Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving secrets

Okay, we're well past Thanksgiving now, but I've been busy. I cooked the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for 13 people. Judging from the rave notices, I was a success. It wore me out, but it was a lot of fun. I find that I really like to cook, especially when the people I serve seem to enjoy my cooking. When meat gets over cooked, or gravy turns out lumpy or anything surprises me with a nasty taste, then cooking is not much fun.

We had turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, creamed onions and pickled beets and eggs. I guess my greatest compliment was the fact that everyone ate and raved about whatever was in their mouth.

Along the way I have picked up a few Thanksgiving secrets. The cream sauce for the little had a little Chardonnay. Mashed potatoes are greatly improved by a generous portion of cream cheese and real butter. Turkey will yield juicy white meat from the breast when it is roasted upside down. It does not have that Norman Rockwell photogenic quality, but since all the juices flow toward the breast, it is moist and delicious. We also own one of those very old and very large roasting pans with cover. It's just too big for anything other than a 22 pound turkey, and so we must store it among all our other trash, uh, stuff for the rest of the year. We are annoyingly trashy (we do resent those reality shows about hoarders). But when it comes to an item that we need, such as this roasting pan, it's very convenient to have it on hand. It holds the moisture better than anything else I have seen. This promotes the moist white meat and great base for the gravy.

The down side is the fact that I gained a few pounds on the leftovers. So it's back to the veggies for me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shuffling along

Barbara was told by a friend that when she had her first knee replacement surgery she said it hurt so bad that she would never have the other knee done. She didn't remember saying that, but today she understands why she said it. I asked her the other day if it was worth it, and without hesitation she shouted, "No!" Just now I asked her again, and her answer was, "I don't know. Right now it's throbbing." Although she was up and around today, as we spoke she was lying back in her Lazy Boy. But I heard her tell someone today that her pain is a little diminished.

From My perspective she is doing famously. Her physical therapist raves about her progress. She is able to lift her leg, and hold it in the air. She now bends her knee 90 degrees. Last time she discovered that she would be released from PT when she could bend it 120 degrees (which she did in 3 weeks). She had her surgery just 10 days ago. We all think she is making amazing progress. She is my hero.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


As I waited for a traffic light to change today, I noticed a teen-ager on his skateboard maneuvering the intersection. He was careful. I could tell because of the way he alertly glanced toward each lane of potential traffic as he crossed with the signal from East to West, and then (because as yet there was no flow of traffic either direction) he crossed from North to South and down the street. Had he no board he would need to be jogging at least to make that distance in equal time. So I pondered the compared health factors between the good exercise of jogging which he was avoiding, and the coordination skills and sheer athletic ability required to propel his board as smoothly and as efficiently as he did. Maybe it was a trade off, and since the board was obviously more fun than jogging, I suppose he was on the right track.

Now when I was a kid, skateboarding meant something else. There was no such thing as the commercially manufactured boards such as I saw today. We had roller skates--you know the kind with 4 wheels on each foot. The insane invention of in-line skates had not yet been perpetrated either. When our roller skates began to get worn and we were begging our parents for a new pair, we used the old pair to make skateboards. This was usually a scrap 2x4 and an orange crate. The local grocer had oranges delivered to him in wooden crates. They may have been 24" by 36" or somewhere thereabouts. We nailed these crates to the 2x4 as a front grille of the conveyance. The 24" side of the crate was nailed flat to the 2x4, with two smaller pieces of wood attached to the top diagonally for handle bars. Since these skates were made to come apart into two sections of tandem wheels, we simply nailed one section under the front portion of the 2x4 and the other section to the rear. That was a skateboard when I was a kid.

Today there are many sizes and shapes, and I suppose there are custom made models as well. My granddaughter used a longboard. I've observed many different sizes and composition wheels. They are all much more silent than our old skateboards, I'll have to admit. And when I see x-games with jumps and twists on the half pipe, my mouth drops in amazement. I cringe at tricks that have gone afoul, such as riding a hand rail pipe, and falling to the crotch, or when a curb or stone suddenly removes the board from under the feet of a speeding rider and he loses skin.

I remember my son used to ride around his base in the Air Force on a skateboard. He carefully read the rules, and determined that he did not need to salute officers when he was in transit with some sort of conveyance. Although those who wrote the manual may never have anticipated this scenario, he found this a legitimate way of tweaking the nose of authority, which has always been his favorite amusement. Ya gotta love him.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ouch! That smarts.

Yeah, Barbara is thinking something like that these days. She came home last Thursday, and baring a torrential rain (which is predicted) she plans to struggle into church tomorrow. She says it is more painful than she remembers from the first knee replacement.

But you ladies know how the Lord prevents accurate remembrance of the pain of childbirth. All I know is that Bill Cosby says it is like taking my lower lip and lifting it up over the top of my head. I don't know that he is an expert on labor pains, but I got the picture lasered into my imagination.

She is walking a little better each day, and even getting into her own bed. She is already taking AVON orders, but piano lessons do not begin again til next week. She is a tough lady, and right now she is my hero.

The Physical Therapist visited once already, and he was amazed at her progress. He has three other cases of the same surgery, and he says she is ahead of the others. She can already bend her knee 70 degrees, and the nearest to her can only bend his knee 50 degrees.

You go girl!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dangerous Hospitals

We all know about antibiotic resistant germs that tend to lurk about hospitals, but that was not the theme I had in mind. Neglect and mistaken drug dispensing are also dangerous, and not unheard of during a hospital stay. But we prepared for that by keeping a presence in Barbara's room as much as we could. There are other dangers the consequences of which may seldom be fatal, but they are very annoying. We experienced some of them this time.

On the first day after her surgery, I called from home fairly early in the morning and got the busy signal. Okay, someone from back east must have called. When I tried again later in the morning I got a ring. The ring continued until I was imagining a scenario where the doctor was visiting and giving her some important information, or she was out walking with the physical therapist, or she was whisked away to the ER or something else equally dramatic. After the third vain call attempt, I called the desk of the third floor and tried to explain my problem. Evidently I did not communicate clearly enough because all he did was connect my call to the line to Barbara's room, the very line of which I was complaining. The results were the same. Plenty of ringing, but no answering.

Needless to say we (our daughter and I) jumped into our clothes and drove over to see for ourselves. We found Barbara moping because she had not heard from me (or anyone else). I explained the situation, and housekeeping began to work on the problem. After trying two other phones and discovering it was possible to call out, but incoming calls still did not make the phone ring, housekeeping put a call in for the telephone expert. When he came and shared his superior wisdom, he unwrapped a brand new instrument, mumbled something about these being cheap trash, and installed a phone that actually worked.

There was a machine that pumped leg pouches to encourage circulation and prevent clots. On the second day it stopped working. Donna noticed this and told the nurse, but nothing happened. Since we were there for just a case as this, we made sure that it was finally fixed.

The nurses all were very sweet and caring-even Sergio and Florante, her male nurses. They assured Barbara that when she need a Demerol shot she only needed to push the call button. You may have already guessed that that was not working either. Again my presence helped to cure the problem post haste. It seems the cord was not plugged into the wall. The connection was similar to the kind of connectors that a monitor uses to talk to the computer. And it was barely fitting in its connection junction. After that, every time she wanted to call the nurse, I had to look above the door in the hallway to make sure the light was lit.

Over her knee, with its 18 staples (yes, I counted) there was another pouch through which ice water was pumped to minimize the swelling. Then a hospital gofer came to install the bar over the bed with the dangling triangle so Barbara could pull herself up when she tended to slip down toward the foot of the bed. He had leaned some of the poles of this contraption against the bed, and one of them fell to the floor. But instead of hitting the floor with a clang, it struck the ice water pump at the exact point where the hose is attached, broke the hose and spilled water all over the floor. I now see why so very many towels are used in the hospital. He grabbed about four or five of them and just tossed them in the puddle. Providence made sure that another machine was readily available, and eventually the pump and the bar were successfully installed.

Just imagine: this was all during one brief hospital stay!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Under the knife

I used to be in awe of my mother who experienced so many major surgeries. She even "died" on the operating table once. In that moment of our surgical history, death was determined from the time the heart stopped beating. That is how she "died". With a shot of adrenalin directly into the heart muscle, it began beating again. The extra drama of the event was the fact that the needle, when withdrawn, was missing the tip. To her final dying day we suppose she carried that tiny piece of surgical steel all her life.

Well I guess we have learned a lot more about measuring death, and a lot more about surgery too in the seventy years since then. Now we don't face surgery with the same fear that used to dominate. My mind is wandering this direction because of my sweet wife's impending surgery come Monday morning. She is having her second knee replacement. She will then have two bionic knees, and perhaps be able to run circles around me. She's not particularly interested in running circles, but in removing the constant, and increasingly excruciating pain that every step gives her just now.

On the other knee she toughed it out to finish PT in just three weeks. When she could bend her knee 100% her therapist told her to get out. "I don't want to see her again." Others in her group were congratulating themselves for the progress they had made in 3 months. Barbara felt embarrassment at her unusual success because she necessarily made the others envious. Now she expects to do the same work and get the same results. I hope she is right. But at least this means she will enter the surgical theater with a positive attitude, and I know that goes a long way.

We have both experienced problems with our hospital care givers, and so I am planning to hover over her with TLC. I am already planning to smuggle in some real food, as well as make sure they are giving her the pain medication the doctor ordered.

Our daughter made the final move to Lake Havasu today--in fact as I write these words. After unloading the final shipment of household goods, she plans to return Monday to sleep on our couch and help me in my hovering project. She is a wonderful daughter, and genuinely compassionate. She may do a better job than I, but I will give it my best effort.

Since my wife will be the only thing on my mind, I'm sure that will be the subject of my next post, so if you are interested, stay tuned. If not, please be patient until I return to some other strange recollection or offbeat musing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Did you know that tobacco was the first successful commercial product of the settlers in the new world? It was the Plymouth Company of England that financed ships that populated the new world, and they expected a saleable product to export in return. Turns out that they were all failures until the Indians taught them how to grow tobacco.

We've come a long way since then. I'm old enough to remember smoking ads on the radio, then later on TV. I remember the weekly "Lucky Strike Hit Parade", a top radio show that performed the top ten selling recordings for the week. They featured great singers to perform the most popular songs in the nation. This was sponsored by a tobacco company who manufactured "Lucky Strike" cigarettes. I remember how every movie that employed the most popular movie stars featured them as heavy smokers. In fact the drama of lighting up and taking a long drag formed important scenes in almost every one of them.

Then came the report of the Surgeon General of the United States that declared the link between smoking and lung cancer. An elder in our church quit his habit about that time, and when I asked him, he said he did not quit because of the report of the Surgeon General. He said that he discovered that tobacco had a grip on him. He said that it was controlling him, instead of the other way around. His conscience bothered him about being a slave to anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

But the climate began to change at that time. That was long ago, but I am old enough to remember all this. Peer pressure usually got teen started because they wanted to be cool. Our club was called the "Meridians" and we thought we were extra cool because instead of smoking cigarettes we each had a pipe. I also remember the night I tried a hunk of chaw (chewing tobacco). It filled my mouth with a sweet juice that seemed to draw an extra flow of saliva, and before I could get outside to spit I had swallowed a lump. I was so sick my face must have been green. That was the last time I ever put tobacco in my mouth. Well there was one other time. I smuggled a cigarette from my mom's purse so Barbara could see what she was missing. She hacked and gagged (as I knew she would), and her curiosity was more than satisfied.

Now I hear that the legislature of California is considering banning smoking from any public place--indoors or out. It is now cool NOT to smoke. Yes sir, we have come a long way.

I actually heard my Urologist say that I had a beautiful bladder. He explained that smoking actually scars the lining of one's bladder, and I do not smoke. So when he inserted a catheter camera into me, he felt compelled to remark about my "beautiful" bladder. You may think this is weird. But my doctor is a bit weird.

The Best Start

A friend of mine recently died, and at the viewing (I hate this mawkish tradition) I was talking with a girl who cared rather deeply for my friend. She was telling him during his last days that he was going to be a grandfather. She was comforting and encouraging him as best she could. The problem is: his son, who is soon to be a father, isn't married. Apparently this girl did not have a clue that this might be a problem. I know for me the news was a grief. This boy only has seasonal work, and I don't even know if he plans to marry the girl. If I were that soon-to-be-grandpa, this news would have disquieted my soul. What she wanted to convey was, "Isn't it a joy to know that your progeny is proceeding to another generation." But I would have heard her say, "Your son is engaging in fornication. Isn't that wonderful?"

Then I picked up the paper only to see a headline that declared, "72% of black babies born to unwed mothers". We used to derisively call them bastards. But that was unfair. The child is the only innocent party in this type of procreation. These young parents are simply reflecting the style of our media role models. When movie stars and sport celebrities unashamedly announce the arrival of a new bastard, we do not wag our fingers to shame, but relish the "happy" news!

Raising my voice against the praise of lasciviousness makes me the bad guy. Of course my opinion is quickly dismissed as passé, and if I am excused for holding this archaic opinion it is only because I am patronized as an old duck with strange beliefs. What has happened to my culture is called the evolution of social sin. So what is it that separates our sexual practices from that of a pack of dogs? Please refresh my memory.

It's not just that we believe in marriage (and have enjoyed the institution for 52 years). I'm not just saying, "I think my style is better than yours." It's what God had in mind when he created Adam and Eve. The apostle Paul tells us that marriage is an imitation of the loving relationship that exists between Christ and His church. Do you have to have Christian convictions about marriage to believe that bringing children into the world and helping them get a start in life is best done by a team of husband and wife? Or is it simply that so many people have had terrible home lives that they can no longer believe this? On one hand I want to rebuke my culture, but instead I think I should weep for it. Oh God, give us more Christian homes for an exemplary footnote to what we preach!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

October 31

I've been meaning to share my thoughts all week, and rather than let another Sunday pass before I make some random comments about October 31, I felt compelled to say something, even if it is not as elegant as I would like.

I am in an isolated (and insulated?) minority, because this date means "Reformation Day" to me.

Grocery markets enjoy an influx of business for Thanksgiving, but other than that it seems to escape the glut of commercialism that burdens the other holidays. Now we find Halloween rivaling all other holidays (besides Christmas, of course) for it's commercial appeal. Horror movie DVDs, candy, costumes and frightening lawn decorations are proliferating wildly in my long experience on earth. Here in Lakewood we even have a store that is named simply, "Halloween". For weeks they have paid some out of work college kid to wear a costume and swing an arrow sign with the name of this store. He stood at the corner of Lakewood and Candlewood, gesturing toward the store. The great theme parks went to great expense to hire more of these enterprising college kids to spook the wits out of the teenagers who venture there.

At least 99 people out of a hundred (probably a lot more) will tell you October 31 is Halloween. But I say it is Reformation Day! It is the eve of All Saints Day, and so it was called "hallowed even" which eventually slurred into "Halloween".

It was on that day back in 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther challenged clerical scholars to debate several propositions, all of which questioned common practices in the church. They were called "theses" and there were 95 of them. The bulletin board for posting such academic challenges was the great wooden door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. But because God had providentially prepared for it, this activity began a political, religious and social firestorm that has not yet fully subsided.

There was general unrest in the social milieu just waiting for an excuse to rebel against the politial authority of the church. There were other Bible scholars who also realized that the Bible clearly teaches salvation by grace alone. It is the gift of God, and can never be earned by works, and is never dispensed by the church. Luther was a tenacious and courageous spirit like no other of his time. Someone local just happened to be present, who translated the theses from the academic Latin into the common German of the people of Wittenberg. God further provided the invention of Caxton's printing press just in time to print and distribute these 95 theses far and wide before Luther was even aware of it.

So last Sunday, before sweet little children were committing extortion ("trick or treat"), we were being lifted into glory by the Holy Spirit, speaking clearly in Scripture. He was pointing us to Jesus, as is His promised practice. Pastor Dan Overduin read Jeremiah 5, which is about God looking for a real man of true integrity, and finding none. He developed this theme just far enough for us all to get the point that none of us can fill the role. Every man falls pitifully short. All have sinned.

Pastor Dan took us to Jeremiah 31 where the Lord promises a new covenant in which He will change the hearts of His people, call them His own, and forgive their sins. Then he showed us Jeremiah 23 where God promised a descendant of king David would be a righteous "Branch", and His name would be, The Lord our Righteousness". This is our Jesus, who is set forth in the New Testament as being in the lineage of David, and as being the righteous One who takes away our sin.

As we were being thrilled by seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the world outside our door was preparing for ghoulish foolishness.

I wish they could all see my loviing Savior instead of what they are doing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pondering Technology

Since a very good friend of ours gave me a gift card for the Olive Garden restaurant for my birthday, we decided to use it tonight. After buckling up in our air conditioned car, we fired up the Garmin GPS locator. We asked it for Italian food, and sure enough, there was the Olive Garden. Punching "Go" we were given explicit directions by a pleasant female voice.

We've had fun musing about sarcastic versions of the GPS (maybe someone has already invented it?) or a voice with a New York accent and attitude. Your imagination can go far with this.

We easily found the eatery, and had a great meal. I discovered Venetian Apricot Chicken which was offered with veggies and cost me only 380 calories. However the potato and sausage soup added another 170. Nevertheless I kept within a weight loss limit of calories today. Barbara, not feeling very imaginative or adventuresome today, enjoyed a pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, tomatoes and olives. She didn't eat much of it, but it makes a great breakfast (or lunch).

But it is the GPS that got me thinking. The lady knows where the restaurant is located, and tells us just how to get there. Never mind that we lost satellite reception twice, briefly. I'm still in awe of the technology that is represented by this little metal box.

Then I remembered Sputnik in October of 1957. It was only 23 inches in diameter and orbited the earth every hour and a half or so. I actually could see it from my back yard in the city. If one looked for it at dusk, when the sun was just below the horizon, he could see the silver dot slowly moving across the sky. Radio news let us monitor the heartbeat of Lika, the dog that gave her all to be the first animal to orbit the globe. I remember thinking, "That is a great trick, but what a waste of money and resources just to be the first in space. Of what possible practical use could this ever be to mankind. It is just a political chest-thumping venture of the Soviets."

I could never have guessed!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Physician falibility

When we were children we worshipped doctors as gods, and they never got over it. Pardon the borrowing of terminology from an old quip about cats. The older we get (and we are really getting old), we are recognizing that doctors are real people, and people are often mistaken. When my doctor tells me to jump, I no longer ask "How high?" Now I say, "Not until you tell me why." Well, all that verbiage is just to give you a little attitude background for the brief story I want to tell.

Barbara has voluntary surgery coming November 15 to replace her other knee. Kaiser will not let her do this until she takes all kinds of tests and quits most of her pills and takes a class to prepare her for the surgery. That sounds like a good idea, but she has already been through this routine once for her right knee, and she recovered faster than anyone else who was in her physical therapy group. She thinks she knows what to expect. But you know that bureaucracy insists on herding everyone through the same hoops, even though each case is different from the others.

She doesn't mind most of the stuff they have demanded, but it becomes very time consuming.

Today her primary care physician doubled her prescription for a certain drug that will lower her blood pressure. She thinks Barbara has high blood pressure and that makes her a poor candidate for surgery. I was there to tell her that I thought she was making her judgment on too little evidence because whenever she tries the meter at home she has rather low or at least normal blood pressure (120/60 and less).

Actually we had the preliminary discussion about this the last time Barbara saw this doctor. When we assured her that Barbara's blood pressure was low or average, she immediately assumed that our monitor was defective. She asked us to bring it into the office so it could be checked. That seemed like a good idea to us, so that is what we did today.

Her medical assistant tried the office meter and knew it was false because it gave a pulse rate of 140 when by the MA's own count her pulse agreed with the portable meter we brought to the office (80). So she tried the office meter once again, and this time instead of giving us a reading, it said "E 11). She pulled out the code chart and found that E 11 said, "Internal error". She trusted the portable meter we had brought to the office and had to report the office meter as broken.

Now the doctor is trying to tell us that Barbara has high blood pressure by using a monitor that isn't working. I thought that was humorously ironic! But the doctor still likes to assume that posture of a god, dictating terms to her surf.

Now we've learned to trust the Great Physician, whose providential hands direct the fallible physician.