Christmas in the Desert

So what is happening in St. George, Utah this Christmas season? Well, with Dan and Gail Christmas started last Friday with the installation of an RO (Reverse Osmosis) water system to give us pure drinking water, and pure water for the fishies. We had church on Sunday, of course. On Monday the new whole house water softener system was installed. The RO system is a separate faucet in the kitchen that also goes to the refrigerator for chilled water and ice cubes. Also on Monday Gail got her Christmas present of three Yellow Tangs, her favorite fish. They’re happily swimming around with all their friends, including the clowns (like Nemo) and the Blue Tang (like Dory). Pictures on Facebook if you’ve not already seen them.

Tuesday we played bridge and watched the Boise State Broncos lose the football game in Hawai’i to the Evil Beavers. Just too many distractions (and fumbles) for the team. But first time since 98 they’ve had five losses, and we trust the last time for another 15 years. We also went to the Christmas Eve Service at Grace Episcopal Church, St. George, UT, which was of course packed with people we’ve never seen before. :-) But at least they came. This morning we’ve been watching recorded programs of Music and the Spoken Word, a weekly program produced by the Mormon Church. We have a whole collection of their Christmas programs on the DVR to give us beautiful music and will watch more later.

We just had a delicious brunch of scrambled eggs and bacon, with toast and jam and coffee. Now we’re watching another classic costume drama from 1959, the era of Biblical epics, the film of Lloyd C. Douglas’s The Big Fisherman. It has tons of other historical costume drama wrapped around the story of Simon Peter, the first Disciple. The quality of the print that TCM ran isn’t great, and the audio is scratchy and weak, but it is still interesting to watch. Much of the historical accuracy is dubious, of course.

Later, mixed with more of the music programs, we’ll watch A Christmas Story, as we do every year, and perhaps some other classics like Its a Wonderful Life. The centerpiece of the evening will be the Boise State — Iowa State basketball game, the championship game of the Hawai’i Classic Tournament from Honolulu. In between we’ll watch the fish swim around and Gail will cook the Standing Rib Roast, which will be served with baked potatoes and asparagus.  The dogs are already anticipating having a giant rib bone each.

This Christmas we’re both so blessed and thankful that we’re again healthy after Gail’s back surgery and my heart surgery.

We wish the happiest Christmas ever to all who may read this.

Dan and Gail

 


Thanksgiving

Gail and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  Here are a few thoughts.

Gail had her spinal fusion surgery and has successfully recovered.  She’s mobile and out of continual pain. The eight hour surgery was scary for both of us, but all is well now.

I knew what to do when I had chest pains and, with particular thanks to a good friend, I had surgery (quadruple artery bypass on my heart) within three weeks. Since then I’ve recovered well and am back to normal.

We’re thankful that we’re currently in Pleasanton, California, about to have Thanksgiving Dinner with Gail’s niece and nephew and other extended family. We’re sad that we’re here instead of home in St. George because of Gail’s sister Karen passing away this past Sunday, but are thankful that she didn’t suffer long and passed easily to the next life. Gail is particularly thankful that she was able to spend a week with Karen just before she went into the hospital, and they enjoyed wonderful times together. 

We’re thankful for all the rest of our family all over the country and glad that they are well and happy, and particularly that Cinda Lester is recovering from her night in the ER with pleurisy. 

We’re thankful that we’ll be able to leave tomorrow to take two days to drive back to St. George to see our dogs and fish and get back to all of our normal holiday activities at home and in our wonderful church.

We’re thankful for all of our other friends and pray that all who may read this will have a healthy and happy holiday.  

Love to all

 

 


50 Years Ago Today

Well, since “What were you doing 50 years ago today?” is one of the leading news stories, on this anniversary of the assassination  of President Kennedy, I thought I’d answer it. 

In May 1963 I started working for 73 Magazine in Peterborough, New Hampshire, as an editor, writer, photographer, and general gopher. 73 was small, but the leading amateur radio magazine at the time. We all lived together in a 37 room house that was built in the 1790s. In early November I bought tickets to fly from Boston Logan Airport to Chicago O’Hare for a week’s visit with family in Dolton, Illinois, where my mother and 5 younger siblings were living. 

Early on the morning of Friday, November 22, I took a Greyhound bus from Peterborough to Boston, arriving mid morning. I had several hours before I had to head to the airport, so I spent the time walking around Boston. I had lunch in a little bar on Boston Common and was just walking around taking in the sights and window shopping when I realized that people were starting to gather in small groups, around a few who were walking with small transistor radios.  I edged in and realized that the broadcasts were saying that Kennedy had been shot and was going to the hospital. We were all shocked, and many were crying.  I kept walking around somewhat dazed and realized that another group was peering in the a large glass window. The window was for a TV station that always had a couple of teletype machines printing out stories from AP and UPI for anyone to read.  Every once in a while a staff member came by and tore off some of the printout (which was typed pretty slowly) to take back to a newsroom or somewhere else.  The feed was nothing but latest reports, incomplete and partial, of the news from Dallas. People moved in, and away, but I stayed, transfixed. I knew I had to get a cab to Logan but couldn’t leave. Just then the news came in that JFK was indeed dead.  

I turned away with tears in my eyes and went down a block to a cabstand and got a cab to the airport. I got to the airport just in time to get on my flight to Chicago. By the time the 707 got me there, and Mom picked me up at the airport, LBJ had been sworn in on the plane and he and the presidential party were back in Washington as well. We went straight home and the whole family sat in front of the 21 inch black and white TV for most of the next week. We watched Oswald killed by Ruby live on TV, as did millions of others. We watched the funeral cortege, and everything else that was shown. We watched and cried, we talked and discussed. And we just couldn’t believe it. We’d learned in history of the assassination of other presidents, but they were all more than fifty years earlier, so were ancient history. This was real and this was now, and quite possibly the first national media event. The funeral was on Tuesday, November 25, 1963, which was also Mom’s 44th birthday. Needless to say the birthday wasn’t really celebrated that day, but was on Thanksgiving in a fairly low key way.  

A week later I was on my way back to work and life resumed. 


Getting Old Is Not For Wimps

It isn’t easy getting old.  

When we were young, we thought the old folks had it easy. They were retired, could do what they wanted, go where they wanted, had unlimited time and money. And for many of us “old folks” we do have some freedom and a few dollars to do a few things we like to do. But it isn’t really unlimited in money, at least for us, and there is no question our time isn’t unlimited.  The older we get the more we realize our time is limited.

For me at least, it isn’t thinking about my own mortality, though I’m particularly aware of it after a quadruple bypass less than three months ago.  More recently I’ve been thinking about it because we live in an aging community. Almost every week at least one resident of SunRiver St. George passes away, as noted in the weekly email from the community center. A couple of weeks ago I served as an usher for the funeral service for a friend from bridge. Now another friend has a husband who has just been diagnosed with liver cancer, and they’re now waiting for biopsy results to tell them what kind it is and what, if anything, can be done about it. 

We’ve really been hit in the last 24 hours by a call from Gail’s nephew, Steve Black, who called to tell us his mother, her only sibling, Karen Dixon, who just celebrated her 69th birthday three days ago, is in the hospital in ICU with pneumonia and on oxygen, failing kidneys, and other problems. She’s also diabetic and has had a triple bypass. It looks like she’s failing, but we naturally pray for healing for her. And if healing isn’t possible, peace and comfort for her, for her children and grandchildren, and for us and her friends. 

I’ve also been reminded of how important time is by a post from Doris Markland, a friend who is 88, and has written about it recently.  She said: 

“Many people have put forth scientific theories regarding how our brain records our experiences and gives us our concept of time.  One simple explanation is that  a day in the life of a small child is long in proportion to the time he has spent on earth..  So that can explain why a day in my life now is  so short.”

and also

“Not to be discouraged.  It’s like money.  When we have a lot of it and a source of income, we may be tempted to spend without thought, without plan, because there will be more.  When money is scarce we begin to realize our part in the scheme of things.

Nothing is more precious than time.  It is all we have.  Perhaps realizing it is one of the major lessons in life.  And there’s no such thing as a lesson failed.  It is always a lesson learned.  As we say, everything comes in time.”

I heartily recommend you read the entire piece from which I quoted: “A Timely Post” and the rest of her blog as well.  She has a great perspective on the world and is an excellent writer.  

Meanwhile, all you “young kids” out there (meaning those under 60) think about how you’re using your time. Regardless of our age, none of us is promised tomorrow. 


Exercise

Since the quadruple bypass on my heart in August, I’ve been getting back to being more active with my cardiac rehab that is required, and will soon be back to regular trips to our SunRiver gym or pool, as well as walking outside when the weather is decent. 

I posted about my thoughts on half marathons on my other blog, Dan’s Journey Through Heart Bypass Surgery, and have taken the liberty of copying much of it here as a part of family history.  

I did six half marathons in 2007 and 2008 when I lived in Idaho. I needed to do more walking and a bit of jogging and joined a group called Boise Run Walk.  They offered training for events or just for generally improving health. I got into it pretty quickly and really trained. The first event I did was The Race to Robie Creek, which is known as the toughest race in the Northwest.  And it is.  But I did it in under 4 hours, including the 2050 climb and 1730 foot descent to the finish. The summit is just under a mile high. It is indeed brutal, but I did it.  I was probably in the last ten percent to finish, but at age 64 I felt pretty darn good about it.

Later in 07 and in 08 I did five more events, including Robie again in 08, a few minutes faster. As for training, you spend a lot of time running and walking.  If you’re not willing to commit ten or more hours a week to it, forget it. Also, for something like Robie, you have to spend a great deal of time going up and down, and most of my training was on the Robie course itself. I think I could still recreate it all from memory. I dream of doing it again, but we’ll just have to see.

I have thought about doing more half marathons, but first I need to lose some weight and get back into better shape. Right now I’m about 30 pounds heavier than I was in 07-08 and that is a big difference. But now as I finish my regime of Cardiac Rehabilitation, I plan to work out more in the gym here in SunRiver, and to spend time outside walking, and maybe ultimately jogging.  I do have a couple of physical issues to deal with (NOT cardiac related), and will be working on them, too.  If all goes well, there could be a half marathon in my future.  If it happens, great; if not, that’s OK too.

For a half marathon, my goal has always been to finish. One time I was last, but that was only because a friend and I got lost on a poorly marked network of dirt trails in the mountains.  And if we hadn’t been lost, it still would have been all right. Because I finished.


Death in the Family

Today’s blog is a guest posting by one of my sisters, Sue Bryson (Susan Lynn Lester Bryson). 

When we lived in Des Moines, Iowa, we had a small dog. I’m not sure if it was Corky, that Dan wrote about. But I vividly remember this dog being hit by a car in front of our house on Witmer Street. I can still see his little body lying, lifeless, in the street by the curb. Daddy got a small box to put him in, closed up the four flaps of the box, and left it on the grass parking strip in front of the house. Some animal control service was to come pick it up. We never spoke about this. Nobody talked about him or discussed what happened later or what happened after death. We knew not to ask questions. Daddy put us all back to work. It was over – the dog was gone.

Many years later, Mom and I discussed Daddy’s death. She apologized to me for never having talked about his death, or even talking about him. She said that she was raised to be very closed about personal feelings, and that when our dog had died Daddy just said to ignore it and get the kids back to work. So she remembered that and tried to do the same thing after our father’s death. She tried to keep us busy and directed. I know she cried in her bed alone at night. She must have felt terrified, alone, abandoned and in shock. How she found the power and energy to go on is a mystery to many. (I now know that it came through faith and powerful prayer, which she also never talked about.) Mom had huge regrets about how she handled her children’s feelings after Daddy’s death. But she did the best she could at the time.

This is what we all do. We do the best we can under our present circumstances, and then deal with the consequences. I am so grateful for my Mother and the great example she has always been to me. I am thankful she could admit when she made mistakes and always took responsibility for every part of her life. She has always been an inspiration to me and the hero of my life.


Dogs in Our Lives

I wrote about other pets a few days ago, but have been thinking about dogs today. When I was a child we rarely had dogs, as a dog would be just one more thing for Mom to take care of in addition to six children. However, when we lived in Phoenix in the early 1950s we had a small terrier for a while. I am not sure how or why we got it, but I think it was because Mom was told the poor little thing would be sleep if she didn’t take it on. Unfortunately, the dog was incorrigible, and barked and snapped all the time. We kids of course loved it, but once Mom was informed that no mail would be delivered to mailbox until the dog that snapped at the mailman was eliminated. Mom told us that the dog “ran away”, but we as teenagers understood that the dog went to the pound.  When the other kids were in high school they held “trials” of Mom for “the murder of the dog”. They had a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a judge. Mom was interrogated about the “murder” and of course was convicted.  This game was replayed a number of times, always with the same result.

Later, in 1954 when we lived in Des Moines, we got another puppy.  The little terrier puppy was named Corky. At the same time Mom was trying to housebreak a puppy and potty train the twins, Gary and Gayle. In those days there were no Pampers or fancy diapers like there are now. The twins wore cloth diapers with plastic pants over them that leaked regularly. From time to time Mom would find puddles on the floor but couldn’t tell who left them. The twins quickly learned to say “Corky did it”, whether the poor little dog did or not. Later some crayon coloring was found on the walls, and of course the twins said “Corky did it”.  Mom knew that wasn’t true.

Maybe Sue will write about “Tad” and her experiences with him when she was in high school, or Glenn or Steve will write about “Pansy Mae Wonder Woman Brown”.  They can send the stories to me.  Please?


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