full circle of emotion, all are welcome; even the more difficult ones.
Along the same vein, the Internet and it's ability to connect me to places like Facebook and Classmates, has provided an opportunity to renew and maintain relationships with friends and acquaintances from days gone by. As with my music, hearing from folks from the past brings back such a flood of memory. It is such a treat to compare notes on our families, our travels and our life's' adventures. We shared so much together. We are who we are today, in part, because of each other .
Although we are scattered all over the country, indeed, the world, we can touch base, share photos, instant messages, and chats whenever we choose. The memories of the past abound and bind us; but our days are spent in the here and now, as we continue to cultivate our friendships ....tappin' the keys on the laptop, and tappin' my foot to the old tunes on my Ipod.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother's Day

The annual commercialized frenzy to acknowledge Mother is in full swing.... cards are flying off the rack at Walmart, baskets of flowers are offered outside all the stores, and there are all kinds of TV and radio ads encouraging us to buy, buy, buy...
I have no need to receive the Hallmark cards, diamond earrings, boxes of candy, or a vase of flowers . Oh, they are nice, but not necessary. I don't need recognition one day in May every year. Every day is Mother's Day. Each day brings a gift from my family if I look for it.
I am Mom. I have answered to that name for over forty years from over twenty children. That, alone, has been such a privilege.... most of the time, anyway. There have been joys and sorrows, good times and bad, lots of laughter, some tears. The learning curve has been steep. I have made mistakes, felt angry or frustrated or scared. I have occasionally wanted to hand in my resignation.
My family has a front row seat to the worst of me.... the "mean mom", curfews and chores,yelling and grounding, saying "NO" more than I needed to. I threw Thanksgiving Dinner in the garbage one year in a fit of anger over something stupid. I still feel bad about that. They have loved me in spite of me. They still love me! That is the only Mother's Day present I will ever need.
My children and their children...scattered all over the country... . are my diamonds. Watching them live happy, successful lives are the flowers in my life. The memories are the "sweets" that are as satisfying as chocolate!
I am Mom, and it's been a heck of a ride! On Mother's Day I think I will thank each of my kids for the privilege and honor that being their mother has been. I will thank them for all they have taught me and for all the memories they have given me. They have made me the the person I am today and I love them beyond measure.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Becoming Sixty

My friend is turning sixty. A wonderful event. Another decade to explore and experience.Some feel it means a membership in the Over the Hill Gang, others see it as a license to retire to the recliner and collect crumbs on their chest.

When we were Thirty, we were fueled by our dreams and our youth. We had an open road before us, plans were made, goals were set, we were so happy to be on our way, on our own. We built our careers, homes, families, and friends. We earned money, paid bills, collected memories and photographs. We kept up with technology and best sellers. Sometimes, life was overwhelming. Mistakes made, then made again. Lessons learned on life, love and loss, then passed on to the children watching us.

At Forty, we settled in to routines. Life revolved around the calender on the wall in the kitchen. We were paying off a mortgage and saving for a retirement that seemed so far away. We took the kids to Disneyland and Soccer practice. We cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for all the relatives. We felt like grown-ups, at last.

Turning Fifty was a little tough. There was something about that half-century mark, and the changes in our lives that were difficult to grasp. Our children became adults, our parents began to be more dependent. We had our tenure, promotions, and more vacation time. New activities took the place of PTA and Scouts and the Kids’ sports. We bought reading glasses and wrinkle cream.It was a time of transition. We looked back with alternating pride and regret. We learned acceptance; of our lives and our selves. Priorities shifted; relationships and introspection and spiritually and laughter became more important. We found our own voices and were empowered as we found our inner beauty.

Here we are, my Friend, at Sixty. All that we have experienced has prepared us for today. Some of us know that these are the best years, and we welcome the new decade with open arms. We are at the top of the mountain. These years are the reward, the prize we have won for making the climb.As we plant our flag on this Summit, the vista is clear in all directions; past, present, and future. The path has been uphill, it has been costly and demanding. There have been storms and setbacks, we thought about turning back, but pushed on in spite of it all. We now stand in the warm and healing light of the Sun. We continue to learn and grow. We will know love, loss, laugher, and tears. We will develop our wisdom and wit. We have earned our place at the top, and the joy and sense of pride and accomplishment that go with it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

H1N1.... Swine Flu

Mexico City is almost shut down. More than one hundred people have died, and a couple thousand hospitalized with a mutated Swine Flu. This virulent strain of influenza has now spread to Europe, New Zealand, Israel, and multiple locations in the US in the last seventy two hours. . I have been watching the CDC updates since last week, and am becoming concerned that this could be a devastating event.... possibly a pandemic.

The Flu pandemic of 1918 that killed fifty million people, was a similar strain of H1N1. Swine are the petri dish where the avian, human, and swine flu mixed and mutated, then it jumped to humans, now it is spreading more rapidly than we could have imagined. In 1918, it was spread through the WWI soldiers in the trenches in Europe, then coming home. The virus then ravaged the country. It killed young, healthy adults; unlike the human flu that we see every winter that have higher mortality rates in the very young and the very old.

The CDC and World Health Organization have long been aware of the probability of another pandemic, they are watching this illness spread with increasing concern. The world is watching and waiting, virtually helpless to stop the rapid spread of this deadly virus. There is increased concern because of the ability to travel so far and so fast; not so in 1918, when the GIs came home on ships. We can - and have - spread the virus around the world in about two days time. The next few days and weeks will tell the tale. Is this going to be the one that Virologists have predicted? Is this flu going to wipe out a large portion of our population?

The biggest problem I see, is the apathy that is greeting the news of this virus.... no one seems to care. We are in a cloud of oblivion and are not heeding the warnings that a big storm is coming... and we will all be so surprised when we find ourselves in Kansas!

The CDC has compiled a list so families can prepare for a pandemic. It has been on their website for a couple years, and I have given it to many friends. It is worth looking at, if not following in light of the events of the last seventy two hours. Here it is, Let's all hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

You can prepare for an influenza pandemic now. You should know both the magnitude of what can happen during a pandemic outbreak and what actions you can take to help lessen the impact of an influenza pandemic on you and your family. This checklist will help you gather the information and resources you may need in case of a flu pandemic.To plan for a pandemic: Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters. Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home. Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins. Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home. Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response. Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection: Teach your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water, and model the correct behavior. Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, and be sure to model that behavior. Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick. Stay home from work and school if sick.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Secretaries Week

It is a difficult job if it is done right. There are plenty of folks, mostly women, who are exceptional secretaries...... my mom was right up there with the best of them.
Mom was a secretary back when they were still called "secretary", when pencils, shorthand, carbon paper, little eraser wheels with a brush on the end, and typewriter ribbon were still in style. She took all the classes in High School that would enable her be competent. Back then, there weren't many choices for the girls.... College preparation for nursing or teaching, or Home Economics and Secretarial classes for the girls who were not college bound. Since she was a middle child of a small town Minnesota Meter Reader, higher education was not an option. She learned the skills that were taught in school, then took them into the world to begin a career. Her abilities were excellent, her attitude was exceptional. There was no room for error or mediocrity. She could type sixty words a minute. ... on an old manual machine. She took and transcribed shorthand, ran and repaired the mimeograph machine, addressed and stamped envelopes, and answered phones, taking messages, since voice mail and answering machines had yet to be invented.
Mom and Dad were married just as World War II had begun, and she went with him when he was stationed as a guard in a POW camp in St. Joe, Missouri. She worked as a civilian for the military commander, as his secretary. I remember the stories that she told later that sounded like episodes of MASH. Those simple skills were important; she felt that she contributed her best to the war effort.
When Dad went to Seminary a few years later, she put him through school and supported the family, working at Bell Aircraft, secretary to Larry Bell, himself. We lived with Grandparents to save money, since her wages were disproportionate to her skill level and work ethic. She never complained and we never felt that we lacked anything.
Dad became the vicar of a small town church, and Mom became the "church secretary", transcribing his sermons, mimeographing the Sunday bulletins, answering the phone and the mail, as well as being the pastor's wife and our mother. It was all done with the same level of excellence and personal pride in her work that set her apart from the average secretary.
Years later, when she was left on her own with teenagers to support, Mom went back to what she knew best, and until she was nearly eighty, worked for a doctor whose practice grew through the years to multiple offices and providers and staff. She ran the clinics, made appointments, answered calls, greeted patients, transcribed dictations, and ironed the Doctors' coats. She didn't like the way the laundry service did them. She brought the billing home, along with the coats, and would stuff and stamp envelopes while watching game shows. She changed with the times during those years; learned to use computers, copiers, and multi-line phone systems. The only thing that didn't change was the one hundred percent effort she gave to her work. After three attempts to retire, returning each time to clean up the mess, she was finally replaced by three newly trained Receptionists and Administrative Assistants, and the doctor had to wear wrinkled coats once again.
As I look at my Mothers' life and her work, I know that these are big shoes to fill. Not only because of how hard she worked, or the lack of technology, or the lousy wages, but also because of the integrity, work ethic, and personal pride that were the intangibles that gave her purpose and satisfaction. . She didn't have to have a fancy title, a briefcase, or a laptop. It was about a job well done, as a Secretary.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Bucketeers

There are three of us that have worked together for about twenty-five years. We don't necessarily socialize, but we are there for each other. We are Friends; we have gone through hard times with each other, professionally and personally, we know each others families, we counseled each other during those tough parenting years, we have experienced losses of mutual friends and coworkers.
In Medicine, especially Emergency Department medicine, coworkers form a unique bond as they deal with life and death, major and minor ills in the old and the young, all of them in a crisis of one kind or another. We have learned to work together to stop the bleeding, start the heart, lower the fever, raise the blood pressure, stop the pain, or find the infection. Then we comfort the dying, the families, the staff, and each other. Our friendships are not ordinary, they have the characteristics of the Brotherhood of the Battlefield. We are the Old Soldiers, we have stories, battle scars, and even some shrapnel to remind us of the way it was. So now, we must give way to the young guns, the new generation full of youth and enthusiasm and knowledge, who will take Medicine on to greater heights.
I sat with my Friend yesterday as he told me about his newly diagnosed, rare disease. His life is ending, sooner than he planned. My other Friend fights, without complaint or bitterness, a relentless autoimmune disorder that would knock the sap out of a lesser woman. And, ugly MS symptoms try to take me out of the race, as well. What a team!! But we were really something, back in the day....
We three, the Healers, have become the patients. And so it goes, the wheel keeps turning. It is hard to watch my friends go through this dark valley. They are both so vital, so full of love, life, and faith. They still have so much to offer the world; they are needed by their families and friends, and coworkers, and patients. It seems horribly ironic. Healers should be healed. But, we know too well that life is unfair, we have seen it over and over again in the ER these last two and a half decades. There are no guarantees for any of us.
We are the "Bucketeers". Our "Bucket Lists" are real. We will live with no regrets, we will do the things that we have always wanted to do, say the things that need to be said, visit old friends, write letters, take pictures, build memories for our families. We will laugh and cry without reservation, feel every feeling that comes our way, watch the sun rise and then set as many times as possible, each time with the same awe and wonder as the first. We will live until we die. Then, we will get together in the Hereafter, and do it all over again..... with wings.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It was a little piece of Americana. It was hot and dusty. It was hard work and fairly dangerous as well. This was a weekend of Bull Riding. For the men and women who raise and train the bulls, it’s life.
Days are long, but they own their time. Chores never seem to end, especially when they have hauled bulls to a bucking competition far from home. Twice a day, they fed, watered, and exercised the bucking stock. Over one hundred two year olds bucked on Friday in a competition that took most of the day, but showcased some amazing athletics. The top ten went home with prize money. Following the Futurity, they moved the three and four year olds to Lone Star Arena from a nearby ranch. No easy task, since these animals aren’t docile!! It takes skill and courage to deal with them; it helps if you can jump up on the rails really fast, too. This was all a treat for me to take part in all of this , but for these Cowboys and their families, it is all in a days’ work.
The Bull Riding event took place over two evenings, a total of eighty Classic bulls were ridden, or tried to be ridden. Again, the focus was on the animal athletes, but those bull riders are just as athletic.
Each event began with the Star Spangled Banner, a military color guard, and prayer. The crowd stood, hats over hearts, patriotism and faith are an integral part of this life.
Cowboy Church early in the morning draws a smaller crowd, but again, there is heartfelt prayer for the safety of men and beasts, for our Country and our President, and for the weather to improve in the Midwest, where so many of these folks were losing newborn calves in a blizzard. The preacher, an old bull rider and rodeo clown himself, answered a call from God, and now holds church in rodeo arenas, ministering to the young cowboys and stock contractors. A small group gathered following the service, and prayed together on the arena floor.
These folks are what this country is made of. These are happy families who work and play and pray together. These are men who never shrink from hard work, who are humble and kind to animals and small children, who’s word and handshake are as good as any contract, and who are not ashamed to pray or have a Bible on the dashboard of the truck. The women, wives and daughters, remain feminine and lovely, but work side by side with the men to realize their dreams. Horses and dogs and pickup trucks, boots and spurs, cowboy hats and chaps, the smell of manure and sweat…..
It was a grand weekend, a taste of America; an America that is fast disappearing under the cloud we call progress. Progress has given us an easy life, but it complicated. The life that these ranchers and rodeo competitors live is difficult, but it is simple. Wonderfully simple, full of faith and love and hard work. It is America at it’s best.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's All About The Bulls

I am off to Texas early tomorrow for a few days. This will be the first trip of the season to watch my bulls try to buck off their riders and earn points and money that will hopefully take them to the World Finals in Las Vegas in November!!
The Brand X Ranch Bucking Bulls will be our retirement income. It sure seems to be a better bet than the Stock Market right now! Four years ago we partnered-up with Shippy Rodeo Bulls, Randy and Jenny Shippy and their two young boys. They are a young, hard working, Midwestern All-American family, living a dream. They do all the work; and it is hard work, and we get to reap the benefits.
The bulls live in South Dakota, on the Shippy Ranch, where they are bred, fed, doctored, trained, then hauled to the various competitions during the spring and summer. The goal is to take these two and three year old bulls to the PBR circuit, and to make a profit in doing so.
It has been an incredible adventure.... I have learned so much about the industry. The American Bucking Bull organisation, founded a few years ago by the PBR, is dedicated to advancing these amazing animal athletes. The bulls are all registered, DNA'd, and drug tested. The bloodlines go back to the famous bulls of rodeo. There is such history here! It is such an honor and privilege to be a part of it.
I tell Randy that I am a poser, since I don't do any of the work. I show up at the events, pay the entry fees, take the pictures, and wear the vest we won in Las Vegas that says "Stock Contractor" on the front, and recognizes that we had a world champ. We named one of our young bulls "Poser" in honor of my status. Who knows, he might be the one that takes us to the top in a couple years. Actually, just being a part of this world is a treat. It's not about the prize money, it's about the bulls. This weekend in Stephenville, Texas, it will be about Tricky Rick and Buckin' Secret. I'll be there to root for "my boys" and spend some time with my partners and friends.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


There is an air of entitlement in our society, and it stinks. This is a two-headed monster threatening to devour those of us in the middle. The “haves” and the “have-nots” are very different kinds of people, but both groups feel that they deserve privileges and special treatment the rest of us don’t have access to. I came to this realization the other day when a guy in a new Mercedes pulled onto the commuter lane on I-5 right in front of us. He was alone in his car, and tooled along for miles in a lane reserved for vehicles with two or more people.
The “haves” think they are entitled to bailouts, tax breaks, free checking, low interest, and, like this guy, have no regard for rules that should apply to all. Of course, this a generalization, but it something I couldn't stop thinking about. It led to the question, “Why should I foot the bill for folks who already have so much? “ I certainly don’t begrudge them their wealth, but I struggle with the fact that we, the middle class, are being drained by rich guys in Mercedes, driving in the wrong lane, who have their hand out to the government for another break or bonus or bailout.
On the other hand, the entitlement mentality of the “have-nots” is equally disturbing. We are a great society. Unlike most countries in the world, we care for those who cannot take care of themselves. There should be access to medical care, housing assistance, food stamps, and all the other programs in place to help people help themselves. Theses are designed to be a stepping stone, but in many cases, are stopping stones. Just because someone has medical coupons, it is not a free pass to bring the whole family into the ER or a clinic just because one child is ill. Then there is the prescription drug issue. There are poor controls in place that track the activity of someone with “U and I” insurance as they hop from doctor to clinic to ER and are given multiple prescriptions for narcotics, that are finding their way to the street for enormous prices. More on this topic later. Suffice to say, the abuses are beyond belief, without much watch dogging, and those of us who work hard to maintain health care benefits for our families, and have huge copays and deductibles, I might add, are paying for them (check your pay stub) .
The end result is that those of us sandwiched between the two are struggling with higher costs, fewer jobs, foreclosures, loss of insurance benefits, or increasing co pay costs, and have despaired as our little retirement funds that we worked so hard to accrue, have shriveled away.
It won’t be long before I need a bailout or a handout, but there won’t be anything left. We, the middle class, are shriveling, too. There won’t be anyone left to foot the bill for me. So, I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t think I’m entitled to anything more than what I earn, and that being here in the middle has taught me self-reliance. I am thankful for what I have, I am grateful for adversity that makes me stronger, and I will never drive in the commuter lane when I am alone.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sunshine At Last

I have been outside all morning. What a wonderful, sunny day. It is my first day off in a bit, and I am so glad the sun is shining. I fed the horses, weeded some of the strawberries, cleaned up the little greenhouse to get ready for starting seeds, ran a couple of soaker hoses in the perennial flower beds by the house, planted some ivy starts I brought back from Seattle, moved some big flower pots around, and generally played around in dirt..... I am so anxious for Spring.

The farrier came and we trimmed all the horse and mule feet. I cleaned the Winter trash out of the tack room. I want to get out there and clean up the fields, fix the fence, play with my horses, ride down the road and up into the woods. There is still too much snow for that right now.

I push the season every Spring... I till the garden when it is too wet, I plant too early and lose to a frost. I think it is warmer than it is, and end up with frozen fingers and an earache. I lose track of time and forget to eat. It's been a long winter, but today it became a memory. The sun is shining, I am happy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Morning

I stood out on my in-law's deck, surrounded by a woodsy overgrowth, the world quiet and still as in an Ansel Adams print; sharp edges in black and grey since it wasn't quite light. A little chilly by coastal standards, not ours. A little damp and misty by our standards, not theirs. It is a mind-picture that will remain in the collection in my brain. Three woodpeckers traded staccato beats from three different directions....nature in stereo, a gift to me, as I sipped coffee, watching the morning bring life and color to the rain forest. The grey slowly became green, and I realised how much I have been needing to see some green. Winter has been too long at the ol' Brand X, and there is still snow on the ground..... but on this Sunday morning, I saw Spring emerge from darkness at the dawn, I felt hope, I felt renewed. It was like Church. A choir of birds sang for me, rays of sun broke through the mist and warmed my soul.
Before the others in the house began to stir, I had experienced something that is hard to explain. But it will stay with me, and continue to encourage and revive me until our Spring mornings can fill me with the same joy and wonder as this did today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Recession Hits Home

He called yesterday to tell me that he had lost his job. It was hard to hear, but even harder for him to voice the words. It has been a couple of weeks, but it is still so incredibly painful for him to say out loud. It isn't really real yet. This was his Dream Job, the career that he has prepared for all his life, the culmination of years of hard work and study, an uphill climb with as many steps backward as forward..... in an instant it is gone. I hear the pain in his voice, he sounds beaten, defeated. He said he has been suicidal since he cleared his desk and locker out and left the building that held his ego, his trophy, his dream-come-true. Can't eat, can't sleep.

I could see the scene as he told the story, the meeting; a performance review...... talk of budgets cuts, he being the last hired, the so sorrys, and the long, lonely, sad march out to the parking lot.

He has a family to feed and shelter, bills to pay, a need to do the right thing. He sounded empty and lost. There is too much pain right now to even think about what comes next, he's so overwhelmed. He can't receive comfort yet, can't hear that "This, too, shall pass", that when a door closes, God opens a window.....

I am feeling his pain. That which hurts him, hurts me. I cried for and with him. I want to fix it, to go and yell at those bastards that have wounded him so badly. My Son, my pride , my joy.... I want to hold him and make it all better just like I could when he was small. He is an adult now, and the bruises and scrapes are adult sized. I can't fix this one. All I am able to do is tell him I love him beyond reason, and I am so very proud of him. I will be by his side through thick and thin, I am Mom..... that's my job.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Rocky is the Best dog in the world. He's my dog, my pal, my protector. He was a Christmas present from Jim in 2001, a cute little pup in a basket all decorated with red ribbons. Our friend, Del, told me that Heelers and Aussies bond with one person, and the best way to achieve a good bond with my new buddy, would be to keep him with me for the first three or four months. So, Rocky went with me everywhere; to work, shopping, weekend trips to Seattle..... he was my constant companion. He was happy in his crate under my desk or next to me in the truck. As a result of the effort, he is MY dog. He loves the rest of the family, too, but his loyality is to me. He is at my side everywhere I go, sometimes under foot. He looks at me with love, and will crawl onto my lap if I let him, and he gives the equivolent of "dog hugs". He is eager to please, seems to anticipate what comes next; he herds the kids to bed or to the dinner table, loads horses into the trailer, runs the fence lines every morning to make sure we are safe. He is very hard working, and loves his job.
In dog years, he is approaching middle age. It doesn't show yet, he can still jump six feet in the air after a snowball or a spray of water from the hose, and he runs like the wind. We can age together for a while, and appreciate each new adventure. I dread the day that dawns without him at my side. I'll always have a dog or two, but Rocky has set a standard for love and loyalty that can't be matched by another. He really is the best dog in the world.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Manners matter. Opposable thumbs and the ability to be polite are two things that separate us from the "lesser" of God's creatures. I say lesser with quotes because sometimes I wonder. I see examples of disrespectful and rude behavior daily at work, in stores, and on the street.

We need the old Emily Post lessons, a return to decorum and dress codes.

We were raised by parents who stressed good manners; and the behaviors are part of our fabric. Yes, Ma'am; No, Sir, hold the door for the ladies...... Jim's manners are impeccable. He stands up when a woman comes into the room or when she gets up from the table (even it it's just me!), he makes it a point to dance with every gal at the party, opens car doors, helps with my coat, and has a firm handshake. He is ever the gentleman. I really like it.

My daughter wrote a thank you note yesterday for a birthday gift she received from Uncle Chuck. We get thank you notes from his son, Joe, for gifts at Christmas or Birthdays. I'm sure it's because of Mom's voice in our heads and hearts, the same one that chided my brother and me to write those letters or else!!

What has happened to the simple "Please, and Thank you, and Excuse me" phrases. The checker at Safeway always looks at the receipt for my name, and although it is usually mispronounced, he uses it and thanks me for shopping. It's part of the training, but it works. Good manners always work. A smile and good manners can take you where ever you would like to go.

I don't curl my pinkie when I have a cup of tea or wear white gloves like Mom did, but I hope I have inherited her kindness and graciousness, and I hope I have passed them on to my kids, too. Good manners never go out of style...... even if it sounds like "Yo, thanks, Dude!" .

Monday, March 2, 2009

Blogfest 2009

What a wonderful afternoon on Saturday, as we were able to meet "face to face" with many of our fellow bloggers and members of the HBO Family. Capital F in family.... we are a wild and crazy and unique bunch. Maybe bloggers in general are such, but I think this group in particular is especially talented, opinionated, and expressive. The individual blogs that are wired to HBO are in themselves entertaining and thought provoking, but then as we are stirred together in the communal soup, the entertainment (and sometimes the fur that flies) multiplies exponentially.
This is a very powerful group of people. I think we have yet to realize just how much power and influence our combined opinions/thoughts/observations have in this community, and in places far from here when one of us is discovered and leads an unsuspecting blurker to the lair.... where the rest of us lie in wait!! It's like The Hotel California..... check out any time you want; but you can NEVER leave.
We are a family in other respects, too. We didn't "choose" each other, but we love each other. We don't always get along, and Dad will send us to our rooms if the arguing gets out of control, but at the end of the day, all is forgiven and we go off to bed..... " 'Nite Jon-boy, 'nite Grandpa, "nite Mary, 'nite Pa..."
Can't wait for the next Blogfest. I think we will have a mini-fest this summer up on the Ranch, just because a year will be a long wait to see everyone again. This is an amazing group of people, I am proud to be a part of this Family.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back To Reality

Here I am at the office. Less than 24 hours ago, Jim and I were sitting on the beach in Puerto Vallerta sipping our morning coffee, eating fresh fruit, and basking in the morning breezes coming off of Banderas Bay. We fell into our own bed about one AM after flying all evening. We had spent eight days in Paradise, didn't want to leave, and have promised each other that we will do it again next February. What a wonderful vacation. We met great folks that will remain friends forever, and we will see them again..... in Mexico. Spring is just around the corner, it is do-able now. We have seen the sun and have hope that it will find us once again here in Idaho.

So.... it is back to reality. I am rested, flaunting a tan and a handful of photos to stir a bit of envy from my coworkers, (insert: evil chuckle), and we have some wonderful memories to hold us over until the next adventure.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Emailed the White House

I sent the President an Email this morning to apply for the job that Nancy Killefer has declined. As I read about her and the position, I thought " I can do that!" Efficiency Officer is pretty much my job description here at home. I manage to squeeze 26 hours into 24, shop for deals, cook from scratch, turn off lights in empty rooms, turn down the thermostat and put sweaters on the kids, reuse, recycle, repair, and most importantly, resist. Resist the seduction of wishes and wants, and upgrades and super-sizes. I like the idea of make-do, make-over, do without. I like simple, it's efficient. I wrote to President Obama with tongue in cheek, but the more I think about it, he could really benefit from the life experiences and expertise of those of us who have had to live with the constraints we wish our government would adopt.

Here is my email:
Mr. President;

In light of Ms Killefer's withdrawal from consideration as the Efficiency Officer, I would like to apply for the position. I feel I am qualified since I have managed a household of twenty children (most special needs) as well as a career for over forty years. I AM very efficient; I live within a budget, know how to cut corners without cutting quality, and am current on all my taxes. I think there are many, like me, who would have good ideas that would help our great nation. Use us. Thank you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Valentine's Day: Our Story

Jim, looking like Sam Elliot in cowboy boots and hat,walked over as I chatted with friends. He introduced himself and in a smooth, confident baritone said, "We need to be dating." How storybook, how romantic! Since I was totally unfamiliar with dating etiquette, all I could do was laugh in his face and sputter an embarrassed "I don't think so!" in my most sarcastic voice.

I had been alone for five years, prior to that, happily married for twenty years to my best friend since old Hippie days. We were growing up and planning on growing old together. His loss was sudden, devastating, life changing; but I had adapted well. I wasn't interested in another relationship or dating, wasn't looking, wasn't interested! In fact, this cold January night in 2000, was the first time I had ventured out socially... outside of church or work or Costco.

This cowboy was relentless. He wouldn't leave. He took my hand and we danced to some country song playing on the jukebox. There was no dance floor. I had never danced like that before and tried to protest that I didn't know how, but he just said "Hang on to me now." and we waltzed between the tables.

I tried to tell him that if he really knew anything about my life, he would not be interested. He wouldn't drop it, so a couple of weeks later we met for coffee at that same spot. I wanted to explain that my life wasn't mine, I still had eight of our twenty kids at home..... kids with disabilities, some quite significant, and I would be responsible for all of them for life. And, if that wasn't enough to send him packing, I told him that I didn't drink, dance, or date. Since he didn't run away screaming, we decided to turn coffee into dinner. Here comes the acid test. We went to my house, where the care providers were helping the kids finish a spaghetti dinner... it was everywhere! This man was greeted like a long lost rich uncle by all the kids, they shared handshakes and hugs and spaghetti sauce with him. He never flinched. He acted (and I'm sure it was an act) like he loved every minute of it. At dinner, I answered questions about the kids and their lives and how they came to be part of my family.... he told me about his kids. We both talked about our hopes and our heartbreaks. It was a nice dinner. It was a beginning.

Jim came back to the house the next day, although we had made no plan. He remembered every one's name, they remembered his! I think that was the moment I thought I might have a keeper...
We took long drives, he taught me to dance, we met each others' families, we learned each others' ways. We spent the next year and a half talking and planning, learning to trust, being cautious, neither of us wanting to err. We looked at homes, wanting to have space for our families and for a garden and some horses. We finally found our little ranch, spent six months remodeling and building fences before we could move in.

We tied the knot quietly, privately at the Hitching Post in September 2001, the day after 9-11. We laughed and cried, we exchanged bent up old rings that made the minister laugh when he looked at them. We went to our new home and sat on the porch..... everything was the same, but everything was changed. Once, one of the kids had asked Jim if he was going to be her Dad.... he explained that he would be her step-dad when we got married. That night, we sat on the deck, following the news of the Twin Towers tragedy, all the more painful, since Jim had worked there some time before. We had been married less than six hours, the kids were getting ready for bed when a tentative little voice called through the screen door, "Goodnight, Dad." Oh yes, that shy whisper put it all in perspective. Nothing matters more than family. We can get through anything, as long as we are committed to each other.

One year later, we finally got a honeymoon. Over dinner, Jim took my hand like he had on the night we met, looked into my eyes, and said, "It hasn't all been good...." It didn't quite come out the way he wanted, I know what he meant, but I couldn't help but laugh at him all over again.
So, that is our story .No, it hasn't all been good, most of it has been great! Not a day goes by that we don't marvel at the road we walk and the life we live. Our wonderful children, our little Ranch, and the love we found in each other when we weren't even looking. We laugh, we cry, we work hard together, we can argue a bit, too. We will grow old together, surrounded by our forever-children, who will remind us each day and each evening, that nothing in this world is more important than this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Time Flies....

I have been deep in thought and melancholy with memories since watching the Inauguration and subsequent festivities the other day. It was this historic event (on so many levels) that sent me reeling through a time warp of my life in an overwhelming mind-slide show of the other historic events I have witnessed...
I remember getting our first TV.... the world came int the living room, a little grainy in black and white, but it is how I first remember "News".... history, now.
I have a vague memory of Eisenhower, the Rosenbergs, and Rosa Parks on TV, but clearer memories of Mickey Mouse Club and Superman. Jonas Salk gave us the Polio vaccine, not soon enough for my cousin Cindy, though. We tried to see Sputnik fly over outside late at night. That ushered in the Space Age, and we all watched the rockets take off, and held our breath until the astronauts came back through the atmosphere without burning up, and cheered when they were picked up... bobbing in the middle of the ocean in that little capsule.
Things began to change in the sixties. We were changing. We began to discover a communal voice. We were so smart, so sophisticated, so wise in the ways of the world.
I remember the flag being lowered outside my Latin class window, and the Principal announcing the death of JFK over the PA system. We were excused from classes, sent home to be with our families to grieve as a nation as we watched the funeral on television. There were other assassinations... RFK, MLK, Indira Gandhi, John Lennon. And attempted assassinations... Regan, John Paul. The Apollo astronauts were killed in the rocket. Elvis died. Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Jim Morrison too.
Vietnam took my friends away after high school, some came home, some didn't.... some were never the same again. Woodstock and Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Betty Friedan changed even more of us.
Civil Rights and Activism and Marijuana and LSD became a focus. There were wars in Israel and Vietnam and riots in Watts. Students just like us were killed at Kent State. Watergate reinforced our mistrust of the government. The Olympic games in Munich were ruined when the Israeli athletes were murdered. Roe v. Wade was a bright spot for Feminists and we burned our bras. Nixon told us he wasn't a crook.
We put a label on HIV/AIDS, and were very afraid. There were hostage crises, and spy plane problems, oil spills in Prince William Sound, and tanks in Tienoman Square.
I remember the day the Challenger exploded in midair, and again we watched it over and over again, but there was a difference..... we were not the kids in bobby socks anymore. Emotionally, we had hardened, become cold. The Gulf War, Waco, Rwanda, Bosnia, and the first attack of the World Trade Center, and the OK City bombing were all met with less feeling or outcry than OJ and his low speed white Bronco chase.
There have been more wars, countries have come and gone, the Berlin Wall was torn down. There have been witnesses to Moon walks and mad cows, Jonestown, Hale Bop, The Y2K scare, tsunami waves, earthquakes, volcanoes, and now global warming.
We gathered again as families when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked. It was like before, we were vulnerable once more. There was another shift in our direction, we began to turn back to an old memory of who we were.
We have been searching for something, we carry a remnant of the untarnished children we were when we searched the night sky in awe looking for Sputnik. We want to believe and hope and feel we have a voice again. I think the inauguration and all it's pageantry has allowed us to believe that perhaps, as a result of this historic event, we will reclaim what we have lost .
I need to ponder on what all this means to me..... does it just reflect my years? Is there a message in this bottle? I think I am a little wiser, possibly more cynical, and I eat dessert first. I value Life, and I treasure my memories; the good and the bad; and look forward to the next chapter.... with hope and faith.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


The newspaper articles and news reports about OxyContin, Meth, and related illegalities lately seem to have increased. There have been more and more pharmacy holdups, and they are getting more aggressive. There are big names in the news, locally and across the country, being arrested for posession or overdosing. Addiction. It is a National tragedy. Twentythree million Americans struggle with this disease, few are treated or are able to maintain a recovery. Noone is immune, it can happen to anyone.... rich or poor; male or female; young or old. Addiction knows no social or economic boundries. Many deny they have a problem, that is part of the disease.

Prevention is best. Education is vital. Still, genetics play a huge role in predisposing any of us to addiction. This stuff has become so popular everywhere; there is no longer a social stigma attached to using drugs/alcohol like there was a generation ago.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

4 Wheel Drive

The cold and fog continue. No new snow, so we get to clean up the mess that buried us in December. It made the Holiday Season very quiet, since none of the kids that live elsewhere could make it up the hill to visit. The roads are finally clear down below on the highway, still ice in spots, but everyone is generally travelling near the posted speed limits now. Up here is a different story. I still need 4 wheel drive to get the truck in and out of the garage and even down to the barn. There is too much packed ice to walk down and back safely. I keep it in 4X4 until I come off the hill, where it seems like another country or season with clear roads and diminishing snow packs. The fog has frozen onto all the tree branches and they are beautiful and white. I will get out with the camera next time the sun comes out to get a photo or two of the whiteness. The world up here looks like an Ansel Adams print, all black and white. Very quiet. Fog bank ebbs and flows like the tide on the ocean. Some pictures will help me remember the stark beauty later this year when I am complaining about the heat!! There are loads of elk and moose loitering around, so I'll need my trusty 4 wheel drive to carry me around to photograph the scenery. I'll have the truck to run to if I happen to come across an unsuspecting critter.... been chased by a mama moose before, not an experience I wish to repeat!! So, as soon as I get a few hours to putter, I'll load up the camera gear into the trusty protective 4X4 and record the beautiful spaces where we live.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tax Reform

I am disturbed.... I am concerned, maybe even downright scared. The economy is in the crapper, prices are going up, jobs are scarce, and the government- both federal and local levels- are going to be squeezing us even more. I have been reading Obama's website and studied Otter's speech, and all of the rhetoric makes me angry and afraid. I wish they would ask my advice!!

The people in power are out of touch with real life here in the trenches. There are so many areas where money can be saved with out increasing taxes or reducing services. Since Health care is my home, I have some strong opinions and see where small changes would save a ton of money, as well as make a more efficient system. There is a large population depending on medical care through the government; Medicare, Medicaid, Healthy Options, etc.... in all but Medicare, this is "free" medical care, and I don't want to deny anyone care. But, the system is so abused. Not by all, but it only takes a few to screw it up and make it look bad. Thousands of dollars a day are spent / wasted because of an inefficient system. If the government asked anyone of us in the office or ER , we would be able to save a ton of tax dollars!!! For example: With regular insurance, there are limitations as to what doctor, pharmacy, a copay, a deductible, etc. The You and I insurance would be well off to have a one doctor/one pharmacy protocol and to have a copay ... even one dollar.... for an office visit, more for an ER visit. This small measure would save us a bunch and stop a great deal of abuse and drug-seeking behavior.
Another area that is concerning is the abuse of the welfare system by young women having babies because it's easy and free!!! U&I will pay for it!! I am beginning to sound like my mother.... but, I have had more than a few girls (15-25) in the clinic who are sexually active, without birth control, already on a welfare medical plan of some sort, who tell me that she and her "fiancee" (of about 3 months) would like to have a baby..... It's hard for me not to groan out loud. I do try to smile and encourage waiting a bit.... finish school, get married, have an income, have some fun before starting a family.... my face is about to crack.....
I will get in trouble if I say too much to either the drug-seeker or the teen aged mom-wannabe, because they have rights. Well, fellow taxpayer, we should have some rights, too.... after all, we are the ones who work every day to pay taxes to support this behavior. I would like to see a little reform in the system to protect us and the people who need the help. Reform that will identify and control the abuse a little better. I think the money saved, would balance the budget.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Chinook Winds Have Arrived

From Wikipedia:
The Chinook in the Pacific Northwest
The term Chinook Wind is also used in British Columbia, and is the original usage, being rooted in the lore of coastal tribes and brought to Alberta by the fur-traders. Such winds are extremely wet and warm and come from the southwest, and are also known as the Pineapple Express since they are of subtropical origin, roughly from the area of Hawaii. The air associated with a west coast Chinook is stable; this minimizes wind gusts and often keeps winds light in sheltered areas. In exposed areas, fresh gales are frequent during a Chinook, but strong gale or storm force winds are uncommon (most of the region's stormy winds come when a fast westerly jet stream lets air masses from temperate and subarctic latitudes clash).
Typically a weather forecaster in Vancouver might say "the Chinook is going to last for another five days, so expect heavy rain for the next week. The mountains [i.e. for skiing] will be rainy to the alpine, so expect lots of slush on the slopes." When a Chinook comes in when an Arctic air mass is holding steady over the coast, the tropical dampness brought in suddenly cools, penetrating the frozen air and coming down in volumes of powder, sometimes to sea level. Snowfalls and the cold spells that spawned them only last a few days during a Chinook, as the weather blows in from the southwest. The snow melts quickly and is gone within a week.
The effects on the Interior of the province when a Chinook is in effect are the reverse. In a rainy spell, most of the heavy moisture will be soaked out by the ramparts of mountains before the air mass reaches the Canyon and the Thompson River-Okanagan area. The effects are similar to those of an Alberta Chinook, though not to the same extreme, in part because the Okanagan is relatively warmer than the Prairies, and because of the additional number of precipitation-catching mountain ranges in between Kelowna and Calgary. When the Chinook brings snow on the Coast during a period of coastal cold, bright but chilly weather in the Interior will give way to a slushy melting of snow because of the warm spell more than because of rain.

I love the Chinooks. It is one of the best weather events we have in the Northwest. Everyone has been waiting for it, and this one is long overdue. But today I stood outside and smiled in the wind listening to the snow melt run like a river.

So, for the last two days, and hopefully for a few more, the temperature is above freezing, the wind is blowing, and the rain is helping them melt the snow. We have had about 5 feet, now down to about 3. The valley melting is causing floods. The main roads are finally clear of snow and ice; just wet pavement now. Up here on the hill there is alot of ice on the road and the driveway, but it will be gone as well if this keeps up for a few more days. The heavy load of snow slid off the barn roof this morning, now there are 10 foot high mountains of packed snow turning the lean tos on each side into tunnels. The boys came by and shoveled the roof of the house one more time, and the icicles that reached the ground on Monday are gone. There is damage, we can see it now as the snow disappears.... some flashing down, a couple of broken support beams, quite a bit of fence is torn out. We won't be able to get to that for quite sometime since there is still hip deep snow out there. The horses and mules are sissies, so I'm not worried that they will go through the downed spots. They are all happy to stand in the new tunnel the snow made today, out of the wind and rain, waiting for one of us to slip and slide to the barn to feed 'em.

I will be out there again tomorrow, smiling in the wind. I will always marvel at the wonder of the experience of the Chinook Wind.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


This is one of my favorite photos of the cowgirls of the early 1900's. I have long had a fascination for the lives , their stories , and their strength. Sometimes I wish had been there myself. I would have ridden some of those rank broncs!! My favorite of these women is Prairie Rose Henderson (2nd from the Right). She was a bit different, a bit of a rebel, and my maiden name is Henderson. As a child, I wore cowboy boots with all the little dresses my Grandmother made for me, and wanted a horse in the worst way. Living in the middle of Buffalo, New York, that was pretty impossible. But, I dreamed of being a Cowgirl. It took a long, and very winding road, and many hills and valleys; but here I am. No, I'm not a bronc rider, although I've had a horse or two that tried to make me one, and I'm not on some 1,000 acre self-sufficient spread, raising cattle or corn, but I am still wearing cowboy boots, have a broad brim palm hat just like Prairie Rose, sit a pretty good mule, have done a little team penning, throw hay and muck stalls, mend a fence, drive a tractor, and can say for sure that I am living my childhood dreams. It doesn't get better than this. Yee-Haw!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Icy New Year

Well, the roads are terrible. The drive to and from work has turned into a white knuckle rodeo, taking 2-3 times longer than usual. I haven't had the truck in two wheel drive in weeks!! Last night on my way home, the sign on the local Ace Hardware store caught my eye... ICE. No kidding, as I watched car after car after bus slide through that busy intersection!!! I can't believe the throngs of folks still out in this stuff. We have had so much snow up here on the hill.... about 4-5 feet, we are trapped, can't see out the lower level windows, hot tub is buried, the horses are all standing under the lean to like high school hoodlums smoking after school, looking like they are dreaming of green pastures, instead of the path they have made to the water tank and back.

The sun is shining today, tho, and even with the temperature just above zero, it is great to be able to go outside and bask in the light! It is too cold to last long, but every hour or so, I am taking a break from inside chores to go play outside for a bit.

The Christmas tree is coming down today. All the decorations will be back in the loft in the garage until next year. I am STILL wrapping and shopping, however..... and haven't shipped anything off to out of town family. I think they are all used to my bad habit of procrastination, I never send anything on time. Maybe that should be my New Year's Resolution; to get gifts and cards to their destination on schedule. Or not. I love the decorations, but now I'm starting to get a little claustrophobic and need the open spaces back inside. Off I go to pack and pack away...