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Monday, December 24, 2012

Report

For anyone I haven't already seen and reported to, Friday's appointment at Huntsman was good.  I had to drink the nasty contrast stuff (again) and get an IV (again), but after the CT, the oncology team examined the images and came into my exam room with an attitude of celebration.  They were amazed to announce the mass has shrunk some more.  It started out the size of a small orange and is now smaller than a walnut.
I asked when I would feel better.  Dr. Scaffe said that the scar tissue that developed around the mass will take six to 12 months to heal and could cause some residual effects.  She was also concerned about an additional spot on my uterus and advised that we get that biopsied.  She signed me off to the gynaecological center where we were able to get that procedure scheduled for January 4.

So, overall, it was good news.  There are still a couple of questions to answer and some time needed to heal.  I've got another CT scheduled at Huntsman to verify that the tumor completely disappears. But I can tell I am feeling better.  I am eating better.  I've gained about five pounds back.  My legs aren't quite so shaky.  I'm so grateful for improvement!  Thank you for the prayers.  They are being answered!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The next day...

After a long and arduous day at U of U and Huntsman yesterday, Rob brought me home.  We received some good news, yet still felt some disappointment.

The good news:  the mass is a little smaller.  We don't know how much smaller, but the radiologist was so encouraged by that, he opted to not risk the planned biopsy.  Loops of bowel sit between my skin and the tumor.  The University of Utah doctor said the chance of nicking the bowel is high in my case and felt it would be expedient to check the size of the thing again in a couple of weeks.  He recommended getting started on some steroids immediately and sent us back to the oncologist at Huntsman.

As we walked down the hall towards Clinic 2E, I met a lady and her husband coming the other direction.  I recognized her and she recognized me.  We said each others' name as we met.  It was Lezlie Porter Smith.  We went to high school together.  We were on the tall flag team together my senior (her junior) year.  I've recently become Facebook friends with her.  It has been 34 years since we last saw each other.  She was there with her husband who has colon cancer than has metastasized to his liver.  They were there to attempt an experimental treatment, because five rounds of chemo have done nothing.  Talk about putting things into perspective for me!

We waited to visit with my doctors, who looked over images and reconsidered the radiologist's readings, but decided in the end to allow a two week window to see if in indeed the mass is shrinking.  My internist voted against the steroid idea.  Instead, I was given 2 large bottles of contrast to take home and rescheduled for yet another CT on December 21 at Huntsman (instead of the U).  We'll see what happens then.

I was hopeful that I would have a firm diagnosis and a treatment plan in place when I came home.  Patience is a virtue I need to learn.

Thanks for all the prayers.  Tumor shrinkage is an answer to prayers!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

As Suggested (Requested)

Celia approached me very kindly yesterday and asked me to use my blog as a format to inform neighbors and ward members about my health issues, treatments, and prognosis.  Apparently, my poor presidency are taking calls concerning me.  Sorry, Jennie, Celia, and Ann!

I'm heading back to Huntsman Cancer Institute in the morning for a biopsy.  Yes, we have finally made it to step one.  I'm shocked at the time, money, and energy it has taken to get to this point.  But I'm determined not to curse the delay. The Lord must have good cause to wait.  Maybe I'll find out what the reason is.  Probably I won't.

I am still experiencing the burning pain in my abdomen, hot and cold flashes, and weakness in my legs, but my biggest complaint is lack of energy.  I have to force myself to get up and do stuff.  Then I do something and have to sit down and rest.  The pressure is increasing in my stomach region, but I'm also feeling it in my hips and pelvis.  It's the same sensation I remember experiencing when I was pregnant.  It seems to me the tumor is growing and getting heavier.  I'll ask tomorrow.  Perhaps it's all in my head.

Next Friday, December 14, we'll be back at at Huntsman for surgery if the news is good.  To me, surgery next week feels like the best-case scenario. The other options begin with chemo and radiation to shrink the mass before surgery.  I just want the thing out of there.

Thank you for all of your prayers, concern, and kind thoughts.  I have truly felt buoyed up by the love and faith of my friends and family.  Thank you so much!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Request for a Reading

I won't be able to make it to the remainder of my writing classes at Utah State University this semester. I have been diagnosed with a lymphoma and am scheduled at Huntsman Cancer Institute over the next two weeks.  For this reason, I am pleading for feedback on the following piece.  This is to be a part of my final portfolio for Non Fiction Writing.  Unfortunately, I won't have the opportunity to workshop the essay with my classmates.  So I am asking for feedback from anyone who happens to see this.  Please note any suggestions on grammar, punctuation, or content changes that would improve the piece before I submit it next week.

Please be brutally honest and give me constructive criticism to make this essay the best it can be.  Thank you!  

Over-Time Angel

              My dad used to say, "Georgia, you are the most accident-prone person I have ever known."  I believed him.  Good thing for Mike.  On a damp and chilly day in January 1969, a month before my seventh birthday, my family was visiting San Francisco.  I was riding in the camper shell on the back of dad's 1967 robin-egg-blue Ford pickup truck.  Dad had propped a kerosene heater in the corner to warm the camper.  A sudden bump in the road caused the heater to tip spilling kerosene across the plywood floor.  It instantly ignited.  Within seconds,  the camper filled with flames, smoke, and heat. Dad drove obliviously down another hill unaware his truck was on fire.  Pulling myself onto the bed at the front of the camper, I pounded on the window, my eyes and lungs burning.
                 It was a long-haired, bearded, denim-clad man in an orange Dodge Charger driving behind us who recognized my peril before dad did.  He drove alongside the truck forcing dad off the road.  He leapt from his car, pulled open our tailgate, and yanked the burning plywood onto the ground.  Mike peered into the smoke-filled camper shell and met the red-rimmed eyes of the little girl perched on the bed, who thought she was done for.
                Wrapped in a singed blanket, I huddled in mom's lap on the curb while dad cleaned out the camper.  My rescuer walked up and said, "Are you okay? I bet that was scary being in a fire."
                I only nodded; I was too shy to speak.  He didn't tell us his name, but to me he looked like a 'Mike'.  It was the last time I ever saw Mike, but it was not the last time he ever saved me.
                When I was ten years old, I fell into a discarded broken window slicing my wrist to the bone.  While stitching up three veins, a bundle of nerves, and a large flap of flesh, the doctor marveled aloud that I hadn't severed the artery.  I was certain Mike had protected me from bleeding to death.
                At twelve, I leaned a ladder into an old breaker box with glass fuses.  Mike threw me clear at the first spark.  An explosion, fireworks, and unbelievable heat should have fried me on the rungs. The melted metal glob had to be pried off the wall with a 2 x 4.
                Two years later I was given the responsibility of riding Buster, our unruly horse.  Buster was a white stallion with a bad attitude.  He hated being saddled, refused to take a bit, and would sulk the whole time I rode him away from the farm.  The second I turned him back towards home, he bolted.  No amount of yanking on reins or hollering, 'whoa'  could keep him from galloping at a full-out, frenzied hurtle.  He shot under low-hanging tree branches, exploded over ditches and bushes, and darted around barking dogs. It was a battle to stay in the saddle clinging with hands, arms, feet, and legs.  All he wanted was his warm barn and oats and to be free of his saddle and rider. 
                After several days of this madness, Mike put an idea into my head: 'Ride Buster at the rodeo grounds.'  It was brilliant!  I could walk Buster into the large show arena, fasten the gate, and gallop him in a huge circle.  Buster was calm and well-behaved when he couldn't tell which direction home lay.  Of course, he still made a mad dash for home as soon as the gate was opened and we exited the show grounds.
                One day we arrived at the rodeo ring to find three, gaily-painted 50 gallon drums set up in the arena.  I had always wanted to try barrel racing like a beautiful rodeo queen.  I excitedly urged Buster into a canter toward the first barrel.  We circled it.  I pointed him to top of the triangle and barrel number two.  Around it we looped, then on to the third barrel.  We made a wide, sloppy circle to complete the cloverleaf pattern. Then it was a straight shot back to the gate.  Oh, that was fun!  I had to try it again, but this time with some speed.  I wrenched Buster's head back around to face the first barrel.  A kick to the flanks.  We were off.  We quickly slipped around barrel number one.  My adrenaline was pumping as we thundered towards the next one, but disaster struck at the top of the diamond.  We approached too fast and instead of moving to go around the barrel, Buster stopped short and reared.  My body whipped forward, backward, then off onto the ground.  I wasn't injured.  The soil was soft, but I knew instantly I was in trouble.  My cowboy boot was caught in the stirrup and Buster, abandoning my plan of circling the third barrel, bolted straight for the open gate.  My head and body bounced through the plowed earth raising a cloud of dust down the entire length of the arena.  I thought, 'this is how my life will end.'  There was no way I could survive the pounding of being pulled more than a mile across the hard-packed ground, graveled parking lot, paved roads, canals, and rough fields to our farm.
                I tried to sit up and twist my boot out of the stirrup.  I attempted to pull my foot from the boot.  The pressure of being drug by that one foot wouldn't allow for either.  I screamed, "Stop, Buster!"  I caught air as he turned the corner at the mouth of the gate.  It was useless.  There was no stopping him when I was tugging on his reins; with reins flying free, the outcome was inevitable.
                Just as my body hit the edge of the graveled parking lot, Buster stopped.  He came to a full, stand still halt.  I didn't waste a second.  I twisted my boot and pulled it out of the stirrup.  I jumped to my feet.  I expected to see someone holding Buster's reins, but they lay limply on the ground.  I looked around and saw no one.  Buster continued to stand motionless.   I grabbed his reins and led him over to metal rails of the arena.  I leaned against the fence to catch my breath then I stepped up on the bottom rail to scan the vicinity.  Mike wasn't waiting by the grandstands or lurking near the snack bar.  He wasn't sitting on the bullpen or the horse corrals.  I couldn't see him, but I was sure he was there.  Buster continued to wait calmly while I regained my composure and emptied dirt from my boots, shook out my hair, and patted dust from my clothes.  Then, for the first time ever, Buster serenely allowed me to mount.  As we slowly made our way home, I examined each knobby hillock, old tree stump, rock outcropping, and brush ditch bank I should have been drug across, over, and through.  I imagined my little brother, Jim, finding my battered body tethered to Buster by a shattered leg.  I shuddered.
                In the 36 years since that day, Mike has been busy.  There was that Jeep rollover in 1980; a high-speed, rear-end auto accident in'93; and the near-drowning of '96--just to name a few incidents Mike saved me from.  I don't know why Mike first appeared as a scruffy man in San Francisco and I haven't set eyes on him since.  Maybe my older eyes cannot perceive him?  Perhaps he got better at his job and staying out of sight? Someday I will see Mike again--maybe on a cloud in heaven.  I will walk up to him, take his calloused, work-worn hand, and look into his blue eyes.  We will talk about all the times he saved me from accident and injury.  He will tell me about all the other times he saved me when I wasn't even aware I was in danger.   Mike has accrued some serious overtime.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keeping My Promise

A few of my blog readers may know that this past month has been an uphill struggle for me and my family.  Health issues have taken center stage, a thing we haven't really dealt with in the past.  But I told Danielle that I would post the revision of the 'Who Am I Today' essay that I wrote about her miscarriage last month.  Here is that revision.  I apologize for nearly a repeat of the previous post.  I hope you agree that the revisions make it better.  Now, I just need to find a way to revise me so I can get better too.


A Shoulder to Cry On

          I must be a good listener because people confide in me--A LOT.  Standing in elevators and lines, riding on buses or flying in planes, waiting in doctor offices or at the DMV, people trade a few pleasantries with me and then suddenly they start revealing personal stuff I'd rather not know.  Private matters like surgeries and illness they have experienced; rebellious or wayward children who plague their life; or sexual exploits which would cause a sailor to blush.  Often during such exchanges, they become very emotional and require a hug, a pat on the back, and the assurance that it will be okay.  I wonder if I have a tattoo across my forehead that says: 'Shoulder to Cry on'.

            Broad shoulders run in my family.  Both of my brothers have wide, muscular shoulders. Being raised on a farm, we earned our brawny shoulders the hard way. We bucked hay bales, hauled manure, raked and hoed fields, wrestled large animals, and built fences.  But perhaps my brothers and I really inherited our wide shoulders, not from our strong, hard-working dad, but from our teeny, 4'6" mom.  Every time I visit my widowed mother in Arizona, people approach me to say what a kind lady she is and how lucky I am to have her as my mother.  I always agree that I am indeed a lucky daughter and when the stranger turns to walk away, I whisper, "Who was that?"

            Mom responds with: "I don't know, someone who talked to me at the grocery store." or "….at the doctor's office," or "… at church." 

            During a recent visit, my mother had an office desk and credenza listed for sale in a local, on-line classified ad.   A complete stranger came to the house to look at the set, which she eventually purchased, but she stayed for three hours visiting with my mother about all her worries and problems.

            I know my mom has great listening skills and high-quality advice.  I relied on it heavily throughout my childhood and youth.  The junior high school years were an especially traumatic time when my mother gained her best shoulder-to-cry-on experience.

            I appreciated being on the receiving end of my mom's absorbent shoulder. Nearly 29 years ago, I began to comprehend the importance of a mother's shoulder from another perspective. When I had my first baby, I realized how much a small child depends upon a mother's shoulders for comfort and protection.  It's a great place to hide eyes, feel safe, or catch a nap.  Additional understanding of the importance of shoulders to cry on came during the years I was a Nursery Leader.  Being in charge of a room full of toddlers every Sunday, I soaked up more than tears on many shirts, jackets, and dresses.  I learned to never wear dry-clean-only clothing around little ones seeking a safe shoulder.

            After the nursery job, I was called as a Young Women's President.  That was a period of teenage tears sopping my shoulder--adolescent angst produces puddles!  Often the last girl delivered home from an activity sought private attention.  I spent many hours in the front seat of a minivan listening to the woes of youth.  One morning, one of my Young Women appeared on my doorstep at 5:30 in need of a wide, soft shoulder to sob out her sorrows on; my pajamas were soaked that day.

            Currently, I serve as a Ward Relief Society President.  Now in my fifth year in the position, I've lost track of how many tears have waterlogged my shoulders.  Wide, absorbent upper joints must be a prerequisite for the calling. Perhaps I should start wearing blazers and blouses with shoulder pads for additional saturation capacity.  I have been in charge of 25 funerals over the years--that's a lot of potato casseroles, Jello salads, and tears.

            My phone rings multiple times a day, my doorbell chimes several times a week announcing people who want to chat.  Death, divorce, illness, accidents, unemployment, family feuds, and neighbor disagreements, are typical subjects of discussion.  Mostly, I don't have much advice to offer, solutions to proffer, or guidance to give, just these soft shoulders, an embrace, and a heart filled with compassion for the suffering.

            Yesterday, the appeal for a shoulder to cry on came from 3,000 miles away, but was closer to my heart than most requests.  My daughter, who lives in Baltimore, called in utter despair.

            "Mom, I'm in the Emergency Room at the Maryland Medical Center." came the familiar voice across the miles.  "I lost the baby!"

            "Oh, no! I'm so, so sorry, Dani.  Are you okay?"

            "There was so much blood and we just didn't know what to do.  I called my doctor and he said go to the hospital.  Kelly drove me here as quickly as he could, but it was too late."

            "I'm so sorry, but are you okay?"  It is impossible to absorb the tears falling on the other end of a phone call; even willing, capable shoulders can't capture virtual tears.  My arms longed to hold my sobbing daughter.  My heart ached to pull her tight and let our tears mix together over the loss of the child who would have been my first grandchild--a child who was absolutely wanted, patiently waited for, and perfectly planned.

            After regaining her voice, Dani said, "I think this wouldn't be quite so hard if we hadn't just seen the ultra sound pictures and heard the heartbeat four days ago."

            "I know Dani.  I am so sad."

            "We just finished painting the ceiling of the nursery the prettiest shade of yellow on Thursday and we ordered a crib and the sheets and quilt for it last week." Danielle hiccuped into the phone.
            "I'm so sorry, sweetheart." My heart was aching thinking of all the plans already laid out in anticipation of this baby.  I thought of my own small preparations--the cute maternity tops I purchased at the mall last week.  I had addressed the package to Dani last night with plans to drop by the post office on Monday to mail the gift.  My own excitement about this baby was packed in that box of maternity clothes with a pacifier laid on top.  I wouldn't be mailing it on Monday.  That box will go on a shelf along with all the plans for the baby we expected in the spring.

            "I don't know what to do, mom.  How am I going to go back to work?  I just told Principal Manning I was pregnant on Friday and now on Sunday I'm not."

            "Everyone will be sad with you, Dani.  Just tell your principal you had a miscarriage. I'm sure he will make arrangements for your classes and allow you a few days off."

            More tears across the miles.  More sense of loss.  More realization of altered plans.  "I love you, Dani.  Are you and Kelly going to be okay? I'm so sorry this happened."

            "We'll be okay.  Thanks Mom."

            "I wish I could be there for you, Dani.  I love you."

            There is more to being a shoulder to cry on than saying words across a telephone connection.  It involves a personal presence, a physical touch, eyes meeting, and spirits mingling to express love and offer empathy.  As much as I ache for my daughter and her loss, I am hurt that I can't be there to help her carry this burden of sadness. I long to ease some of the load of sorrow from her shoulders onto mine. Sharing the weight of distress is truly what a shoulder is for.

            Today, I need a shoulder to cry on.


P.S.  NOTE, I HAVE HAD TWO MORE FUNERALS BETWEEN THESE TWO POSTS.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who I Am Today (7th Prompt in Nonfiction Class)


            I must be a good listener because people confide in me--A LOT.  Standing in elevators, riding on buses, on long airline flights, waiting in doctor offices, you name it, people talk to me.  They often tell me things I'd rather not know.  I sometimes wonder if I have a tattoo across my forehead that reads, 'Shoulder to Cry on'.
            Broad shoulders run in my family.  Being raised on a farm, I earned my brawny shoulders the hard way. These shoulders of mine are often wet from the tears of people I know and sometimes from people I have just met while they are drenching my shirt.
            Almost 29 years ago when my first son was born, I learned that a child depends upon the shoulder of his mother for comfort.  Mom's shoulder can protect them from strangers and scary situations.  It's a great place to hide eyes or catch a nap.  It is where my nursery and primary children  found relief from pain and humiliation and these upper joints where my arms hook to my trunk, have soaked up stuff other than tears on the shoulders of many shirts, jackets, and blouses.  I learned to never wear dry-clean-only clothing to church.
            I spent a few years as a Young Women's President.  That was a period of teenage tears sopping my shoulder.  Adolescent angst produces puddles!  Girls between 12 and 18  seem habitually in need of an older friend to offer comfort, love, and support.
            Currently I am on my second time around as a Ward Relief Society President.  Now in my fifth year of serving in this position, I can't tell you how many tears have waterlogged my shoulders.  Wide, absorbent shoulders must be a prerequisite for the calling. That is why I've started wearing blazers with shoulder pads.  I have been in charge of 23 funerals over the years.  That is a lot of cheesy potato casseroles, jello salads, and tears.
            My phone rings multiple times a day, my doorbell chimes several times a week announcing people who want to 'chat' about problems.  Death, divorce, illness, accidents, job loss, feuds, and various other mishaps are the typical subjects of discussion.  Mostly, I don't have advice to offer, solutions to proffer, just these soft shoulders and a hug.
            Yesterday, the appeal for a shoulder to cry on came from 3000 miles away, but was closer to my heart than other requests.  My daughter, who lives in Baltimore, phoned to say she had experienced a miscarriage and a horrible emergency room episode.  Just four days after she and her husband viewed the first ultra sound image of their unborn child and heard its heartbeat, the baby was gone.  Dani and Kelly are heartbroken.  I've never wanted to be the shoulder to cry on like I did yesterday.  How I longed to hold Danielle close and hug her and soak up all her tears.  As it was, all I could do was say, "I'm so sorry" and "I love you" over and over.
            I think I  need a shoulder to cry on.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Mental Rabbit - (6th Prompt in Non-fiction Class)


 This essay is called a Mental Rabbit.  The assignment was to think of an item we touch daily and then start writing about it and see where it leads us, like a zig-zagging rabbit running from bush to tree to hole.  This was what I came up with on my rabbit hunt:

             My American Express credit card doubles as my Costco Membership card. I am at Costco at least once a week buying oversized boxes of crackers, enormous bins of fruits, and giant jugs of apple juice, but I also fill our vehicles' gas tanks with Costco gas; print our pictures and refill the printer ink cartridges at the Costco Photo Counter; purchase my children's contact lenses at the Costco Eye Care Center; renew our cell phone coverage at the Costco Wireless Kiosk; even my daughter's wedding cake was made in the Costco bakery. I suppose if I ever require a hearing aid, I'll be making an appointment with the Costco Hearing Center. Both of our televisions in the house and all of the mattresses on our beds were purchased at Costco. We plan vacations, buy airline tickets, and rent vehicles through Costco and pay for everything with our American Express Card--they say, "Membership has its rewards".
           For our last vacation, we flew to Maryland. When we arrived at the BWI (Baltimore Washington International) Airport, we took the shuttle to the car rental center, used our Amex card to pay the rental fees, which automatically provided insurance on the Chrysler Impala we rented from Enterprise. That Impala took us to Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and to Baltimore, Towson, and Annapolis, Maryland. We visited Civil War battlefields, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin's grave, and the Liberty Bell. We admired the DuPont Estate, mourned in the Holocaust Museum, and were amazed at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We also visited the National Zoo, National Cathedral, and all the monuments on the DC Mall. We visited the US Naval Academy and spent a day at Ocean City where the towels were spread on the sand as far as the eye could see; spacious awnings and huge beach umbrellas marking the seasoned beach goers' turf. Miles of boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants behind, the Atlantic Ocean in front. We read, sunned, hunted seashells, splashed, slept, then we took my American Express card and did a little shopping and found fresh seafood for dinner.
           Each night we returned to the Sheraton Hotel in Towson--home base for our daily excursions. We have a Sheraton rewards card, with benefits for members (are you surprised?) We made sure to take in a tour of Inner Harbor, where we looked at tall ships, a WWII submarine, coast guard ship, and the USS Constellation anchored in the Harbor. We have thick, metal tokens, good for life-time admittance to the Constellation at her permanent berth--Constellation Dock, Inner Harbor, Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street, Baltimore. She is the last wind-powered warship built by the U.S. Navy and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994 as the last existing naval vessel from the Civil War.
           Lots of food is required for a family of six traveling in the United States. Luckily, there is a Costco in Baltimore which supplied us with croissants, the makings for sandwiches, big bags of chips, and flats of sodas. We packed lunches and saved a few dollars, but we also ate at restaurants, pubs and fast-food joints. Crabcakes, fresh flounder, and salmon were on the dinner menu; Dunkin' Donuts was a favorite breakfast spot. The Baltimore Orioles played the Pirates at Camden Yards while we were there. Abbey Burger after the game was a loud and boisterous place because the Orioles won. At this pub, the menu is a check list of about a hundred items. You pick your meat--ostrich, alligator, and bison were three of the many choices to select from; you choose the kind of bread/bun from about 10 varieties; and then you choose your toppings from dozens of items. Abbey Burger is home of Baltimore's best burger--my assessment as well as that of Best of Baltimore Magazine. We discovered Trader Joe's and can't wait until we have one of those 'Joes' at home. Every place we went, we looked for the familiar blue and white 'American Express accepted here' sign because we never leave home without it.
           Around my birthday each year, Amex rewards checks are sent out. The one, two, or three percent cash back on purchases made over the past year will be totaled and mailed. We can use our check on Costco merchandise or cash it and used it anywhere else. Isn't that a great birthday gift? I look at our check each year and start figuring what one, two, or three percent translates into as charges on our credit card over the past year, then I think maybe we'll cut back and not buy so much next year. But I start thinking of places we've yet to visit, things we need to do, and start making plans--after all, membership has its rewards.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Hike Around Mantua

On Saturday, we got up early and went for a walk with our friends, the Marsdens, around Mantua Lake.  It was a spectacular morning and we watched the sun rise over the beautiful eastern mountains.  The fall colors are fading a little, but still spectacular, especially when reflected in the lake.

We decided we're going to go in the evening next week and watch the sun set and see it from that perspective.
Cattails and the town of Mantua.

I love the reflection of the colorful hills in the lake.

A spot of color on a gray morning


The Ducks make V shapes in the water when they swim
as well as in the air when they fly.



Several horse pastures on the other side of Mantua Lake

I thought this was the most beautiful photo I took of the lake Saturday morning

The town of Mantua nestled beneath the colorful mountain sides
in Sardine Canyon.

Usually the guys walk behind us, but they passed us
while I was taking photos.

Tima and Margie are great friends and fun walking partners. 


The tree-line east shore of Mantua Lake

This green willow with the fall-colored backdrop made such a pretty picture.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Missing Prompts?

You may have noticed that I have posted a few of my prompts from my Nonfiction Writing Class.  I started with #1, then #2, but then I skipped to #5.  Did you wonder what happened to numbers 3 and 4?  Well, I did write them, but I am not yet at liberty to share at least one of those.  Prompt #3 was "Write a Memoir in Third Person" (which was a lot harder than it sounds!) Prompt #4 was "Write a Contemplative Essay".  I did write a very thoughtful and poignant essay which I plan to post at a certain point when I can do so without getting into trouble.

I'm sorry the prompts and essay numbers are out of order.  For any OCD blog readers who are going crazy because of my missing numbers, I apologize profusely!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Lyrical Essay (Fifth Prompt in Nonfiction Class)


Spheres of Sunshine

            The harvest was bountiful this season.  We prepared well by pruning trees in February and thinning fruit in May. So much time invested, so much labor involved.
Pruning.
Thinning.
Picking. 
            What was sacrificed in thinning made little difference at picking.  The fruit still hung from branches like grapes on vines.  The value of the labor is the limbs saved from fracture under the damaging load and in the spacing allowed each fruit to mature to its greatest potential.
            The ones left, those granted clemency, collect heat and light for safekeeping in ripening flesh under fuzzy skin. The thin peel gathering and swirling the colors of the sun itself, growing larger in size and more tinged by yellows and reds as the days of summer lengthen and warm.
            Finally when the fruit has absorbed all the energy of summer, we pluck them gently from among the leaves.  Set them tenderly into wooden baskets hanging from ladders.  Carry them carefully up to the house.  Select them thoughtfully, the ripest ones first to lengthen out the glorious period of eating them fresh with cream or sprinkled lightly with sugar.  Giving some away, but only to those who truly value  the most wonderful things that grow on trees.
            The tragedy of a ripe one that falls to the ground, bruised, broken; left to ants, wasps, and bees.  A whole year must pass before another will grow in its place. Even broken and battered, some are reverently recovered, ants brushed off, bees shooed away, and bad spots cut out to save the salvageable bits and pieces.
            Jars of jam, pints of nectar, and quarts of halves preserved on shelves like bottled rays of sunlight to carry us through the 11 months when fruit isn't hanging heavy, ripe for the picking. During that depressing period when those available in the market taste traitorously foreign. 
            A peach, the most appealing of all fruit, food of the gods themselves.  The sight of a peach ready to eat glows in an ethereal way; blushing deeply all the way to its pit.   The scent of a fresh, tree-ripened peach  stays in human memory filed under the most pleasurable of reminiscences.  And the taste of the last precious peach of the season must carry one through the long months of ice and snow; of scarcity and deprivation; of bare branches, stacked, empty crates, buckets and baskets; and the waiting until sunshine can be harvested once again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Memoir (Second Prompt in my Nonfiction Writing Class)



Federal Offences


The statute of limitations is now past so I can divulge details of a federal offence which occurred a number of years ago.

My mother rarely went to the post office, she usually sent my brothers or me into town to collect our mail.  One summer day Jim and I went together on this errand and found ourselves at the post office during the lunch hour, with the postmaster’s window pulled down and no one around.  We adeptly twisted the dial and clicked opened our mailbox, number 119,  the highest number located in lowest corner on the wall.  Then, because we were seven and ten and unsupervised, we started trying to open the other 118 boxes.  We discovered that if you turned the dial while pushing against the little release knob, you could 'feel' when the combination clicked.  The first couple of boxes took us several minutes to master, but within 20 minutes, we had 7 rows of 17 little, brass and glass doors unlocked and all standing at an 90ยบ angle to the wall. At that exact moment, Howard Hardy, the Postmaster walked in from his lunch break.

Jim and I knew we shouldn't have been messing around, but were shocked at Mr. Hardy's reaction. He was normally a very congenial, kind and soft-spoken man, but on this occasion, his face turned deep red, his voice grew strident;  he bellowed: "No one except a certified mail carrier is allowed to handle the US mail." Then he screeched:  "It is a FEDERAL CRIME for anyone to mess with the mail."  We pointed out we had not touched a single letter; we had only opened the boxes.  Our argument did nothing to calm Mr. Hardy or persuade him of our innocence.  His verbal tirade went on as he considered what to do with us.

After exhausting his voice, Postmaster Hardy croaked at us to close all the mailboxes, turn each dial at least one full rotation, promise to never, ever do that again, and sent us home.  Jim and I retrieved our own letters and started down Main Street with our heads hanging down and our feet dragging along the ground.  You never saw such a pair of contrite federal offenders. 

For the rest of the years I lived in Hinckley, I shirked mail duty whenever possible. When forced to do that job, I dashed in, grabbed it quickly and ducked back out hoping to not be seen. Even with limited dealings with mailboxes, my fingers itched to turn those tiny, brass dials.  I craved to open those little, windowed doors, but because of the pledge I had made, I never opened another persons' mailbox again.  Who knows what I may have become if a dedicated postal worker had not put an end to a terrible tendency?

Perhaps next time you are in a post office, you could thumb through those 'wanted' posters and if you flip back far enough, maybe you’ll come across the yellowing, tattered page with 10- and 7-year-old faces of the federal mail criminals who broke into over a hundred mailboxes in their scandalous career one summer day in 1972.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Why I Write (First prompt in my Nonfiction Class)


            Thanksgiving 2012 will mark six years since Ron Shumway passed away. In life he was a harsh, outspoken man; impossible to please and constantly finding the negative in every situation. He was loud, abrasive, and hurtful in his words and tone. For a period of  years in my adult life I avoided all contact with my dad because his pessimism took me to a dark place I didn't like.
            In the early 1990s I set up an email account and began a regular correspondence with my mother. One day I received an email message from dad. He had been reading my emails to mom and he responded simply, "You are a good writer." Shortly afterwards and for a number of years,  he sent me brochures, magazine clippings, and newspaper notifications requesting writing samples for possible publication, but I was in the midst of raising kids, running the PTA, and still holding a grudge so I didn't respond to his suggestions. I also doubted the validity of the offers and my capacity to contribute anything of value. I did; however, reopen communication with my dad.
            Six years ago when he was struggling with and dying from cancer, "You are a good writer" became lodged in my head and it has been there ever since. It was truly the first and only compliment I ever remember receiving from my father. Suddenly it became my mission to authenticate his assessment of my skill. Since then, I've taken every opportunity to write. I started a blog, I wrote grant applications for schools and nonprofit organizations, I struck up a conversation with a newspaper editor and started writing weekly columns and special interest stories, and recently I returned to school working towards a degree in Creative Writing.
            Writing seems to be the one thing I have an affinity for. I can more easily express myself in a written format than by any other mode of communication. When I have composed a lovely sentence, paragraph, or page, it brings me joy which is rarely duplicated by other tasks. I write to remember and record. I write to convey feelings or sentiments or moods. I write because something inside me desires to find its way out.  I write because it is the connection I have with my dad. He recognized writing was something I needed long before I did. His confidence in my ability to string words together on a page established a father/daughter relationship which spanned the last 20 years of his life and granted me the opportunity to love and respect him beyond life.
            Since dad died, each phrase I construct, each sentence I craft is, at least in some part, directed to him. It is a marvelous and miraculous thing to feel his approval. For me, writing not only converses with the living, but also communes with the dead.

Friday, August 24, 2012

End of Summer 2012

The corn is done and it's time to pull it out.

The squash plants are huge and prolific.
The Hollyhocks are spent and I cut them down.
I've started picking peaches and bottling produce.
Chili Sauce, Raspberry Juice and Zucchini Relish I bottled yesterday.

New blooms on the front porch.

The flower pots are full of color and so beautiful right now.
Coleus of many shades (I wish I could make this photo go the right direction)

Loaded Tomato Vines

Raspberries galore!

We delivered Camille to Logan to attend USU.  
Back to school for me too.  I will be driving to Logan
three days a week this semester.
Wish me luck!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Utah Olympic Park II

One year ago today, we took a trip up the canyon to spend the day at Utah Olympic Park.  I blogged about it here.  Yesterday we went again.  We had had another fabulous day.  Camille invited her friend, Kallie, to go with us and Bryan came this year so I would have someone to ride with on the chairlift and zipline. We purchased the unlimited passes and did everything at least once.
Camille and Kallie when we arrived at Olympic Park
in front of the Ski Jump Pool
It was another fabulous August day. The high temperature in Park City was only 87, and with clouds floating past the sun, we received periodic shade throughout the day so we never felt too hot or uncomfortable.  The ski lift threaded us through the trees on the leisurely ride up the mountain and a soft breeze kept the lift rides cool and relaxing so we arrived at the top ready for the hair-raising races down the alpine slide or xtreme zipline.
Camille and Kallie in the Chairlift
After a run on each of the rides, we took a break and ate our picnic lunch.  After refueling we were ready for a couple more runs and then up the mountain in the Jeep for the Bobsled ride.  I opted out of this particular thrill. My neck gives me trouble every day since I was rear-ended while stopped at a light in 1993, so I skipped the opportunity to fly down the mountain at 70-80 miles an hour in a four-man bobsled.  Bryan, Camille, and Kallie were game for the chance though. They got suited (helmeted) up, were instructed on how to sit, what to hold on, and how to keep breathing for the one minute ride down the long track. Bryan was invited to help push bobsled #15 before he climbed into the next sled with the girls.
Helmeted for the Bobsled Ride
Bryan doing a Bobsled Pushstart
Loaded and ready to roll 80 mph down the mountain track
The score/time board is running for each of the bobsled rides.  It shows the number of runs each day and then ranks each ride.  Bryan, Camille, and Kallie were sled #16 for the day and at the end of their ride, they were ranked #1!  We are pretty certain they hold the world record in warm-weather bobsledding now!  Yay, gold medals!! 
Number 1 Ranking belongs to Bryan, Kallie, and Camille!
Back to the top after the Bobsled run
After the Bobsled Run - Fastest of the Day!
Utah Olympic Park makes for a fun day trip. In addition to the great rides, they have added a junior and an adult ropes course and are working on another attraction that will be open next summer.  The only problem we had was wanting to stay longer and continue to play, but the park closes at 6:00.  Bryan had plans for the evening so we didn't linger and shop at the outlet stores this time like we did last year.  We have an excuse to go back! 
Chairlift to Zipline

Kallie ready to slide on Quicksilver
Chairlift to Quicksilver Alpine Slide
                

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Skunked

            My morning routine begins while it is still dark with a few laps around the track at Weber High School. I typically walk up the hill, stretch, and jog 10-12 laps, but this past Monday as I started my first circuit, I saw something in the shadows moving towards me. Most days I wouldn't be overly concerned because there are joggers, cats, deer, mice, owls, rabbits and other wildlife often making use of the track; but on this day the animal ambling towards me was distinctive in its waddle and double white body stripe. I came to a screeching halt, turned the opposite direction, and ran. I am almost positive that had I been running alongside the Olympic track athletes at that moment, I would have taken the gold medal in the Monday Morning Dash and possibly set a new world record in the event.
            When I finally slowed to a walk, the memory of a Millard County skunk floated into my memory like a bad smell. I wish I had been able to run away from that one and the scent that lingered for days back in 1979.
            We knew our chickens were receiving a late-night caller in the form of some kind of clawed, egg-loving animal. My dad was on alert and had his gun ready on the third night of disturbances. He rushed out into the dark when the chickens started making noises; the rest of us were awakened by shots. I'm not sure which sense first warned my father of type of critter he had killed, but when he came in, he gruffly instructed my brothers and me, "Go out and bury the skunk I killed in the coop."
            All of Hinckley had to have been aware a skunk was in town that morning--it reeked! Jim, Mark, and I took a flashlight and a shovel down to the chicken coop but could not believe our poor, watering eyes when we saw the size of the thing lying in the dirt. The chickens were all huddled in a corner terrified by the racket or possibly nearly asphyxiated by the stench. The surrounding air was so saturated with scent that it appeared yellow, felt wet, and tasted nasty! The closer we got to the toxic cloud the more painful it was to breathe and see.
            In that terrible atmosphere, we debated over the pros and cons of digging the hole close to the coop so we wouldn't have to move the skunk far OR of digging the hole across the lot from the coop where the air quality was slightly better, but we would have to move the body further. We opted to dig a hole close to the coop, but first we ran back to the house and got wet towels to cover our eyes, noses and mouths. We each took turns holding our breath and digging a few scoops then handing the shovel to the next one while we stepped away and breathed through the wet cloth. When we finally had a sizeable hole, we staggered into the chicken run and forced the blade of the shovel under the skunk to drag him through the coop, out the door, and into our waiting hole. We were surprised at the heft of the dead skunk and argued about how much he weighed through moans, groans, and streaming eyes. Unfortunately our hole wasn't near big enough for the huge creature. We stuffed him in as best we could and started mounding dirt on top, hoping a good Millard County breeze would start clearing the air and that hot showers would cleanse the smell from us. As I recall, it took quite a number of windy days and scalding showers to finally deodorize our property and our hair of that scent.
            Walking home Monday without having completed my morning ritual, my eyes started watering and the back of my throat felt oily from that memory. Then I thought about how fast I had just run and the cardio workout I had experienced without even making one full trip around the track. I realized that a skunk could be a powerful Olympic training tool. What great motivation to move fast! Records are bound to be smashed with that kind of stimulus! Watch out Rio de Janeiro in 2016!
            

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

First Security Bank


            There must be many people throughout Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming who own sets of Cherbourg French Lead Crystal glasses just like the beverage, champagne, and wine goblets that currently sit in my china cabinet. I use them for Sunday dinners and holiday meals when family and company gather. For many years, these glasses were stored in their original white cartons with black lettering the way they came boxed from First Security Bank. 
            During the 1970s, 13 banks and 153 branch offices comprised the First Security Corporation. It was the 59th largest bank in the nation. The tellers, bookkeepers, and secretaries of the Delta branch remember how much work was involved to balance their credits and debits, just like banks always have, but unlike more modern banks, they had to do it without relying on the aid of computers. Long-time employee, Anna Lee Hepworth says that when she worked at First Security Bank, it closed at 2:00 pm but employees labored with the cash and checks and 10-key machines until 5:00, accounting for every penny. There were many more checks to deal with in former days than there are now with today's electronic banking and credit card expenditures. The many checks had to be sorted alphabetically, all deductions and payments accounted for, and every deposit posted. Each transaction was verified and run through two systems of posts and statements, again with both obliged to come out perfectly balanced before employees could leave for the day. Yet, with all the time and toil required to do this job, Mrs. Hepworth says she found great joy in the work, the camaraderie of the employees, and staying busy all day.
            Former employees of the Delta branch boldly proclaim it was 'the best bank with the best people in the world'. Anna Lee found pleasure in her employment there, praised the fine managers she worked under, and loves the great friends she made and has maintained throughout the years. Several of these former employees continue to meet monthly for lunch.  The 'Bank Ladies' look forward to the chance to get together each month and preserve the friendship they formed back in the days at First Security Bank. While they eat, they visit about their families and activities; they also reminisce about things that happened while they were working together. Recently they recalled that when First Security moved to its new location in 1972, the big, heavy safe was placed on a wheeled cart and pushed and pulled along the sidewalk on Main Street to its new home. What a sight that must have been!
            I remember going with my mom to the bank with my passbook and a check or cash to deposit. The tellers were always friendly and kind no matter how small the amount or the customer. They would take the money and mark the new account total in my little blue book. I remember the vault where the safe deposit boxes were located and the numbered metal boxes, which required two keys to open. I remember those "premiums" offered during the late 1970s for savings account deposits. First Security Bank offered two china dishes or two crystal glasses for each $50.00 deposited in a savings account. Over the past 35 years my goblets and my memories of First Security Bank have remained sparkling clear. I now lift a glass in tribute to the Delta Branch of FSB and the wonderful people who served the community so well and made banking there such a pleasure. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Not Exactly Rodeo Queen Material


           When I was thirteen years old, I had a horse named Buster. The defining attribute of this animal was his attitude. Buster was naughty! Lynn Talbot, who lived across the street, said that Buster need to know who was in charge, but Buster always knew exactly who was in charge--he was! Mr. Talbot loaned me a saddle and bridle until I could purchase my own, but I could not get Buster to take a bit, so Lynn exchanged the bridle for a hackamore, with the admonition that I would have even less control of this horse without a bit between his teeth to remind him of who was in charge. 
            It was exhausting getting Buster ready to ride. He would kick and stomp his hooves and throw and thrust his head, he would step away from me just as I would lift the saddle onto his back, and he would snap his teeth at me as I mounted. Once I was on his back, he would buck a time or two before he would finally submit to the yanking of reins and kicking of flanks.
            To put it mildly, Buster was reluctant to be ridden. I could persuade him to walk and at times cajole him into a trot. I rode Buster all over town trying to convince him that I was in charge, but a slow pace was all he could muster, at least until I turned him toward home. Once Buster sensed I was done fighting him, he would gallop at a terrifying speed back to the house. Both Buster and I would arrive home in a lather, he from his furious hurtle and me from just hanging on.
            The one place I could ride Buster with less aggravation was the rodeo grounds. There, he was willing to canter around the arena without all the work or the out-of-control, mad dash when we turned towards home. Perhaps riding in circles kept him wondering which way home was. We were relaxed and he was relatively well-behaved…at least until we exited the ring. Once we went through that gate, all bets were off and so was Buster, recklessly racing back to his hay and to be rid of his rider. This was our routine for several months.
            One day as we rode into the arena, I was thrilled to see three barrels placed in the familiar triangle figure for barrel racing and I decided we were going to try it like the beautiful rodeo queens and grand horses I had watched in that arena over the years. I urged Buster forward and we trotted through the clover-leaf pattern of the three barrels finishing with a quick gallop back out the gate (because he thought we were heading home)...FUN! I had to try that again, but this time with some real speed. I drove the heels of my boots into Buster’s sides and forced him to gallop at an angle to the right side of the arena to barrel number one…around we went! Pulling hard, I convinced him we were headed to barrel number two and then things went south. As we rounded the barrel, Buster reared and I slipped from the saddle and fell into the soft soil of the rodeo arena. Even though the fall didn't injure me, I instantly knew I was in trouble because my boot was caught in the stirrup and Buster took off pulling me along. He abandoned the plan to circle the third barrel and was heading straight for the open gate. My head and body were bouncing up and down through the plowed ground making a cloud of dust as he drug me the full length of the ring. I was certain this was the end; I couldn't see how to survive that kind pounding when we came to the gravel and then paved roads, the ditches, rocks, bushes and other hurdles we would cross between the rodeo grounds and home--which is where I knew Buster was heading at a dizzying speed.
            I was struggling with all my might to free my foot from the boot OR my boot from the stirrup as we flew through the gate of the arena. I was screaming at Buster to stop, yet I knew it was completely futile. Just as we entered the parking lot, Buster came to a sudden halt…He just stopped. I didn’t waste a second, without the pressure of being pulled by my foot; I could rotate the boot and extricate it from the stirrup. I jumped to my feet, fully expecting someone to be standing there holding Buster’s loose reins. But there wasn’t anyone there, at least no one I could see.
            Buster allowed me to easily remount and then he calmly walked out of the parking lot and turned onto the road. It was the first time he ever returned home at anything less than a frenzied gallop. As we made our way home, I reflected on the magnitude of what had just occurred and what very well could have happened. I imagined the pain I would have experienced being pulled by one foot along this road, I envisioned my family finding my broken and bloodied body. I started shaking as these images played through my brain. I was still trembling while I unsaddled Buster, toweled him down, and gave him oats. I patted his head and went into the house marveling that I was alive.
            Since then, I have come to the realization that I have a guardian angel. I have experienced other miraculous interventions which have prevented serious injury or death. I am certain my guardian angel has had to work harder and put in more time than her counterparts. She is certainly due a great deal of overtime pay on reckoning day.