Monday, December 24, 2007


I has been suggested that I should use my BLOG to post an ongoing status on Liz's mother. In spite of the unquestioned fact that a BLOG is a personal expression, with no other person's opinion or desires relevant in any degree, here is what is happening.

As you know, Grandma fell a week before Thanksgiving, resulting in a subdural hematoma of which we were not aware. At Thanksgiving time, she fell again and hurt herself very much more, breaking her hip (technically the break was in the pubi-lateral portion of the acetabulum in the ischium, or just in front of the socket part of the hip joint), and starting another subdural hematoma. In the weeks following she has been hospitalized most of the time, with the subdural hematoma being the most immediate worry, but the hip being a long-term concern. Both these injuries can lead into a decline and ultimately death.

After she was stabilized in the emergency room, she was moved to Baylor Hospital's physical therapy center in Dallas for a 3 week course of "intense" P. T meaning three hour-long sessions per day. She made great progress during this time of closely supervised therapy and regained her ability to get out of bed and walk with a walker. When she was released, the doctors she should never be left alone. We understood him to mean that there should always be someone in the house who could help her.

Ten days ago, after 5 days at home, I was in the family room when I heard her screech. I went into her apartment and found that she had fallen again. I was a little hesitant because she was only wearing garments, but she needed help. She had been standing in her closet, putting on a sweater with a tight neck and in the process of pulling it over her head she lost her balance and fell forward, over her walker, and in to a pile of stuff. Her head was between two shelves. She was fortunate that the stuff in her closet kept her from falling all the way down, but she was far enough over her walker that she was stuck. I pulled her back and got her seated in her closet chair, then left to get Liz. We determined that she had hit her head against a shelf while falling, so Liz took her to the Emergency room where they saw via CAT scan that the subdural hematoma was bleeding again. At this point we decided that the doctor had not meant merely for someone to be in the house with her, but that she needed someone immediately by her, all the time. Meanwhile, they pretty much stopped the subdural bleeding chemically (it was still seeping a little), but daily CAT scans showed that fluid was building up, putting pressure on her brain. Last Tuesday the local doctor wanted to put a drain into her skull to relieve the pressure. Liz decided to consult with her regular neurologist, so she had the films couriered to him. Wednesday, she talked to her neurologist and discovered he had the films and had looked at them, but didn't realize we wanted him to talk to the doctor at the hospital, so that day was lost. Thursday the doctor came in to get her ready to go into the O.R., but after talking to her for a while, he said, "She looks pretty good now. Why don't we just send her home and we'll do another CAT scan next Thursday and re-evaluate." That was a surprise. So she is home, and we have someone with her 24/7. It is a strain on us because it's not exactly how we planned to spend our holiday, nor did our guests, and Liz and I still have jobs.

Physically, Mom is fairly good. She is getting feeble and we worry that she won't keep up her exercises, which could easily lead to the dreaded gradual decline. She isn't self-motivated and she doesn't remember how to do her exercises like they taught her while in P.T.

Mentally, she is much worse. She still talks intelligently and can easily engage in games and conversation. But she is now forgetting common things. For example, when she tries to get up from a chair, she strains against the arms of the chair or onto her walker, but she doesn't remember to put her feet on the floor. She just lets them wag and wiggle around in air and can't make any progress. When we remind her to put her feet on the floor, she gets enough purchase to get up. More worrisome is that she forgets her limitations. Her last fall, for example, was simply the result of forgetting that she can't stand unaided, so she was getting dressed while standing instead of sitting in the chair at her side. She will turn off a light by leaning way over her walker instead of taking one more step to get in reach. She simply doesn't remember that such moves are risky in the extreme. A full-on fall to the floor may well be the end of her.

We are glad to have her with us at Christmas. Joe's children love her and have been afraid because she wasn't in her apartment when they've come to visit us. She responds to them very well and likes the attention they spawn on her. Now Mark and Kelley are here, too. What joy to have a house full of fun and love!

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â Merry Christmas â ]

J Earl J

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sunday Sluffer

We have had a pretty hectic week this week.  I have to admit that I started it off badly, by playing hooky from church on Sunday.  I wanted to go to the "Woodworking Show" which is held at least once per month somewhere in the U.S., but only in Dallas once per year in December.  I haven't been to it in a few years.  This year, I wanted to see if anybody had anything fantastic in a midi-lathe.  You see, several years ago I bought a Jet woodworking lathe at the Woodworking Show, which Jet is about the top of the line hobbyist lathe.  It cost about $500, but the really big, professional lathes cost several thousand$.  It worked great and I liked it, but it was a full-size lathe and took up one entire end of my shop.  I couldn't easily work around it, so I finally sold it to a friend in the 6th ward, a nice man who lived in Albuquerque in the same stake as the McGees before he moved here.

But I still want a lathe to do those projects which just aren't easily done with anything else.  One trend of the last few years is that turned wood pens have become popular, and bring big prices at all kinds of swap meets, office business dealings, etc.  I'm not especially interested in turning pens, but the market for lathes to suit the pen-makers has resulted in most of the tool makers introducing a mini-lathe and/or a slightly larger midi-lathe.  They are benchtop machines, so they don't have to take up so much floor space, but they are also very smooth operating because they are designed to turn tiny pieces.  And if you really want to do a piece longer than their 14-18" bed, they all have optional bolt-on bed extenders.

So, back to the woodworking show:  The last time I went, it was a big exhibition with hundreds of companies tools, so I was amazed to see that there were only about 20 booths set up this year and not a single one had a lathe on exhibit.  Of course I found a couple of other things I couldn't live without, but I basically returned home without accomplishing my goal.  The only thing left to do was watch the Cowboys come back to beat Detroit before packing our suitcases to go see Ruthie perform in the semester recital. 

So I will wait until the coffers have recovered slightly from Christmas and I have a new job lined up, and then I'll order a midi-lathe via the internet.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The old West

We grew up with guns.  When my oldest brother, John, was 12, Dad gave him a .22 and a single-shot .410 shotgun for Christmas, or maybe the shotgun came the next year.  At that time, John kept his guns in the front, basement bedroom he shared with Jim.  All of us boys had rooms in the basement, and only John & Jim's room had a finished surface - the rest of the rooms had plain, concrete walls.  But the front one had wood lathe attached to the concrete, with plaster troweled over it, which was what they did before sheetrock was invented.

  One afternoon when we were all home and I was in my bedroom, John was showing Jim how to clean the shotgun.  You probably already know the next part.  I heard a big bang, followed by little dribbling sounds as BB's and little pieces of plaster rattled around the bedroom next to mine.  I walked over there to see John and Jim sitting on a bed with the shotgun across their laps.  Just to their left there was a 4" hole in the lathe and plaster.  They both looked kind of stunned, but at least there was no blood.  About a second later Mom and Dad came running in and I got pushed out, so I never heard a first-hand account of exactly how it happened.  Over the next couple of years, that whole wall slowly fell apart.  It seems like the blast cracked the plaster throughout and little pieces kept working loose as the hole slowly grew until it was all that was left.  That was the end of keeping guns in the bedrooms.  I never really knew where the guns went until John made a gun cabinet in high school wood shop.  That gun cabinet got screwed to the wall in the garage (it never had a car in it - just like mine) and Dad kept the only key.  That didn't mean we didn't have access to the guns as we grew up, but we had to get permission and return them to the gun cabinet when we were done with them. 

John soon traded his single-shot .22 for a repeater of some kind.  Jim got a single-shot .22 when he was 12.  When Jim was 14 and I was 12, he got a 12 gauge shotgun and I got a .22 bolt-action.  2 years later, he got a deer rifle, and 2 years after that I got a deer rifle.  The .410 shotgun was used by each of us in turn, but it became Dad's somewhere along the line.  I never had a shotgun of my own back then, but there was always one available if I needed one.

After I left home and entered the World, when I'd talk about living in a small town, people, especially city people, would ask, "But what did you DO for fun?"  I always thought that was funny.  I'd answer that we had a movie theater in town, and between the church, American Legion, and school there were dances quite often.  But the real answer is that when we could get away we headed for the hills, either going up the creek to fish, swim, tire swing, or catch tadpoles, or into the foothills to hunt jackrabbits.  Mostly we pretty much ran wild.  Jackrabbits are a large hare and were plentiful, and they had the habit of stopping to look back when they got far enough away to feel safe.  They make great targets.  We thought of them as vermin, and since they sometimes carried a disease called tularemia, it was thought that the best thing to do was to kill them off, which suited us kids just fine.  Hunting them was THE standard activity almost all boys in the rural West shared.  But you should know that while we did keep a sharp lookout for jackrabbits at all times, the term "rabbit hunting" was used very loosely.  What we really did was shoot anything that moved - song birds, squirrels, spiders, owls, crows, cotton-tails, mice, and ant-hills come to mind.  When we got tired we'd sit down and rest where we could see something stationary to shoot at.  Sometimes we'd find a box or something and we'd just shoot at that until it was either time to go home or we ran out of ammunition.  We also spent quite a bit of time searching for arrowheads, and this too was covered by "rabbit hunting" since if we saw a rabbit while looking for arrowheads, we'd naturally shoot at it.

In addition to that, we had the usual formal hunting/fishing seasons.  The opening day of fishing season is a fun time that comes in the spring.  If Dad could get away we'd go somewhere with the boat; Fish Lake, Koosharem, the reservoir west of Beaver, or some place like that.  Sometimes we had to settle for going up Chalk Creek and catching "planters" which are innocent, young trout recently planted in the stream by Utah Fish & Game.  They were easy to catch, but they didnt taste as good as the ones whod been in the creek for a few months.  It might have been the fish food pellets theyd been eating, or it might have been that they were flabby from growing in tanks instead of a stream.

The big hunt of the year was deer season, of course.  All the years when I was growing up, Dad put an ad in the Los Angeles papers that he would guide deer hunters and guarantee each paying hunter a buck.  So it was a big deal in our household.  The hunters arriving the day before opening day had to be fed and Mom would go all out and put on a big spread.  The older boys got to go along on the hunt and the family rule was that anytime you saw a buck you'd shoot it whether you had a tag or not, because somebody would need that deer.  We had some great times, even though we were kind of the unpaid gofers / dishwashers / personal servants and horse handlers.  When we got home we'd hang the deer in the garage to age.  After the dudes left, we'd skin and butcher whatever was left and package it up to go in the freezer.

Pheasant season was usually sometime around Thanksgiving.  Deer hunting is kind of an individual thing because we'd spread out to cover the most territory, but pheasant hunting we always did in drives where we'd walk along through weeds or fields about 15-20 yards apart, and we could talk to each other as we hunted.  We'd always get some pheasants and Mom was very good at cooking them.  If we were a little short (rarely) she'd fill in with some chicken, so we'd have big platters of fried pheasant with mashed potatoes, fresh home-made bread, and all the fixings.  It was almost like Thanksgiving all over again.

The informed reader will note that several things I've described are currently against the law.  What I've described took place many years ago when rules were not as tight as they are now, and we did not willingly disobey any laws.

J Earl Ashurst  J