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.

Maryssa’s Graduation and Other Stuff

Diane’s Wandering Dog, Ziva, was delivered back to the house about 0900 this morning after visiting the neighborhood below us. When I answered the door, a lady in running gear was holding her collar and explained that she was on North Vernonia Road, a very busy place. The lady said Ziva was a sweetheart and turned to run up the street when she started talking to her so she followed her. When she got to our yard she sat down and waited for her. She knocked on the door to ensure this was indeed ‘home’ for her. Nice neighbor. I think the reason she turned for home is because I whistled for her. She always comes back to the whistle. Sometimes it takes a while. I suspect she’s just out looking for a better place to live. Maybe someplace where there’s an RV and a young family who would take her everywhere with them. We didn’t take her on our last trip so I suspect she’s miffed and letting us know.

Old oldest dog, Panzee, has apparently recovered from a terminal case of arthritis in her left hip. Just a couple of weeks ago she came up lame to the point where we thought it was time to visit the vet to see if it’s time to send her on her way. But, she never indicated that she was in pain so we left her alone and gave her Rimadyl (dog ibuprofen) twice a day. Expensive stuff – $2 a pill. But, she’s family, so it’s OK. Letting her work it out turned out to be the right thing to do because after nearly going to the Great Beyond, she managed to work out her kinks and is currently getting around with just a minor limp. Before, she could hardly put any weight on it. Now she runs like nothing’s wrong. Amazing. I believe she’s living proof that if you don’t move it, you lose it. Lots of times I wish I was as smart as our dogs. So does Diane. I think Diane thinks I’d be a lot less prone to injure myself if I didn’t have opposing thumbs. She tried to trick me one time by taping my thumbs to my hand when I was asleep. She said she just wanted to see if I noticed the difference but boy did I fool her. I figured it out right away when I went to the bathroom and discovered that I couldn’t rip off a piece of toilet paper like normal. I believe she regretted that decision and hasn’t tried it again, as far as I know.

Speaking of questionable hips, I’ve got a couple. Now, I don’t mean to share this information as if I’m complaining, which I’m often accused of doing. No, I’m simply sharing facts as I know them. With regard to hips, I may have mentioned that I occasionally contract a semi-case of near-terminal sciatica and have successfully combatted it’s spread with frequent naps. The reason for previous naps may not have inferred the reason, but now you know. When I nap, I heal. We all do. I think.

Anyway, our BIG event this last week was a trip to Eastern Oregon to attend Maryssa’s graduation from Eastern Oregon University, in La Grande. She got a job in Albany, Oregon as a 3rd grade teacher at Waverly Elementary (I think) so things are going well for her.

The graduation ceremony was the 2nd one of the day for EOU students and was held in  a big auditorium that looked suspiciously like a gym with chairs all over the floor for the graduates, and extremely hard bench seats for the masses who attended. To ensure we’d get a seat, we arrived early.

Arriving early wasn’t difficult because we drove our RV to the Wild Horse Casino RV Park near Pendleton where we spent Friday night. We arrived at a reasonable hour thinking we might give the casino buffet a chance when Steffani and Maryssa both called to find out where we were. We explained where we were and Maryssa told me, “well, I’m just going by Wild Horse right now and we’re going to have dinner at Rooster’s Roadhouse in Pendleton. Turns out that Matt (Maryssa’s favorite male person in the world) was arriving with his family from Salem and were staying in Pendleton and everyone available was going to meet them. We were invited. I had just finished hooking everything up and the water heater had been on just long enough that I got a warm shower without having to dilute the hot with cold water to avoid burning off the first couple layers of skin. Having full hook-ups made that possible.

We arrived at Rooster’s right on time to find a herd of people waiting near the front door. Joining them, and passing around platitudes, we learned that Matt and family hadn’t yet arrived so we stood and waited for their arrival. It was a short wait.

Once in the restaurant we were ushered to a back room where we discovered even more people that we know, like brother Jim and Donna, and Bob’s parents. Bob is Maryssa’s dad. In all, once everyone was seated, there were 15 people at one long table.

Going down the left side, and back on the right, we have: Bob & Mary (Maryssa’s Grandparents), Me and Diane, Steffani (Maryssa’s Mom), Mia & Tom (Matt’s and David’s Folks), Bob (Maryssa’s Dad), Bogie (Bob’s Friend and Maryssa’s fake Uncle), Tyler (Maryssa’s Brother), Maryssa, Matt, David, Donna & Jim (Maryssa’s Other Grandparents). Hope that clarifies things.

The dinner was great but I caught a little grief when I commented to the waiter that I found it interesting they could cook a tenderloin to perfection and only get it luke-warm. But, it was good and I ate it all.

After dinner we parted ways and headed for our assigned abodes, some in Pendleton and some in La Grande (47 miles away).

The next morning we drove to THE EVENT and immediately connected with others in the group and captured good seats in the 18 that earlier arrivals (Steffani and Stefany) had reserved which was totally against the rules. I sat next to Donna and right behind Stefany (Daniel’s Fiancé and Maryssa’s Other Brother). We had fun talking with each other, adding our voices to the gathering crowd, and just relaxing. On those cold, hard benches, previously mentioned, which brings us back to the cause of my sciatica situation. Again, I’m not complaining, just explaining. To lighten the mood, Steffani gave us a look at a couple of sides of her personality:

I’m sure I’ll be blamed for instigating this, but that’s OK. Steffani has been well-trained through frequent exposure to her Uncles.

We mostly sat there for four hours, maybe five, seemed like six, and I actually wasn’t aware of the severity of my situation until the graduation was over when I stood up to leave the area. Prior to that, Maryssa received her diploma and was blessed with her BA in Elementary Education.

She ran down the ramp …

Posed for one last photo, and headed for the exit.

Her Mortarboard. The reference to Cleats is about her collegiate career as a stellar softball player. She ended her career at EOU with a game-winning, bottom of the 7th, Home Run in her last time at bat. What a way to go.

I took this one because I like the way her hair looked.

One last Coy Look before morphing into a Professional Teacher.

M&M – Matt & Maryssa

 

Interesting rock sculpture that Diane wanted to capture.

Us and Maryssa – one last touch …

Diane’s graduation gift to Maryssa; a cooler full of strawberry freezer jam. She had some at our house years ago and Diane never forgot. It was the perfect gift.

After that, we headed back to Pendleton to rest one more night before heading home on I-84. My little sciatica bones were absolutely killing me and thinking about the drive didn’t help.

Long story short … I drove for a couple or three hours of the planned five-hour trip then stopped and rested for a while. Couldn’t dally long because we had a date in Scappoose with the Walters family (minus Lydia and Ceiarra who drove to Nampa for Maryssa’s Graduation Party, taking a detour through Lewiston on the way – another story).

First, we met at Ixtapa for dinner then planned to go to the Incredible’s 2 movie. It took forever for our food to arrive making us wonder if we’d make the movie on time, but it worked out. The upside of eating first was that we didn’t spend $50 on popcorn and drinks at the movie.

I sat next to Jeran and he put up with a lot of fidgeting from me as I had to keep changing positions so I wouldn’t cry. The seats were soft, but the position wasn’t good. I hurt.  Still, I enjoyed the movie. We all did. Even Jeran who’s seen it about six times. It was a good, fun evening out with the Fam. I regret that I didn’t get any photos of everyone at the dinner, but you’ve seen them before. Just close your eyes and visualize Me, Cedric, Stephen, Jeran, Daniel, Jennifer, and Diane.

Then, home. When we got there Diane gave me half a Vicodin and I went to bed early. Slept all night, to 0430 when the dogs got up. Let them out, fed them, then found a position on the sofa that didn’t hurt. When Diane got up she gave me a whole Vicodin and I slept most of the day away, healing. I had to heal sufficiently to enable me to go play golf the next day. Oddly enough, as bad as my sciatica hurt me, swinging a golf club doesn’t hurt.

Now my story is done.

Party, Yard Work, and Strawberries

As previously reported, Jeran Daniel Lynn Walters was officially ushered into adulthood when he participated in his class graduation ceremony last Friday. In truth, it was really official at the conclusion of his graduation party hosted by his family Sunday afternoon. Everyone cleaned, Daniel cooked, and Jennifer did the “Mom Thing”, flittering around, organizing, and making sure everything was OK. It was.

It was a gala event that included everyone important in his life including his kindergarten and first grade teachers.

The food was terrific, especially with the introduction of something Lydia made after watching YouTube. It’s called an Avocado Bomb and looks like this before cooking:

If memory serves me correctly, it’s a peeled avocado, cut in half and filled with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in a packed layer of ground beef, then secured into place with as many pieces of bacon you want to use. They were cooked on the BBQ and slathered with BBQ sauce when done, about 40 minutes. Lydia isn’t a fan of ground beef so used ground turkey instead but everyone loved them anyway. When I first saw them I thought it was just a bunch of bacon wrapped around a bunch of bacon.

Unlike Lydia, I’m not a fan of ground turkey but I sliced off a chunk anyway. It was really good.

For more photos and information about the party, visit Jennifer’s Facebook page.

Today the dogs felt it was OK to wake me up at 0400. I know they do that because that’s when it starts getting light here and another reason I don’t like daylight savings time. Dogs just don’t get it.

I got up, fed them, and released them into the neighborhood. Actually, I released them into the back yard, but they have access to the neighborhood from there and occasionally choose to exercise that option. After eating my morning banana and taking my pills, I welcomed the dogs back into the house. The cat showed up and came in with them, ate a few crunchies, then went right back out on the porch to glare at the yard. She does that every morning. She’s always on the wrong side of the door. Because she does that it makes getting comfortable difficult for me because about the time I’m ready for my morning nap she starts beating on the door. Literally. Thankfully, this time of year, I can just leave the door open for her. Then I napped until Diane got up.

Diane got up early this morning to clean up 24 hallocks of strawberries that we got at Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island after church yesterday. I added a link for “hallock” because you won’t find it in the dictionary. At least I couldn’t. But, it’s one of those words from my youth when it was OK for kids to do manual labor in Oregon. The link pretty much tells my story with regard to that subject so I won’t elaborate except to share that 1 hallock is about 1 pint. When I was picking berries, I could easily eat 2 or 3 hallocks of berries during the course of the day. That’s totally a guess because the strawberries that were eaten were always the biggest and best ones I found. Also, if I found my carrier magically full and I still had, say, 10 feet to go on my row, I’d just eat my way to the end. I say “magically” because I was very slow. Everyone, especially my brothers, were way faster than me and earned a lot more. The money we earned picking berries went toward school clothes. My brothers got lots of stuff. I got socks and underwear.

While Diane was working on the berries, I went around the yard killing blackberries and pulling grass. Since it rained quite hard yesterday, and a little this morning, it reminded me of berry picking … sticking my nice warm hands into those cold wet strawberry bushes. It was brutal. Today I had gloves, though, so it wasn’t so bad.

In the end I had this much stuff for the burn pile:

When looking at it the thought occurred to me that I either needed a bigger trailer, or I should make more than one trip to the burn pile.

Of course I discarded that thought because the trailer was already loaded and I wasn’t going to expend more energy unloading some before giving it a shot.

I almost made it all the way. Had I skirted around that last blueberry bush a little wider this wouldn’t have happened. Turns out I had enough energy to hurk the part that escaped over to its proper place.

But that was apparently the last of my energy because I fell on the lawn mower when mounting it to go back to the house. Yes, I fell on it, not off it. It was one of those slow motion moments where you think you have event under control but you really don’t.

In this case, my right foot was obstructed by the mower deck (I didn’t lift it high enough) and I knew something interesting was going to happen so I calmly grabbed hold of the steering wheel with my l left hand. This caused a rotation toward the right causing my right knee to land on the running board which I thought ended the falling process so I let go of the steering wheel. Some physics genius probably could have warned me that letting go of the steering wheel would result in a pivot on that knee to my right because of my unstable weight distribution in that direction and the fact that I was still moving slowly to my right.

So now I’m slowly turning to my right, headed for a header in front side of the mower deck with nothing to hang on to. I’m reaching out, and touching a lot of ‘things’, but nothing I could grip and I just went down, turning slowly, until I finally landed on my back next to the mower. It was quite exciting as my mind whirled with all the possibilities of which part of my body was going to get hurt the worst from all the projections in close vicinity.

I lay there for a few moments, assessing the damage, and going over the sequence of events that brought me to that moment. Nothing seemed to hurt and I couldn’t see any blood dripping off my hands and arms, so figured I must have missed all the things that usually make me bleed when I just bump them. It was amazing!

Had anyone been watching they would have found it pretty entertaining. I was kind of wishing someone had been there to capture it on video so I could enjoy it myself. From start to finish I bet it took 10 seconds for me to reach the ground. That’s slow. Normally when I … when someone falls it’s way quicker than that.

After a bit I rolled over and slowly attained a vertical position without detecting any new injuries, then climbed on the mower without mishap and drove back to the house. I figured that fall was a sign my work day was done and put everything away. Then I went in the basement door, took all my clothes off near the washer, and went upstairs to take a shower. I couldn’t hear any strange voices up there so figured we didn’t have company so I was safe.

Diane was still working on the strawberries when I got out of the shower so I tried to help but she wouldn’t let me. Had she allowed me to help I would have gladly taken the blame for this …

Apparently strawberries increase in volume when you beat them up with a Cuisinart. Actually, she’d gone through the process without mishap 2 or 3 times previously so it was just “one of those things.” No permanent damage was done. That was some sticky stuff, let me tell ya.  I offered to clean it up but was denied again. The end results will be something we’ll enjoy for a long time. 

This last photo is for Ruth, and anyone else who loves mountains. It’s for Ruth especially, however, because she tried to capture it every day of the two weeks she recently spent with us and it was just never out for viewing. So, Ruth, here you are… Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. And a lovely view of a new neighborhood in progress.

I’m done now.