Friday, June 27, 2014

Canyon Morning

I wake up early, 4:30. Breakfast in bed in the guest bedroom, facing the hills to the north. Then I hear them, a soft little twitter at first, then stronger, as the house finches begin their morning song.

Other birds, nesting in the junipers, wake up and join the choir. The sky turns red behind our hills. I get up and take my camera outside.  

In our yard, four baby rabbits chase each other around and around. A large Jack rabbit looks at me and continues to calmly chew his breakfast. Quail make their way, foraging around the playful rabbits, clucking their contented sounds, truly the chickens of our backyard.

I click away at the wondrous sky, and let go of my worries as a new day begins. Then I open the door and let Samson outside........

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Letters from America, 1963 ~ No. 5

Update: My husband is home, on more medicines than I thought possible. I drove the 230 miles or so yesterday without incident and am getting my driving courage back. Wish I could get my SUV back too as traveling through the desert winds in a Jeep Wrangler is definitely for those much younger than I. Hubby is feeling better today than yesterday. One day at a time.......

Time for a change of pace with a letter from far away and long ago:

My fourth letter from Princeton was very short and it dealt with some sad news I received from home. So I'm skipping it and moving on to letter number 5. 

This letter has not been edited, I have just added pictures from Google Images, 1963. 

In the spring of 1963 I was 22 years old. 

Princeton, April 1, 1963

Dear mom and dad, 

Thank you for your letter, mom, and the beautiful sweater you sent. It sounds strange, but I have been looking for one in just that color to go with a pair of pants I bought. Last Saturday, a Swedish girl named Gunborg and I went all the way to Idlewild to meet a new Swedish girl who is coming to take over Gunborg's job with Mrs. H. But before that, we went shopping and I bought a blouse. Then, when I came back home, there was the sweater! Thank you, that was picking up on my thinking from far away, mom. I was thrilled!

I have a terrible cold, but other than that, I'm doing well. All Swedes here have either colds or the stomach flu. We probably need to get used to American viruses. 

So on Saturday, Gunborg and I drove to New York City in Mrs. H's large white Ford. So much fun, just us two young Swedish girls out on our own. We drove to New York's international airport out in the borough of Queens. It was a very impressive place. I never had time to really see it when I landed there, but now I saw how very large and elegant it is. We spent several hours there, walking around, waiting for the SAS plane to arrive, for Agneta to make it through customs and all that. 

OUCH, guess what's sitting in my ceiling? A big spider!! I think I better go and kill it or I will feel no peace. OK, it's done! Now there's nothing but a wet spot in the ceiling. The spiders here are not as horrible looking as the ones at home, they are more yellow than black, but there are still lots of them, already. 

Dad asked about the TV programs here. Well, I don't watch TV very much, so I can't tell you that much about what's on. But you get spoiled fast here. I can't imagine coming home to Stockholm with only one channel to watch. We can see programs from both New York and Philadelphia, so we can watch 13 channels practically around the clock.

Radio is great too. On FM radio, one can just turn the knob and listen to all kinds of music any time of day or night. But you get used to all that's available here pretty fast.

You asked about Phil, as I told you, he's English, 30 years old, an architect and an amateur actor. He's a bit shorter than me, but looks pretty good for an Englishman. He has lived here for 10 years and sounds more American than British. I'm also beginning to completely lose my British accent, unfortunately. You can pick up some pretty bad English here because the kids have the TV on all day long and they speak horrible English on children's TV shows. 

All those cartoons can't be healthy for the kids to listen to so much. If they were my kids, the TV would not be on that much during the day, but, on the other hand, with four kids under five, it's nice to be able to park them in front of the TV and get a break. 

Thank you so much for sending the dl measuring cup. Now I can bake. I hope.

Hugs, Inger

(Yes, I still have my little measuring cup.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cancer Cannot Silence Courage ~ An Update

Today is my birthday ~ I am 74 now. Last year on my birthday, my husband and I drove up to Tehachapi Mountain and had a picnic. It was green, cool, and beautiful up there and we had a lovely day. 

When I was 59, about this time of year, I had breast cancer. It was caught early, it wasn't aggressive, it wasn't easy, but I survived. Today's header is a quote from a list of things called What Cancer Cannot Do. I got it in the cancer support group I attended at the time. You may see some quotes from it in future posts. The author is unknown.

Neither my husband nor I want my blog to be about his cancer. So in the future, I will continue with my regular stuff, Samson, pictures, old trucks, rust, fences, and all that. Yes, Tex, I am hoping to get to your fences. I also have a little secret that I don't want to share just yet, but that I know you will enjoy once I do. My secret has four legs, need I say more?

It was lovely up there on the mountain last year. Here's hubby at the picnic table. That's when he took the picture of me, below, that I have used this entire year on my blog. But I digress, because I want to let you know that I'm writing this to calm myself down. 

So far, I have been able to hold it together, but I lost it today - I'm writing this on Friday. I thank Dee for her mantra. I figured out a few for myself early on: This is about my husband. I will not think about myself now. And: One day at a time. And: Smile. OK, but then when things don't go well, when memories of Happy Birthdays appear uninvited, and so on, what do you do? I guess you can always sit down and write about it. 

The update on my husband is as follows (as we used to say in our bureaucratic writings at UCLA): 

To clarify: He is not getting intravenous chemotherapy. He is getting a targeted chemo treatment, called chemoembolization. Embolization is a procedure that injects substances to try to block or reduce the blood flow to the tumor. The only cure for this type of cancer is a liver transplant, so, if successful, this procedure can buy time. It can also be repeated later. This I read, but reading about this type of cancer is too depressing, so I am back to my one day at a time mantra.

He had this done on Tuesday. I was at the hospital until 3:30 in the afternoon. He was not doing well, but I thought he would get better in a day or two.

As I write this on Friday afternoon (after a huge crying spell) after talking to him on the phone, he is still in the hospital, 125 miles away. He sounds so bad, it is breaking my heart. They would call me to let me know if he can come home today, but not likely they said. No one called.

He is in a lot of pain. He had bleeding, but that stopped. Now the reason he is not being discharged is the pain and also the nausea. He can't keep food down. I hope they will keep him until these issues clear up or at least become manageable. He said the doctor told him, in simple terms, that the extreme pain comes from the tumor fighting the drugs. Or something to that effect.

So how am I? I'm glad I finally cried. I wanted to as soon as I came home on Tuesday night, but after all that driving, I was just too tired. 

But when I heard my husband's voice for the fourth day sounding so awful, sounding like I have never heard him sound before, I just cried and cried. I think it was a good thing and I am ready to move on and deal with all this again. 

Finally, and this should have been at the top:

Thank you so much for your comments, your good thoughts, your prayers, and your friendship. I have not been able to focus on reading your posts, but now as I'm writing this, I know I will come and visit you soon and that it will do me a lot of good. Thank you so much, I am so glad to have found so many good people on the blogs. 

Samson Says: Thank you everyone for being so good to my mommy. And, don't forget, I will soon have a birthday of my very own (hint, hint)! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Our Vegetable Garden is Done!

While hubby was spreading this cheap, but effective, steer manure, I was right behind him with the rake. We wore masks because of the horrible wind storms we are having that are supposed to spread Valley Fever, a potentially deadly illness that lurks in the soil in the San Joaquin Valley and up here too, more easily. I'm posting this picture because it gave me a good laugh. I love the composition, the mask, the red wheelbarrow, the green rake, and of course, my hat!  

I helped him as best I could, cutting open all these bags, 

and after he reminded me how to hold a rake correctly, I raked the manure into the soil,

while he continued to empty the sacks.

It was quite a bit of work for us no longer young or well folks, but we cooperated and didn't fuss. I made sure we drank lots of water and took rest breaks. That was the other day.

Then Saturday, he worked alone, while I watched and worried. We redesigned the garden, making it more easily accessible, based on what we learned last year. Using a shovel, he made wider aisles for us to walk in and that entailed a lot of heavy work. You can't see them clearly here, but they will work out great.

Also on Saturday, we planted tomatoes, peppers, rosemary and some other plants in pots. Then finally, yesterday morning, in the midst of another sand storm with huge wind gusts, he put the finishing touches on the garden soil and planted all the seeds. He didn't want my help, which caused a bit of conflict; I mean, he was seriously worried I would mess it up!

Oh, and I hated that mask, so it came of pretty quickly.

And tomorrow we go to the UCLA Hospital in Santa Monica, where he will get his first chemo surgery. I read a bit more about it, and patients tolerate it well for the most part, but all sorts of scary things can happen. Good thing is they will keep him over night for observation. 

And I will drive back home, about 125 miles, then back again the next day, then home again. Living in the boondocks sure is a lot of fun until stuff happens. Oh, well, it will all work out and I know I will feel a lot better once the procedure is done and I know what we are dealing with. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

California Law Against Bullying ~ A Follow-Up to My 2010 Post About Bullying and Teenage Suicides

In October 2010, I wrote a blog posts in response to an article about the suicides of several teenage boys who had been bullied because they were gay. 

Between the ages of 7 - 11, I was bullied in school because I was a head taller than the little boys who did the bullying. I wrote about this in my post. (See link to the post below.) Fortunately for me, there were all girls schools available at the time, so I was able to transfer after the first four years of school. Also, pure luck here, I turned out OK in terms of looks once I grew into my 6-foot height and I survived the bullying without any emotional scars. 

This survival is what hit me so hard about these young boys. They couldn't fathom that life would get better. Leaving out my own story, this is what I wrote in my post:

It's a beautiful October morning in the canyon. I was reading about the teen suicides in Time Magazine this morning and the name of our little town jumped out at me. I have never seen it mentioned in a national magazine before. As it turns out, one of the boys who committed suicide because he was being bullied lived here. He was 13 years old. 

I took my camera and went outside with tears in my eyes. I looked around, took some pictures, and thought that he will never see this. I thought about all the things this 13-year old boy will never see, hear, read or experience and I felt so very, very sad. 

When I stood out there and looked at the beauty of the morning, I felt so sad that this young boy from Tehachapi would never stand like this as an old man, looking at the sun rising over the mountains, shivering in the cool autumn air, and reminiscing with himself, as I just did, about the trials of youth that we all eventually will overcome.

He will never know. And that is such an unimaginable waste of a human life. 

This post is in his memory…his name was Seth.

This week there was a follow up in our town's newspaper and I quote: 

"Two years after Seth's death, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 9, also known as Seth's Law, which requires among other things that school districts adopt policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics." The law went into effect July 1, 2012.

The article was actually about the fact that Seth's mother settled a lawsuit with our town's school district and mentioned the law as an aside. For me, learning about this law and the policies our school district has put into effect stirred up old memories of how alone I felt, how I had nowhere to turn in school, how I didn't let my parent's know, how I was somehow ashamed. Now the children have somewhere to turn, now these things are discussed, and the kids know about this law. Our schools have meetings, staff members are required to report incidents, they interview the kids, parents are involved.  And I am really happy, so happy in fact, that I had to share this with you. 

Thank you State of California Legislature and Governor Brown for taking action.

With so many young lives lost as a result of bullying, one can only hope that other states will adopt similar laws. We owe our children that much, I think.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Now We Know ~ An Update on My Husband

My husband was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1991, probably infected via a blood transfusion in 1986, before they were able to screen for this virus. For many years he saw a liver specialist in Pasadena, one of the best doctors for this disease anywhere. My husband tried the treatments available at the time, but was unable to tolerate them. His HepC has been monitored yearly by his primary care physician with no significant changes noted. 

My husband has been very tired this past year and when the new drugs for HepC, drugs that can cure the disease in some patients, came out, he went back to see his Pasadena liver specialist in May. After ultra sounds and CT scans were performed, a spot was discovered on his liver. He had a biopsy on May 28 and we learned, this past Tuesday, that he has liver cancer. 

My husband's liver specialist is affiliated with UCLA, which works well for us since it is closer than Pasadena. Both he and his UCLA colleague told us that this is cancer prior to the biopsy, apparently they can tell a lot from the other tests.  So we were prepared. Now it has been confirmed. In the meantime, my husband started on the drugs for the HepC and he is tolerating them well. He will need a liver transplant. In the future ~ I can't even think that far ahead right now. In order to be eligible for that, the HepC must be completely gone. I believe the course of treatment is 12 weeks or something like that.

On June 17, my husband will get his first chemo treatment at UCLA. The chemo drugs will be surgically inserted into his tumor. They will guide it via ultrasound from his groin area to the liver, I believe. Those of you who have had sick husbands may know how hard it is to get something out of them. I'm a bit exhausted from all this, but believe me, I will find out all there is to learn about this entire process later. 

Now, that was the bad news. The good new is that my husband's doctor is one of the best doctors in this field in the world. When my husband asked the stage of his cancer, his doctor replied that he does not deal in stages, he deals in healing his patients. My husband has, over the years, become a friend of this doctor. And since this began, we have felt as if someone from above, somewhere, has been moving mountains of hospital bureaucracy for us. Everything has run so smoothly, it's really incredible. And so valuable when you are under a lot of stress.

Let me end this with a little story of life's twists and turns to let you know how we ended up with this doctor, a doctor we need so very much now and in the days to come.

In 1986, a friend of my husband's dad went to Las Vegas, where he gambled and won himself a cute little house in Pasadena. Seriously! I fell in love with the little house after we went to check it out. It had a huge old oak tree outside the bedroom window, a front porch, and a backyard with a glorious view of the San Gabriel mountains. I bought it, we were married in it, and then proceeded to establish ourselves in the community. This included finding a doctor and later, after my husband was diagnosed with HepC, a liver specialist. So, if that old man had not won that cute little house, gambling in Vegas, who knows who would be in charge of my husband's care today...........................

Samson Says: I guess you all may want to know how we are handling all this stuff. Well, daddy's on the phone with all kinds of friends and relatives, half of New Orleans (where ever that is) is calling him, carrying on, laughing when mommy wants to take a nap. Loud as always, he is. Mommy, she's tired, very tired, cause she's the one who has to go to town to pick up food and medicines and all that we need. And it's hot, very hot, and mommy and me, we don't like that one bit! But she is hanging in there and we're all just taking this a day at a time. It's about all you can do.........

Have a nice day, everyone ~ Your Samson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tow Truck Memories

Before I tell my story, I just have to ask you to go to my friend Sonia's blog and see the pictures of homeless people and their pets. It is the most loving, sweet, adorable, caring blog post I have ever seen. The pictures are incredible, they will touch your heart and make your day. Please go and check them out here:  


Tow Truck Memories

As a new day dawned, the old truck opened his lights, stretched his hood, and yawned. He enjoyed his view of the mountains in the early morning light, the twitter of the first birds, the little rabbits hurrying to get a last bite before hiding for the day. Soon, he thought, the old woman and her fluffy white dog will come walking by. He enjoyed their company, but couldn't quite understand why she wanted to take his picture.

I'm nothing much to look at now, he thought. It was different in my hayday, when I was young and strong and a hard worker. I had a very special place in my community and was much loved by all the cars I helped tow when they ran out of gas or had a breakdown. 

I had many adventures on the highways. Once I met a pretty Mustang lady whose owner drove her too fast and she crashed. I rescued her in time so she could be put back together to hit the road again. Rescues like that made my life worth while. I didn't stand a chance with Mustangs though, they were way above me.

Back in the day, I met many Ford Pintos, and one of them, a sweet little blue car, had quite the crush on me. She didn't need much help to break down, but she would still make sure to spill some oil so she could see me again. I wasn't much for the larger fin-tailed Fords and our town's Crown Victoria, owned by our local top cop, sort of scared me. Very queenly and demanding she was. Later little compacts arrived in our town and I fell for them ~ the ones colored bright red were my favorites. But I was old then, so they were just what us guys call "eye candy." Those were the days, thought the old truck. 

Then my owner retired to the country and I became a farm truck for a long while. Just like old Betsy is now. I smile when she drives by, carrying loads to the dump, helping to get rid of weeds, and much more for the people who live here now. 

Old Betsy
One day my owner placed me here, took off my front tires, and just left. I am glad he had me facing the nice view of the hills where a mama bear lived with her cub last summer and many coyotes come by and sing their weird songs for me. 

My owner left my very large side-view mirrors too. Now I can look behind me and keep an eye on the neighbors next door and their animals. They have a new little calf now that's entertaining me with his antics: running, bucking, full of joy.  

My windows are open and little birds come inside in the winter to keep warm. In the spring they peck and peck at my upholstery until they make a hole. Then they take little pieces of filling in their beaks and fly away to add some style and warmth to their nests. 

All in all, said the old truck to himself, my retired life is not so bad. I know of others who went to the big old junk yard and got picked up by machines and squashed to death. Thinking of them, I have a very splendid retirement here in my desert mountain canyon.

And some of the pictures she takes of me come out pretty sweet, if I may say so myself.

~ The End ~

Inspired by Madnapper Sandra who likes old rusty stuff and who has had a tough time with an injury lately.  Check out Sandra's creative and fun blog here. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Letters from America, 1963 ~ Letter No. 3

In this year's A to Z Challenge, under the letter LI shared  a composite of the first two letters I sent home to my parents in Sweden after I moved to Princeton, N. J. in the winter of 1963.  My first job as a mother's helper in the U. S. did not work out and after getting everything straightened out with that family, I got a job in Princeton. The family had four kids under the age of five and they were a great family.

I had planned to share the letters earlier, but it became a bit difficult, looking back. Since so many enjoyed reading about my first impressions of this new country, and since some of my observations are pretty funny, I have decided to continue posting them. Except for a few items I removed, this letter is unedited.    

We'll see how it goes........

In the spring of 1963, I was 22 years old.

On Nassau Street, Princeton, N. J. 1964 ~ What's up with my hair?

Excerpts from my third letter from Princeton, N. J.

Princeton, March 3, 1963

The snow has almost melted, the sun shines from a deep blue sky, and spring is in the air. I'm happy, very happy. After a tough beginning in America, things are working out for me. With mostly deciduous trees, many of them flowering, cherries, magnolias, and so on, spring in Princeton will be gorgeous, I am told. Yesterday, Mrs. Smith gave birth to a son, named David. This is great, they can be playmates now, the four of them, and good friends for the rest of their lives. 

I went to another Thursday night party, those of us who work as mother's helpers have half Thursday and all day Sunday off, so it looks like they arrange parties so we can go. There are American girls there too. Americans are very, very nice to socialize with. They socialize a lot and it looks like they have to go out and meet people, have parties, and go to parties in order to get somewhere within their professions. And here in America, there's something called "dating," which seems to mean that one can go out with a different guy most nights of the week and it is not frowned upon. And if two young people like each other, they can "date" exclusively. Like looking around for a husband or just having a good time. Not sure yet what it means exactly. I am pretty sure though that teenage Americans are not as "advanced" as those in Sweden.  

I met that Englishman again at the party. His name is Philip and he's really funny and very nice. He's coming to pick me up soon and we're driving to the Delaware River and Pennsylvania. It will be fun to see some of the surrounding areas of New Jersey, which is a very pretty state. 

New Hope, PA

Hugs to everyone, Inger

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Morning Reflections ~ An Apology

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. 
~ John Lennon

This merry month of May has been anything but. My husband is seriously ill and I have kind of hinted at this, but since we only expect to find out everything in the next week or two, I should have kept my mouth shut and until we know exactly what is going on. And let our closest friends who read my blog know in person. I didn't mean to worry anyone, I was just writing down whatever came into my somewhat numb and foggy brain. 

My dear friends, please accept my apologies for not thinking through what I put on my blog. 

Fran, thank you for your comment. My nameless husband is home now and he appreciated the thought of a visit so much. UCLA hospital treated him very, very well, so that's good. He is getting the best of care and we will let you know what happens. 

I named my blog Desert Canyon Living and sometimes the living is easy, other times more difficult. All I want to do here in the future is keep it real. 


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