Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blogoversary #4

Wow; my 4th Blogoversary caught me off guard this year. I wasn't planning to post tonight but after logging on, there it was: the blogoversary counter shouting out the end of 4 (good) years of blogging and the start of a fifth year. Nice.

Compared to this time last year, I've blogged less.
From mid -May until late July, I didn't blog at all; my longest dry time in 4 years.
I didn't go to the BlogHer Conference this year.

What does this mean?

Good things. Yes, good.

Ahead of the Wave is very much alive and well.  I've learned to accept (as normal) the ebb and flow of inspiration and creativity when it comes to blogging. Sometimes it feels like I could post like crazy and other times, I need to sit back and wait. The ocean analogy comes to mind; in Aruba the pounding waves were the norm, energetic and exciting. During hurricane season when a large storm would literally pull the waves away from the island, the sea was like glass; barely a ripple, quiet. So it is with this blog.

Last week an idea for a new blog grabbed my brain and refused to let me go, carrying me in an exciting, new direction. I'm hoping to have Back in the Day on line before too long as a second, but very different place, to write.

Thanks to all my readers, whether you comment or not. I'm hoping you'll stick around for more of the same and a breath of the new.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blackberries (and Stinging Nettle)

First of the season
I drove to Discovery Park yesterday afternoon to check out the blackberry situation. From year to year the peak of the season varies anywhere from early August to early September. I think we're in for a late harvest this year. Slim pickins yesterday although I only made one stop. The best place to pick involved a hike and I wasn't quite up for that.  Here's what I did gather. Still a bit tart, waiting for the sun to kiss them with sweetness.

I can't wait for the offical taste-of-summer, the blackberry cobbler with a dollop of whipped cream. Ahhhhh.

Denny requests  blackberry sorbet which involves running the berries through the juicer to get the seeds out, leaving behind pure blackberry juice, perfect for ice cream or sorbet. We'll enjoy that taste as well. when the berries proliferate.

Blackberry bushes challenge even the best pickers to steer clear of their thorns when reaching deep into the depths of the green to pluck off the ripe fruit. Yesterday, my strategy was superior until the underside of my right forearm grazed against none other than a lurking stinging nettle bush hidden in amongst the blackberry vines. In all my years of picking, that's never happened. Go figure.

The stinging nettle may be great for specific medicinal and culinary purposes, but the leaves pack a punch characterized by annoying and persistent burning invoked by even an insignifiant encounter.  Seems the best cure is time; several days of tingling pain and it should be over. I'll need to mind the nettles from now on, especially in the area I was picking yesterday.

Blackberries: get your sweet on! I want my cobbler!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thanks Heather and Chris

A wonderful weekend was had by all in this house.

Tina and I,  mothers to Heather and Chris respectively, would like very much to make what went on this weekend a tradition every year. We were wined, dined and treated to a magnificent show by our eldest children. Since we share August Birthdays, Heather and Chris (that cute married couple) arranged a wonderful treat for us on Saturday. We enjoyed dinner out at Palomino in downtown Seattle followed by a fabulous performance of Les Miserables at the 5th Avenue Theatre.

Kate, Chris, Heather, Tina
The performance moved me; my first time to see Les Mis. The plot, for a first timer, can be a challenge to follow. The soundtrack is in my future; would love to immerse in the audio aspect of the show again. Marvelous.

This was definitely a Birthday to remember.  Don't worry H and C; we won't hold you to grand and extravagant adventures like this every year. Maybe every other year.  LOL. And, a big thank you!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just Like Riding a all comes back

Well, well. I'm wearing makeup again. Not that I haven't worn some but until recently my repertoire was eyebrow pencil, a bit of eye shadow, mascara and lipstick. Quick, easy and basically invisible.  Laura  would comment regularly that it looked like I had nothing on my face at all.


In the last month, my interest in putting "stuff" on my face has increased considerably, largely if not totally, due to Laura's Mary Kay mini-franchise. I've spent way too much on "products" for healthier looking skin as well as makeup galore. I must admit that my skin is looking and feeling better for the extra attention. In 2011, Mary Kay's  care-of-the face regimen is so much easier than it was some twenty fine years ago when I experimented with her product line. So, a shout out to Mary Kay. Good luck with your sales, Ms. Laura. I'll be a good customer for you.

As for makeup, I'm playing around with eyeliner after many, (many) decades The pencil tip style (dry) is everywhere and frustrates me beyond belief. I can't get the right touch and it ends up smearing and looking weird. Back in the day, in high school, I used a liquid eyeliner and made serious tracks with pristine accuracy. A skill well mastered, applying the thin stripe on my upper eyelids was a snap. Following my intense foray with lining eyes as a teen, I gave it all up for a simpler look.

Until now.

I found me some bomb liquid eyeliner from 24/7 Urban Decay today at Sephora. I'm sorry Laura, I should have ordered the MK brand from you but I couldn't wait. I craved the stuff with great urgency and bought "brand X" as your Grandfather would say. This is slick eyeliner and the coolest part of the entire experience was that the technique, long buried by the passage of time, came right back. Oh, so sweet. How nicely that slim line of contrasting color rolled off the teeny, tiny brush. Ever purchased a color called "smog"? I never thought of smog as being a good thing but as a color, I guess so.

Just like riding a bike; it all comes back.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back in the Day.....

A great idea percolated into my consciousness today, built on the frame of a single thought leading to the next and then the next. Isn't this the way these mysteries unfold?  I suppose very creative people experience this wonderful excitement on a regular basis. I do not and this makes what happened today all the more significant.

I drove along 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle on my way to the E.R. to spend the day with my Dad who took sick with a febrile illness today. My thoughts focused on things medical; like the modern efficiencies of our hospital's emergency facilities. The next thought took me to the norm of professional "back in the day"; not just 30 years ago or 15 years ago but even 5 years ago. "Back in the day", the concept of remembering and revering the way things were in that great place we call the past. All that changed (the operative word); the processes, the cultures, the styles, the beliefs, the way we did things and the ways we thought. And, the adjustments we made, myself individually and the profession collectively struck me as enormous and furthermore important.

Have I completely lost you?

In the midst of all the musing I thought about a 16 year old girl considering a future in medicine to the almost 57 year old seasoned physician,  I, all these snippets of memories, my experiences, my fears, my achievements, my failures..... all the bits and pieces that make up the whole.Perhaps these are of little interest to readers. Perhaps they will be. What's important for me is the writing. The memories need to become words on a page. They must.

In a moment, the idea gelled. A blog, an over the shoulder backward look, written as single posts but part of  complicated whole. I envision nothing chronological, more of a crazy quilt. Also, nothing specific about patients; we medical bloggers must protect confidential information. Nothing overly sentimental. These swirling, every recurring memories need a forum. I know what to do: Blog.

The title...Back in the Day. A personal retrospective.
Ahead of the Wave remains intact, my present moment.
Back in the Day honors the past. Stay tuned.

Not the Tuesday I Expected

The phone range at 7:15 this morning; a call from the lead caregiver at Dad's adult family home with an update on Dad that didn't sound too good: fever, chills, tachycardia, and weakness. Wow, I thought; I just talked to him last night and saw him Sunday afternoon. Sure, he's frail and generally on the decline but I wasn't expecting him to get sick so fast. I know better; this fall of course happens all the time in elderly folks. Even though I know, there's denial. Always.

Long story short: I spent the day with Dad at the hospital; first in the Emergency Room and then upstairs in his hospital room. He's going to be O.K. My powers of discernment between "sick" and "really sick" are pretty good. By noon with a few bags of IV fluids and a dose of IV antibiotics, he looked much better. He hadn't wanted to come to the hospital in the first place but despite his stoicism, I think we were right to insist.  Hopefully he'll be on the mend in a day or two and ready to head home again.

None of the things on my "to do" list, including the yoga class, blackberry picking, and checking up on the Arapahoe house, got done today. I did drive to his home to retrieve hearing aids, glasses, and partial dentures and bring them back to the hospital.I did sit by his side and offer comforting words and translations right up by his ear. By 4 PM, he acknowledged that I'd been there all day by saying "Wow, Kitty Kat, you should get on home."  I took his advice.

Everyone who interacted with Dad today ended up with a smile or a chuckle. He's such a likeable person.  The stuff he says, the expressions on his face, his absolute outward acceptance of all that's going on is only part of the charm. He's seemingly unaware of how delighted people are to meet him. He never complains, is polite, and goes with the flow; "the perfect patient".  All the attention seems to perk him up; somewhat of a bonus if he's got to be ill and in the hospital, I suppose.

We'll see how he's doing tomorrow. I think he'll be better and perhaps ready to come home.

Monday, August 15, 2011

(Some) Mondays are So Sweet

Oh my, what a wonderful day!  Monday. Monday. Monday.  This day, carries a shroud of doldrums for many as the start of the traditional work week. But, not for me. Monday is my day off.

Today is particularly sweet as the official close of a a seven day "on call" roll; a time of frenzied ups and downs, a breath here and there, dozens of phone calls, and hundreds of decisions big and small. Do this, do that, coupled with a healthy dose of questioning: did I make the "right" call considering all the variables and choices?  Go with it, get behind the decision and move forward, monitoring for a need to shift gears and move in a new direction. Change, volatility, change, uncertainty, change, surprise, change and unpredictability. By week's end, I feel ready to bask in the glow of no more responsibilities, at least for awhile.

Last night, pumped on caffeine, I was wired until after eleven but knowing I could sleep in today I didn't care. A last buzz of the pager at 5:30 AM reminded me the work continues consciously or unconsciously until the clock slips past 8 AM. Back to sleep until the bright morning sunshine and the low rumbling of the recycling truck awakened me several hours later. Sweet, sweet sleep and then the realization that there's nothing on the agenda today except for things of my choosing.

I liken this feeling to banging my head against the wall; it feels so good when I stop.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Never Goodbye; Until We Meet Again

This is the last picture of my Mom and me together, taken on her 93rd Birthday a year ago today. We celebrated at the adult family home with cake, ice cream, punch, popcorn snacks, and live music. My brother, John flew up from Houston as a last minute surprise. Memories from that day swirl around in my head as I remember small snippets of conversation, stray thoughts, the orchid plant someone brought, the silver watch I gifted Mom, and the singing of "Happy Birthday"

Did I consider this celebration of her birth might be the last?  Did I consider the photograph above might be the last of us as mother and daughter?  No. In the moment those thoughts vanish. Gratefully.

This week thoughts of Mom consume me; her death like a raw edge all over again. I miss her embrace, her warm smell, her love. In those final months of her life, I often wondered if she recognized me as her daughter. Sometimes I would ask her when her face was blank, far off somewhere, consumed by another reality. She would say, "Yes, of course; you're Kitty." Nonetheless, I wondered about an erosion of our deep connection as mother and daughter. Her essence, her living soul and presence hidden and no longer. She died before she actually died.

Years ago at Christmas, she gave me a small, wrapped box with a gold bow and dangling heart. The gift was never to be opened; unwrapping the package would destroy its message and intent. Mom scoured catalogs for interesting, unusual gifts; I became the recipient of dozens. This one in particular speaks to my heart today, what would be her 94th Birthday were she alive.

The underside of the box contains the real message of the gift. It reads:

"This is a very special gift that you can never see, The reason it's so special is it's just for you and me.
Whenever you are lonely or ever feeling blue, you only have to hold the gift and know I think of you. 
You never can unwrap it. Please leave the ribbon tied, Just hold the box close to your heart; it's filled with love inside."

I love you, Mom. I miss you so much today.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hey, Mr. Boo!

A very nice patient of mine has quite a talent with the craft of woodworking. Several months ago she asked me about my cat, interested in his color, markings, and his eyes. She said, "I'm going to make you something."

Although Mr. Boo, as we call him, is not as svelte as the cat shown here, the facial expression makes me smile and think of his adorable mug. She caught the color of his green eyes perfectly.  The rangy
tabby now sits atop our mantel and brightens my day.

A lovely gift dear friend. Thank you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bye Bye Sauv Blanc

I haven't had a migraine for 5 days. I also haven't had a drop of alcohol in 5 days. A connection?  I'd say so.

I do enjoy my glass (or two) of Sauvignon Blanc, especially on these wonderful summer evenings. Predictably, I will pay for the pleasure. I thank my lucky stars for imitrex which I take way too often to combat the headache that follows. I get 12 tablets a month and I buzz through them. When I hear about people who use them one or two times a year, I stand in awe. Ingesting so many of these vasoconstrictors can't be good. But. They. Work.

I feel better for not imbibing and love being headache free (5 days is a long time without a migrain; if I make it more than a week, a record will be broken) so will plan to stick with the no-alcohol-tonight plan for the meantime.

Cheers!  My Red Bull tastes so good instead.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday with Dad

Just after 10 AM I pulled up to the adult family home to pick up Dad for church. He was all dressed with an outfit laid out by the lead caregiver; his best white shirt, a red tone striped tie and brown trousers. Dad enjoys getting out for a church service; we try to make it once a month. We missed out on July altogether because of my on-call schedule, our annual summer BBQ, and my spur of the moment trip to Spokane last weekend.  When my sister and brother are in town, they take Dad to church. My last outing of this type was months ago. My turn.

As I helped Dad maneuver into the car, I heard a crow cawing loudly from a tall tree behind us. I listen more intently for crows of late; my Mom adored crows. I suddenly feel her presence when I see or hear from one or more of these mysterious creatures. So also does my Dad apparently. Today he shared that he looks for crows out his bedroom window and enjoys watching their antics. "Your mother loved  crows", he reminded me. Yes, I know; how well I know.

Dad studies the program
Sharing the printed hymn

When all is said and done, the experience is truly my pleasure. I may not be enthused when I leave home on Sunday morning to begin the four hour investment of my time but I finish the experience basking in good feelings. He's appreciative and most definitely made to feel a part of the mainstream. Life in the adult family home is quiet and probably very boring for him.

Although Dad's hearing aids are typically on the fritz and he misses most of the sermon, he enjoys the talents of the organist and the choir. Three very special people came over to greet him and I could tell Dad was pleased he remembered all their names even though I doubt he heard much of what they said.

I'm proud to stand with him, to hear his frail, once powerful voice in song, to share communion, and put simply, to partake in the moment with him. It may not have been church-like to use my I phone to take pictures during the service but....I did and I'm glad.

Till next time, Dad. Till next time.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

DQ Tops Krispy Kreme's Stab at Soft Serve

DQ in Ellensburg, WA

I love soft serve ice cream; vanilla flavored on top of a vanilla cone. The craving gnaws at me whenever I spy a Dairy Queen franchise. The problem is (or perhaps the blessing): Seattle has no DQ outlets other than one in West Seattle (waaaaaay too far away). You've got to drive north, south, or east out of the city to find a DQ.  Find them I do whenever on the road, headed out of town. A soft serve cone is a grand treat on the road.

Last weekend there were two opportunities to satisfy my craving; on the way to Spokane Friday afternoon and again, driving home on Monday. Yum.

So white. So creamy. Just the right amount of sweetness. Ahhhh.

End of the story? Not yet. I spied Krispy Kreme's latest summer treat (Kool Kreme) advertised at the south Seattle outlet. These KK franchises are easier to find in our fine city. I thought a good stand-in for the DQ vanilla cone would be mine. Alas, no. Kool Kreme soft serve tasted gritty, flavorless, and sported a weird shade of off white. 

DQ: you've still got my vote