Thursday, July 31, 2008

No Solicitors!

OK, now I'm totally convinced I've got a lawyer for a husband. A couple of weeks ago, fed up with the door to door types who keep knocking or ringing the bell to ask for "a moment of my time" and then a donation, I finally decided to post a "No Solicitation" sign outside our front door. The first one I made was simple: "No Solicitation, Please". No good.

D, coming from a world where seemingly simple things become exceedingly complex told me that my sign wouldn't keep away all comers. Really? Alright then, what should it say?

Apparently solicitors come in several flavors; commercial, political and public service. Take note. We don't want any of these folks bugging us right now. Chris saw the sign and admonished that "it seems a bit harsh, Mom". But, I'm so bone weary and fed up with people calling or knocking to ask for my money. I want to tell them: "Look, I just paid for a year of non-state funded college tuition for two kids plus a year of Law School for my husband all on a part-time salary. Piss Off!". Thank goodness for savings. :)

The sign seems to be working. And now with caller ID on my land line, they can't get me that way either. Yeah!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Doing the x365

Last night I spent hours writing 'snippet' posts for my other blog, Remembering. I'm not sure if this is legit (especially for a writing exercise like x365) but I do write ahead (by now you should know I'm the gal who likes to be "ahead of the wave"). I'm grateful that the blog host site has this cool feature down pat. I'm able to write a post and set the exact date and time when the snippet goes "live". Very convenient.

I'm already halfway into August with posts in a queue ready to populate Remembering when the time is right. Such is my passion for this blog. That I stumbled upon this challenge while reading Schmutzie's blog was meant to be. I'm inspired that she is already up to 312/365. It can be done! This focused attention on remembering people from 53 years of living is a critical exercise for me right now. I'm already beginning to recognize some interesting things about the person that I am and how people, even those that moved through my life years ago or with brevity, had an impact. I ask, how much of who we are is the composite of who we've known? Ponder this.

When I began this post my title was: "Remembering Nannies". I was going to write about how the micro-post I finished last night on Lola, our first and only nanny when we lived in Houston with infants and toddlers (who are now twenty-somethings) made me want to dredge up the years of nanny angst in Seattle. Over seven years during the early and mid 1990's, until D left his career in Medicine to stay home and care for kids, house, and his elderly Mother, we had something like eight or nine different nannies (one lasted 2 days). But, I've decided to mull this one over and post separately about the "Nanny Dance" and more about Lola who was the revered and idolized first nanny, an irreplaceable angel.

I'm hoping that the x365 exercise keeps coughing up these wonderful opportunities to write about things that have already happened. I acknowledge that we are not our past. But, the past is embedded and what we do with it matters. Hugely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last Thoughts on BlogHer

Ok, ok. Enough already. Enough with the posts about the BlogHer Conference which is long since over. I'll entice you with this photo to keep you interested.....

Just when I think I'm finished writing my disjointed thoughts, I feel like there are a few more things I haven't mentioned and need to say. Such is the scattered state of my overloaded blogging mind. In the last week since the conference, I've posted on my blog daily, have started a new blog named Remembering, read dozens of new blogs, and been inspired to do more although just what remains formless and fleeting. I also worked 7 of the last 8 days (at my paying job) and celebrated with Denny his new found freedom from finishing the Bar Exam, tried my best to be a less meddlesome mother (very hard), and a loving daughter to my parents (getting easier with the AFH). My mood has been upbeat which is "a good" and perhaps that comes from more connection with people, virtual and real, and feeling that the balance in my life tips in favor of being blessed. It's all in the perception.

But I digress.

BlogHer '08: some parting words and photos just have to be posted.

I met wonderful women but time was so rushed that connections were limited. I do have their blog sites logged into my Google Reader, however.

I loved having my sister on the journey and it was cool that we could go our separate ways but reconnect to debrief on the day.

I enjoyed some great food and great drinks.

The icons in the blogging world are really just regular people (although did I have the courage to seek them out and shake their hands?).

Although I long to become famous (do I really?), I doubt this will ever happen.

I still want to write that memoir and blogging is quite possibly the practice I need to get going.

The best parts of the conference aside from the above were the Keynotes on Friday and Saturday afternoons (the readings from 22 unique and wonderful blogs) and the panel discussion with those most revered and famous bloggers, Dooce (Heather Armstrong) and Greek Tragedy (Stephanie Klein) shown in this photo. Heather's purple tights were perfect.

After that came the bash at Macy's which was the most unique cocktail party I've ever attended. Imagine 1000 plus (mostly women) on four floors of Macy's following a progressive romp of little nibbles and lots of alcohol at each destination. First stop: Handbags, Second stop: Designer Shoes, Third stop: Lingerie, and Fourth Stop: Furniture (we needed a place to plop by then). Wine glasses, half full inches away from killer shoes that cost a fortune?

By the time I made it to Lingerie, pumped up on bite size lavender macaroons and Godiva liqueur, I toyed with the idea that those sexy thongs might just look "ok" on me. I shared this with a lady nearby and she said, "Move away from the table", shaking her head. Jeez! I know she was joking (she was a mid-lifer too) but I still think "butt floss" underwear has its place in the universe, even perhaps in mine.

I think Macy's was counting on we bloggers busting out the credit cards for big bucks purchases but I don't think many of us did. It was too much fun to just eat, drink, and feel the collective mass of bloggers, each creating her own story about this wildly, weird event. KY jelly and votive candles next to delectable pink melt-in-your-mouth cream filled cookies? I say, "why not?"

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Adult Family Home is Home

Mom and Dad now live in an Adult Family Home; a concept that until several months ago never seemed a viable option for their ongoing and escalating care needs. I'd never even heard of an adult family home (AFH) until I toured one with J.K., an elder care specialist, 18 months ago. I thought the concept was great but the big hurdle was getting Mom to accept the idea that she'd be living in a home, just not "her home". Although none of the options appealed, she seemed more willing to go for the retirement apartment model with extra services tacked on or the assisted living model with continuous one-on-one overnight coverage tacked on to the tune of astounding dollars each month. By June 2008 we had definitely "been there and done (all) that" at great expense, and felt pressed to consider other options. Somehow the perfect AFH with two open spots appeared and of all places, the home was close by. Ahhhh. No more driving fifteen miles one way in traffic, burning gas!

Mom and Dad have been in residence at this lovely AFH for about a month now. It hasn't been the easiest of transitions; they never are. Overall, things seem to be more positive than negative especially as the weeks pass. My hope is that with more time the really great features of living "at home", things like the family atmosphere, great city/Mt. Rainier views, wildlife (birds), consistent caregivers, and familiar faces (the other four residents) plus the the lap dog, "Cozy" will make this living situation their best choice to date.

I know I'm a lot happier especially since I no longer have to worry about running out to buy chocolate drinks, toothpaste, paper towels, beer and other semi-emergent essentials multiple times a week. I leave those tasks to Anna and her trusty staff. Although I fill pill boxes once a month, keep tabs on prescriptions that need renewal, and write the occasional check, I'm finding that I'm more like a daughter, a welcomed visitor to their home, and part of an extended family when I walk through the(ir) front door. Once a week or so I take them to a doctor or dentist appointment but Catie, Mom and Dad's dearest home helper/caregiver still comes three days a week from 1-4 PM to do "whatever is needed" that day. Sometimes it's just talking and visiting; other times it's a an outing to Trina's for a wash and set for Mom's hair or to the Vietnamese ladies who run the corner barbershop for Dad. They've also gone to Tully's Coffee a few times, hoping to catch Laura at the helm of the espresso machine in her role as barista. This is all good.

I visit Mom and Dad frequently and usually find them either in the common room watching TV or more often in the larger of the two bedrooms sitting, reading the paper or watching their own TV. Sure, I'm there to visit with them, review the incoming mail, and to be a cheerleader for the cause but I must admit, I go there for the food too (is that bad?). There's always a ready supply of fresh baked goods or ice cream going on at Anna's place. Today when I walked in the kitchen and asked "what's there to eat?" I had choices! There were brownies, cupcakes, and cheesecake plus a pot of freshly brewed (real) coffee. What's not to like? If I arrive at mealtime, I'm always invited to join in. There is food aplenty in this home. To me, sharing of good food is one of the things that makes a house into a family home.

There are plenty of planned events at the AFH, like the one we enjoyed on July 4th with great views of fireworks and the spread of food as shown here. Coming up is a Luau Party in August; extended family has an open invitation. It's nice to see the elders in residence joined by the younger generations, the owners of the AFH, and the attentive caregivers sharing good times together.

This is home. This is what we long for when we can no longer have our own expansive private spaces. It's about finding and nurturing a new extended family and putting down roots in a new community of people who share our same boat. This getting older business is definitely not for sissies. But we'll forge ahead together and hope that we can make the last days meaningful. We try. We definitely try our best.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

x365 Challenge

This x365 is a very cool idea and particularly attractive to me as one who likes to write short and cryptic.

I was lost in Schmutzie's blog, written by a woman I met at BlogHer '08 and found numerous posts of 50 (exactly 50) words each that looked like this with a person's name or an initial as the title, a tersely written but poetically beautiful snippet of memories, and a recurring reference to "I am a participant in x365".

What's this all about? I was curious, checked it out, and for whatever reason this challenge really appealed. Writing about 365 people who've been in my life at one time or another in separate micro-essays of 53 words sounds like a fascinating exercise. A challenge? Maybe. But, more like an invitation to remember, reflect, and write something unique about people who've crossed paths with me. Bottom line: I started a new blog site just for this purpose and even though it's not my birthday for another month, I'll do 53 word posts through August 26 and 54 word posts after that until all 365 are done. Think I can do it? I do.

x365 started when a guy named Dan turned 40 years old and created a blog with a commitment to post daily for an entire year. The twist was that he'd write about a different person each day and limit the post to exactly 40 words (his age). Others joined the challenge after he paved the way and the format, although open to wide interpretation in terms of content, seems to hold true to (1) the daily posting, (2) 365 individual people and (3) posts of a very specific word count (one's age). Dan's blog is quite inspirational. There are lots of other bloggers who've followed suit with their own versions of x365. Some incorporate the x365 challenge into their main blog sites (like Schmutzie) and others create a new website just for this purpose.

Will it be hard to identify 365 separate people whose names I know? I don't think so. If I can remember a name, I have my impressions and there in lies the seed for the post. I'm going to wait until I'm way into the process before I tackle the big players in my life. I'll need to get used to this style of posting and find my voice, as they say. What I love is the thought that each of these "shorts" are the legs of something bigger. These 50 something words might become tender renderings of a special relationship, comedic insanities, or outright rants about people who've been less than gentle in my life. String them together in a creative way and there's a book or a memoir. If nothing else, the exercise of selecting those special 365, choosing my words, and capturing the essence is the creative hook that has me quite tweaked right now. Whittling down to the bare bones, crux, and core makes me want to dance. Weeding out the detritus and excess baggage that comes with most writing sounds delicious. I'm an eternal pupil of mentor, Prof. Scott Elledge who taught freshman English decades ago at Cornell. He was a disciple of E. B. White and The Elements of Style (penned by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White). I know that Prof. Elledge will make my list of 365 and can only hope that if he were around to read them, he'd be pleased.

I've rambled enough; If you're interested, take a look at Remembering and follow along if you dare.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Man is Back!

He's baaaaak.... back from Law School jail and Bar Review prison, I've got the man I married 30 years ago metamorphosed; transitioned into a real human being who laughs and jokes and cooks (and cleans). Bless his heart; I went to work yesterday and he folded laundry (after three years of me doing it) and made dinner to boot. He also scrubbed the toilet in Laura's bathroom (whoa!) and managed to read half of a book, get a massage, buy gourmet olive oil, and listen to me rant and rave (really listen). All this, just a day after finishing the Washington State Bar Exam.

This Law School stuff is insane. As I commented a couple of days ago from the fog of Dom Perignon celebratory bliss, Law School is not for the meek of heart and is way harder than Medical School. I also think that the turds who organize and write the questions for the Bar Exam and those who run the review courses are sadistic trolls. We don't do this shit in Medicine, I promise. We're "collegial folk" who have a heart, god damn it! Check out the review books the size of phone books provided by BarBri and all the extraneous but important paper that he had to get through. I took a picture of his review course schedule/assignments that started the day after graduation and went through the start of this week; five and a half weeks of you know what....as you can see, they didn't get a single day off, not even July 4! How lame can can you get? Anyway, enough of the rant and on to the rave.

D cooked dinner last night for Laura and me. Although he's prepared more than a few meals along the way these last years, they've been peppered with "oh, I gotta go now....gotta do this, gotta do that" such that we could never just sit and revel in the moments. D has so much newly found time on his hands as of yesterday that he's almost a bit nervous. That he asks Chris about what computer game(s) he should buy or whether he should invest in an X-Box (oy) and ponders all sorts of projects gives me a clue as to just how much his life and daily pleasures have been ON HOLD for the last 3 years. Like I said, Law School sucks. I've lived it as the significant other watching from the sidelines and it ain't fun. Ain't fun at all.

I'm so relieved (as is he) to have this bumpy ride placed in its rightful place; on the shelf of memories, still acute but without the bite. Hooray!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thanks, Mom!!!

I love my new T shirt from CafePress, a freebie I picked up at the Blogher Conference last week. It says, "Be nice to me or I'll blog about you" Oh, yaaaahaaah. Today I'm writing (indirectly) about my dearest daughter......

I stopped by Mom and Dad's to say "hi" after work this afternoon. Mom is almost 91, usually pretty out of it, but today she was on her game. That's a bit unusual so I'm determined to document just how cool she was (and how totally she stood in my court). Go Mom! Be my ally!

Me: "I'm tired; didn't get much sleep last night 'cause I was awake until 2 AM worrying about Laura." (my 20 year old who is running the streets being what I guess is a healthy, active young adult but it still drives me nuts)

Mom: " Oh, dear; what was she doing?"

Me: "Out dancing."

Mom: "Oh, who was she with?"

Me: "Mom, ya know? I'm not allowed to ask anymore. I don't have any idea."

Mom: What do you mean you're not allowed to ask anymore?"

Me: "Well, according to her counselor (aka therapist....totally my suggestion that we/she go there to work out some of our mother-daughter angst), she's 20 years old now and I don't have any right to ask her anything."

Mom: Shaking her head....." Well, that's bullshit."

...Pause, pause pause....me, blown away....

Me: "Thank you, Mom!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Thinking: Mom, you get it! You totally get it! You're on my side when everyone else just rolls their eyes and thinks I'm the mother from hell.

Mom: "Not when she is under your aegis; you have a right to know."

It totally blew me away to hear my Mom say the word "bullshit". I haven't heard that one out of her mouth for years. She saved it up for the perfect time. Love it, absolutely love it. And aegis? That rocks too. Sometimes, no matter what, this woman is on her game and today was that day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Bar Exam is Over!

Hallelujah!







The Bar Exam in the great state of Washington ended at noon today after two and a half days. I have my husband back after 6 weeks of absolute misery (his obviously, but mine too in a different way). D is the guy that logged in the 12-14 hour days of study over the last 6 weeks and is clearly the one that needs to revel in the glow of the unfolding moments. But, me too...it has been a long, rough road these last 3 years and especially this last 6 weeks. I'm glad they are over. To D: Congrats on getting through this insanity. I'll go on the record right now by saying: LAW SCHOOL is way harder than MED SCHOOL. Consider this fact if you are in the position to pick one of the two.

We've been celebrating this afternoon, D and I. The Hendrickson family gifted Denny with a bottle of champagne as a graduation gift last month. D decided that today was the day to bust it out; the Bar Exam is past, the results are pending, and the relief is palpable.

Tonight we'll eat out, the 4 of us, at The Brooklyn. Steak is on the menu for the guys and as for we gals, we'll see. Chris is the designated driver bless his heart. D and I still have a champagne buzz going on.

Life will change considerably around here now that the Bar Exam is history. Our lives have been on hold for a long time. Maybe we (D) can get to that broken garage door, the crispy, brown lawn that is a foot high with weeds, and other stuff that gets shoved aside when pressing issues intervene. All this in time though; right now we need to celebrate and D needs to chill out in whatever way that's right for him. He has a mini-trip planned next week to the "beach" (Washington style) and that sounds like just what the doc/lawyer needs.

Yeah!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Awe of Fellow Bloggers

I just can't get Blogher out of my mind. Spending hours on-line, logging in to read blog sites created and written by the most amazing women, I'm in awe and truly humbled. The blogosphere is populated by incredible blogs, penned by women whose honesty, humor, passion, and the fine art of writing showcase with inexplicable beauty. I want to laugh and cry and say, "right on" to so much of what I'm reading.

The Keynote on Friday evening 7/18/08 featured readings from 22 blogs and was, as Fussy points out, "an event that kicked 10,000 pounds of ass". Fussy's post lists the participants in the blog-read fest (complete with links to the posts they read) and comes with high recommendations. Try it out. A podcast is forthcoming which will add another dimension; there's nothing like actually hearing these amazing women (and one man--go Dave of Laid-Off Dad) bring real life into their posts. Lots of laughs, tears, nods of recognition, touching moments, and sheer insanity; a cross section of blogger bliss. My favorite and the reading that made me cry for the raw edged beauty of life, death, and hope juxtaposed was Polly Pagenhart's Thanks Giving from her blog, LesbianDad. I also found the words of Schmutzie a poetic dream. Bottom line: they were all terrific reads by great bloggers. Kudos!

Funny how these conferences go....despite the hundreds of women moving between lobby, meeting rooms, foyers, and social events, certain faces just kept appearing and re-appearing regularly as I made my way through the crowd. My take on this is that the universe is placing us close by for a reason and doing so over and over again to reinforce the connection. It is not for me to question why but to accept.

I kept running into LaurieWrites, Motherscribe, InABottle, Murmuringtrees, and Molly of WhiteTrashMom. Everywhere.

Sadly, I lost the card from a very interesting woman who I met during the Macy's soirée on Saturday night; she is fanatically passionate about Second Life, a topic of which I knew nothing but left feeling enriched and actually curious about the world of virtual realities after she shared just why this forum grabs and won't let go. I appreciated her ability to take something so oddly foreign to me and turn it into an enticing romp. I just may check this out but sure wish I could find this lovely mentor as she's quite obviously in the know. All I remember is that she lives somewhere in Arizona. Perhaps a bit of research will lead me to her if it's meant to be.

Dozens of blog website cards cover my bedside table. I go through them trying to place a face with a name and I check out the websites. I may not know anything else late on this Tuesday night in my bone weary and mind jumbled state but can confidently say that these blogger women got it 'goin' on'. Seriously.

P.S. Do you see the blurred white shape in the background of the blurry first photo on this post? That's the Michelin Tire Man. Don't ask.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Emotional Roller Coaster

Whoa....today has been a total ride on the proverbial emotional roller coaster. I don't know how to begin to post (effectively) about how my mind has taken me from incredible highs to deep lows all in the space of a day. What's with all this mood instability anyway? Is this like bipolar on methamphetamine? The bash and then the crash? WTF?

Driving into work today I was consumed with creative ideas (from BlogHer), inspired by a "go for it" attitude, and excited about the day. I was brainstorming (something I have not done in ages) how to incorporate blogging into the workplace (legitimately) and how to harness the voices of women (maybe men, too) in medicine. As soon as one idea came, another followed. Too bad I didn't write them all down. Like my dreams, they are evanescent and need to be scribbled on a napkin before they fade into the mental jello that makes up my brain most of the time. The high of this creative glow lasted most of the morning, even as I was seeing hospital and clinic patients. I was "on" in all regards.

By noon, I was getting a bit crabby. Hungry and tired, I fell into frustration mode with stuff that just kept coming at a pace that felt rushed. As usual, I don't take time to eat a decent lunch or even a short time out from the fray. Always bent on getting things done so I'm not behind, I wolfed down a sandwich and a couple of cookies, washed it down with a glass of water, all the while clicking on my desktop computer checking emails, answering the phone, listening to an annoying voice mail on my cell, and getting deeper and deeper into the grind. Yes, the grind.

Then, the afternoon brought two new patients to my clinic. Two sounds like nothing but as we say in medicine; it's never the number of patients, it's what they bring with them. The heartburn (mine) getting worse and worse, the inefficiencies of the encounters (a translator for one and complete lack of records for another who had come all the way from Alaska) and the typical mid afternoon slump made the fixings for my favorite body recipe at the end of a long Monday: H.D.M. By the time I looked at my watch it was 5 PM, my work (fairly) wrapped up and time to go on to the next step; visiting Mom and Dad after being away (for BlogHer) for four and a half days (count 'em). The creativity index by this time was subzero having long since plummeted into a deep ravine.

Mom and Dad were so glad to see me; just finishing up their dinner when I arrived around 5:30, they both practically shouted out in unison when they spied me coming through the door, "There's our daughter!". It was like they were introducing me to everyone else at the table as if I was the long lost relative who hadn't been around in decades. I was touched but it grated on me too. I was told several times this evening that I was sorely missed and that "it was like not having my right leg with you not here". Oy.

Cognitive challenges are growing for Mom. I can't begin to explain out of respect for her privacy. Dad can't hear. They both speak so softly that their association is mostly limited to visual cues that the other is present. They don't "chat" anymore; can't make it happen. I sat in the room with them tonight and felt like 2o pound weights were strapped to my arms and shoulders. A headache was in full force (not a migraine, the kind a couple of aspirin will banish). I could barely get off the chair and to my car without conscious effort and knowledge that I was heading home where an open window would bring breeze and a lengthy twilight.

I arrived to find Laura in a frenzy to take off with friends for dinner and who knows what else. She has yet to acknowledge my return from San Francisco with more than a text message and our face to face tonight was just a stare down between a very lovely, tanned, young face and a worn out blob. I dare not ask any details of "who, what, when and where" these days. Apparently, I don't have rights to this information anymore. Yes, this makes me mad.

The house was very quiet once she cleared out. Denny departed earlier in the day to spend the the next three nights in a hotel in Bellevue; the Bar Exam starts tomorrow and goes through Thursday. Those who sit for the exam are encouraged to stay at a local hotel and not risk traffic and delays getting from Seattle across Lake Washington. Apparently there is no slack if you're late. Oy. He's setting about three alarm clocks tonight and asked me to call him between 6 and 6:30 AM if I happen to be up. I wish him well; he has put in 14 hour days studying starting the day after his graduation on June 15. He'll be the happiest one of us when this hurdle is past but I'm next. It's been hard, hard as F. Law school is way harder than Med school. I promise.

As for me, I'm calming down a bit now and hoping to put behind me the dramatic seesaw of the day. I really prefer days that are more monotone, even when they are dreary. The ups and downs and sudden switches leave me raggedy. I certainly enjoyed my creative high earlier today; maybe it'll reappear. Those were some damn good ideas I had.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BlogHer Buzzed

Well, it's Sunday, the core of the BlogHer Conference is past history. I have a big chunk of day to spend in San Francisco before my flight home. I'm not sure what's on the agenda; my Macy's discount coupon attracts but so do the sights. There's a Macy's at home. I'm tempted to sit with my computer and write all day but know that I can do that at home as well. San Francisco beckons.

I'll probably walk the streets and maybe summon the (physical) courage to hill climb back to Grace Cathedral and walk the labyrinth again. MM and I did just that on Thursday, our pre-conference day in the city. I hadn't given Grace Cathedral a thought when I decided to attend BlogHer but must admit that their web site has been on my Bookmark List longer than almost any other URL. It wasn't until I looked at a street map provided by the hotel that I realized that Grace Cathedral was only a half mile away (but mostly all uphill). That adventure, plus a fabulous (taxi powered) trip to Golden Gate Park with stops at The Conservatory of Flowers, the Botanical Gardens, and the Japanese Tea Garden made the day until the "newbie mixer" of first time BlogHers on Thursday evening.

I'm a bit buzzed out on all I've learned/heard from this conference. I need to sit quietly and think, read my notes and check out the blog sites of the dozens of women who gave me their business cards. I hope some will check out my site as well; I guess that's the point. I'm leaving with some ideas and a ramped up curiosity about the many ways to proceed from where I am. Endless options, these.

For now though, I need coffee. Yes, another migraine at dawn today; par for the course with all the rich food and the mixed drinks (yes: mixed....champagne, followed by white wine, followed by some kind of vodka-creme with cocoa/chipotle dust on the rim of the shot glass) at the Macy's closing event last night. Too much, way too much. Caffeine, imitrex, and aspirin (the trinity) will come through for me.

The Macy's event last night was wild and crazy; 1000 plus women and some men (spouses/dates could buy a ticket) took over four floors of the store, areas roped off in the midst of paying customers. No handbag, designer shoe, lingerie, or furniture purchases for the masses last night; we bloggers had those areas of the store under wraps. I took tons of photos but alas, neglected to bring my cable to upload photos from my camera on to my blog. But, as you can see, I've added a few now.

For now, I'm thinking caffeine (we are out the door soon to have breakfast) and what my day in S.F. will look like. These are the final threads of my time away. Tonight, I'll plop right back into the daughter, mother, doctor roles (seamlessly? I don't think so.) internally kicking and screaming. I don't much like it. That's the thing about mini-vacations; they END and I have to go back.

This is reason to walk the labyrinth today; an opportunity to reflect and to prepare for the next wave.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sponge Mode at BlogHer

The BlogHer conference is wonderful, stimulating, frenzied, and exhausting; these are all good things. I would not have expected less. There are at least a thousand bloggers here, 98 percent of them women and a few brave men. They blog about everything from 'A to Z'. Many are younger (much younger) than I, work with blogging for a living, and are tech savvy and confident in the arenas of social networking and community. Many have found niches within the blogging world (my goal) and many actively pursue connections that create their futures. I am energized by these possibilities.

I'm in "sponge mode", soaking up snippets of information that may (or may not) be useful to me when I have a moment to sit back and think about my personal goals in this strangely wonderful world of blogging. I expected this and am pleased that I'm neither overloaded, dismayed, nor feeling trivialized. There's much to consider and more opportunities than I ever imagined. Bottom line: I did the right thing to get my weary bones to this conference. I know one thing for certain: I am a blogger.

And I know a few other things too:
1. I can write.
2. I can listen.
3. I can discern: this is a skill from doctoring (no need for details here)
4. I have a weakness for books; the Internet cafe and "bookstore" (all kinds of books: fiction, memoir, how to blog, etiquette , parenting) with authors present to sign their books is a huge pull.
5. I am totally addicted to coffee. Duh.
6. There is a ton of food at BlogHer. Lots of carbos which is a drug for me.

The last two nights I've awoken dreaming, something unusual for me. These are not blogging dreams by any means; that would be too "nice". These dreams place me in uncomfortable settings where I'm trapped (sort of). There's always a way out of the misery; (1) time (wait it out), (2) savvy choices, and (3) ownership of the process. I dreamed of mentors from my past, my current work and how it restricts my breath but the details I'll ponder further to glean the lessons.

With a mini-jolt of in-room coffee (weak as brown water), I'll get this posted and off to Day 2 of the conference.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"What's My Blog About?"

I'm leaving Seattle today, flying to San Francisco for the 3rd Annual BlogHer Conference. This is my first time to attend and I'm excited to participate but nervous nonetheless. From what I've read, this is a very common emotion among attendees. I'm honestly thrilled to learn and to feel the excitement that comes from participation in an event like this. The program looks terrific; there's something for everyone regardless of interest or focus. The conference coordinators have been sending out weekly emails to attendees, sparking interest and getting us pumped up about these three fabulous days of lectures, networking, hands-on events, and partying. (Partying? What is that? Hope I remember how.)

One bit of advice I've taken to heart is the suggestion that we be prepared to share with others the essence of our blog. In a room full of strangers, the blog is the common link that binds. What do we write about? What are our passions? Why do we do love this forum called blogging? People will ask and drawing a blank in the moment, uttering vague nothings, and redirecting the focus back to them is not what I want to do. I've also heard that most people have a ready supply of cards with their blog name and web address to share with others. I have mine ready.

What's my BLOG about? I'm going to post my thoughts here in the hopes that my newly found blogging acquaintances from the conference may surf through the pile of cards they collect and land out at my site to "check it out".

"Ahead of the Wave"
is a blog about my life: what I love, what drives me crazy, what makes me laugh or cry, and what keeps me putting one foot ahead of the next on those days when getting out of bed seems like an insurmountable challenge. I'm a mid-lifer, a nephrologist, working part-time at my profession and part-time as a crazed member of the "sandwich generation" (bookended between two 91 year old, frail and needy parents and a feisty, challenging 20 year old daughter). My topics are broad but all have special meaning to me and the composite comes (very) close to depicting the person I am.

I blog about:
1. My roles as a doctor, a daughter to elderly parents, and mother to twenty-somethings
2. ARUBA: my birthplace and forever "home"
3. Reading, writing, and poetry (mine and others that I admire)
4. Trees (complex topic for me)
5. Family history, traditions and celebrations
6. Mystery and Magic
7. Idiocy, lunacy, and frustration
8. My passion for a Red Dress


My musings are a bit of this and that. That's who I am. Maybe I'll see you at BlogHer or hear from you sometime. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gonna Go to BlogHer

I've decided in the affirmative; I'm going to go to the BlogHer Conference. I leave on Thursday morning and will be back on Sunday night; four days and three nights in San Francisco. Not only does it sound great, it is great. My ambivalence quelled, I'm allowing myself to psych up and open to the possibilities. After weeks of feeling dead inside, this may be the right medicine at the right time.

All I know about blogging is that whenever I run away from it, it's never long before the magnet pulls me back. I look forward to posting most days and rarely have trouble coming up with a topic, although admittedly they are all over the map. Something about the process of choosing, writing, editing, naming, posting and reading comments has a deep hook in my hide. Whatever it is feeds me in some indescribable way. I long to know if blogging is practice for something else, a temporary diversion, therapy, all of the above or none of the above. For now, I'll go with it, riding the power of its forward motion and see where I land. I won't consider blogging a "pipe dream"; a term which derives from hitting the ole opium pipe and basking in the resultant euphoria, a state where anything seems possible. That may not be such a bad idea; creativity comes from such a place of euphoria. The trick is to get there without the pipe! Ahh, but I digress again.

After yesterday's scatterbrained and woe some post, I'm happy to report that (1) I got rid of my migraine, (2) I saw my orthopedist who told me in no uncertain terms that "YES, you'll be able to squat again; without pain" (music to my ears), and (3)I was diagnosed with strep throat. The strep confirmation is actually good news because it explains the crappy way I've been feeling for the past week. I'm already on antibiotics and (maybe) starting to feel better in all spheres (mentally and physically). I'll take it even if it's just a placebo effect.

Thanks to all who responded to my post yesterday with encouraging comments. You all basically said the same thing and very nicely I might add; no comments like: "Are you out of your mind?, What the hell's wrong with you?, What kind of a dummy are you?".

So, of to SF I go; will pack my bag with laptop today and bid my goodbyes to Mom and Dad for a few days away. They are in a good place; the universe will watch over them. And, I'll be somewhere else, thinking about things that nourish my soul.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Going to BlogHer?

To go or not to go?

I have my airline tickets, registration for the BlogHer Conference, time off from work, a hotel room right across from Macy's in San Francisco with my sister. Why would I even ask such a question about going or not going?

Things in my life are rarely clear cut and simple (anymore). I admit that the workings of my mind tend to make all my decisions complicated when they shouldn't be. Such is the "state o' Maine"* * (one of D's and my favorite expressions which means "it is what it is"). I wish this were the "state o' anything else". Did you know there is only one U.S. state with one syllable? Maine, obviously and no other state in that phrase "state o' " sounds as good. But I digress.

I have a busting migraine today, 5th in the last week. The muscles of my chest/back are in constant spasm as if I had bench pressed several hundred pounds. There is heartburn unrelieved by antacid, H2 blocker (pepcid), and proton pump inhibitors (prilosec). I also may have strep throat (caught from my dearest daughter who has had it 3 times in as many months). Plus I was around a patient all weekend who didn't get put into isolation for his culture proven "parainfluenza". I'm in the midst of a cesspool of germs. That my right knee is an annoyance is way down on the list right now although I do have a follow up visit with the doc and the physical therapist today to learn what I already suspect: "this is the best it will be" now that I am over 4 months from surgery. Lovely. I am H.D.M.

But I digress yet again. To go or not to go to BlogHer? I may just need to get out a pad of paper, draw a vertical line down the page and on one side list the PROs and on the other side list the CONs. Trouble is; the various reasons carry different weights so the scorecard is hard to balance. There are reasons (in the CONs list) varying from self talk like: I'm not a blogger; this is a pipe dream (what is a pipe dream anyway?; need to look that up in Wikipedia as all I think it means is unrealistic frivolity) to I can't get on the plane to I can't be away from my own bed to I am too tired and need to sleep. Sad thoughts like that.....

On the PRO side, I need to get away. If I don't go to a single meeting, just being somewhere else will have its rewards. If all I do is eat, sleep and wander Macy's (can't buy anything; no money) that's of value, right?

But first, I need to get rid of this migraine. Took an imitrex and strong coffee (two of the essential Desert Island Must Haves and may chase it down with the third which is aspirin). Maybe if I can get rid of the pain I can make a decision.

I pity those of you who made it through this post of "woe is me". You can see that I have some kind of ADD jumping from thought to thought to thought. Such is the "state o' Maine"**.


**name of the bear in John Irving's book, The Hotel New Hampshire

"That dumb bear was named State o' Maine, and my father bought him in the summer of 1939--together with a 1937 Indian motorcycle with a homemade sidecar--for 200 dollars and the best clothes in his summer footlocker." (from chapter 1)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Natural Bridge

The back side of Colorado Point is wildly mysterious and beautiful. This expanse of burnt orange, volcanic rock that abuts the raw energy of ocean is Aruba to me. I've written before in my blog that I want my ashes scattered in this most sacred place. I'm profoundly respectful of the power of these undulating waves as they batter the rocky coast, day and night. The ocean never sleeps, keeper of endless moving energy. The seas in this area are typically rough, encouraged by heavy winds which hurl salt spray and white foam high into the air as the waves impact the rock face of the point. This slowly evolving landscape does not change much from decade to decade in the mind's eye but I'm sure there are not so subtle, measurable effects of wind and salt spray over time. We former Lago-ites all know what happened to Aruba's other natural bridge several years ago.

This "natural bridge" on Colorado Point was always a tempting place to view up close and more than once I wondered what it would be like to walk across the bridge to the other side. As a young girl growing up in Aruba I was always told "never, ever walk out on the natural bridge" for fear a "big wave" might appear without warning and sweep me (us) away. The slender appearing bridge in this photograph is actually quite wide and sturdy. On most days days the waves allow for safe traverse to the larger rock shown in the upper left. Many in my extended family have done just this; walked across the bridge and posed for pictures on the other side. As for me, I'd have to say...."been there (many times) but have never done that". Wary of the intrinsic risks, albeit small, I've been programmed to never cross that bridge, at least not in this lifetime.

Here are some photos of the natural bridge taken during a stormy weather. Angry, ominous, and totally out of control, the sea looks as though it wants to swallow the bridge. We must be respectful of the power of water and wind to make waves. Keep ahead of them, I say. Better yet, stay away when they look like this.



I haven't been back to Colorado Point since my last trip "home" in 2001. I miss this place and long to stand on the cliff looking out into the deep blue again. I stand in awe every time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Aruba Lookout



This is where I'd like to be right at this moment. Instead I'm writing this post from my bedroom, listening to the wind rush through the window at my back. Something about this breeze stirs up memories of Aruba where the constant trade winds keep the island feeling cool and fresh. The same is true of Seattle today where the heat of full sun is tempered by a glorious breeze, the kind that you can really hear (like Aruba). As I look out the deck doors to my favorite pine tree (the one whose twist and turn branches form faces), I dream about being far away. Specifically, I think about sitting in this broken down shell of a stone building on the north side of Colorado Point in Aruba staring out at the midnight blue of the rolling ocean as it pounds the rocky ledges and cliffs of this most favorite place of mine.

I remember spending many hours here with my friend Roberta. As young girls, this was our special place on Colorado Point. Even then it was wind worn and broken. All we knew was that it offered partial shelter from the big gusts and sometimes from the sun depending on the time of day. Traipsing through the volcanic rock peppered with small and large cacti as well as the dreaded "seven day itch" (much like poison ivy) to reach the structure was part of the experience. Wearing flip flops on our feet, one wrong step and there would be a price to pay with a the sharp spine of a cactus or stickle-burr poking through the worn sole of the shoe. We were skilled at dodging these painful obstacles.

Once settled at the site, we'd sit on the concrete floor and create our "art" with sketchbooks and a box of pastels. Mesmerized by the constant motion of the ocean, the froth of waves hitting the rock shelf, the white spray of sea foam, this was a place of pure escape and creative inspiration. We hoped to capture the essence of moving water and the contrast between cloud filled sky, blue ocean, and desert rock. I don't know how Roberta felt about her artful attempts but try as I might, I could never quite get the look I sought from these pastel drawings. I still have a few of as souvenirs of a time when I was open to the possibilities.

Other than sketching, Roberta and I would bring snacks and water or soda to keep us energized and cool. We'd listen to the sounds of lizards in the underbrush as they scurried about foraging for food. The occasional hawk overhead with its plaintive cawing added another layer of sound. But mostly, it was the wind; variable in intensity but constant, often so loud that the noise of crashing waves 200 yards off in the distance was soundless.

I loved just being in this place. I had no name for the experience at that age; it felt like I was witness to life, stepping out of the ordinary pace into the peaceful moments of NOW. I long to be there, right now with time to simply sit. I long to just listen and see and sit without thought.

**photograph courtesy of Ken Cvejanovich who spent his young years in Aruba as well

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Resistance vs Acceptance

What's to be done for one very unhappy loved one who doesn't like her new living situation? She is not yet 2 weeks into residence at the AFH (adult family home) so adjustments are naturally still taking place. The staff is new, the food is different, the mealtimes are later than at Crista (12:30 PM and 6 PM instead of 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM), the routines with bathing, dressing, and personal care have changed; everything is NEW. I get that and acknowledge that this would be hard for anyone but clearly more stressful on an older person who relies on structure and predictability (much like the very young) to navigate the days successfully. Add in some sleepless nights and short term memory issues and you've got a great recipe for misery.

It matters little that there are birds flocking to the seed and suet feeders in the enclosed back yard. It matters little that there is a great view of Mount Rainier and the Space Needle from the back deck on clear days. It matters little that this is a bright and sunny home with a kitchen, dining room, family room, porch with comfortable chairs, deck, and gardens. All these extras, we thought, would carry some weight and bring a kernel or two of joy into her days. Perhaps the time for joy has passed.

Few of us, I suspect, are ready to accept the reality of our lives when they are punctuated by irreparable physical and mental decline. Natural resistance to "what is" would seem the norm. Yet there are those who accept, if not embrace the (negative) changes that come their way. Dad may be in acceptance mode; I don't think he's happy about what has happened to him over the last few years but he doesn't fight it either. It just "is". But he worries about Mom's unhappiness (his word) and her unwillingness to surrender (my phrase) to the situation.

I wonder if, with time, this unhappiness will temper. I won't hold my breath. A common response to my question, "Can I do anything for you?" is met with the same answer, "Get me out of here". She told me today that she "loved Crista" and is sorry she left. This is a predictable response in one whose happiness is always found in retrospect. The past, because it is time lived, can be critiqued and labeled safe, good, or even fun. The now and particularly the future are where demons reside, lying in wait to make their mischief, day and night. I pray that if she can't find joy or happiness in this new place that she can at least find some peace, even just a little.

** Since writing this post on Wednesday (I write ahead), I've learned that Mom had a wonderful outing with caregiver Catie this afternoon. Not only did she have her hair cut, washed and styled but they went to Tullys for coffee, walked into the bookstore, and then "drove around" Magnolia for quite a while, just looking at the sights. The afternoon was apparently just what the doctor ordered. I'm glad that Catie is on board to enrich Mom's afternoons three times a week. If the home front is a mess, at least the outings are fun.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bathrooms

Each time Mom and Dad move (three times in less than two years), they've downsized. Their private and common areas become smaller and as they lose space, furniture and "things" go back to their Arapahoe home for storage. They've transitioned from a house with three bedrooms and two baths to a small apartment at Merrill Gardens (two baths however), then to two adjacent small rooms with a toilet in between at Crista Assisted Living and now to an adult family home (AFH) where each has a bedroom. Just a bedroom. The rest of the house, including bathroom is shared with the other residents. This dormitory style living may not be a hardship for teenagers and twenty-somethings who share rooms in a rental house or dorm but I think about Mom and Dad and know they must feel a loss after so many years of living in the luxury of spacious, and private accommodations.

To me, the bathroom is the biggest loss. Neither has a sink of their own (even at Crista, the small rooms had a sink and medicine cabinet/vanity) so they must now tote their personal belongings to and from the common bathroom just to brush their teeth. The toilet is meant to serve 5 residents (the 6th has a private bathroom of her own) but when someone is showering, the bathroom is in use for longer periods of time. This arrangement is problematic, obviously. Thankfully, Mom has a portable commode which she never used until moving into the AFH but it's now an essential item.

Wow, I say. This is change, big change. This is but one example why each move constitutes such upheaval. I don't hear them voice these annoyances much (it's more about the food or the variable attentiveness of staff) but I'm sure that it's difficult to adapt to changes as basic as self care and toileting. It would be for me; I certainly wouldn't like to be in the midst of living the "common bathroom" style of my earlier life. The private sink and toilet with a door that shuts itself off from the shower/tub area in my current bathroom looks luxurious. And, it is. Until now I've taken it for granted.

All this pondering on myriad aspects of aging and reading the well written new blog from the NY Times, entitled The New Old Age, has all of us "boomers" (those of us dealing with elderly parents especially) facing a grim reality. Unless we plan ahead, we too will fall between cracks and have to settle. When there are no defined plans or stated expectations and desires, when the time comes we (and our children) will scramble to do the best we can. I'm learning that if what we want is to stay put wherever we are, surrounded by the world we've created up until that point, we must plan thoughtfully. Sooner than later. We cannot remain in a state of denial; the end always comes. If you want your private bathroom as you age, envision it, design it, make it happen while you still have the wits.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Naughty

I'm posting today about this grotesque piece of "yard art" which proudly adorns the front yard of our neighbors to the south. Why? Mostly so I don't succumb to my innermost desire to vandalize private property and get slapped with a charge of malicious mischief. Denny, being the upstanding citizen and new lawyer that he is, fears I will be caught even in the dead of night, and then he'll have my legal woes to worry about in addition to studying for the Bar Examination. I say, maybe if I do get caught, he could represent me although I wouldn't have much of a defense. That the bastards who own this poor excuse for a fired clay frog cut down our bank of Leyland cypress two years ago probably would not justify my actions and I'd be slapped with a heavy monetary penalty and a mark on my pristine record. I ponder the consequences but the urge is mighty.

On a warm night a week or so ago, I awoke at 2 AM. Moonless, quiet, and oh so dark it was. The plan played out in my mind down to the intricacies of my disguise and the color of the spray paint I would use to make my point. So strong was the pull that it took amazing restraint to keep myself in the bed, bound in my fantasy instead of launching into the action that would take me down to the garage to rifle through half used cans of aerosolized paint. Finally I lured myself back to sleep but periodically the urge returns. The pull is hypnotic, almost trance-like. I rationalize that destruction of (this) property does not involve any living thing(s) and somehow that makes it more "OK".

So, I post about my fantasy as an insurance policy against acting out my innermost whimsical desire for revenge. I doubt that my neighbors have ever heard of a blog, much less read one so I fear not that they will find this post. But, if something happens to said frog, I could easily be incriminated by these words. And, that is my purpose. I need strong disincentives to keep my spirited desires at bay.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Red Leaves in Summer?


These 3 trees fascinate me. I've photographed and written about them before. They stand on Viewmont Avenue and I probably drive by them once a day. They are the first trees to turn red and lose their leaves in the fall, very early fall I might add when surrounding trees are in full green.

These photos taken in late June at the official start of summer already show the first hint of red. Their timetable is unique and stands in opposition to the warm and sunny days of the season. It will take at least two more months for the red leaves to populate all the branches and for the wind to blow the tree bare. But that it starts so early is what fascinates me. What's going on here?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cereus Blooms at Night

In Houston, our night blooming cereus was a thriving, wild wonder delighting us with fragrant blooms on warm summer evenings, the air dense with moisture and the sound of cicadas. One memorable night our large indoor cereus erupted with the scent of half a dozen flowers in a single evening. Not so in the Northwest. This same plant made the several thousand mile journey to Seattle in 1991 and until last year, never put forth a single bloom until we (finally) discovered that it was not getting proper lighting. For the last two years, this crazy, twisted, and primitive plant revels in the indirect southerly light from the glass door leading to our second floor deck. And, with regular watering and literally no other tending, we've been rewarded with blooms. Finally.

Last year there were two blooms during the summer season and we missed the grand opening both times (out of town once and out of our minds the second). This year we spied the developing bud earlier in the week and watched carefully for the telltale sign that the bud was in bloom mode. Yesterday the bud started plumping up and showing a bit of white through the tightly wrapped celadon and pink outer layers. Determined not to miss the show this year, I sat close by, taking pictures, and enjoying the intermittent mysterious scent that is at first subtle and then overpowering as the microscopic mist from the inner depths of the bloom permeates the room. Intoxicating, impossible to describe, and so precious were these evolving moments. I could do little else but be still and witness.

In Houston the show would unfold in darkness but with Seattle's long days, this gentle opening began around 8:30 PM with light still in the sky. By the time the birds began to chirp at 4 AM this morning, this bloom's glory was spent, the petals folded in, the stalk lifeless, limp and finished. That the plant puts all its energy into this one gorgeous, but brief, series of moments is the mystery that unfolds again and again.



I just found R. Fovell's blog site; "Are you Cereus?" and have added it to my blogroll. Many good facts and tips on this most wild beauty.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Remembering the Trees


As long as I have been blogging, I've known today's post would be a remembrance of the senseless brutality that went down at our home on this day two years ago. Our neighbors to the south authorized a crew to fell a gorgeous bank of decades old, stately Leyland cypress trees on July 5th, 2006 . When we moved into our home in 1991 the trees, already mature, provided a treasured visual, hiding an old chain link fence which had been the property line until these beauties grew to cover the man made metal with rich evergreen. The older lady on whose property the trunks emerged from fertile earth was the owner of these evergreens; she had them professionally tended; trimmed and shaped through the years. The north facing side of these Leylands was ours by default, a gift that blessed our yard with privacy, the soothing sound of wind coursing through loosely woven, yielding pines, and glorious shade from harsh, beating sun of long summer days. I know these trees were meant to live in this special place for many years; they were free of disease, at their peak, and providing as all trees do, the precious oxygen that sustains we who breathe.

I remember when new neighbors purchased the house from Nancy. We could see all the changes, small and large going on with the home and the front yard plantings. Bent on personalizing their new home and taming the surroundings, they proudly marked the property as belonging to Mr. and Mrs. It wasn't long before they confirmed our worst fears; to them the decision was a a simple "we need to inform you of our plans-- we are having the pines cut down". I was horrified and dragged Mrs. into our backyard to see for herself how this lovely line of green created the mood for our yard. Her response was to show me just how "ugly" the trees were from their side with bald trunks extending up four feet before showering their yard with the same green bank. She and Mr. didn't like the trunks of the trees; they were unsightly and besides, as the knew owners, they had plans for their yard; to tame it of the wildness that had been Nancy's style. Nancy had planted large flowering rhododendrons in front of the Leylands and the lower branches of the evergreens were cut to make room for the growth of Seattle's finest spring bloomer. This was Nancy's choice but when the new neighbors ripped out those "ugly rhoddies" shortly after moving into their new home, the bank of Leyland cypress on their side of the yard was left sporting the scar of years spent bending to provide space for flowering plants. To be sure, their side of the Leyland bank was less beautiful than ours.

I begged, pleaded, offered money, and shed tears in front of both Mr. and Mrs. to have a change of heart. They voiced lofty plans about what they would do with this freed up space, none of which I could understand. Certainly the heavy root system of these trees would preclude planting anything of substance for many years. They also shared the design of the "great new fence" to be erected on the property line, a replacement for the natural border of trees. Grotesque was all I saw, with lattice work added to the top of the fence for more height and privacy. But having no rights to these trees (where the trunk lies, so lies the ownership), there was nothing short of emotion that I could offer to the situation. I played the only card I had in the deck but there was no winning.

Weeks passed and the quietness between us gave me wisp of optimism that their destructive plans might have changed. But then, they announced the date for the deed; July 3, 2006 and allowed that this was a done deal and non-negotiable. Enraged and upset, my days were punctuated by little else than ranting at the fates, crying tears of incredulity, and wallowing in a place of impotence. What was to be, would be and there was nothing I could do but adapt. I remember feeling great responsibility for these beauties and fantasized that if I literally laid my body in the path of the chain saws on the day of demise, I'd be hauled off to an insane asylum which after awhile, felt like a very reasonable place to be. I was overcome by grief, as if someone beloved was on death row. Protective but powerless.

I remember the weekend of July 1-2; raw edged and consumed by emotion, my then 88 year old mother offered her comfort. There was nothing she could do to change what was to be, she said, but she could at least "sit with my daughter in this difficult time". She summoned Chris to drive her over to see me and simply be with me; we sat in the family room with windows facing out onto the back yard and watched those swaying innocents who knew not of what was to come. I cried and she was present for me, mostly wordless. Her common quote which to this day provides me a measure of peace was offered up that night as the only thing that might bring hope: "It's a long road that doesn't have a turn". I'd like to think that there is some justice for bad deeds, eventually. We just have to wait, patiently.

On Monday, July 3, the planned date for the the neighbor's heavy "yard work", the crew arrived. I was at work, steeled for the worst. Denny was at home, working on a summer law project and he called with updates throughout the day. I was terrified to come home, to witness the destruction. He allowed that it was worse to be in his upstairs office listening to the deafening sounds of saws. He was right; it would be harder to be a witness.

Then, the reprieve. The crew had been working on the bank of Leylands on the opposite side of the neighbors yard and late in the afternoon, Denny heard Mr. say to the workers, "Thanks, job well done. Take this case of drinks (beer?) and Happy 4th of July". Denny's observation was that this was a goodbye to the crew. We had to wonder if Mr. had had a change of heart and miraculously decided to spare the trees on the north side of his property. But, deep down there was no trusting this fantasy although the brief consideration was akin to the unrealistic high we get when we pull a scratch ticket out of the machine.

We proceeded with our July 4th plans; a backyard BBQ with Chris, Laura, a few of their friends and a couple we invited for dinner and the fireworks display, a 5 minute walk from our house. The trees were there, standing tall, whispering in the wind, cooling the yard. I knew deep down, even without the neighbor's confirmation, that this was the last night for these beauties. Did they know? How weird to think like this but I could not keep myself from tumbling into the despair that made all of living seem like an immersion in pain. It wasn't long before Mr. knocked on our door (after a request that he do so by my posting a note on his front door) , came inside, sat in our living room while our guests ate hamburgers and fries on our deck and confirmed that "the crew" would be back on Wednesday to "finish up". Mr. saw me cry again, I pled mightily, offering up my last salvo, hoping against hope to appeal to a tender side of his soul that might respond to the deep pain of another. He didn't get it. And so, to make sure that he knew exactly what he was doing, I asked that he grant me a last wish. He had never seen the beauty of these trees from our side of the property line, had never once been in our yard and so I led him, past our guests and out the back door to "see". I refused to let him go through with his plans without witnessing the magnificence, the innocence, and acknowledging the effect of his decision. These of course were my descriptors; what he saw was a bank of pines that would soon fall to the whine of gas powered saws to make room for an eight foot fence. In the ultimate position of power, he could do little else but comply with my last request. And then, he was gone.

The 5th of July dawned cloudless. I had to work but as I've done before when I lost another tree to a neighbor's misguided saw, I stood before those trees one last time with eyes that could barely see through tears and tried to burn their image into my brain. I embraced the expanse, arms spread wide, impossible to hold because of the sheer size, and wept. Denny was wordless in his grief. We couldn't talk. Later he told me that it was torture to be at home listening to the sounds of men and saws and branches falling and the grinding as limbs were fed into the shredder. By the time I returned home, the work was done and the property line consisted of a length of cord covered by huge grey tarps, straining to be controlled by the evening breeze. The sound of tarp in wind and the new harsh light invading our kitchen and family room persisted for weeks until the fence people came to construct the new wall.

I have to wonder, as Robert Frost mused in Mending Wall, do "fences make good neighbors"? I think not.

Two years later the rawness, the sadness, the incredulity, and the pain persist. We have done nothing with the scar on the south side of our property. We've had many ideas ranging from planting another bank of Leylands to replacing the fallen by planting flowering shrubs. Whether it is inertia, lack of creativity, or simply the need to mourn until it is time to start again that keeps this fence uncovered, isn't clear. That the neighbors have done nothing of significance with the bald area on their side of the fence is at once annoying and gratifying. What happened to all the plans they had that demanded the removal of these trees? Perhaps the deep roots of the Leylands will take decades to rot, allowing the root systems of other plantings a chance to flourish. Who knows? These photos are shot through the crack and knothole in the fence to show the bare earth that once was home to the sturdy trunks of my wall of green. For now, the fence and the bareness remain a scar. Perhaps two years is long enough to mourn. By committing the story to words, there may be healing that allows new growth a chance.