Friday, February 29, 2008
Equally odd to me is that February 29, 1916 fell on a Tuesday. Why Tuesday? Aren't most weddings on Friday or Saturday? Curious. I learned today from Mom and Dad that Shirley and Lewell were married in her home in Lisbon, New York. The wedding guests, family, bride and groom and another couple who stood up with them gathered in the parlor of the house and the ceremony was followed by a dinner prepared by her mother, Allie Keyes. Fern, Shirley's younger sister was the flower girl. The young couple boarded a train to Ogdensburg, New York the same day and spent their wedding night at a hotel in the big(er) town ten miles down the road.
The next day they set out on the journey of a lifetime west to Biggar, Saskatchewan, again by train but this time with their hearts and minds set on the mystery and magic of the open wheat fields of western Canada. Lewell and Shirley's dream was to farm the land. How bold to partner together and leave the known behind for the unknown ahead. During their years out west, Shirley was either by Lewell's side, raising the two sons born in 1917 and 1918, or teaching in the local one room schoolhouse in Biggar. Those early years of marriage challenged the young couple; the environment was often harsh and unpredictable. Certainly there were times when they must have questioned their choices. Nonetheless, they persevered until 1924 when they moved back to northern New York state. Dad still remembers life in Biggar, the horses, the rugged weather, and attending school where his mother taught.
Decades later, my grandmother Shirley wrote her memoirs about those years in Saskatchewan. In the late 1980's, almost 10 years after her death, my Dad took these rough drafts of her work, copied them onto the computer, edited and organized the chapters, and then gifted his family with a most wonderful accounting of those years out west. The memoir entitled "A Prairie Wife's Tale: Recollections of Farming in Saskatchewan 1916-1924" is a treasure. My grandmother had moxie, wit, and knew how to pen a story well. Her words make those eight years pop with the raw, brave energy that fueled their early life together; the partnership that started on a chilly February 29, 92 years ago.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Last year the event itself was a glorious high, pure excitement, and surreal as I watched hundreds and hundreds of women, all ages and all abilities press on towards the finish line. I underestimated the energy that comes from being in a crowd of other participants and the effect of spectators, cheering us on along the route. Someone once said that 20 percent of the performance on race day (maybe even more) comes from the energy of the moment. Even the blustery rain and chill didn't dampen the enthusiasm (maybe for the fans but not the participants).
But, the training was so tough for me that there were many times I wanted to walk away from it all, defeated. Something pulled me back in and I recognize that this was my inner voice saying "you can do it" even on days when every bone and muscle was hurting and my breath lasted but a block or a lap in the pool. I can expect that again this year; my body is not one that has ever been used to pushing hard. I'm hopeful that the memory of sweet success will count for something as I get back on that bike, slip into the pool, and hit the pavement in earnest.
Dealing with this injured knee of mine is the next step before I can get serious about training. I'm a bit leery of elective surgery but have to tell myself this isn't really elective since without it, I won't be able to participate in the event that woke me up to the athletic side of myself. If all goes as planned, three weeks after the knee surgery I should be out there. I will keep a positive attitude and see myself making tracks in Discovery Park over the loop trail, breathing in rhythm with my feet, moving forward into my dream.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I've joined a new book club and this was my second meeting. It's tough to start in a new group; to discover who is who and who likes what and to try hard to "fit in" with people who already have history and connection one to another. I'm always the quiet one but made myself offer some comments about this book. The selection was Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants which I read last summer. The plot line is unforgettable but of course, details fade. We had an interesting discussion over dinner and the book was given a good review overall by the group; concluding that Ms. Gruen had written a nicely crafted "light read".
Water for Elephants, will likely be the last book that Mom reads in her lifetime. She rarely manages anything longer than a newspaper article or a short piece in a magazine. I think her poor memory and concentration, not to mention impaired vision keep her from enjoying books anymore. Last summer one of her caregivers loaned her this book and she absolutely raved about it for weeks afterward. She loved the ending so much and cautioned me to be surprised by a "real twist". She was so taken with this book which features circus life in the Great Depression and has rich descriptions of the animals that she had me buy a copy for my brother for his birthday. When I told her yesterday that this was the book club selection, she had to think for a bit but it came back. She remarked, "that was a great one".
And Dad? Well, he was a great reader for many years just like Mom but difficulty with similar issues keeps him from reading books anymore. I believe the last book he read from cover to cover was a gift he received Christmas 2005, Zadie Smith's On Beauty. He gave the book to me to read after he finished and it certainly was all that; "beautiful".
The tears were flowing on my way home from book club as I thought about so called "last books". We all will have one. It felt sad to think that the once glorious book reading days are over for Mom and Dad but I believe this is true. We should all be so lucky to go out on a high note with an excellent last read.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
She once told me that she saw a young man in the leaves, a young man with a mustache and glasses and that he was to be someone important in my life.
As it turned out, most of the important men in my life have had a mustache; was it just the style of the day back in the seventies? But, only one had both a mustache and glasses. And, although he wore contacts most of the time, he did put on those glasses too. Turns out I married that young man.
Did Mom have a vision of my future?
Saturday, February 23, 2008
I wanted to start this piece with titles varying from "It's OK, Kate", "Forgetting the Hairnet", or "Work Is Never Finished" but decided instead that a simple "Saturday Afternoon" would be best. There is nothing really surprising about this block of time; predictable in it's unpredictability but in some senses striking for the wealth of individual moments; some really good and some so awful, I wanted to run off into the wild blue screaming and cursing.
Pick up time was to be 12:30 PM for the hair appointments; I arrived on the dot. Parking was challenging as usual. Mom and Dad were to have eaten lunch and I thought maybe they would be waiting in the lobby for me. Dad was there but Mom was upstairs, using the phone to call me. Turns out they had not eaten lunch; service was slow in the dining room, they got frustrated and abandoned that plan to sit in the lobby to wait for me. In all this confusion, the pick up time was apparently lost, was it 11:30 or 12:00? Certainly not 12:30 which was verbally confirmed and visually confirmed on the wall board in the apartment. Running smack into this scene made my every synapse zing with adrenaline; what could I have done to clarify this issue and to avoid the chronic occurrence of poor timing and miscommunication? Why does it keep happening again and again? I fled the scene to get the car all the while cursing and ranting at the fates but pulling myself together in the 3 minutes required to get parked at the front door.
I loaded walkers into the back end of the car, got them seated and belted in and we were on our way to Magnolia. A gorgeous day, 55 degrees and crystal clear, the snow capped Olympics lit up by the early afternoon sun like diamonds, the bare trees still in winter's mode despite the unseasonable weather. Twice I was able to park right in front of the barbershop and help Dad into and out of the shop (this is like praying for an open parking space on a busy Saturday afternoon and have it appear both times). And just as delightful was the lack of the typical long cue of people waiting for a spot in one of three chairs; we generally avoid Saturdays for this reason. But people must have been drawn to be outside instead of inside and I was able to leave Dad in the able hands of the Vietnamese ladies who run the shop. They always fawn over him as a respected elder and he seems to enjoy his time there.
Then, on to Trina'a shop a mile down the road where another perfect parking place awaited me right in front of the salon. A customer leaving asked if I need help and as I assisted Mom up the 3 steps, she carried the walker from the sidewalk into the salon for me. Very, very nice. The appointment was a success; quick, easy, and Mom looked great. Back in the car with Trina's able help in getting us back down the steps and then off to pick up Dad at the barbershop. He looked great too, all dapper and trimmed up. He was smiling. He rarely does that these days and I love to see it.
Recall that neither had had lunch because of miscommunication and agitation about the time of the pickup coupled with slow service in the MG dining room. Dad suggested Ivar's and Mom suggested Taco Time; we settled on the latter. This is the moment when I really wished my camera had been on me; there they sat in "their" booth at Taco Time eating their crisp bean burrito meals with mexi-fries and coke. This is where I often found them many a Sunday afternoon as they stopped of for a bite to eat after church. I would drive by on my way home from on-call work, spot the Jetta in the Taco Time lot, and pull in just so I could sit there with them and eat a mexi-fry or two. This was a touching moment to sit with them again, in the same booth and enjoy the same food. Why is it that we all love sameness? This time it felt very different even in its sameness; the passage of time has changed us all, all except Taco Time.
When we left the restaurant, a man eating at a table close by offered "an extra pair of hands". He could see I was struggling with my purse, a coke, the leftover fries, and some small tubs of hot sauce plus Mom and Dad with walkers and a journey ahead to the car. I didn't need his help but was pleased that someone noticed and wanted to be of service. I thanked him. The second person to offer help in one day struck me. People can be very thoughtful.
Back at MG, I had to park along the curb as all places were taken in the lot and several cars were parked in the open area dropping off others with walkers and the like. The challenge here was the uneven ground of grass, potholes, and soft earth between car and sidewalk. Walkers don't move well on terrain like this but we persevered.
Back at the apartment there were things to do; mail to open, bills to pay, clean-up and preparation of a shopping list. No paper products this time but edibles, including candy. I think the caregivers must eat a lot of this sweet stuff; the bags and bags of Hershey's kisses, mini chocolate bars, mint patties that get eaten every week is phenomenal (even for a chocolate lover). I can't imagine Mom is eating all of that. Dad has some but he's into beer, cashews and chocolate Ensure more than candy.
Out I went to Bartell's and Metropolitan Market. Eighty-five dollars later I arrived back with the loot and put it all away, delighting Mom with the array of candy, including the cheap as dirt Valentine's Heart Box of Russell Stover's chocolates. I felt really good about where I was; the pink tulips in a vase on top of the TV, the incredible light and warmth in the apartment and a sense that my work was coming to a close. Mom lay back in her new power lift recliner looking relaxed. Dad sat with a can of Heineken sipping from a blue straw. "All is well", I breathed in quietly.
As I gathered my things to leave, Mom says to me, "You didn't happen to see any grey hairnets while you were at Bartells, did you?" Speechless. Me. She had asked me to look for those hairnets; they must have been on her mind since she'd been at Trina's and wanted to preserve the nice hairdo overnight. I had told her I would get them for her. And I didn't because I forgot; they never made it to my list.
I let it go. I took a deep breath in and said, "I'm sorry, Mom. I completely forgot". She said, "That's ok, I can use what I have here."
1. There will always be something in the "in box".
2. Ordering in bulk will never cure the endless need for things (like hairnets)
3. The most stressful situations carry threads of beauty and tenderness.
4. I will never (ever) use a hairnet.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Ensure chocolate drinks
Folger's coffee (individual bags)
Beer (no bottles, only cans)
Why do I bristle when I get this call?
Why are there so many paper products? No matter how many I purchase, they never last more than a week. I try so hard to stay "ahead of the wave" but it never seems to work. There is always something needed.
I should not complain but I do. It helps me cope.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Happy Birthday Chris!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The author writes a paragraph early on in her book that struck me as quite insightful and beautiful. She writes about the "longing" that we all seem to feel as a very condition of being human. Longing for something......most times, of what we do not know. She writes:
"Twenty years ago I asked a friend if he felt (as I did) a kind of chronic longing, a longing I wanted to identify. "Of course, " he answered. We were having lunch by the pond at 59th Street, watching the ducks. The sun was out, the grass was thick and green, the ducks paddled around in the not very blue pond. I was in between lives. "What is it?" I asked. "What is it we are longing for?" He thought a minute and said, "There isn't any it. There is just the longing for it." This sounded exactly right. Years later and a little wiser, I know what the longing was for: here is where I belong.
I believe this is true; we are all longing for the feeling or the outright knowing that the place where we are right now is where we belong.
Friday, February 15, 2008
"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, goregeous,
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that
other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence
automatically liberates others."
By Marianne Williamson
(also quoted by Nelson Mandela in his Inaugural Speech 1994)
Photo: courtesy of BJG: the ship's wake slicing the ocean blue
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Mom fell in love with this chair today; I could tell by the way she lay back and closed her eyes and the way she just wanted to stay put while the saleslady gave us all the details. We measured the dimensions and figured that it would take just a bit of rearranging to make a place for this queen of recliners in their apartment. Mom rationalizes, "It'll last me forever and I won't have to sleep in a bed ever again". I think she's quite smitten and I'm happy that we made the effort to get out there today. That and the stop at Krispy Kreme for donuts and coffee made the afternoon complete.
We'll place the order for this most amazing chair later this week. I hope it brings Mom some joy, better nights of sleep and a feeling that she has something brand new just for her. We all think Dad needs one too but he's (as usual) going to need to see and try it out for himself before he gets caught up in the wave.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
These invaluable three, whose job description changed from OA (office assistant) to the more recent descriptive CSR (clinical service representative), worked tirelessly to organize my schedule and the flow of patients in and out of the office. They also made me laugh and cry and challenged me to be the best I could be. And yet, they all provided me space to be myself, all in the midst of daily highs and lows. We weathered many storms together; many a difficult day I relied on them to prop me up with their strength and insights. Perhaps on other days, I did the same for them. All three brought unique gifts to their work life and enriched me in different ways. But, all shared the gifts of being great listeners and the ability to smooth out the rough edges in me, streamlining the work flow and running the practice with the efficiency of a well oiled machine. My patients loved them and relied on them to be at the other end of the telephone with a welcoming presence. I will always be indebted to Carol, Carin and Nicole and feel fortunate to have developed friendships with each that went beyond the office routine.
Yesterday I saw Nicole in person after more than a year and re-connecting was wonderful. Today, within minutes I received emails, first from Carol and then from Carin. Carin has moved back to the area after a number of years on the east coast. Carol may be moving back here sometime as well. What amazing timing (synchronicity?) to connect with all three in such a short period of time. I believe that the universe is pointing out what I already know and now feel compelled to acknowledge in writing. I am most grateful that time and distance have not interfered with the deep connections I have with Carol, Carin and Nicole which began as we stood side by side, day after day, in service to our patients. We were a fabulous team!
To Carol, Carin, and Nicole, thank you for being in my life.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I won't go into details but this weekend has been difficult for me. I'm walking the ledge where I feel so limited in my abilities to "handle" what's on my plate. The biggest learning for me is that there is no right answer, there is no going forth without pain, there is no easy way, and yet there is also value in surrender, in asking for help and in allowing wisdom to bubble forth from that place deep within and connected to the divine. I continue to pray for my parents in a formless way; mostly because I don't know what to pray for, only that there be peaceful intention in every step.
Pema suggests that in these moments we open up; break open our hearts and simply feel all that is there. It is harder than it sounds. I'm sitting in the midst of scenarios that seem fraught with delay, indecision, uncertainty, and down to the bone sadness. "This too shall pass" is of some comfort but I also know that these feelings will come again, and again, at least as long as there are so many options and so much at stake.
Friday, February 8, 2008
What must 91 years feel like to him? He is often a man of few words these days. His facial expressions give me more information about what might be in his mind than what he says. I know he's pleased about our plans for today; Thai food from his favorite restaurant brought in for lunch and a banana cream pie that Ineke will make "from scratch".
Yesterday it felt weird to stand in front of the Birthday Card rack at Bartells and pick out a card for Mom to give him. I had asked her earlier this week: "Do you want a funny card or a serious card?". "Serious", she said. That made it a tougher job; what type of serious card did she want for her mate of nearly 67 years? I selected a card and bought him a box of See's creams for her to give him. He will be touched, I'm sure.
What does one give a 91 year old man for his Birthday? Dad has never been one who has expected gifts or fanfare so in some senses, a gift or no gift wouldn't matter. But, I did come across a book of Andy Rooney's essays that I thought he'd like; they are short and pithy as only Andy can be. Dad has always enjoyed 60 Minutes and still watches faithfully every Sunday night. That, and a 12 pack of Heineken with a can of cashews will be appreciated. My card to him is silly, a bit off color, and one I couldn't resist. I still try very hard to make my Dad laugh and most of the time, I'm able, even now.
I think back and remember.....18 months ago when Dad was so sick that I couldn't imagine he'd survive. That illness coupled with the three or four times this past year when he's had pneumonia and looked so bad physically made me feel down to my bones that this would be "it" for him. And, yet; here is Dad. "He's a tough old bird", has come out of Mom's mouth more than once in response to my amazement.
It strikes me that he has found peace or a least negotiated an acceptance of his life as it is right now. He doesn't fight it; he may not like it but he accepts it with grace and dignity. Am I missing the boat here? Is he really fighting an interior battle but showing calm on the outside? I don't think so. I truly believe that he is in a good place emotionally. He has things that he still enjoys and enjoy them he does, without regret or question.
To my Dad at 91 today, I love you and admire you. You continue to teach me about living well, no matter what the age or stage.
*** Here are some photos from our lunch and dessert celebration today. We all had a great time together.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Miles, a geeky but wise contemporary of Joel advises his friend about matters of life.....
"Sometimes you gotta say what the fuck.....
Every now and then say what the fuck.
What the fuck brings you freedom.
Freedom brings opportunity.
Opportunity makes your future."
And so it is. Take a risk, make your move, give it your all, go out on a limb and saw it off, get going, make tracks, live each moment, carpe diem, have fun, push on, dream, reach for the stars, just do it, let go of the trapeze bar and hang in the void until you catch the next bar. Also, watch this movie!!
This YouTube clip is my favorite scene from the movie; it starts with Joel removing the last passenger, a drunk from the El in Chicago and hopping back aboard with Lana, his experienced girlfriend who is at once turning him into a man and making him a bunch of money. She wants to "make love on a real train". And so it is, all the while with the magic and mystery of Tangerine Dream in the background.
"No words" .
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Although there are plenty of worries wanting to steal me away, a new book by Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose has me engrossed in the pursuit of living in the NOW. According to Tolle, much like the message of other spiritual writers, most of us live in an unconscious state, never fully engaged (or ever engaged) in the perfection, beauty and power of the present moment. So true. I spend so much of my time lost in thoughts of the past and worries about the future that life whizzes by leaving me exhausted and disconnected from joy. How many times do I need to learn this? How many books do I need to read that say the same thing? When will I "get it" and "live it"?
It's all up to me.
Monday, February 4, 2008
I'm wiped out tonight. Days like today make me feel like I'm too old for all of this, that my time with this sort of work has come and gone, and that I just need to phase out. The exhaustion is as much (and perhaps more) mental as physical. My brain is on over-drive all day trying to figure out puzzling symptoms, design plans, followup on plans, keep "on time", answer jillions of questions, balance five active issues at once, be interrupted in my thought flow all day long with things important and things un-important. It's just too much. I barely make it to the restroom and almost never sit down to eat for more than a few minutes.
Plus, I have to be nice all day long, even when I don't want to be. I've learned how to do this so well that it is second nature and I don't even question it until I get home and realize just how aggravating and annoyed I was with this, that, or the other.
Tomorrow, I only work until noon and wrap up all the work in progress from today. I wish there were a way to balance (so called "level-load" in our business) this work, spread it out a little more evenly so it doesn't all blast off on Monday, sending me into orbit mode, spinning like a top, and rattling like a snake by the time I get home.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Typically I get pumped for Super Bowl Sunday for three reasons:
1. The Food: Denny makes 7 layer dip which we enjoy at the start of the game. By half time we are eating bratwurst with grilled onions. And yesterday we polished it off with a pecan pie from Jim Goode's in Houston (thanks, J.T.). The dip, chips and brats are tradition but we may add pie to the list of "must haves". in the future. It was so good.
2. The Ads: They were cute this year, always are. My favorite was the Fed Ex advertisement.
3. The National Anthem: This year Jordin Sparks looking nervous, pulled off a good performance nonetheless. That she is so young makes her moxie all that more admirable. You Go Girl!
Friday, February 1, 2008
We should all be mindful of all the ways we can reduce our genetic and lifestyle risks factors. Exercise, achievement of ideal body weight, healthy eating habits and for those of us affected by diabetes, hyperlipidemia, or hypertension, good control of these afflictions goes a long way towards reducing our risks. As for smoking: banish it to the winds if possible! Having said that, I realize that addiction to nicotine is the hardest of all to to overcome and I applaud all who have done so successfully; it's a powerful step towards the best possible health. Little things like dark chocolate and red wine coupled with good sex, relaxation, and the pursuit of joy are said to offer benefits as well. Yeah!
To all the wonderful women in my life; have a heart healthy day!