Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Thursday...time for Mama Kat's writing prompt.

So I will write about the challenges of blogging. I'm not really that new to blogging, just newer to blogging consistantly. A couple things that make blogging hard for me are of course, time. Not like just time management but just minutes in a day to have a thought to myself. I like a variety of things so I'm easily distractable. Just about any bright and shiny thing will make me lose my train of thought.
Another challenge for me is consistancy. Being able to put something out there with some kind of regular frequency. I recently blogged about my adventures aboard the USNS Comfort. That was totally eye opening because I seriously tried for 28 days to get something on there everyday. After that experiance I'm pretty sure I either have time to blog my life or to live my life, but rarely both.
My blog began as a medium to showcase portrait photography that I was doing. A place that families could share with their distant family members to go check out their pictures. Unfortunately, I created the name during one of my "cute" phases and no one can remember where to find me.
I'm also challenged by coordinating all of the different links like twitter and facebook and well I don't even choose to do either of those so my blog is a little antiquated. I'm hoping to install "buttons" soon so people can just follow what they are interested in.
And speaking of interest, why would someone choose to read my daily rants? What is appropriate to share? And what would I rather people that plan to stalk me not know?
And of course, writing like any creative process is personal. It's a labor of love and thought and vision. It's like giving birth. It's hard to hear..."You have an ugly child." But it's deafening when you hear nothing at all and nobody comments. Creative people like to hear what you think, they like to know that you are touched in someway. They like to know that you will return. Please don't tell me my "baby" is ugly and have a good day. Check out other prompts at
Thank you! Thank you! for checking out my blog. I hope to see you again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What makes a FAMILY?

Is family limited to persons that share your D.N.A.? Do they have to look a little like you? Have similiar facial features? Share eye color, hair color and a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of the nose? What about common ancestors? In my home "family" is a term used for a loose collection of people that we share our lives with. My daughter age 18 at the time asked me,"Which side of the family is Aunt Mary from?" "Aunt" Mary worked with your grandmother at the bank. "So which side is that?" Some people collect rocks, stamps or boyd's bears, I collect people. Here is a picture of some of my family members aboard the USNS Comfort.
These are my sisters and my closest friends because we shared our living space, this is where we slept and brushed our teeth, rarely at the same time.

THis is my "sister", Kristen. She missed the last day photo shoot, so I wanted to include her in her most natural state. The hours aboard ship could be long if you had evening obligations and early morning muster. I promise this was between patients.

And this is the rest of my "family". Sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts and more than one of them young enough to be my own children. A special shout out to the "curmudgeon" that reminded me of my own brother. He had a really tough exterior, wanted to be hard to crack, but had a heart of gold inside. My other brother who appeared to have his own agenda but he was always there to look out for me. He protected me from things I knew about and probably many that I didn't. ANd of course, some of them so sweet you just wanted to hug the stuffin' out of them. THe best sisters in the world, one that can sing like an angel, one (or more) that can swear like a sailor but all of them kind and caring, supportive. So that's what makes a family. A collection of people that you share something in common with, a period of time, or an experiance. Not entirely perfect, but people you would spend time with again. That's more than I say about people that do share my D.N.A. Hope all is well at sea, my friends.

Monday, June 27, 2011

You are what you eat....

I've recently been studying fitness and nutrition. Okay, so really I bought another workout DVD. I think my evil plot is to spend so much money on workout videos that I can't afford to eat. In any case, If I'm what I eat then...I must be HOT, FAST, CHEAP and GREASY. Go ahead and laugh, I'm going to go to my walk-in closet, curl up in the fetal position and drink pepsi and eat peanut butter M&M's. Hope you are having a fun day too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My summer bucket list...

As part of mama kat's writing prompts at I'm sharing my summer bucket list. Just so you are forwarned I'm an under achiever. The prompt wants me to list 50, this is what I got.
1) Have a moment of bone melting relaxation. This is of course secondary to a really great massage, facial or deep tub bubble bath.
2) Find a large enough hole in my overbooked to lay in the grass and just watch it grow.
3) Spend more time with people that make me smile and giggle. Especially those people that can make me belly laught. I really need a goo ab workout.
4) Sleep in without guilt. Afterall, I do work the night shift.
5) Eat homemade ice cream on a day so hot that it drips out the bottom of the cone and puddles between my bare toes.
6) Run through the sprinklers just because they are on. Then have a contest with my children to determine who can shake the water off just like a dog.
7) Stand in a line with my family and friends and spit watermelon seeds over the backyard fence.
8) Enjoy a week day matinee with my three grandsons. Something bright and colorful with a side dish of buttered popcorn.
9) Wash my face with water heated on the camp stove. That means I have to have been camping somewhere fun.
10) Work hard enough to get dirt under my fingernails and vegetables on my table.
11) Take time to compliment someone for a job well done.
12) Display perfectly pedicured toes in a really great pair of sandals.
13) Sit on my front porch and drown in the scent of honeysuckle while sipping lemonade made from squeezing actual lemons.
14) Accept the person in the mirror that stares back at me. She really is doing the best that she can.
15) Give myself permission to limit my bucket list. More than 15 just sets me up for certain failure. I know my own limitations. May your summer be just as fulfilling and fun as my own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer is FINALLY here....

Welcome Summer! In Utah, we've been experiancing Mother Nature in all her bi-polar glory. Utah is a desert state, we conserve water. We only sprinkle our lawns on alternate days and never during the heat of the day when the water will evaporate. Well, at least that's what we usually do. Now, it's practically more politically correct to leave the water running when you brush your teeth.
Utah is a diverse state that features beautiful red rock canyons and formations in the south  and beautiful high mountain vistas in the north. What we usually don't feature is alot of water. However, this year our snowpack percentages are astronomical. As reported by a local newspaper..Monte Cristo is 1,272% of normal, no that is not a typo. Tony Grove Lake 1,436% above snowpack for this time of the year. Francis Peak one of my closest neighbors is at 2,412%. That is wet for a desert state. For the first time that I can remember, we will even have snow skiing through the fourth of July. Most ski resorts have closed not for lack of snow but out of boredom...been there, done that.
And with the added water comes increased danger when we recreate out of doors. Watch all your little ones and even some of the bigger ones in and around streams. What would normally be a wading pool, with gentle lapping water is now a fast flowing riptide. Enjoy some of my pictures of Utah's water and enjoy the first day of summer. And don't anybody complain that it is too warm.

Friday, June 17, 2011

THAT's going to leave a mark....

So it's not very often that my photo clients get to take advantage of the fact that I'm also a nurse. Let me set up the scenario before I show you the evidence. Matt and Michelle are engaged. They are in love and ask me to take their engagement pictures at a location of their choosing. ( I just want to be clear that none of this is my fault, I am absolutely innocent) The location of their choosing has a large tree that hangs out over a usually small stream. However, in Utah we are experiancing a very wet "desert" event and we have like 300x more water than we should. So imagine cold, pulsating, rapid volume. You know the rest of this story, Matt climbs out on the tree branch over the water, I turn to change cameras, when I turn back I witness him falling the 8 or so feet into the cold, frigid water and SMACKING his forhead on the bank.
Matt was a trooper, he bounced right up out of the water that had soaked him to the knees. (Be kind, don't mention his soaked shoes when you see his engagement announcement.) Fortunately, his head wound didn't bleed or we would've had to reschedule. While I have no doubts that Matt loves Michelle, I think part of the dazed look he is sporting is due to head trauma. So what do you think Matt, should I go over the symptoms of concusion with you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 28; A walking tour.....

And there you have it. My 28 day adventure at sea aboard the USNS Comfort. I will continue after today to post some of my favorite pictures, stories and memories. But today I want to take you on a walking tour from the "for" part of the ship to the "aft".

I've turned from the Bow and will enter the ship headed to the stern. Yes, I'm actually going to climb through that port opening. It's located below the big red cross that you can see in the picture above.

This is the 01 deck, one of only 2 decks aboard the ship that nearly go from the front to the back with limited interruption and zig zagging back and forth. It really is one long passageway.

Past the first set of double doors and still continuing.

Nearly to the exit, then we will turn left and right and continue straight to the back of the ship.

As I boarded my last transfer boat in Peru, I turned and watched the ship get smaller and smaller, trying to burn the image on my retinas. I never want to forget my time aboard the USNS Comfort. It was great to play a small role in something so huge. THank you for joining me on this adventure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 27; Navy Language and Navy showers....

Not THAT kind of language. There were lots of Navy translations that I had to get used too. THings like POD (plan of the day), SMEE (subject matter expert exchange), EBBD (emergency escape breathing device), mess deck (where they feed you) berthing (where you sleep) but the one I found most humorous is SECURED. When I think of security I think of being protected, wrapped in a warm blanket with all of my loving family around. Not so, in the Navy SECURED means something entirely different.
SECURED in the Navy means..."do not enter", "step away or bad things will happen", and "broken, do not use." Any number of things can be "SECURED" aboard the USNS Comfort. THings like washers, as seen here, showers, toilets etc. So should you happen upon a "SECURED" sign, all is not well, you are not protected, you must find another (insert item here) because this one is busted.

These are EBBD's they are everywhere. INside the orange box is an oxygen concentrating hood that will give you 8-10 minutes of oxygen to evacuate the ship, unless of course you get too close to a fire and then it will melt to your face. YEs, there can be dangers in everyday living aboard the ship. I never had to wear a EBBD but the case that hung above my rack dinged my forhead a time or two when I sat up too fast.

As I've had a lot of questions about showers aboard the ship. LEt me instruct you in how to take an NAVY shower. 1. Remove all clothing and enter stall. 2. Turn on water and rotate in a circle 3 times. 3. Turn off water. 4. Apply shampoo to hair and body wash to body in lathering motions. 5. Turn on water and turn yourself around 3 times. 6. Turn off water and assess suds residue. 7. Poke head outside of curtain, if no line is evident. Turn water on one more time and repeat turning yourself around 3 times. However, if line has formed you are done. Therefore, you must rotate slower next time. 8. Wrap self in towel or other cloaking device and return to berthing. You packed alot of wet wipes, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 26; Helicopters and Pelicans

Today, I'm assigned to take blood pressures for the denistry people in La Huaca. But the big bonus is I get to go by helicopter. Yeah! It is a coveted opportunity and I've actually had people offer me money for my seat. Truthfully, it's a little anti-climatic because you are in a five point harness. It's like you have a large thumbtack through your sternum that keeps you pinned to the seat.
We had set up another med op site at Institucion Educative San Jose in La Huaca. This is actually the last day we will be providing services here. I will spend the remaining days of my adventure aboard ship recovering surgical patients. While in La Huaca 2 junior members from the Ministry of Health attached themselves to me and through their broken english and my very minimal spanish we tried to communicate. It was hard work. It made my head hurt. I took a DSLR camera with me. It is unlike most point and shoot cameras as you have to look through the view finder and not at the large screen on the back. You can see that my communication skills were somewhat lacking because one of the ministry of health aides took this picture of myself and the other aid.

Funny, huh? So maybe I should learn more spanish. AFter taking blood pressures I wandered over to pediatric services. We kept the children entertained with coloring books and crayons. They would bring their colored pictures to me and we would teach other language. I would ask them in spanish, Como se dice? and they would tell me in their language either the color they chose or what the actual picture was and I would give them the english word. I had as many as six children at a time crawling in and around me to participate. I also got to sample a local "fruit", maybe it's a vegetable. It's called Huava and it looks like the guts of a cactus spine, it has a spongey consistancy with a light citrus flavor and big seeds/pods throughout.

At the end of the day the school children returned to take back their school. Here are some of the girls in uniform.

A constant view at the pier were the pelicans. The closest pelican was a little leary of me as I walked at the edge of the pier to get a good shot. I would take a couple steps and he would stand and ruffle his feathers, I would stop. As soon as he settled down I would continue my advance. I was very close to the edge and many of the military watching me were anxious that I might go into the water.

You can see one of the pelicans further back took to flight as I approached. Only 2 more days and I return home to the United States.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 25; Escuela Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Piata, Peru

Today, I'll show you one of our med op sites. This is a school for elemetary children in Piata, Peru. They take a week long holiday while we give medical care.
THis is the area where denistry was done. Just wait until you see the exam room. It is very primitive but functional.

OK, so maybe going to my stateside dentist with a comfortable chair, sunglasses so the light doesn't get in my eyes and posters on the ceiling just isn't so bad. If you didn't have dental "fears" before I think this would give you some.
We left the ship early in the morning to make land and transfer to a bus that drove us from the Naval Base to Piata.
There was a big difference in serving in the 2 nations. In Jamaica, the "patients" waited in the chairs and as one patient would leave, they all slid over one chair to get to the head of the line. It was very orderly and they seemed to like the structure. Not so much, with the Peruvians. They were excellent at keeping track of who was next but there was not obvious order involved. If one of them stood up, they all stood up and became a mini riot. With the language barrier and the cultural difference it very much felt like herding cats.

They all loved having their pictures taken, both young and old. It's how we entertained while they waited.

Alot of the way we served was to educate. This is Carlos, a Peruvian native who translated for us and Marianne Kartchner. Marianne taught dental care almost everyday. As you can see Carlos made it fun.

So funny story, while at Corazon I finished up my blood pressures and wandered over to crowd control in the pediatric area. My friend Tassa, asked if I would "help" take the weights of all the children that were waiting to streamline things for the next days clinic. Before I go much further I should tell you that Tassa had a large part in my ending up in the "cage" with the angry Jamaicans. I'm nothing if not gullible. So I start taking weights, before long all the pediatric patients have morphed into all the patients and it's a herding cats nightmare. Notice in the picture that Tassa is nowhere to be seen. Later, I mention to Tassa that one of the infants felt warm to me. She asked if I wanted to take her temperature. Since she was in no distress, I declined because I had learned that meant taking everyone's temperature.

And at the end of the day this is how we reboarded the ship. I had heard all kinds of "stories" about being dropped from the weather deck in lifeboats. I'm happy to report it was not nearly as adventurous as that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 24; Oh no, the stench could be me.....

So I'm going to share some more photos from Peru, as well as a story. You may remember that being aboard the ship is loud. It is hearing loss, awaiting to happen. Every ping, bang, grind vibrates within the metal walls of the ship until it reaches a cacophony of noise. It is really, really LOUD. You can not at anytime here yourself think. So getting off the ship today, I get a 45 minute ride aboard a bus. It is the most comfortable I have been in over 3 weeks. It feels like a heavenly luxury.

I have a whole row all to myself, the padding just envelopes my tired, exhausted bones. It feels so good. There is a little quiet spanish rock radio station being played. No pings, bangs, grinds to assault my ears. I could nearly take a nap except for I want to record all the amazing sights outside the windows. Sights like these...

Crazy forms of transportation. I loved taking pictures of the little motorcycle cabs. They far out number any other form of transportation. And I'm guessing the rules of the road in Peru are if you are bigger you win. I loved seeing the bright colors everywhere. Even at the boat dock where we land....

And my favorite transportation...

No kidding, our tour bus shared the roadway with this mule cart and others like it.
So now for the story. I've mentioned multiple times about the stench of the squid. After returning from girls camp I can put that stench in a little better perspective. Go up in the mountains and find wet bark and kindling, add newspaper, alot of newspaper and other available wood, now light it up with matches. It will take alot of matches, use the whole book at once if you need too. You have just created a smoking odor producer, now stay in close proximity for about 3 days and nights. Now go home and shower and return to the clothing so you can smell a difference. Eww! I know. Now multiply that scent by 100x. You are now close to the stench of squid. After girls camp and laundering my denim, I could still smell smoke. Back to the laundry.
So this is the story. AFter being at the Peruvian Hospital all day, I was so looking forward to the ride back to the Naval Base where I would get to teach "Helping Babies Breathe". I had already seen the scenery so I could maybe get that heavenly 45 minute nap on the so luxurious bus. A different bus greeted us as we departed, but it looked very much the same so I was expecting a few precious moments in dream land. The first row I sat in had gold fish colored cracker crumbs in the seat and the seat did not smell very fresh. So I moved. The second seat I sat it smelt something like a wet dog, or maybe body odor, again not fresh, so I moved. The third seat had me envisioning a not washed human in a wife beater t-shirt on a really hot day somewhere in the south. Again , not fresh, so I moved. Okay, so let's establish that I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer because when I got to the fourth seat, it also had an un-appealing odor. Okay, I give. The one that smells bad is probably me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 23; Toilet Paper is NOT optional....

So this is my first day off the boat in Peru. I have the honor of being part of the group that is teaching at the hospital in Piata, Peru. The hospital used to be a clinic but out of need it grew into a "hospital". Here are some of the sights inside the hospital.

You guessed it! The first picture is the "birthing suite". You and three of your closest friends can share the experiance. Once you are nearly "crowned" you can get off that comfortable (torture device) bed and walk yourself across the hall to deliver your baby in relative privacy. I should mention here that hospital gowns are optional to non-existent and you are usually "full monty" from the waist down as you make the transition. Then after the miracle of birth you and at least five of your closest friends and their new infants and all of their visiting guests can share a room. Can anyone say infection risk? Oh, and if you get hungry. There is not kitchen so hopefully your family loves you enough to pack you a lunch. I'm feeling pretty over-indulged at this point to have delivered each of my four children with only my spouse, a doctor and a nurse in attendance.
Another really interesting discovery I made at the hospital was that there were options to using the bathroom. Any time you left the boat it was a given that if you wanted and/or needed toilet paper you should plan ahead and bring your own. But for the first time I encountered the option of using the stall with the door or the stall with the seat. Having developed amazing quads ascending and descending all the stairs aboard the ship, I opted for the stall with the door.
After teaching in the hospital we returned to the Peruvian Naval Base. Using the facilities there proved to be just about as interesting. Toilet paper in hand, the toilets appeared fairly modern, until you tried to flush. Flushing was a manual process. The big container of water in the center of the room had a floating bucket inside. You scooped out the necessary water and "flushed" by pouring directly into the bowl. Yes, all of this while at fairly modernized, civilized locations.

And that is how I spent my first day in Peru on land. Does it make you feel overly blessed to have modern hospitals with doors and seats? And running water? I know I'm grateful. Tomorrow I'll share some of the local sites to and from the hospital.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 22; When visiting a foreign country it's best to take a guide book...

Being on the USNS Comfort is very much like being on a floating city. All of your needs can be met within the confines of the ship. There is a mess deck, a store (for snacks and essentials like soap), a mail room, a pharmacy and all the other hospital departments as well as a laundry, hair salon, chapel, library and multiple gyms. I'm alot of things but I am not a gym rat. I think my family envisioned all of this extra time I would have and that I could pretend I was on the sea going version of "The Biggest Loser". By Day 22 as we were just gearing up in Peru and so far no surgical patients aboard I finally made my way to one of the gyms. Remember all the stairs? I'm a firm believer if I didn't get a firm tight fanny that way than I will have to wait until I am perfected in the next life. In any case, here is the gym..... and me.
The only time I spent on that machine was posing for this picture. At least I'm honest. In any case I did try an innocent looking treadmill. It had a rounded bottom and as you weight moved, it shifted until you had this huge loping gait. It induced a panic born of absolute fear that it would flip me off and I would embarrass myself. (As if these admissions are not enough) The only way to control it was to stop. It takes a certain amount of "hutspa" to try to run on a treadmill while the horizon pitches to and fro. My hats off to all of you that are successful at it. I formed a slight attachment to a stationary bike, at least I was sitting down. And did I mention all of the stairs? What's your favorite way to work out? Excuse my absense for the next 2 days. No more posts until Thursday, I've gone to Girls Camp. Caio!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 21; About my hair....

So I spent most of the tour aboard the USNS Comfort with my hair in what I refer to as "camping-mode". Camping mode hair is hair that requires very little attention after it is initially groomed. I wore braids, pony tails, french pig-tails, messy buns before settling on an "up-do" french braid. It became my go-to hair of the day. It caused others to comment. Here you can see if from the back.
Some of the comments were less than positive, well at least the ones that "Carl" made about my hair. Carl and I were both serving from the same NGO (non-government organization), we both wore blue shirts. SO in Carl's mind what I did with my hair reflected on him and he would have me believe that my hair was less than pleasing. Trying to one-up Carl I would tell him when someone inquired about where I got my hair done. His response, "Well it's not because they like it. It's like someone asking 'where'd you get the knife wound?' It's not because they want to go there it is because they want to AVOID it."
Really, my hair looked fine and I had no problems with it. On one occassion, Carl was in attendance when my hair was complimented. His response, "well would you tell someone they had an ugly baby to their face?"
This is my hair from the front.... What do you think? Keep in mind that all of the military kept their hair off their shoulders as well. The women usually sported a bun created around a rolled up sock. It's really quite interesting to see one done. I'm thinking Carl was just jealous because I still have all my hair.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 20; Peru, Dolphins and the stench of squid....

      So I was a little geographically uninformed before we pulled into port in Peru. Checking out Peru on the map it appears to have a long stretch of what should be beautiful beach property on the Pacific Ocean. My only vision of Peru includes Machu Pichu with is vibrant green foliage and rainforest. That is NOT coastal Peru. Coastal Peru sits on the ocean where El Nino and La Nina converge switching up the weather patterns. The Coast we visited sees only 2 inches of rainfall a year. It's difficult for me to claim that I come from a desert state as Utah is experiancing all time record water amounts leading to devastating floods and keeping our ski industry open until July. But even though I think I know desert, this is a dry, dry, dry, arid landscape with mostly rocks and very little vegetation.
     As we pulled into port this morning before dawn, I was viewing the coast from the bow of the ship and noticed linear movement in the waters. It rolled and boiled in all directions as far as the eye could see. As the darkness of night began to lift, the fins of hundreds of dolphins became apparent. In the clear water right next to the ship you could make out their swirling forms as they danced a greeting for the USNS Comfort. So we are here in this magical South American country where dolphins are the welcoming committee.  But wait, sniff ... sniff, what else is wafting in the early morning hours from the nearby shore? Something I affectionately called "The Stench of Squid".
Here they are weighing their catch. Even as fishermen, the colors in South America are bright.

This guy has the job I do not want. He is sorting squid. I don't know the criteria, I didn't want to get close enough to find out. Did I mention there is a foul odor associated with this process? Evidently, the squid in this area mature very fast and are huge in 2 years. They are harvested, loaded in large container ships and sent directly to China. Don't kid yourself "calamari" is just a fancy term that means "really stinky, rubbery, unappetizing squid".

I told you they got big, and did I mention that they STINK? The first day in port two things were evident as we climbed from berthing to the mess deck. It was warmer here than it had been in the Panama Canal and the smell got worse the higher you climbed. Remember how I hadn't been seasick yet? It took longer to get used to the smell than to gain my sea legs. So what do you think? In the mood for some yummy sea food?