Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cowboy Cookin'

The other weekend we watched The Cowboys, starring John Wayne. I hadn't seen it in years and remembered it as being a good movie, one that was family friendly. The Colonel and Yam agreed it was a good movie (Spud was away from home, in Alabama, for a competition rifle shooting course).

I think watching this movie prompted The Colonel to break out his cast iron dutch oven and his iron cooking frame and do a little Cowboy Cookin' of his own.

He was going to be outside all day doing yard work and could keep an eye on the fire and the soup in the dutch oven. He opted to make split pea and ham soup.

The Colonel used wood from an old orange tree for his fire. He kept the fire low and slow and it took about an hour for the soup to come to a gentle boil. He would stir the soup between yard work tasks as well as add more wood when needed.

He tended the soup and fire for about 5 hours. A few times I went outside to see how things were going and to help stir the soup, and when I did, it struck me how work intensive it would have been for pioneer women to cook and care for their families.

I thought about the women having to build and maintain a fire all day long for cooking and washing. They would also be busy with all of the other chores they had to do on a daily basis, all the while, having to keep an eye on the little ones (as well as looking out for unfriendly Indians and wild animals). Thinking this made me glad I was born when I was, that I have a microwave, and that I have a man who can and does cook for me.

I baked cornbread muffins inside, in my counter top oven (I can't even fathom baking anything in an outdoor fire...yet). The muffins went perfectly with The Colonel's split pea soup.

The Colonel, Yam and I ate our delicious split pea soup dinner at the fire's side with the aromatic woodsmoke smell surrounding us. I love that smell. I don't know anyone who doesn't like the smell of must be something primal that has been bred into us throughout the years from our ancestors, beginning with the cavemen (once they discovered fire).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010


I did some babysitting as a teenager but none of that prepared me for the biggest and most unusual babysitting job of my life.

This job took place in 2000 while we were living in Key West.

We read in the local paper that an orphaned Pygmy Sperm Whale, about 6 to 8 months old and four feet long, had beached itself on the shores of Key West. This occurred on June 21st, the Summer Solstice, so they named the calf Summer.

Summer was injured and had a ruptured sinus, so that made her a questionable candidate for release back into the wild. Summer was also malnourished and dehydrated. She would need around-the-clock care until she was strong enough to move to a permanent home elsewhere. She was being held in a little lagoon that was closed off by an underwater fence.

People were being asked to sign-up for a two-hour shifts to help babysit Summer. I was toying with the idea of helping when The Colonel said, "Go ahead and do it. When will you ever have an opportunity like this again?"

I signed-up. I would be babysitting on the 26th at around 8 AM.

On the surface (no pun intended), the babysitting job seemed easy enough. My babysitting buddy and I, relieving the two previous sitters, had to get into the water with Summer and support her in our arms as we slowly walked around the lagoon. We had to make sure her blowhole never went under water and make sure she didn't eat any of the sea grass floating around (we had little hand nets to scoop the sea grass up and away). Summer's dorsal fin was injured and bleeding, so we also had to keep her back and fin wet by spraying them with ice water.

A gastric sample had to be taken from Summer while I was babysitting. I had to hold the receptacle, as well as Summer, as someone siphoned some of Summer's stomach contents out with a long tube. I recall the sample had a fishy smell to it. After the sample was taken, Summer was fed unflavored Pedialyte through a feeding tube as my babysitting buddy and I held her.

This is a picture of Summer with two other volunteers.

Even with the water helping to keep Summer buoyant, supporting her for two and a half hours put a slight strain on the upper body. That evening I went to bed a little sore and very tired.

Summer was a good baby, she didn't thrash or squirm too much. She would flap her tail fluke now and then and want to turn this way and that. She would also try to snap at the sea grass around her. You know babies, always putting things in their mouths.

Babysitting Summer wasn't a paying gig, but I walked away that day wealthier in other ways for having had the experience.

I will never forget the feel of Summer's weight in my arms and how I could feel her heartbeat as I held her or the texture of her skin, it was like the feel of a wet inner tube. Her skin was the color of an old inner tube, grayish-black, but her belly was pink. It was great to be able to help when it was needed and to be that close to a whale, even a little one.

With the help of other volunteers Summer became stronger and healthier. It was reported that she was gaining a pound a day. She eventually was able to swim more on her own. Her new found strength and ability would play part in her untimely death on November 1, 2000.

Summer had lived longer than most of her species that become stranded. She survived for 133 days. On the day she died, volunteers said she was swimming strongly and dove but failed to surface. They searched the lagoon and found her unresponsive. A vet who was the director of Summer's care and later her necropsy said she did not drown, but was asphyxiated. She had gotten caught in the under water fencing. At the time of her death she was completely healthy.

When I learned of it, I was saddened by the news of Summer's death.

The Colonel was right...I haven't had another experience like babysitting Summer the orphaned Pygmy Sperm Whale since.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Yam!


July 22, 1991

3:30 AM.

I wake up, turn over in bed and hear/feel a pop.

My water has just broken.

It is 3 days before my due date.

There is no Colonel to wake and say, "It's time," to. He is in Korea on a Remote Tour for a year (he has 5 months under his belt already).

We both agree its best and I have chosen to stay behind in Washington State because of the pregnancy. All is well; I am participating in a study about first time pregnancies and low doses of aspirin and its effects on, or preventing pregnancy induced hypertension. This study affords me extra and special care throughout my pregnancy. I learned later that I was one of the subjects given a daily baby aspirin and not a placebo.

One benefit of the study was regular ultrasounds. It was wonderful to see Yam before she was born. Each ultrasound I would ask the doctor Yam's gender, but Yam would not cooperate with us. I did not know she was a girl until the last month's ultrasound.

I am alone.

I dropped my eldest sister off at the airport in Seattle on Friday the 18th. She had been with me, anxiously awaiting Yam's birth, but had to leave before Yam arrived. My mom was scheduled to come and stay with me next for "Baby Watch". I had the weekend to get through before my mom was to arrive on Monday the 22nd.

I passed the weekend quietly. my water has broken and I am alone...

I get on the horn and call my friend and neighbor Tammy, who was on call if I needed her.

"Sorry it's so early Tammy, but it's time."

Next I call my mom. She is up getting ready for her flight.

"Good morning Mom. It's me. My water has broken, so I will be in the hospital when you arrive. Sport (Tammy's husband) will pick you up. I've already told him your name, flight info and what you look like, so he should be able to find you. Have a nice flight and I will see you later."

I hang up the phone, get ready and wait for Tammy to arrive.

I am very calm. I am not having any contractions yet.

We arrive at the military hospital and I am admitted.

Tammy is a wonderful coach. It is all very fresh in her mind. She had her son almost exactly one year before.

9:00 AM and my contractions are starting to get uncomfortable, so much so, that I tell Tammy to shut the television off because that #%*$ Kathy Lee of "Regis and Kathy Lee" is really starting to cheese me off and by the way, please don't breathe on me, thanks.

My contractions get stronger and the fact that my OB nurse is Korean (probably a G.I.s wife) and I can hardly understand her accent begins to wear on me too. I think, "I could be in Korea right now with a Korean nurse who I can't understand too well either, but at least The Colonel would be with me as I was having our baby".

Tammy has become a wonderful translator too.

Yam arrives at 1:17 PM.

She weighs 8lbs 7oz and is 21 1/4" long.

My mom arrives about an hour later.

Mom stays with Yam and I for two weeks. She is a great help, especially through my trials and tribulations of trying to nurse Yam (I had a Lactation Specialist in my home with her hands all over my mammary glands, Yam was miserable, I was miserable, finally I decide the bottle is best for us both). I did continue to pump so that Yam could have all the benefits of breast milk from the bottle.

It became comical for my mom and I. I would start up the machine, feeling like a Holstein cow and when Yam heard the machine's sound it was like Pavlov's Dogs and she would cry to be fed. I soon after put Yam on formula alone.

When Yam was three weeks old The Colonel came home from Korea for his Mid-Tour break.

He would be home with Yam and I for three weeks before he would leave for Korea again. We would not see one another for another seven months.

Here are some of our favorite photos of Yam.

Happy 19th Birthday Yam!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Becoming Frank-N-Furter

Yam was playing some songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show on her iPod the other day and it got me thinking about the first time I experienced that movie.

It was during my second year of college (1980-1981). A group of seven or eight of us, guys and girls, decided to make the one hour trip up north to the midnight showing at the Indiana Theater in Terre Haute.

I did not know what to expect. I had never heard about the movie. Looking back, I think even if I had known a bit about the movie, I still would not have been prepared for the viewing experience.

We waited in line to get into the theater and when we got in, it was packed full. We were able to sit together in the back row on the floor level of the theater.

There were people in the audience dressed as movie characters and when the movie started some of them jumped on stage to act out the movie as it was running. Other audience members shouted replies at the silver screen, threw toast, shot water pistols and held newspaper over their heads (we did not bring newspaper and got wet).

It was difficult to hear and understand the movie with all of the audience participation noise. The energy and mood in the theater were intoxicating and infectious. I did not know what was going on exactly, but I knew I liked it. I would eventually buy the movie and soundtrack. What a difference it made to watch the movie in the quietness of home; the movie and all of the audience madness started to make sense.

I was at my eldest sister's house and we watched the movie; she too fell under its spell (who doesn't like doing The Time Warp?). We decided to make ourselves up as the main character, Frank-N-Furter (just in case we wanted to attend a showing one midnight in costume). It was fun playing with the makeup. This was my attempt at becoming Frank-N-Furter.

This is a picture of Tim Curry, the actor who played Frank-N-Furter in the movie.

My sister and I never did go to see the movie in costume. Seeing these pictures side-by-side today makes me think that was a wise decision.

A few years after my first theater experience of The Rocky Horror Picture Show I would attend another with two of my cousins. One of these cousins is now a nun...I wonder if seeing this movie influenced her in any way.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Post on My Post

There is a floor-to-ceiling-one-of-a-kind treasure shop near the home of my in-laws and its called The Sea Hagg.

I love going there whenever I can. I usually come back home with something for the house, but the last time I was there, I came home with an idea for the house.

At The Sea Hagg there are two massive pillars or posts marking the entrance to the grounds of the shop. These posts are unique and whimsical. They are covered by coral, shells, fossils, sea glass, all kinds of interesting little things. Every time I look at them it seems like I see something I hadn't seen before.

Well, The Colonel and I built another retaining wall and this wall has a post in the corner. The posts at The Sea Hagg were our inspiration when deciding to decorate the post.

We hit The Home Depot to see what kinds of tile they had that would most closely resemble coral. I found some tile I liked, but of course it was special order, so special, that it was no longer available. Great.

We ended up buying some Travertine tiles. We chose to expose the underside of the tile and not the smooth, finished side when tiling the post, this created the more rough, coral-like look we wanted.

We have collected sea glass, fossils, shells, old bricks and shark's teeth for a few years now and this post was the perfect place to use some of our findings. My in-laws and DSIL bought us a beautiful glass sand dollar and glass sea shell that we incorporated in the post. My mother-in-law also gave us some Geodes from Indiana to use for the post (an homage to all of our Indiana roots).

It took about two weeks to complete the post decoration. We had to work between rainstorms.

We are pleased with the end result. Take a look for yourselves.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

St. Augustine Adventure: Day Six or Eternal Youth, Hospitals and Picking Up The Baby.

Day day of our adventure and no research today, only sightseeing and shopping.

First stop...feed the squirrels one last time and then off to the famous Fountain of Youth.

It had changed a little since we were there seven years ago.

On our way to the fountain we saw peacocks that wandered the grounds and made use of the many cannons on display.

There was an albino peacock that I thought looked like a huge snowflake.

We entered the building where the fountain was. It looked exactly the same.

On the ground is an inlaid cross and legend has it that Juan Ponce de Leon put it there to commemorate his discovery of the Fountain of Youth here in 1513. There are 15 stones down the body of the cross and 13 more stones on the cross bar for the year of discovery.

There are life-sized dioramas depicting Ponce de Leon meeting the indigenous people, the Timucuans.

Ponce de Leon believed this fountain was the famed Fountain of Youth because the chief of the Timucuans was over seven feet tall and there were Indians that were older than anyone he had ever seen. The average height for a Spaniard was five foot and most did not live to beyond 45 or 50 years old. I don't blame him, in his shoes, I would have probably thought the same thing.

Of course The Colonel and I drank some of the water from the fountain. It has a somewhat sulfury smell and taste, but just in case, right? I drank two cups when we were there in 2003 and I think I haven't hardly aged at all since then (could be due to the routine application of hair color every 4 to 6 weeks).

Ponce de Leon would never know if his drinking of this water would give him eternal youth because eight years later in 1521, on another expedition to Florida, he landed in southwest Florida, very near where I live and was wounded by a poison Calusa Indian arrow and died in Cuba at the age of 47.

One new addition since we had been there last was a mini fort where a man dressed in a Spanish uniform would shoot off a cannon.

As he was preparing the cannon for firing he was telling us all about how the Spanish defended St. Augustine; what kind of cannon and shot they used, how much powder, etc.

He breech-loaded the cannon and looked over the fort wall saying with a Spanish accent, "See those people over there, they don't look Spanish."

He then lit the end of a piece of rope with a magnifying glass, to create an ember to touch off and fire the cannon with.

After a loud boom and the smoke cleared, the soldier walked back up to the fort wall and looked beyond it, turned to the crowd and said with his hands two feet apart, "Missed 'em by this much."

This cannon firing was a very nice, new addition to the Fountain of Youth Park experience.

Firing cannons makes one hungry, so it was off to lunch at the Columbia Restaurant again.

The Colonel and I were seated and moments later we saw a crowd of people outside the restaurant with huge, expensive looking cameras. It looked like Paparazzi. We thought perhaps someone famous was having lunch and was due to step out the door at any time.

Well, me being me, I got up from our table and made my way outside. There was even a security guard outside. A possible bodyguard of the famous diner, clearing a safe egress path for Jennifer Lopez perhaps? I had my camera in hand just in case that was the case.

I asked someone in the crowd what was going on.

It was a photographic club that met once a month to take pictures all around St. Augustine.

Back at the table, I let The Colonel and our waitress know what I'd found out.

After a delicious lunch we toured the Spanish Military Hospital Museum.

This building was originally built for a stable but was turned into a hospital during St. Augustine's Second Spanish Colonial Period, 1784-1821.

It was a military hospital so women and children were not allowed in, except into the Mourning Room. A priest would be there for Confession and Last Rights.

The Surgeon's Office was the next room we toured. On the table were many surgical instruments. Our tour guide told us how each instrument would have been used by the Spanish surgeon. There were amputation tools and a good surgeon could remove a limb in about three minutes. There were tools for tooth extraction, bullet removal and relieving pressure on the brain after a head injury (basically a drill and the same procedure is in use today).

The Ward Room was next. Sick and post-op patients used this room. One of the beds in the room was a Cholera bed. There was a strategically placed hole in the mattress with a chamber pot beneath it. On the wall was a huge, wooden crucifix from Portugal, dated from the 1600s.

The patients at this hospital had a decent survival rate. The Spanish surgeons and doctors were very hygienic. Our guide told us that is was due to the Moorish influence on Spain. The Moors would wash frequently (because of religious practices). This hospital had a better survival rate than did American hospitals 100 years later.

One thing every patient received in the evening was hot chocolate. This was an order that came down from the Spanish King himself. The Spanish understood that chocolate has many health benefits associated with it.

The Apothecary was next on the tour. On the table were many herbs on display and our guide told us how they were used by the Spanish. The hospital grew many of its own herbs for medicines in a garden behind the building.

The final room on the tour held medical instruments and information from throughout the years.

The tour was very interesting and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. From the questions and comments The Colonel and I made throughout the tour he asked if we were in the medical field. This museum is a must see when you are visiting St. Augustine.

Our time in St. Augustine was over and it was time to go back down to Daytona Beach and pick Spud back up from Embry-Riddle. As we were heading out of St. Augustine we saw a sign for a historical beach called Frank Butler Beach. This beach was once for blacks only during the days of segregation. It was named for Frank Butler, a prominent black businessman of St. Augustine. The beach was beautiful.

When we arrived in Daytona Beach, we had a little bit of time before it was time to pick Spud up, so we stopped to check out The World's Most Famous Beach. We did not drive on the beach (which it is famous for), we just walked it.

We arrived at Embry-Riddle, watched as all 200 cadets were called, one at a time, to receive a certificate of graduation from the S.T.E.M. course they attended that week.

We then drove to The Colonel's sister's house to spend the weekend so that we could take Spud on a college tour of the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando on that following Monday, before we headed back home. Nice university and campus. Almost made The Colonel and I want to go back to school (almost).