My Recent Surgery

I bit the bullet and underwent an operation to correct the spinal stenosis that has been plaguing me for a year and a half. I heard mixed results about back surgery and had been weighing the options. I tried acupuncture and water therapy without relief. I wondered: Would it be foolish to expose myself to risk or more foolish not to take advantage of a procedure that would ease my pain and improve my ability to function? If I did anything it would have to be sooner than later, when my recuperative powers are greater. I couldn’t wait until I was ninety for this surgery.

Awakening from the surgery, I relished the apple juice as if it were the finest champagne. Navigating the hospital menu was a challenge. Every thing had a different name than what I am accustomed to. I will say though that there is a greater effort to serve nutritional and appetizing dishes. It was a treat to come home to my children’s scrumptious cooking. I’ve been spoiled with fish, chicken, and pasta dinners, gazpacho, and pies and crisps made with locally grown blueberries and peaches.

At my two- week post-op visit the doctor was optimistic and assured me that the surgery went well and I was on the way to recovery. The only pain that I experience now is the pain from the surgery, which is to be expected and hopefully won’t persist. My motion is good and I have every reason to anticipate a positive outcome.

Wearing my "corset"

Wearing my “corset”

Chicken Coop Epidemiology

With the exception of washing baby bottles, when I married and changed my career to poultry farming, my clinical work was mainly vaccinating chickens before they came into production, for New Castle and Pox. There are many strains of New Castle, but it is a disease that essentially affects the central nervous system.

Every year, in the late spring or early summer, we would join Marty’s parents, Rosie and Abie, at our farm and then later at their farm, for inoculating. Rosie would wear an old housedress, rubber galoshes, and a babushka. I had jeans, a painter’s hat, and sneakers. Our employees would coax or carry the chickens to one side of the room, and create a pen with screens; to keep the vaccinated birds separate from those that weren’t. We screened off a section of the room with enough chickens for us to handle easily. When the chickens in that pen were vaccinated, we moved the fencing to form a pen for the next batch. This procedure was repeated until each chicken received the vaccine.

The men would catch about three chickens at a time and spread their wings out on a table, so Rosie and I could stick each chicken with a needle and vaccine, between the wing and the web; referred to as the wing /web method. We had to work quickly; the dust was flying and the chickens were squawking. Every now and then we would stick ourselves. You couldn’t blame the hens if they gave you an occasional “k’nip.” After all, don’t you feel like “sticking” it to whomever gives you a “shot”?

Rosie would always rinse the remaining drops of ketchup from the bottle, when cooking, to use in soups and sauces. She would also add a little water to the almost empty vial, to remove all of the remaining vaccine. I too, like to salvage the last drop from jars and bottles, but ketchup isn’t exactly vaccine. When I mentioned this to Marty, he accused me of overreacting and explained the concept of “herd immunity”. Many birds “escape”, and it was of little consequence if some chickens received a diluted dose of the vaccine. If most of the flock received the vaccine, the bird that avoided inoculation was not apt to get sick, because the incidence of disease carrying organisms was low. The possibility of an outbreak, therefore, was slim.

It wasn’t long before my mother-in-law and I joined the ranks of unemployed “chicken stickers”, when we adopted more effective, and less labor intensive means of immunization. One of the preferred techniques was disseminating the vaccine in a water spray, at night, when the chickens were asleep.

We are able to maintain a higher standard for immunizing people because the person administering the vaccine has control of the procedure. However this person has no control over the population that chooses not to be vaccinated, for fear of adverse results, and is willing to benefit from the “herd immunity” supplied by those who do assume risks. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it is everybody’s responsibility to share possible risks so infections are few or non-existent.

Vaccinating reminds me in some ways of voting. Recently, I attended a meeting of our town committee where the November elections are the main topic of business. I heard people say, ”Oh, he’s in a safe district, he won’t have trouble getting elected, and my vote won’t be missed.” We can never be sure of the dynamics of politics. Every vote is necessary. Just as we shouldn’t rely on “herd immunity” for immunization, we shouldn’t rely on “herd immunity” in elections. We have a shared responsibility to control the possibility of an epidemic through immunization. We have a shared responsibility to elect competent public officials through the ballot.

Healthy chickens mean healthy eggs.

Healthy chickens mean healthy eggs.

 

 

Where are the Flowers?

It was 32 years since I was in the American Legion Hall in Madison, Connecticut. My first impulse was to look for World War I German helmets, or flowers on the mantle that now held other memorabilia and souvenirs.

My oldest daughter, Lisa and her husband, Matthew, planned to have a lawn wedding at our home, in June 1982. Lisa arranged for personal flowers for the family, but didn’t think that we needed flowers for an outdoor wedding with foliage all about. This was the year of the “hundred year flood”, and we experienced torrential rains for better than one whole week. We had ordered a large tent, for the reception, which fell down on the Thursday preceding the event. The proprietor assured us that if the rain stopped and the lawn dried before Sunday, he would put up the tent.

On Sunday, June 6, it was still pouring and everything was sopping wet. In fact, a neighbor was married in the yard of her home, on Saturday. Everyone took their shoes off and danced in the mud.

We called upon friends who found a dry place for the nuptials, the Madison Legion Hall. I grabbed toilet paper and paper toweling, just in case, when I went to check the hall out early Sunday morning. There was a portrait of President Ronald Reagan hung above the wooden mantle of the stone fireplace that displayed captured World War I helmets. There was a collection of rifles on the walls. I told my daughter that the room was rather dreary and needed some flowers. None of the local florists were able to help us. Lisa called Matthew and he drove up with a station wagon loaded with iris, peonies, and rhododendrons from his father’s garden. Lisa’s friends from Wales, Helen and Terrance, filled vases with flowers for the tables. They hid the helmets and covered the mantle and the entire room with flowers, transforming the space.

We couldn't hide the gun racks.

We couldn’t hide the gun racks.

 

About one hundred members of the family and guests, who were not discouraged by the weather, crowded into our living room for the ceremony. We served cold hors d’oeuvres in the dining room before adjoining to the reception.

The caterer pulled everything together; a tour de force, “The band played on”, and everyone danced. The weatherman provided sunshine, later in the day, and we were able to take pictures out of doors.

In the middle of May this year, on a beautiful spring evening, I represented Killingworth as a delegate to the State Senatorial Convention, held at the Legion Hall in Madison, to nominate a candidate for the State Senate. During the span of 32 years, the hall had undergone renovations and rejuvenation. The room is now is spacious and welcoming. It has the feeling of a community center rather than a shrine to militarism. I could only visualize the hall full of the flowers and helmets!

The delegates were enthusiastic about their candidate, Ted Kennedy Jr., nominated-for-12th-district-state-senate-race son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Ted reminds one of his father, minus the Massachusetts accent. Kennedy, an attorney, specializes in Health Law. Although he never held public office, he has actively, promoted improved health services. With his capability and commitment, he should be a strong force on the State Senate.AR-140519435.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

The newlyweds were excited about a new life, together, sharing their dreams.

The delegates were excited about the new candidate, who, if elected would see that his constituents had a voice in the Connecticut State Legislature.

 

Achoo!

Recently, our children helped Marty and I celebrate our 60th   wedding anniversary, with assistance from practically all the grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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The Klein Sibling Quartet

The Klein Sibling Quartet

 

Our children cooked a delicious lunch and Madeline; the family pastry chef supplied two scrumptious cakes that were devoured. They roasted and toasted us. They put on a multi-vintage slide show and ran a black and white silent film of our wedding.

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Although the cast of characters has changed, believe me, some things never change. On the day of our anniversary celebration, Marty and I were fighting fierce colds and I refrained from kissing the guests, especially the little ones. April 4th, 1954 was a blustery, cold day. After running around with bare shoulders I was coughing and sneezing in tune with the band.

On the first day of our honeymoon we drove to Macon, Georgia and visited old friends of Marty’s, Bunnie and Vera Godfrey.

After 60 years Vera reminds me of the beautiful onyx tray that I sent them from Mexico. After 60 years I’m still grateful for Vera’s gift of the box of cough drops that saved my life.

 

 

 

Lunching in the Yurt

In 2002, we branched out from poultry husbandry. We were invited by Winrock International, another arm of Aid to International Development, (AID), to consult with members of the “Sheep Breeding / Marketing Cooperatives in Kyrgyzstan, a country in Central Asia.

Aid to International Development, originally “The Four Point Program”, also known as the “Food for Peace Program”, was intended for the U.S. to share it’s “know-how” and help nations develop with technical assistance, especially in agriculture. It was the “fourth” foreign policy objective presented by President Harry S. Truman, in his inaugural address, January 20,1949.

Between June 12 and June 29, 2002, we met with 64 sheep farmers, including five women at four seminars in Osh, formerly part of the old Silk Route, and the Kadamzhay, Alay, and AlaBucka regions. The sheep breeding cooperatives were growing. My husband, Marty, and his family, were among the farmers who established the Central Connecticut Feed Cooperative in Manchester, Connecticut. During the years that we were participants the Coop produced excellent feed and provided other services to the farmers, enabling the members to maximize their profits.

On one occasion, we were invited to a seminar, with lunch following, held in a “Yurt”, not far from Osh. Yurts, prevalent throughout Central Asia, are large round tents covered in animal skins. This yurt was furnished lavishly with beautiful carpets and cushions. I didn’t see other yurts, tents or buildings on the premises. This yurt could not have been a home to all of the families present, but probably housed the family that managed the site. There were cars and pickup trucks. The children were in jeans, tee shirts, sandals or sneakers. The men wore casual western clothes and some men had, cone- shaped, beautifully embroidered woolen hats, peculiar to Kyrgyzstan. The women, according to tradition, were attired in long skirts, and usually had their heads covered. Horses and sheep wandered freely; the mares were fitted with wooden aprons to prevent them from mating while they were lactating. We didn’t try mare’s milk, but were told that fermented mare’s milk was popular amongst the people of Kyrgyzstan, and was available in the market.

We noticed a tree with a dressed lamb hanging on one of the branches, and were informed that this would be our lunch.

During the seminar we were served hot tea, soft drinks and flat bread. There was a dish with something that looked like crushed pineapple, from where I was sitting. I was told that it was butter   made from mare’s milk. I remembered that was how my grandmother’s butter looked right from the churn, before being pressed into blocks.

After the seminar, Marty and I walked around. The lamb was being cooked in a large kettle of boiling water over an open fire. Some of the women were having their lunch in a shed, under a tarp, and asked me to join them. I excused myself, saying that I would have my lunch with the rest of our party so I could take notes for our report. The children were drinking the mare’s milk, which looked like cow’s milk, from bowls.

The word was out that lunch was ready. Marty and I used the “facilities”, and washed our hands in the creek. Before entering the yurt, one of the hosts handed us a towel to dry our hands; the same towel used by each of the participants.

The people in the area sat with crossed legs on the floor, but we were provided with a table and chairs. Each person was given a plate with a beautifully carved chop, a piece of liver, and a slice of meat from a larger cut, which we would use for roasts or stews. The meat was tender and tasty, but like any plain boiled meat, could have used a little horseradish for some zip. The fresh tomatoes and cucumbers that accompanied the lamb were delicious, and we didn’t peel the vegetables or ask how they were washed. After lunch we were joined by several women and enjoyed a lively party.

We offered the guidelines of the Central Connecticut Cooperative to the members of the sheep growing/marketing cooperatives in hope that these suggestions would help the cooperatives expand aid to their farmers.

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Dan, the Man from Thermopolis

If you are motoring to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, in all probability you’ll stop in Thermopolis, a small town, southeast of  the park, for a swim or soak, in the ”World’s Largest Hot Springs,” located in Hot Springs State Park,  where there are two privately owned thermal facilities. We have been visiting Thermopolis for about twenty years, and enjoy swimming in the outdoor pool, where the water is approximately 94 degrees. In the cold of winter, it’s fun to duck in the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair.

It’s hard not to notice Dan Moriarty, part owner and manager, of the Teepee Pools, the facility we prefer.  Dan is not particularly attractive. He’s overweight with a grey beard. He was a former alcoholic and suffered many illnesses. Managing the pool requires knowledge, and is labor intensive. Dan and his crew are out in all kinds of weather to assure that the equipment is functioning. This fall, the roof of the Teepee Pools suffered damage from hurricanes and can’t be repaired until spring. Meanwhile, Dan has been conferring with contractors, state officials, and his partners, about replacing the roof. They decided on using brick red metal paneling that will be both attractive and able to withstand rough weather.

Dan had the habit of greeting us with brash “can you top this” remarks. I wasn’t offended. I’ve known people with harsh demeanors who were good -natured. It is my observation that the bravado is only a mask for a person’s insecurity. Marty and I are fond of Dan. We enjoy getting together for lunch or dinner. He’s intelligent, and is not reluctant to talk about politics. We’ve exchanged many heated discussions. Who else, but Dan, would keep us up to date on the news and gossip of Thermopolis? We can also depend upon Dan for information about good restaurants.

In the locker room at the pool, I overheard some women describing Dan as a womanizer, and disrespectful of the opposite sex. I have the impression that he is the first person a woman, or anybody, would turn to when help was needed. He has often been accompanied by a date, when we went out, and was always considerate. We recently met Dan at a restaurant with several women. He was with the local women’s basketball team and had treated them all to dinner!

Dan would discuss some of the problems caused by customers. There are those who don’t watch their children. There are others who bring small children into the hot tubs, ignoring signs prohibiting children under 14 from using the tubs, citing serious health risks.

One of the most bizarre stories, Dan told, is of George, an older man whom we knew. When he passed away, his wife approached Dan about having a special funeral at the pool, because George loved swimming and spent part of every day there. She suggested bringing George to the pool in his bathing suit, after nine in the evening when the pool is closed. Dan bellowed, ”NO WAY.” We can always count on Dan to entertain us with his stories.

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Say “Ah”

I hate to tell you how much it cost Marty and I to maintain our teeth during the past year. Although we’re not aging, our teeth are. Since we’re too young to have dentures, we’ve opted to have our teeth repaired or replaced. Our son also needs a dental implant and is using our oral surgeon. The Kleins’ have provided both the dentist and the oral surgeon with an annuity. In fact, they each can retire, but they enjoy their work. I appreciate their work too.

Dentists in several countries had the opportunity to serve us. When I was in Tunisia in 1989,  I developed some problems with a wisdom tooth. The Tunisian dentist labored diligently, and saved the tooth. It wasn’t until last year that I had to have that tooth extracted. I recounted the story to my dentist, and mentioned that I felt that American dentists are too quick to extract wisdom teeth.

On our last visit to Bolivia in 1991, my husband had a toothache and was referred to a dentist, who did his training in Argentina. Dr. Jimenez’s facilities were in an old factory or office building which I believe he owned. Jimenez practiced orthodontics as well as general dentistry and the suites for each of these specialties were beautifully decorated. Dr. Jimenez examined Marty’s teeth and the diagnosis was that he needed “rrrroot canal, post, and crown” at “$170.00 dollahs, cash.”  Marty asked him when he could start and he said “Right now!” We brought the payment and noticed that the drawer was full of greenbacks, even though most of the patients probably were not “Gringos.”

The work was completed in about a week’s time because Marty’s appointments were every working day, and sometimes, twice a day. When the crown was ready to be placed, the dental technician, who worked in the same building, joined Jimenez to make sure that the crown fit properly.

Shortly after my husband received his new tooth,  I had a problem with a tooth that he had fixed, and went through the same procedure.

Over the years, when either of us experienced dental problems, Marty suggested that we take a trip to Bolivia and see Dr. Jimenez.

With current airfares, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

With great-grandson Azariah

With great-grandson Azariah