Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Way of All Flesh

The Way of All Flesh? Did I read this novel? I have vague, uncertain, probably fictitious 47 years old memories. Regardless, I did make reference to "the way of all flesh" in my last post and the irony and timing catch my attention as does the certainty that I am abusing Samuel Butler's use of the phrase.

Julie is in Amarillo where her mother is going the way of all flesh. Her decline with Alzheimers has necessitated a skilled care facility. On Friday her sister found a facility with an opening and her father was considering the option. On Saturday her father refused to agree and chose to continue caring for her as best his 85 years enable him to do so. On Sunday, apparently after an extremely difficult night, he acknowledged his inability and the need for skilled care.

Julie worked Monday to prepare for the end of the academic term and traveled to Amarillo yesterday. She called an hour ago with news that her mother is now in the facility. It was a sad experience for her and her sister but was much more devastating for her father. Julie is going to spend about a week with her family and will return next Tuesday.

A few years ago I saw a program on PBS about aging and death. One man looked at his wife with Alzheimers, commented on the difficulties and her angry outbursts toward him and said with compassion are caring "I don't see her like she is. I remember her like she was." I think he had the right attitude was was fortunate to have good memories.

Good experiences and relationships in the now will ease the loss in the future when we go the way that is inevitable. Before she left Julie suggested that we take a weekend trip for ourselves as soon as she returns. I agreed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Rich Weekend

Friday was good. Saturday was excellent. Sunday is wonderful.

For breakfast on Friday Julie made sweet potato biscuits for the first time. Delicious, a tasty start to the day.

A short time after I put out the first hummingbird feeder we saw two mature male Scotts Orioles on the feeder. Normally I hear them calling each spring before I see them but these year they appeared silent and beautiful. Julie mixed another batch of nectar and we hung an oriole feeder.

Friday evening we had supper with friends John and Mary at their house. Conversation began with exchanges about the winter. They were snowed in for three weeks after the large snow and couldn't leave home. It was good to catch up on the friendship since we hadn't seen them for a few months.

George and Karen.
George and Karen

The high point of Saturday was lunch with George and Karen. The weather was warm and sunny so we ate on the deck for the first time this spring, enjoyed good conversation, took a short walk and drove to the top of North Sheba.

Today we took a sustainability tour at the Arboretum as part of Earth Day activities. There were piles of snow in shady spots but we wore short sleeves and were comfortable. After returning home I worked in the garden weeding, planting, watering, mulching, thinking and planning. The high temperature was 82!

Some of the items actively growing:
  • Garlic (over wintered)
  • Onions (over wintered)
  • Carrots (over wintered)
  • Parsnips (over wintered)
  • Beets (over wintered)
  • Peas
  • Asparagus (a small trial)
  • Rhubarb
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Swiss Chard
  • Hollyhocks
  • Iris

Gluten free bread.
Gluten free bread.

While I worked in the garden Julie was baking bread and cooking for the coming week. She made a gluten-free bread, another first that turned out perfect.

I'm at a good point in life. I know it won't last, it never does. I'll go the way of all flesh but, for now, I'm enjoying life and saving memories for the future. This was a rich weekend.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Late Again

April 15 is significant for two reasons.

First, it's the beginning of snake season. Two years ago I saw the first rattlesnake in the yard on April 15.

Second, it's the beginning of hummingbird season.

Last year I decided to hang a nectar feed on the Saturday closest to April 15. On that morning I was working near the deck when I heard that distinctive sound. One or two birds arrived a couple hours early before I hung the feeder.

It happened again this year. I was a little late. Today I planned to put out a feeder. As we were having breakfast I saw a bird outside the windows checking the empty shepherds crooks.

I got one feeder ready, took it out and got buzzed by an impatient and hungry bird.

I've been looking forward to their return. Since we decided to let the cats outside we stopped feeding birds to protect the ground feeders. However, hummingbirds should be safe. We'll not put feeders on the deck as in previous years so they should be fine.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Abby's Marathon

Julie's daughter, Abby, ran a marathon in Paris this past weekend. There were 31,566 participants in the 42.195 kilometer marathon.

Abby is a registered nurse and works in the specialty of bone marrow transplant at Baylor University Medical Center of Dallas. She cares for blood cancer patients with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma.

She joined a group intent on raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The challenge required both physical and financial commitment. At one point she had to agree to participate and donate from personal funds any monies not raised. She selected the Paris marathon which was one of several possibilities.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Abby's husband, Shawn, is from Montreal, Canada, and speaks French. He joined Abby on the trip to Paris.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Risky Behavior

Today I did a risky thing. I bought bare root rhubarb.

The risk isn't that the rhubarb will fail to grow. It has nothing to do with the toxic leaves. The risk is that I'll move to a new location

In 1973 I planted rhubarb for the first time.The following spring I decided to finish college and moved to another state leaving the plants behind. In my last year of graduate school my children were in a good school, we lived in one of my favorite locations and I had no intention of moving. I planted rhubarb and moved the next spring. A few years later the pattern repeated itself.

Friday I'll plant the rhubarb. Next spring.....well, next spring I'll cook rhubarb, my rhubarb. Finally!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Voluntary Reduction

The state is in financial trouble. The stated explanation is the struggling economy but that's only part of the real explanation. However, in keeping with my vow to maintain a positive blog and attitude, I won't discuss mismanagement, foolish decisions and inherent weaknesses in the "democratic" processes. I confess it is tempting but it would be not only useless but counter productive.

Anyway, the University has been given the task of reducing salary expenditures by two and one-half percent. When I received an email from the administration I made an impulse decision, checked with Julie and volunteered for a reduction.

A few years ago I requested to work 32 hours rather than 40 which resulted in a 20% pay reduction. Before the economy went south I had decided to request a reduction to 24 hours per week. However, with layoffs and mandatory furloughs it didn't seem wise to follow through on this decision at that time.

With the current mandate to reduce salary expenditures I approached the director in my area, told him I hadn't spoken to my team lead as yet and brought of the idea of a 25 percent reduction in work hours and salary. He was open to the idea and immediately checked with the vice president and got it approved within ten minutes.

When I discussed the idea with my team lead I met some opposition. Our work loads have been excessive for several months without an end in sight. She and I have a wonderful working relationship. A few years ago during an extremely stressful time for her she asked if I was about to take another job or retire. If so, she was going to retire. By the end of our conversation we agreed that we would retire at the same time at some point in the future.

During our recent discussion about reducing to 24 hours per week she said she wouldn't oppose it but that it would create a hardship for her and the team. In the end I decided to continue working 32 hours and suggested more flexible scheduling which she readily accepted.

As soon as Julie is off for the summer I'm going to discuss working longer days -- four days one week followed by three days the next week. This will give us six four day weekends and six three day weekends during the summer.

However, I really wish I could have reduced another 25 percent. Time working around home with Julie is more valuable to me than money.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Pick Up

Today was the spring road pick up. Julie and I have been participating in the semi-annual road pickup for five years. I admit I didn't want to go because I have work I'd like to finish.

Once again the day began with a breakfast that attracted a large crowd. We met people who recently moved to the area and saw others for the first time in a few months.

We already had plans with a couple from town for next Saturday. At breakfast we made plans for supper Friday evening with some friends at their house and plans for another couple to come to house next Sunday morning to discuss gardening and greenhouses.

In the end I'm glad we went.

PS: Some of the items we find along the road are strange, interesting or unexpected. The strangest find this time was a recently deceased fully intact white chicken in a small plastic bag.

Friday, April 09, 2010


I am surrounded by gray hair, wrinkled skin, bald men, pot bellies, wheel chairs, sagging body parts and glazed eyes. The overweight man with a cane talking too loudly on the the phone appears to be in his early fifties. His age matches his waist size. A woman with a Pillsbury Doughboy look has strange yellow skin and a look of being exhausted. Another man with sores on his face impatiently pushes the elevator buttons trying to cause the doors to close more quickly. This isn't a cheery way to begin but it is, for me, a reminder to appreciate my health.

I'm in the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale with Julie as she participates in an Alzheimers research project.

This will be a full day. We left the house at 6 AM to get here by 9:25 for a blood draw, four large vials. Julie has appointments every hour until her last at 3 PM. I've done my part and am finished. At 10:30 I was interviewed about changes in her behavior and memory over the last year. I am labelled an "informant". That sounds bad, ominous and unethical but I gave a good report. Her memory is fine and her behavior hasn't changed.

In my humble-or-otherwise opinion the odd thing about health care is the inconsistency. As I waited this morning I read a small booklet about heart health. It contained the ususal prespcription -- get exercise, don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight, avoid saturated fat and processed foods, etc. After the blood draw we went to the cafe for breakfast since she had to fast for the test. Some of the foods in the cafe were horrible. Cheese enchiladas are on the menu for lunch. Total saturated fat is 17 grams. Yes, seventeen, one-seven. I limit myself to a maxiumum of 12 for the entire day and this one meal contains 17. Hmmm? I wonder if it's possible to buy cigarettes in the gift shop. (Don't smoke or eat unhealthy foods but if you do choose these behaviors then stop by our cafe or gift shop before you leave.) Ironic!

Yesterday morning the temperature at home was 20 degrees. This morning we woke (or should that be awoke?) to a warm 32. The high today in Phonenix is forecast as 87 degrees so we dressed in summer clothes with short sleeves and sandals. One of my tasks for the day is to find a restaurant with a romantic courtyard so we can have supper outside before driving home. Healthy food, pleasant atmosphere, reasonable rates. In Scottsdale I'll settle for the first two of three.

Julie is not compensated for her participation but that's OK. The desert in is bloom, we had an enjoyable trip under blue skies and we're enjoying the anticipation of a nice supper. All is well in our world.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Feeding the Hungry

Julie and I always pack lunch. It's rare that we eat out.

Last week Julie made a concoction of rice, black beans, chicken and Mexican spices from left overs. I packed fruit for both of (bananas, apples, oranges), blue corn chips for her and a whole wheat tortilla for myself.

When I arrived at work I put the fruit and CorningWare cup in the kitchen fridge. At lunch time I opened the fridge and saw the container of fruit but not the CorningWare cup. The side-by-side fridge is always packed so I searched all shelves, the two drawers in the bottom and the freezer section. Nothing! I found a cup identical to mine except the lid was discolored and had black smudges on it. My lid had a 'P' on the top to distinguish it from Julie's which has a 'J'.

I'm not concerned that someone took my lunch. I'm happy to feed the hungry but would have preferred the return of the empty container which never happened.

My lunch that day was fruit, tortilla and water. This happened the day my sister and brother-in-law arrived. We had planned supper in town about 6:30 PM. By that time I was definitely happy to feed the hungry and enjoyed my meal immensely.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Windows, Doors and Gates

One of my favorite historical parks is Hubbell Trading Post. While Gale and Lee were visiting we drove to Hubbell by way of Second Mesa.

Julie and I first visited Hubbell a few years ago. The Navajo lady who led the tour did a wonderful job. She was entertaining, knowledgeable and likeable.

On this visit we had a private tour, just the four of us. This time we had another Navajo lady take us on the tour. Like her co-worker she did a wonderful job. She was entertaining, knowledgeable and likeable. She told us stories of the Trading Post when she was a teenager before she began working for the National Park Service.

Following, without caption, are a few of the windows, doors and gates that we saw. They tell a fascinating architectural story that spans over 100 years.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Windows, Doors and Gates.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring Addendum

The wind has been blowing for over 24 hours. As we drove home the sky above the desert to the east of the house was tinted red by blowing dust. The layer of dust extended a few hundred feet above the ground. On Interstate 40 a sign warned drivers that the road was closed at mile post 235. I assumed the closure was due to reduced visibility caused by blowing dust.

After work I walked around the house and out buildings to check on things. I try to keep things out of the wind or secured if in the wind.
  • About eight tabs on roof shingles are standing up or missing.
  • One full trash can fell over and the lid came off. Things stayed in the can.
  • An old empty plastic container bound for the recycling center moved about 200 feet.
  • About 10 sheets of corrugated metal tossed their concrete weights and moved a few feet.
  • Three empty barrels fell over.
  • The top boards on a stack of lumber blew off.
  • And other items moved a few feet up to 150 feet.
Nothing was damaged or lost. I returned them to their proper locations and added more concrete weights.

It would seem like a good time for generating electricity but not so. Yesterday evening the winds weren't so strong and production was up. Today, however, the winds were too strong. At 35 MPH the generator engages a braking system and stops turning to prevent damage to itself.

Actually, I enjoy the wind. It seems as natural to the area as antelope, sunsets and brown bunch gresses. There's something relaxing and comforting about the wind.


This afternoon's weather forecast:

Late Afternoon: Areas of blowing dust. Mostly sunny, with a high near 58. Windy, with a southwest wind around 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph.

Spring is here!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Gale and Leon

My sister and brother-in-law, Gale and Leon, arrived last Wednesday for a visit. Julie and I took vacation Thursday to add to our usual Friday day off.

Thursday morning gave us a light snow that couldn't withstand the morning sun. We drove to the top of South Sheba cinder hill and briefly endured 50 MPH winds then drove to Grand Falls on the Little Colorado River about 10 miles northeast of home.

The day began with a light snow. (Larger version)

Looking at Merriam Crater from the top of South Sheba.
Looking at Merriam Crater from the top of South Sheba. A lava flow from Mirriam created Grand Falls. (Larger version)

Looking east-northeast from North Sheba toward Grand Falls.
Looking east-northeast from North Sheba toward Grand Falls. (Larger version)

Grand Falls from a distance.
Grand Falls from a distance. (Larger version)

Grand Falls.
Close-up of the falls. Notice the small observation building in the top right. (Larger version)

Little Colorado River.
Looking downstream on the Little Colorado River showing red sandstone on the east bank and black lava on the west bank. (Larger version)

Gale and Paul.
My sister Gale and I standing in front of the falls. (Larger version)