Monday, August 29, 2011

Abby TV (or the view from our picture window)

As soon as she was big enough to jump up on furniture, our dog Abby has claimed the Queen Ann-style chair that sits in front of our living room picture window.  It is the perfect place to sit and view the neighborhood.  She sometimes sits for hours just staring at the people walking by and the occasional critter that happens her way.  Then she will erupt in a scream – the high pitched bark that is reserved only for the Mailman or a rabbit, squirrel or cat who gets a little to close to the house!  We have laughingly called the view from the window “Abby TV”!  It certainly keeps her occupied!  Now I have started to watch “Abby TV” also!

My Mom, in her later years lived in the upper half of a duplex with a large deck attached to the kitchen.  She put out numerous bird feeders and loved to just sit and watch the birds!  I used to think she was nuts – well, not really – just didn’t understand her fascination with it.  I remember one time her telling us about her tangle with a squirrel.  She had set out something in particular to attract a specific type of bird.  The squirrel decided to help himself to it and that really ticked my mom off!  She reached for the closest thing she could find…a potato…and winged it at the squirrel!  She plunked him right in the head and he stood there for a moment, staggering and then ran away.  I laugh every time I am watching my squirrels and I think of my mom, hurling a potato at a squirrel!

In the past few years, I have been adding bird feeders in front of the picture window:  a suet feeder, hopefully to attract the woodpeckers, a squirrel-proof feeder (more on that in a later blog) filled with sunflower seeds and a cheaper plastic one with seed to attract the finches...mostly goldfinches.  I also have a bird bath and now a platform feeder my neighbor made for me to hopefully attract some cardinals!  They were my mom’s favorite birds!  There is a small bush next to my feeders that the little birds just love to flit back and forth in.  One of my favorite birds is the Chickadee.  They are tiny black and white birds that never stay in one place for too long.  They usually come in groups and hop back and forth from the bush to the feeders to the bird bath!  They are really fun to watch!

A Chickadee feasting on a sunflower seed in the bush
  About a month ago, one of about five cats that seem to wander thru our neighborhood curled itself up under the bush that sits close to my feeders.  It sat, watching intently as the birds continued to eat at the feeder.  I remember saying to Dan, “Dumb cat…does he really think he can jump up there and catch a bird!”  Not long after, a chickadee landed in the bush, pulling apart a sunflower seed oblivious to the cat sitting near it!  After a couple of minutes, the cat slapped at the bird with its paw and missed.  Ok…maybe he does have a chance, but the birds have to know he’s there, don’t they?  A couple of minutes later, the cat was back in his attack stance under the bush when another chickadee landed!  Sure enough…the cat pounced and caught the bird right in his mouth as I watched in shock!  He casually walked away with the feathers sticking out of his mouth looking very satisfied!  I really hated that cat at that moment!

The cat in question
 We also have a little chipmunk that lives somewhere near my house who comes and cleans up the sunflower seeds.  It is so fun to watch his cheeks get bigger and bigger as he stuffs those seeds in his tiny mouth!  I have to admit, I have put out seeds where I know he will come and get them just to watch him!  He is so cute!  Saturday, I was doing some work around the house and Abby Dog started making her combination growl/snorting noise so I went to the front door to see what was bothering her.  I saw the aforementioned cat cutting across the yard with something in its mouth.  At first I thought it was another bird…then, thought it was a mouse!  Good a mouse…yuck a mouse!  On closer examination, I saw in horror that he had “MY” chipmunk in his mouth!  I flew to the door, ripped it open and yelled at the top of my lungs “Hey!”  The cat was straight ahead of me on the sidewalk and was so startled he dropped the chipmunk, which to my relief darted away from the cat in a mad dash towards the overgrown bush on the other side of the house!  Behind him was the cat and behind the cat was ME!  The chipmunk made it to safety and the cat high tailed it down the driveway with me chasing him, yelling “Get out of here!”  After I was sure the cat was gone, I went back towards the house and could hear a rustling noise and chattering from where the chipmunk had run.  I told him “I saved your life, little guy!” and went back in the house.   

My little chipmunk after his "Close Encounter"
 About a half hour later, I saw him back out eating the sunflower seeds, looking no worse for the wear!  The cat has shown up a couple of times since then, but has taken off running at the sight of me!  I guess he can be lucky I’m not packing a weapon or he might have had a rump full of shot!  No…I really don’t think I could harm an animal intentionally…but that cat better not mess with MY chipmunk again or he will have to deal with me!  I swear, I hope my neighbors don’t have “Wendetta TV” or I'm sure they got an eye-full on Saturday!

So tune in again for our next episode on “Abby TV” – it’s sure to be an entertaining one!  Perhaps, something about Squirrels!  Until next time…

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodbyes are never easy...

I have never been very good at saying goodbyes…maybe no one is good at it, but I really find it particularly hard to deal with.  Last week, I had to say two very different goodbyes.  One of a permanent kind and one temporary but both bittersweet!

Last Thursday, we had Dan’s monthly appointment with his hematologist, Dr. Medlin at the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls.  He was scheduled for his monthly IV chemo and an office visit with the doctor.  We had learned the previous month that this would be our last appointment with him, as he is moving to Arkansas.  It was quite a shock but we have learned to roll with the punches in this last year and a half!  For those of you who don’t know, my son Dan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in Sept. 2009 while running on the Cross Country team for Buena Vista University.  We were first seen by a doctor in Sioux City but wanted to be closer to family, etc. in Sioux Falls so we were referred to Dr. Medlin (or Steve).  He was such a good fit for us…kind, caring, and willing to answer all of our questions…and believe me, we had a bunch!  He also gave Dan the “green light” to run again as soon as the initial, intense chemo was over last May which kept him going thru the tough times!  Anyone who has heard the words “You have Cancer” said to them or a loved one knows how important it is to have a doctor you can trust.  Steve helped to bring a sense of calm to our chaotic world and give us hope!  I am glad that he didn’t leave while we were still in the early stages of Dan’s illness – I think that would have been impossible to deal with!  We will be switching to Dr. Medlin’s partner, Dr. McCaul or Kelly, who we know and has performed several of Dan’s Lumbar Punctures.  He is also a runner, so that will be an added bonus!  He will be gone at our next appointment, so our next meeting with him will be in October when Dan has to have a Lumbar Puncture and a Bone Marrow Biopsy!  What a way to break him in!  We will really miss Steve but wish him well and know that we are in good hands with Kelly!  On to the next phase of our Leukemia journey – a year and a half to go!
Dr. Medlin and Dan at his last appointment
 On Friday, I helped Dan move into the dorm at Buena Vista for his Junior year!  I was reminiscing about dropping him off freshman year - it was extremely emotional for me!  I worried that he wouldn’t know anyone, not make friends, etc. – typical mom worries!  I needn’t have stressed so much – he had a girlfriend in 2 weeks!  Sophomore year (2009), it was a piece of cake!  No worries, dropped him off without a care until… he had to leave school on medical leave for the year and battle Leukemia.  Sophomore year round 2 (2010) was very difficult for me!  Sending him back to school with a host of medications and training all while still receiving  IV chemo once a month!  Also, getting back into studying etc. after a year off is never easy!  My biggest worry was keeping him healthy with his compromised immune system!  Again, no reason to worry.  He ran every Cross Country race with no problems and made the Dean’s List both semesters with a perfect 4.0 for the Spring semester... and he stayed relatively healthy all year long!  So this year when I said goodbye to him, I tried not to worry…what good does it do anyway!  On Sunday, he left for a trip with the team to Colorado!  I am trying not to stress about him running in the high altitude, getting high altitude sickness or pulmonary edema!  I am doing better…the concern is still there, but I am learning to trust a little more and have figured out that things will happen or not happen, whether you worry or not!  I will breathe a little easier when he is back in Iowa on Thursday! 

Dan’s first meet is on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in Pella, IA.  Last year, the first meet of the year was in Mitchell, SD.  We weren’t sure if he would even be able to finish the race or how he would be able to do!  He finished without having to stop and didn’t finish last!  That trend would continue throughout the year with his times getting better with his best time at the last race of the year…4 days after having IV chemo, a lumbar puncture and a bone marrow biopsy!  We have no idea what to expect again this year…except that he is in much better shape and his times are getting close to what they were before he got sick!  I will keep you informed on how he does!
So, I guess I did well with both goodbyes…no tears or anything (well, maybe one)!  I just wish Abby Dog could get over missing Dan!  I swear, every year she thinks I did away with him or something.  She patiently waits by the door for him to come home, while shooting me dirty looks!  He will return…in about a month!  I think we will both be okay until then!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Pet by any other Name...

     I have been blessed to have shared my life with some amazing pets!  Growing up, it seems we always had a pet in the house...cats, dogs and even a rabbit!  My parents were both animal lovers.  I know my Mom's family had several dogs, even during the tough times.  My favorite photo of my Mom's father, Adolf was taken with his wife and my Aunt Ellen in front of their Sod House in Meade County, South Dakota about 1910.  Besides the historical interest of seeing an actual sod house, I love the fact that the dog has the seat of honor and my grandpa is standing!  I don't know this dog's name but he does bear a striking resemblance to a dog, Prince we had growing up (more on him later)!

Mom also had a dog named Beans growing up - not the most original name but it beats some of the other pet names in the family!  My Dad never mentioned any pets by name (that wasn't his nature to share much about his family) but growing up on a farm, I'm sure he had a dog at more than one point in his life.  He was a real softie when it came to animals.  More than once, after having a pet die or be put down he would say, "No more pets"...but soon after, one would magically show up and become his favorite!
     The first pets I remember around the house were cats.  I know we had 2 cats named Friskie (how original) and one named Rhubarb.  I don't remember if they were inside cats or outside cats, or a little of both.  Looking back with the knowledge of my allergies and reactions to cats, it's lucky we didn't have more cats in the house!
One day when I was pretty young, we had a little dog just show up at our house and make himself at home.  Back then, most people let their animals run around town...they seemed to always come home.  He used to wander all around town liked he owned it and came home when he pleased.  I think he was some sort of terrier mix...kind of a brown, orange and black color.  My parents decided to let me (the baby) name the dog!  In hindsight, I'm sure they thought I would pick Fido or Rex or something boring and unoriginal, but not me!  I decided to name him...wait for it...Fruit Juice!  I'm not sure why they didn't try to talk me into naming him something else but it might have something to do with the strong, stubborn streak I was born with.  Anyway, can you imagine a grown man or woman standing on the front porch and yelling "Here, Fruit Juice"!  What a hoot!  About the same time, my sisters boyfriend at the time, bought me a huge rabbit.  It really was adorable but one day someone let Fruit Juice in the house when the rabbit was out and the poor rabbit almost bit the dust!  Then we learned the "he" rabbit was really a "she" rabbit and going to have babies so she got farmed out...literally!  One day I came home and my parents told that Fruit Juice had run away and wouldn't be coming back!  I cried for a long time but eventually life returned to normal again.  Years later, I learned that he didn't run away - my Dad had to put him to sleep and it really hurt him to do it.  It would be a few years before we got another dog.
      Our dog, Prince was brought home by one of my brothers when I was in Junior High.  He was part Irish Setter, Black Lab and German Shepherd.  Although he wasn't a puppy when we got him, he was very smart and learned all sorts of tricks:  shake hands, speak, catching objects, etc.  He could also really understand what we were saying.  When we would go away for awhile, he would have to stay in the garage and he hated it!  One time my parents were in the hallway talking about putting him in the garage and couldn't find him...he was in the basement hiding under a table!  When he got older, we felt it wasn't fair to keep a big dog in town and gave him to a nice family that lived on a farm.
     Our next dog, was a Silver Poodle named Muffin that was a sibling of my sister's poodle, Princess!  She was definitely my Dad's dog although she tolerated my Mom and I because we would feed her and let her out, etc.  She had a lot of attitude and could have a little bit of a mean streak!  She definitely held a grudge!  If we left her at home alone too long, we would come home to find something of ours torn apart!  Her favorite spot was out on the front porch under the buffet.  You did not reach under there to get her unless you wanted your hand bit!  That was her domain!  Looking back, perhaps the mean streak had a little to do with the outfits I made her wear (see above - this was one of many!)
     When my kids were growing up, we didn't have pets mostly because we lived in apartments or rentals where pets weren't allowed.  Also, money was tight so it was hard to justify adding another mouth to feed.  When my daughter, Alicia was 15, she got very ill and spent 9 days in the hospital.  Since she had pneumonia they moved her from the Pediatric wing to the Cardio Pulminary unit where most of the patients were over 70!  Luckily we had a nurse that worked several days in a row and took a liking to Alicia.  She even smuggled into the hospital a couple of puppies that she had just had bred!  One of them was a puppy they named Blue because when she was born she wasn't breathing and the Nurse had to give her mouth to mouth to get her to breathe.  She was kind of their favorite puppy and hated to sell her.  Somehow, I just knew this was supposed to be our dog.  So a couple of weeks later, we were meeting her halfway in Rock Rapids to pick up our new little Shih-Tzu Poodle mix (Shih Poo) puppy!

Alica wanted to name her Abby...I think it was wise giving her a "people" name because I think she thinks she is a person not a dog!  She has truly been a joy in our life!  She has helped us thru Alicia's illness, Dan's illness and everything in between!  My Mom absolutely adored her and always made sure that we brought her when we came to visit.  I don't know what I would do without her now that my kids are off building their own lives...she truly is my best friend!

All of us kids were brought up with a love for animals and all four of us currently have pets in our homes.  My sister has always had Poodles, my brother Layne has Cairn Terriers and my brother Rich finally got with the bandwagon with a cat!  What I've learned is that the name of the pet doesn't matter, but the love they share with you does! Would love to hear if any of you can match the name "Fruit Juice"!  Keep it clean though...this is a family blog!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Passion For Photography

It seems like I have always had an interest in taking photographs and been drawn to photos from the past.  I got my first camera about the age of 12.  I'm not sure where it came from...I'm certain someone gave it to us as it was given as a Premium from a store and could not be purchased.  It was a strange little camera...teal blue with a funny hot shoe attachment at the top but it took great photos!  My mom, thought that it had been a dental camera...after doing some research on the web, I don't think so.  It was a Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic camera with no flash that took a 126 cartridge.  I don't think we had a photo processing store in town so we dropped the film in the mail and I patiently waited for the photos to come - hoping that the wonderful photos I thought I had taken would actually turn out!  Of course there was no focus or zoom, so photos from that time are a little strange!  You would have a great photo of someone standing by their house but they were so far away you could barely see their face!  It drives me crazy when I am scanning those photos...wishing they were in better focus or closer to the subject!  Many of our photos were processed with one large, square photo with 2 smaller square photos attached that you could remove and share with friends.  Again, scanning those tiny photos at times has become the bane of my existence.  It seems like those are the only ones that we kept!  This camera went with me on our vacations to the Black Hills, Montana and to all our family celebrations!

My next camera was a Kodak Tele-Instamatic 608.  I don't think I had it very long.  The shutter button to take the photo was very hard to press and ended up making the photos blurry.  I also seem to remember the little sliding mechanism that covers the lens getting stuck all the time.  It used 110 cartridge film and had a flash that inserted into the top.  Not one of my favorites!

My next camera was a Kodak Ektralite 10 camera with a built-in flash!  Wow...we were really moving up in the world!  It took pretty good photos but was really cheap and didn't last very long.  It also took 110 film and was easy to carry around but not made to last.

My first "real" camera I purchased about 1982 or so.  My brother, Layne had bought a camera, a Canon AE-1 Program and I was determined to have one too.  Besides my car at the time, it was my first big purchase I made on my own!  It took amazing photos, although...My brother and I took photos of the same occaisions and I think mine turned out better!  Maybe it was the photographer!  Just kidding, Layne!  This camera really got me into photography for real!  I got a couple of lenses and filters and took some great photos.  When my kids came along, I took thousands of photos of them!  It is so much fun looking back at  those photos and reminiscing!  This camera was a 35mm camera and the zoom lens really gave me a great view of my subjects.  I used this camera right up until the digital cameras started coming out.  The downside of a film camera is thinking you've taken all these great photos and you find out the film didn't get put in right and they are all gone!  Or the focus was off or the flash didn't go off!  What a disappointment!  I will always have a special place in my heart for this camera but I was so excited for the digital age!  Now she sits in a worn camera bag covered in dust...maybe someday I'll take her out again!

My first digital camera was one with a 3.5 floppy disk that you could just pull out of the camera and insert into your computer and there was your photo.  The zoom wasn't great and the megapixels were really small but it worked ok.  After that I purchased a Canon S2IS - a great digital camera with a good zoom and decent megapixels.  This is the camera that took action shots of my son running at the Drake Relays and the Iowa State High School Track meet!  I also took family photos mostly of my mom...I am so thankful to have those now that she is gone!  This camera combined what I loved about my SLR with the best of the digital world and still ranks as one of my favorites.  When it stopped working a year ago or so, we were in the middle of my son's battle with Leukemia.  Even though times were tough, I still got a new camera because photography is such a big part of my life and I wanted to document what we were going through.  My current camera is a Canon SX30IS.  It has a 35x zoom which is totally amazing and rivals that telephoto lens I had on my SLR.  I would love to have a digital SLR someday but this is as close as I can get!  I am still learning to use all the settings and miss my manual focus on my SLR but am consistantly amazed at the photos it turns out!  

Most of the photos I will use in my blog will be my photos taken with the myriad of cameras I have used over the years.  Most of the old ones, I couldn't tell you which one it was taken with.  Actually, the story behind the photos is much more important than the camera it was taken with.  So that, in a nutshell is my progression thru the world of Cameras!  I hope this is just the beginning of the journey!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Inaugural Post

Welcome to the Inaugural Post of Wendetta's World.  This is my first attempt at blogging so bear with me as I get my feet wet!  I decided to start this blog for several reasons.  First, after sharing my photographs on Facebook and getting several positive comments on them, I thought I would like to share a little of the stories behind the photos.  I also want to share with family and friends (and anyone else interested) the volumes of genealogy information and old photos that I have collected over the past decade and tell my ancestors' stories so that they do no disappear.  A year and a half ago, I started a Caring Bridge site for my now 22 year old son when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.  Now that he is in his last year of chemotherapy, there is not as much need for the site and I want to expand the subjects that I can cover.  This blog will not replace the Caring Bridge site (yet) but will include some of the medical issues we have dealt with throughout his ordeal.

So here we go...come and visit my world with me and feel free to share your comments!