Thursday, July 30, 2015

Houston - 6

We have been fully focused on Susie's July 6 surgery and then her recovery since we returned to Houston at the first of July, so there has not been much tourist activity.  The surgery was quite successful and she is recovering nicely and we have had visitors the last week.  That provided an opportunity for some extracurricular activity.

Mike, his wife, Karen, and son, Jason, came to see us last weekend and daughter-in-law, Suzy Hinkle, came to help do Susie-care and to provide me some time off to be with Mike and family.

Friday morning (7/24) 'the kids' came to the apartment.  We had a good visit, then they and I spent most of at the rest of the day at the Johnson Space Center, NASA.  Here is an exhibit that is in development: one of the retired space shuttles atop its carrier plane.  When the exhibit is completed, visitors will be able to enter both aircraft.

We took two tram tours.  One stop was the rocket park including the rocket used to launch shuttles into space.  It's HUGE, as I'm sure you know. 

Even though the US has turned over Space Station flights to private enterprise and other countries, space research and exploration is still very much a part of the Center.  Main focus now is the Orion Project, for flights to Deep Space, including Mars.  Sign up your so-inclined grandchildren now.  Another stop we made was the building in which the Orion and other space vehicles are being developed and where Space Station modules are developed and used for training.

Here's one shuttle crew photo I came across on our tour. The lower right astronaut is friend, Susan Helms, daughter of friends, Dori and Pat Helms, formerly from Albuquerque, now living in Colorado.  Susan's Wikipedia page says she spent 211 days in space, over five missions, including a lengthy stay at the International Space Station.  More details about her NASA and AF careers at the Wikipedia link. 

Here's a model of a shuttle and launch vehicle.

In case you were wondering, it was a very hot day -- 'feels like' 100+ degrees, they say, every day. The Center's headquarters had some nice exhibits and videos plus food, water, and air conditioning.

Saturday we toured the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  Lots of interesting things there, from dinosaurs to Egyptian mummies -- and much more.  If you're ever in Houston, ...

Here's the family and the museum.

Speaking of museums, earlier in the month I visited the Houston Fire Museum.  It's a small, sort of funky museum, located in an old fire station, and has some vintage fire engines on display. 

Here's a poster honoring firemen who died in the line of duty - a sobering reminder of what first responders do for us.

Mike and family flew home early Sunday.  Later Sunday morning, my sister, Connie, and husband, Tom, from Edmond, OK, used their annual anniversary trip to come by for a visit.  Coming to Houston had two purposes - to visit Tom's sister who lives here, and to visit us. 

We had a very nice visit, plus lunch, and that capped our busy weekend.  For some reason, I thought it might be interesting to take their picture in our parking garage.  The garage's speed bumps, like the one behind Tom, are horrors for Susie  - even though I creep over them.  Not good for one healing from major abdominal surgery.  You can't creep on Houston streets, so they are a real pain.

Suzy (Hinkle, not to be confused with Susie Easterling) was a real blessing.  She fixed meals, prepared food for future meals, organized and recorded Susie's pill-taking, wrote up menus for me (Ha, how about Panera Bread? Schlotzky's? Subway? ...), took Susie on walks, entertained her, did the laundry, and in general filled all the gaps.  And she did things that I didn't even know were gaps while I was running around with Mike, Karen, and Jason. Here's a picture of Suzy taken at the family dinner we had down here before Susie's surgery:

I'll close with this picture that Suzy took of us awaiting the return of our car by the MDA valet service.

One more thing.  A copy of my book was delivered here last week.  Here's the publisher's link.  Available there or at Amazon.  Tell all your friends.

I came across an online article today concerning the claim, "Studies show ...." that are used to justify various programs and actions.  Problem is, some of those studies are poorly designed and the data misleadingly analyzed and not very supportive of the claims made.  My book will fix that, humbly I claim.  Send one to your congressperson.

Until next time,

Susie and Rob

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What We Did On Our Vacation

Dear Family and Friends:

We're Ba-a-ck!

After Susie finished her series of 10 radiation/chemo treatments the second week of May, she was given a "vacation" of about seven weeks to get prepared for Whipple surgery on her pancreas and other nearby organs, the surgery scheduled for July 6.  That break got a rough start just after we got back to Cedar Crest when the continued treatment side effects of nausea and general discomfort prevented us from driving to Alamosa, CO, for grandson Andrew's college graduation the first weekend home.  The next several weekends, though, we got in a lot of time with family and friends.

Andrew is engaged to Amy, who, coincidentally, went to the same HS and graduated from the same college as Andrew.  Her parents threw a combination graduation/engagement party for the happy couple the weekend after graduation.  His parents, Matt and Suzy Hinkle, and siblings, Tony and Kaci, were all there for the festivities.  Some scenes:

Susie and the three grandchildren.

Uncle Jeff and Aunt Valerie, left, came from Clovis, NM for the party.

The next weekend we made a quick trip to Las Vegas to see the grand-twins and their parents.  Flew over Friday, home Sunday.  Thank you Southwest Airlines (bags and parents still fly free).  Thank you, Mandi Sue!

It's hard to get the twins' pictures - they are always in motion - but here are a couple.  Landon and Julian, not necessarily in that order.

Julian has a thing for me.  For weeks after our visit, whenever someone rang the doorbell, the boys would run to the door, but Julian would be heartbroken when I wasn't there.  "Where's Grandpa?" he would cry.  Aaaaaahh!.

The next weekend son Jeff Easterling, drove down from Highlands Ranch, CO, with daughters Malia and Macy.  Some scenes:

We took the tramway to Sandia Crest, hiked in our subdivision, went to Cliff's Amusement Park where we rode one of the roller coasters over and over and over and ...., and ate in one of Jeff's favorite Mexican restaurants.

We also visited Tinkertown, on our side of the mountain.  Tinkertown features an amazing, eclectic collection of animated circus scenes, a boat that the Tinkertown creator sailed around the world, and lots of other stuff, including walls built of bottles and cement.  A sign says, "This is what Ross was doing while you watched TV."  Guilty, as charged.  For the young'uns they have a treasure hunt to find various items and the girls enjoyed that.

In the midst of all this, Susie spent some quality time with Gay Blech, one of her school-teaching best buddies.

Gay, and husband Dusty, have been spending their retirement years tandem and solo bicycling all over North America - in Canada, I believe, as this is written.

I should also add that on our second Sunday at home we attended both of our "home" churches - very important foundations of our support team - to thank them for all their support.

It was certainly good to be home in the mountains.  As part of Susie's fitness program we often did the one-mile round-trip walk to the mail and newspaper boxes. 

It's been a good spring in Cedar Crest for flowers and grass, too.

Returning to Houston, we traveled via the Oklahoma City area where my sisters, Connie and Verla, and assorted nephews and nieces and their offspring reside.  Got to the area about noon on Saturday, June 27.   I drove to Verla's, to help her clean her swimming pool, but she had a better idea.  Byron Berline, world-renowned fiddle player, was having a jam session in his music store in Guthrie.  Verla has been and is a volunteer worker on Berline's annual bluegrass festival, and has become a good friend of his.   Here's the scene, from Verla's facebook page.

That's Byron, in the blue shirt, facing me.  They wrapped up the session with my request, Faded Love

Sunday afternoon Connie and Tom had a family gathering at their house.  Five of their six sons were there, with spouses and grandchildren.  One of Verla's two sons was there.  A fine time was had by all.

In case you're wondering, I haven't done any cropping or editing of these pictures.  It's all I can do to get most of them from iPhone to PC laptop.

I'll single out one couple: nephew Marcus and his wife, LeeAnn.  They were in NM a couple of weeks before and spent a pleasant day with us.

We left OKC on Monday and timed it so that we could have lunch with Kay and Jim Collins, Albuquerque friends now living in Frisco, TX. Got to Houston late Tuesday morning and have been busily settling in since then. 

We'll be in touch.

Susie and Rob