Junior The Red-Nose Reindeer

Today I went golfing for the next to last time, forever, on our private course in St. Helens, Oregon. I’ve been golfing there with the Peal Brothers for years and learned, just today, that they’ve been keeping a secret from me. Junior is actually Rudolf! Who knew? All this time I thought he was simply a great friend and an old classmate. As we played the sixth hole, however, his transformation started and he reported that he would be heading to the North Pole earlier than usual. He figures if he sticks around much longer he’d be answering a lot of questions about his fuzzy ears.

I’ll miss having him around to engage me in a nice, leisurely round of golf. Also, learning that Junior naturally has a large red nose in his natural state explains why he’s hard to find when Christmas rolls around.

I’m keeping an eye on that guy from now on.

Panzee 2003 – 2018

Today we said good-bye to our friend and family member, Panzee. She’s been with us for the past 15 years and has been one of the most faithful and loving dogs we’ve ever known.

She’s been sick a lot lately and losing weight in addition to having trouble getting up and down stairs. She never complained, ever, but it was evident she was suffering. So, we chose to release her from her withered body and send her to puppy heaven.

As you can imagine, it was a sad occasion but we have so many fond memories of her that she’ll live forever in our hearts. Thankfully, Lydia Claire was working at the vet today and helped us weather this new sad phase of our lives.

It will get better, we know, but right now things aren’t quite as much fun.




 

My MRI Results, KC’s Elbow, and Jeff’s Left Thumb

I’m sure all of you have been waiting to hear about the results of my Lumbar Spine MRI test. So, here’s what I got:

L3-4 discs are shorter than last time and there’s a small herniation on the posterior disc as well as more focal protrusion to right in the foramina. Still, there is no significant canal stenosis. In layman’s terms, if vertebrae were hinges, mine are rusty.

L4-5 – pretty much the same as above with the addition that I have facet arthrosis resulting in bilateral foraminal narrowing which in turn causes some contact of the exiting L4 nerve root on the left. Again, in layman’s terms, if L4-5 was a doorway and the exiting root was an extension cord supplying power from another room, my door won’t open or close without rubbing the cord. Consequently, the contact with my extension cord results in pain all the way down the line that ends in my left foot. The doc said the only way to alleviate the pain is to quit surfing. Since I’ve never surfed, that’s an easy fix. Fortunately, pain from my extension cord is not severe enough to prevent me from playing the piano or golfing. Due to the complex motion involved in both of those activities, I find it interesting that such movement does not result in making me a wheelbarrow basket case. Life is complex.

Actually, I haven’t had the post-MRI visit with my doctor yet so I really don’t know if the piano and golf are still approved activities. I’ll let you know after my appointment on Monday the 13th. If she tells me to cease and desist golfing, I will. Right after my currently scheduled golf date on the 15th. Once things like that are scheduled it’s impossible to get them off the calendar. Really. That’s true.

I have it on good authority the KC’s new fake elbow is working great. The downside, however, is that she can only lift 2 lbs with the affected arm. For most things, like eating or drinking, that’s not a problem, but for picking up grand kids, it pretty much is. In case you don’t know, KC got a new elbow a number of years ago and it worked pretty good right up to when it got horribly infected. Apparently her arm decided it shouldn’t be there and threw a fit. So, it was removed and replaced. The doctors tried to trick the arm by simply cleaning up the old elbow, painting it a different color, then sticking it back in so we’re not sure if the arm has figured it out, yet. Maybe by leaving the elbow out for two weeks, like they did, leaving KC’s arm to flop around a little, made the arm happy with anything other than nothing. We’ll see. If I got any of this wrong I trust KC will provide corrections in the way of comments.

Son Jeff is in the middle of moving his family and today broke his left thumb in three places while moving a box. Actually, it’s the bone that connects his thumb to his wrist. I think that’s the same bone I break pretty much every time I hit it with my hammer when I miss the nail I’m holding. It’s only about 3 inches from where the nail is so I’m pretty sure that’s true. Based on that I can attest to the high level of pain involved to have broken it into four pieces. I generally just break it in one place.

I’m guessing, of course, because, though I most definitely have smacked that bone multiple times, I’ve never had it x-rayed so I can’t definitively say it’s been broken. But, after the initial hit, every time, I admit that I perform the air-sucking dance associated with such injuries as if it’s broken. The pain eventually fades then it’s back to work. In my experience, any subsequent hit(s) to the same area on the same day aren’t nearly as bad. That could be because I’m either not swinging the hammer as hard, or the injured bone is in shock. I’m not sure which.

Sitting here talking about that thumb bone made me more aware of historical injuries to that area and it actually went numb for a bit. Funny thing.

Guess it’s time to quit.

Cheers

Camping at Big Eddy

Last Thursday we took “The Littles” Camping at Big Eddy Park on the Nehalem River near Vernonia, Oregon. It’s a small place but full of fun on hot days. Even I found the water to be pleasant in the 100 degree temps. “The Littles”, by the way, are our Grand Daughters Gilligan, Baylee, and Jerrie. I’m using that now because it’s easier to type.

We attended this outing thanks to Jennifer’s & Daniel’s willingness to let us join them for their annual Church Campout at the park, even though we don’t attend their church. Guess Jennifer figured I wouldn’t cause too much of a commotion this time and the who attend the last time we went had plenty of time to forget past offenses. I don’t think there were any, but you just never know what might trip someone’s trigger.

This was the first time The Littles went camping with us so it was and exciting time for them. Since the church pretty much rents the entire park for the weekend the kids (lots of them) were free to roam all day and into the night. The big attraction was the big eddy in the Nehalem River for which the park is named.

With inner tubes of various sizes, and life jackets, the kids assaulted the river and had a spectacular time just floating around, visiting, making new friends, and for some, catching crawdads.

In line, front to rear, are Jerrie, Baylee, and Gilligan under Daniel’s watchful eye.

 

Living large in the deep water, about 20′ deep, middle of the eddy.

 

Even the dogs get to play. This is Ziva.

 

There was some down time allowed for river rock art.

 

Jerrie in a brief moment of inactivity.

 

Jennie minding the tubes. This is about as wet as she got.

 

Gilligan coming in for a pit stop.

 

Gilligan giving her Mosh Pit greeting.

 

Mocha just floated around all over the place, lurking kinda like an alligator. She loves the water because it sets her free of her aching joints.

 

Open fires are not currently allowed in any Oregon camp grounds unless they had a way to turn them off. So, before leaving civilization we made a trip to Lowe’s and got a propane fire pit that fit that category.

 

It works quite nicely, throwing a rosy glow on everyone who sits around it.

 

It was even used to produce vast quantities of s’mores for those who like that kind of thing. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of s’mores. I think that makes me kind of unpatriotic, or something, and I’m sorry if it does. But, I still don’t care for them. The kids love them, however.

 

Lots of time people showed up from other families to join in with Jeran, Lydia, Joey, Jamie, Sofie, and Ceiarra. I caught this one sitting still so took her photo. Also, got a fairly good shot of Daniels T-shirt, Save the Chubby Unicorns.

 

Most of the girls are wearing their hair longer, young and old, so braiding it was a full-time job. Jennie loves doing it and fixed up all comers. She’s a pro braider. So, I guess that means she’s Pro Braider Jennie, or PB&J for my acronym book.

 

Jennie and Jerrie posing after Jen gave Jer piggies, my personal favorite hairdo.

 

Diane contemplating something while relaxing.

 

Jennie relaxing.

 

Older kids gathered for lunch.

Sunday morning we attended an outdoor church service then everyone packed up to leave. For me, getting ready to go involved driving our motor home around the narrow, wiggly, tree-lined roads to get in a spot where I could reattach the tow dolly and mount the car on it. I’d done it once to drop the dolly and didn’t have a problem. This time, however, I cut one corner a little close and brushed an old, rotten stump. It left a mess on the driver’s side near the rear wheel that I was sure would signal the end of the world.  But it didn’t. Neither I, nor anyone else with a camera, thought to capture the moment and the damage, so there’s no proof that what I’m relating really happened. Therefore, you can just chalk this up to a big lie if you wish. I really did swipe the stump, though, and the visible damage appeared to be permanent.

Once we got home I got out the polishing compound and rubbed 98% of it away. I was amazed. And happy. Now I won’t be ashamed to take it out again next week for a trip to Nehalem Bay State Park. This is the bay where the Nehalem River joins the Pacific Ocean.

How odd is that?

 

 

Jerrie is 7, and a Plumbing Tale

Last Sunday Jerrie turned 7-years-old. That’s 7, as in SEVEN. That means Second Grade is coming up. When that happened, Diane and I looked at each other with similar questioning eyes, wondering how she did that so fast. She’s quick, we know that, but normally it takes at least one dog-year for a child to attain the age of 7. Not Jerrie. She did it in 3, I’m sure. Anyway, she’s joined her bouncy sisters in another upper age bracket and is on her way to fulfilling her destiny. We’re curious to discover what that is. It’s going to be an exciting trip.

In case you didn’t know, this is Jerrie trying out her new blanket that we dare anyone to snatch and try to call it their own.

This next bit is a going to be long, I can tell already, but I’ve got to get it out of my head. It’s getting crowded in there and I want to gather new “stuff” to think about.

Plumbers are sometimes necessary to resolve problems for which one hopes they’ve been trained to deal with, and other times they are used simply because it’s convenient to have someone else do the dirty work. Simply because I involuntarily volunteered to get a couple of new toilets for our church, I became the point person for ensuring they got installed. Although I’m knowledgeable with what’s required to install a toilet, since this was a church project, I was given permission to engage a professional. The project also included replacement of a broken, non-functioning, waterless, cold water faucet in the Lady’s Room (LR). It’s been turned off for years, literally, because it ceased to function. The set up, in both bathrooms is really old, using individual faucets for hot and cold. Old school. Since it takes a little bit of time for hot water to reach the LR, it apparently was deemed safe to assume that at least six ladies in a row could use the facility and wash their hands without being scalded. The seventh person is like a hall monitor … if they don’t burn their hands with hot water at the sink, odds are that one, or more, of the previous six didn’t wash their hands, the choice of many women when using public facilities. I have it on good authority that men ALWAYS wash their hands BEFORE using the facilities because they don’t want to get their junk dirty. They know what they’ve touched, ya know?

I digress. What’s new?

Thinking back on that seventh lady who didn’t burn her hands, when she exits the facility makes a note of who the previous six were because ladies, sadly, always have to wait in line to use public facilities. From that point on #7 avoids the previous six because they’re obviously filthy animals. Or, #7 doesn’t wash either, leaving it up to #8. It gets really complicated after that.

Regardless of who does or does wash isn’t really the issue here. It’s the broken and leaky faucet. Someone resolved the problem by turning off the water to that faucet. Simple. They probably thought they’d get around to fixing it later, or not. Actually, that faucet has been off for 10+ years so you know it was a man who disabled it. Right? I’m pretty sure that’s true, but it wasn’t me. Honest.

Given the authority to procure and arrange installation of new toilets, and a faucet, Diane took me to Costco and allowed me to purchase two toilets, just like the one I installed in one of our bathrooms at home. Get that? I, Jerrie, an old man, installed one of these toilets all by myself and it works and it doesn’t leak.

It took a bit of maneuvering to get two toilets in the back of our Camry, but I did it. On the way home we stopped at the church and I manhandled one into each bathroom, staging them for the plumber who agreed to do the job. I called two plumbers and only one called back.

Shortly after that Diane and I departed on our annual Anniversary trip so I wasn’t there to manage the work. I wasn’t worried, though, how hard could it be?

Turns out that some things certain plumbers encounter are way beyond their capabilities and in the confusion of accomplishing assigned tasks get a truly clouded sense of reality when it comes to figuring out what to charge. In this case, the plumber presented a very vague bill for $1495.00.

Upon return from our trip, I visited the plumber, who was out working on another poorly planned job, no doubt, and talked with the nice lady in the office. I explained that the price seemed overly high for a job where the major components were provided.

The plumber called me a couple of days later and was very apologetic after I explained that the toilets were not provided by him, and questioned his billing tactics that provided no detail about what materials were used. I’m sure the majority of his clientele pay without question, abiding by the popular pre-conceived notion that plumbers are just expensive, and that’s the way it is.

The result of that first contact was a $200 refund check along with a new bill containing some more detail about what was done and what materials were used. It was nice to get a refund, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with the detail and the minimal amount considering he was apparently refunding the cost he would charge a customer to procure two toilets. Having paid $150 for each toilet I was pretty sure that his mark up would escalate the price considerably higher.

The new bill made me a little angry so I sat on it for a while before addressing my concerns with the plumber, again. I contemplated calling again, but decided I wanted something tangible that could be filed for future reference. So, I wrote him a letter providing far more detail that I’m sure he wanted to see. Specifically, about the price of the toilets and what he would charge a customer to provide. I also questioned his charge for wax rings and bolts, which were provided with each toilet, and $50 for caulking, and $150 for a new faucet that didn’t look anything like the one he removed, and the fact that he removed and replaced the wrong faucet. Seriously, how dumb is that? I used his cost for that faucet as a measure for what his markup was for parts. Somewhere around 100% or more I’d guess.

Addressing all of these questions, as well as questioning his ethics a little bit, I sent the letter to him and a bunch of other people. My last comment was that I would love to talk with him about everything in the letter. His response was to send another refund check for $300 with no explanation. Just a check in the mail. I suppose we could have just considered that a nice donation to the church and continue to pursue answers to my questions, but I believe we’re way beyond a peaceful solution. He got the price into the $900’s, which is still high, but not worth the stress of all the confrontation involved, in an area where most people carry guns, should I continue. We’re just not ever going to use him again and we’ll gladly share why with anyone who wants to know.

Then, I’ll fix it myself.

For free.

Like I should have done the first time.

Then we’ll just sit back and watch karma take it’s course.

Dang!

A Marathon, a Trip, and Eating Out

Hi. In case you’re wondering, it appears that I’m going to survive the grueling sciatica affliction to which I was subjected due to the incredibly hard seats in the EOU gym during Maryssa’s graduation. That was on June 16th – FLASH! I need to share, right here, that June 16th is absolutely correct and I just pulled that date out of thin air BEFORE I checked it. I think I’m going to give myself a little star. Yessir! I’m getting a star!

Regarding my ongoing battle with sciatica pain, I must report that over the past 3.5 weeks I’ve had numerous occasions where I was almost pain-free. Every time that happened I figured it would be OK to do some work outside which undid all the good up til then. I should have listened to Diane. She’s was always saying, “stay on the couch or go take a nap”. Really, she told me that but I had a hard time with it because I couldn’t help thinking about all the outside chores that weren’t getting done while I snoozed away. I finally acquiesced to her demands and have since become very comfortable with napping pretty much any time of the day, guilt free.

Another setback was caused by my unauthorized participation in a marathon on the 4th of July in downtown St. Helens. Jennifer, our daughter, and Lydia, her daughter, were participating and asked Diane to join them on this trek around town. Much to my surprise, she agreed. Jennifer said she already bought the costumes for the dogs and had tutus for her, Lydia, and Diane. Sadly, I didn’t get a tutu.

The marathon had a name … The Underachiever .4K Marathon. Yes, that’s a .4K. Jennifer was in charge of Bronson while Diane and Lydia shared turns with Ziva which left me to bring up the rear, hobbling as fast as I could. When it was all said and done, huffing around every corner looking for the finish line, I finally found it after only 2 hrs 27 mins. Diane and the kids, being much younger and less prone to take small breaks along the way, finished in about 30 minutes.

This is the way our July 4th began …

Then we got all dressed up for the marathon … 

Marathon starting line – runners went first.

Diane and Jennifer bringing up the rear … I don’t know where Jeran was at this point, but he was there.

Here’s Jeran with Lydia and Bronson. Bronson looks absolutely ecstatic about all the commotion, doesn’t he? There was some doubt about Bronson’s willingness to walk all that way, especially while wearing that hat, but he did well. Another danger was the possibility of encounter someone on a skate board. Given the opportunity, he will chase down the rider and take the board away from him. Skaters have learned to not ride past the Walters house.

Ziva was interested in all the other dogs, of course …

This was Diane saying, “Don’t do it!”

Getting untangled …

First stop, the Krispy Creme Lady …

Next stop was the Running Dog Brewery for a beer, or a fantastic locally made root beer. Truly the best root beer I’ve ever tasted. 

Waiting in line for treats.

Still waiting in line …

… and, still waiting in line …

The race finished with a fashion show where Ziva won 2nd place. Judging was based on audience applause and Ziva’s ovation was the loudest. The judge, however, was obviously biased and gave it to a young girl and her dog who were wearing matching tutu’s. I knew I should have had a tutu!

The next day Diane thought it would be fun to have lunch on the Roof overlooking the Columbia River. It’s a new eating facility that, thankfully, has an elevator that drops visitors off at the bar. It was a perfect day and the food was great. They serve all manner of alcohol as well as sandwiches on hogie rolls. Good food, but they didn’t have ham. I wanted ham. Instead, I ate their version of a reuben which wasn’t bad. The view was awesome.

Straight out from the venue is Sand Island where the cities fireworks are ignited. No doubt it was loud and colorful the previous evening from this location. The far beach is the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Diane wanted to capture the flag in front of the old court house.

Last Sunday Diane and I took a trip to Bremerton, WA to deliver Cedric back to his ship, the USS Nimitz, America’s oldest super carrier. We didn’t leave until 2000 so it was a quiet and uneventful trip. We were treated to this sunset as we made our way north which made the trip worth it all by itself.

Instead of turning around and coming right back home, we booked a room at the Navy Gateway Inn and Suites on the Naval Base where we lounged until almost 1100 the next morning. Then we drove home.

After arriving home I had a short nap then picked up Jennifer and Lydia for another artistic adventure at a local school. It was fun as are all events that I get to share with my girls. My painting is the one on right. I think I could have done a better job if it hadn’t been for the two young girls at the table in front of us who were having way too much fun. They distracted me.

It was a good day.

On Tuesday I took my bad back to the golf course to ride around in a cart with Doug and Junior. Every once in a while I’d get out and smack a golf ball just as hard as I could, as did D and J. They were more serious about form and did better than me, but it turns out when I get enough rest and can hit a golf ball a long way. I can putt pretty good, too. It’s everything between the drive and the putting that gives me problems. Still, it’s fun to visit with the guys.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I had a visit with my VA primary care doctor, Dr. Gilbert. She’s been taking good care of me for a few years and this was just a followup so we didn’t have time to talk about everything new that’s cropped up since our last visit. So, I have another appointment next month to address my back. I’m getting my MRI, one of my most favorite things in the world to do. Yessir, stuff me in that tube, the one that tightens around you and squeezes the life out of you. Thankfully, they give me Valium so I can make it through without screaming too much.

After the doctor visit, we went to the Black Bear Diner on TV Highway for lunch. Rick and Jody joined us. Diane had a croissant tuna sandwich, and I had a California Burger.

Rick and Jody thought it was pretty funny and didn’t think I could actually compress it enough to get it in my mouth, but I fooled them. It was an excellent hamburger.

R&J had already eaten so they each just wanted a piece of pie. When it was delivered to the table it was evident karma was being observed because I got the last laugh. Turns out a piece of pie at the Black Bear Diner is a little bigger than a slice.

It was a good ending to a good day.

Sciatica Deluxe, Beavers, Anniversarys

Since my last post I’ve been recovering from the consequences of sitting on a hard bleacher seat for 4 hours. My little sit-down bones rebelled and have been complaining since that day causing my sciatica to run rampant making life pretty miserable for both me and Diane.

Yeah, I know. No one really wants to listen to a complainer so I’ll just put those personal items aside and talk about other stuff. Doing that, however, doesn’t make my back feel any younger.

Let’s talk about the NCAA College World Series. Everyone watched at least some of those games, right? I mean, like you were glued to your TV screens, hanging on every pitch to see what was going to happen. Well, I can’t say that Diane and I did that, not at first, but we got totally engaged when the field was whittled down to the last eight teams, one of which was the Oregon State Beavers. That caught our interest.

When Oregon lost their first game to North Carolina the excitement waned a little, I admit, but we watched anyway. Sticking with them provided us with a great deal of entertainment as the Oregon Beavers clawed they way through the field, one elimination game at a time. Each time we thought it was all over for the Beavs they rallied late and came out on top. That included the final elimination game against Arkansas which was game 2 of the Championship round. Arkansas was unbeaten to that point and Oregon was down to its last strike, bottom of the 9th inning with 2 out and the score was 3-2 Arkansas, and the tying run was on third. It looked bleak for our Beavers. The pitcher took the mound and the batter line up for that final strike. It was a mighty swing resulting it a pop up down the 1st base line. Two Razorbacks rushed to the projected landing zone and raised their mitts, waiting to see who had the best chance to catch it. Right then, a third Razorback rushed between them with his glove in the air as if he had it in the bag. About the time those three formed an equilateral triangle the ball plummeted into the ground right about ground zero. It was stunning for the Beavers, devastating for the Razorback. Had one of them caught that ball it would have been game over and the Razorbacks would have been the national NCAA champions. Instead, the batter and pitcher faced each other one more time. The batter made a solid connection and drove in the tying run with a solid single. That brought Trevor Larnach, Oregon’s team leading home run hitter who didn’t disappoint. He drove the ball over the right field fence into the Beavers bullpen. Now it’s 5-3 Oregon and they wouldn’t lose the lead, taking out the three batters they faced in the top of the 10th. Great game. Check the details here if you want to read it with photos.

As a rule, I don’t watch baseball because I find it to be a fairly boring thing to do. It’s like watching a horse race while standing next to the finish line. Nothing really happens until the last straightaway sprint when jockeys jockey for position and the thundering hoof beats impact your entire body, causing your adrenaline to spike, driving your heart rate sky-high. Then, BOOM!, it’s over, and quiet quickly descends on the crowd amid a mixture of cheering and boohoos.

Now we have to wait until next season to see how they do. Odds are in the Beavers’ favor for finishing high in the standings because many of their ace players are returning, including the freshman pitcher, Kevin Abel, who threw a complete game shutout for the final game. Also coming back is the catcher, Andy Rutschman, who set an NCAA championship series record with 17 hits, I think. Maybe 18. He did well.

OK, enough about sports. Now I’ll just make stuff up and see if something moves into the realm of reality.

Even though I could hardly walk due to my annoying sciatica, I can still golf. I don’t get it. All that twisting, turning, and swinging doesn’t aggravate the existing pain. And, I think because the pain slows me down a little, I actually golf better. Funny thing. My last outing with the boys was yesterday and we finished our allotted 9 holes with a 54. Yes, we tied, something we’ve never done before. Now, before you bring up the fact that 54 for a round of 9 isn’t all that great, let me point out that we don’t take golfing all that serious. We’re out there for fun, fresh air, and the lunch that follows the 9th hole. When we’re done and packing up our gear we talk about where we should eat so that’s actually part of the game for us. Generally, we wind up at Burgerville but lately the New Happy Garden restaurant, across from Walmart, next to the Verizon store, has caught our interest.

Today is Tuesday, July 3rd, in case you were wondering. I was, so looked it up. This morning Diane made me get up really early then drove me to the VA Clinic in Hillsboro to donate blood and urine to be analyzed prior to my pending July 11th appointment with Dr. Gilbert. She’s my primary care doctor. Hopefully my sciatica will be all healed up by then because I’m fearful her solution might include some guy with a sharp knife. I’d like to avoid that. I think I’ll beat it because Diane has been very strict with me, making me rest and relax, to let it heal. I thank God for her every day.

On June 23rd, Jennifer’s brother Jeff, and his lovely wife Heather, celebrated their 11th anniversary then on July 1st Jeff’s sister Jennifer, and her lovely husband Daniel, celebrated their 23rd anniversary. Factor in the 50th anniversary that Diane and I recently celebrated, we have a combined total of 84 years of married life. That’s quite significant. We pray there will be many more of those years.

My mind just ran dry so guess I’ll quit for now. I hope everyone is in good health, happy, and that you will all be careful when playing with fireworks tomorrow. Remember – it’s light the match, light the firecracker, throw the firecracker. Some folks seems to get confused in the heat of the moment and throw the match and keep the firecracker. You can always tell past offenders. They’re the ones who can still play Chopsticks on the piano because it only takes 2 fingers.