Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Update

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

I really enjoyed this book by Jamie Ford. Not only a tender, moving love story, the events unfold in Seattle during an important and historic time, the early years of W.W. II, when many Japanese Americans were moved into internment camps as a government mandated "precautionary measure".  Henry is a young Chinese American who forges a friendship with a young Japanese American girl named Keiko much to the dismay of his father who views all Japanese as "the enemy", especially during wartime. Henry's coming of age, his affection and loyalty to his new friend Keiko, the budding musical scene in Seattle (jazz) and the perspective of Henry 40 years later as he looks back at his life and the choices he's made make for an entertaining read.

I actually listened to the audio version of this book to and from work and the frequent drives north to visit Mom and Dad.  Highly recommended for reading or listening!

Of Haircuts and Shrek-Colored Nail Polish

At the salon (said rather tongue in cheek as the place I frequent for a haircut is anything but fancy) today I not only got my usual short cut short(er) than I like but happened upon a display of  new O.P.I. Nail colors at the check out counter. Oh my.  I thought immediately of my sister. Why? 

She loves (as do I) this marvelous shade of yellow-green better known as chartreuse. I can't recall coming across quite this shade of luscious chartreuse in a nail polish in the past. I was tempted to buy this small bottle of perfection on sight. What a perfect summer color for toes peaking out of great summer sandals. She has several great pairs.

I don't give a hoot about Shrek but I surely do like this color called Who the Shrek Are You?  So, apparently, does Michelle at All Lacquered Up who posted all the featured colors from the Shrek palette.She wrote a followup post comparing the Shrek series colors nail to nail with a few other brands. Very sweet.

So, while I'm mourning (briefly...the difference between too short and just right on a hair cut is about a week), I'll think about buying this chartreuse green for the next pedicure.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blog Fodder

Today in the dentist's office, the very lovely dental hygienist who I've seen for years asked me if I was planning any vacations this summer.  Having just returned from a trip to Hawaii, she shared with me her visit to the (former) leper colony on Molokai Island. I have to admit, if I was ever aware of this factoid, I've long since forgotten. Fascinating; a topic worthy of a google search to get up to speed.

My response was to say, "Yes, I'm going to a blogging conference in New York City. I'm a blogger."

Usually I'm not so forthright about my blogging interests but this seemed right, somehow. It almost felt weird to admit that I AM A BLOGGER but I suppose that's the truth.

She was interested but said she knew nothing about blogging and barely uses email, preferring instead to use the phone. I think there are (still) a lot of folks just like her who are totally floored by the entire concept of writing a blog and reading blogs of others.

I told her I write a "life blog" posting on whatever is going on and and seems "right" at the time. I could sense the wheels turning and truth be told my wheels were turning too....what would become blog fodder for today?

By late morning, I had a number of potential ideas brewing:
1. the leper colony on Molokai
2. the re-design of my web site (new template, photo, and colors); Like it?
3. the bloggers , the non-bloggers,  the blog readers, and the non-blog readers (got that?)
4. the rare privilege of teaching my 24 year old son something new today. (I'll save that for tomorrow perhaps)

It doesn't take much to pull something out of the air; a potential post comes from seemingly trivial moments in my day. All it takes is a spark of inspiration.

After messing endlessly with my blog layout today, I'm weary. The technical stuff is OK but the frustrated writer in me would much rather find that small kernel of a topic and pull words out of the squash and on to the screen. One after the next.

Ever satisfying.

Friday, June 25, 2010


photo taken in better days, summer 2007

Most nights after we finish with a loose ended, makes-no-real-sense conversation, I still get to hear those magical last words come from her mouth. "Good night, darling".

I will miss her so much when she's gone. Mom, I will always love you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Can't Fix It, But I Keep Trying

When I visited my parents today, I brought a chocolate shake for Dad and a small order of french fries (from McDonald's of course) for Mom. I also bought a small diet Coke for myself going through the drive through line. I should have ordered a large; turns out all drinks are only a buck no matter the size but I didn't realize that until after I placed the order. Oh, well. That's not the point of this post.

Dad enjoyed his shake although he only drank half and asked me to put the rest in the small refrigerator in his room. Mom went right after the fries but seemed vacant, as if she was off in another world. Her thoughts, when vocalized, make little sense. She starts in on one topic and finishes with another.

My treats beat out the mid afternoon snack served by the caregivers so I ended up eating Dad's cup of diced pineapple and half of Mom's since they were "too full" from the stuff I brought. So much for my plan to just have a diet Coke this afternoon.

This evening, Mom called my home phone with the help of a caregiver. Distraught. She wanted to "see me" and wouldn't divulge the nature of her concerns over the phone. "I can't", she kept saying. It breaks my heart when her demented confusion translates into anxiety and near panic. I was told she barely slept last night. Over tired and bewildered tonight, I hope she can get some rest but I doubt it. Even if I did jump in the car to see her, it wouldn't make any difference. And so, I do nothing except sit here and think about how unhappy she seems in her world and how helpless I feel as witness to her anguish.

There's nothing I can do to fix this problem. No amount of French fries, chocolates, frequent visits, small jokes, hugs and kisses will get to the root. I feel sad. I feel I've lost her. Whenever I can (still) get her to say in response to my "I love you, Mom" a "I love you too" in return, the pain in my heart eases briefly. But, the sadness always comes back. Why can't I do something to make this better for her? (and for me?)

Dementia steals our loved ones. Cruel and insidious, I end up saying my goodbyes to her over and over again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Ma'am, You're Using Your Card to Buy Petza"

I love the idea of a debit card for expenses related to health care; co-pays, prescriptions, physician bills, hospital bills. A convenient way to use pre-tax dollars to pay for medical expenses, I put aside monies into the "Health Care Account" at the start of the calendar year and off I go. My only wish about halfway through the year is that I'd allocated more money into the fund as I always seem to use it up too quickly.

The companies that take on the job of monitoring these accounts, WageWorks is just one of many, must be scrutinized closely by the Feds. Clients in no way, shape, or form may use these funds for purchases/bills not related to health care. I get this. Totally. These are pre-tax dollars that go in to the fund. Oversight is critical in order to avoid fraudulent usage.

However....my hackles go up when all of a sudden my card is frozen and no amount of inquiry gets me anywhere. I still have dollars to use for payment of legitimate expenses but have no way to do so. After accessing the ubiquitous phone tree and the most annoying phrase of all time, "Your call may be monitored for quality assurance or training purposes" (How many times do we have to hear this in our collective lifetimes?, Who the hell cares if I'm being recorded? Do they think I'll mind my tongue if they admonish me up front?), I finally end up talking to a customer care representative.

Curiously, the four times I've called I've had a different answer as to what is going on with my account. Curiously, the person on the other end of the line sounds the same each time. English is not his first language. That's OK with me as long as we can communicate properly, my problem gets solved and I'm not left with the feeling that he really has no clue what's happening with the account.

The first time I called he tells me, "Your card will be reactivated after midnight tonight."

The second time I called he tells me, "It takes time, Ma'am. Sometimes it takes up to 72 hours to reactivate your card."

The third time I called he starts in on some insanity about how I had not submitted the proper receipts for purchases from a mail order pharmacy (C'mon, the beauty of this card is bypassing the need for receipts; if used at a pharmacy for prescription meds, it's a legit use of the card!). I asked for his supervisor at that point and found her to be much more helpful; acknowledging my frustration and actually taking the time to research the issue instead of spouting off about what I needed to do. She told me she would put in an investigation order and someone would get back with me with 48 hours about my card.

Disappointing....nothing happened. My card was still dead plastic.

The fourth time I called, the same guy (yikes! Do they only have one customer service rep?) recites the same story about lack of proper receipts and documentation. When I tell him "NO WAY", he pulls out the big gun.

"Ma'am, the problem is, it seems you've been buying petza with your card."

large pause....

I knew exactly what he meant by petza but I couldn't help but asking him what in the world he was talking about.

"Petza, ma'am, you used the card to buy petza."

The last time I bought pizza with a credit card was months ago and I've my Visa bill to prove it.

I gave up at that point and wrote a letter to their customer service department. Guess what? I still have a dead card and no response.

Anyone want to come over to share some great petza with me?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Had to Buy a JawBone

Earlier this month, state law in Washington changed with regard to cell phone usage while driving. Get caught driving and texting and you'll be pulled over and fined. Get caught driving and using a cell phone without a hand's free device and you'll be pulled over and fined. $124 per offense. I'm all for the new law. Driving is hard enough without all the distractions inherent to cell phones, not to mention the radio, chit chatting with passengers, and (god forbid) stuffing our mouths with a meal on the road.

Denny bought me the perfect hand's free device last weekend and the name is delightful: JawBone. This is a word I use constantly in my everyday vocabulary; truly. Never used in the context of facial anatomy but as a verb, "to jawbone". I'm not exactly sure where it comes from. Wikipedia and Dictionary.com have no description of the word used as a verb except in the context of persuasion.

"The President jawboned the steel industry in to postponing price increases."

In my personal (weird) dictionary, to jawbone (often shortened to jaw) means to talk excessively, going on and on and on, embellishing. Sometimes good, sometimes annoying, the context will tell all.

But when I admit that I "got jawboned", I've been talked to death by someone over eager to tell me how the clock works when all I asked was for the time. LOL.

To My Dad....

Get your head out of your b_ _ _, Kate.

I get it. I get it. Three reminders within an hour remind me that I should be eternally grateful for what I have right here, right now. Here's my Dad with his youngest granddaughter, Miss Laura taken a week ago today.

Yesterday, I'm ashamed to say, I blogged about not really wanting to go to the group Father's Day party thrown by my parent's adult family home. As it turned out, the several hours I spent sitting next to my Dad, enjoying a nice meal, listening to a live band play swing music, and chatting about little or nothing of major importance was a blessing. I'm glad to have been there and feel the fool for even questioning the opportunity.

1. An E card arrived from my girlfriend Brenda wishing me a great day and commenting that she wished she could spend the day with her Dad who lives thousands of miles away.

2. A blog post caught my eye, written by Carolynn from A Glowing Ember. She shares a Birthday Card she received from her Dad in 2008; the last one and a treasure. He died earlier this year and there will be no more Father's Days with him.

3. A Facebook post from Tina; "On this first Father's Day without my father, I miss him and thank God for him".

"He's a good man", says "G", one of his primary caregivers, of my Father. I couldn't agree more. Love you Dad!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mish Mash

Some days just feel odd. Today counts as perfect example of an unfocused, restless block of time where nothing quite needs to be done but there's plenty of "stuff" waiting, stacking up, sitting there. Up at just past six AM today; my night was less than restful. Now, just after mid-day, I'm wondering what I can do to cheer myself up.

I've done a bit of reading (great book, this one...."Cutting for Stone") but I can't read it for long; it's one to be savored. Heavy, full of thoughts worthy of ponder.

I've run some errands; to the bank, post office, a Father's Day card purchase, box of candy (for Dad), popcorn (for Mom), and Kleenex for both. I'm always buying tissues because even though the adult family home provides Mom and Dad an ample supply, they use them up quickly and they're asking me to outfit them with boxes in multiple locations throughout the house. Stopped by a church rummage sale on the way home and picked up a cool wine rack for 2 bucks. Now I'm now doing laundry, sorting the the recycling, checking emails, reading blogs on line and on it goes.

Mish mash.

Restlessness consumes me. Dread wants to creep into my peace of mind. Worry wants to partner with me big time. Guilt is my best friend sometimes.

Part of it is the two hour Father's Day party I'll attend later this afternoon to honor my Dad. Would it be bad of me to say I don't want to go? But, go I will.

Part of it is that we're seen mid June come and go; summer solstice is coming. For years the transition into days that become shorter instead of longer leaves me saddened even though summer's best is yet to come. Dumb.

Part of it is the desire to flee from hard work and drama when that's what life wants to throw my way just now.

Part of it is..... on and on and on....it matters little when there is so much about my life that is wonderful.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nearly 40 Years Ago...but never forgotten

This is an old photograph taken by an unknown someone, posted by a high school friend on Facebook. An ordinary photo perhaps; young students walking to the next class or gathered in groups socializing. Taken at St. Stephen's School west of Austin, likely in springtime based on the clothing and the show of skin, this shot has enormous significance to the students in attendance back in the early 1970's. The number of comments attached to this photograph on Facebook tells the story. Why?

I suspect (no, that's not true. I know.) the answer lies with the gorgeous young girl in the center of the scene above, the one whose long, thick hair falls over her right shoulder as she studies the papers in her hands. She's dressed in a popular outfit from that time; the Mexican embroidered blouse with the drawstring sleeves and a short skirt, likely also from Mexico. Her white Bandolino sandals remind me that we girls all had at least one pair, purchased at the Bandolino store on Guadalupe in Austin.

She's surrounded by others, all seemingly oblivious to the camera. All appear intent on what they are doing in the moment whether it be walking somewhere, reading, talking, or just thinking. Lost in reverie, even without cell phones, iPhones, or iPod player with headphones (fancy that). The comments on Facebook range from memories about the girl in the center of the photo to musings about the identity of the partially hidden students. Most have been identified based on some unique feature. The mystery girl off to the left in the polka dotted dress remains unknown although the owner of said dress is known. We all borrowed each others clothing to expand our wardrobe options back in the day. Sitting in profile on the rock wall is Kathryn wearing her clogs and holding a sack purse, her hair partially pulled back in clip (a style I envied and could never master with thick curly hair).

But why does the standing girl evoke such emotion and memories? Why are her former peers flooded with feelings for her and the school we were fortunate to attend?

I suspect it was 6 months or less after the black and white photo was taken that this beautiful young woman lost her life in a tragic car accident at the start of our senior year in high school. She was only 17. She and another classmate died near Kerrville, Texas on a weekend trip from school in September 1971. As their peers, most of us had never experienced the death of someone our own age. Shock, sadness, and the unfair, sudden loss of two of our own touched us deeply.

Years later Lauren's sister and mother funded the memorial courtyard shown above on the St. Stephen's campus. Had I known about this lovely tribute to my friend, I would have taken my own pictures when visiting the campus earlier this year.

Lauren C. and Stephanie R.; I will never forget you. I often wonder what you'd both be doing now at age 55; what would life have thrown your way and what would you have thrown back? I can honestly say that memories and thoughts stick like glue. Your short lives ended way too soon, leaving a hole in the hearts of your St. Stephen's community.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friends and Family

Ed clowning around with his former students

The three of them twenty somethings....

Miss G!

pulled pork....great on a bun with BBQ sauce

smoked beef brisket

the power horse....

We had a smokin' good time at the BBQ yesterday. The weather was perfect, the backyard sunny and warm. This is our fifth or sixth time hosting a June Texas style BBQ at our home. The more we do, the easier it becomes. This time as I said goodbye to guests, I said, "See you next year!". And so it goes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

All Gone but a Very Big Bite for Me

Banana Puddin'

Friday evening I made two huge pans of Banana Pudding for the annual June BBQ. I've learned that one is never enough and two is perfect; leaves me just a small bit of leftover pudding to enjoy the next day, icy cold out of the refrigerator. The flavors mature with time and to me, the best taste comes 48 hours later!

Here's Miss Fannie Flagg's unbeatable recipe:

3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
6 eggs separated plus 2 yolks
7 cups milk
¼ cup margarine or butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 16 ounce box vanilla wafers or one and half 12 ounce boxes
10-12 medium bananas, peeled and sliced

Thoroughly mix 2 ½ cups sugar, flour and cornstarch in a large heavy saucepan. Lightly beat the 8 egg yolks and whisk into sugar mixture. Add milk and margarine. Then, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat; stir in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish with one third of vanilla wafers; layer one third of bananas and one third of custard on top. Repeat layers twice. Beat egg whites until foamy; gradually add remaining ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread over custard, sealing to edges. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Chill overnight before serving.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ramping up for the Annual BBQ

The meat fest is upon us. Plans for our annual Texas-style BBQ ramp up daily.

Denny's in charge of smoking the meat(s): beef sausage, brisket, chicken, pork shoulder, and pork ribs. He's also got the side dishes; potato salad, pinto beans, coleslaw. Plus the homemade BBQ sauce.

I'm in charge of preparing Fannie Flagg's bomb, from-scratch banana pudding; a double batch this year.

It's all good.

Monday, June 7, 2010

May becomes June

It's a rainy Monday morning and I'm up early, early. That's not too bad though because I feel rested. The best part about today is that it's the first Monday in a l-o-n-g time that has belonged to me. The merry month of May was a kick butt experience between Laura's graduation and move into an apartment, my overnight in the hospital, a quick cross country trip to Florida for a wedding, Memorial weekend spent in Spokane, and Dad's surgery. June started off with a bang with an on-call weekend. When this Monday morning dawns, the heat is off and the time is now to gather my bearings; sit, think, and be.

What will June bring?

Only June knows for sure.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Magnolia Angel Redux

I watch for this man whenever I drive to work. If I'm on the road early enough I see him. But, I never seem to have my camera or if I do, I don't have time to stop. Yesterday was the exception. I took some of these photos out of the driver's side rear view mirror so as not to call attention to myself.

Who is he?

He is Magnolia's Angel; a local resident who walks to work rain or shine, dressed in a suit and carrying a plastic bag and a trash grabber. His path takes him out of Magnolia village, past Magnolia park, and down the Magnolia bridge. Along the way he picks up trash and his bag is almost always full by the time he gets to the base of the bridge. I've seen him hundreds of times over the years. He's doing his part to keep our neighborhood beautiful.

What else can I say? Whenever I see him, I feel blessed. Instantly.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Apartment Living

Things I taught my 22 year old daughter re: apartment living:

1. How to lock the windows

2. How to get OUT in case of fire

3. How to install a dead bolt or chain lock

4. Admonishment to purchase a fire extinguisher

So much wisdom to impart; so little time. Sigh.