Monday, October 23

Slightly off-center

We went to a wedding reception this past Saturday and it was lovely. Great to see family on a special occasion and all. Laura's daughter, Nicole is now married to Terry Richardson. They have been together for quite some time and now they have made it official. It was a good time for all and the pictures can attest to it.

BUT- I may have made my debut a bit too early. There is no way to tell if you have overdone it until you overdo it. I rested all day yesterday and feel much better this morning.
I took several pictures and until I uploaded them to my computer I didn't fully realize how off my pictures were too. I guess when you are a bit wonky it affects all things.
Oh are the pictures such as they are. In my defense, it is difficult to get youngsters to stay still.




Donna, Rich, Butch, Ann, Gary. Susan holding Leo and Amanda seated beside Elise.

Jason with Ethan and Leo

Leo loves to dance. Here he is with Ann.

Elise is quite the dancer as well.

Friday, October 20

On our morning walk

We spotted this sun dog in the eastern sky this morning while walking on the bike trail.


Butch and I walked almost my full route on the bike trail this morning. We only cut off about a half mile of the 2 1/2 that I normally do. There are several construction projects happening on the trail and it is fun to keep up with them.

We have been getting meals from the senior center (congregate meal site). I set that up before surgery and I perhaps would not have needed it as long as I have, but the food is good and it kept us from needing to think too much about what we would eat and when. Those meals provide 1/3rd of an adult's daily requirement. We have one more delivery on Monday and then we can start working on my frozen stache of food. You really should consider using that service if your situation suggests it. Some people mistakingly think it is for low-income seniors but as I worked with the program for so many years I know that is simply not true. If getting a meal is hard for you in any way and you are a senior, it can literally be a lifesaver. The food has been very yummy!!

Bill and Jo are coming to the Hy-Vee Market cafe in a few minutes to connect with their Jefferson relatives.

Wednesday, October 18

My hometown friends

My hometown friends and family have taken very good care of us. Mickey suggested we get meals delivered from the senior center and I agreed it would be an excellent idea. I worked at the senior center in Cumberland for nearly 15 years so I am very familiar with the system and its benefits. I would readily recommend calling your senior center if having surgery or something else that impairs your cooking ability.
 In addition to that Mickey and Keri started us off with nutritious and delicious meals. New friend Sharon McQuillen brought us a chicken casserole that was better than any I have ever made. And yesterday for supper friend Pat Limburg Rusnak brought us a delicious soup and bread. It really hit the spot!
Butch is wanting to get rid of his Mr. Pickypants label so he has been eating things he would normally pass on. I have been impressed! I told him to quit looking at his food too closely. Over-analysis is part of the problem I think. There are many foods I would not eat as a child that I now find quite tasty.
It may not last but for now he is doing very well. In addition to that he has been very attentive and helpful.

Tuesday, October 17

Keeping up with the great grands

 Ethan Morlan will be 9 this coming month.

The Cortes girls are ready for Halloween

Nina Grace



Such a treat to become better acquainted with these three this summer.

Elise is busy with play practice. We will miss her performance because of timing (Nov. 17,18 and 19th) but I know she will shine as always. 

 And then there is Little Leo.
 I have to share a story about my 4-year-old great-grandson. He admired a ninja turtle toy a coworker of his grandmothers had picked up at McDonald's. She told him she would get him one and she did. When she gave it to him she said,"Cowabunga Dude!" He said, "They don't say dude anymore. That was in the 90's."
His grandfather says he has something remarkable to say every day!

One week today

It is one week today since surgery. I would not label it an easy week but not a difficult one either. Glad to say it is past and look forward to easier days ahead. I have a checkup later today with my regular doctor and I expect to hear all is well.
For the record, I never needed anything stronger than Tylenol for pain. Butch has had several surgeries in the past few years and each time a script for oxycodone has been prescribed. He has never felt the need to fill them and I didn't either this time. I think they should be reserved for the worst of pain. Much in the news of late.
We have been going for a walk each day. Still not up to my usual on walking distance but will be soon.
 Future Plan: For right now the plan is to move into the motorhome a couple of weeks before we leave ( November 10ish). Last year we didn't move in soon enough and found we forgot several items. We are hoping the weather holds for us.
I have scoped out a couple of routes for us, both of which we have taken before. Very surprised to find that one was 49 miles further than the other. I am thinking we will take the shorter one this year. Actually, it is the one we have taken most often in the past.
Butch is out doing some putting away of summer things. He is working on the rain barrel right now.
In a conversation this past weekend I said,"No, to me, just means a detour." The guys got a chuckle out of this because they know the truth of it. Jason suggested it could be a family motto.

Sunday, October 15

Taking it slow and easy

I have been taking lots of naps. I say I am going to lay down and watch TV but I am not at all certain I have seen an entire show this past week. It is getting better. This afternoon Keri, Butch and I went for a walk. 7 blocks are all. I could have gone further but in my past, I have pushed myself when I shouldn't have and paid the price. It takes a very long time to learn all of life's lessons.

Butch has done everything asked of him and more. We are a pretty solid twosome.
When you are in the mode we are right now there isn't much to say. We are just coasting along and enjoying the ride.

Friday, October 13


They asked me several times what procedure I was having done before surgery and they said tell me in your own words. They want to make sure you know what is going to be done. So I said they are going to do a Sacral Colpopexy and then I stopped. She looked at me and I said, you want more than that? So I explained in detail what I knew they were doing. She was impressed that I could pronounce it and asked me to say it to several of her coworkers. I have to admit that I practiced. I went to sleep shortly thereafter and woke up at 6:01 pm.

We came home yesterday morning about 11:00 am. My doctor told me I had exceeded every expectation they had of me. It was mutual because she as my surgeon exceeded every one of my expectations. She said it took a long time to remove a great deal of scar tissue. I did not expect any work on my colon but she found a couple of areas that needed attention and called in a colleague specialist that happened to be in the next suite to assist her.
It was all done laparoscopically so I have 5 small incisions. On the pro side healing is faster and pain less, while on the con side I have a belly full of air that I am still trying to expel.
I am getting plenty of exercise and plan to work back up to my 2 miles a day but will do it close to home by walking around the block. Since we live in the middle of the block I am never far from home.
Feels good to be home. So taking care and being pampered is the plan for now.
Till next time...

Monday, October 9

Surgery Day tomorrow

I am just beginning my pre-op prep. They suggested I do only clear liquids prior to starting the bowel cleanse saying it will lessen the total time. So all morning my stomach has been telling me it is time for food while my brain is saying let's get this over with asap. Brain is winning and now it is past time to question it so Brain 1-Stomach 0. Nothing but broth so far. I expected this stuff I have to drink every 10 minutes to taste awful but it doesn't. It has a mild salty taste but other than that there is no taste at all. 2 doses down-7 to go.
I do not know when I will feel well enough to post again so the best plan might be to check every day or so. You can skip tomorrow and probably the one after that.
Hope to see you soon and be all perky about it....

Friday, October 6

Not Quite a Free Cuba by Colleen O’Brien

Not quite a free Cuba
October 4, 2017 Greene County News Online
~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I went to Cuba last week.

I wanted to go because for 50 years we weren’t allowed. I wanted to go because of Havana, the infamous city of mystery with a wild history only 90 miles from our country’s most southern point.

I found Havana to be as intriguing as I thought it would be. It was also absolutely derelict.

In 1959, Fidel Castro with the help of Cuban peasants overthrew the regime of U.S.-backed rightwing Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. Castro then established a socialist state, nationalizing property owned by U.S. citizens. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower sent diplomats to Cuba to try to influence Castro to remain within the U.S. influence. He was at the same time secretly instigating against Castro. But Castro, saying he was fighting the corruption and paternalism of U.S. businesses and government, turned to the Soviet Union to help him.

The United States then of course had to stop all exports to Cuba. This happened in 1960 and in 1961 we broke diplomatic relations with the island state. A full embargo instituted in 1962 has lasted more than 50 years and is still in place. According to the Cubans, it has hurt the Cuban economy and continues to do so, creating a situation that even the Soviets never were able to help. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, Cuba lost its $3 to $6 billion annual assistance from their former backers. The country began to fall apart even more than it had under Soviet “help.”

Although the rest of the world has been able to trade with and vacation in Cuba at least since the Soviets left, most of Havana is so dilapidated – rusting, peeling, roofless, windowless, falling down at the rate of four buildings a day – these tourists must be going to the beaches away from the capital. The rest of the interior is as bad or worse than Havana, but the beach resort advertisements look pretty fabuloso. Is this where all those tourist dollars go?

Because Cuba is a member of the World Trade Organization and can trade with anyone except us, it was difficult to figure out their poverty until I discovered that until very recently, the laws of Cuba disallowed private property ownership, from natives or foreigners. This is changing a little under Raul Castro, but it still means lack of investment has been the problem for a long time. Did Cuba itself build the beach resorts?

Cuba’s trade balance is skewered because they export only sugar and cigars and import everything else. They have little money left for investment in anything but their citizens’ subsidized healthcare, education, housing, rationed food and the feeble salaries they pay everyone who works. I do not know where the tourist dollars go other than to the two taxi drivers who drove me around, and I don’t know what the government’s take on that is. But I think our dollars probably bolster the trade deficit and help pay for the citizen subsidies.

The government now allows farmers to sell 10 percent of their produce privately. Ninety percent has to be sold to the government, and a pittance is paid to the campesino – the definitive word in Cuba for a farmer who does not own his own land. All vegies and fruits are raised organically by hand because Cuba hasn’t been able to afford chemical fertilizers or machinery for years. But there isn’t enough produce for all the people.

Even knowing a little of the politics behind the poverty, I found it shocking to see streets and neighborhoods looking like they’d been bombed. It reminded me of my visit to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1990. Then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had opened the country to the West in the early 1980s after 60 years of closed Communist rule. Few on the outside knew that Russia’s streets were dotted with holes big enough to swallow semis. Or that beautiful buildings erected in the 19th century sagged as if dying of sadness.
Havana looks like that. Too many years of Communist misrule never fail to reveal the tale.

Havana’s subsequent nearly 40 years of increasing poverty add a pathetic chapter. Cubans blame the continued U.S. embargo; the American government refuses blame and claims civil rights abuses, the stealing of American property and Communism as the reasoning behind the longest embargo in history.
As we sail slowly into Havana Harbor, we pass ruins of 16th century forts on either side. Two warehouses stick out before us, seemingly in our direct path. These warehouses don’t look much better than the five-century-old crumbling relics. We slide imperceptibly against the dock of Terminal de Cruceros Turisticos (tourist cruise terminal), just this side of the withering-in-the-sun warehouses, and we stare in dismay at their dismal outlines just beyond our berth. The falling in on themselves buildings are the harbinger of things to come: one warehouse has only rafters, no roof; the next is still roofed but with a hole as big as a Volkswagen at one end. This is our first close-up of La Havana, 2017.

As we pass through immigration, I am subject to the passport checkers who are neither personable nor polite. But I understand that’s part of their modus operandi around the globe. Standing on the curb and dickering for a taxi, I see that things are looking up. Most of our exclamations are for the brightly painted 1950s and ‘60s American Chevrolets, Fords, Buicks and Studebakers stopping to pick up tourists. We know these cars, and we love ‘em. We hire what looks like an old yellow cab. It is shiny outside and comfortable in. We have a driver and a guide for an amount of money equitable to both us and them, and we are willing to go where they take us.

As we pull into traffic – so calm, no rush-rush, only rock ‘n roll cars cruisin’ slow playin’ “On Blueberry Hill” — across the street I see a couple of functioning churches with opened doors, a huge fountain, and a placard for a convent advertising their heavily treed garden open to all who need cool relief. Later, I think.

Not until we return from our taxi tour five hours later do I realize that this particular area by the dock is relatively tidy because it is a tourist area. The old warehouses look presentable from the street with their colonial façade. During the tour I saw picture postcards of the wharf from the 1920s – the entire wall of terminals is pristine.
There in the afternoon, across the street from the once handsome buildings, I see tables and umbrellas outside restaurants, bars opened to the street and clothing boutiques in rehabbed buildings.

In buildings not quite fixed up yet but not too badly deteriorated I will soon find good art. I bid farewell to my new taxi friends and stroll over. I learn from a museum docent that an unprecedented move from the government pays artisans to restore and set up shop in the best of these old beauties near the tourist port. The 19th century colonials in this part of the old quarter look solid and have glass in their windows. Their plazas are clean of rubbish and their gardens are lush. The structures could stand a sandblasting but seeing the beginnings of restoration is a hopeful sign after the true squalor of parts of the tour just finished. Slim alleys lined with shops and bars angle off the plaza, enticing tourists; it looks like any old town in Italy or France.

I talk to a painter in his tiny studio in the dormer of a gallery whose current show is “US Embargo Art”. (In Cuban it’s bloqueo or blockade rather than embargo.) He says it is often difficult to get oil paint, which he prefers. But he says he knows how to use pen and ink, and when he can’t get materials, he makes his own paper by hand. All of his prints are hand-done replicas, not duplicates from a machine, so each piece of his witty and precisely executed pieces is an original. $10 and $20.
That morning as we drive away from the dock and begin to see deeper into other parts of the old quarter, I feel that any one of the buildings we’re passing might fall down — not after we pass but as we pass. They need drastic help, and quickly. These are the old private homes of the 19th century that had been confiscated and divided into apartments for hundreds of families by the new regime, the Communist regime, in the early 1960s.

The buildings are dirt-colored and chipped and flaking, roofs dipping, tacked-on boards holding cornices up. They are as shabby on the inside, plaster falling from ceilings revealing rafters and the floorboards of upstairs neighbors. I can see in glassless windows to clotheslines across a wall and too many people in one room. Our guide explains that these apartments given to a couple in 1960 in the pure communistic spirit now often contain that couple’s children and grandchildren.

The streets are full of people, and they all seem reasonable about their day. Kids play and older women chat as younger women walk away in high heels and severe suits to some job. I never do see young men charging off in suits, although the men are as good-looking, as visibly eager for life however meager their lives seem to us.

Oh, but the women do have a way of walking in this part of the world, suits or not. Men watch as they work at repairing phone lines; or confront construction of something undefinable in front of a building. Farmers delivering boxes of bread off the backs of donkeys watch; even the donkeys seem to watch. Everyone brightens up and then goes about their work. Italy is like this, too. There must be something in the air south of the borders that makes one pay attention.

Young men lean against doorways beside old men sitting on chairs. Girls and old women lean off balconies. There is much leaning on doorjambs and out of windows as well as lots of cigar-smoking in Cuba.

In all areas music seeps out from early in the day to the wee hours. This is not canned music but real people playing real instruments, many homemade. Singing filters out to the street, and humming, the tinkle of a piano from a back room. Tiny kids tapping upside down pots together on a doorstep, feeling the beat — born musicians. The music is pervasive, it whispers from blind alley, blares from balcony, leaps like spontaneous combustion right beside me on a sidewalk.

Cuba is obviously a musical culture and a dance culture. In a church courtyard, I see grade school boys and girls drawn in to the beat of drums. They all move to the rhythm. I watch a woman showing tourists how to feed pigeons from their hands, something I’ve never seen in any city park.

Amid the squalor of tipsy buildings and along the somewhat cleaner streets in front of the better-kept buildings, as the day wears on I watch laughter and gaiety, conversations with a lot of hand embellishment, old men smiling around their cigars as they move the chess piece or arguing fiercely about baseball; I watch friends arm in arm, children dancing; I see few cell phones. There are plenty of contemplative faces, no laughter, nothing to laugh about. They stare at us, they scowl, they puff on their Cubans. I am told that the crime rate in this major slum of a major city on the planet is a whopping two percent.

Hurricane Irma flaunted a bit of her haughtiness on Havana by tossing trees and sending five feet of seawater across the Malecón, the seawall protecting the old town. By the time I got there two weeks later, the seaside was still not opened. The water sat in puddles in a few low spots although the seaside street seemed clear. Still, we could not drive or stroll along the famous wall. Workers were still raking the parks, and piles of limbs remained to be picked up. The trees – ficus, palm and banyan — along the parks of Avenue del Puerto (Port Avenue) were leafless and looked to be dying. But these are tropical trees that will spring back to life.

Havana Forest
Through Havana runs the Parque Almandares along the river of the same name. This is a part of the Havana Forest and was hit only slightly by the hurricane. The trees are immense, some of the banyans covering dozens of square feet and towering overhead. The river is pretty from the road and full of debris up close. This could be residue floating downriver from the big storm, but having seen the litter on so many of the streets and alleyways of Havana, I figure it is a river generally polluted with junk. You can ride a horse through the park for very few Cuban dollars and hike if you’re inclined.

Because Cuba is in the tropics, plants grow year long – vines and trees and flowers and weeds soften everything. I love the trees holding up walls and arching over streets, and the vines camouflaging decaying buildings. The purple Mexican petunias are everywhere, as are dozens of varieties of palms – fan, coconut, foxtail, the Cuban Royal. I want the people leaning in doorways to be out picking up trash.

We are out of the forest and cruising slowly along a street with high-walled mansions and prevalent guards. We find out we’re in Fidel family-land. As well as embassy-land. This is where the well-to-do hide out when they’re not at work being leaders and diplomats. It’s a pretty area with big trees and lovely houses behind those guarded high walls. No decrepitude here. The ones in charge are always living high, whether they’ve started a revolution or are simply hired by those who did.

The people of Cuba are charming, even engaging, if you engage them. On their own they are not outgoing or particularly welcoming or interested in us. Many do not speak English. Or don’t want to. I am never sure. I can believe that a communist country would disallow English as a second language, but I don’t know how that would help them in any way. This slight rudeness or disregard is either because Havana is a big city (3 million) or it is a Cuban trait; hard to tell unless I know the rest of the country.

Tommy the cabbie
My taxi driver Tommy tells me in half English half Spanish that he does not like to be called Tomás. He is a joking, laughing 30-year-old, handsome as so many Cubans are. He has Hispanic and Indian features. He calls out the driver’s window to friends on every corner we pass! If not the whole of Havana, at least the guided tour route is full of folks who know each other. The slightly more serious guide William, an IT graduate in Cuba who can’t find a job, speaks good English and can talk his hometown from one end to the other. He has Hispanic and African features—curly hair that twines around his ears. He tells of his wife and two boys in Florida, shows us photos. He is our information, and he speaks in a way that makes us believe what he knows.

Notice the detail in the eyes
At sites that either William or we suggest, we get out so we can see better, take photos. My favorite stop is Fusterlandia, an area of several blocks of artistic whimsey, satire, political statements (Fidel and Che) and homage to famous artists like Picasso. Fusterlandia is mosaic-studded cement that covers houses, bus stop benches, sidewalks and made-up cement critters. Artist José Rodríguez Fuster began with his own home and over a span of 20 years adorned his ‘hood — swimming pools, stairways, tables and chairs, entire rooms, serpents (the artist’s cement versions), weird-looking statues. He now designs, others do the work. There are ladders and artisans everywhere.

It was charming and silly, a relief to see something so light-hearted in a city that behind its brightly painted vintage cars, street art and sensuous salsa music hides a desolate air, a longing.

Guide William speaks with some vehemence of the government not helping enough. He lives in his grandmother’s apartment that she was assigned in the 1960s. Nothing has been done to it since, he says, and people who live in Havana have little money to fix anything themselves, even if they could get the goods to do so. Repairs done by residents are made from someone else’s discarded repairs.

We arrive at the Communist center, the Plaza de la Revolucion. The immensity of the place makes me feel I am on the plains below the Himalayas — a curve of the planet revealing a far-off horizon. This plaza is 20 acres of cement with an obelisk three- or four-hundred feet high. It has been photographed many times with a million people standing around; this is not hyperbole. When Fidel spoke, all who could walk were required to listen to a minimum five hours of his policy-making.

Castro has been dead less than a year (Nov. 25, 2016), and he is still everywhere – his photo in windows and on walls, his image in lights, his sayings on art, tee shirts, magnets and ball caps. His revolutionary partner Che Guevara, who died in 1967, is even more ubiquitous. And the people, including our slightly complaining guide William, remain faithful to the duo, even though democratic socialist Castro at 33 amazingly went for the Soviet ideal of communist rule: a one-party state controlling trade unions, clamping down on civil liberties, free speech and press, free movement to change one’s job, leave one’s country or own real property. In other words, Castro really went for the opposite of “Cuba Libre,” the colloquial rallying cry of Cuban dissent since 1898 that means “a free Cuba.”

Through her 525 years of modern history, Cuba suffered a few colonial powers, the most prevalent being the Spanish. From that Iberian contact with the island in 1492 via Christopher Columbus through Castro’s revolution in mid-20th century, starting with its native tribes, Cuba “belonged” to somebody other than the people who lived there. Considered within the top five most developed countries in Latin American from the late 1800s until Castro’s revolution in the mid-1900s, Cuba has fallen on increasingly bad times since. Before the 1959 Castro revolution, it had more movie theaters than New York City. It was eighth in the world in the number of radio stations, had the highest number of doctors per capita and the third lowest mortality rate.

After WWI and particularly during Prohibition in 1930s U.S., Cuba became a wealthy American’s playground for drinking, dancing, sunning. Like Cuba’s colonial landlords of former centuries, American entrepreneurs had long considered Cuba an easy place to make money off the land, the crop, the mines, the climate and the people while having a very good time on the balmy, breezy, sunny island.

When Castro took over, he diverted the pineapple and sugar plantations to communistic ownership and used the money for universal education and healthcare, insisting on racial equality and everyone working, paid by the state.

The result is a Cuba today of 99.8 percent literacy, an educated people with birth-to-death healthcare making very little money and not eating all that well. A marine biologist or a doctor makes about $25 a month, a laborer about $18. Many are motivated to tourist work if they can get into it; it seems the only place to make money. Our driver and guide, for example, told us they knew they were lucky to own a yellow cab to ferry visitors around for the plentiful pesos. Most people can’t afford a vintage car to fix up, and they just hang around because there are not enough jobs elsewhere, anywhere.

The tourist industry is lively because people from Europe, Asia, Africa, the rest of Latin America and Canada (the whole rest of the world except the U.S., in other words) have visited Cuba for decades. But as in many other Latin countries with as much tourist dollar, the poverty rate remains high because of lack of jobs and a government that doesn’t seem to know how to fix or doesn’t care to fix all that’s gone awry, much of it because of them.

I fell in love with Havana as I thought I would. I’d like to return and see the rest of Cuba. She breaks my heart because no one has taken care of her; she is verdant and alluring, calm, serene and wild; and she has been used and abused from the beginning of the White Fella crossing the big pond and “finding” her.

But I think the times they are a’changin’ for the Pearl of the Antilles. There has never been a time of true “Cuba libre” – never been a “free Cuba.” I’m hoping this battle cry from the original revolution against Spain in 1898 will soon come to pass.
Oh, yes, I forgot to include that I danced the salsa on the stage of the famous Buena Vista Social Club.
[NOTE: Before I left the U.S. for Cuba, I knew that the State Department suspected that some kind of malady was being imposed on American diplomats via, perhaps, sonic devices; this was first reported in early 2017. The cruise line said it would not affect us. While we were there, the story escalated for some reason, and American visas were reportedly pulled and embassy folks and families were told to go home. We were not advised of this, which means to me that we were not in any danger. Had we been, the cruise line would have considered their liability before anything else.

When I got home, I had emails and phone messages asking if I was okay. My family was upset, even as I was unaware that anything was going on. The day I returned, last Friday, an “advisory not to visit Cuba” was issued by the State Department. According to its website, the cruise line is signing up new cruisers for next week.]

Granddaughter Ann and her 3 Girls

I snipped this beautiful picture of Ann, Nina Grace, nearly 9, Scarlett 6 and Skylar 4, from Facebook. Their Mom assures that they are NOT wearing make-up. Natural beauties!

Elise and her parentage

Remarkable resemblance!

And this is a picture of Elise and what she acquired from her mother's side. A long line of voracious readers.

Rails to Trails Magazine

Leo sent me this interesting magazine with an article about the Raccoon River Valley Trail (the RRVT) which is our trail. Thought it might be of interest to some.

I scoped out the distance to the Madrid Trestle bridge from Jefferson. It will be about 40 miles when it is finished in 3-5 years. Sounds doable to me if I am still able to by then. Surely I will be, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 4

Busier than usual

Today I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon who took cancer off my face. He asked if I wanted to get my unicorn horn repaired today but I told him I was having another surgery in 6 days so we decided it may not be a good time. So you will be seeing my unicorn horn throughout the winter and I will have it repaired next Spring.
Then Butch and I did a dry run to the Iowa Methodist Surgery Center in Downtown  DesMoines as we will be going there at 5:30 AM and wanted a firmer idea of where we were headed. After Google GPS took us there with no problem we moved onto Costco for a stock-up trip and Butch's peanut butter and a few other items.
Ate lunch at Culvers then went to Boone Iowa Walmart to get a prescription for the good ol' bowel cleansing solution. Yeah, I gotta do that too!
Returned home and so glad to be here!

This evening is the first time my computer was turned on today due to not enough time and then too tired to care. I have a backlog of things I want to share with you but want to be more rested for that so ...maybe next time.

Tuesday, October 3

Hopping to it

Remember this picture?
This is a close-up and below is what it looks like from the trail.

 To refresh your memory it was taken on the bike trail about halfway between the trestle bridge and Winkleman's Switch. Jason and I walked the trail last Sunday and in our conversation, Jason said he thought he had seen Hops growing on the trail. He said it was a vine and growing over a tree stump and he thought it looked like hops. To fill you in a bit further, Jason does not read the blog. What? you might say!  Well, Jason is not a computer guy so he saw the "hops" in person as he was riding the trail and not from seeing it on Mom's blog and therefore had no idea I had seen it too and taken a picture of it. So we got our stories together and I looked up images of hops on google and by golly he is right! It is hops. How or why it is growing on the bike trail remains a mystery.

Sunday, October 1

Lost 10

Had to add one more tidbit! My surgeon asked several things from me before surgery and I achieved every one of them!! Including losing 10 pounds! Whoo Hoo!

For those who wonder what I did, I can make it simple.  No processed food. I ate 3 meals a day, nothing between meals or after supper. That is all!!

Our Souls at Night

Keri had the book and loaned it to me. It was a very quick read. Took about 1 day to read it. It grabs you from the beginning. So last night Butch and I watched it on Netflix. They followed the book very closely till about midway through and I was okay with that because I did not like the ending in the book. They made a much better ending in the movie.

Our Souls at Night
Addie Moore and Louis Waters, a widow and widower, have lived next door to each other for years. When Addie tries to make a connection with her neighbor, the two begin sleeping in bed together platonically, with the innocent goal of alleviating their shared loneliness. As their relationship deepens, however, they each deal with grief and loss, and a real romance begins to blossom.

Release date: September 29, 2017 (USA)
Originally published: 2017
Director: Ritesh Batra
Authors: Michael H. Weber, Scott Neustadter
Production company: Netflix

Before Surgery

I had an appointment with Dr. Stephanie Morgan, my surgeon, on Friday to learn of the particulars of the surgery on the 10th. So now I am on information overload and busily making lists so I can remember it all. It will take place at Methodist Hospital in downtown DesMoines. It is a very long surgery. I must be at the hospital at 5:30 AM. The downside is not much sleep. The upside is there won't be much traffic at that time of day. Surgery will begin at 8:00 AM or thereabouts and will take 4-6 hours, 3 hours in recovery room and back in a hospital room at around supper time. Very long day for Butch. She even said it is much harder on family than the patient. 24 to 36 hours in the hospital after the surgery. So may not be home until Thursday or Friday depending on how things go.
She emphasized that there will be a full 6 weeks of recovery. No leaving early for Texas. My 6-week appointment to get dismissed to make the trip is November 20th. I am guessing we will be on the road on November 21st if Butch can make it work. He will have all the duty of loading up for the trip.
Butch will be in charge of the phone during this period, so if things do not go smoothly keep that in mind. He will have a training session or two beforehand.

There will also be a gap in computer and blog entries. The way I have been lately you should be used to it by now.

So we are hoping for a warm fall...

Georgia's birthday

Leo, Butch and Barb O'Roake went to their cousin Georgia's 80th birthday celebration yesterday. Butch even gave up a day of watching the Presidents Cup for it. Imagine that!

PS I stayed home and cleaned house and Keri was babysitting with 2 of her grandchildren.

Friday, September 29

Another Friday rolls around...

I have an appointment late this afternoon to find out the details about my surgery on the 10th. So Butch had time to walk nine holes of golf and I rode out to Rogers Road. Mickey had asked me about where walnuts were on the trail so I paid close attention today and then sent her this message.
     If you drive out to where 255th street intersects with the trail (near Winkleman's Switch) and look north on the trail you will see an orange flag and there are walnuts there. I paid close attention today and they have put an orange flag near all the walnut trees on the trail. I do not know if that was for safety or harvesting of walnuts. 
If you go out and park on 252nd street near where Murphy's place is, north of the big bridge, it is exactly 0.53 miles to the first nice walnut fall. That would be on the south side of the trestle bridge. If that still seems too far to walk you can pull into Murphy's driveway and follow the trail up to very near the bridge, walk across the bridge and it would be less than a block to the walnuts. Happy Harvest!

As I was returning back to town I saw this apparition coming toward me. It looked like a floating man! He hopped off the front of the bike and then I could see a woman peddling a very decrepit bicycle while carrying a filthy once-white duffle bag over her shoulder. I said to her, "So you think that is going to work for you?" She said, "Oh yeah." They were both in need of some personal hygiene and a large amount of dental work. I would say they had about 3 teeth each and those were dark. I was impressed with her bike riding ability. Balancing a 6 ft. man, even a skinny one on the handlebars of a bike and carrying a fair-sized duffle bag over your shoulder at the same time made her a wonder woman! I wonder where they get their METH. And I wonder where they were headed. They were at the trailhead when I encountered them. In other words, they hadn't made it out of town yet.

Tuesday, September 26

Change in the Weather

There has been a change in the weather. It has cooled off and we have had about 3/4 inch of rain. We desperately needed it and it hasn't been enough to change our drought status but every little bit helps.

I didn't get a ride nor a walk in yesterday not because there wasn't an opportunity but because I was on tech support with Hulu. After three separate sessions, we came up with an answer but not a solution. Don't worry about it in regards to Hulu for you, as the problem is peculiar to us.

This will set me off on another angle or bit of advice perhaps. When you have a problem with a device of any kind do not be afraid of tech support. It is their job and you are the customer who is always right. And if it still perplexes you invite a friend like me over and we will work on it together.
By calling tech support you can save yourself days, weeks or even months of frustration. I often say that I do not have all the answers but I do have ideas about where I can find them.
For people with Netflix, there is a new Netflix movie being released on Sept 29th, Friday, called Our Souls at Night with Robert Redfern and Jane Fonda.
It is about finding love when you thought you were too old to have that happen. It looks like a good one.

I did manage to get my walk in this dark and dreary morning and I did get misted on a little at times but not so much to create a problem for me.
I have two appointments later this week. Thursday is my last physical therapy session before surgery and Friday is my pre-op appointment with the surgeon. I have done everything asked of me to get ready for it. The waiting has been the worst of it. The procedure is called Sacral Colpopexy for those of you with enough curiosity to look it up.

Sunday, September 24


We are starting a 30 day free trial of Hulu. I tried Hulu way back when it was free and I was not impressed but it has been more than a decade so I thought I would see what I think about it now.
I am impressed by their wide range of offerings. For instance, Butch and I missed the first episode of Dancing With The Stars and Hulu carries TV shows and so we were able to see it after the fact. I am impressed how they handle commercials. You still get commercials if you go with their cheapest package ($7.99 a month) However they show all the commercials in the first 30 minutes of the show and it is commercial free after that AND they tell you how many commercials there will be and how long it will take! It is like knowing how far it is to the next town, much easier to take when you know.
I signed up for their free month because I wanted to watch The Handmaids Tale. I have read the book, listened to it actually but it held my attention and won awards. We are nearly finished and will continue to get more experiences with Hulu. At least until October 21st when our month is up. So far I am saying we are at least 50% probable of keeping it. After all, $7.99 is the price of a sandwich!

All Out of Windows

Sunday Morning Bike Ride

Jason surprised Keri and me by showing up at 7:00 AM. This must mean that we are getting predictable. It was a fun day on the trail. When the leaves fall it creates a different view of things that you see in mid-summer. A Red-tailed Hawk flew low and right over our heads. Deer crossed in front of us and more were seen just beyond the tree line. Numerous little ground squirrels. Many flocks of Geese and a flock of Wild Turkeys. It seemed there was something cool to see most every which way you looked!
Today's pictures from the trail: Morning sunrise


 Wild Turkeys. They were so far away that I would not have been able to get this shot without my Nikon CoolPix P900

Saturday, September 23

Where do I begin...

Dental update
Once again we made a run to Atlantic for Butch to see the dentist. I thought, "Great, This isn't going to be any big deal." "Perhaps we can get some visiting in."
On about Tuesday or Wednesday, Butch asked me to look in his mouth because it felt like there was something in there that shouldn't be. He was right. There was a piece of gold perhaps connected to a piece of tooth in the hole created by the removal of the tooth and root. So we thought perhaps it would work its way out. Along about Thursday he talked me into trying to pull it out. He kept closing his mouth and I could not get a grip on it. So Friday morning we call and they tell us to come in. It was almost if not completely as traumatic as the first go round. He was in severe pain and spitting all the way home. Once home and with a couple of pain pills in him he quickly rebounded to reasonably good health.
So my Atlantic area friends- Maybe next time?

Weather and Birds
We have had a streak of unseasonably warm weather- in the 90's and very little rain. So Butch has been keeping the birdbath filled with fresh water and the birds are very grateful.
We have several Doves and they seem young. They are a beautiful bird. Difficult to photograph as they seem to be skittish and fighting each other most of the time.

Todays Walk on the trail.
I would prefer to ride but the walnuts are a problem. I'm thinking I might do a bike run with the sole purpose of clearing the trail of walnuts. I keep hoping someone else will think of it and beat me to it.

Today's sightings on the trail consisted of 4 bikers, 4 deer, 2 cats and three Bob-White Quail. I had my phone with me because it is easy so the pics are less than ideal. The Quail are not at all spooked as I walked beside them for quite a ways. That and now they are in town, less than a 1/2 block from the elementary school.

Latest window project
This craft project has been fun and incredibly easy.

History and story of My Favorite Chair
Years ago when we were first taking a stab at the full-timing lifestyle I bought a chair at a furniture store in Lees Summit MO. I loved the chair. It fits me, and is perhaps the most comfortable chair I have ever had. It is made by BEST. Yes, the name of the chair is BEST.
After several years use it became worn and shabby looking. It was still comfy as all get out but did not look the best. So we went on a search for a new BEST chair and we found them at Nebraska Furniture Mart. We were looking to buy 3, one new one for the house and two new ones for the motorhome. They are not the same chair. My original chair sits in the 3 season room and every time I would sit in it I was once again reminded of how comfortable it was. It is a far cry from the 3 others we have. So I decided to have it recovered. I had a hard time finding someone to do it but finally found Pam Chance in Jamaica Iowa.
Chance Upholstery, Jamaica Iowa 515-314-0290 It is done and we now have the chair back in the 3 season room looking very fine and feeling wonderful. It has picked up and off odor from her shop and I am working on getting rid of that but I am most happy with the chair and Pam's work.

And there you have it for now.

Tuesday, September 19

Butch's Trip to the Dentist

Butch had his root canal job finished and an exposed root removed from a lost tooth. He was in the process for 1 1/2 hours and did not feel very chipper afterward. So for those of you who know his dentist is in Atlantic, please forgive us for not stopping by. Butch did not feel like visiting so we returned home.
The trip down and back took up a big chunk of the day in itself. He is still in recovery mode this morning. Having a go at breakfast right now and hoping for the best. Smileycons!

Window craft project

Butch replaced the window in the garage when the new siding was applied. He was going to toss the old one but I protested. It is in rough shape but there was a craft project I wanted to try.
I did clean it up a bit before I started.

And here is the final result

Method: Find coloring book pages and print them off. I found mine online by searching coloring book pages of flowers. Then I cut the pages and chose the flowers I wanted, Taped them to the backside of glass and then traced around all the lines with a permanent ink Sharpie. Paint them just like you would on paper only using paint.

Tracing around all the lines is important. If you do not you lose detail. Now I want to do another one!

Sunday's Bike trail walk

Keri, Jason and I walked the bike trail Sunday and we were discussing the hurricanes, soil content, and elevations among other things. Where we winter in Texas the elevation is around 50 feet and I guessed Jefferson to be 1014 ft. So I googled it and here is what I found. I wasn't too far off.

Friday, September 15

Nose to the grindstone

We all have tolerance levels for various things, like lawnmowing and house cleaning. I have kept my mind focused on getting things done outside. Cleaning flower beds and flower pots and doing some fundamental cleaning on my corner of the garage.
In the meantime, things tend to get left undone in the house. So today I kept at it till it was done and on top of that I cleaned a bit deeper and more thoroughly than I normally do. So tonight I am tired but gratified to have it clean and off my list for at least a day or two.
I did ride out to Bullhead farm on Thursday and I have a few pictures of the day. The first one that comes to mind was a flash of red. I was crossing the trestle bridge with no mind to stop and then I saw a flash of red on the outside of the rail and so I stopped to see what it was. It was a vine that climbed up onto the bridge.
This was the flash of red that caught my eye.
 And this is a better view of what it was.

 And then I looked up and saw a bigger flash of red in a tree!

 River pics

I do not usually take pictures from this part of the bridge. The rail is exactly in the wrong place for me to get good photos up river or down river.
Before I rode the trail I was looking out the front door and spotted this boy taking his dog for a run. The traffic was much busier than usual and I thought it to be a dangerous situation.

And then there is my geranium. It was gifted to me in the Spring and it was a little too big for its britches so I repotted it. It has really come into its own this summer. It is so sad to know it will not make it past winter. Anyone want to adopt this grown-up baby.