Monday, February 28, 2011

Swim, Bike, Run: GO

Last Monday evening I signed up for the 2011 Seattle Danskin Triathlon. This is good; very good. It's especially good because within 5 (online) minutes I was able to convince my friend MM to sign up as well. She and I participated in the 2007 Danskin Tri but not since. It's time for round two, we agreed.

Earlier that day, I met a friend for lunch near Greenlake and arrived way early. I popped into Super Jock 'n Jill to kill some time. Opening that door was like turning back the clock. I hadn't been in that store since I purchased the running shoes that saw me through all the training and the race back in 2007. They do such a great job of fitting running shoes to the runner (or the pretend runner; that would be me....) I loved my shoes, still wear them but clearly will need a new pair for 2011. I puttered about, looking through the sale rack and found a great long sleeve aqua Nike running shirt. I bought it; I knew not why. I just wanted it for some reason. Participating in this year's Danskin Tri was not exactly on the radar screen; having lunch with my friend definitely was. Flash forward to later in the day....
That evening as I popped myself from web site to web site on the laptop, I ended up on the Danskin site.  The registration usually opens in February for the summer races...."I'll just check and see what's going on", I reasoned and lo and behold, the race was OPEN for registrants. Meant to be...

The whisper, then the louder shout...."GO", the mantra that moved me forward four years ago. Will it work for me again?  Absolutely.  I'm going to do this.

My shoulder is better. Yay! My right knee was "fixed" by a brilliant orthopedic surgeon. What's holding me back?  Time constraints?  Doubts?  Bad weather? Fear?


I'm psyched. And, in the back of my mind I hear what my beloved Mom said to me in the days leading up to the 2007 Danskin Tri..."My, but I'd love to see you race". She never did. She couldn't although she shared in my training progress and heard all about the race after the fact. Mom, in some ways, this one is for you because I know you will be there with me, watching the whole way.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

She Wears Red Well

Anne Hathaway at Oscars 2011; archival Valentino gown

"Can You Pack the TV in Your Suitcase?"

Last night at 10 PM I got a text message: "You still up?"

My response: "Yes, what's up?"

Then my cell rings and what transpired was at first incredulity (on my part) and then (sigh) my proverbial internal "Oy".

I sometimes wonder if I'm allowed (strong word when perhaps I mean is it OK?) to use the word "Oy" since I'm not of Jewish heritage. The problem is, there's often no better word for certain situations than one from the Yiddish dictionary. Does it count that I grew up with a copy of the The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten on the family bookcase? Does it count that I attended college at Cornell and had mostly Jewish friends from the city who intrigued and imprinted my young brain with tales punctuated by all manner of wonderful, new words?  I used to dip into Rosten's book as a high school kid and then was fortunate to live the words in context via roommates, classmates, and boyfriends for four years of college. Nevertheless, I often feel out of place using Yiddish expressions because I'm so clearly, what my friends, back in the day called me: shiksa. That word is not exactly a compliment but in context was proclaimed in gentle jest. Years later, I  limit my Yiddish vocabulary  to one word, culled from the dozens of wonderful words, that I particularly love. That would be "Oy" because....well, it's just so perfect a word.

I digress. Back to the 10 PM telephone call last night....

She, on the phone, asks me: "When you come visit this weekend (I'm flying), could you pack the TV (a 26 inch flat screen high definition, perfectly flawless piece of equipment) in your checked luggage?" 

Huh?  WTF?

Granted, she has agreed to purchase this TV which we are no longer using. Granted, she would like to have the TV sooner than later. Granted, she suffers from the "need it now" gene that afflicts me and other loved ones in this family.

My response? I really can't remember exactly what I told her but I do remember my brain generating a one word response......"Oy"  and a probing question that was left unasked...."How many drinks have you guys had tonight?"

I didn't need to utter these words because she knew.  I knew she knew by the giggles, the fits of laughter, and the background laughter of her boyfriend. I think they'd had a few and were in the mood to prank Mom.

Gotcha, hon. At least you don't mind me blogging about you. XOX

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dad and Me

Now that I'm working a more demanding schedule, my "days off" are fewer. I try to visit my Dad whenever I am NOT working. That's usually 2-3 times a week. The problem is: the days are typically one right after another instead of spread out through the week. Hence, he typically has a stretch of days that are "dry" in terms of visitors unless he has a doctor's appointment. In that case, Catie generally picks him up and takes him. He enjoys those outings as much as a visit from family. I try to keep him up-to-date on all his doc/dentist/foot care appointments to get him OUT and ABOUT..

I haven't seen Dad since last Monday. I could tell he was glad to see me walk through the door today. He was asleep in his living room chair with the TV on but he woke up fast and we walked back to his bedroom to visit out of the watchful eye of the staff. He likes the privacy of his room. Our visits share commonalities.

We always touch on:

1. the Exxon Mobil stock quote
2. how he slept the night before
3. the weather
4. the framed photographs on the wall by his bed; oftentimes I need to tweak them into position as they get askew easily.  He'll say, "You need need to straighten up Father Bain's photograph". And, so I do.
5. the status of his plant; does it need water?
6. how many 6 packs of Ensure chocolate drink he has in his closet; do I need to place a new order?
7. his daily exercise routine with the 3 pound hand weight; "Did you do your exercises today, Dad?", I'll ask.
8. the upcoming events/outings on his calendar kept in the front pocket of his walker
9. the status of his hearing aids
10. what he's currently reading.

As for the last topic, he's reading books again now that we've figured out that what held him back was more than needing to keep a watchful eye on Mom when she was alive. Turns out he needed "large print" books in order to read comfortably. What's really weird is that we're both reading (and have been reading for an ungodly period of time) Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. It's taking Dad just as long to plow through this tome as it's taking me. I watch his bookmark move forward  v e r y   s l o w l y  as the days and weeks pass. Franzen writes well but this one just isn't as captivating (for me) as his other bestseller, The Corrections. Dad commented that he was having a hard time "keeping a grip on the plot". Likewise, since I'm dipping into the book only once a week or so. I'm almost finished however, as is he; our independent journeys unique.

I'm just glad he's reading again.

He's requesting short stories now as, "I can read them in one sitting". Sounds good to me, Dad. Sounds good.

Till tomorrow, Dad. I'll see you tomorrow.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Staying in the Present Moment

"Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence."
 –Eckhart Tolle

Window onto the ocean; old gold mine, ARUBA

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sensible Advice About Food

This is a great little book. 140 easy pages with lots of white space is perfect for a sit-down-and-read-in one sitting experience. Micheal Pollan is the author of several other books about food and how or why we chose what we do to put in our mouths, "heavier works" like The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire. I've not read any of them but they look interesting. His web site is informative; examining as he points out, "the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment".

His latest book, this little gem, is basically common sense, things we already know about eating well. I suppose it's all in the delivery, the spin, the power of saying more with less that makes this morsel a great bite.

Pollan says that all of his words in these 140 pages can be summed up by three sentences:

"Eat food.  Mostly plants. Not too much."
Clever, clever.

1. What should we eat? Real food of course; not the processed mess we think is real food.
"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't." (page 41)
"It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car." (page 43)

2. What kind of food should we eat? "Mostly plants", says Pollan but....that's a mostly, thankfully.
"Eat animals that have themselves eaten well." (page 61)
"Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk." (page 79)
"Eat your colors." (page 57)

3. How should we eat? "Not too much."
"Stop eating before you are full." (page 103)
"Eat slowly." (page 109)
"The banquet is in the first bite." (page 111)

I especially like that last quote. So true except for ice cream. I swear to God, that last bite tastes the best.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dad Makes Valentines

My 94 year old Dad has never shown an interest in traditional "arts and crafts". His version of hands-on projects involved the garden; his own special place to dig, fertilize, trim, and water as amazing things happened. Inside the house he excelled at hooking rugs. Beyond these interests, he never exactly excelled at "fixing things" around the house and left most electrical and other repairs to my Mom. He was always more cerebral; reading voraciously, talking, thinking and exercising his brain.

Nor has my Dad ever demonstrated any ability or interest in painting, drawing, throwing pots or sculpting. If his handwriting is any indication, I doubt that even if he had had interest, he'd have bombed out quickly or else turned into a wildly abstract artist.

His grandson Chris is exactly the same. Chris got his only D in junior high for his efforts in ART class; I ended up putting his sturdier pieces out as "yard art". I didn't think they were all that bad but...I digress.

Dad now participates in arts and crafts projects at his adult family home. He's been sending out cards........Valentines to his 2 daughters and 6 granddaughters this month.

He told me once, "I really don't like all that [crafty] nonsense but what can I do?"

It's very sweet is what it is, Dad.
Dad making Valentines
He signs all his works "DVT", his initials. Now that his hands shake so badly from Parkinson's tremor, he states proudly, "I'm a two handed writer."

Love you, Dad. Hope you have a great day today. And thanks for the Valentine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Motherly Advice/Fatherly Advice Part II

Laura is considering a career move; we're encouraging her to stay with her current job for at least a year and go forward with her company's typical timetable for the end-of-year promotion. There's a "big test" involved but one she will master, hands down. How much better this will look on her resume than just turning her back on the opportunity no matter how frustrated you may be with the job as it is right now. This is strategy.

I've given her a couple of good analogies (I thought so anyway....).

1. Imagine yourself on a bridge. You won't be on it forever. You are moving forward and will get to the other side. Once you are there, you have so many options. Right now, don't jump off the bridge into air ; get on solid ground again where the pathways to what you want or where you want to go are endless.

2. Imagine what you're in right now is a class, an academic, for-credit class. You've paid the tuition, you've slaved away and have one more test to take; the final. Don't quit now. Take the exam and get credit for the course. Let your efforts find their rightful place on your transcript as a course COMPLETED (and done well at that).

I'm not sure this sunk in although past experience tells me it did or will. The number of times I've overheard her talking to her friends, quoting me in a favorable light as saying this, that, or the other reinforces the fact that she gets it, even if there is big push-back in the moment.

And her Dad?  Well, he keeps his email responses flowing to the on line job listings she forwards to him for review. In his inimitable wisdom, he analyzes and translates the lingo....yesterday's post was his first salvo; here is his next....

"Leads = they give you a phone book and you're on your own.
Flexible hours means no guaranteed salary.
If they have to tell you what you can do with all the money you will earn, then you will not earn enough money to do those things.
Another loser - give up the idea of insurance sales.  It's a real dud of a profession.

Can't wait to see you Wednesday!

Love ya,

We shall see. We shall see.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fatherly Advice

The Dad to his daughter as she looks online for marketing/sales jobs......

"Pay close attention to key words and phrases:

"self starter" and "works independently" means you are on your own.

Excellent time management skills means you will be working your ass off.

Excellent phone skills means you will calling people all the time to try to sell them insurance.

Competitive spirit means you will have to love fighting for every sale you make over your competitors.

"ability to earn client trust" means you have to be able to suck clients into buying insurance.

I'm not saying these are bad things, but if you want to get out of the sales field, then this doesn't look like it would fit the bill.

As always, this is just my perspective, and I respect your ability to make whatever decisions you wish to make.

Love ya,


She's looking for a new job and it ain't easy. Fatherly advice is good.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Welcome Back (Good) Carbs

The induction phase of the South Beach regime (diet), that luridly long two weeks, is finally over. I was "good"; overall. There were moments when the the bowl of caramels sitting on our dining room buffet called sweetly and not-so-softly to my soul. But, instead of eating ten, I made do with two and called it enough. So there. And then there was the vanilla cookie and chocolate cake lapse.

Otherwise, anything resembling bread, pasta, rice, high glycemic index vegetables (potatoes obviously but even other less obvious suspects), an anything with even a crystal of sugar was off limits.  Also: no alcohol. When I was faithful, I made do with sugar-free Russell Stover chocolate candies which tasted good going down but had the naughty habit of causing a rolling gut and worse several hours later. Sigh.

Phase 2 of South Beach is way more civilized; good carbs receive the respect they are due. Finally. Whole grain breads/pastas and certain fruits are cause for celebration. I had oatmeal with chopped pecans for breakfast instead of eggs, eggs and more eggs. Variety please. Sweet.

So far so good. I'm going cautiously with the carbs so as not to undo the results of my ENORMOUS 14 day sacrifice.Notice I said ENORMOUS sacrifice, not ENORMOUS weight loss.  But if I had to work that hard to get what I got out of this, I'd like to keep the benefits, thank you very much. I did lose some. Now, with some carb laden fuel, I'm hoping to get out there and EXERCISE. There's no way I could have done so with this crummy diet up till now; even a flight of stairs gave me "leg burn". Such is my body's need for this....

SUGAR. Sweet, sweet lovely sugar. How innocent you look.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What I Heard

Another busy work week passes; only three days in clinic but it felt like five. This 80 percent time is a bit of misnomer. This work is full time when you throw in the extra hours put in at home on line and the every fourth weekend on call in the hospital. So far, my head is above water and ahead of the wave. The satisfaction/enjoyment outweighs the fatigue/frustration.

Last week I wrote about comments made to patients. This week I'm remembering what some patients said to me.

"I'm just glad to be alive."

"My husband is 90; he's still going to work. I thought when we got in our eighties we could relax and travel more. Plus, our two daughters live at home." (my jaw dropped).

"Doc, this one here is my baby, not my grand-baby (showing me a photograph); she's 18 months. She came along after my transplant." (grin). [this quote from an older man....]

"I have to apologize for missing my last few appointments and for being 45 minutes late today. Chalk it up to irresponsible behavior ever since I retired."

"Your right doc, I've been in some hell holes in my day, real hell holes; ya know what I mean?" [this quote from a veteran who served overseas...]

"I promise I'm not going to cry today. I brought her (a friend) along to keep me calm."

"Choices. Choices. I'll do whatever you suggest. You know best." (not so sure about that...)

"My goal is to weigh what I weighed before my transplant by the time I turn 60. Can you look back and see what I weighed right before my transplant?"

"My doctor sent me to see you because she said I had kidney failure. She was supposed to send you some records." (sigh)
And the award for the week?

"What can I do to increase my creatinine level?" 

For the non-medical folks, the problem is a high creatinine level; a marker of kidney dysfunction and/or outright kidney failure. No one should ever, EVER want to increase it although I can tell you ways to do so. Fortunately this is a very easy question to answer.  I love an easy question since most are gnarly and laden down with opinion, qualifiers, and best guesses.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Sony Journey; 45 years plus

I posted a "wordless piece" with two photographs of our family room before and after  updating our television system yesterday. D and I have owned a lot of  TVs in our 33 years of marriage. Many have been Sony brand but we've had many others as well. I don't have a particular affinity to Sony products but it struck me that my very first television back in 1966 was a Sony. Just how far technology has taken us during those four plus decades floored me as I thought back to my girlhood and that first television.

My first TV looked very much like this...
Aruba in 1964; I was ten years old. Under the Christmas tree that year was a sturdily wrapped (and heavy) package. I'll never forget the pure joy when I opened the box and found a tiny, tabletop TV with a 5 inch screen, a Sony. Television was new to Aruba in those days and there was only one channel available, the (relatively) new "Tele-Aruba" station. A lot of the programming was in Dutch or Pappiamento but there were also broadcasts of stateside shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanne.

The station had been broadcasting for awhile but my parents shunned the idea of buying a television even as I whined that "all my friends' families had TV". I was never quite sure why they were so resistant; was it the money they'd have to put out for a TV that held them back or some more fundamental dislike? I never really figured that one out. When spending summers stateside, I watched  television like an addicted couch potato for endless hours, memorizing the advertisements and the NBC logo of the peacock's plumage fanning outwards as the announcer broadcast, "The following programing is brought to you in living color on NBC". They could barely drag me out to do anything; the TV promised and provided all I needed. Perhaps that soured them. I'll never know.

Nonetheless, that first black and white set provided thousands of hours of delight before it finally gave out. We saved it for many years; I had it in the back of my closet thinking that someday it might be vintage. I was right but somewhere along the line, that tiny Sony got thrown out, recycled or donated. I don't even remember.

And now, after much discussion about "the look" of our family room and the pros/cons of going big screen, I find myself in awe of this new Sony, high definition, flat screen, LCD television that mounts on the wall atop our fireplace. I had been the resistant one this time, flinging off my husband's regular comments that "everyone is going big screen these days (years, actually)". Was it the expense? Was it what a big screen whispered to me? Was it something else? Finally, I said to him and to myself, "What the hell, I've always kinda wanted a big ass TV set". And so it goes. He was only too delighted to oblige.

Two thoughts about the expense:
1. The original black and white Sony in 1964 cost my folks $200.00. I remember seeing the entry in their check book. The inflation calculator says that 200 bucks back then equals 1,407.00 in 2010 dollars. That's about right although what you get for the money is awesomely different. How could we have even imagined, us old timers?
2. I've said it before and I'll say it again; it is very nice to be DONE with college expenses and have our two, beloved offspring launched. The kids are wont to say, "Geeeeeez, you guys are really sprucing up the place. How come you didn't do it when we were around to enjoy it?" Sigh.