Pleasant postscript

This week we got a message from our co-hosts at Golden Bell. The new “office” is finished! The only thing it needs, Max says, is a heater for those chilly early mornings.

Nice work, Max and Paula!

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Whirlwind

It feels as though we’ve been spinning for a while now and are finally coming to a stop. When I wrote last, we had Raymond settled in Sierra Healthcare facility in Truth or Consequences. From the beginning, we had real concerns about the rehab part of that facility and we expressed those concerns to the administration. Some things were remedied, some were not. One of our biggest concerns was that Raymond’s room did not have a working call system. He would push his nurse call button and get no response. Sure enough, the buttons in his room did not work, so they gave him a bell to ring until they could get them fixed. If the nursing personnel were not right outside his room, no one could hear it. In the week that he spent there, “therapy”, which was supposed to be three hours a day may have happened for a total of an hour. We were becoming more and more unhappy with his care, when it was all taken out of our hands anyway. We had told the staff that the hospital said his staples should come out by August 5, but when they started to do that, they decided it didn’t look right, so sent him to the emergency room at the hospital there. Later that afternoon, he was transferred back to Mountain View Hospital in Las Cruces, where his surgery had been done. After several days there and another surgical procedure, he came to the conclusion that he doesn’t want to go back to Truth or Consequences at all! Medical care is a long ambulance ride away each time.

So we went back up to his apartment and cleaned out all of his personal belongings and gave notice that he will be vacating by August 31. It’s amazing how much has to be done to accomplish that! Our checklist is still not finished, but as of late afternoon on Friday, Raymond is a patient at Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico. This was his limo!

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Today when we went to see him, this is how we found him.

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He’s learning to adjust to the schedule of the hospital and it hasn’t been easy for him, as the look on his face shows. This was his respiratory therapist explaining a few things. Tomorrow his therapy starts in earnest.

Seven years ago just a little later than this in August, we left on this adventure we call retired living. We envisioned seeing all sorts of interesting and exciting things, things that I could make into a fascinating blog. Not once did we envision this aspect of freedom, the freedom to take care of Raymond and all his business affairs, but I believe God put us in this lifestyle to give us the time and ability to serve in just this way. Colossians 3:23 says to work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Sometimes that means hosting an RV park and sometimes it means taking care of a frail gentleman who is helpless without you.

Stay tuned. I believe God isn’t through with us yet!

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Change of scenery

We went from 9220′ altitude and 70 degree days to less than half that altitude and 95-100 degrees highs in just a few days last weekend. We had a very handy RV parking place with 30 amp service in the hospital parking lot at Las Cruces except that we kept coming back to the bus to find that the air conditioner was off. One day I was sitting inside when the electricity went off altogether, so we soon figured out that the electric service itself was at fault. Our plug-in occasionally got down to 100 volts, while the other two varied upwards to 146, totally unacceptable! So we found an RV park about 15 minutes away and settled in for the long haul.

Raymond was recuperating pretty well from his surgery, but his mental confusion remained about the same. Toward the end of the week, they started talking about transferring him to rehab. The hospital staff was assuming he would do rehab there but we found out that the nursing facility in T or C now does the same type of rehab. He had been in that facility a year ago in the spring, and since he would be closer to people he knows who might visit him after we leave, we decided to relocate him there. That finally happened yesterday afternoon and we left the RV park in Las Cruces to move to T or C. And then the fun began!

In the hospital, Raymond was in a single bed room. Here, he shares a room and he has the bed away from the window and the A/C. His confusion makes it more complicated.  We’ve talked to the admissions director and tomorrow or Tuesday we will be part of a care plan meeting. When Mother was in the nursing home, I remember her advice when Florence Marie and I went to just such a meeting for her: BE NICE! I may have to remind myself of that.

In the midst of our travels, we stopped for fuel and to get pictures of some of the attractions in Hatch.

We should be here for a few weeks, whatever it takes to get Raymond settled. At this point, we can’t do much toward cleaning out the apartment because, while we don’t believe it can or should happen, the goal of the rehab folks is to return him to his home. We’ll see how all that pans out. In the meantime, our plans for the rest of the summer are in limbo. Prayers would be appreciated for all of us!

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Changes!

Well, I hope this week’s blog stays around longer than last. When I published that one, it hung around for a few hours and then disappeared into thin air! No sign of it remains anywhere that I have found.

I had written about the change of plans, with LeRoy driving to Las Cruces, NM to be with his cousin Raymond and me driving to Claremore, OK to attend the life celebration for our granddaughter’s adoptive mother. In the meantime, we postponed the celebration of our 52nd wedding anniversary on July 10. We’ve loved each other this long, we can set that date aside for a while and take care of other people. LeRoy stayed in New Mexico until after Raymond’s surgery to amputate both legs below the knee. On Friday, when things seemed to be headed in a more or less positive direction, LeRoy drove to Colorado and yesterday we said our good-byes at Golden Bell a few weeks earlier than we had planned. We spent Saturday night in Alamosa, CO and today drove on to Las Cruces. The hospital has some 30 amp sites for motorhomes in the parking lot, so we are settled in for a while. Nothing much happens on the weekend in a hospital, so Raymond’s transfer to a nursing home is on hold. Once he is released to the facility in Truth or Consequences, we will move up there and begin the process of cleaning out his apartment.

In the summer of 2014, LeRoy found a posting online needing an RV park host at Golden Bell Camp and Conference Center. We thought it sounded fun, so we applied and were accepted. We didn’t go back in 2015 because we had an Alaskan trip planned for our 50th wedding anniversary, but last year and this year we have been co-hosting the park along with Max and Paula Reser. You don’t really want to hear about cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash every day, so I thought I’d tell you about our most recent excitement, other than moving in the new shed to be the park office.

 

We always tell campers, especially tent campers, to be careful to put away their food and trash so as not to attract bears, but we had never actually seen one in the park. Can’t say that anymore! Several times now, he has left evidence behind, but this time he was spotted just down the hill from the camp sites.

There are 7 senior couples and 2 singles who volunteer at Golden Bell in the summer and we’ve known all but one of them from previous years. Most of us are in the RV park and we’re just one big happy family. I learned years ago, long before I was a senior, that especially where seniors are concerned, if you feed them, they will come, and my goodness, have we been fed recently. On Wednesday night last week, we met at the home of our volunteer coordinator and her husband for a wiener roast and s’mores, along with a table full of sides provided by the volunteers. Afterward, we sang together, mostly hymns, for an hour or so. It was so much fun! Thursday night, one of the part-time volunteers furnished spaghetti and again, the rest of us furnished sides, bread and desserts, including homemade vanilla ice cream.

Not being capable of turning down more food, we all accepted the invitation to dessert at the home of our friends across the street on Friday night and had carrot cake and a white cake with coconut, along with ice cream. The last thing was a tour of the world in food furnished by the kitchen staff at the lodge. It proved to be a nice sendoff for us, although it wasn’t planned that way. Believe me, if the diet doesn’t begin soon, I’ve going to need a new wardrobe! This dessert from France and the lovely Christiana and Eliana who served it were just a small portion of the food available from Greece, Viet Nam, Mexico, England, Germany and France.

This week was my sister Mary Jo’s last radiation treatment, so she graduated and got to ring the bell! The next scan will be in August, but we are praying that it will show no cancer at all!

It’s just about tired-thirty here in New Mexico since we got up early and had a long day. See you soon, hopefully with good news about Raymond.

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What a week!

Happy Independence Day a bit belated! The volunteers and most of the staff at Golden Bell had the day off and boy, did we enjoy it. Most of the senior volunteers piled into a 15-passenger van and went to explore 11-Mile Canyon at Lake George.

Even the plants put on a show for us.

Subway provided lunch and even a mundane sandwich tasted pretty good beside the rippling water. We could see why kayakers would enjoy that area. Several of us women hiked up almost up to the end of the road and the rest brought the van to pick us up. What a great day to celebrate independence in God’s creation!

Thursday was the day LeRoy has been working toward since we came in May. They were able to move the shed from the funyak pond to the RV park to be turned into our office! Before that could happen, they had to finish refurbishing the stable building to accommodate the funyaks (small kayaks) and the painting on that was done earlier in the week. Once the old shed was moved here to the RV park, the newly rebuilt shed could be moved to the pond. LeRoy and Max put down a new floor in it and LeRoy worked all day yesterday to add a window “procured” from the bonepile on the hill. Max says “And we said “wish there was light” & LeRoy made it so light shown in… Good job LeRoy” I have a feeling we won’t recognize it when we get back from our travels, because a couple of the women volunteers are just itching to start painting!

The RV site signs are in sad repair and several weeks ago, we bought enough rough-sawn wood to make new ones. (We’re also trying to convince the powers that be to renumber the sites in a more logical order.) LeRoy cut the boards to size and got them ready, then we stained them so they will be ready for hand-lettered numbers. The camp is going to look very different when everything is done.

Thursday evening the volunteer coordinator and her husband took most of the volunteers for an appreciation evening. We had dinner at Maggie’s restaurant in Cripple Creek and then attended the Butte Theater’s presentation of  “Annie Get Your Gun.” It wasn’t Music Theater of Wichita, but it was very good for a small production company.

On the way home, when we got back into cell service, I found several texts and voicemails from Heidi. She had word that her daughter Katrina’s adoptive mom had passed away suddenly late that afternoon. Even though she was given up for adoption at birth, we’ve known all along who and where Katie was. Her parents were good friends of ours long before she came along, so it was a real shock to us as well as them. We started making plans to go to Oklahoma for the memorial service this Wednesday. Then yesterday we heard that LeRoy’s cousin Raymond is in the hospital in Las Cruces, NM and will probably be having surgery tomorrow. The medical staff thought it would be a good idea if LeRoy was there, so he left this morning at 6:45 and arrived half an hour or so ago. The surgery may be to do an artery bypass or he may lose several toes or part of a leg, so LeRoy will be there until they tell him it’s okay to go. Tomorrow, a friend will take me to Colorado Springs to pick up a rental car and I will go to Wichita, then on to Claremore, OK for the memorial on Wednesday. Lots of travel this week, so please keep us in your prayers!

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Family fun is over

Heidi and Jadelyn got here Monday night after midnight and we’ve had a great time this week. We were on duty at the RV park on Tuesday, so they got to help clean showers and toilets. It was nice to have help!

One of the things Jadelyn enjoyed last year when she was here was touring the Molly Kathleen mine at Cripple Creek. Heidi had never done that. When our kids were little, we did a lot of window shopping in gift shops but we never did tourist things that cost money!

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The signs are always fun and this one would have been especially apropos in a packed 9-man elevator cage!

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It’s always interesting to hear a different guide tell the story of the early days in the Cripple Creek mining district. Mostly they tell the same things, with their own twist on stories, but the one story that remains the same is about what was required of a mucker. Each had to fill one and one-half ore cars for each hour of their shift. One man in particular struggled with that quota and was fired. He later became a boxer and quite a good one at that. You would know him as Jack Dempsey, arguably renowned as the greatest heavyweight boxing champion of all time.

We learned what a vein of ore looks like and we even got a rock sample each from the mine. I don’t think there’s as much value in all four of ours as the tour cost, but it’s always fun. One interesting tidbit. The guide hands back the tickets to each member of the tour, as he says, to be sure that he doesn’t leave anyone behind. Even though we were not the only tour members, each of us got back one of these same four tickets we took a picture of before we boarded the elevator car!

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Lunch at the Home Cafe in Bronco Billy’s casino (we entered by the “family entrance” with our minor) was followed by another sample of the 2 mile high ice cream we had last week and then we made our way home through Florissant, driving past the Florissant Fossil Beds. All of us have been there a number of times, so we didn’t stop.

Several years ago when just Ben and Bailey were with us, we rode the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak. That same year, I think our Georgia grandchild came and we drove up the Pikes Peak highway. Three years ago when Heidi’s family came, we drove up again and back in the 1980s, LeRoy and I, along with Robert (13) and Heidi (11) hiked the Barr Trail, both up and down. The only thing we lack is hiking the back side from the Crags, but for me at least, I think I’ll be happy with all the other ways we’ve made it to the summit. This week, we bought tickets for the Thursday afternoon 2:40 cog trip to the top again. What a day! We arrived at 2:10 to prepare to board at 2:20, but mechanical difficulties caused a long delay and we didn’t board until about 3:30. We were fortunate that the view was unclouded and spectacular all the way up and when we finally did arrive. The next train didn’t have that luxury, because the clouds rolled in just as we were leaving. Our trip provided lots of “AHHH” moments, though, including the part about being able to see Kansas from the top.

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Sam, our conductor, was full of knowledge about all the scenery along the way. She even pointed out marmots near the top, but those little fellows were pretty camera shy.

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Even though LeRoy and I had just been to the outlet mall in Castle Rock with the other senior volunteers on Monday, we forced ourselves to go back with Heidi and Jadelyn on Friday. I think you could say a good time was had by all. Jadelyn should be on her way to being ready for school and Heidi didn’t do too bad, either. So much fun for us girls, although I think LeRoy thought he was going to starve before we got finished shopping.

Since we were back on RV park duty Saturday, Heidi and Jadelyn checked out the Garden of the Gods on their own.

Tourism is always fun, but we also enjoyed many hours playing a card game our Nebraska friends Ron and Carol Young taught us several years ago, Tick. LeRoy usually doesn’t like to play games but he played along last night. He even beat us the first game! Not sure we’ll invite him the next time!

Now we’re back to an empty nest, since they left after church this morning headed back to Kansas.

Celebrate Independence Day wisely this week. We will probably attend Symphony Above the Clouds in Woodland Park on July 5, since it also includes a great fireworks display.

 

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Party on!

We started this week with Fathers’ Day and in our family, if Fathers’ Day comes, can LeRoy’s birthday be far behind? Sometimes it is even the same day, so LeRoy gets only one present for both. This year was worse because so far, he didn’t get any! We’re going shopping tomorrow and I’m sure he’ll get his share.

One of the other volunteers, Judy Foster, has a birthday on June 19 and since LeRoy’s is the 21st, we had one big party on Tuesday night with two cakes and homemade ice cream. Any reason for food, we’ll take it! I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture of LeRoy’s carrot cake before the hungry crowd hit, but this is what we took home.

One of the things about this volunteer group that we love is how easily we laugh together. When we are together, there is a positive atmosphere and lots of fun. Most of us have worked together here for a minimum of 2 to 3 years and it hasn’t always been this way. Christian friends are priceless!

The younger couple next to me on the front row are Mark and Charlotte Callister. Mark is the Facilities Manager/Chaplain for Golden Bell and Charlotte is the Volunteer Coordinator, our “mother hen”, trying to keep all her chicks together and headed in the right direction. What a job she has, trying to herd retired people who aren’t used to having a boss any more! I hope we serve well, no matter how much grief we give her.

Yesterday was our last day off for the week (we work three days on and three days off with Max and Paula Reser, the couple on the left end of the front row), so we decided check out what was going on in the area. We’ve been coming to Teller County since in the 1970s and we enjoyed Cripple Creek before the casinos came in. Cripple Creek is the home of the Molly Kathleen gold mine where we have toured with grandkids and the present day donkeys that run wild in town are descendants of the donkeys that were used in mines in the area. (This year, there are two babies, the first in several years, but we didn’t see them.) Donkey Derby Days celebration was going on this weekend. That much hasn’t changed. It still includes a small-town parade with horses, Shriners, military groups and veterans. This year, there was even a Huey helicopter on a trailer. The rodeo queens are still young and beautiful, even though the town itself is little more than one casino after another now. Bennett St. is the parade route and the main street through town. It was crowded with vendor booths for several blocks.

In the midst of the casinos, one sign stands out as a remnant of the tourist town that was.

The general store is always packed with people looking for shirts, souvenirs, fudge and most importantly, ice cream. We rarely buy anything else, but seldom do we pass on ice cream! LeRoy chose the rum raisin and I got the salted caramel. Yummy! The sign refers to 2 mile high ice cream cones because the altitude is about 9400 feet, pushing two miles high. Well, that and the cones can be piled astronomically high as well!

Before last year, our RV park here only had one host couple and they parked in the host site. Now that there are two, we have to change the sign for the check-in site when we trade off. Last year, we were able to use the little trailer that is a part of the park as an office, but this year there is a volunteer staying in it, so LeRoy and Max have been lobbying for a shed to use for check-in. This week LeRoy, with the help of another volunteer and a truck, was able to move the old stable shed from what was the corral area and begin remaking it to hold the Funyaks at the pond. Once that is accomplished, the current Funyak shed will come to the RV park. LeRoy is loving this project!

We’re looking forward to having company this week. Heidi and her youngest daughter Jadelyn will be coming to stay a few days and soak up cool before heading back to Kansas. Can’t wait!

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