Posts Tagged ‘Summer in Oysterville’

Names and Numbers

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Nyel’s Door

The more time we spend around doctors and hospitals, the more we realize how little we know.  I sometimes think we should all be born with an instruction manual attached.  One with an up-to-date glossary and lots of diagrams.  It almost seems like a cruel joke that in all of the millennia of human existence, we still are breaking new ground with regard to our own care and repair and — very few of us know even the basics.

Right now, for instance, we are waiting for a decision by Nyel’s doctor which will be based on the numbers revealed by his 4:30 a.m. blood draw.  We were told, within an hour of the draw, that the results show a reduction in numbers for both his INR and creatinine but, until the doctor weighs in, no one knows whether those numbers (especially the INR) have reduced enough.

We feel “very much accomplished” at this point just knowing a tad about ‘creatinine’ and ‘INR.’   Creatinine – a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body and can be used as one indicator of kidney function.  INR – an abbreviation for reporting the results of blood coagulation tests.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Terminology is a steep learning curve in itself – never mind the numbers, levels, and upward or downward trends involved.  Like every other niche in life, the medical profession has its own vocabulary – most of which we lay-persons learn about on a need-to-know basis.

Terminology and  complex definitions notwithstanding, though, what it all boils down to for Nyel (and the part that concerns him the most!) right now is that the sign outside his door says NPO.  Translation:  Nothing by Mouth.  Further translation: nothing to eat or drink after midnight last night because a ‘procedure’ is scheduled for one o’clock this afternoon.  The big question is, has that pesky INR level lowered enough so that it’s safe for the procedure to be done.  And, if not, can he get some breakfast?

Nyel is a great believer in the adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  He is remarkably accepting of the NPO designation when needed but is feeling a little anxious that perhaps the procedure will not take place today, after all.  In which case, presumably, he can eat until midnight tonight and precious meal time is being wasted as he waits!  One thing for sure – there is nothing wrong with the man’s appetite!

Hunches, Inklings, and Glimmers… Oh My!

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Ready and Waiting

Of the two of us, Nyel is the ‘just the facts’ one.  He’s not much for surmising or second-guessing, or speculating.  So, yesterday morning when he said, “…and you probably should bring an overnight bag…” I didn’t question his judgement. Meds, cosmetics, toothbrush, a couple of changes of clothes and my trusty computer went along with us to his appointment with his cardiologist.  When Nyel has a hunch, I’ve found it best to listen.

It was a regularly scheduled appointment but…   as it turned out, Nyel was absolutely right.  After a brief meeting with the doctor, he arranged for a bed in the cardiac unit at Emanuel Hospital and here we are.  Again.  Probably until Tuesday.  I think it’s the seventh time since last Christmas.

Solar Eclpise 1999

This time, the plan is to bring in a team of specialists and to run a series of tests to find out why in the world Nyel has been on this revolving door plan between hospital and home.  At the end of each stay here, everything looks good; a few days at home and not good at all.  Perhaps, the doctor says, it’s because one of his key meds is being delivered by IV in the hospital and orally at home.  Perhaps his system is having trouble absorbing the oral delivery. That’s his hunch, anyway.  And that’s what he hopes to determine.  We aren’t sure what that might mean but, presumably, if they can find out the cause of the problem, then a more effective plan for treatment can be developed.  We feel a glimmer of hope.

Meanwhile, as we watched the news last night we suddenly realized that we may well be here in the big city for the eclipse on Monday.  Damn!  I was planning to do a little chicken research that day.  I had thought that I’d park myself out by the coop for an hour or so on either side of the magic two minutes of totality and see what our girls do.  Will they go to roost?  And will they ‘wake up’ when the light level returns?  I’m pretty sure they will… but it’s just an inkling.  I’ve asked them, but they don’t seem to have a plan.  Or even know what I’m talking about.  Not a glimmer.

Safety First!

In a way, though, we are hoping for a late rather than early discharge.  We are thinking that the traffic coming and going from Portland will be unmanageable for a while.  And it could be a serendipity that the hospital’s helicopter pad is just off the cardiac unit.  We have gone there many a-time on Nyel’s obligatory walks through the hallways.  If it’s not in use on Sunday, I wonder if it will be a gathering place for elipse viewingg by staff and mobile patients?  Will someone have the solar-eclipse-viewing glasses-franchise?  My pinhole camera is the one thing I didn’t think to pack!

Shoes, Pennies and Portents

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Our Black Stove

Okay.  I think the shoe we’ve been waiting for has finally dropped.  Or is that a penny?  Whatever it is, it’s the third one, as in ‘things happen in threes.’  First it was totaling the Prius.  Then it was our garage door going belly-up.  Now it’s our kitchen stove.

I do have to admit that we’ve had both the garage door and the stove for a long time.  In fact, the garage door guy said that ours was at least 40 years old (which might have been twice as old as he was) and is not only unfixable, it’s not up to current codes.  Our stove, on the other hand, is only about twenty years old – clearly a case of built-in obsolescence.

The stove, a Jenn Air Dual Fuel, has been on the fritz for a long time – something to do with the electrical circuitry.  Our appliance guru has done as much as he can with it.  Now the oven and all the control panel ‘buttons’ have quit completely and, though we can manage with just the gas stovetop, we don’t really want to.

Or, how about red?

But, there are certain parameters for a replacement stove.  First, it has to be a downward venting stove; there is no other possibility unless we do a serious remodel to the kitchen, which is not an option.  Second, it has to have a gas cooktop; non-negotiable according to Chef Nyel.  Third, it has to be black; otherwise, say I, our entire kitchen needs to be re-done and that is impossible – see the first parameter above.  And, finally, it has to be affordable – which means mid to low price-range – none of these fabulous custom-built or imported models.

We’ve completed our online search and find that there might be one or two that fit at least three out of four of our requirements.  (It may be the color that is the sticking point – wouldn’t you know.)  I should also say that we’ve had lots of advice and heard many cautionary tales from friends.  We are probably on IGO – Information Gathering Overload.  So, today we are going across the river to see a few options up close and personal.

I am not hopeful.

In The Dark and All A-Tangle

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Garden All A-Tangle

It’s not just my usual lament about the warp-speed at which time travels these days.  At least, I’m pretty sure not.  It’s my usual lament on steroids!

Already we are waking up in the dark.  I have only begun all my planned summer garden projects.  We’ve not yet made a single potato salad.  We haven’t eaten out in the garden even once.  And we’ve had fewer get-togethers and visits with the usual summer travelers who ‘just stop by’ or at least ‘give a holler’ when they are in the area.

Nope, it doesn’t seem like summer should be winding down already.  Not at all.

Remants from 2016 Garden

It’s not only the weather that’s to blame, but it certainly even that has been different from most summers.  Usually July and August hold out many opportunities for al fresco everything.  This year, not so much.  Or at least, not so much when we’ve been home.  Unfortunately, good weather doesn’t count for much when we are spending time in the hospital – an occurrence that has been all too frequent this particular summer.

So… what to do about it?  I can’t decide whether to knock myself out for the remaining days of the season, no matter the weather, and try to shape things up around here or… maybe to decide just to give this summer a miss.  Chalk it up to ‘shit happens’ and get on with things as best we can.

Barbara Espy Williams Geisler at The Great Wall 

I think I am at that point in life where the examples of my forebears come into play.  I think of my mother’s cousin Barbara who went on a long-planned trip to China with her daughters even though she had been recently diagnosed with brain cancer…  I think of my grandmother who coped with my grandfather’s increasing dementia, even though she, herself, was blind and suffering from heart problems.  I think of my Great Uncle Cecil who lived alone well into old age and managed a house and garden larger than ours.

I don’t remember any of them lamenting what they could not do.  Oh.  Except once my dad noticed Uncle Cecil sitting on the edge of his porch – his push mower nearby.  When dad asked him if everything was okay, Uncle Cecil did complain… just a tad.  “I’ve never had to stop and rest while I was mowing before,” he said with disgust.  He was 90 at the time!

Wow!  Short summer be damned!  I’m on it!

A Nine-Minute Drive; A One-Minute Walk

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Anja Patten Sings”The Telephone” Aria by Gian Carlo Menotti

There’s nothing like a hug to make the world feel a little more do-able.  I seem to get lots of them these days – one of the perks of being a little old lady, no doubt.  And, I’ve come to realize, a good hug is not the only kind of heart-warming embrace that I’m fortunate enough to receive on a regular basis.  Music is another!  How lucky we are here on the Peninsula to have access to so many musical opportunities.

Barbara Poulshock, A Cate Gable Photograph

Yesterday I drove nine minutes from here to the Lutheran Church on ‘U’ Street to a “Musical Afternoon” performance by Barbara Poulshock and Anja Patten.  Barbara (at 90) is considered a Peninsula Treasure.  She has had a full life as a pianist, composer, and teacher of voice and piano, and, despite occasional lip-service to “slowing down” shows no sign of doing so.  Anja, a recent graduate of Whitworth University, is at the other end of things – soon to begin graduate school and then to launch her career in… social work!

Or, at least, that is this magnificent young soprano’s plan.  At the reception following the program, more than one person remarked, “But she could reach far more people with that gorgeous voice than she could through social work…”  Anja smiled through the compliments and well-meant musical encouragement.  Barbara also smiled with a teacher’s ‘time will tell’ kind of patience and a lifetime of knowing that each of us must follow our passion, no matter how it seems to observers.

Tom Trudell

Today, a one-minute (or less) walk will take me across the street to the Oysterville Church where two more local musicians will be playing at Vespers this afternoon.  Pianist Tom Trudell and vocalist/guitar-player Brian O’Connor will share center stage for the music portion of today’s service.  Both men are familiar figures in our local music scene.  Each of them mostly heard in solo performances – often as ‘regulars’ at venues on either side of the river.

Brian O’Connor

Tom and Brian are old-hands at Vespers.  Their performances are always so relaxed – laid back to the max – that I am left feeling that their selections were chosen with me, personally, in mind.  I have no doubt that every single audience member feels the same way and will leave the church this afternoon believing that they have had a Sunday hug times two!

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

Early Morning Identity Confusion?

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

The Bird Woman in “Mary Poppins”

Jane Darwell was eighty-four years young when Walt Disney personally tapped her for the role of the Bird Woman in his 1964 production of “Mary Poppins.”  Although she appeared in more than 100 major motion pictures films in her lifetime, critics say she is best-remembered for that particular role and for her portrayal of the matriarch and leader of the Joad family in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Brave Goldfinch

These early mornings, its Darwell’s Bird Woman character I’m feeling very close to – not in the magical world of Mary Poppins but in my own marvelous world of Oysterville.  As happenstance would have it, I’ve been the one who has been feeding the birds in our nearby neighbors’ backyard each early morning for the last few weeks.  I walk across the churchyard, through a gap in the fences and into Carol and Tucker’s place, carrying my little tub of wild birdseed and, sometimes, a package of thistle seed – if the finch feeders need replenishing.

At first, the birds didn’t appear while I was within their sight, though I could hear a bit of flutter and flurry in the alder trees bordering the property to the southwest.  I knew they were watching and waiting for me to disappear so that they could have at the bounty I was distributing.  Gradually, though, they have become bolder.

The very bravest and first to show up while I was still at my scattering duties were the goldfinches.  One, two, three… as many as seven perched on the three feeders and on nearby tree branches.  They would only let me approach so far, though – not quite close enough for a good photo.  Not with my bare bones cell phone camera, anyway.

Hungry Jays

Next on the braveness scale were the jays.  For all their saucy talk, I’d have thought they would be the first.  But isn’t that often the way with the braggarts and blusterers of the world?  Finally, here came the juncos – lots of them.  Maybe they feel there is safety in numbers.  They seem to like the tops of the picnic tables best.  Perhaps they feel those tabletops offer a more direct flight back up to leafy safety.

The mourning doves are there, too, invisible but full of noise and whuffle.  They fly quickly from tree to tree, obviously watching, but apparently waiting to appear until I am well out of sight.  And, yesterday, a little gray squirrel joined the fun.  His eyes never left me as he picked up seeds and stuffed them in his cheeks – all quick decisive movements and with an attitude that said, “I’m outta here the minute you make a move in my direction.”

I’ll bet the Jane Darwell didn’t have half as much fun feeding the pigeons on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London as I do feeding the birds and other little critters within sight of the Oysterville Church.  Still… I feel a kinship.  Old ladies playing yet another of life’s enchanting roles!

A Ghost Talk and Tell-Tale Signs

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

It was cold and I was glad that I had worn my winter jacket.  I was glad, too, that my yellow rainhat was in my pocket – the smoky fog was just on the verge of wet enough.  And the wind made me wish that I’d stuffed my blue knit hat – the one Rosemary made me – into my other pocket.

“Why am I doing this again?” I asked myself.  I was on my way to the Benson Beach Amphitheater at Cape D to give a ghost talk.  But, I often feel that way just before a gig, so I sucked it up and looked for one of the park personnel – usually a volunteer who introduces me and offers to get me a chair so I won’t have to stand for an hour.  This year, though, no-one showed up – that is no-one from Parks.

Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula

The amphitheater, on the other hand, filled to over-flowing.  Adults, kids, dogs, people in wheelchairs.  I wish I had counted.  More than 50 I think.  As we waited for folks to gather, I talked with a three-generational family from Bellingham.  “We camp here every year,” they told me.  When I commented that the Park looked fuller than usual – full to capacity, I thought – they said, “No.  It’s always like this in August.  We have to make our reservations in October if we want a spot.”  I wondered to myself what months I had been there in past years.  Maybe July.  Certainly I had never noticed so many campers before.

Other folks joined our conversation – people from Auburn and from Idaho.  We talked about the smoke – really bad in Bellingham they said.  They were glad to be here.  “The air quality index was 146 the other day,” they said.  “In Beijing (supposed to be the worst in the world), it was in the 80s.  We’re glad we’re here right now!”

The Grandpa from Bellingham left for a few minutes and came back carrying a lovely padded armchair from their campsite for me!  Wow!  Let the talk begin!  (Afterwards, I realized that I hadn’t even used it and apologized profusely.  “No problem!” he laughed.  What a great group!  In fact, the whole crowd was receptive and enthusiastic.  Maybe overly so in the case of a couple of little kids – maybe first or second graders.

Sydney with 2nd Grader, Southgate School, Hayward, CA – 1962

They came right down in front and perched on the green utility box where they proceeded to call out comments and questions as soon as I began to speak.  I stopped and said, “You know, for a while it’s my turn to talk.  You’ll get a chance when I’m finished.”  The little girl dashed back up the stairs to her family but the boy – not related – immediately put his hand up where it mostly stayed for the next hour, even after a reminder that he could ask his questions later. (After 29 years in primary classrooms – I KNEW that kid!)

All-in-all it went well.  Appreciative applause.  Questions about where they could purchase my ghost stories book.  And the Bellingham family lingered to talk.  “You were a teacher, weren’t you?” the mom asked.  “Primary?”  When I conceded that she was correct she said, “I could tell by the way you dealt with those kids!  My mom is probably about your age and she was a teacher too.”  We corroborated the birth years – yep, 1936! – and found that we had both taught in California – I in the Bay Area, she in Fresno.”

I wasn’t surprised about the tell-tale signs.  That teacher voice and teacher look never go away.  Thank goodness!

To Bag or Not To Bag?

Monday, August 7th, 2017

The Riding Lawnmower

In our climate, the question of whether to bag the lawn clippings or leave them behind when you mow deserves due consideration.  Some folks say that leaving them on the lawn is actually a good thing, nutrient-wise, and if you mow often, you can’t even see them.  If you can’t mow regularly, though, and the grass is a little (or a lot) long, the browning clippings are quite unsightly.  Plus, walking on the grass in the early, dewy morning hours is a big problem.  Grass clippings cling to your shoes or boots and woe be unto those who forget to leave them outside the door when re-entering the house.

Nyel (Bless him!) has always bagged but it makes the job more onerous and it takes some strength to unfasten the hopper, dump the clippings, re-attach and so forth.  On our big lawn, depending on the time it’s been since the last mowing, there are many, many trips to the back forty to dump.  Lately that process has been eliminated (for health considerations).  So… grassy feet on the journey to the chickens each morning.

Grassy Shoes

This morning I decided (for the umpteenth time) to use the “new” boots that were a Christmas gift a few years back.  The old ones have developed numerous age-related leaky places and really don’t do the trick when it’s wet.  I hate the new ones, though.  They are too small, hard to get on, impossible to get off without help, and hurt my toes (to boot!) but they are (supposedly) my size and the only brand Jack’s carries now.  Ditto Dennis Co.  Plus it’s one of those things that I don’t think about between wearings so I’ve not been serious in my search for a different pair.

It’s been a while since I’ve succumbed to trying those boots once again and, even though they’ve been sitting (or do boots stand?) in the laundry room for many months, I automatically turned each one upside down and gave it a good shake before slipping (read: tugging) it on.  I was only medium-surprised when a half cup or so of chicken scratch spilled forth from one of them.  There’s no way of telling when the stash was put there – I see no other ‘evidence’ of critters in residence — but Nyel is setting mousetraps as we speak.

Boot Stash

Two steps onto the lawn in those owie boots and I vowed to throw them out, ‘new’ or not.  And I thanked my lucky stars that Nyel is once again out of the hospital and home again and feeling better than he has for some months.  Maybe next time he mows, he can bag.  And maybe I’ll expand my quest for comfortable, easily removable boots.  And maybe we’ll trap a mouse.  Lotsa maybes in our lives these days!  I’m glad about that on all counts!

A Flood of Memories!

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Kay Buesing

We had reserved seats but, when it became obvious that Nyel would not be leaping out of his hospital bed in time for the curtain, I asked Kay Buesing if she’d like to be my date.  And so it was that we went to see PAPA’s final evening performance (There’s a matinee today!  Go!) of “She Loves Me.”

After all, Kay and I and community theater go back a long time.  Back to 1980 when we were part of the founding group of Peninsula Players – in the days of Lawrence Lessard and Fritz Hahn and Ginny Leach and Martha Sommer.  I have a vision of the two of us prancing around on stage (Were we auditioning for something?) – me singing “I’m a Little Teapot” and Kay laughing (or was she cringing?)

Brooke Flood, 1998

The last time I saw “She Loves Me” was at the Bowmer Theater at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I remember being impressed with the outstanding talents of every single performer.  As last night’s performance unfolded (a literal description of that magical set!) I was equally impressed with the voices and the dancing and the mysterious suspension of disbelief that the ensemble created.  I was sucked right in.

The two female leads – Hope Bellinger and Brooke Flood – I’ve known since they were chubby-cheeked little girls.  Hope, so shy yet so accomplished, struggling to get up on the piano bench at Vespers and play a solo with perfect aplomb.  Brooke, my student in first, second, and third grades at Long Beach School – was there anything she couldn’t do well?  Though I’ve followed both of them all these years, watching them (like half of the community!) with neighborly pride, I still felt so blessed to see them together on stage all these years later.

Ron Thompson, 2012

And the male lead?  Ron Thompson!  The last time I saw him, he was here tuning my piano!  He had done a House Concert here (a pianist!) and had mentioned that if I ever needed a piano tuner… I can’t remember how many years he returned… and it took me a few beats last night to realize that this accomplished actor/singer was that same Ron Thompson!  Wow!

Such pleasant associations with these three young people – the memories wafted over me throughout the evening.  The topper was when Brooke called to me as we were leaving and I met her five-and-a-half-month-old son, William.  He smiled and reached his little hands out to me and nestled his cheek against mine!  I was instantly in love.  And so, we all decided, was William!

What a fabulous evening!  Layers and layers of memories… and still the beat goes on!