Health

My niece, Toni Chase has become a world traveler since her marriage to Dave. She and Dave love going places. Whether it’s Hawaii, or the Caribbean, they spend as much time traveling as they can. They decided to get a time share, and while most people who have a time share, end up selling it because they don’t really use it, that is not the case with Toni and Dave. They love theirs and they use it often. They just pick a date, and look and the available sites, and register for their dates. If a person thinks they like to travel, but really isn’t sure, time shares are probably not the best thing to have, but for Toni and Dave, it was perfect, and they use it a lot. in fact, they went to Mexico in June.

For Toni, family comes first. Her boys are the most important part of her life. She had a son, James Renville from her first marriage, and while Dave loves James, and is a big part of his life, he would never try to replace James’ real dad. I think it is the respect shown on both sides of that split, that has made it a very good relationship for all of them. Of course, a good relationship between blended families is only possible if everyone works together, and for this group the respect, cooperation, and a genuine love for James. And isn’t that really what good parents do…the best thing for the kids.

This has been an interesting year for Toni. Dave has spent much of his time playing softball and basketball, and apparently that’s a little hard on Toni. I don’t know if it was heavy duty cheering, or what, but Toni ended up having hernia surgery. During the surgery, they found that the appendix was caught in the hernia, and it had to be removed too. It wasn’t Dave’s sports that caused Toni’s need for surgery, but Toni is a great cheerleader when it come to the sports and activities of her boys. I think she pretty much likes anything they are doing. Of course when it comes to what Toni is doing, Dave like most husbands, Dave couldn’t tell you what she has been up to. Toni has recently become interested in Wyoming history. Maybe she is a chip off of her Aunt Caryn’s block. She says that it’s very addictive. I agree. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The Vietnam war was many things, but I don’t think anyone really expected Operation Ranch Hand…at least not the general public. Who would have expected such a heinous act to be carried out by the government. Operation Ranch Hand was a United States military operation during the Vietnam War, lasting from 1962 until 1971. The operation was largely inspired by the British use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (Agent Orange) during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s. It was part of the overall program during the war called “Operation Trail Dust.” Ranch Hand involved spraying an estimated 20 million United States gallons of defoliants and herbicides over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of food and vegetation cover. Nearly 20,000 sorties were flown between 1961 and 1971.

It’s hard to say if the government knew the consequences of the chemicals that were used. It’s possible that the chemicals were thought to just kill vegetation, and not to hurt people. The people involved were known as Ranch Handers. I seriously doubt that at some point they didn’t wonder if what they were doing could possibly be harmful to the people they were spraying it on or near. Nevertheless, the “Ranch Handers” had a motto, “Only you can prevent a forest.” It was a take on the popular United States Forest Service poster slogan of Smokey Bear. During the ten years of spraying, over 5 million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of crops were heavily damaged or destroyed. Around 20% of the forests of South Vietnam were sprayed at least once.

The herbicides were sprayed by the United States Air Force flying C-123s using the call sign “Hades.” The planes were fitted with specially developed spray tanks with a capacity of 1,000 United States gallons of herbicides. A plane sprayed a swath of land that was ½ mile wide and 10 miles long in about 4½ minutes, at a rate of about 3 United States gallons per acre. Sorties usually consisted of three to five airplanes flying side by side, and 95% of the herbicides and defoliants used in the war were sprayed by the United States Air Force as part of Operation Ranch Hand. The remaining 5% were sprayed by the United States Chemical Corps, other military branches, and the Republic of Vietnam using hand sprayers, spray trucks, helicopters and boats, primarily around United States military installations…meaning that the majority of the chemicals were exposed to the Untied States Military. Many of the Vietnam veterans have felt betrayed by their own government. Many have felt that the government was well aware of the dangers of the chemicals they were spraying. I don’t know if they knew or not, but it seems like they should have suspected something. Years later, the effects of Agent Orange are well known and it was vicious.

My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has always been a tough lady, and I suppose that is why we found it so hard to believe that she would not win this final battle in her life. She bounced back so many times, when we all thought she was going for sure, but in the end, it was not the things we expected to take her life, like COPD or diabetes, that actually did so, but rather kidney failure, complicated by congestive heart failure. Through all of the many episodes of illness in her life, we were amazed at the strength she displayed while fighting her way back to where she had been before getting sick. This final battle would be different. She was tired, and she was ready to go home to Heaven. And while we were very sad and hated to let her go, we could not ask her to stay. She had suffered long enough.

Throughout the years that Joann was my mother-in-law, she was an inspiration to many people. She had the ability to do so many things…knitting, crocheting, sewing, canning, and oh, her baking!! Mom could make a “Murder Cake” that could easily destroy any diet, because it was irresistible. “Murder Cake” was a chocolate cake with so much gooey, yummy fudge that the frosting became a part of the gooey cake. Maybe it was called “Murder Cake” because it murdered your diet. It was also my mother-in-law who introduced me to Squash and Pancakes, a dish that sounds like it should be awful, but one bite, and you are hooked. My husband, Bob; daughter, Amy; and I look forward to summer just for the squash and pancakes.

Having been raised in the country or small towns, the country was where Joann felt mostly at home. It was where she raised her children, and where one of them still lives today. She felt like it was easier to keep track of all those kids, if she had them out in the country, and when the family lived in Mills while the older children were in grade school, she finally told my father-in-law, Walt, that he needed to get the family back out in the country. And so he did. For the first 23 years of my marriage into the family, that is where they lived, and then because of health issues, they made a trade for a house in Casper…right on one of the busiest intersections in town…13th and McKinley Streets. While my mother-in-law said she hated the noise of the traffic and many emergency vehicles, she sure loved to look out the window to see what was going on out there. She secretly enjoyed the flurry of activity that was always going on out on the busy streets, and while Alzheimer’s Disease might have taken her most recent memories away, she always had her favorite pastime…people watching, whether they be in traffic, walking, or on television. My mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s Disease was the kind that kept the funniest things in life in the forefront of her memory, and she could say the funniest things. While she might not remember our names, she always knew that her children and grandchildren belonged to her, and for that we are forever grateful. Rest in peace Mom, we miss you already, and we love you forever.

We have all heard about volcanic eruptions, seen photos or video of one, or maybe even seen one in person. They are an event that makes it hard to take your eyes off of the scene. There are volcanos that erupt often, and there are those that haven’t erupted in hundreds of years. And, there are volcanos that erupt under the ocean. But…there is a rare type of eruption, that is, in fact so rare that it has only been observed twice, although it may have happened elsewhere. It is called a Limnic Eruption.

A limnic eruption, also called a lake overturn, is a rare type of natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) gas suddenly erupts from deep lake waters. The eruption forms a gas cloud that can suffocate wildlife, livestock, and humans. It can also cause tsunamis in the lake as the rising CO2 displaces the water. Scientists believe earthquakes, volcanic activity, or explosions can be a trigger for such an explosion. Lakes in which limnic activity occurs are known as limnically active lakes or exploding lakes. Some clues as to limnically active lakes include: CO2 saturated incoming water, a cool lake bottom indicating an absence of direct volcanic interaction with lake waters, an upper and lower thermal layer with differing CO2 saturations, and proximity to areas with volcanic activity, all of which are possible indicators of a limnic lake.

After a Limnic explosion the water left in the lake is filled with debris and massive amounts of dissolved CO2. To date, this phenomenon has been observed only twice. The first was in Cameroon at Lake Monoun in 1984, causing the asphyxiation and death of 38 people living nearby. A second, deadlier eruption happened at neighboring Lake Nyos in 1986, this time releasing over 80 million cubic meters of CO2 and killing around 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock, again by asphyxiation. When the explosion occurred in Lake Nyos, a geyser of water shot out of the lake reaching a height of 300 feet. A small tsunami rushed over the land, followed by a carbon dioxide blast that asphyxiated people up to 15 miles away. Scientists believe limnic explosions are caused by pockets of magma under lakes, which leak and cause carbonic acid to form. In an effort to prevent future explosions, degassing tubes were installed in Lake Nyos to allow the gas to leak at a safe rates.

A third lake, Lake Kivu, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, also contains massive amounts of dissolved CO2, and it is believed that Limnic eruptions have occurred there too. Sample sediments from the lake were taken by professor Robert Hecky from the University of Michigan, which showed that an event caused living creatures in the lake to go extinct approximately every thousand years, and caused nearby vegetation to be swept back into the lake. Limnic eruptions can be measured on a scale using the concentration of CO2 in the surrounding area. Due to the nature of the event, it is hard to determine if limnic eruptions have happened elsewhere. The Messel pit fossil deposits of Messel, Germany, also show evidence of a limnic eruption there. Among the victims of that eruption are perfectly preserved insects, frogs, turtles, crocodiles, birds, anteaters, insectivores, early primates and paleotheres.

For most of the early years of human history, when a person’s heart gave out…or any other organ, for that matter, it was often the end of that person. Doctors could only do so much, and there are certain body parts that we cannot live without. Of course, these days all that has changed. What used to be considered Frankensteinish, is now a part of modern medicine, and it is saving lives every day. Of course, I don’t think an actual head transplant has ever been done successfully, but many organs are successfully transplanted every day, and every day we hear about some other organ they can transplant…I even read somewhere, and of course, this could be fiction, that they were close to being able to do a brain transplant. I have to admit that the idea of a brain transplant is beyond what I can conceive, but it’s hard to say what is possible…especially when the first heart transplant seemed impossible before December 3, 1967.

On that day, 53 year old received the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Washkansky was a South African grocer dying from chronic heart disease. Then, Denise Darvall, a 25 year old woman was fatally injured in a car accident. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard, who had trained at the University of Cape Town and in the United States, performed the revolutionary medical operation. The technique Barnard employed had been initially developed by a group of American researchers in the 1950s. American surgeon Norman Shumway achieved the first successful heart transplant, in a dog, at Stanford University in California in 1958, but prior to that time, transplants were simply a theory.

A successful heart transplant, or any transplant for that matter, does not necessarily mean a long life after the transplant…unfortunately. After Washkansky’s surgery, he was given drugs to suppress his immune system and keep his body from rejecting the heart. Those drugs worked well, in that Washkansky’s new heart had functioned normally until his death. Nevertheless, these drugs also left him susceptible to sickness, and 18 days later he died from double pneumonia. While losing him was a devastating setback, in the realm of transplants, the operation was an amazing success. Still, a successful transplant was not going to help people to survive, if the anti-rejection medications stifle the immune system and cause the patient to get sick and die of other illnesses that would have been harmless otherwise.

In the 1970s, the development of better anti-rejection drugs gave new hope to the transplantation program. Dr. Barnard continued to perform heart transplant operations, and by the late 1970s many of his patients were living up to five years with their new hearts. Successful heart transplant surgery continues to be performed today, but finding appropriate donors is extremely difficult, because the donor must be a match to the patient in blood type and other factors. All too often, the patient waiting for a transplant, dies before a viable donor can found.

Sometimes, changes occur when we least expect them. That is was happened with my daughter, Corrie Petersen, who found herself in a job that really held no future for her, even after she gave them almost 24 years of her life. Everyone wants to know that they are going to have a chance be promoted and move up in the company, but that was not to be the case, so after listening to the wisdom of God, Corrie made a bold move and went back to school. Corrie has been a caregiver, along with the rest of our family since 2005 when her grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer got sick. Over the following ten years she was very active in the caregiving process, first with my dad, then my mom, and then her Schulenberg grandparents, and now she cares for her husband, Kevin. I don’t know how we could have managed with out Corrie and others in the family who, just like her, stepped up to pitch in, when we found out that caregiving takes a village.

When it came to Corrie that if she wanted to move up in a job, she needed a change, she naturally chose nursing, and began a journey that would bring about many changes and take her to levels of confidence she didn’t know she possessed. She went back to school, after 23 years, and conquered not only the classes, but her own uneasiness about taking them. I am happy to report that she is having great success in her studies. Corrie also took the CNA class at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, knowing that when she started nursing school, she would no longer be able to keep the job she had, because the nursing program is held during the day. She passed the CNA program with flying colors and applied for a job at Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. She was hired right away, and today begins her new career as a CNA, or according to them, Patient Care Technician…temporarily anyway, because Corrie’s journey doesn’t end there. She has other plans in mind.

She will have other new beginnings as she continues her journey toward her degree as a Registered Nurse, so this is temporary, but it is nevertheless, very exciting. This is what she has dreamed about since this journey started. She knows the work will be hard, but it is also very rewarding as she also knows, since she has basically been doing this work for twelve years already. I am so excited for my daughter, as she starts this new adventure, and so proud of her for taking the necessary steps to achieve her goals. The future is going to be a bright one for her, and I can’t wait to watch the changes as she decides her future plans in her nursing career. Congratulations Corrie. Have a wonderful first night at work. We are so proud of you!!

After losing his brother and his dad before he was nine years of age, my Uncle Jim Richards stepped up as a man in his family. Young as he was, he took on the role of a man, letting his family know that he would always be there for them. And so he was. Over the years, when one or the other of his family members needed help, Uncle Jim kept that promise…he was there for them. He took care of his mother, and helped with my grandparents, who were the parents of his wife, my Aunt Dixie. He helped several of his siblings and got them back on solid ground again. He proved himself to be a responsible man of the house…long after he was grown. He kept that promise to his dad, that his dad didn’t even have to ask of him. Uncle Jim did it because he wanted to show respect and honor to his dad, and because of his great love for his family.

After his marriage to my Aunt Dixie, and the arrival of their three children, Jim, Jeannie, and Raylynn…Uncle Jim set about building close family ties with his kids. His gentle ways and hard work made their home a place the family always wanted to be. Uncle Jim worked hard at his job, but when he came home…it was family time, and nothing else mattered. His kids always knew that their Dad was going to be there for them. As the kids grew up and got married, the grandchildren began to arrive. Uncle Jim was a man for whom family was the most important thing in life, and that showed with in the love he and Aunt Dixie had for their grandchildren. After his retirement, he joined Aunt Dixie, who already babysat the grandchildren, chauffeured them to and from school, and delivered an occasional payment or two to the proper places, while their children worked. His kids didn’t worry about things, because they know that their dad and mom are there for them. The grandchildren are safe and cared for, even when their parents are at work. That gives a parent a wonderful sense of peace concerning their kids, and not every parent has the option to have hands on grandparents.

Through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer and poorer, and all things in between, the Richards family has been able to count on Uncle Jim…especially in the worst of times, like the premature passing of a grandson, Jonah Williams; and now, a son-in-law, Darryl Liegman. Uncle Jim is a quiet man, but he has a strength that the family leans on in times of sorrow and need, and he is there for them. When he saw the need to help others at such a young age, he took the call seriously. He was there for every part of his family, for all the years of his life, and his loving kindness seems to radiate from him. Anyone who is around him can see it and they can feel it. Uncle Jim is just that way. His motto is: I’ll be there for you. And he has never let them down. Today is Uncle Jim’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Last night as my husband, Bob and I were heading out for our evening walk at about 7:15pm, we were met by a concerto of song coming from the pine tree in our next door neighbor’s yard. Of course, it was the birds settling down for the night, since it was heading into the evening hours. I was immediately reminded of the day of the total eclipse that Casper had just been in the center of. As the sky grew darker, the birds began hurrying to and fro in search of their places for the night. They began singing their evening songs, just as they were doing when we stepped out of our front door last night. Birds, of course, are programmed to begin bedtime preparations as the daylight starts to fade, unlike humans who might not go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.

The concerto also reminded me of one of my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s favorite movies…The Sound of Music. Of course, the song they sang on that movie was The Hills Are Alive, and not The Trees Are Alive, but my imagination is allowed to make those little changes…basically taking a little poetic license, and change the wording a little bit to fit the situation. So, while I heard the melody of The Hills Are Alive, the words that sang out were The Trees Are Alive.

Since we began taking evening walks a number of years ago, we have found ourselves rather fascinated with the animal life around us. The birds flying here and there, with what appears to be no specific destination in mind; the rabbit with a broken leg that has managed to survive most of the summer, even though he can’t hop as fast as so many other rabbits; the dogs who are sure that we are their friends, even to the point of vying for our attention with the other dogs in their yard or next door; and even the deer, who stand and watch us, not moving unless we do something to appear to be coming toward them. They are all very interesting in the way they interact with people. The birds don’t seem to want to fly too far from their original spot to get away from us as we approach, almost as if they are saying, “I’m not scared of you.” The rabbits sit bravely still, hoping that we won’t notice them, sometimes allowing us to get only a foot or so away from them, providing we continue to walk along without stopping.

Animals are funny sometimes, doing things that almost seem like human activities, and even the wild animals who seem to want to interact with humans…from a safe distance, anyway. The mourning doves and other birds that like to look at us from their safe perch on the power lines or light poles above us, always strike me as funny. They know we are there, and they seem curious about us, but they don’t want to get too close, after all they aren’t stupid, just curious, as they allow us to share their space. And of course, there is nature’s version of Twitter…when a large group of birds flock to one tree, and everyone is tweeting at once…as was the case when we left for our evening walk last night.

My grand niece, Raelynn Masterson is a sweet girl who looks a lot like her mom, my niece, Dustie Masterson. They are really very much alike in lots of ways. They both love music, and Dustie tells me that it isn’t just one kind of music that Raelynn likes…it’s all kinds of music. I think it is a sign of a true music lover, to love all genres of music, because it doesn’t seem to be the music style that attracts them, but rather each tone on its own and the melody it produces when mixed with other tones.

There is a big part of Raelynn that reminds me of me too. Where do I begin? Raelynn loves to write stories…sound familiar to anyone? This seems to be a pastime that Raelynn and her peers are all into these days. She love reading their stories, and they love reading hers. Her stories are further enhanced with her own anime drawings to help tell the story. Now this is where we very much differ, because I cannot draw, so my stories are accompanied by photos. Her mom says that while she doesn’t pretend to understand Raelynn’s love of anime, she can easily see the beauty of her drawings, and the beauty in the stories that accompany the drawings. Another way in which Raelynn reminds me of me is that she loves police procedural shows like Bones and Criminal Minds. I love those shows too, as well as NCIS and CSI, which I’m sure she likes as well. I think it might be the scientist that lives in both of us. We may not be trained scientists, but we really appreciate the scientific procedures and their outcomes. We are both utter geeks. Raelynn learned a Viking game that is a cross between Chess and Tic-Tac-Toe. She recently learned to play at the Science Museum in Denver and the lady that taught her said she did very well…more of the geek I think.

I think most women, especially have the ability to multi-task, but some do it much better that others. When Dustie told me (and I’ve seen it for myself when I’ve been at her house) that Raelynn is an exceptional multi-tasker, it was like someone took a picture of me in the evenings when I’m not on a walk. Raelynn loves to do all these things…reading, writing, drawing, police procedural shows…and she does them at the same time…and doesn’t miss a beat on any one of them. That is the mark of a true multi-tasker, and I find that exceptional!! Raelynn and I both love cats…seriously, is this girl related to me or what? If you need to find the family cat, Lewie inside the house, just find Raelynn, because she is Lewie’s human…and that’s all there is too it. Lewie doesn’t really like the family dog, Missy, and so his favorite place to be in the whole world is with his human. He loves to lay beside her, and she in kind pets him and makes him feel safe and loved.

Recently, Raelynn proved what a strong person she is, when she went through a life changing surgery for scoliosis. Raelynn’s life thus far has been spent with limited mobility and much pain, and yet, she never complained. She had to tell her friends sometimes, that she couldn’t do certain things, because if she bent over, as if to touch her toes, you could see that her spine was near her shoulder blade, and it caused her great pain. Nevertheless, she wasn’t a whiner…or a quitter. She pursued her dreams with a gusto, often ignoring the pain to do the things she wanted to do. She wore a back brace for years and while it really limited movement, she didn’t complain. Now, post surgery, she is healing quickly and is off of all prescription pain meds. She is a shining example of what God can do, if you allow Him to. She is a God-given blessing to her parents, and indeed her whole family. Today, Raelynn turns 14 years old. She is growing into a beautiful young woman. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My aunt, Jeanette Byer is one tough lady. She has lived in the country for most of her life, and she is no stranger to hard work. In fact, I’m sure that is what has kept her young all these years. Aunt Jeanette is one lady who simply doesn’t know the word quit. She broke her leg one time, and she insisted that she could still do what she needed to do. So, with a crutch under one arm, and a weed-eater in the other hand, she proceeded to cut the weeds long the fence on their property. Aunt Jeanette simply would not let a little thing like a broken leg slow her down. She says, that she was raised in the country, and out there, you just do whatever you have to do…hard work and all. It was how you made a go of things in the country.

Aunt Jeanette’s sister-in-law, my aunt, Sandy Pattan told me something about Aunt Jeanette that is probably one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard said about a person. She said that Aunt Jeanette never had an unkind word to say about anybody. I was somewhat stunned about that. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe that about Aunt Jeanette, because I had no reason to doubt it. It was stunned because…seriously, how many people can honestly have that said about them, and yet there were several other people who said the same thing about Aunt Jeanette. She simply didn’t gossip, or say a harsh word about anyone. What an amazing tribute that is! I’ve thought about that statement since I first heard it.

What kind of person literally never says an unkind word about anyone? This must be a very forgiving person. I have known Aunt Jeanette all my life. She is a very sweet person, and I have always loved her very much. I can’t think of a time that I ever heard her say an unkind word about anyone. She has always been a fun person, and my husband, Bob and I have always enjoyed talking to her, and to her husband, my Uncle Larry, before his passing. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Larry were always busy doing things. In fact, the place we often saw them was at Home Depot or Menard’s. They were always fixing something up. I think that is why Aunt Jeanette just never really aged. She stayed busy. Way to go Aunt Jeanette. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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