Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

View All of the Halloween Photos Here

We had a nice Halloween this year.

We began our celebration last night at our pumpkin carving party. One of Amy's friends, Taylor, invited us to come over to their house to carve pumpkins. We gathered up our pumpkins, a "pumpkin carving knife" (leftover from last year), and a big bowl to put the pumpkin guts into.

We had quite a crew of kids together, 7 in all! In all 6 pumpkins were carved: 3 larger ones, and 3 small ones. Everyone who wanted to get their hands into a pumpkin got their chance.

As for me, I helped carve, but I let the kids pull the slimy seeds out. Besides, I had to keep my hands clean to take pictures.

Tonight, I took off early from work, so that we could get everyone going sooner, and take full advantage of the change to standard time.

We lit the Jack O Lanterns, and I took a few photos of the kids and the pumpkins.

Both kids went as vampires this year. Amy was a little frustrated when I took the photos, so It was hard to get a good photo of her. (Amy is known for wearing her emotions on her sleeve!)

For the first time, we let Bryan go trick or treating largely on his own. We gave him mama's cell phone to take along with him, so we could keep track of him, or if he needed any help.

I went along with Amy. Occasionally we would bump into Bryan in our travels. Bryan wanted to be on his own, but Amy didn't want to be left behind. Bryan would finish collecting his candy at one house, and then sprint to the next one, hoping to leave Amy behind in the dust. Amy would follow after him, and catch up while they were waiting for the next homeowner to come to the door.

Bryan just couldn't shake her, and he was getting frustrated. After I realized what was happening, I told Bryan that it was rude to try to ditch your sister. Wait until we get out of this cul-de-sac, and then you can go one way, and we'll go another way. Then you can be on your own again.

I stayed with Amy the whole time she was out. I decided to let her decide when she wanted to call it quits -- knowing that she would eventually poop out. I wouldn't dare try that with Bryan. Heck, we'd be trick or treating until dawn if it were up to Bryan.

Eventually Amy decided to call it quits. I walked her home, and then started downloading and editing photos.

After awhile, I called Bryan on the cell phone to see how he was doing. He was just about done. I took Bryan back to a couple of more places in the car that he wanted to visit, then we called it a night.

I think everyone had a good time. The weather was cool, but calm and nice.

Last year, the kids didn't get to go trick or treating at all. We were traveling home from our vacation on Halloween last year. We had made a brief visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. We spent trick or treating time somewhere between Gunnison and Grand Junction, Colorado. So, I dare say the kids had more fun for Halloween this year than last.

This photo is of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, near Gunnison, Colorado. This is where we spent Halloween Last year. As you can see, not too many houses to visit in the area.! (Click on the Photo for a larger image.)

Friday, October 28, 2005

California Trip Summary

(Click On Photo for Larger Image)

We had a wonderful time on our trip to Southern California. Im sure we'll care many fond memories, which was one of the We made a lot of fond memories of our time. We had a lot of fun. We got to see a lot of new sights and sounds. Visiting the beaches, and seeing the ocean was a special treat. Going to Disneyland was a fun time too.

Here are the links to each day's postings of our trip:

Click Here to View Photos from the entire trip.

Money(and time)-wise, I'm not sure when we'll be able to make this trip again. We saved all of our income tax refunds from this year for the trip, plus about another $1,000 from other savings. All in all, it cost about $3,500 for the trip. It's not that we wouldn't want to go back there again, -- Heck, I'd go back there next week if I could!

But there are some other trips we would like to take too. We would like to visit my brother Doug, and his family in Virginia, and see some civil war sights, and explore Washington, DC.

We would like to visit LDS church history sites in Illinois and Missouri. Likewise, we would like to visit LDS church history sites in upstate New York, and visit some of the ancestral homelands of our first American ancestors in New England (Our family goes all the way back to the Mayflower.)

Then there are the more exotic trips we'd like to take: Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, and the Canadian Rockies.

And finally, there are the trips that probably will never happen, exept in our dreams. Places like: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Europe. Heck, while we're dreaming, why not outer space, the moon, or, as Buzz Lightyear would say, "To Infinity . . . and Beyond!"

By the time we are able to save up for and take some of these other trips, I'm not sure if the kids will even still be living with us at home anymore before we're done. So as much as we loved our visit to Southern California, I'm not too sure when we will actually make that trip again as a family.

-- It might even have to wait until the next generation. Maybe by then, we will be able to take our grandkids there -- along with their parents, of course!

California Trip Day 7

Friday, September 23, 2005

Click Here to view more photos from this day.

I got up early to go to the local Goodyear tire store to get our flat tire fixed on the rental car. It took about an hour and $18.00 to get the tire fixed. The time and money were worth the peace of mind knowing that we had a real tire at our service, rather what passed for the temporary spare.

We began our Disneyland visit anew, this time to visit the California Adventure park, which was new to all of us. Once again, we rented an electric scooter to help us get around.

Our first stop was the Muppets 3D adventure. This was pretty cute. The kids had a lot of fun. I hadn't seen anything muppet related for quite some time, and it was fun. I especially like the heckler guys!

Following the muppets, we went to the Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror. Of course Amy was having nothing to do with this one. She had learned her lesson well with Space Mountain the day before. Anything that looked remotely scary was a big NO GO for her!

Bryan and I were the first to intrepidly enter the Tower of Terror. It is based on a theme from the Old Twilight Zone TV series. This ride amounts to hotel elevators on steroids running amok. The first ominous sign upon entering the elevator is that it is equipped with seats, that include seat belts. Some folks didn't notice, but there were "sissy handles" on either side of the seat to hold on to. I found the sissy handles, and held on tight. Others, less fortunate - or less observant- did not know of the sissy handles, and thus found the ride to be far more traumatic that necessary. (As a certain someone we all know and love would later find out!) The ride is very sneaky, you get into the elevator in the "basement" of the hotel. As the "elevator attendant" is speaking to you, it rises very slowly, so that you don't realize you are going up the attendant gets out of the elevator, and then you are left to our own devices -- as you enter the Twilight Zone -- . (Cue Twilight Zone theme music here: do-do do-do, do-do do-do (bongos come in here)! At least that's how it sounds on my Manhattan Transfer album.

Sometimes the lights are on, and at other times they flicker and mysteriously go out. Sometimes the doors of the elevator fly open revealing broad daylight, nearly blinding you after being in near total darkness. Then -- THEN -- just when you least expect it, the elevator goes into a 13-story freefall, only to hit bottom, and bounce back up again. Then the elevator goes into all sorts of starts and stops, and herky-jerky motions. All of which can be very disconcerting to the poor, unsuspecting, innocent travelers inside. Finally, you are returned from the Twilight Zone back into the real world of the hotel lobby. I did notice some folks left the hotel with wobbly knees (must not have found the sissy handles!)

When the ride was over, Bryan was just beaming! He loved it. He REALLY wanted his mama to experience this thing. I had a good time on it. It was fun, for me, but I could see how it really could be a TERROR for some -- especially the claustrophobic, and those with innate fears of elevators to begin with.

We raced back out of the hotel, and found mama and Amy waiting for us. Bryan grabbed a hold of mama, and insisted that she come go on the ride with him. Of course that meant that Bryan would get to go on the ride AGAIN! -- which was half of his motive I'm sure. Plus, I think he was really wanting to have one of those "Scare mama's pants off" moments -- which he would be able to witness for himself! With Glee!

I stayed behind with Amy to keep her company. I really wouldn't have minded going on the ride again, but I didn't want to leave 10-year-old Amy by herself either. And of course, Amy was having none of this one! Amy and I walked (actually, I got to use the scooter -- Amy walked!) around the "back lot" area for awhile while Bryan and mama went on the Tower of Terror ride. We watched some street performers doing magic tricks for a little while, and made our way back just outside of the Tower of Terror. It wasn't long before Bryan, and a somewhat shaken mama came out of the Tower. Dawn Ann hammed it up pretty good, letting Bryan think that mama was really scared.

Next we went to the Bug's Life area of California Adventure. We started with the "It's tough to be a Bug" 3D show. It was a lot of fun. A little unnerving though when the effects included bugs running underneath your seat, (you could actually feel something moving underneath your hind quarters) and getting squirted by bug juice! Afterwards, the kids went on quite a few rides in this area. Bryan especially liked the water fountains that were there for kids to cool off and to play in.

Lunch was next. Another $50.00 lunch in Disneyland, that is! This time we ate at the Pacific Wharf Cafe. We had sourdough breadbowl soups, and a cream puff for dessert. The sourdough was very good, with lots of robust sourdough flavor! I don't think I've had sourdough that good since my last visit to San Francisco. Our lunch the day before consisted of pizza slices near Space Mountain. Unfortunately for very mundane cuisine, it still cost about $50.00 as well. At least the food today was really good. Still the cost was a little steep -- at least double what it should have been.

After lunch we moved over to the Paradise Pier area of the California Adventure Park. Bryan, Mr. Adventurous, wanted to go on the big roller coaster, the California Screamer. Neither Amy nor mama had any interest in that one. Unfortunately, it was closed for servicing.

We all decided to go on the big Sun Wheel (a ferris wheel with a few extra touches). The individual carriages are attached to the Sun Wheel on a set of rollers. When the wheel reaches the 3:00 and 9:00 positions, the carriage will suddenly roll along its iron track, and then come to a quick stop, which then makes the carriage start to swing back and forth. That caught Amy's breath, but after a few swings, she got used to it and was all smiles. We got some cute photos of her and mama being "scared" on the ferris wheel.

Bryan and I decided to go on the Maliboomer, which is like "The Rocket" at the Lagoon amusement park here in Utah. The Maliboomer blasts you off in a sudden rush, and you rise about 10 stories high. Then it drops you back down and rebounds up and down a few times, until the kinetic energy dissipates.

The kids went on a few more rides by themselves, and then we visited the Grizzly River Rafting Co. This ride is comparable to "Rattlesnake Rapids" at Lagoon. It was a fairly warm day (mid 80's) and the splashes of water we got on the rafting ride helped to cool us down.

We finished our tour of California Adventure by going on the Soarin' Over California experience. I had heard good reviews of this attraction from some of my co-workers who had been there. On this "ride" you are actually in a big IMAX type theater, with seats that raise you up off the ground. The film is all aerial photography over the various regions of California. As the aerial photos would turn, climb or descend, the seats of the theater would also tilt and move in the same direction, giving you the illusion that you are soaring, like an eagle, over the views below. There were times when the aircraft would pull up and just barely miss an ocean wave, or a mountain top. You could almost feel your feet dragging through the ocean wave or on a snowbank on the mountain top. In one scene, you are flying over a golf course. A golfer hits his tee shot, and the ball appears to be coming right towards you. Out of reflex, you duck your head to avoid being hit by the ball. It was really quite a realistic experience

I'm have been told (by those with better noses than I) that the experience also includes a type of aroma therapy as well. When you fly over the orange groves, you are supposed to smell oranges. When you fly over the sea, you are supposed to smell the salty surf. Unfortunately, my sinuses weren't cooperating at the time (actually they hardly ever cooperate, for that matter!) and I was unable to smell the various scents. Those with better noses, however, reported that they could, indeed, smell the aromas.

After spending two days in both Disneyland and California Adventure, I would have to say the Soarin' over California was easily our favorite attraction in either park. I think if we were to come back for a return visit, we would do Soarin' over California first, and then try to go on it again before our visit was over.

We actually used our "Park Hopper" privileges, and went back over to Disneyland. It was now getting to be about 5:00 pm on a Friday evening. For the first time in our experience, the park was actually getting crowded. All day Thursday, and earlier in the day Friday were just ideal times to be there. The crowds were light, and we never spent more than 10-15 minutes waiting in line for any ride.

All that changed on Friday evening. We went back to Disneyland to do a little souvenir shopping, and to go on a couple of our favorite rides again. For the first time, we used our "Fastpass" privileges. Bryan and I got advance tickets for another tour of Space Mountain.

While we waited for our appointed time, we did some shopping in the stores. Bryan and I both got Tower of Terror T-Shirts. Amy got another T-Shirt, and mama got a Disneyland Baseball cap. Bryan had brought some of his own money, and wanted to buy some magician supplies at the Disney magic store. He got a magic kit with a couple of different trick card decks, and a book of how to perform various card tricks.

When the appointed time came, Bryan and I tried to go on the Space Mountain ride, but it was closed due to a mechanical problem. So we never actually got to use our Fastpass Tickets. (I still have them in my wallet, as a matter of fact!) The crowds continued to burgeon. We made our way over to Pirates of the Caribbean, and went on our one and only repeat ride. It was one of Amy's favorites.

By this time we were all beat. We could have stayed for an other hour or two, but with the thickening crowds, and our state of fatigue indicated otherwise. We decided to call it a day.

Although the Disney passes we purchased with our travel package included three days at Disneyland, we were only able to use 2 days worth. I don't think I would change anything we did on the trip though, except have a few more days. I could see the wisdom of not going to Disneyland for three consecutive days. Were I to do it again, I would have a day or two to rest, or do some other activities, and then return for the third day.

Saturday, the next day, we checked out of the motel, negotiated the freeways to LAX, and spent several hours waiting around for our flight at the airport. The kids enjoyed the flight once again. And, just like before, the flight was only about half full, so we had lots of room to stretch out. They let us board first, so the kids could choose seats with a good view out the window.

After boarding the plane, intrepid Bryan once again came forth. This time he approached the head flight attendant, and asked if he could see the cockpit. In these post 9-11 days, I wasn't sure what type of a reception he would get. The flight attendant escorted him into the cockpit. The pilot wasn't there, but the co-pilot was. Bryan was allowed to sit in the captain's seat, while he was shown the flight controls. Then they put him on the intercom. First he said "Hi mom!", and everyone chuckled. Then Bryan welcomed everyone to the flight, like he was the Captain speaking. His announcement was met by applause from all the passengers. Bryan came out of the cockpit with a big sheepish grin on his face!

Later, when the flight attendant was giving her speech about the safety devices on board, she began by introducing the pilot as "Captain Bryan"!

We had a nice flight home. The kids kept their noses glued to the windows. (None of this I'm bored stuff for them!) When we got back to Utah, we flew over the Oquirrh Mountains, and were treated by seeing some of the first Fall colors of the season.

Vacation was fun, but it was good to be home again.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

14 Years

This past week Dawn Ann and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. I had arranged with my parents to take Bryan and Amy overnight for Friday night. I told Dawn Ann that she was being kidnapped on Friday.

I had to work Friday morning, but was able to get away by about 1:00 pm. The kids were out of school for the UEA (Teachers Union) conference. I stopped on my way home to pick up a few goodies for the activities I had planned. We dropped of the kids at mom and dad's house at about 2:30 pm.

Neither one of us had eaten lunch yet, so we went to McGrath's Fish House (our favorite restaurant) at the Gateway shopping center in Downtown Salt Lake City. We had our favorite dish, Crab Cakes. During our meal, Dawn Ann reminded me that we usually talk about the status of our relationship and what things we might be able to do to improve. To which I corrected her by saying: "You mean what things can I do to make things better!" Hah! Busted! I caught her in her fiendish trap! She blushed a little, and said, "Well yes!, Exactly!"

I discussed a couple of areas in which I could, indeed, improve upon. Then I tried to turn the tables on her, and ask her what things she would like to work on.

Her reply: "No Fair!"

After lunch (an early dinner really) we paid a visit to the LDS Museum of Church History and Art. Currently, the church is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. Many of the exhibits and displays have a Joseph Smith Theme. One of the more interesting Joseph Smith exhibits contained some copies of Book of Mormon manuscripts, some of which were written in Joseph Smith's Own Hand.

Another exhibit included 50 Biblical Etchings by Rembrandt. The prints from the etchings were wonderful, and very finely detailed. The process of making the etchings on copper plates was also fascinating. If you click on the link above, you can go on a virtual tour of the Rembrandt ehxibit, including a section on how the etchings were made. The Rembrandt etchings are also featured in an Ensign Article (October 2005 issue.)

After visit the museum, our feet were getting tired, so we headed went back to the car. I still hadn't told Dawn Ann what was coming next. I had hoped to get to Cummings Chocolates before they closed, to get some Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. But, as Maxwell Smart might have said: "Missed it by that much"! We arrived at 6:37 pm. The store had just closed at 6:30! Oh, well, maybe for Valentines Day!

I had packed our swimming suits and towels in the car. So our next stop was the Hot Tub and Swimming pool at our local Fitness center. It wasn't a particularly romantic location, but it was nice just to relax in the "Adult" hot tub (which of course included its own private Life Guard/Chaperone, as well!)

After stewing in the hot tub for about half an hour, we needed to cool off. We visited the indoor competition swimming pool, which had very few people in it. We had a nice time swimming, and dancing together in the pool, in kind of our own water ballet. Near the end, there was only the two of us, and one other person swimming laps in the pool. This time we had two lifeguards watching us (although one of them was having a hard time staying awake). Finally, Dawn Ann yelled out, "Hey you, wake up!" She teased them a little bit. We learned that if everyone left the pool, that they could go home. So we told them that when the other person was through swimming laps, we would leave too. A few minutes later the lap swimmer left, and we returned to the hot tub for another 10-15 minutes.

We had a nice time at the pool. Ordinarily when we go there, we have two kids to look after. Plus they want to show off for us too -- "Look at me mom!" or "Check this out dad!" They're cute, but its nice to just have some time together in the water.

After the swimming pool, we went to Dairy Queen for ice cream cones -- one of Dawn Ann's favorite treats.

At this point, I would like to have completed my kidnapping caper by going to a hotel for the night. However, with the UEA weekend, our regular dog kennel was completely booked. (I hadn't decided to kidnap my sweetheart until a day or two a head of time. We previously had considered going to St. George to visit grandmas and cousins there, but elected to stay home instead). I checked into other kennel's, but you have to produce all kinds of documentation (the dog's immunization history, etc) to go to a new kennel -- and they wanted it a week in advance. So we didn't have anywhere to keep the dog overnight. Grandma can't take the dog because of allergies, and besides, she had her hands full with two kids! So we went home instead, and spent a nice, quiet evening together.

One anniversary tradition we have, is Pepperidge Farms' Milano (Orange chocolate flavor) cookies. It was one of the treats I bought on the way home from work earlier in the day. On our wedding night, we stayed at the Little America hotel in Salt Lake City. I had purchased a bridal suite package there, which included Milano cookies. We enjoyed them then, they have become a regular part of our annual anniversary celebration ever since. (That and purple bath oil beads -- but we won't get into that right now, shall we?)

It was nice to be able to sleep in as long as we wanted. It was a reminder of our newlywed days in our apartment. No kids, no yardwork, (and a very short honeydo list too!) Those were the days when we could just sleep in on Saturday mornings: just lie there and talk without interruptions and distractions. We would get up when we felt like -- sometimes even before noon!

We went over to grandma's and picked up the kids and learned about all their adventures. Then our Saturday returned back to its regularly scheduled program. (Shopping, housework, laundry, etc).

Dawn Ann and I actually have several anniversaries: There is our Wedding anniversary, of course, on Oct. 18th. Then there is the day we met, St. Patrick's Day on March 17th, (I'lve always considered it my lucky day ever since! -- Even though I'm not Irish!) Then there is the day we got engaged, July 23rd. Then add in Valentines day, on Feb. 14th, and you can see that I have a lot of occasions to remember my sweetheart.

On each of these days, I always have a few moments to pause and reflect on what a wonderful blessing Dawn Ann is in my life. I am so thankful for her, and how she fills my heart with love. I'm thankful for the hand of the Lord (and my sister Jeannette, and the Visiting Teaching Program) in bringing us together. I'm thankful for the covenants we made in the temple as we were married. And I'm thankful for the two children she has blessed our home with. I'm thankful that she is my love, my companion, my sweetheart, and my best friend.

Thank You, and Happy Anniversary Honey!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

California Trip - Day 6

Thursday, September 22, 2005.

Click Here to see more Photos from Day 6

Click on Photos for Larger Images

Thursday was our first day at Disneyland. Bryan and Amy had never been there before. Dawn Ann was last there more than 20 years ago. For me, it had been a whopping 30 years! We navigated our way from our motel to the Disneyland entrance. From there we wended our way through the labyrinth of parking structures to finally end up in the parking terrace. We hopped out of the rental car, and the guy next to us kindly informed us that our right rear tire was nearly flat!

Oh boy! Just what we needed to get the day started off good! I was left with a choice. Change it now, or change it later when we got back from our day's activities. I opted for now. No one wants to change a tire after an exhausting day at an amusement park. I opened up the rear hatch, and started looking for the tire changing tools. I found a compartment over the rear wheel well that contained the jack. Then we started looking around for the spare tire. Oh where, oh where could it be? We tried to lift up the floorboard in the rear compartment of the PT Cruiser, but it wasn't budging. It had to be here somewhere -- gulp -- I hope! I checked the glove box, and fortunately the owners manual was there. (Often times rental cars don't have the owners manual in them.) I found out where the spare tire was stowed -- hoisted up under the undercarriage in the rear. You have to remove a patch of velcro attached carpet from the floor, there to find a bolt that you can loosen with the lug wrench. As you loosen this bolt the tire slowly descends from its stowage compartment. After about 10 minutes, it drops down enough to get the temporary spare donut tire out.

Meanwhile, Mama and Bryan had been figuring out the jack, and started raising the car off the ground. We got the tire changed, and were finally on our way. At least the floor of the parking plaza was pretty clean and we were in the shade. We were also away from traffic as well. I decided to put it in a positive light -- if you're going to have a flat tire, it may as well be here. Better here than on the freeway or some other dangerous or inconvenient place.

After getting the tire changed, we were all pretty dirty. Isn't changing a tire one of the dirtier jobs going? By the time you handle the flat tire, which has been literally everywhere it has just about every kind of dirt and grime imaginable. Naturally, you have to get pretty up close and personal with the grimy tire by the time you lift it off the hub, roll it around to the trunk, and then lift it up into the trunk.

Then we made our pilgrimage from the parking plaza to the tram that takes you to the park entrance. After getting off the tram, I noticed that the California Adventure theme park appears to be where the old parking lot used to be -- that is if my 30-year memory serves me correctly. At the park entrance, we claimed our pre-paid will-call tickets -- 3 day park hoppers with fast pass access. This time, instead of renting a wheelchair, like we did ad Legoland, we rented an electric motorized scooter instead. Then we were off.

We first headed to tomorrowland. We decided to go easy on the first ride to help Amy overcome her fears. Their first ever ride at Disneyland was the Astro Orbitor. After that we went on the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters ride, where you shoot with a laser tag pistol at the bad guys -- in order to save the universe, of course! Then we went on the Star Wars Tours ride, which is a little more adventurous. Amy did OK, but wasn't so sure about that one. Finally, we all piled into Space Mountain. We found the lines to everything so short, that it was 5 minutes or less for each ride. Space Mountain took a little longer, maybe 10-15 minutes for that line.

Space Mountain was just toooo much for Amy. She was in tears by the end of the ride. It was TOO SCARY!!!!! The sudden drops, twists and turns, along with the general speed of the ride sent her into panic. At the end of the ride, they snap a photo of you (which is for sale). In the photo, Amy was shown in tears. We decided not to purchase the photo. The whole idea of this trip was to create pleasant memories for our children. Who knows when or if we will ever be able to visit Disneyland again? We didn't want to perpetuate the trauma for Amy, so we decided against buying the photo.

After Space Mountain, we wanted to go for a ride on the Monorail -- only to find out that it was closed. As it turned out, we had just experienced a genuine Southern California earthquake! Apparently, at about 1:24 pm, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit about 70 miles Northwest of Los Angeles near a town called Mettler, California. It was not a quake on the famed San Andreas fault, this time it was on the White Wolf fault. This particular fault last had a major (7.2) earthquake in 1952. Why would the affect to monorail? We learned that according to state law, whenever an earthquake hits, the monorail (and other commuter type rail tracks) have to be re-sighted using laser tools to make sure that the tracks are still in alignment, to prevent potential derailments. Wow. Who knows, maybe the earthquake hit while we were on the Space Mountain ride -- that could explain Amy's squeamishness -- yeah, that's the ticket! It wasn't the ride -- It was the Earthquake!! Of Course! Doh!

From that point on, Bryan and I went on the more adventurous rides (The Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain Railroad), while Amy and Dawn Ann rode the calmer, gentler rides (It's a small world, the Tea Cups, etc.)

We put our cell phones to good use at Disneyland. After we split up, we were able to reconnect with each other by cell phone. It sure beats meeting at a fixed location at a certain time. Even though it was billed as an evil, hated, "roaming" charge on Dawn Ann's phone, it was still worth it for the peace of mind by staying in contact with one another.

We went on a few other rides in the park, and finished with the Pirates of the Caribbean. This turned out to be Amy's favorite ride in Disneyland (it was the only ride we went on twice!)

The park closed at 8:00 pm. We decided to leave at about 7:30. We would beat the crowds leaving, and besides, we were really beat! While we were waiting for the tram to take us back to the parking plaza, we saw an unusual phenomenon in the Western sky.

It looked like a con trail of some type. The main difference was, that it was so high up in the atmosphere that it was still in the sunlight, outside of the earth's shadow. We saw the vehicle stretch across the sky, then it seemed to go out for a moment. Then it picked up again along the same trajectory -- only this time it was much smaller, and dimmer.

Come to find out, what we beheld was a Minotaur rocket being launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket was launching a satellite for the defense department. When the glow of the rocket engine seemed to go out was when the first stage booster separated from the main rocket. Then in turn, we saw the second stage motor firing up and continuing on to its orbital destination. I tried to snap some photos of it as best I could without a tripod. It was an amazing sight. You can see more photos of the Minotaur Rocket here.

If we would have had more time on our trip, I would like to have actually visited Lompoc, California, which is near Vandenberg Air Force Base. My father was stationed there in 1961. I was only 2-3 years old at the time, but I still have some memories from Lompoc -- perhaps the very earliest memories of my life. My sister, Jeannette was born while we lived there. But alas, a visit to Lompoc will have to be on another trip. Someday I would like to take a central California Coast Trip -- say from Santa Barbara to Monterry, and all points in-between. I hear gas prices are horrendous in that area though.

We made it back to our car, and the spare donut tire even still had air in it! Wahoo!! After getting back to our motel room, I tried numerous times to call the car rental agency to report the flat tire, and to get their instructions. At first the phone would just ring and ring, with no answer. When it was answered, I was placed on eternal hold without ever being able to get a word in edgewise. Finally I just gave up trying to contact them. (Next time, remind me to go with a name-brand car rental agency! -- That was two strikes against them!)

We decided to just go ahead and get the regular tire fixed on our own. I got the yellow pages out and started looking for tire shops in the area. I even found one on a street that I could find! First thing in the morning, I will be visiting the local Goodyear Store. We didn't want to risk having the spare donut going flat in the middle of a Southern California Freeway, even though we were only 36 hours away from the appointed time to return the car to the rental agency.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

California Trip - Day 5

September 21, 2005

Most of this I wrote using my PDA and infrared keyboard poolside at our Anaheim Motel:

Today was a transition day. The day we changed over from our Oceanside base to Anaheim. After Today, Disney will become the focal point of our activities, until we go home. I'm not sure Dawn Ann is looking forward to that or not. She doesn't like a lot of large crowds. Usually, large crowds are a hallmark of Disney parks.

Thus far, we have been quite fortunate: the weather has been great - not too hot or cold, and crowds have been light. Legoland had such light crowds that you could go on nearly any ride with less than a 5 minute wait. It was easy to go on a ride, and if you liked it, just turn around and go on it again. What normally might take two days to cover with full crowds on-hand, only took one day with the very light crowds.

The beaches were a little busy on the weekends, but not overcrowded. On the weekdays, the beaches were nearly deserted. Just a few surfers in wetsuits.

Most of us got along fine without wetsuits. The ocean was about 67 degrees -- Just about like Bear Lake at home. Most of us have enough, ummm . . . natural insulation to keep warm. Bryan. on the other hand, with a near zero body fat percentage can only take it for so long before he starts to turn blue.

Most of the locals look at us like we are a little crazy for being out there in the water without wetsuits. Amy is our little fish. She loved to body surf with the incoming waves. So we swim until Bryan turns into a popsicle, and then call it good.

For each of the first 4 days we were here, we made it a point to spend time at the beach. This was the first time at the ocean for our kids. (Actually, they were here about 9 years ago, only problem was that Amy was only 8 months old, and Bryan had just turned 3.Neither of them have much memory of that occasion.

Not that I am any great ocean aficionado. I've lived in Utah most of my life, One of my earliest memories is of playing on the beach with my parents when we lived in California. My father was in the air force, and was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, California. I remember getting buried in the sand, the smell of the salt air, and the kelp washing ashore.

Each time I've had occasion to visit the ocean, I have found it to be a wondrous experience. I love to watch an listen to he waves come in. After a time, you can see some patterns in the waves developing, with the occasional rogue wave that is much larger and more powerful than it's fellows.

Dawn Ann and the kids loved collecting seashells. We have so many seashells in the back of our rental car, I'm not sure how we're going to get them all home. We have a large collection mussel and clam shells, a few abalone shells, a couple of broken sand dollars, and a few other miscellaneous bits and pieces. Before we go home, we'll have to sort through them to decide which ones will be boarding the plane with us. Right now most of the sea shells are contained in a set of four 32 oz. Slurpee cups in the back of the car.

We began today by packing up our things and loading them into the car. After we checked out of our motel in Oceanside, we found a local laundry-mat to wash our clothes. Laundry-mats were a whole new world to our kids. As long as they can remember, we have always had our own washer and dryer at home. You always meet interesting people in a laundry mat. Not quite as interesting, as say, getting your driver's license renewed at the DMV -- but close! After getting a bite of lunch, we hit the (in)famous SoCal freeways and headed North.

We made the journey to Anaheim today without much trouble. I had my trusty navigator at my side, along with my Google Maps printouts, and we made our way to the motel without too much turmoil. As soon as we got off the freeway, we drove past the Crystal Cathedral. Its an impressive building. (We came back later that night to take a look at it again, in hopes that it would be lit up. I wanted to get a few photos of it. However, it was dark when we drove by at about 9:30 pm. - The photo shown here is from their web site.)

When we arrived at the motel, we had do jump through a couple of hoops. The room we were originally booked for was right above the lobby. Unfortunately, they were remodeling the lobby, and there was a lot of construction noise in the room.

Not good for mama's nap! We asked to be moved a different room, but that room was right next to the continental breakfast area. Mama was afraid that there would be too much noise and commotion in the morning. So we asked to be moved yet again.

Finally, we got a nice quiet room on the back side of the motel, far away from noise and confusion.

I took the kids to the motel pool. They've had fun splashing around, and running from the pool to the jacuzzi, and back several times. I have sat here at a poolside table, and blogged for the last hour, while mama has been getting her nap.

While at the pool, we met two families who were staying at our same motel. One family was from New Zealand. They had been away from home on "Holidays" for the last 5 months! Wow! That's some vacation. They have conveniently missed the entire winter season in their homeland. They had traveled all through Europe, the US and Canada. Disneyland was to be their last hurrah. Next week they will be going home to New Zealand.

Another family was from Northern Alberta, Canada. They said they lived North of Edmonton, which is pretty far North -- and pretty far into the sub-zero temperatures in winter. Bryan asked them how cold it got. The mother answered and, "Oh, it gets to be about 40 degrees below". Bryan knew that they used Celsius, instead of Fahrenheit, and he asked how cold that was in Fahrenheit. The answer -- the two temperature scales actually converge at -40 degrees. -40 Celsius is also -40 Fahreneheit. Check it out! They had several children with them too, and were on "holiday" as well. I love how folks from British Commonwealth countries all go on "holiday" instead of vacation.

After naps and pool (blogging) time we went out to dinner (Red Robin on Harbor Blvd) and drove around the Anaheim area a little bit to get connoitered (not sure that's a word, but I like the sound of it. Besides reconnoitered sounds like you've already been there before, doesn't it! -- well, this was virgin territory for us!)

Today was the fulfillment of how I thought pacing might go before we ever left on this trip. From my pre-vacation posting, I said:
We may not make it to everyplace we've planned, and we don't intend to take on so many events that we will be constantly going from one place to another. After all, this is VACATION! And we need to have some time to relax as well. Ideally, we'll keep the pace fast enough to prevent boredom from setting in(Amy's Preference - Bryan is NEVER bored), but slow enough to take time and enjoy ourselves along the way (Mama's Preference). My preference is just to keep everybody happy (and try to take some nice photos along the way).

It always requires a little give and take when you are with family, or any group of people for that matter. But we've managed quite well overall. I think everyone is having a good time.

Tomorrow we will be visiting the House of Mouse!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

California Trip - Day 4 -- Updated!

See all of the Day 4 Photos Here

September 20, 2005
Star of India

On Tuesday, September 20th, we visited San Diego. We had numerous places we could visit, but we decided to make the San Diego Maritime Museum our first stop. Dawn Ann had visited here when she was a teenager.
(Click on photos for larger view)
The featured vessel of the maritime museum is the Star of India . The Star of India was first launched in 1863. It is a steel hulled sailing ship. From 1863 to 1902 this ship was called the Euterpe. The ship was originally used as a merchant vessel, but eventually was used as a passenger ship to transport emigrants from Britain to New Zealand.

In 1902 and it was purchased by the Alaska Packers Association (APA) and was renamed "The Star of India" to go along with the rest of their fleet, all of which had "Star" names. The APA re-rigged the ship as a bark (in nautical terms a bark is described as: a sailing vessel having three or more masts, square-rigged on all but the aftermost mast, which is fore-and-aft-rigged.) The Star of India was then used to transport salmon from Alaska to San Francisco. The Star of India was retired in 1923.

Russian Submarine

From the Star of India, we next toured the Russian Submarine that was also a part of the San Diego Maritime Museum. This sub is a relic of the Cold War. The kids especially like climbing through it. Bryan Liked it so much that he went through it twice!

It was amazing to see what cramped quarters they lived in. Not very much in the way of creature comforts. They had hammocks strung everywhere for the crew to sleep on. How they actually got any sleep, next to the engine room, or along side the torpedo bays, and every other nook and cranny is a complete mystery. Maybe they had ear plugs!

When they ran short on fresh water, they were dispensed disposable underwear, and were given one moist towel a day to clean up with.

Oh! And don't bother being on one of these if you are above about 5 feet 9 inches tall! (Not a problem for me!) Anyone with any height at all would constantly be smacking their head into the pipes and bulkheads.

This sub was powered by diesel and battery power. When running on batteries, it was very quiet in the water, which if you read The Hunt For Red October, you know is very advantageous. To get some inside views of the sub, visit the Flickr photo page for Day 4.

HMS Surprise

The third ship we visited at the Maritime Museum was the HMS Surprise. Unlike the other two real-life ships, this was a replica, made within the last 5-10 years. It is a replica of an early 19th century British Warship. This ship was used in the recent movie Master and Commander. Click on the photo for a larger view. This ship was made with original style wooden hull, and had cannons and all the warship goodies.

Old Town

After visiting the Maritime Museum, everyone was tired and hungry. We headed over to Old Town, and visited a restaurant called El Fandango. I had a shrimp burrito, which was stuffed with shrimp. It was excellent. Normally when I get a shrimp burrito around here, it only has 4 or 5 shrimp in it. This one had at least 12-15 shrimp! What a feast!

We didn't spend much time in Old Town, other than lunch. We had originally thought of visiting the Mormon Battalion Visitor's Center, which I have visited before, but which none of the family has seen. However, the kids wanted to get back to the beach.

Last Chance Beach

Since today was to be our last day near the beach, we went back for one more, and last, beach adventure. We returned to Oceanside. This time all of us, mom and dad included got into our swimsuits. We all waded out into the water, and let the waves wash over/around/through us. The kids (and mama) continued with the quest for collecting sea shells. I didn't get any photos of this beach activity, because I was actually out in the water myself, and I didn't want to pack my camera around, or leave it unattended on the beach while I was in the water.

Navy Seals

After watching yet another sunset at the beach, we went back to our hotel room and got ourselves cleaned up -- Well sort of. I found that embedded into the pores and cracks of on the soles of my feet, I had lots of little black sand granules that didn't want to was out. I didn't get too excited about them. I kind of considered it a relic, like mud on my 4x4 after a trip to Moab. Its kind of like a reminder of having done something fun! If the sand wants to follow me around for a few days, that's OK with me!

We went to dinner at a Southern California chain restaurant called Carrow's. The food was OK, but we noticed a group of eight young men. They were all in their 20's, and all quite muscular. They seemed to be having a good time, and were seen joshing one another with lots of little bursts of laughter coming from their direction. Since we were right next door (probably less than 3 miles away) to Camp Pendleton, we figured that they must be Marines.

One advantage to having Bryan around, is that he is completely fearless when approaching people - even perfect strangers. This is a trait I'm sure he gets from Grandpa Hatch, and maybe from Grandpa Lefler too! (I know he doesn't get it from either of his parents!)

We sent Bryan over to the table with the eight young men, and told him to ask them if they were Marines. So Bryan marched right over, and asked them! They responded by saying that they were a notch above Marines -- They were Navy Seals! They in turn asked Bryan his name, and where he was from -- and if he wanted to join the Navy some day!

The Seals finished their dinner a little bit before we did. One of the Seals approached our table and said hello. He asked us if we were from Utah, and we told him that yes we were from the Salt Lake City area. Then he asked us if we were LDS. Again we answered in the affirmative.

Then he told us that he was originally from Colorado Springs, and that he was also a member of the church. Apparently his parents are divorced. He said hs dad is active in the church in the Mesa, Arizona area. His mother and sisters still live in Colorado Springs. You could tell that it was nice for him to see some fellow church members there, far away from home.

He told us that he had just spent the last few days training at Camp Pendleton. He is normally station in San Diego, but they had some "big guns" that he could train on at Pendleton. They had completed their training on the artillery (I assume it was artillery, he wasn't too specific -- as all good Seals should be.) He had recently completed all of his certifications, and now was officially a Navy Seal. He has already been assigned to join a unit -- which is currently in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. When they return to their base (in North Carolina, I believe) from their current deployment, he will join up with his unit and begin training with them.

It was really nice to chat with him for a few minutes. We all wished him well in his new assignment. In his line of work, I'm sure he could use some prayers in his behalf too.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Another Day, Another Doctor

Tracey's Lamentation

In the Previous Post, I commented about observations I made in the waiting room of the doctor's office.

The next day, I found my self at my Rheumatologist's office. I was there right on time, and was ushered back to an examination room withnin about 5-10 minutes. However, the wait in the exam room was about 45 minutes. There were no people to observe there, I was by myself. However I brought my trusty palm pilot with me to take notes of my visit with the doctor, and to help pass the time while I was waiting.

In my blog reading, I have learned how to use RSS feeds. Basically, you can subscribe to a blog, and when it is updated, the new posting is fed to your computer. From these RSS feeds I can copy and paste blog postings into a word document, and then load them on my palm pilot. That way, when I have a few minutes to spare, even if I am away from a computer, I can keep up with the blogs that I like to read.

One blog that I have been reading for nearly a year now is called Worship Naked. Its a funny name, but its author, Tracey, is an excellent writer. She has some classic stories that she has written over the last year. Some posts are downright hilarious, while others are more stirring and thoughtful.

Tracey is a Christian woman who is trying to live her life the best she can. Her greatest wish, for many years now, is to have a child of her own. Unfortunately, that blessing has not come to her and her husband, despite all of their prayers, the prayers of others, and medical treatments. Still she keeps her faith in God, and strives to do the best she can, even though the great longing of her heart remains yet unfulfilled.

The other day, Tracey was responding to a blogger's "meme". My dictionary defines meme as: "A cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes." In the blogging world, a meme is usually a list of questions one would answer about one's self. Then usually it is passed on, or "tagged" to several other their blogger friends for their response. Over time, memes tend to change over the generations, like the genetic model in the definition. Blogger memes are often times very entertaining. They also provide a way for people to share something about themselves with one another.

I was touched as I read the meme from Tracey's blog, this meme in particular asked what you were doing 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago, and so forth. The question about what was going on in your life 5 years ago was particularly poignant. She discussed some of the issues and feelings that she has had regarding the the struggles she has had with childlessness.

Here is an excerpt:

Five Years Ago:
Oh, five years ago. Must I remember? Looking back, the whole Y2K thing would have been preferable to the year that was for us.

Having undergone past fertility treatments, we began a new series, certain that these, after all, would work. They did not. Each month felt like a death that kept on dying. Hope and crushing, hope and crushing. I don't even know the person I was then. I felt utterly lost to myself. My family never spoke of it to me; to them, it was too shameful to mention, so they simply didn't. And the heavy, lingering sorrow that had stolen my hopes seemed to have taken my voice with it. I could not bring it up. I could not give voice to the shame, breathe out what was being carefully ignored. Its inexplicable, really, this dynamic. And its unhealthy, but its there. My Beloved and I were bereft and crazy and hopeless.

In the midst of these failed treatments, my sister got pregnant. She had two boys already and had always longed for a girl. So had I, secretly.

And ... a girl it was.

I remember the day my sister called to tell me the news. I heard her voice on the machine and somehow, I knew exactly why she was calling, knew exactly what she was going to say, and I could not bring myself to pick up the phone. I stood inches from it, with my hand dutifully out, but paused in midair. From where I was, far from her, I could see her joy; I could see it. The very air swirled pink and perfect with the news of a girl. And I, with my selfish sorrow and small heart, sunk to the floor and cried and cried, the ugly cry that no onebut God ever sees you cry.

Around this time, my longtime bachelor brother finally got engaged. There were echoing choruses of Hallelujah! all around at this news. Even I managed that one. My family fairly exploded with the sheer elation of it all. It was like six months of Christmas where every gift is perfect; six months of birthday parties with everyone you like and no one you don't.

But My Beloved and I still went, quietly, to our treatments. And still, quietly, they failed. I was breaking in two from the overwhelming weight of joy and sorrow.

One day that year, my dad called to invite me to lunch. We met at Marie Callendars because he likes Marie Callendars and when he's at Marie Callendars, he likes to order soup.
As we chitchatted about this and that, I was growing more and more nervous. He was working up to say something, I could tell, but I hadn't the faintest idea what it would be. Hes not the demonstrative type. Emotions are private, you see.

He cleared his throat several times, in that compulsive way he has. I knew then he was nervous, too. Finally, he looked at me with those dark, blue-grey eyes and said this:
I know your brother's and sister's happiness must be breaking your heart.

I couldn't breathe. I had ordered soup, too, in silent solidarity, and I saw my tears dropping onto its surface. Then with a choked voice Id never quite heard before, he whispered:
I'm so sorry, honey.

And I was gone. Tears streamed onto the table; heads around us turned. I was quiet, but I was just gone. My father, who had never, ever spoken to me about it, understood.
He understood.

And he had said all he could. I was no longer invisible; I was seen. I felt warm and alive and understood by someone I was sure did not, could not, understand.

I know they were just two sentences spoken softly over bowls of steaming soup, but they were among the best things my dad has ever said to me.
I was less broken for hearing them.

As I sat there, alone, in the examination room at the rheumatologist's office, I was greatly moved by Tracey's words. I have known some childless couples. In fact, I work with a man who with his wife, were unable to ever have children. He is about to retire in a few months. Being there alone, in the quiet, gave me the opportunity to really think and feel what she and her husband must be going through.

Even though I have known some childless couples in my life, I had never really seen their plight in quite the way that Tracey Expresses it. I couldn't help but offer a prayer in her behalf. I was greatly touched and moved by her story. You can read the rest of Tracey's meme answer here and here.

In each of the vignettes of people I have observed in the last two days, I was touched and moved in some way. Sometimes with good examples and inspiring people. Others moved me by the various circumstances and struggles they were facing in life. In each of their cases, I felt empathy toward them, and offered prayers in each of their behalf.

Even though I spent a lot of time waiting for doctors, and lab technicians, I ended up making good use of the time. In a very small way, I got to see insights into the lives of four people. I saw their struggles, and their pain.

How must the Lord feel, as he looks upon all of us, throughout the whole world. In each of our lives are struggles. They may be physical struggles, health challenges, difficulties of aging, or perhaps struggles with addiction. There are spiritual struggles too. We know God hears our prayers. Sometimes they are not answered in the way we would like them to be. We have to learn to trust in Him, and know that His will is what will be best for us -- even when we can't understand all the reasons why right now. As I felt compassion for these people, in my own small little heart, imagine the infinite love and compassion that the Lord feels for each one of us. The compassion that he has to the extent that he took upon himself all our pains and sorrows, all our sins and sicknesses -- all that he might know how to succor us in our times of pain and loneliness. And to open the pathway that we might be saved and live with him in the eternities, if we will follow Him.

Know that he is there, and that he loves us, and he wants to heal us. He will not abandon us. He is our Lord, our Savior, and our Kind, Wise Heavenly Friend.

People Watching at the Doctor's Office

Over the past two days, I have spent nearly 5 hours in doctors' offices -- mostly in waiting rooms.. During the time I spent waiting . . . and waiting . . . . and waiting . . . . I observed people contemplated a few of the circumstances in their lives, which were in evidence. In many cases, I was moved to compassion for them, and found myself frustrated that I couldn't do something for them. I wanted to help them through their challenges. In the end, I found myself offering prayers in their behalf, because I didn't know what else I could do.

My first doctor's office visit was to my internist. I waited about 45 minutes to be taken back into the examination room. I took a seat directly across the room from the entrance door. I could plainly see everyone who came in through the door. The waiting room was not that large, and even though I hadn't planned it this way, I could hear the conversations between the receptionist and those who came up to her desk. There was a TV that was turned on in the room -- to one of those CNN health type channels - scintillating TV to be sure, but something to break up the silence, and to provide a little white noise. Actually I found the drone of the TV to be nap-inducing.

Wheelchair Grandma
Shortly after I arrived an elderly, wheelchair-bound, woman was pushed into the waiting room by her companion. The elderly lady, I would estimate, was in her late 80's, or early 90's. You could tell that the years had taken their toll on her. There was a fogginess to her eyes, perhaps cataracts. Her hearing was impaired. Obviously it was hard for her to get around, since she remained in the wheelchair the entire time I saw her. Despite her aged condition, she had a sweet countenance about her. I got the impression that this woman had served faithfully and well. I imagined that she had lovingly given of herself to others throughout her life. She had a smile on her face, even if she wasn't always fully aware of her surroundings.

Her companion, I believe, was her daughter, some 20 to 30 years her junior. There was a certain family resemblance between the two of them. The daughter was inspiring also. She so carefully, and lovingly looked after her aged mother. She took care of all the business for her mother at the receptionists desk. She kindly and patiently answered questions that her mother had in a most reassuring way. She lovingly ask questions, and pointed things out to her mother. When questions were asked by the staff, the daughter would make eye contact with her mother, and speak slowly and a little extra loudly so that her mother could not only hear, but also so that she could read her lips. It was clear that the daughter really cared for her mother. She was so patient and so kind with her, even though now her mother was old and infirm. What a great example of care and loving kindness she set. I would not be surprised to learn if the grandma, now in the wheelchair, had not done this herself for her own mother years before. Now her daughter is following the example possible set years before. That is how it should be.

I could imagine that the daughter's service was not limited to taking her mother to the doctor's office. I imagine that she would need help with feeding, bathing, getting dressed, and companionship in general. Even though the mother was in so much need of care, I could tell that the daughter still respected her mother, and wanted to help her maintain her dignity as well.

I was grateful to witness this great example of love and service to one another. Both mother and daughter are well blessed to have each other.

Whooping Cough Granny

A few minutes later, another elderly woman (probably in her late 70's or early 80's) came into the waiting room. As she came through the door, she broke out into a deep, hacking cough, which nearly made her stumble as she walked. This coughing fit lasted for 2 or three minutes. She made her way to the reception desk, but could hardly get any words out for the coughing. She managed to get out that she had Whooping Cough. A lady, who was the office manager came forward to assist the coughing granny. The office manager was kind and patient with her. She asked how they could help her today. She took control of the situation by giving this lady multiple choice answers, to which she could nod her responses to, between coughs. It took them a while to find out just what she needed. It turns out, that she had an appointment to see her Dr.

She took a seat just inside the entrance door. A few moments later, another coughing spell seized her. I noticed that the Wheelchair Grandma and her daughter had pulled their sweaters up over their mouths and noses to protect themselves from any expectorated germs, while the Whooping Cough Granny was in the midst of her coughing fit. Whooping Granny noticed the other two ladies covering up, and tried to eke out, between coughs, that she was past the contagious phase of the disease. Nonetheless Wheelchair Grandma and daughter were not taking any chances. I can't say that I blame them really.

After the coughing fit subsided, the daughter of Wheelchair Grandma turned and spoke to Whooping Granny. She said, "You must really be sore from all that coughing." Even though Wheelchair Grandma and her daughter were trying to protect their own health, they made an effort to be kind and reach out to Whooping Granny. They wanted to make sure the Whooping Cough Granny did not feel ostracized, or uncared for. The medical staff put Whooping Cough Granny at the top of the queue, and got her back into an exam room, and away from the other patients, -- much to the relief of those in the lobby. Sometimes the most unhealthy place you can be is the doctor's office.

Oxy Gal

A few minutes later, an younger woman came into the office. I would place her in her mid to late 30's, although she looked hard around the edges. My internist office is a medical office building attached to a hospital. This younger woman, I'll call her Oxy Gal, had been with someone else who had been admitted to the hospital earlier that day. Now she stopped by the internist office on her way out of the hospital to pick up some prescriptions that she had previously called earlier in the day to have renewed. It turns out that she was seeking prescriptions for Oxycontin, Lortab, and another heavy-duty pain medication.

She said that she knew her prescriptions were still a few days away from expiring, but she would really like to pick them up now while she was here. She made it clear several times that she didn't have any means of transportation, and that she was only here today because her parents had given her a ride. The office staff said they would check on the status of her prescriptions, and Oxy Gal took a seat just inside the entry door.

A couple of minutes later, Oxy Gal had taken out her cell phone and began talking away. Apparently it was someone with whom she was well acquainted. The waiting room was not that large, and everyone in the room could hear her conversation. Have you ever been in a situation when you hear parts of a conversation that are too personal to be said in public. She was not saying anything gross or vulgar, but she was discussing intensely personal things. I became uncomfortable hearing the things she said. Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid hearing it. I could sense a desperation, and a pleading for acknowledgement in her voice. You could tell that she was not too sure of herself -- probably not too sure of anything at all. There was emotional pain in her voice as she pleaded for love, attention, and reassurance.

Finally the office manager, the same one who so kindly helped Whooping Granny get settled, informed Oxy Gal that she needed to turn off her cell phone. They have medical equipment that is adversely affected by cell phones. I'm sure she was just enforcing the office policy, but I was grateful

Oxy Gal sat quietly for a few minutes, and I pondered her situation. I first thought how she must be in great pain of some kind to require such heavy duty pain killers. Some of which are the most powerful pain medications that you can get without being admitted to a hospital. I could see the instability in her life. I could see that she felt lonely, desperately lonely. Finally, she got up and announced to the receptionist, that she had to go out to the parking lot to let her mother know that she would still be awhile before getting her prescriptions.

A few minutes later, Oxy Gal returned to the lobby, but this time she came over to my side of the room, and sat about 3 chairs down from me. There was a land-line phone there in the lobby for patient use. She picked up the phone, and dialed the person she had been talking with earlier, and continued the same plaintive conversation. Now she was closer than ever to me, and even more audible -- and right next to my one good ear! Several times, in the midst of her conversation, she exclaimed: "Don't say that, it makes me sad to hear you say that." It sounded like to me, that the relationship between Oxy Gal, and this other person, (I'll call him "Oxy Guy"), was not very solid. It also sounded like Oxy Guy was not a very stable person either. It was painful to listen to. I just looked down at the floor, not wanting to make eye contact with her if at all possible.

Oxy Gal went back to the receptionist, gave her story about waiting for her prescriptions, and not having a way to get around except from rides from her mother, and wondering if her prescriptions would be ready any time soon. An office person went back into the nurse's area to inquire. Shortly thereafter, a nurse came out, and said that they had printed out the prescriptions, but that the doctor had not yet signed them. The doctor was with a patient, and it would probably be another hour before he would have a chance to look at them. They told her she could wait if she wanted to, but that was all they could do. I was feeling sorry for Oxy Gal. I wanted to help. I thought of maybe suggesting to either the office staff, or to Oxy Gal to have them mail the prescriptions to her, and spare her having to make another trip to the office. Oxy Gal was hoping they would just call in the prescriptions to a pharmacy. However, the types of medications she was seeking are "Schedule One Narcotics". They cannot be called in or mailed out. These are the drugs with high potential for abuse, and with a high street value on the Black Market.

Finally Oxy Gal had to leave. Apparently her mother could wait no longer.

At first, I felt badly for Oxy Gal. She must be in great pain to require such strong pain medications. That, combined with instability of her life, and her emotional fragility caused me to feel compassion toward her.

But now, after thinking about the situation for a couple of days, I can see that there might be a whole other side to this story.

It is possible that Oxy Gal is a substance abuser. I always like to thing the best of people, so this hadn't occurred to me right away. In a normal situation, the doctor could sign the prescriptions between patient visits. I doubt he was in with one patient the whole time (there are 3 doctors working out of this office.) The whole story about wanting to get her prescriptions early would be classic for a substance abuser. Substance abusers are great about concocting, great lies and fabrications to get what they want. They will try to create the most sympathetic stories to play on the emotions of others. They will do anything, say anything, lie, cheat and steal -- even from their own families to get what they want.

Was there really a mother waiting for her for nearly an hour out in the parking lot? Or did she just need to go outside for a smoke? Unless she lives way far out of town, there is a bus service that drops people off right at the front door of the hospital. Looking back, its hard to buy the lack of transportation story.

The office staff handled things quite smoothly. The didn't want to create a scene, but they weren't going to placate her manipulations either. Looking back on the situation, I would say that there is a good chance that there was more going on here than meets the eye.

Doctors' prescription practices nowadays are closely monitored by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). Doctors who prescribe heavy duty pain killers, such as Oxycontin, are closely watched. Check the next time you get a prescription, you will find that in addition to a Doctor's scribble signature, you will find a DEA number as well. Each time a prescription is filled, it is filed under the DEA number. Later the DEA can generate tracking reports regarding the type and quantity of prescriptions a doctor is making. Any sign that they are being extra liberal in prescribing Oxycontin, and other controlled substances, will bring forth a certain investigation.

So now I don't k now what to think of Oxy Gal. Is everything as she says, or is there more here than meets the eye. I hate to be judgmental of her. I can tell that she has not had an easy life. Again, all I can do is pray that she may get the help that she truly needs -- whatever that help might be.

To Be continued. . .

Update: Here is the follow up Post to this one.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

California Trip - Day 3

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September 19, 2005
Based on a recommendation by cousins, we made the trip to Legoland, located in Carlsbad, California. From our Oceanside hotel, it was less than 10 miles to Legoland.

We got there just a few minutes after opening time (10:00 am) and purchased our tickets. One-day tickets for the whole family totaled up to about $180.00. Ouch! I know that's not unusual for amusement park prices, and I had already checked into the prices before going to the park. However, forking over the dough was still a bit of a shock! Nevertheless, we were here to have a good time, and provide some great memories for the kids.

After entering the park, we rented a wheelchair. Dawn Ann's ankle had been giving her some trouble (she sprained it pretty badly last spring on Father's day, and it still gets sore if she's been on her feet for too long.) It also provided each of us a chance to sit down if we needed to as well.

Much of Legoland is aimed at pre-teen kids. There were some things that Bryan really liked, such as the "Dragon Claw", the climbing wall, the Driver's School. Amy's Favorites were the Coastersaurus (a tame roller coaster), the driving school, and getting her Clickit backpack.

We were surprised to find very small crowds at Legoland. At first, we thought that maybe Legoland just wasn't that popular of a place. But later, we learned that it was just the off-season. We also encountered relatively small crowds and short lines in Disneyland as well. Being there on a weekday, as well as being there off-season proved to be quite advantageous. There was never more than a 5-10 minute wait for any ride at Legoland. If a ride was particularly fun or interesting, the kids could just go get in line for it again, and have a re-ride within 5 minutes.

Perhaps my favorite photo from the entire trip was a capture of a silly face that Amy pulled. They had a trailer that was for "captured convicts" in which kids could pose for photos.

The dragon claw was in a class all its own, it was the only ride of the entire trip that I utterly refused to go on. I make it a practice to never go on a ride that resembles and egg beater!

This ride flips you up and twists you around in all directions. First right-side up, and then up-side down. Twisting and turning, flipping and flopping. No thanks! Not for me!

Of course, fearless Bryan thought this ride looked like great fun! After it was over, even Bryan admitted that he wasn't too keen on going on this ride again!

One wonders exactly why they have a pond underneath this ride. Is it designed to catch the loose change that must surely fall out of people's pockets -- or, is it to act as an "air sickness bag", if you know what I mean -- and I think you do!

Another fun ride was the "Aquazone Wave Racers". This is where you race around on a "jet boat" along a circular path. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, there are buttons that set of "water bombs". The objective is to time the release of the water bomb so that the desired aqua racers get splashed accordingly. Amy got quite adept at timing things just right. She practiced while Bryan and I were in line to go on the ride. By the time it was our turn, she had her timing down perfectly. We got splashed every time we came around. Later Mama and Amy went on the same ride. Bryan was the water bomber this time -- but I thing Amy got us more that we got them!

As we had nearly completed our circuit around the park, both Amy and Bryan wanted to do some shopping. Amy wanted to get a Clickit backpack, and Bryan wanted to go to the Lego store. While the kids were shopping, I had a few minutes to try out the macro mode on my camera. The gardeners at Legoland were growing some very beautiful plants. The Hibiscus plants were the most striking.

At about 5:00, we had done all that we wanted to do at Legoland. The park was about to close anyway. Because of the shortness of the lines for rides, we were able to do everything on one day, that might have taken two days to accomplish during the peak season.

It was getting a little cloudy out, but everyone wanted to go to the beach again. We drove back to Oceanside, and then to the beach there. On our way to the beach, we stopped off at a 7-11 store, and bought some large Slurpees. We were hot and dry from being in the park all day.

After arriving at the beach, Mama and the kids started collecting sea shells at once! We didn't have shorts or swimsuits with us, so we just walked along the beach (in theory). My feet were so tired from marching around the park, that I just wanted to find a nice place to sit down, and watch the sunset (and snap a few photos too!). I found a pile of large rocks, which afforded a nice beach view, and a place to sit. (I had to provide my own padding to sit on, which of course I carry with me at all times!)

A large storm cloud was approaching from the Ocean. It was beginning to rain. The sun was nearly down anyway. We collected all the sea shells everyone had gathered into our empty Slurpee Big Gulp cups, and left the beach.

We ate dinner that night at a local seafood restaurant, right on the Oceanside Harbor. The food was very good. During dinner, we saw several lightening flahses, and heard the thunder roll a few times. As we left the restaurant, we decided to drive down to the harbor pier to watch the lightening out over the ocean. It was quite spectacular really. Instead of the lightening striking in a more-or-less vertical direction, the lightening seemed to go more from cloud-to-cloud in a horizontal direction over the ocean. After traveling horizontally for awhile, it would eventually touch down on the ocean itself.

We found a place to park near the pier, and got out of the car. The water, inside the harbor, and behind the breakwater was quite calm. We walked out on the pier to discover 4 or 5 people fishing off the pier. We met a couple who were fishing there, who were in their mid-50's. As it turned out, they were children's entertainers. He was a magician, and she was a clown, and did face paintings.

Intrepid Bryan, of course, walked right up to them and asked what they were up to. They had been fishing there for about 4 hours, but had not had any luck that day. After a little while, they handed a fishing pole each to Bryan and Amy. Amy got a few nibbles, and caughy one really big rock! Bryan, on the other hand, got a good bite, and reeled in a Sea Bass! It was only about 5 inches long -- but it was a fish nonetheless. We turned him back (they have to be 12 inches long to keep), but that really made Bryan's evening. The fellow who had baited the hook for him made a big deal over Bryan being there for 15 minutes and catching a fish -- while he had been there for 4 hours and hadn't got so much as a nibble!

While the kids were fishing, the lady also had a line in the water as well. Suddenly her pole began to twitch violently. She reeled it in, and about halfway up from the water to the pier, she realized what she had -- a Sting Ray! It was a small sting ray, about 12-14 inches across. Nobody wanted to mess with the angry side of a sting ray, so they cut the line and let him go.

After about an hour or so at the pier, we headed back to our hotel room nearby. All was well until about 3:00 am. Then I heard the great rushing sound of water! What the heck? It sounded like someone was washing off the outdoor walkway outside our room with a pressure hose. I couldn't imagine what was going on outside. So I got up and poked my head outside the door. Out in the parking lot, I could see the rain coming down in torrents.

The next morning, as we were watching the weather channel (and following the progress of Hurricane Rita) we learned that this storm that caused the lightening, and the torrential rains during the night were quite unusual, so we had been given a special treat. And besides, if it wasn't for the storm, Bryan would never have caught his fish!