Failing the Test

Social Media has taken over our lives. We rely on Twitter to voice our every thought, whether it should be spoken or not. Facebook is how we share the events, major and minor, of our days. Instagram is our daily and sometimes more often snapshot of our activities. Texting has surpassed having an actual conversation with another person.

We use our smartphones to save all our contacts and phone numbers, so no one must use their memory skills to remember even their own phone number. We have online calendars to plan our days and busy schedules. We use Google Maps to get us to the grocery store and back.

But has this improved our lives or made us more isolated? With Social Media, we can update our status, letting all our “friends” know that we have had a “good/bad” day, what we’ve had for dinner and with whom. We tell the world that we have been waiting in line for an “eternity” or a clerk didn’t smile big enough at us, because that is so important. We have gone to such extremes to post our lives minute by minute, that we have nothing to talk about when we are face to face with another person.

My birthday was this month and I tried something, I made my birthday private, only visible to me. I thought that this way I wouldn’t get birthday wishes from people who don’t really know me or even care about me, but I would get birthday wishes from family and close friends, because I was sure that those would remember. Well I was wrong, only three family members and one friend remembered.

So much for that experiment, what did it prove? That I wasn’t important enough to be remembered, or that everyone is so busy that no one had time to call? Or have we become so dependent on Social Media, that if we don’t get a notification of some calendar event, it doesn’t exist? Maybe what’s more important, is why do I care?

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Not Again

Don’t get me wrong everyone deserves a vacation, she certainly does, probably more than anyone else, but please couldn’t Mother Nature find a better more astute temp to step in and keep the world on an even keel in her absence? Couldn’t she find someone that knows the geographical parts of the country and maintain the weather patterns that are “normal” for each region?

You remember the “Artic Plunge” a couple of weeks ago, that dropped down from the Artic Circle down through the Midwest and the East dropping temperatures to way below zero for days. That was certainly a lot of fun for those people, not! Now the joke is on the Pacific Northwest, dumping snow, deep snow from the coast all the way to the Cascades and beyond. Not fair! This is the lowlands and the temperatures are supposed to be more temperate, not the artic frigid temps we’re getting.

Then I get the comments from my neighbors, relating how beautiful it is and isn’t it wonderful to get to see snow, which is rare here. That is when I look back at them under my eyebrows and grumble, “don’t miss it and I could go the rest of my life and not see it again. That would suit me just fine.” Then they walk away thinking what a grouch I am. Which is true, I lived in the Midwest most of my life and moved to the Pacific Northwest under the “misconception” that I wouldn’t see snow again, unless I wanted to go visit it.

The side effect of dumping eight plus inches of snow in a part of the country that rarely sees an inch of snow, is that almost every business is closed. The city is for the most part totally paralyzed. They don’t have the experience, the funds or the equipment to handle the snow removal. We are told over and over on the news to stay home and don’t venture out. They warn us days in advance as the weather service would warn of an impending hurricane, the stores are emptied of the staples, bread, milk and eggs. Though no one seems to buy a snow shovel, because we are the only ones on our street that shovels the driveway and sidewalk. A Midwest upbringing.

Of course, I have no inside knowledge that Mother Nature is on vacation, but I hope that she is, and some buffoon is working for her. Because if is not true that she is on vacation, then Mother Nature has had it with us and is striking out, letting us know who is in charge. She has some sense of humor.

A Quarter of an Inch

Our television went out two days after Christmas. Not before, when we could take advantage of all the “super whamo” sales going on, oh no, we must go shopping for a television after Christmas and three weeks before Super Bowl. This is our luck, always, a day late and a dollar short.

After searching all the usual stores online and comparing pricing, size and options, we settled on a television at Costco. The price was good and had a lot of options that we didn’t have on our old tv. It wasn’t as big as we wanted, but we weren’t ready to fork over that much money to get seven more inches.

Now days, televisions are a lot lighter and easier to carry into the house and get set up. Not like earlier televisions that took three strong men to lift and tote. This made it possible for just the two of us to maneuver it in the truck, out of the truck and in the house. We didn’t drop it once, a clear miracle for me.

After disengaging the old tv from the mounting, Mitch set about setting up the new television on the brackets to mount on the television stand. We lifted the television, carried it to the mounting and set it on the stand. We stepped back and noticed it was tilted a bit, with one side lower than the other. The level showed the bubble off to the right just a smidge, which after measuring with a tape measure, translated to about a quarter of an inch difference.

We tried loosening the bolts and lifted one side a bit, then tightening the bolts back up. We stepped back and the television looked higher on the other side now. Evidently we moved it up too much. Back to loosening up the bolts and tried adjusting again. Now we were off more than an inch.

We took the television off the mounting to readjust the brackets on the television, reattached the tv to the stand, now the television was too low on the stand, sitting on the DVD player, how did that happen? We took the television off the stand again. Mitch readjusted the brackets again, reattached the television to the stand and now not only was it crooked, but it was tilted forward, and we weren’t drinking, YET. We ran out of time and had to leave the television face down on the cushion in front of the sofa for the night.

This morning we started again, with the readjusting of the mounting brackets. After readjusting again, we were now off that quarter of an inch. We were making progress. We loosened the bolts again and lifted my end a touch. Guess what, too much, we were now a quarter of an inch too high. I was ready to give up, who is going to notice a quarter of an inch? I put the level on top of the television and the bubble was a smidge to the right, again.

Surprisingly, Mitch was hanging in there, working on perfection. I was the one about out of patience. One more time, I said, I am about done. We are never going to get it dead on and I really didn’t care anymore. One last time, Mitch loosened the bolts on the brackets attached to the television, we lifted my end the equivalent of the thickness of a sheet of paper. Close enough.

Standing back the television looked level, close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. And tonight there will be drinking.

Little Mashel Falls

We tried this hike again and were better prepared. We headed out earlier this time and because of the heat, we left the dogs home in the air conditioning. We carried our water and had some snacks back at the truck. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we pulled in and parked. I hooked my water bottle to my camera backpack and swung the backpack on my shoulders. Mitch brought one of his hunting canteens filled with water and strung it on his belt, (old school guy, super functional). After getting our meager gear on, we headed out up, the gravel road, hopefully to find a waterfall.

The morning was warming up as we walked along. The route was poorly marked, with a coupled of letter size pieces of paper in clear sleeves and hand-written word, “Falls” and an arrow pointing up the road. Someone spent big bucks on the signage. We came upon on a large rock that someone or someone(s) spray painted letters on next to a small gravel path. We walked on passing the rock thinking there had to a better marked path ahead. After walking another mile and a half, we decided we had gone too far and turned back.

We walked back to the large graffiti rock and headed down the path, twisting and winding our way into the woods. We walked along a couple of switchbacks, then came to a rather steep dirt path down the hill. The path was steep enough my knees and shins hurt, and my toes were jammed against the end of my shoes. I tried walking back and forth across the trail to lessen the steep descent. I kept thinking that this was looking like a potential AFLAC claim.

At one point we came up on a fork in the trail. Do we go to the right and up or do we continue down and to the left? We chose down and to the left. At one of many forks and some narrow steep ways to continue, we turned to the right and headed on that path. We spotted the falls through the trees and looked a way to get closer without doing a header off the side of the trail.

We found another narrow path that had some trees close enough and small enough I could hold on to for support, that led to the base of the falls. As I walked up on a huge boulder to get a better shot of the falls, I looked down to the next lower boulder and discovered a couple having a moment. Lucky me, I finally find the waterfall and now I’m a voyeur in a porno flick. They looked up at me, so I waved and turned away. Of course, they had the best spot for getting full on frontal pictures of the waterfall.

I had to content myself with side shots, from a few different angles. After taking a few photos, we headed back up the trail, retracing our steps. I was so looking forward going up the near vertical trail, (not). After nearly eight miles we were back at the truck, tired but we found a waterfall. Not the truly majestic one I’m still searching for, that is still out there waiting.

Woefully Unprepared

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is as close to perfect as you can get. Sun, sun and more sun, the days are sunny and clear, humidity is almost non-existent, daytime highs are in the eighties, to low nineties and lows are in the high fifties, to low sixties. This year we are trying to coordinate our schedules to get more time for outings, hiking, kayaking and searching out my dream vistas.

Thursday the plan was to rent kayaks at a lake that was close to us and do some paddling around. After a convoluted call to the rental shop, the guy at the shop said that the owner called in to say he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t going to open the store that day so he was going to have to call all of the people that had already reserved kayaks and paddle boards to let them know the store was not going to open. I thought wow what a way to run a business and figured it was probably for the best that we didn’t try and use one of their kayaks.

We decided to go hiking instead. I searched around for a hike that wasn’t too far away, since we were going with plan B and getting a late start. I found a hike south about thirty miles away, a forty-five-minute drive that was reported to have three waterfalls. We thought the dogs would enjoy tagging along so we added extra water for them too and headed out. I should have packed some snacks but didn’t think about it. (Poor planning on my part)

Following the directions to Little Mashel Falls, we arrived at an access point on the side of the road that looked really sketchy, with a couple of cars parked that looked like someone lived in them and were not mobile. There was no marked trailhead, so I got out of the car (really smart idea) and walked along the edge of the woods to see if there was a path. I found a narrow path leading off into the woods and walked in a few feet to check out the trail. It looked feasible, but there was a lot of trash around, like a bunch of slobs had been through. I walked back to the car, leashed up the dogs and we headed off down the creepy trail.

We hiked in about fifty feet when we came up on a steep path down to a train trestle. There was even a rope tied to a tree as a hand hold to get down the path without face planting at the bottom. Mitch and Royal headed off down the steep embankment, and I looked at Orso and thought there was no way we would be able to get the dogs back up that path if it was the only way in and out. I wasn’t even too sure I would be able to get myself back up let alone going down without filing an Aflac claim. I called to Mitch and told him that this was not a good idea and let’s look for a better trail down. He and Royal made it back up with some effort and we headed out looking for a better descent trail. We came up one a man just standing on the trail looking off into the distance and said without turning around, “The next trail over has a better access.” Creepy, where did he come from?

We turned around and headed back to where the car was parked and looked for a better access point. Right by the van that was parked there and looked like it was not mobile, was a sign that said, NO TRESPASSING! Property of the Railroad. Too bad we didn’t see that sign first. We loaded the dogs back up in the car and put in a different description in my phone, hoping for a better spot.

We found a better access point, actually a park with a real parking lot and a gravel path and markers with real directions. Imagine that. What a difference a better description makes in my phone. We headed off down the trail noting the sign that said 4.8 miles. We hoped that meant round trip. The sun was shining, and the day was warming up. And we forgot the water, it was still in the cooler in the back of the car, (really stupid). We thought that once we got there, the dogs cold get in the water and cool off.

At the halfway point, we realized the 4.8-mile sign was one-way and the dogs were getting too hot. Orso was panting and struggling, I was even getting tired, lugging my camera backpack. So, we decided we had not planned well at all, and were stupid pet owners. We turned back and headed back to the car. No waterfalls today.

Next time I promise to do a better job planning and packing for a day hike. I will even read all of the trail description, not just the highlights.

Almost Silent

Orso will be twelve years old in August, a true senior citizen in dog years. Not only is he old by dog standards, (seven people years for each dog year), but he also weighs ninety-nine pounds, making him ancient, almost a living fossil. He has started to slow down; his hips are weaker, and he often has a sway to them. He also has a mystery limp in his right front leg. We’ll be walking along, then all of a sudden, he stumbles and limps for a few steps. I’ve checked his paw for any cuts or foreign object, I’ve felt his bones and soft tissue up and down, massaging his leg up to the shoulder and nothing. No cuts, no injury to his leg or paw. Then almost as if it’s a miracle, he takes off trotting along without a care and no limp.

We noticed that this winter, he started breathing heavier and louder on our walks. There was no sneaking up on anyone with him around. He sounded like a little old man with emphysema. As winter became spring, the wheezing got louder and longer. At times there was a bit of a whistle to the wheeze, making me wonder if he had something stuck in his throat. His annual check-up came and as soon as the vet walked in the room, she commented on the wheezing and said she suspected he had laryngeal paralysis. Of course, the only way to diagnose laryngeal paralysis is with throat surgery.

The surgeon goes in and checks the larynx for paralysis. If the dog had laryngeal paralysis, then there are two options, one is to cut one side off which is also called de-barking and hope that allows enough air flow for the dog to breathe and to keep cool. The other option, which is very expensive and done by a specialist, is to go in and tie back one or both sides of the larynx to open the airway. One of the biggest concerns with laryngeal paralysis is heat stroke, because the dog is basically breathing through a straw and cannot get enough air in and out to cool off.

With summer almost here and the days getting warmer, we made an appointment for Orso to undergo the surgery, after talking to the vet, decided the best option was option one, but we would combine the diagnosis and surgery in one. The vet would check and if he had laryngeal paralysis, the vet would cut one side off.

The day of the surgery Orso was definitely not happy with me, nothing to eat, he stood there and watched Royal chow down, looked at me, then back at Royal, and back at me. Definitely not happy. And he had to suffer through a walk, on an empty stomach, life was not fair.

The vet called me after the surgery and said Orso had laryngeal paralysis on both sides, he wasn’t getting much air at all, so he cut off one side as a start. He didn’t want to cut both sides, for fear of too much scar tissue forming causing as bad a problem as before the surgery. So we’re trying one side and seeing how well Orso can breathe and get through the summer.

Orso still pants heavily, but the little old man wheeze is gone at least for the time being and we’ll almost silent.

Road Trip

The rainy season is over and summer is nipping at the heels of spring. This year I’m hoping to get more traveling in and do some exploring. For our spring vacation, we took a trip to the San Juan Islands, staying at Friday Harbor, to go whale watching. For this vacation there was a lot of pre-planning involved months before our actual trip. We found out last year that during the summer months here everyone is traveling around experiencing all this state has to offer and almost every vacation spot is booked up months and even up to a year in advance.

I had to book the hotel, dog kennel stay and whale watching boat in January for a May trip. Then as it got closer to our trip, a month out, I had to make reservations for the hour-long ferry ride to the island. So much pre-planning and time scheduling was stressful. We had to be in the line for the ferry forty-five minutes to one hour prior to sailing in order to ensure a spot on the boat. Couple that with the traffic here going north through Seattle, we had to be on the road about six hours early just to drop off the dogs, fight commuter traffic and drive the hundred nineteen miles to the ferry terminal. Not our normal vacation style of heading out then stopping when and where we want.

Anyway, the trip was amazing. The weather was just perfect, sunny with highs in the high sixties and low seventies. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. Our hotel was a mile away from the harbor and decided that instead of driving down and looking for parking each time, we would walk down to the docks on each trip out.

The company we went with for the whale watching was Maya’s Legacy and we couldn’t have been given a better experience. The crew, captain and two mates, was wonderful, informative and very helpful. We were a small group, thirteen of us plus the crew, so we were given much more personal attention than other boats we saw that had over thirty people on the decks. Every time the captain or one of the crew saw something of interest we would stop for sufficient gawking and photos.

We saw bald eagles perched on the tops of trees scanning for lunch. We turned north and headed toward Canada looking for Orcas. We found a pod with four whales and as one of our crew pointed out, we were having a National Geographic moment, watching the whales feeding. What I was surprised to see was that all of the boats talked to each other and let others know where to find the whales, in order to provide a great experience for everyone out on the water. After watching them for a while, I figured we would head back, but no, our captain said we were on the search for another pod that consisted of a mother, her son and daughter. We found them farther north and again, we were all in awe of the beauty and magnificence of the animals. The male Orca had a dorsal fin that was over six feet high. I could hear the water being expelled from their blow holes each time they broke water.

After we had been on the water for over two hours, we turned around and headed back. On the trip back we came upon a group of harbor seals feeding on fish and a group of sea gulls flying around them trying to steal a bite or two.

Definitely a trip that was well worth the pre-planning, one that we won’t forget for some time.