Sunday, April 29, 2007


Pam, over at Mind Trips, took several photos of my cats and turned them into this! I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE it. I am going to print it off, frame it and give it to my dad. He will absolutely adore it. If you haven't been to her blog, you are in for a real treat. She is a genius with Photoshop and I mean that. She is incredibly talented and a wonderfully generous person. She is very active in conservation efforts and is teaching her grandchildren to take care of our planet as well.

Not long ago, I saw the artwork, above, on her blog. I contacted her and she allowed me to use it for a PowerPoint presentation I was making and also to use it on the cover of our annual conservation banquet programs. It fit perfectly with our conservation theme and received rave reviews from all of the people attending the event.

And finally, Pam took the mountain photo I was complaining about a few days ago (above) and removed the powerlines and poles (below).

Now that's a photo worth looking at!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More Photos from the Homeland

As always, we took time out of our busy day to take an adventure. What follows are photos from that trip. I hope you enjoy them.

Let the adventure begin!

I love the colors in this one.

Shasta loves our walks.

I just liked this one, and since it's my blog...I post what I like. pttttthhhhh (ha!)

Evidence of the last storm to hit the area.

I really love the colors in this one. This is the super-secret spot.

Pretty country, don't you think?

Reminds me of moguls, the kind you ski over. I have no idea what caused this, but they sure are fun to walk on.

I love the prairie

For Laura: the area was bunny paradise.

For Cathy, Pam, KG, and all you bird lovers: there is a Magpie in the middle of this photo. I know it's hard to see...

Two Sandhill Cranes (I think--correct me if I'm wrong).

Close-up of Cranes. (Boss, the crane, the crane)

A lone Sandhill...

Was it something I said?

And of course no adventure would be complete without taking Shasta somewhere for a swim.

Finally a moon picture, which didn't turn out very well, but I'll leave you with it anyway.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My Hometown

I have arrived safely in Absarokee (Montana). The weather is absolutely splendid and the trees are finally budding. The only birds I've seen so far are robins and grackels, but I am hopeful that with the change in weather, other varieties will be arriving shortly. I have my camera at the ready for just such an event.

This morning I went on a walking tour of town, such as it is. There are approximately 1,000 inhabitants of this fair berg, so there really isn't a lot to see. As usual, I wasn't particularly interested in taking pictures of buildings and people, my main focus was on the scenery.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, is my hometown.

The street where I live(d)...

About a half a block from home

About a half block from home, in the other direction.

Where I went to school, ages 10-13. It's a community center now.

Main Street, USA.

This would be a good picture, if there weren't any powerlines in it. How DARE they run those through such a beautiful area!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gone Fishing

Tomorrow I am going to Billings to attend Cousin Dale's father's funeral service. I am attending out of respect for Dale, who is most certainly not well enough to go himself. Dale is having serious complications as a result of the bone marrow transplant. In essence, the Graft VS Host Disease is kicking his butt. My dear son, Wolf, has been visiting him in the hospital as often as possible. It's a real drain on Wolf, but he swears that it is what he wants to do. He is such a good, kind, caring person.

After the service, I am going to Absarokee for the weekend. I intend to vegetate as much as possible, although knowing me, I will want to do a lot of cooking and some cleaning while I'm there. I shouldn't take the extra day off of work, but to be honest, I need a vacation from my vacation.

I plan to take a lot of photos, walk the dog excessively, take long drives with Dad and Mike and do a lot of doting. I will, most likely, invite Uncle John and Neighbor Lois over for a big meal and send them home lots of left-overs. I know it will be a wonderful weekend.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend, too. Please remember to hug the ones you love and take lots of pictures. Life is short, live it to the fullest.

Monday, April 23, 2007

When the Boss is Away, the Cats will Play

Remember this?
After Goober knocked the cat tree down in the spare room, I moved it to the living room. It was hooked to the ceiling with extremely strong wire.

Can somebody tell me how it became this?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tell Me Your Favorite...

I have returned home. Kay had a family emergency so we drove through the night to get her back to Billings. I dropped her off and continued on to Forsyth. I arrived here, safe and sound physically (mentally...not so much), early this morning.

Dale was so sweet when we left. He tried very hard to be upbeat and positive. He thanked us over and over again for being there for him and reassured us that he would be fine. It was all an act and I imagine it took every ounce of strength he had. Leaving there was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Since I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, I have stolen borrowed this post concept from Ur-Spo.

The idea is for you to leave a comment linking me to your favorite blog entry of all time. It must be one that you have authored.

Also, please tell me why it is your favorite entry.

There will be an contest to determine the winner of the best blog post. The grand prize winner will be given his or her choice of (the usual) all-expense paid trip to Eastern Montana or a bottle of Annie Green Springs Wine, retail price $2.49.

Gentlemen and ladies, start your keyboards.

Thank you in advance for humoring me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Of Water Coolers and Umbrella Drinks

When Kay and I got to Wolf’s apartment last night, she was very tired. So tired, in fact that she turned on the TV and promptly fell to sleep, gripping the remote. It was fine for the first hour. I enjoy the TV show “Frasier” and even though I’d seen the episodes before, I didn’t mind watching them again. However, when “The Golden Girls” came on, it was time to change the channel. Kay was still asleep so I tried to slide the remote out of her hand. Not happening. I tried again, a little more forcefully. She had the remote in a grip of steel. So not happening. She finally woke up a couple of hours later and turned the TV off and we both went to sleep.

Kay and I spent most of today with Dale. He wasn’t as uncomfortable as he has been, mainly because of the Versaid they gave him while they did the bone marrow biopsy, but I can honestly tell you he’s seen better days. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

This has been a difficult week for Dale. On Monday he had a colonoscopy, on Wednesday he had a spinal tap and then today he had the biopsy. When I suggested he take the weekend off, he agreed and said he was going to tell the doctors that his dance card was full.

Kay and I did our best to entertain Dale, and for the most part we succeeded. We talked about growing up and all of the fun we had when they would come to Absarokee on the weekends and in the summer. We talked about catching (and releasing) water skippers, and tubing the rapids of Sheep Creek (if you can call 4 inches of quickly moving water rapids, that is).

Even though he is not allowed to have food or water right now, he talked about my mom’s cooking for hours. He went on and on about her homemade milkshakes, the juiciest cheeseburgers in the universe and platters of tater tots. He kept making a fizzing sound, telling us he was craving a Coke, with LARGE ice cubes. But eventually he came back to the one thing that he truly wanted; an ice cold glass of water.

Over and over he said that he was going to buy a water cooler, the kind that you put a 5 gallon jug on top of. He was going to set it up right next to his lounge chair at home and have ice cold water within reach day and night. It was good to hear him focusing on the future.

The drugs were making him kind of “la-la” and he napped in between discussions, but it was a good day all-in-all.

I gave platelets this morning and it might have made me a bit loopy. I looked over at Cousin Kay and she was fiddling with her shoelaces. They were strange looking, to be sure and I couldn’t stop staring. She told me that they were special laces that didn’t have to be tied. For some reason the sight of them and the thought of them cracked me up and I started to giggle hysterically. I couldn’t stop. I laughed until I snorted (yeah, I know…what an attractive visual) several times, and by the end of it all the cousins were ready to schedule a psych evaluation for me.

I talked them out of sending me to a nut house and into going to the Islands. We made a pact. Once this is all over, when he is healthy and well again, we are going to take a cruise to Mexico. When we get there, we are going to sit by the beach, Dale and Kay on chairs in the shade, and me on a towel in the sun.

We’ll be sipping umbrella drinks.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Just Another Lewis and Clark Adventure

Guess what?

Wow, it only took you one guess...yeah, you’re right, despite having the navigator lady to guide me, I got totally lost going to the airport to pick up Cousin Kay (aka Clark).

Here's my version of what happened.

I typed Denver International Airport into my Verizon Virtual Navigator (her name is Marcia, for those of you who are interested) and she immediately calculated the shortest and fastest route to my destination.

Completely trusting Marcia, I followed her directions to the letter. Not once (OK, maybe once) did she say, “Recalculating Route” or “Please make the next available legal U-Turn”. I was feeling so proud and full of myself. I kept thinking, this is so easy, why did I stay up half the night worrying about getting lost? I swerved in and out of traffic, navigating the big city streets with ease.

I drove and I drove and I drove, making lane changes where necessary and only getting the finger once (that I saw, anyway). I was oblivious to my surroundings until I was nearly run over by a bus. Marcia chose that moment to make the announcement that we were .4 miles from our destination. I looked about in dismay. How on earth do they land planes with all these houses around, I thought to myself?

I drove around the block several times. (Don’t laugh!) When it became obvious that I was NOT anywhere near the airport, I pulled over to the side of the road and Marcia and I had a little bit of a chat. Come to find out, when you do a GPS search for Denver International Airport (DIA) on the Verizon Navigator Network, there is a slight chance that you will be directed to a car service that will secure your vehicle in their lock down and then drive you to the airport. This service is conveniently located in the middle of the seediest part of downtown Denver and is approximately 16 miles from DIA.

After some gentle persuasion, Marcia "recalculated" the route and I finally ended up at DIA., about half an hour late and only a few minutes after Clark was escorted to the pickup zone by a kindly police man who found her wandering around the airport with a confused look on her face.

Oh yes, my fellow bloggers, you would have been so proud of me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How Are You Holding Up, Kiddo?

My wonderful, fantastic, incredible brother Mike has done a wonderful, fantastic, incredible thing. He has purchased a plane ticket so that my beautiful, talented, amazing Cousin Kay can fly to Denver tomorrow, spend the weekend and drive back to Montana with me on Sunday.

Why did he do this amazing thing? Well aside from the fact that he is the Very Best Brother in the Universe, he is also a very astute and kind man. He sensed that I was getting a bit tired and a bit overwhelmed and he also realized that even though I have to go back to work on Monday, I am hesitant about doing so because I don't want to leave Dale. He knows that having Kay here will make things easier for me and more importantly for Dale, and that she will be able to help me make the transition.

Am I not the luckiest woman in the universe?

The Dale Update:

Dale is handling the setback as he handles everything. With humor and strength. Even though he is in pain and is now on insulin, he remains kind and appreciative of everything that is done to and for him. He continues to be a great inspiration to all of us that are lucky enough to be around him.

Last night, between bathroom trips, Dale dozed off for a little while. I must have done the same and when I woke up he was looking over at me from his bed. "How are you holding up, Kiddo?" he said to me, reaching over to pat my arm. "Fine, Dale, just fine," I answered, with tears in my eyes.

I am going to hate to leave this man.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Wish

The word is in on Dale. It is Graft VS Host Disease and it is in his digestive tract. It is a relatively severe case and they are treating it aggressively. I am not sure what all that entails, but I do know he will be in the hospital for several weeks at the minimum.

At this point, he is unable to eat or drink; they are giving him all of that intravenously. Last night, while we were talking on the phone he said his fantasy is to drink ice cold water, but he can't, it tears up his gut too badly to even contemplate. He said when he gets out of the hospital, he is going to buy some Dasani water and put one in the freezer until it gets ice crystals in it and then drink it all in one gulp.

What struck me about his wish is its simplicity. Dale has been sick since August of 2006. Most of that time he hasn't had the strength to do any of the things he loves; tinker with his 38 Chevy Coupe, work with wood, listen to jazz...all of his favorite pursuits were out of his grasp because he was too sick and had too little energy.

He didn't have much of an appetite during that time, except for the few days’ right before the transplant, yet his fondest wish is to drink a bottle of iced Dasani water. No juicy T-Bone for Dale. No shrimp or lobster for Dale. No tacos or enchilada...all he wants is a bottle of Dasani with ice crystals in it. I suppose his wish is born of thirst, the kind of thirst I can only imagine, but still, the simplicity of it boggles my mind.

How typical of Dale. His wants and needs have always been basic. He lives well within his means and doesn't ask for much from the people around him or the world in general.

As we ended our phone conversation, Dale, obviously hearing the sadness that I had tried so desperately to hide from him, said "It could have been worse, Laurie, at least they didn't find any more cancer".

Monday, April 16, 2007

Just in for Some Fine Tuning...

As I mentioned in my last post, Dale is back in the hospital. He is having some fairly significant discomfort, and has been a bit down, but he wants you all to know that this is just a temporary setback. The medical staff at St. Luke's is taking excellent care of him and he is certain that he will overcome this obstacle. He said to tell you all that he's just in for some fine tuning.

In an effort to find the cause of his symptoms, the staff has tested him for Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which is a common virus that infects most people worldwide. CMV infection is usually harmless and rarely causes illness and a healthy immune system can hold the virus in check. However, if a person's immune system is seriously weakened in any way, the virus can become active and cause CMV disease, which can be quite serious. We don't have the results of the test back yet, but I will update you all when I do.

Another possible consideration is that the symptoms may be from Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) which is a frequent complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplant in which the engrafted donor cells attacks the patient's organs and tissue. GVHD tends to be more severe in patients receiving mismatched transplants from family member or unrelated donors, which is the case with Dale.

I'm sure there are other potential causes for his discomfort, but these are the front-runners at the moment. In an effort to determine what is causing Dale's symptoms, they performed a colonoscopy this morning. They took several samples to biopsy and we should have the results of those in the near future.

I also wanted to mention that Dale's father passed away on Saturday. His father wasn't a nice man and they weren't at all close, but I think on top of everything else, it will be hard on Dale once it sinks in.

Dale has been overwhelmed by the love and support he has received from his friends and family and the people who read this blog. Your phone calls and cards have meant the world to him and I have printed off your blog comments nearly every day. They are a great source of enjoyment and comfort and he reads them all, laughing at some, tearing up over others. He appreciates it more than he can say, as do I.

So folks, please keep those calls, cards and comments comin' really are making a difference!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Times, they are a'changin...

It is almost time to go back to my real life. It's funny, but I hardly remember what it was like. It's not that my "real life" was bad in any way, I've lived a very pleasant existence, but for over a month my reality has been; go see Dale, work from the hospital, come home to hang out with Wolf, work some more, go to bed, try to sleep, rinse and repeat. It sounds kind of nuts, but I've enjoyed it very much. Of course if Dale's outcome had been different, I would not be able to say that.

Sure, the traffic is crazy, my car was broken in to, I'm spending nearly every day at the hospital, I'm sleeping on the couch and the neighbors upstairs have lousy taste in music (can you say "turn down the base"?)...but still, I've rarely, if ever, felt more fulfilled or happy.

Why is that, I keep asking myself?

I've come to a several conclusions:
  1. I am helping my cousin, who is a really good person in need of assistance. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to help him, even a little bit, in his time of need. I help people in my work every day and it is extremely fulfilling, but this is different. Entirely different.
  2. I've gotten to know Cousin Dale better than I ever expected to. I've always adored him, and we've always been able to talk for hours, but now I know what is in his heart, and it's a very good heart.
  3. I have been spending time with my son. Since he moved away several years ago, we've not had nearly enough time together. My trips here and his trips back to Montana have usually been short, hurried affairs, and it never felt like I had enough time to spend with him. On this trip we've had a lot of quality time together. I've seen the person he's become and I am very happy, proud and pleased.
  4. I have spent countless hours donating blood products on this trip. I've given every blood product imaginable, as often as I was allowed to. If you are a healthy person, age 17 or over, and weigh 110# or more, please consider donating. The need is staggering. Every 3 seconds, someone needs blood. About 60 percent of the population are eligible to donate blood, yet less than five percent do. Whole blood can be given every 56 days, but you can donate platelets as often as twice a week. Platelet donation is relatively simple and painless and accomplished through Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) which is a special kind of blood donation where blood is drawn from your arm through sterile tubing into a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins the blood to separate the components, which vary in weight and density. A port is opened along the spinning tubing at the level containing platelets. These platelets are drawn up into a collection bag, while the remaining blood components (red cells and plasma) are returned to you. Platelets are only viable for 5 days, so if you consider that a heart surgery patient requires 6 units of platelets and the average bone marrow transplant patient needs 120, you'll see that the need for donations is vast and continuous. So please, step up and help to save a life. Please, I beg of you, click here for more information.
  5. And finally, I have learned a lot about myself on this trip. I'm a lot more self-confident these days, for one reason or another. I've learned to (don't laugh) navigate the big city (with help from my Virtual Navigator Lady) and managed to thwart a potential mugging (or worse). I've learned that car windows are just car windows and stereos are just stereos. Losing them, while frustrating, is not very important in the grand scheme of things. I've learned that a task that may seem overwhelming at first can usually be accomplished by taking it step by step. I've overcome my fear of hospitals, my fear of needles and my fear of escalators (don't ask). I've learned that the world is a big and often beautiful place and I think I'd like to explore more of it.
So now I am preparing to leave Denver and go back to my real life. Dale is doing well (see future post) and my presence here is no longer needed. I will probably leave on Monday morning to go back to eastern Montana. But I'm not the person I was when I left there. I've changed, in a great many ways. I am starting to see the big picture, now, and I know that I will never be the same.

Times, they are a changin'.

Update: Dale has had a setback, hopefully minor, and he is back in the hospital. I will be staying on for at least a few more days to be sure he is alright. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Element(ary), My Dear Watson

As some of you may remember, Christmas 2006 was quite bleak for me. A snowstorm of biblical proportions hit Denver just as my son was preparing to fly out to join us for Christmas. He was unable to come home so we postponed our holiday. Others of you may recall that our family was finally able to get together in late January. That celebration, while belated, was the best holiday celebration our family has had since mom passed away in 2001.

Wonderful things happened during that time. My son, Wolf, flew home and when he arrived at the airport, my brother and I surprised him with a new sunset orange pearl Honda Element. We proceeded to Absarokee to spend a long weekend with my dad, Uncle John and Neighbor Lois. Wonderful presents were given and received, but the most precious gift of all was the time we spent together.

After our days with Dad and Mike, Wolf and I drove to Billings to spend the last night with Cousin Kay and her nieces and nephews. Wolf, took the lead in his Element (gee, I wonder why?), and I followed behind in what my brother and son call the boat car (Pontiac Bonneville, so not cool when compared to a Honda Element).

During the hour long drive we talked to each other via cell phone. The main topic of our conversation was what to put on the license plate for his new vehicle. We thought about using the periodic symbol for copper, Cu, but I remembered seeing the plate already in use, and besides, according to Wolf, it wasn’t cool enough.

We quit talking on the phone as we neared the city. I was concentrating on the traffic (such as it is in a city of around 100,000) and staying right on Wolf’s tail so as not to get lost (I know the thought of me getting lost boggles your mind). We were almost to the hotel when it came to me. I knew exactly what to put on the plate and after a brief phone conversation (where I was berated for calling in traffic--by the way, who's the parent here?), Wolf agreed that my idea was perfect.

So now, 3 months later, the state of Montana has finally issued my son’s new plate.

Some of his friend's "got" it and others didn't. How about you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Aerumnosus ab Taurusstercus

On Sunday, before we went to the hospital, Wolf and I stopped off at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Although it was a bit early for the outside plants, it was still a wonderful adventure. We started out by walking the Children's Secret Path, which was a very cool area where children can interact with plants and the natural world .

The photo (above) is just one corner of a very beautifully painted rock enclosure that sits at the end of the pathway. I can just imagine it filled with school-age children learning about all of the wonderful flora and fauna in the area.

As we were walking toward the Tropical Conservatory, we noticed that there were a few things blooming outside.

This photo is of one of the gorgeous exotic plants we found inside the domed conservatory. It is the mysterious Adeoaccio Aureus. Isn't it beautiful?

This is a photo of the rare and beautiful Curalium Spineous Dictamnus. I thought it was quite incredible.

This is the exotic Artichokius Purpurius Dictamnus which was also in the domed rainforest.

This photo was also shot in the conservatory. I think this is one of the most interesting of all the plants and flowers I photographed that day. It is a Depingo Penicillus Chrysanthus.

This photo depicts some of the lush tropical plants that were growing in the greenhouse. To be honest, by the time we left that humid, hot environment, we were a bit lush as well.

Another very pretty flower we saw was the Piniusconus Chrysanthus.

And a flower that I really liked was the Flavesco Favorum.

We also saw the very strange looking Curalium Contortio.

And this is quite possibly my favorite of all of the rainforest flowers, the Amellus Scurraleoninus.

Once we were back outside, I made a tragic mistake and let my son carry the camera. As you can see, I was thrilled to have my picture taken. Do you think he could have caught me at a more inopportune moment? Oh wait, he could have...and did. However, that photo has been permanently deleted off of the camera and of course scrubbed off of the hard drive of my computer. In fact I may just get a new hard drive to be certain no one ever gains access to it...

I'm not sure if the fish were interested in the kids or vice-versa, but it was fun watching them watch each other.

This picture is of the Shofu-en -- the Garden of Wind and Pines. My son took this one specifically for Chani. I know it's not Thailand, Chani, but it made me think of you.

And that concludes our day at the Botanic Gardens. If you have read this far you have probably already figured out that I made up the names of all of the flowers. I wouldn't know a Daisy from a Tulip.