Thursday, June 25, 2009

The news from condo 632

Well, we had four days of sunshine, and glorious it was! This evening the rain has returned, but I'm hopeful that the normal weather pattern of short mountain squalls is all we're dealing with. We'll see what the morning brings.

We are three days away from the start of our summer conference. We expect 288 people to be residing in-house the first week, 283 the second week, and 267 the third week. Most of those folks are staying for the entire three weeks, but a good 50 or so are in and out for one-week or two-week stays. We've had a few last minute changes, necessitating some quick thinking on the part of my staff, but we are ready.

Actually, "prep week" has gone surprisingly well so far (and I say that while knocking on wood, believe me).

My mother is feeling well right now and the bleeding has not returned. She's reading her way through a massive stack of books and bemoaning the fate of her drowned plants (they had as much rain as we did!).

Hank is having a good time at "Puppy Summer Camp" (the home of my nephew and his family). Three other dogs and three cats to play with -- plus children to sleep with at night. Hank's having a great time!

A few of our kids might travel down to see us this weekend. We miss them all, and we especially miss our youngest (age 13). But we have to be patient until we see him again later in July. He's enjoying his time with his Mom right now, and he will be going on a mission trip to Mexico for 10 days in July.

Our daughter in Korea is looking forward to her month in the States, starting July 21. I can't wait to see her in August!

Tonight is another NCIS marathon -- we love NCIS, even in reruns!

That's what's up with us right now.

- Cath

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Greetings from Park City

More rain, and still more. The world is a sodden mass of mud and dripping leaves. I am afraid that when summer temperatures finally arrive, it will become very, very hot, very, very quickly.

Tim and I have arrived in Park City for our summer gig (I run a three-week conference for mathematicians and math educators). In the 13 summers that I have been doing this, I have never arrived in the rain. Generally, rain squalls appear in the afternoons during the "monsoon" season that starts in mid-July. So this unrelenting, day after day wet stuff in June is truly crazy!

But here we are, gearing up for the annual event. Tomorrow we start 'load-in' -- i.e. getting all our equipment into the conference center, where we also set up a temporary office so that all staff are on-site for the duration. It's an intense conference for the participants, and no less intense for the staff.

Tim is an alumnus of this program -- he is a mathematics teacher and was a participant before I actually came on staff, so we first met at a 1998 reunion that was held in San Francisco. The first summer after we were married, he went back to being a participant. By the end of that summer, he had identified several ways that he could be of help with the event itself (he has broad work experience), so now we do this together. The first summer was, well, a little tense -- I wasn't used to sharing my living space and, as I mentioned, this is intense work for the time we are up here. We don't live on a normal schedule and I am always on call. But, we have settled in nicely, and this is our 8th summer of working the job together.

Yesterday I did my annual shopping spree in the outlet mall here (necessities, all, except for the dress I found on clearance and couldn't resist).

We will probably go to church this morning -- for the last four summers we've attended the local Vineyard church on the four or five Sundays that we are here. Some of the folk there actually remember us from year to year, which is nice. I have to say that I hate going out in the rain and would be content to sit on the couch this morning and read my Bible, but I suspect Tim will have other ideas.

It is time to start the day here in "water world." Maybe the sun will come out again one day?

PS -- my mom is feeling pretty good for the time being. We very much appreciate everyone's continued prayers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hank is clinging to me. Even though I do NOT have the suitcases out, he knows, somehow, with that canine sense of his, that I am getting ready to leave again. And Hank is a pup who likes his family to stay at home with him.

Tim and I are racing around today getting ready to leave for our summer work in Utah. That's probably how Hank knows that something's up.

In our absence, Hank will go, as usual, to "Puppy Summer Camp" at the home of my nephew and his family -- where he will have three cats and three other dogs to play with, rather than being just the solitary pup that he is in our home. He will miss us and we will miss him. BUT, he will have some of his favorite canine friends to play with, a small boy to sleep with every night, and the opportunity to go out in the mountains when my nephew takes the horses on trail rides. Not a bad summer for our pup. Not bad at all. At some point, my nephew or niece will photograph or video Hank doing something especially entertaining and then send it to me so I can have a good laugh at our comical dog. I still remember the short video of him playing with their kitten, Blue Spaceship, a few years ago -- and the hilarious ending when, after much butt-wiggling, BS launched his tiny body squarely at Hank's head.

Hank and Blue Spaceship are older now and remain best buddies to this day. And BS is the only cat allowed to eat out of Hank's food bowl after all these years.

Back to my preparations and my clinging dog....

- Cath

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Wardrobe

Over the past week, my mother noted that she needs some new blouses -- longer so that her swollen abdomen is hidden, preferably with sleeves at least to the elbow so that her emaciated arms are also somewhat hidden (the appearance of her arms is really bothering her at the moment).

Yesterday I went shopping and looked over the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, where I found some linen blouses that must have been leftover from the Spring inventory (because who wears linen in the winter?!). Well, that seemed perfect -- linen is cool in the summer, so she wouldn't be suffering so much from the heat while wearing longer sleeves. I picked up four blouses for about $25 and shipped them off to her immediately from the local UPS Store.

I figured I'd better let Mom know that the blouses are coming, so I called to tell her I'd found some that I thought would be suitable and had sent them off to her. Want to know what my indomitable mother asked me?

"Will they work for winter?"

I was actually speechless for a half-second, because I've got this mind-set that she won't be around next winter to worry about a wardrobe.

Obviously she's thinking differently.

That, too, is my mom!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Fall

My mother came home from the hospital today, and I just got off the phone with her. She sounds fine right now, which just makes this whole thing surreal at times. She sounds like her old self -- until she tells me that her side aches "a little bit." Now, my mother's pain tolerance is legendary (she has often had cavities drilled without Novocaine). I guess in this instance that high level pain threshold will be a good thing and will probably keep her going longer.

She spoke of a phenomenon she'd heard of where studies show that the (chronically ill) elderly are more likely to die in the Fall of the year. Coupled along with that, she'd asked her doctor point blank this morning if he thought she'd make it through the summer. He says that she will (now, I have to wonder if doctors in this instance just try to be as optimistic as possible and say what they think the patient wants to hear -- but I digress). Moreover, HE also says that the elderly are more likely to die in the Fall.

So, my mother, the uber-planner, is planning for the Fall. For one thing, she wants to see the various members of her family again -- her son, her daughter, her grandchildren (granddaughter Abbi is due home from Korea in August for a visit). But the other reason she's planning no earlier than the Fall is because (and here is my mother's great sense of whimsy) she has so many books to read. Everyone's been bringing or sending her books and she now has quite a stack. It should take her all summer to read them, she figures, and that's what she intends to do.

Along with my mother's legendary pain tolerance is her legendary stoicism and perseverance. She has things she wants to do and people she wants to see, and although she knows she is dying, she doesn't intend to let dying get in her way.

Tomorrow night she's going out to dinner with some friends.

That's my mom!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another step down the road

As you know, my mother's cancer (liver and pancreas) is terminal. Yesterday she began bleeding from the rectum and ended up in the hospital. After tests, the doctors have determined that the bleeding is due to the tumor on the liver. Surgically, there is nothing they can do. In fact, there is almost nothing at all that they can do, save make her as comfortable as possible. She thinks the chemo option is no longer viable and that there will be no more.

Right now, she is still not in pain, which is a blessing. In fact, she had two pints of blood transfused yesterday and was feeling quite energetic this afternoon. Her sense of humor was intact, too.

And her voice is strong. So strong that I almost don't believe her when she says that she 'might make it through the summer.' Emphasis on "might."

She reminded me that pancreatic cancer, once it gets hold, is usually a swift killer. I already knew that, having scoured the internet about it, but I let her tell me anyway. We talk very matter of factly about when I might be coming out again and whether I will be able to get away from my very busy summer work schedule, etc., if the worst happens between now and the end of July. We talk about what I will do when my family and I are away on our annual camping trip in August and I need to stay in touch with her and/or the rest of the family about her condition.

Truth is, I may not go on that camping trip this year. We'll see how Mom is (IF Mom is) at the beginning of August. If I do go, I'll drive out from the campsite to the road twice a day in order to have cell phone signal and check in.

And if she is "incapacitated" (Mom's word) by then, I will skip the camping trip all together and head for her bedside.

Mom and I are planners by nature, so this talk was actually comforting to both of us, I think. Even if the plans don't go as we envision, we both like having them in place. It gives us a 'jumping off' point anyway.

Scripture says that our days are appointed by God. I have to admit that I wish He'd appointed a few more for my mother.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Last Chance Harvey

"Last Chance Harvey" is one of my new favorite movies. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, it's a small movie with no action but with huge impact. Maybe you have to be someone like me, who found love later in life -- or maybe you just have to be someone like me who is of a 'certain age' with its inherent wisdom. I loved this story of two ordinary, flawed people finding love in their middle aged years.

Do see it. I suppose it qualifies as "chick flick" but it's not a weepy movie and you will not need kleenex. By turns, the story is gently humorous and touching, and the acting is truly sublime. See it for Emma Thompson's performance, if for no other reason.

PS -- and it's one of those rare films with no nudity or sexual situations. A refreshing change of pace.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Le weekend

Back in 1974, my high school French teacher insisted that Americanisms were creeping into the French language and that "le weekend" had become a legitimate phrase. I've no idea if that is true.

But, here is it at last, legitimately phrased in French or not: le weekend!

My to-do list is for creative projects today, which beats tedious household chores anytime!

My husband, Tim, built a garden bench for me last week after I couldn't find one that I wanted to buy. All I've seen for purchase here in our town are those pseudo-British Victorian-style park benches with lots of wrought iron, or very rustic, massive, Western-themed benches. Neither suits our yard or the architecture of our house. I wanted a simple bench, similar to what had been in our yard when I was a kid (my brother and I each had our own bench, which sat at the edge of the trees bordering the house's side yard). After looking at a merchandising display at a local garden store, I realized that what I wanted was a basic picnic-table bench with a very slightly reclined back. In other words, a couple of wide boards for the seat and a couple more boards for the back (set at an angle so that you're not forced to sit bolt upright).

Tim created exactly what I was looking for, and today I get to paint it. Any color that I want. This is important because Tim is one of those people who thinks that anything and everything made out of wood should be stained, not painted. We differ on that outlook of decor, to put it mildly, and since this bench is mine, I've claimed the right to paint. I want some kind of faux finish on it, though, so I'll be experimenting on scrap wood while the primer coat dries on the bench itself. Tim looked at me like I had three heads when I mentioned that I was going to try for a faux finish on a bench that would sit outside in the yard. But no matter....

Later on today, I'll finish the little pillows that I need for my dining room chairs (we reupholstered the chairs a few months ago, and, while they look better, they still lack a certain punch -- I think these little pillows will fill the bill nicely).

My son has an activity at church this afternoon, and my husband is spending the day helping some friends with a construction project, so I will have the house to myself most of the day. That means I can play my piano and work on music without disturbing anyone -- so that will be on the to-do list as well!

Hope your Saturday is great!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I'm wishing there was some way to save the 'rank and file' jobs that will be going down when GM goes down. But at the same time, where has GM corporate leadership been all these years???

It IS possible to make cars that don't blow out at 100K miles, but the corporate Big Three, for the most part, refused to do so. Which only encouraged budget-conscious folks to buy Japanese so we'd get a car that would go the distance and not bust the budget with costly major repairs. (Yes, I'm talking generalities here -- and I know there are anomalies.)

So, part of me is cheering like mad that corporate GM has to eat crow. And part of me is saddened beyond belief for the workers who will end up on unemployment. How I wish there were some easy answers here!

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's the little things

Like the bear hug of your 22-year old son, smelling of camp fire and mud, but so glad to see you!

Like the moment when your teenager affectionately leans up against you -- in public, no less!

Like the cheerful email from your adult daughter who is living half-way around the world.

Like the way your dog wiggles so hard he almost falls over whenever you come home (even if you were gone only 10 minutes).

Like the way your spouse steals a kiss at just the right moment.