Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

2007 draws to a close. Another year has passed, another year will arrive. This is my time to look back and to acknowledge the many blessings in my life. Gratitude and thanksgiving underscore my thoughts today as I look ahead to the unfolding of more days, weeks, and hopefully years when opportunities abound for living with intention and passion.

On this, the last day of 2007, I am grateful for.....

Living each day.

For best friend Denny, my two beloved children, my fragile yet loving parents, my sister and brother who live the good times and the hard alongside me, and my wonderful extended family both near and far.

For dear the treasured confidantes both near and far who continue to bring laughter, connection, joy and enlightenment to my life. You know who you are and you are precious to me.

For my health.

For my work.... in which I have finally achieved some balance.

For diversions of all types; great food, drink, outings, natural beauty, pets, blogging, reading, meditation, writing, dreaming, and sleeping.

For my newly found creative energy.

For the challenges ahead.

And lastly, I am grateful for the end of an era of silence, where truth overcomes the power of destructive secrets. Were it not for the four who stand with me, lifting me with the strength of eagle's wings to soar with the healing winds, there would never have been the first tender step. I am eternally grateful and blessed to be surrounded by your collective love and support of me on the journey I must make.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Red Dress

What do Women Want?
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress,
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their cafe, past the Gurerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddammned
dress they bury me in.

This is one of my favorite poems; it captures precisely the magic of owning and wearing a red dress. In my wardrobe I have quite a few red sweaters, shirts and tops which I pair with black pants and skirts, especially during the December holidays. But, I have only one red dress and I have worn that dress to only one event. There are many times that I think about my red dress and want to put it on, just to take out the garbage or to clean the house and maybe to wear to another big event in my life. But, I don't. I'm hoping that I will do so and not worry that it may show too much skin or be a dress designed for a woman half my age. I want 2008 to be a year when that glorious red dress and I march into the storm and are victorious.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Feline Stand Off

This shot was taken last week of our cat facing off with his arch rival through the glass at our back door. This is a scene we witness frequently. Sometimes we give in to temptation, open the door, and let the cat out to chase (or fight...we are "bad") his sometimes playful friend and other times his enemy. We never quite know for sure what the dance of the day will be.

Our cat we inherited from Jeanne and Dan last summer; his official name is "Boo" but we call him "Boo Raton" and sometimes "Boo Raton Katon" whatever that means. His unknown rival is a fierce opponent and we call him "Pinhead" or ofttimes the "Felon". Both are equally descriptive of his appearance and persistence. We know not where he comes from but I suspect he belongs to someone as he is well fed and fierce.

These beasts delight us and allow us into another world, away from the challenges of being human.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas has come and gone. The day was intense, emotional, and at times frenetic but nonetheless sweet. We started the day as a nuclear family around our Christmas tree, adorned with signs of Santa's visit; the balloons. I think we are the only hold out on this very old tradition from the Bain side of the family. The tree is decorated with balloons of all colors late on Christmas Eve. I've always enjoyed the new look it gives the tree and the balloons are surprisingly un-tacky. Truly. The tradition came from my Grandmother Bain's family; decorative ornaments were so expensive but balloons were not. In our family we believe the balloons are left by Santa Claus as a magical sign of his visit. At least that's what we told the kids many years ago. Now that they're older that actually help us blow the balloons before the stroke of midnight. Then, they are off to bed.

In past years the Christmas tree skirt was overloaded with gifts, spilling over onto the rug with the larger toys left unwrapped and waiting for eager, energetic children early on Christmas morning. Gift giving is more spare these days when checks and gift cards fit into small envelopes. We don't get out of bed quite as early either. Times have changed but we still have packages to open and enjoy taking turns opening our gifts. This year Chris and Denny put a lot of their unwrapped loot on the table with the Christmas creche figurines. The odd juxtaposition of the secular with the sacred aspects of the holiday warranted this shot of coffee mug, Seinfeld DVDs, a car compass, and bottle of champagne jammed in with the three kings, shepherd and camel.

The family gathering at the Arapahoe house with four generations in attendance mid afternoon on December 25th was festive and memorable but also bittersweet. Ranging in age from the extremes of almost 1 to almost 91 years of age, the group of 18 enjoyed each other's company and a tasty meal to celebrate the season of hope. My favorite memories are of Dad asking Chris to say grace before our meal, listening to Chris's prayer, loading up plates of great tasting food for Mom and Dad at the buffet table, watching flakes of snow fall outside the deck doors, serving up the famous Christmas pudding with foamy yellow sauce, and simply participating in the delicate family dynamic over our two hour gathering.

The pudding, so tenderly assembled in October by MM, Mary, Q and I and stirred by family and friends all over the Seattle area, was steamed to perfection on Christmas Day, plated on a festive ceramic platter, ladled with warmed 151 proof rum and set aflame. The dramatic show captured the collective wishes, hopes, and dreams of all us gathered around the table and launched them all into the far reaches of what I call the "mystery and magic" of the season.

These times are special. But, they aren't necessarily easy. Tradition and respect for the joy in knowing that we are all connected one to another brings us together once again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Lago Colony

Those of us from Aruba know this image well; the refinery lit up at Christmas time with lights in the shape of tree.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Messiah

In the days leading up to Christmas I start listening to my 3 CD collection of Handel's Messiah, especially the first disc. And then, I start thinking about my mother.

Doris Bain Thompson is a musician, having excelled as a soprano soloist as well as a choral conductor. She sang Rejoice Greatly O Daughter of Zion from Handel's Messiah for her graduate recital and tells that she was asked to sing the piece twice, an encore performance, because the first time around was so breathtakingly beautiful. I often wish that technology then was what it is today; we have no recording of her singing and I am left to imagine.

Years later, in her many Christmas concerts performed in Aruba, she literally pulled the vocal talent out the choir members with challenging pieces, like the chorus And The Glory of the Lord, also from the Messiah. We have old tapes of many of these concerts and invariably if I listen to them I feel the tears well up as I hear the individual voices (especially Dad's), come through. Many years I can't listen to them and this year is one of them. Emotions are running heavy just now. Mom always found And the Glory of the Lord to be a vigorous piece to conduct, with timing being everything as she brought in the voices of the vocal ranges at just the right second. She always noted that by the end of this piece, the sweat was flowing down the back of her neck. And now, listening carefully to And the Glory of the Lord, I understand why. I sang in at least two of Mom's Christmas choirs and am grateful to have had the opportunity.

On this Christmas Eve, let us remember that "the glory of the Lord shall be reveal-ed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

Merry Christmas! Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on Earth. Goodwill to Wo(men).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Tree

A thirty foot, mature and absolutely gorgeous evergreen once graced the space between our front yard and the neighbor's driveway to the south. Not only did the forest green branches hide the view of her concrete drive, the gorgeous wall of lush color and texture was the best type of property line. The only problem was, the trunk of this beauty belonged to the neighbor and one year she decided the tree had to go; "a messy tree that drops too many needles". I learned that tears, cajoling, bribing, and begging were tactics that just didn't work to change the inevitable. To her credit, she warned me weeks ahead of time and allowed that perhaps the heads up would let the news "settle" a bit. I remember going outside in the dark and cold fall air the night before the tree was due for execution, wailing at the fates, embracing the branches, and grieving. To this day I will never foget the beauty that was.

It was December of 2000 and Mom and Dad, well aware of all the angst in my heart and just as outraged by the unnecessary felling of this tree, decided to gift our family with a replacement, a small evergreen they purchased at Swanson's nursery. We planted the tree just feet from the trunk of the orginal tree but clearly on our side of the property line. I remember feeling that although this tiny tree would never replace the gentle giant, another living beauty planted there would one day ease the pain of a bitter loss. We never anticipated how this young pine would flourish; just the right amount of light and water apparently because each year this tree sprouts out with new branches, young and green with life, and lifts skyward another few feet. What once began as a four foot pine is now well over 15 feet tall.

The neighbor promised to plant new shrubbery to make the bald and scraggly area look better but despite all efforts, her gardener could never get the plantings to take hold; they all died, including a desolate evergreen that turned brown over a warm summer. I had to chuckle inside for there was nothing else for me to say or do other than watch our healthy youngster thrive and grow solidly.

This year I dressed the lower branches of our lofty pine with unbreakable simple ornaments in silver and purple, taking care to secure them to the branches so that wind and rain would not have their way with them. I must say, the tree looks lovely all dressed for the holidays. This is my Christmas tree, a living testimony to the power of survival and healing. May you grow into rich expansiveness and envelop us in your beauty.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bye Bye "Connie"

For some reason, it's always tough for me to let go of a car. I'm attached to the memories; the good times, the adventures, even the rough spots which in this case are significant. I remember the thrill of the "new car smell" driving out of the dealership, the pang of the first fender-bender, and the day I surrendered the keys to my teenage son and daughter and let them take the wheel while I pressed vigorously on the "invisible brake". Today a truck will pull up to the house and tow away my silver Ford Contour. I've donated the car to the National Kidney Foundation and it will be fixed up (I hope) and sold to a new owner or used for parts, whatever the need may be. The profits will be put to good use in the care of persons afflicted with chronic kidney disease so the donation is certainly for a good cause. The last thing we need around here is a car that is not being used taking up precious room in front of our house. I should be glad to see it go.

But, honestly, I'm sad to say goodbye to this car despite its shady history. This is the vehicle that carried me thousands of miles to and from work, on vacations, errands, expeditions, and outings for the last nine years. Aside from the the first few golden years, it has not been a very good car; terminally plagued with myriad issues including a pesky "check engine" light that never extinguished even when the best mechanics tried to diagnose the problem. And worse, over the last few years, the car displayed an annoying tendency to stall out erratically when braking; an unpredictable event occurring up to half a dozen times a day and then not again for weeks or even months. Just when I was convinced the problem had fixed itself, the misbehavior started anew. Despite the several thousand dollars expended trying to fix this vexing problem, nothing worked for long. Last month I finally realized that I was going to get in wreck if I kept driving this car; rear-ended at a minimum with a stall out in heavy traffic. I haven't allowed my children to drive this car for over two years because of its unreliable habits. The car has to go despite the modest 51,000 miles on the odometer. I only hope someone can finally fix it and drive it safely.

Yesterday I emptied the vehicle of "things"; an old umbrella, a kite, wadded up receipts, loose change, pens, and the garage door remote. I'm comforted to know that even though the car will be gone soon, the memories of the many important conversations, light-hearted laughs, and tense arguments that took place in that car, not to mention all the creative thoughts that bubbled up in my mind while driving belong to me forever. Nonetheless, I will miss Connie, the name Miss Laura gave to this silver bird when she assumed the wheel as a novice driver at age 16.

Bye Bye Connie Contour. Thanks for the ride.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Birds on a Wire

Ok, ok...I am at it again; reading significance into images. Stopped at a red light this morning after taking Laura to work, I saw these birds on the power lines. There are 10 birds, 9 are together and one is farther on down the line. I'm glad I had my camera handy and even happpier that the photograph really "tells". The bird below the traffic light cross bar is holding down the "empty chair", the symbol honored in Covenant Group meetings.

Yesterday after my post about the "Group of 9", I sent an email to my Covenant Group family to share with them my blog site address. I'm a bit nervous about it but in the spirit of openness, honesty and exploration, I did it anyway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Group of 9

Covenant Group meets twice a month; 9 of us spend two hours together discussing a topic of interest. Tonight was the final meeting for this calendar year and we celebrated the season with sparkling wine, cheeses, crackers, and chocolate treats in addition to the traditional lighting of the chalice, "checking in", discussing the topic of "Enlightenment", and then briefly "checking out". The flow of these evenings follows a specific format, an agenda perhaps. "Checking in" is the opportunity to share before the meeting anything that is going on in our lives that we we care to offer to the group. The individual sharing might take less than a minute or might go on for several. Here is where I begin to freeze up; having so many potential things to say that by the time it is my turn I am overwhelmed with a combination of self-doubt, shyness, anxiety, and a healthy dose of "who would ever care anyway?". I realize that this is my perception in the moment and bears no relation to reality but nonetheless I feel powerless to resist the urge to clam up and say little to nothing. And then, that state of mind carries over into the topic for the evening as I listen intently to what others are saying, nodding my head, adding a yes/no in affirmation to someone's truth but rarely offering any of my own thoughts. As for "check out", I still come up short and the last two meetings have offered single words or phrases like "namaste" and "success is the quality of the journey". Sounds like b.s. to me as I write this.

Where am I going with this?

I have always been the shy, reserved one....way back to the beginning of time whenever I'm in a group setting. I remember seeing a photograph of myself at age 4 or 5 at a birthday party in Aruba, standing by the side of the garage holding a stuffed animal. I assume (and perhaps remember) that everyone else was running about, playing games and interacting. What in the world was I thinking about as I stood there watching? In high school I was told that my lack of verbal participation in groups made others think I was judging them and made them feel uncomfortable around me. I've always been quiet in class; at St. Stephen's my Spanish teacher did all he could to get me to converse but to no avail; talking in English was hard enough. To this day, I read and understand Spanish fairly well but am mute when it comes to speaking.

How does a person like this go into a field where verbal communication is a fundamental prerequisite for success? Easy. Communication is almost always one-on-on in medicine; occasionally not but almost always. I feel quite confidant, comfortable, and function at a very high level in these settings. But, get me in a group larger than about 5 and I'm going to freeze unless I'm in charge. I'll rise to the occasion in that case and for a brief time become someone else, play-act, and put on a show. That's what happens when I have to give a presentation, a lecture or the like. I've overcome the fear of public speaking but will do almost anything these days to get out of it because I've done it enough already and have put in my time. Forever, I hope.

Old habits die hard and I'm not even sure I want this old way of being to change much. This trait is so embedded in the person that I am that I must ask if struggling to be any other way is worth it. I think not. Which brings me back to Covenant long can I continue to participate and remain so quiet? It certainly doesn't seem fair to the group and continues to stir up anxieties in me. Yet, I feel invested in continuing; something draws me like a moth to a flame to these wonderful, genuine and nurturing people. Out of their mouths comes poetry. I wish I could speak my poetry but perhaps mine comes out on the page.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Personal Dictionary

I've decided to create a new category of blog posts....."Dictionary". There are so many words that we've "invented" over the years; some of them are legitimate words or phrases but with new meanings and some are words we have created, our own family language perhaps. I believe that most of these terms derive from my messed up mind and have therefore populated the vocabulary of my nuclear family. I'll take the credit and the heat for the craziness. But, Miss Laura is not far behind.

Dictionary posts will define these words/phrases to the best of my ability with examples of how they are used in common, everyday communication in this family. Sometimes they spill over into the extended family but most of the time they remain the domain of the four of us: Denny, Kate, Chris and Laura. They are fabulous (in my opinion) and so they are fodder for the creative. It may get you thinking about what new words you've created over the years that aren't in the dictionary.

Ever heard of a "keek"?
What are the other meanings associated with the term "short out"?
"Geeze out"?
Getting "balded"?
Being plagued by "konks"?

I know Laura is following in my footsteps, especially with her famous work on the word "beast". Although a noun in the conventional sense, it is at once an adjective (Laura's addition) and a verb (my work). This is the beauty of it all; words becoming all they can be in the infinite, ofttimes playful language that we all create from the mother tongue.

Too heady for you? Relax. Let's explore.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Indulging in the Ribald

These days it seems possible to find almost anything you want on the Internet if you spend a bit of time searching. This continues to amaze me and in this case makes me feel less like a freak for finding just what I was seeking last night on YouTube. I take comfort in knowing that someone other than Denny and I find this clip from the mostly dumb 1987 flick Dragnet, with Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks (wow, he looks young), as raucously funny as we do. This is my indulgence in the ribald, a word I recently re-discovered and which applies perfectly to this scene where agents Joe Friday and Pep Streebek interview a witness at the front door of her home. Played by the late actress Kathleen Freeman (1919-2001), she portrays a feisty, outrageously hilarious landlady who has been wronged by her former tenant and villain Emil Muzz.

If you are courageous and don't mind raucous (and ribald) language, check out this YouTube clip that explains all. This scene never fails to make me howl with laughter and if there comes a time when it doesn't, I'll be ready to cash it in.

This post is quite a contrast to my usual but it's just another facet of the authentic me. Mom always says I didn't learn this language at home and she's right. Although she thinks I learned it from my husband, that's not exactly true either. What is true is that quite a few of these quotes from the clip appear in the everyday banter between Denny and me; we've collected a number of them over the years and I'll just leave it at that. Ha!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I can't get away from this imagery. I see it everywhere and wonder what it all means.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Anniversary Roses

Here they are; 5 reds and a white.....the pattern to be savored in this moment but never to be repeated. We are always moving forward.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

30 Years Together

On December 10, 1977 Denny and I were married in St. Phillip Presbyterian Church in Houston. I have an invitation to the wedding that sits in a silver frame on my desk and although I rarely pick it up, much less study it, today I have done so. It reads....

Mr. and Mrs. Dean Vincent Thompson
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Catherine Shirley
Mr. Dennis Patrick Maher
on Saturday, the tenth of December
Nineteen hundred and seventy-seven
at four o’clock
Saint Philip Presbyterian Church
Houston, Texas

Reception following
Six Shadowlawn Circle

Denny and I will celebrate today, a day early; we have dinner plans for tonight. Tomorrow, on the actual day, I can expect the roses which mark the day. The number and color combination of these roses is an unrepeated sequence, each unique and a tradition that has held firm for each of these 30 years. I carried red roses at my wedding; a choice which I thought was a beautiful contrast to my wedding dress and the forest green dresses of my two bridesmaids (MMH and MBJ) and the rich earth brown of the men's tuxedos.

Each year, Denny has honored our years together by marking the occasion with a red rose, one for each year together. When we arrived at 25 years a white rose became the symbol for a quarter century. After the prior year's enormous showing of 24 red roses, the single white rose was pause for deep consideration; we had made a long journey together. Since then it has been the white rose and red roses, each red counting for another year. This year I will enjoy a single white rose and 5 red roses; a luscious half dozen. If we are fortunate to make it to 49 years of marriage; there will be a single white rose and another 24 red roses. We haven't decided if 50 years merits a new color rose; I suspect not because red and white are our colors (and roses don't come naturally in brown or forest green). I would love to see two white roses standing tall; certainly by that time we will both have white hair ourselves.

Because I've inherited a bit of the mathematician from Dad, today I counted up all the roses I've received on the 30 anniversaries. As of this year, there have been 321; 315 red and 6 white. I don't have the courage to figure out what the statistics will be at year 50 but if we are privileged to make it that far, I will undoubtedly do the calculation.

But clearly, anniversaries are much more than roses or dinners out. They are more than the two gorgeous rings that came my way on our 13th and 25th anniversaries. They are more than the sweetness of one anniversary (maybe our 19th or 20th) when after dinner we opened a bottle of wine that we had saved since the early 1980's, wondering if it was really going to live up to the promise that good reds mature with age. We weren't disappointed.

Anniversaries to me are mini-celebrations that when strung together, year after year, and honored with a healthy dose of compassion and and forgiveness, form the glue that keeps us moving forward. I was asked by someone earlier this week what the "secret" was to 30 years. It didn't take me long to say "laughter". In order to laugh with one's partner, there must be shared compassion and forgiveness.

To Denny; I love you.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Birthday Lunch at Mike's

Today is Denny's birthday. We've both been home today; he mostly studying for finals which start next week and me, enjoying a day off from work. Denny was quite clear; no cake or fancy dinner plans this year. All he wanted was to eat lunch at Mike's Chili Parlor in Ballard. We've driven by this place hundreds of times but have never been in to eat until this fall. Denny says it's his kind of place; low keyed with stick to your ribs food and a definite "eat heavy" attitude. Chris was able to join us today and we really had a great time gorging on not-so-good-for-you-but-oh-so-tasty food in an atmosphere that lives up to the restaurant's recent feature on the Food Channel's, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. This place has been in business for 80 years and after our experience today, I can understand why. It's just honest, tasty grub in a no-frills atmosphere. One meal there and it'll last all day I feel certain.

Check out this menu and the items we ordered. As you can see, abuse is free and a grilled cheese goes for $54.25. It's all about the chili obviously.
Chili Cheese Fries

Chili Dog Chili Burger

Kind of all looks the same, doesn't it? Don't ask if we cleaned our plates. I'll let you guess. Happy Birthday Denny!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Stairway to Heaven

I think I'll do almost anything to avoid thinking about the holidays (see post from yesterday). Today as I was reading the "news" on my web homepage there was an article about Led Zeppelin's upcoming reunion concert in London on December 10. Apparently their most famous "Stairway to Heaven" piece is highly controversial. People struggle with the lyrics and LZ singer Robert Plant seemingly has a love-hate relationship with the song. Will the group perform their most beloved piece at the concert? Most say yes.

Why do I care? I don't really; just reading the article got me thinking about Stairway to Heaven again. I'm not a person who ever gets into lyrics much. I'm far more mesmerized by the tune, the beat, and the rhythm of songs. Lately, however, I've been reading lyrics of some of my old favorites and am struck by the ambiguities. These are complex pieces and they raise questions of interpretation. After more exploration, I found the above photo and full eight minute recording of Stairway on YouTube.

I'm listening now and really hearing the lyrics. And, I'm going back, way back in time to the fall of 1973 as a sophomore in college, madly in love with a guy named Kenny (can't even remember his last name now...scandalous). We were dancing to this tune, first slow and as the tempo increased faster and faster. All I knew was that this guy was great and our relationship was just beginning. I will always associate this song with that evening though I've heard it countless times since and already three times today. Funny how these associations come to us and stick like glue. Dancing to Stairway may have been the peak of our relationship; as I recall it was a gradual downhill from there until the day he told me he wasn't interested in the relationship anymore. Harsh.

As for the lyrics, I haven't a clue what they mean although I like the imagery of the stairway to heaven that "lies on the whispering wind". Who is the May Queen and who is that pesky piper who is calling us to join him?

***Sipping wine with Denny this evening, I shared the content of this blog with him and he told me that he also loves Stairway and that it was the LAST song played in the operating room as he finished his final surgical case in June of 1999; his request! Wow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hanging onto November may be December but I am in total denial about the season. The music, the lights, the holiday decorations, selecting and (worse yet) decorating the Christmas tree....well, I'm putting it off as long as possible. Call me the Grinch this year. It's just that things feel so rushed and I feel manipulated by the endless reminders that there are only so many shopping days until Christmas. It seems we barely got the kids off to school this fall before the assault of Halloween candy and spooky decorations started. And once October bit the dust, the onslaught of Christmas ads on TV and fat newspapers stuffed with inserts proclaiming huge holiday sales was everywhere before we could even sink our teeth into Thanksgiving. The intensity ramped up exponentially once Turkey Day passed and now we are truly in the thick of it. I'm resisting as long as I can. I still have my lone pumpkin outside the front door, my dining room tablecloth is a luscious rust color and the candles in the shape of fall leaves still sit on the windowsill.

If it weren't for a husband and two children who would never, ever permit a break with tradition, I'd beg for a cabin on the coast or in the woods, with a wood burning fireplace, lots of good food (and my family of course) celebrating the season in a simple way. No gifts required. No fanfare, tension, or stress about fulfilling some visual of the "perfect Christmas". Instead I long for quiet, peace, and thanksgiving for the blessings in our lives and a commitment to honor ourselves, our loved ones, our community and our world as we ease into 2008. I think we've lost touch with the beauty of these few weeks in December and that makes me sad. Outside forces are telling us how to feel, what to do, and how to be.

What's the matter with me? Hopefully the spark will ignite for me soon. There are three people in this house counting on lots of "Ho Ho Ho" this season. Thank goodness none of them reads this blog regularly; otherwise they'd say that "Mom is up to her old tricks". Bah Humbug.....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Life in Perspective

All of us live with challenges, obstacles, hassles, and irritations. It's just that some days contain more than we think we can handle; and yet....handle what's coming our way, we do. Today has been busy for me; a particularly active weekend day at the hospital with the beeper hardly ever quiet, unending requests, questions, and needs for input, decisions, and advice. I finally left the hospital around 2 PM and headed to get "stuff" for Mom and Dad. Batteries for their TV remote, beer and chocolate Ensure for Dad, various toiletries for Mom and a couple of prescriptions from the drugstore. It was raining and blowing mightily when I pulled into the parking lot by Bartell Drug and Metropolitan Market. Around that time my pager started going off every few minutes. Trying to multi-task, I continued making purchases while trying to talk softly into the cell phone about and with patients with miserable complaints and concerns. By the time I had all my purchases in the back end of my car, my cell phone had pooped out and I was wet, cold, and edgy.

Ahhhhh. And, now on to Mom and Dad's apartment with all the loot, stuffed into flimsy plastic bags and heavy as lead only to walk in to Mom's newly created "list" which included three items which I had not purchased and which (apparently) are needed. Trying not to lose it, I had to breathe....just breathe. I truly cannot fathom how many paper and cleaning products they use and how many chocolate drinks Dad consumes. I feel like I'd best get to Costco and buy in bulk to reduce the number of trips and the costs. If only I could get supremely organized and make one trip a week but somehow, I just can't get there. But why should I expect this? I can't even get this organized with my own shopping lists.

And then, I started talking with Carol Ann, the caregiver on duty with Mom this afternoon. She shared with me that she'd had to request a shorter shift today because "I've got 7 month old triplets at home and two are sick today and I've got to get home to help my husband". Not only does she have triplets but she has 2 other children and 2 stepchildren; a total of seven kids at home. It was clear to me right then that my moaning about having to buy dish detergent, toilet paper, and Kleenex after having just come from an outing to the store was ludicrous. I would not change places with this woman for anything; bless her heart. She has far bigger worries and concerns than I. And so it is that I am now at home on this blustery, cold evening able to write my blog and sit in a quiet house with little else to do except answer my beeper and keep close to the telephone. This seems so easy; compared.

Friday, November 30, 2007

View from the Top

This view of ocean and rugged coast is taken from Colorado Point looking east. When I think of Aruba, this is an image etched into my soul. Years ago there was an old abandoned concrete structure on the east side of Colorado Point that was partially broken down such that the slab and the back wall were all that remained. Surrounded by cactus and "seven day itch" plants, hiking out to this point through the scrub, dodging inhospitable vegetation and negotiating the uneven terrain was a challenge. But my friend Roberta and I fearlessly made this journey many times, occasionally in flip flops (dumb). We would take drawing pads and a box of pastels, the goal being to capture this magnificent view on paper. I still have some of these attempts at "art". I remember being fascinated by the way the waves crashed against the rock ledge, lifting salt spray and foam high into the air, only to be sucked back into the ocean again and again. Although I could never successfully capture what I was seeing, the time spent was peaceful and absorbing as I created my visual interpretation of the energy and beauty of what we witnessed. Partially shaded by the upright portion of this mostly open air structure, we would sit for hours, chatting, listening to the lizards scurry through the underbrush, feeling the gusts of warm breeze, watching the waves pound the coastline, and sketching.

I remember feeling unencumbered and free. As a young teenager, I knew little else. Sitting with a friend on Colorado Point, at the top of my world; what else to feel but joy and ease? My world was right. Even then I appreciated the chance to sit in the midst of nature and to share with someone else the awe of just being "out there".

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Turning Resistance into Acceptance


There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

by Danna Faulds from collection of poetry

Poems from the Heart of Yoga

This poem speaks deeply to me. My recent state of mind is fraught with struggle against what simply is, striving to make what is into something that it can never be, and expending valuable energy fighting against the disconnect between what I want to be my reality and what is my reality. Asking that acceptance wash over me to melt away the pain that comes "when loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils your vision with despair", I strive for peace within my heart so that I may share with those dearest to me, the calm, patience, and love that is most needed in this moment. Now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


When I look at these images, I see the same gorgeous branching from a common source; the angiogram of the kidney on the left and the barren tree on the right. It is another example of finding the art in the science. I still haven't queried my pathology colleagues about whether they feel the beauty in the microscopic images they see everyday (see post on The Art in the Science). I will also need to ask my radiology colleagues if they find the detailed vasculature of internal organs in the silhouetted ghost of trees in winter.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spinning Lady

Are you right brain or left brain driven? Are you a combination? Who knows what all this means anyway. Whatever the debate may be, I do know that many of us were mesmerized this holiday weekend by the "spinning lady" image. Whether we saw her spin clockwise, counterclockwise or switching between the two, the concept had us in awe of the fact that what we see is our own perception and may or may not be what someone else experiences at the very same moment. I found the descriptions of right and left brained people interesting but most of us find we are some sort of blend; that we can see the image spin both ways although often one is predominant. Fun stuff.

And now, Thanksgiving holiday weekend is winding to a close. November is almost over. The days have been clear, crisp, and sunny although definitely short. Darkness descends by 4:30 PM give or take. Tonight both kids are out the door, work starts again tomorrow and I just zapped a plate of leftover turkey, sweet potato and squash in the microwave. Delicious. I plan to resist the next phase of holiday decorating for as long as possible. The tree, the lights, the Christmas nick-nacks; it will just have to wait. I really want to enjoy a bit more of autumn before plunging into the holiday looming ahead.

Getting back to the spinning lady again; I see her rotating clockwise 90% of the time and only every now and then do I find her dancing to the right. What do you all see?

Friday, November 23, 2007


If some of life's moments pass by me as ordinary, almost forgettable, others stand out, made special because of tradition or their own uniqueness. These moments are often infused with a healthy dose of bittersweet. The metaphor "bittersweet" speaks profoundly to me, especially on days when joy, magic, and connection attach tenaciously to an underbelly of loss, vulnerability, and sadness. This was Thanksgiving Day for me this year. From the post on the Wednesday before with its upbeat mood of anticipation comes the more tempered reality of my life. It's not that bittersweet is not good; it may be life's greatest gift to see the pain in the pleasure or better yet, the pleasure in the pain. It's a reality that is sometimes tough to walk because the balance between the bitter and the sweet is always one of perception and experienced uniquely.

Thanksgiving was warm and delicious. I was surrounded by people that I love and who love me back. Memories of past Thanksgivings brought laughs and a sense that as life marches on, this particular day stands out. Stringing all these (Thanksgiving) days together in my mind forms one long train of cars, exploding with abundance, connection, and gratitude.

Thanksgiving also stirs up memories and thoughts that whisper loudly to me that every breath changes us and moves us farther along into an unknown place, one that we never control. For someone resistant to most change, struggling to maintain and balance the present now for the long haul, I realize that this is not the nature of living. All this verbiage is my way of alluding to the specific pain in my heart, the bitter of the season: when we gather again for the next Thanksgiving who will I be and who will be with me? Said another way: what will be for those two loved ones who raised me and whose life this past 18 months has been fraught with great challenge and loss, whose connection to me is infinite yet finite, who I see slipping away from me, who are either on my heart or hands, and whose vulnerability and need for protection is sometimes all that is left? This is the bitter in my sweet.

** The botanical print is the bittersweet plant; at once lovely, utilitarian and poisonous (berries and leaves).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving has always been my favorite day of the year. Anticipation of the next-day family gathering with the plates piled high with terrific food in the soft, fading light of a late fall day is an obvious reason. But there is more. If I'm at work on that day, the mood shifts to a more pleasant, upbeat level and there is unusual camaraderie and sharing of Thanksgiving traditions. Then there is the knowledge, if I am lucky enough to not be on call, that a 4 day holiday weekend is about to begin; blessed time to think about and do things out of the routine. Preparation of some of the much loved side dishes, like the squash and sweet potatoes and even the pies (when I was making them from scratch) is a much loved Wednesday before task. And the evening tradition of eating pizza with the kids and watching Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving video is magic.

Years ago, in high school and college, Thanksgiving was a time to travel to be with family or friends. Houston, Cincinnati, New York City, Watertown were some of my destinations since Aruba was too far for such a short trip. As a young adult in Houston, we usually gathered at MM's house and in later years since moving to Seattle, our meals have always been at our home. The cast and the location may change, but the feelings are much the same each year; grateful for all the blessings and the chance to pause and consider all the bounty that is. And, although in recent years there seems to be more media hype about Thanksgiving, in general the focus is ahead to Christmas, leaving Thanksgiving refreshingly free from the pressures of gift giving, greeting cards and decorations.

But the Wednesday before; ahhhhh, these moments contain the magic for me. Today is that day and as I write this post from my bed, the sky is turning bright. We will likely have some sun today in the midst of barren trees, fallen leaves, and chill. Laura is home. Chris will be coming home later in the day and we will be blessed with another chance to sit together, tease and laugh, eat, and experience the wonder of our opportunities. Thanksgiving to me is about pausing to honor blessings in our lives: family, friends, bounty, good food shared, reflection, connection and joy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Art in the Science

The Glomerulus: Filter of Life

Thirty years ago, sitting in a lecture hall at UT Medical School at Houston (can it be that long ago?) I remember being mesmerized by histology slides projected up on the screen during basic science lectures. Histology is the study of tissues sectioned thinly; a glimpse at the micro-anatomy of our bodies. We laboriously worked our way through all the organ systems of the body in this way; first the normal histology and then the abnormal (histopathology). Although I never remember mentioning this to anyone else, I thought (and still do) that so many of these projections are gorgeous pieces of art. The various staining techniques that offset the microanatomy, the juxtaposition of different cell types, the uniqueness of each image; all strike me as the beauty within.

I remember thinking that if only I could get my hands on some of these slides, I'd have them blown up poster size, framed, and displayed in my home or office. But, in those days the slides were the property of the professor and I let the idea go concluding that I must be the only one seeing the art in the science. I never recall a professor mention (much less discuss) the beauty of the colors, the design, or the mystery. It was only the facts; the micro-anatomy, the pathology, and the practical relevance. So, as a young student, I kept my mouth shut, quietly enjoying the show while taking notes on the scientific significance of the images projected on the screen.

Nowadays, these histology "slides" are available all over the Internet. Not only can one enlarge images, frame, and enjoy them as pieces of art, they also insert easily into documents and morph into screensavers and wallpaper for the computer. Amazing.

I never tire of these images and not surprisingly, my true love is renal histology because it is closest to my heart. Here science blends with art most completely; the grand mystery of the glomerulus, the tubules, the interstitium. This enticing microanatomy has been the backbone of my professional life for several decades and offers up a wealth of imagery, forever inviting me back to a place where awe and wonder exist.

The Renal Tubules: Master Chemists

The Renal Interstitium: Mysterious Glue

Friday, November 16, 2007

Next Phase

I'm feeling a bit like a parent who just left my child with a babysitter; glad to be in a different world for awhile but also fighting back the little itch that wonders if everything is "ok" back at home. Resisting the temptation to call and check, trusting that no news is likely good news, I haven't done much with my free time. My energy is low and although I'd like (theoretically) to be out exercising, shopping, cleaning, raking leaves or doing something active with my time, I've contented myself with the newspaper, the store ads, a shower and this blog post. All I really want to do is sleep (but that won't happen for me in mid-day; I'm not a napper) and eat (definitely something I can accomplish).

Mom was discharged from the hospital back to Merrill Gardens yesterday, almost a month after her hip fracture. She was glad to come home but I can detect some tentativeness, anxiety about the next phase of her recovery, and a definite concern about falling again. She's been outfitted with a walker, wheelchair and other equipment to ease the transition. Home physical and occupational therapists and round the clock attendants have all been arranged. I know Mom isn't too excited about all this; she never likes strangers in her home and won't relax into her own routine, worrying about what caregivers are thinking, doing, eating, sitting on and a host of other issues. I have to let that go and hope for the best. After spending last night with Mom and assessing the level of hands-on care that will be required, I know that we will need all the help we can get over the next few weeks. She is still a heavy weight to support moving from seated to upright posture using the walker. I had to invent a way to stabilize the walker with my left foot while reaching under her left arm with my right arm to literally pull her upright from the chair. I'm sure that there is an easier way but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. Once she's up and moving, things are slow but at least headed forward. The reverse, going from standing to seated is just about as challenging although gravity is on our side. I may be a doctor but this has nothing to do with my specialty. If I ever learned how to safely maneuver a strength impaired adult with a recent hip fracture from a seated to upright posture, the information has long evaporated from my brain.

I'm tired. But, the sun is shining and I'm determined to energize myself with a walk into the village for an Americano. I have eaten far too many Hershey's miniatures, Trader Joe's snap-pea crisps, and frosted mini-wheats. We call this carbo loading on a cold and breezy fall day. Comfort food.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Even 6 months ago, if I could look ahead and see that I'd be keeping up regular blog posts my response would have been, "No way." I never thought blogging had a role in my life, never thought I could keep up the enthusiasm, and never thought anyone would care. What I've learned is that blogging has become something unexpected in my life, at once a type of therapy and a creative outlet; my form of art.

I've learned that the short, concise post is my forte.

I've learned that it's fun to find the daily topic in the mixed up soup of my brain.

I've learned that some posts flow out of me easily and some require several hours of editing and re-work.

I've learned that it's easier than I thought to write respectfully and (hopefully) avoid anyone getting annoyed, angered, or enraged over my words. The key for me is to write largely about my feelings and temper the depth and intensity where appropriate.

I've learned that getting the words on "cyber-paper" (I do print out all my posts and put them in a binder....not sure why, it's the old fashioned in me) is clarifying and cleansing for me. Basically, to organize jumbled thoughts into crisp language that conveys my feelings is therapy.

I've learned that I am an artist. I don't paint, draw, design, or create with my hands (typing excluded) but what I write and re-write for this blog is my creative expression. It comes as close to rendering me as the person I am as any other motif.

I've learned that I am OK showing the quirky, vulnerable, self-absorbed, and neurotic sides of who I am.

I've learned, not so curiously, that the reason Denny does not read my blog is that he knows all this stuff already. Although it strikes me as weird, I accept it.

MM and I have shared our thoughts about blogging, about who is reading our posts, and how some are put off by the format or seemingly disinterested in using the blog to keep up with what's going on in our lives. Blog reading is certainly not for everyone; I get that. For some the traditional letter, phone call, or in-person catch-up is preferred. I would respond by saying that these more conventional means of communication, although one-on-one and therefore potentially very personal, are but one dimension of who we are and what we have to give. This is especially true for me. I could never begin to share the depth or intensity of feeling to so many in a hurried telephone conversation or the all too inhibited social gathering. To those who can accomplish this in these venues, I applaud you. My social phobias run deep and I simply can't get there with the authenticity that I find in blogging.

I've had one friend say that in all the years of knowing each other, she learned more about me by reading my blog than she ever did "in person". And that, dear reader, is my point.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Checking In

It's mid-morning. I have been up since around 7:30, had 2 cups of coffee and half an Imitrex. And, I've "checked in" with my children and my parents; four phone calls as they are all in different places. This is on the early side for a full check-in but it started with Chris's call here at 7:45. He's not feeling too well; sore throat and the like. Then, I called Mom at the rehab unit to see how her night went; "terrible" apparently. Dreams as real as life, confusion and anxiety are ongoing. Then, in the middle of that conversation, my cell phone rings and it is Laura checking in on her way to "Econ class". She is well, the most stable and upbeat of the group at the moment. It's an easier week for her and she is looking forward to coming home for Thanksgiving. After I talked with Laura, I called Dad who must have been right by the phone because he picked up after two rings. He sounded good overall; had been down to breakfast with his buddies and had fielded a call from the company that will drop by a wheelchair, walker, and bedside commode today in anticipation of Mom's return tomorrow. Dad said there was "extra bacon" all around at breakfast today. I asked if he wanted to go visit Mom today and he paused, "Not if it's an extra trip for you." I told him it would be and he declined. I think he sees how tough it is on me to get him up to the hospital and if Mom is coming home tomorrow, well.....maybe there's no urgency. Clearly he is lonely but maybe he can hold out another day.

I feel restless. It's not that I don't want to "check in". It's that I feel a lump in my throat whenever the phone rings or whenever I find a "missed call" on my cell. I just never know what information is going to come at me and what I will need to do (aside from listen) with the information. Feelings that I should be eternally connected to that telephone just in case fuel the edginess and sense of never being free of the need to be in touch. It's my own internal wiring at work.

I'd go to yoga class today but this tendinitis in my knee is fierce. Where's the aspirin and the ace wrap?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Labyrinth

For at least the last five years I've had an interest in labyrinths. There was a time when one might say I had a mini obsession with the concept of the labyrinth; reading books, researching this ancient archetype, walking the labyrinth at SFB Church on a frequent basis, drawing miniature labyrinths on paper, and even exploring what it might take to build one in my back yard. The passion gradually fizzled out but the general interest never faded away. I keep my eyes and ears open for outdoor labyrinths which are my favorites. I stumbled upon a new labyrinth over the weekend; it's been in existence for several years but was new to me.
Located at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on lower Queen Anne, this outdoor labyrinth is part of their Centennial Garden. I walked the labyrinth in the chill fall air accompanied by crimson and sunset colored leaves swirling at my feet. I plan to return. After all it is literally steps away from the 24 hour Bartell Drugs and Metropolitan Market which I frequent several times a week.

Every time I walk a labyrinth the experience is different. Sometimes it just feels like walking, turning corners, and making a loop to the center and back out again. Other times the journey is more mindful and I have thoughts that are meaningful or insightful. Whatever the experience, the labyrinth is a powerful symbol for me, a vehicle for turning my gaze inward if only for a brief time.

The beauty of the labyrinth is what it is not. It is not a maze or a puzzle. Instead, there is a single path to the center and then the steps are re-traced. There are no dead ends. It is said that the path can be perceived as a mirror for where we are in our lives. We are asked to walk it with an open heart and mind. According to the labyrinth lore, there are three stages of the walk:

Releasing: shedding distractions and quieting the mind, the path to the center
Receiving: illumination, meditation and prayer at the center
Returning: joining with healing powers, empowering the soul, and reentry into the world

One of my favorite labyrinths is on Whidbey Island; a lavender labyrinth complete with buzzing bees in summertime. The view of Puget Sound, the aroma of lavender everywhere, and the soft grass beneath my feet offered a unique experience for the labyrinth lover in me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday and Sunday; a weekend off call where I'm trying to balance my own needs for quiet, connection with Denny, and my duties to parents. I've managed all three so far and we are only into early Sunday morning right now. What this day will bring isn't entirely clear; it is unstructured and ambiguous.

Saturday morning I couldn't sleep; wide awake at 6 AM, fueled by coffee and an energy that was mostly restless, I went to a yoga class. The instructor was new to me and he put our Level I/II class through some new moves. I'm sore today but glad to have participated; there is always something to be learned in yoga. Shoulders, "heart center", and upper arms are talking to me today, a reminder of all those stretches and extensions.

Then, I was off with Denny on a series of errands and outings that had me watching the clock, still restless and in dread of the afternoon's plans. I shouldn't have felt that way but I did. Dad had asked me to accompany him to the reception for his friends Nancy and Frank, a couple who met at Merrill Gardens, courted, fell in love, and were married several days ago. Both in their 80's they looked fabulous and the reception was impressive. Everyone, save me and two men sporting jeans, were dressed "to the nines". Dad had a glass of wine at the event and seemed to enjoy the fanfare. He particularly like the "Eat, Drink and Re-Marry" banner posted behind Barbara who was serving drinks. Dad's balance was quite unsteady after the wine and it was a challenge to get him safely into my car for our short ride up to the hospital to visit Mom. We didn't stay long but both were glad to see each other. MM is right; neither Mom nor Dad say much but it's touching to see them side by side; yesterday she was in bed and I pulled his wheelchair up close so they could hold hands. Dad was ready to get back home after 30 minutes, tuckered out by the reception and the outing to visit Mom. I left him resting in the recliner at Merrill Gardens with an Ensure chocolate shake, the TV remote and a reminder to tune into Lawrence Welk at 6PM on PBS. By the time I made it home, I too was ready for a glass (actually 2) of wine with Denny. With all good intentions to read afterwards, I zapped out around 8 PM dead to the world. I even missed out on Mom's phone call to me on my cell timing in at 9:30 PM even though the phone was by my bedside. The wine, perhaps?

And today as I write this, I am at the hospital visiting Mom. She is busy with physical therapy right now, walking the halls and bearing weight on the leg that exactly three weeks ago was fractured after a fall in her apartment. Even at age 90 progress can be made if there is attention to detail and perseverance (hers and theirs). The rehab unit is amazing. I learned today that the unit recently won an award for being in the top 5% of rehab units nationwide. "Only the very best" as we say. We are hoping Mom will return to Merrill Gardens later this week, with 24/7 care at least for awhile. She has a lot of work ahead but she's benefited from an excellent jump start.

And the rest of today? Still unstructured. I'm hoping to get back to that book of mine, Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez. That and more thinking about how to structure my professional life in 2008.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Dreams are so weird. I know that we all dream all the time but it has been a long time since I've awoken to a dream in progress. Today I slept in and the buzz on my cell phone signaling an incoming text message yanked me from the dream into the real world. It was just after 9 AM (shocking). It wasn't until I was all the way downstairs, pouring milk into my morning coffee a few minutes later that I realized I had been dreaming when the real world intervened. Sorry that I couldn't go back to this illusive world just to see what would happen led me to (QUICK) get the computer on so I could write down what I remembered. The threads of dreams fade quickly as if they are wisps of chemicals in the brain that morning circulation quickly dissipates. I rarely remember details of dreams an hour later if I don't write them down.

Unlike Mom, my dreams are rarely scary but just very weird. I find myself in places I've never been and in settings that are new. Despite the tension, I want to be where I am because I usually have a goal and want to see how things play out. But, I never seem to get there; lots of build-up with convoluted twists and seemingly insensible turns as the story progresses but I'm always awakened before the dream is over. Perhaps those dreams that are over we don't remember and it is only those that are interrupted that we retain. (?)

This dream, without going into details, carries the common theme of wishing, wanting, and desiring coupled with tentativeness, awkwardness, and caution such that whatever the goal may be, I just never get there. That's why I always yearn to go back into the dream when I awaken just to see if perhaps, I'll get there.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Efferdent, Wedding Cards, and Beer

Last night at Covenant Group meeting my cell phone, buried in the pocket of my jeans, buzzed. We keep our phones off or at least on silent during our gathering so as not to be distracted but when the caller ID indicated the apartment at Merrill Gardens, I felt compelled to answer. I got up, walked into Eileen's bathroom and found Dad at the other end of the line sounding quite upbeat, almost chipper. Earlier in the day I had written my cell phone number in large font on a piece of paper he keeps by the telephone.

"Hi there, Kitty Kat, it's your Dad here".

"Oh, Hi Dad, what's up? Are you OK?"

"Yep.......I need Efferdent. (pause). And, I talked to Mary Margaret today and I'd like to get a card for the wedding".

I knew what wedding he was talking about; a man and woman, both in their 80's and residents at Merill Gardens met there and fell in love. They're getting married soon and a reception is planned for this weekend. Dad is quite fond of them both and received an invitation to the reception to be held at Merrill Gardens. Dad was quite touched to be included. He eats breakfast with these two most mornings.

"Sure, Dad. I'll get you a card, and the Efferdent tomorrow. Do you need anything else?"

I always want to make my trips to the store as efficient as possible but that's a tall task these days. I live at Bartells and Albertsons.

"Yep......pick me up a six pack of beer, OK?"

"Absolutely. Talk to you later, Dad. Goodnight."

Dad's always a man of few words on the phone. Just the facts and essentials are good enough for him.

And then, I went back to my group.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Tonight is Covenant Group meeting at Eileen's apartment. Nine of us meet twice a month to discuss a topic of interest pre-selected by "covenant central". Our facilitator sends out an email ahead with the topic for the evening including some inspirational quotes and thought provoking questions to get the creative juices flowing. These covenant groups are part of Seattle's University Unitarian Church but interestingly, you don't have to be a member of the church to participate. I've been attending off and on for the past year with intermittent reluctance (see post from 10/17/07, ....One Wild and Precious Life), mostly because I'm always quieter than I'd like. I clam up in this group and can't yet enjoy a sense of ease. It's my inner shyness and social phobia at work but I'm trying. Old habits die hard and may never completely die in this case.

That's one reason why blogging has become such a release for me; I can get it all out there (or at least a substantial portion). Certainly a fair amount of respectful selection is part of blogging. But, playing with the words, editing and revising the posts, and journeying with my thoughts turns the posts into my own version of art. I kid you not; this is not overly dramatic. I really feel this to be my truth. But, I digress away from the topic of ANGER.

The opening words for tonight's topic read: "Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs and wants are not being adequately met, that we are not addressing an important issue in our lives. (from Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Anger). This is followed by questions for discussion such as (1) When is anger inappropriate?, (2) How has anger served or not served you?, and (3) How have you expressed anger in a skillful way?

I've experienced my share of anger lately. Yet it's an anger that boils up and then dissipates because it comes from a place of sadness, loss and the knowledge that these troubled days are self limited. Talking about it helps and I'm comforted by believing that it is not what we think to ourselves or how we complain to each other, it is what we say and do on the front line that counts.

However, sometimes we snap. It's mighty unusual for me to express anger directly and aggressively (especially to strangers) so when I do, it may be worthy of note (a post, a confessional, whatever.....). Saturday as I drove home from work on my way to Arapahoe for a family lunch prepared by MM I slowed slightly because a vehicle parked at the curb 50 yards ahead was full of people exiting their car, doors open. But even though I slowed, the man standing at the front of his vehicle mouthed the words "SLOW DOWN" and sported a face of disgust. Before I knew what was happening, my response flew out of me, unedited, raw, and nasty. I flipped him the bird and drove on by. I would say the intensity of this "bird flip" would have to be at least an 8 out of 10; very aggressive and very angry.

I don't feel good about this but I know from where it comes. I wonder if I can possibly share this as we discuss the subject of anger at tonight's meeting. We shall see.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Mom has been plagued by what she calls "wild dreams" all of her life. When she's under stress they get worse. These last two weeks in the hospital have been rough on her; strenuous days of physical therapy followed by restless nights with interrupted sleep and disturbing dreams. Yesterday when Dad, MM and I visited with her she described nightmares so terrifyingly real that she was still shaken by the experience well into the daylight hours. When I suggested a dreamcatcher, she knew exactly what I was talking about because a very tiny dreamcatcher arrived in the mail at her apartment several months ago (some sort of small promotional gift with a request for a donation) We read about the powers of the dreamcatcher and I encouraged her to hang it above her bed. Interestingly, her sleep these last months has been better. Coincidence? Mom thought having a dreamcatcher above her hospital bed sounded like a good idea. "After all", she mused, "dreams are all in your head and if I just believe in the dreamcatcher, it will probably work for me here too". How true, I thought.

And so....late last night, near the end of my on call duties, I was summoned into the hospital to admit a patient from the Emergency Room. Before leaving home I found Chris's dreamcatcher, a larger and more colorful model than the one Mom received in the mail. This one with the blue feathers was purchased on our travels to Montana many years ago. Chris was intrigued by the Native American story of the dreamcatcher, a web like adornment with beads and feathers that allows only good dreams to pass through while catching the bad dreams in the web where they can do no harm to the ones who sleep underneath its gentle sway. I remember he begged us to buy him one and I'm glad that we did.

I kept the dreamcatcher in my coat pocket while in the Emergency Room examining, counseling, and writing orders on behalf of my patient who was being prepared for a complex surgical procedure. The blue feathers remained concealed as we talked about expectations for the hospital stay, outcomes and the tender balance between risks and benefits. The juxtaposition between mind:body medicine and conventional Western medicine felt a bit eerie.

And then, around midnight when I had finished my work in the Emergency Room, I walked upstairs to the rehab unit and into Mom's room. Both she and her roommate were fast asleep in their dark room. Working quietly and quickly, I secured the dreamcatcher to the metal bar above Mom's hospital bed with a piece of tape and fluffed the blue feathers lightly, hoping to activate the magic. If anyone saw me, my presence was never acknowledged.

This morning I asked Mom about her night. "Much better", she said. "I slept much better". Ahhhhhhhh. Sweet dreams.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Miracle of Imitrex

Migraine headaches have been a part of my life since I was a teenager. The only time I was free of the recurrent, pulsing pain was during pregnancy and then I was plagued by other woes. In midlife, my once or twice a month migraine headache escalated into a three times or more a week event. Aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen, even stronger pain meds never touched the pain; caffeine would occasionally be the cure but basically it was "tough it out" for the requisite 10-12 hours and then as the pain dissipated naturally try to enjoy the natural high that comes when you quit banging your head against the wall.

Then came imitrex which is truly the bomb for migraine pain. It took a lot for me to try the medication; wary of side effects and concerned about "shorting out" my brain held me back but now, it is a staple in the drug armamentarium. Usually within an hour of taking imitrex the pain is gone and I still get that little high of being pain-free; must be those endorphins running around my brain.

Dark chocolate, alcohol, lack of sleep, too much or too little caffeine, stress and other thing bring on the migraines. There is only so much I can do about these triggers. I'm hoping that eventually my migraines will burn out; much like Mom's have over time. This strange internal wiring that increases proclivity to migraine is strongly genetic. There are so many in this family that suffer with them. I guess it could be worse. At least we have silver bullets to treat the pain.

Migraine begone! I just took my imitrex and am waiting patiently.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I knew it would happen eventually; how could it not? With my parents in and out of the same hospital where I practice, there would come a day when one of them would share a semi-private room with one of my patients. Juxtaposition. How strange to have my parent in one bed and my patient in the other, the interactions so different; one personal, the other professional. And how odd for each of them to acknowledge the contrasting relationship they share with me, one as daughter, the other doctor.

Today, when Mom's roommate of the last three days was discharged, the vacated bed was quickly cleaned, made up with fresh sheets and wheeled down the hall to accept the next patient into the rehab unit. Lately I've had strange inklings, feelings that are more than just passing thoughts because many of them come to pass; it's like having a bit of a view into the future. To say that I "just knew" that the new roommate would be one of my patients is about the best way to describe the feeling. It wasn't long before she arrived in the room but not before I said my quick goodbyes to Mom and ducked out. So, as it stands, neither my patient nor Mom know of the shared connection with me and perhaps we can keep it that way for now.

A common theme in my life of late is the collision (perhaps too strong a word; perhaps juxtaposition is really better) between contrasting roles in my life. Mother/Daughter and Doctor/Daughter are two examples. All of us wear many hats; lately I am putting on two at once and not only does it look weird but it feels weird too.

Graveyard Mystery

Taken 10/30/07

When this blog first started, I knew that a post about the mystery of the Halloween graveyard was a given. I've wanted to write about this annual event for years but never had the forum (blogging is great for this kind of thing) and never had the photographs to prove my point, or to at least illustrate my fantasy.

We've lived seventeen Halloweens in Seattle (OMG) and experienced our little ones in costume, going door to door. We watched them grow into pre-teens in costume and then into big kids too old to be "trick or treating" but going out nonetheless. And now, they are both out of the house and Denny and I find ourselves leaving our stash of candy on our doorstep with a sign saying "Help Yourself" and heading out to take in the night that is Halloween, especially the graveyard several blocks from our house.

Every year the lovely expanse of lawn belonging to a corner house on a well traveled street in our neighborhood is transformed into a ghoulish graveyard by dusk on Halloween, just in time for large and small "trick-or-treaters" to enjoy. This house is very traditional, quite formal in its symmetry and grandness. There are always a few pumpkins on the front porch and in recent years, large pumpkin shaped lights adorn the two pillars near the sidewalk starting in mid October. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a town that goes all out for Halloween. But, until late afternoon on October 31st the well manicured lawn is clipped, free of fallen leaves, orderly and tame. Then something magical happens. Sometimes I witness the transformation, many times I pass by too late and simply find that the graveyard is "up". Gravestones and cobwebs, the occasional skeletal hand draped over the grave marker, piles of dead leaves, ghostly shapes and one year a convertible car driven up onto the lawn with skeletons sporting wigs seated inside. Surrounding the entire scene is a low metal fence, draped with webbing and signs warning "Keep out" or "Enter at your own Risk". Usually the visual scene is complimented by ominous organ music coming from inside the house. The neighborhood has come to expect this recurring scene once a year on Halloween. I don't recall a year that we haven't witnessed this event.

The fascination I have with all of this is that it is over so quickly; the scene appears and then it is gone. I pass this house on my way to work and every November 1st the lawn is back as it was, peaceful and orderly as if nothing ever happened. The mystery and magic won't reoccur for another year. It is over. And, in my mind, I have to ask: did it ever really happen or was it all imagined? One has to wonder because this brief sliver of time, the fleeting moments, and the eeriness of the scene forces us to live now, see now, hear now, and be now because tomorrow it is gone.

Happy November 1st.
Even the pumpkins are gone today. We will need to wait another year for the show.