Sunday, November 15, 2015

You're Only Old Once ~ Dr. Seuss

It’s been just a bit over a year since Dean and I walked out of the office, drove for the last time from Casper to Sheridan and began living the life of retirees.  Even though we chose to live here, it was still a bit unsettling to move to a town not knowing a soul other than Leslie and Ryan, Emerson, Myra and Pierce who are busier than ... well, I don't know anybody or anything busier than they are.  It’s taken a while, but the more activities we participate in and the more events we attend, the more often we see familiar faces and the more chances we have to visit with somebody other than each other.  And who knows, as time goes on maybe we’ll make friends too, like Angus and Baxter who go rushing up to the lady working at Home Depot when she calls out “the boys are here!” whenever she sees them.   

The first few weeks and months of retirement have been challenging in ways we hadn’t anticipated.  For example, I had no inkling that even though I could sleep as long and as late as I want, each morning I would force myself to crawl out of bed somewhere between 5:45 and 6:00 a.m. just so I can have one hour, completely alone, in a quiet house, with my coffee, a cat in my lap and a book.  And Dean, he had no idea I wouldn't want to listen to NPR 12 hours per day.

Like most newly retired people, when asked how it’s going, we say, “it’s great!  We really love it!  You should do it!” because who wants to admit that maybe the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the expectation.  I’m not saying I don’t think there is a small minority who immediately find retirement to be everything they hoped for and more.  I'm saying that I think for most people, the longed-for dream of a relaxed and contented retirement soon gives way to the reality of adjusting to changing roles, new routines, and the realization and acceptance (or not) that life has an expiration date.  No matter how much we work toward it, plan for it, want it, and think we are prepared for it, retirement is a life change.   And change – well, that’s not always easy.  It involves a lot of patience and strength and courage. 

After we moved here, each morning I would wake up feeling enveloped in an intense feeling of sadness.  It didn’t usually last long, but it sure wasn’t the way I expected to feel first thing in the morning, and it always surprised me.  I suspect retiring just days before the mighty Wyoming winter blew in with all of its sub-zero temperatures and snow and ice-covered roads wasn’t the wisest choice but I think my sadness was mostly caused by a combination of a couple of things.  One being I didn’t feel like I knew my place anymore.  I felt a bit like I was standing on the outside looking in.  And the other being that each night when I went to bed, I worried that the next day I wouldn’t be able to find enough to do to fill all those hours looming ahead of me. 

That went on for a very long time.  But then, all at once one day I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like I'd awakened in a cocoon of sadness.  I wasn’t waking up worried about how to keep myself busy during the day anymore; I was waking up worried I wouldn’t have enough hours to do everything I wanted to do.  Yes, a lot of what I did involved flour and sugar and butter, but there were lots of things that didn’t.  Like crafty things.  Yep.  I got crafty.  No, not sneaky crafty like I am when I get Dean to do something for me that he really doesn’t want to do.  No.  I mean Pinterest stepping stones kind of crafty. 

We have a garden area right in front of the compost bins and I was tired of walking all the way around it with my bowl of scraps just to avoid the dirt and mud.  I wanted a mud-free path leading through the garden.  But I didn’t really want to use those boring paving stones you can get at Home Depot.  Okay.  That’s a lie.  I would have been fine with boring paving stones from Home Depot but Dean had this humongous collection of broken plates and cups and pottery cluttering up …. I mean just crying out to be used.   Plus I thought it would be a great project to do with Emerson, Myra and Pierce.  What better Nana/grandchild bonding moment could there be than letting them jam their hands into a box of broken jagged-edged pottery and then mash the pieces into some thick and gooey concrete? 

I had planned to use an old cake pan from Salvation Army, fill it with concrete, let the kids push their shards of pottery into the goo and ta da! a stepping stone.  But Dean didn’t think a cake pan would be deep enough so he cut 2x4s and screwed them together and made a form that would hold about 30 pounds of concrete.   Yes.  I’m not kidding.  30 pounds.  Per step.  Once the form was made we began breaking up the pottery and as I looked at those jagged pottery pieces it occurred to me that it would be easier to design a mosaic with nice straight-edged tiles rather than uneven bits of smashed pottery so (and I still can’t believe I said this) I suggested we buy cheap tiles from the Habitat ReStore rather than use his heap of pottery bits.  So off we went and shortly came home with a bunch of nice straight tile.

We figured it would be a good idea to make the first stepping stone by ourselves so we could fine tune the process before we let the grandkids loose on a pile of tile pieces and 30 pounds of quick-drying concrete.  So I laid out my design on a piece of cardboard which, even though I was able to use nice smooth tile, still involved a lot of trial and error.  I'd fit some pieces together and then decide I didn't like the color combination.  Or I'd find the right color of tile but it wouldn't fit.  It was a lot like putting a puzzle together.  I finally got my design looking just the way I wanted it and then I transferred the design, one piece at a time, from its cardboard base to the wet cement.  I thought it would be easy to just lay each piece on the cement and push gently down but instead I had to kind of push and wiggle each one back and forth, squishing it in far enough to cover the sides of the tile.  That, of course, displaced some concrete which would squish up toward the sides of the form and each time I pushed in another piece even more concrete was squished out and over the top of the form.  It got messy. 

That’s when we decided we should probably limit the grandkids’ involvement to just letting each of them design a mosaic.  We didn’t think Leslie and Ryan would appreciate us bringing the kids home with their fingers cemented together and chunks of cement dangling from their hair and stuck to their clothes.  Actually, Dean must not have felt like scraping anymore concrete off of me either because after the first stepping stone he took control and made five more steps all by himself using the kids’ designs as well as his own. 

We now have 180 pounds of bright, colorful stepping stones leading through the garden.  I’d like to make some more next summer for other places in our yard, but before we do we’re going to have to make some modifications because the other day, when I stepped on them after it had rained I discovered those polished tiles are slicker than snot when they get wet. 

I guess it’ll be an on-going process of adjustments.  Kind of like retirement has been.  Some parts have fit together nicely and some haven’t, but as we keep trying new things I know soon, very soon, all these parts are going to come together.  And it will be great.  And amazing.  And when we say that – we won’t be lying.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Currant Price Of Muffins

One of the things that never occurred to me before I retired was that during this garden-harvesting time of year I wouldn’t be able to walk into the break room and grab one or two Flintstone-club-sized zucchinis for my yearly zucchini bread.  It also hadn’t occurred to me (since we’d never needed one before) that Dean, forward thinking as always, would grow a zucchini plant in the garden.  The up side is that now, instead of baking my traditional artery-clogging, diabetes-inducing, blood-pressure-spiking treats, I have zucchini right out my back door and I am baking with a healthy vegetable.  The down side is I have a bajillion zucchini right out my back door and I am under pressure to pick, grate, mix and bake dozens of zucchini muffins, loaves of bread and a cake or two in order to keep Dean from making me eat it in a casserole or salad or pancake or lasagna or way too many other zucchini dishes where sugar is not the main ingredient.  In case any of you are also trying to stay out of the stuffed zucchini boat, you can click here for an awesome zucchini muffin recipe I recently found. 

Unfortunately it only makes six muffins.  SIX muffins!?  What’s the point?  All that shredding and mixing and waiting for them to bake for six measly muffins?  Get real.  So I quadrupled the recipe.  It’s become my new favorite recipe and the last time I grabbed a green club from the garden and whipped up another batch I got crazy healthy and cut back on the sugar to only triple the amount.  Next time I might lose control and try substituting applesauce for some of the vegetable oil.  Although vegetable oil … it’s a vegetable … right?  like zucchini … which is good for you … Anyway, don’t these just look, as my mom used to say – luscious?   Mmmmm.  They were.   I love them. 

No.  Those aren't little lightbulbs.  They're our first tomatoes.
You know who else really, really loves them?  Baxter.  That little tinkling sound Dean and I heard as we watched TV one night (and thought it was Maisie or Sophie playing with a glass on the counter) was Baxter’s rabies tag tinkling on the cooling rack as he ate zucchini muffin after zucchini muffin after zucchini muffin – nine muffins plus that small loaf of bread.   I think the only reason he didn’t eat them all was because he couldn’t reach any more.  And I’m using the term “ate” loosely because Baxter does not chew.  He swallows his food whole.    

Oh no!  Oh no!  Oh no!  That’s what I said when I walked into the kitchen about 9 p.m. and saw what Mr. Sneak had done.  Dean came to see what was going on but didn’t care about the missing muffins.  He pointed out to me that raisins and grapes and currants are bad for dogs.  And those muffins were loaded with currants.  Based on the amount Baxter had wolfed down we figured he’d eaten about ½ cup of currants.  What we didn’t know, until Dean Googled, was that currants are so deadly that small amounts can cause acute kidney failure.  

Oh no!  Oh no!  Oh no!  Is that what you just said?  That’s what Baxter should have said.  Did you know there is a Pet Poison Hotline?  There is.  Did you know they charge $49.00 per call?  They do.  I called our vet office’s emergency number instead.  As Dean paced with furrowed brow, I dialed, crossed my fingers and hoped she would tell me that all those websites saying currants could kill our dog were exaggerating and ½ cup was nothing to worry about.  Only she didn’t say that.  She told me to call that Poison Hotline for Idiot Pets.  So I called, gave them my credit card number and crossed my fingers and hoped this person would tell me that all those websites stating currants and raisins and grapes could kill my dog were exaggerating and he was an idiot, but he’d be fine.  Only she didn’t say that either.   Ms. Poison said they were deadly.  And, she said, nobody knows how many it takes to be deadly so we have to assume that even one little currant could shut down his kidneys.  And then she asked me if we were positive that Angus hadn’t eaten any of the muffins.  Uh oh.  We didn’t think he had.  We thought he was lying on his pillow under the desk the whole time we were watching TV but we didn’t know for sure.  We couldn’t be positive.  

She told us to give each of them 2 ½ tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide in order to induce vomiting. We were supposed to squirt it in the side of their cheek using a syringe.  We had the hydrogen peroxide, but not the syringe.  Dean was frowning and grumbling and heading for his shoes and keys.   But wait!  I remembered he had a small blue bulb syringe he used to clean the wax from his ears when his hearing got so bad that even though he was happy not to hear my latest project ideas, he couldn’t hear anything else he wanted to either.   He carefully measured the hydrogen peroxide into a little shot glass, sucked it up into the little blue bulb syringe, and slipped the tip right along Baxter's clenched teeth, into his cheek, and squirted while I tried to hold on to 87 pounds of snorting, squirming dog.

Have you ever given your dog 2 ½ tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide?  No? Well let me tell you what happened with Baxter.  The liquid began foaming as soon as it entered his mouth.  And he made this nasty gagging noise and fought like crazy to get away from me.  Ms. Poison Lady had told me it could take up to 10 to 15 minutes for him to vomit – or as she phrased it – induce vomiting and get a good result – but the way he was gagging I didn’t think he’d make it 10 to 15 seconds.  Baxter and I ran to the back door and along the way he shook his head which caused all that foaming hydrogen peroxide to fly everywhere.  On the wall, on the couch, on the floor, on the desk ...

As it turned out he did not “have a good result” within the 10 to 15 minutes.  He did not have any result at all.  So he got a second 2 ½ tablespoon dose.  The second time, I straddled him, wrapped my arms around his chest and held on for dear life while Dean squirted the liquid into his cheek.  That time I could feel him swallowing.  Once again we ran to the door and that time, as soon as I got his gagging, foaming body outside he had a very good result.  Two very good results actually.  Both loaded with currants.  

Poor Angus.  He also had two very good results with only one dose of Hydrogen Peroxide and, as we suspected, nary a currant in sight.  

I crossed my fingers when, around 10:30 p.m.  I called back the Poison Control Hotline For Stupid Parents of Idiot Animals to report that we’d had very good results hoping she’d say all was fine.  After all, we figured all those muffins had been in his belly less than an hour so pretty much all of them had to have been abruptly relocated along with his evening's dinner.  But she did not say that.  She felt we should call our vet back and take Baxter in for some kind of charcoal treatment to soak up any toxins which might have been left in his belly.  Ms. Poison Lady said he would also need “supportive care” which apparently meant somehow flushing his kidneys but which I assumed really meant me handing over my credit card number, my checkbook, and my first born child at our vet’s office and leaving Baxter with them for who knows how long.  

Poison lady didn’t even change her mind when I told her I'd shined a flashlight at Baxter's results so Dean wouldn't miss any when he scooped it into a colander which he then swished with his fingers while I rinsed it with water from the hose until there were only currants and a few dog food chunks left.  So we were close to positive that almost every stinking currant from his “very good result” was now in our colander, not in his belly.  She just pointed out to me that animals never empty their stomachs completely when they vomit and we had one dog once who had eaten only one little currant and died and another who had eaten a lot but was fine so you just never know. So I thanked her for her help, hung up and said, “forget that.  I’m not doing that.  That’s too much.  That’s over the top.  Seriously?  One little currant could kill Mr. Iron Belly?  Mr. I Eat Pies and Hearing Aids and Leggos and Fabric?  His kidneys would shut down if one measly currant was left in his belly?  No way.  Not doin’ it.”

I went to bed.  Dean went to bed.  Angus went to his pillow.  Baxter went to his pillow.  And then I got up the next morning and Baxter was still on his pillow.  His eyes were open, staring and glassy.  

Ohhhhhhhh Nooooooooo......................  Is that what you just moaned quietly to yourself?  Sorry.  He was fine.  He has an iron belly, remember?  I did worry that I’d screwed up and he would have a delayed reaction and I'd have to live with the guilt.  And when the vet called me in the morning to check on him I worried she might think I was a bad dog mother when I told her I didn't think the risk was great enough to bother her  late at night and bring him in (which she probably knew meant I didn't want to pay what it would cost).  But she was very understanding.  She just asked for our case number and called the Poison Hotline for Really, Really Stupid Owners of Dogs herself.  It was decided we should have a blood panel run on Baxter three days in a row just to be sure he really was okay and his kidneys weren't going to shut down.  So we did.  And guess what?  He was fine.  My bank account – not so much.  I really hope he enjoyed those muffins.  They cost $18.00 a piece.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spiders, Ducks And Me

Dang…..where have I been?!  Here!  I’ve been here!  And there are so many things I’ve been wanting to tell you about.  Like the sod that was finally laid and the seeds that were planted to reclaim the pipeline that was replaced in the right-of-way two years ago. 

Of course I baked for them!

We’d had some hot, dry weather before the grass worker bees came out in mid-May but just as they laid the last bit of sod, it started raining.  How perfect is that? we thought.  This whole sod thing couldn’t have happened at a better time.  Now we don’t have to water. 

It rained that day.  And the next.  And the next.  It never stopped raining.  For weeks.  I thought about writing a blog post but it was so cloudy and cold and wet it was just too depressing.  And then one day it actually stopped raining and I sat down at the computer to type, but with with all the wet weather my fingers had grown webs.  I tried, but it was just too hard and took too long to peck out each word with hands that looked like duck feet.  And on top of that, the bottoms of my feet had developed a layer of slimy mold so when I sat at the computer, valiantly attempting to type, my feet kept sliding away from my chair.  I finally just had to give up.  But today I realized my fingers didn’t belong on a duck anymore and I could walk barefoot without sliding across the floor so here I am!

I should tell you about my two week adventure painting the house – all by myself.  (Okay, in complete honesty I painted it all except for the high peaks on the front and back which is Dean's bailywick.  I can't go higher than a step ladder or I'd shake so much I'd spill even more paint than I normally do.)  The first day I'd only been painting 45 minutes when a thunderstorm blew through and I had to frantically grab my paint tray and get off the ladder before I became a lightening rod.  After that I started monitoring the prediction for rain (which changed hourly) so most of the time I knew when to pack it in and get off the ladder before I was either drenched or toasted.  After a few days it finally quit raining but the mosquitoes were so bad instead of becoming soaked with rain I had to soak myself in bug spray.  And THEN, mistakenly thinking I'd overcome the weather and the mosquitoes, the cottonwood trees let loose into a blizzard of white and cotton would drift down and plop into my paint and stick to all the wipes and smears and globs of paint on me.  And the weather prediction doesn't tell you when a breeze is going to come up and blow white fluff into your paint. I'm sure Dean was overcome with guilt and oh so sad that he didn't get to experience that adventure but while I was painting he was sick with a cold and spent his time coughing, blowing, sleeping and/or sitting with his head in his hands and a cold towel on his head……until he finally recovered on the day I finished painting.  Hmmmmm…….  

Maybe I should tell you how I spent two days this week getting the deck ready to stain by scrubbing it on my hands and knees with a stiff bristle brush and my pot scraper ... sweating ... even though I was drenched in soapy water. But instead, I’m going to tell you how, way back before the sky opened up and I mutated into part duck, we turned our water feature into a garden.

Everybody thinks water features are so awesome.  Goldfish swimming in a small pond of water ruffled by the calming sounds of water rippling down a small waterfall, up into the re-circulation pipe, then down the waterfall again – a contemplative sanctuary.  When we first looked at this house we thought our water feature was beautiful and sounded soothing too.  But then we discovered the putrid stink of decayed and rotting leaves and stagnant water we had to clean out every spring.  And we decided to make it a into a garden.

Those leaves are just waiting for snow melt so they can rot and stink and turn to slime.
I thought it would be a simple project.  We could just remove the rocks, move the dirt so we could poke holes in the plastic liner, stick a planter or something in the open space in the cement wall and then add more dirt and plant a garden.  Go ahead.  Don’t hold back.  Laugh til you snort.  I just never learn.  Of course we couldn’t just stick a planter or something in the opening.  We had to break out the cement wall because otherwise it wouldn’t look nice

So I suggested … come on ... you're laughing already?  seriously? … I suggested we fill in the hole with cement blocks or those stones you use to build a wall.  It was going to be mostly covered by dirt anyway.  Right?  Or if he felt he had to, Dean could paint it.  Paint a mural on it.  I suggested he put his artistic talent to use.  But no.  Whatever we would use to fill the the opening in the middle of the cement wall to keep the dirt in wouldn’t match the cement wall so it still wouldn’t look nice. So ........ Dean got the sledge hammer and broke it out.  

But guess when he did it?  Come on.  Just guess.  He broke it out AFTER he had sent me squeezing through that bitty opening to pry the staples and nails out of the wood that was holding the piping that went into the pump to recirculate the water for the water feature.  AFTER I crawled through a tiny crevice into a dank, dirty, claustrophobic, spider haven.

I should have eaten more cookies during the basement construction.

Of course, once the wall was out and he laid the stones for the new back wall I made the mistake of telling him it slanted.  To the left.  See it?   What's wrong with me?  Don't I ever learn anything?

I thought .............. really .... try and hold it down ...... I thought he could just build up the bottom of the slanted side with some dirt or some kind of flat rock or something and then lay the wall stones on to make it level but of course not.  Duh.  What was I thinking?  He built a small form, mixed up a batch of cement, got out his level and did it the “right way.”  

Then, of course there was a debate about the space between the top of his new wall and the bottom of the deck.  I thought the space looked tacky.  Dean thought the plants he was planning to grow would cover it.  I wanted to build the wall all the way above the bottom of the deck.  Dean did not.  We compromised.  Dean said he will add more rocks to fill in the gaping holes between the top of the wall and the bottom of the deck.  But it can’t be just any rock or it won’t look nice.  He will add rocks that speak to him and are special and will be accepted by all the other rocks or ..........whatever.  I don't even try to understand the rock part of his brain anymore.  

Once the wall was finished I was ready to spread out the dirt, add a boatload of the compost we’d gotten from the dump, and get planting.  But oh, no.  We had bags and bags of wood chips I’d dug out from under our swing and our neighbor said he would take them.

Yep.  Dean laid the stones and I figure in about five years the baby woolly thyme plants will have filled in the sides.

But they were mixed with dirt and we couldn’t give him messy, dirty wood chips.  Oh no, no, no.  We had to sift them so the dirt went into the new garden and our neighbor got nice clean wood chips.  

Finally we spread the dirt, mixed in the compost and waited for it to warm up enough to plant.  And then it started raining and we got busy building the arc and then once it quit raining it stayed cold and cloudy so it isn’t exactly the Garden of Eden out there yet but at least next spring we won’t have to muck out putrid, slimy leaves.  But back when we had to ... gosh those finger webs I grew this year would have really come in handy.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Houdini and the Sausage

What did you think would happen to you after you ate your “sister’s” $1,500.00 not-covered-by-insurance hearing aid?  You'd already chewed your way out of your hard-sided dog crate.  And eaten your “mother’s” fund-raising pie.  And eaten all of her hair ties.  And you ate your “brother’s” leggos.  And chewed up your “sisters’” miniature plastic people.  Plus you kept finding new ways to open the back gate latch and escaping.  Your “parents’ were so busy and so tired and yet they still fed you and cared for you and forgave you.  And then … then ……………. you ate Emerson’s hearing aid?!?

Who?  Me?

 And that’s why, a couple of months ago, Angus’s brother, Baxter, came to live with us.  And why we spent most of a day last week setting up the outdoor dog kennel Baxter brought along with him.  We spent half our time driving to town to buy one size of rubber mat at Tractor Supply and then driving to Big R to buy another size only to discover the Big R’s pad cost waaaaaaay more than we wanted to pay which meant we had to drive home to re-measure and recalculate and by the time Dean had come up with a new plan he was hungry so we had to take a lunch break.  Then we drove back to Tractor Supply to return the pad we’d purchased earlier and bought two different ones, after which we drove to Home Depot and bought 10 paving stones.  And then, finally, we drove home.  We hitched up the cart to the John Deere, loaded the mats and stones, drove them over to where we wanted the kennel, carefully placed the mats on the grass, laid the paving stones in the area the rubber mats didn’t cover, set the kennel on top and ta da! we were finished!  

Nope.  That would have been the good enough way.  That would not have been the RIGHT way.  Oh, no.  And we always do things the right way.  Oh sure, we did carefully place the paving stones and the cumbersome, super heavy mats on the grass.  But then Dean meticulously cut the ground around the edge of the mats and stones with his utility knife so we’d know the EXACT boundary.  THEN, we picked up the super heavy cumbersome rubber mats, carefully lifted the paving stones, set them aside, and dug up the grass.  And smoothed the edges.  And leveled the ground.  And THEN, 


once again, we very precisely laid the super cumbersome, heavy rubber mats and the paving stones into the edged, scraped and leveled area.  And then and only then, did we …. FINALLY ….. carry over the dog kennel and set it down.  And it fit perfectly.  I mumbled “you were right,” and Dean barely gloated. 

So now, after two months, the dogs can be safely outside when we don’t want to play the odds and leave them alone in the house.  Not that they haven't been free range in the house many times before. Baxter had been over here to play with Angus most days of the week anyway so having him full time hasn’t really made a huge difference.  We were already used to the furniture-shifting wrestling matches and fur rising up like fog from a lake when we walked through the house.  The cats were somewhat hesitant at first but they have gradually adjusted.  I don’t worry about their panicked sprints through the house when Baxter chases them because it’s the only exercise they get and the vet did tell me they need to get exercise somehow.  

When Baxter first arrived I cringed a bit when I thought about what the dog food bill would be but Angus, aka The Sausage, is now on a diet so we haven’t had to buy all that much extra dog food after all.  What’s really increased is the dog poop cleanup which, between the two of them, is always a treasure hunt.  So far the fully intact four-inch square of bright red cloth I used (not anymore!) to clean my iPad screen mashed in Baxter’s poop pile has topped the small blue plastic foot nestled in Angus’s poop.  I did notice this morning, though, that I’m missing a bright green footie …. THAT could brighten tomorrow’s walk!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tongue Tied By Beauty

“This isn’t the way I thought retirement would go,” Dean said.  As I bent down to throw another humongous chunk of cement over the bank, making sure I threw it exactly between those two trees and far enough that it lands on the bank, but not so far it lands or rolls into the water, I was thinking I wasn’t going to tell him that those two trees now had areas of missing bark and that somehow chunks of cement had gotten into the creek. But when I wasn’t thinking that, I was thinking I agreed with him and that we needed a break from the yard projects that seemed to have taken over our lives.  So we did.  Take a break.  We ignored our aching joints, stiff backs, swollen fingers and throbbing feet and took Emerson to the Tongue River Canyon for a day of hiking. 

The grass was tender and lush and the boys took advantage of it to do some grazing, which I know 

from Googling they eat for one of three reasons:  1. they need some fiber, 2. they just enjoy the taste of tender grass, or 3. (and most likely) they think it’s fun to gag and run straight for my area rug where, just as I get my arms around them and start dragging them toward the wood floor, they barf up a pile of bile and long-slimy grass blades. 

When they weren’t foraging they were sniffing, snorting, drooling and enjoying any water we came across.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that all the cement hurling, compost digging, dirt turning, stone lifting, stooping, bending and twisting we’d been doing over the last weeks had made my body stronger which made it easier to crouch down (and even back up!) to take photos of all the different wildflowers and unique displays of nature.  

I’d really hoped my photos would entice the nature/flower-loving friends we’ve known since high school to come out

and experience the wonders of Wyoming (and see us!) but my photographic talent (or lack of) was

 hampered by the fact that I had no idea how sharp, or even what, was in the viewfinder of my

camera.  I could have easily remedied that problem, but hiking with reading glasses just seemed so, oh, I don’t know, old. 

Photo credit to Emerson -- oh, to have young eyes again ....

After I got home and realized most of the photos I’d taken were blurry, I decided next time I’d just suck it up and wear them.

Squirrel banquet hall

If I’d been wearing them I would have been able to see what I zoomed in to instead of needing to get up close and lean back to get the “perfect” shot.  That way I wouldn’t have ended up like a turtle on its back when my water-bottle-filled backpack pulled me over, which was much more humiliating than wearing reading glasses on a hiking trail. 

 Dean, who I’ve apparently ruined by making him “wait while I just take a quick photo,” of course couldn’t help me up until he’d made me “wait while I just take a quick photo.”

The culprit

We’d hiked the Tongue River Canyon Trail a few times in the last couple of years but had never made it as far as the meadow area.  If you ever want to push yourself a bit farther and a bit harder than you initially planned on, take a 11 ½ -year old hiking with you.  “I’m pretty sure we can go 

farther,” Emerson would say.  And farther we’d go.  This time we made it to the meadow.   And next time ...  next time we’ll hike to the meadow and beyond!

The hike out took half as long as the hike in.  Partly because more of it was downhill, but mostly because Emerson spent her time talking on her rock phone and the more she talked the faster she walked.  She obviously got much better reception than my cell phone.  Mine said “searching” the whole way out but Emerson made multiple calls to friends and family. 

“Hi Mom.  Nana and Papa thought we should have ice cream after we get back.  What do you think?  Yeah.  I think it’s a good idea too cuz it’s free ice cream.  What’s Dad doing?  Is he playing the drums in his underwear again?  Okay, I gotta go.  I need to call Nolan.  Bye.”

“Hi Nolan’s Mom….Mrs. McCready.  Is Nolan there?  Okay, thanks.  Oh, hi Nolan.  I’m just hiking with my Nana and Papa.  Oh, wait, sorry.  Hold on.  ‘What Papa?  Okay.  I’m just talking to Nolan.’  Nolan?  Sorry.  My papa was just asking me a question.  Oh, we're just hiking and then we’re going to get ice cream when we get back.”

She talked ….

And talked …

And talked. 

Her phone lost its charge just as we reached the car.  Or imagine it did because it was very quiet in the backseat on the ride home.  The dogs were sacked out in the back dreaming of the next time they’d get to graze on grass, Emerson was reading the last chapter of a book and maybe trying to decide which sprinkles she’d be putting on her ice cream.  I don’t know for sure but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dean was trying to figure out how he could talk me out of the next project I suggest.   And I was wondering if, once we got home, I’d have time to suck down a couple of Ibuprophen before I had to run for the dog barf cleaning solution.