Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooktacular Stats for 2011

Chinese numerology and Feng Shui for 2011: 

This year we experience four unusual dates: 
1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/11/11, and that's not all;

Take the last two digits of the year you were born and
the age you will be this year and the result will add up
to 111 for everyone!

This is also the year of MONEY. (not sure about that one yet...)

Also, this year October had 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays, and 5 Mondays. 
This happens only once every 823 years!

I hope everyone enjoyed their 5 weekends this month!
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wine Tasting in Walla Walla

Earlier this month, D and I spent a weekend in Walla Walla in the midst of some of Washington's greatest wineries; some 140 and growing. Of course we could only visit a few but oh, my; the wines were wonderful. Eastern Washington is red wine country; cab sauvs, merlots, and fabulous blends. We tasted many great wines and bought more than we had planned.

At L' Ecole Winery 41, our last stop the day we returned to Seattle, some lovely tasting wines greeted us in an old schoolhouse converted into a tasting room and retail facility. What made me laugh was a letter posted on the wall, from a youngster who was likely dragged from winery to winery as his or her parents tasted Northwest reds and whites.

Check it out. It'll make you smile.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Do Cell Phones Give You Acne?

I overheard this conversation between my two kids yesterday.

He: Why do you use your Iphone on "speaker mode" all the time?

She: I have to; if I listen and talk into it, I get acne. Bad. On that side of my face.

He: (sighing) You should wipe your Iphone off with special wipes that won't hurt the screen. Everyday. Then it'll stay clean and you won't get acne.

She: That' won't work. It's really bad.

He: But you can't hear what the other person is saying very well; it's all garbled. That's why no one can ever understand you.

She: No, it isn't.

Sigh.  What do you think; do cell phones give you acne? Turns out they are both right.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

3 Days in Spokane

Some of this, a bit of that, too much of another; laughter, tears, hard work and take-a-break interludes; last weekend wound down. She and I flew back to Seattle last Monday.

Here's some of what went on in Spokane

An introduction to the "furries", the 3 new guinea pig babies born to "Midnight Noni". Mama, babies, Daddy, step-Mom, and half brother make 7.  The one thing I can say right now is these balls of allergy on a stick bring her joy, real joy.  For me, walking in to her apartment stirred up the allergies. I prepared myself this time around with a supply of prednisone, albuterol inhaler, claritin, benadryl, and anti-histamine eyedrops  There was need for all five in various sequences and combinations all weekend.
Scott holds the babies

We attended a baby shower for a friend who dressed accordingly. There were other pregnant women around as well and the Halloween spirit infused the festivities. Nice.

Spooky Baby Shower cake

And babies make four!
Then there was a trip to Greenbluff for those amazing pumpkin donuts and a stop by Townshend Winery for a bit of tasting.

We cleaned and sorted, pitched and organized.

Oh, and I signed on with the Quibids penny auction site and stayed up into the wee hours winning Vera Bradley products for cheap.  Sigh. More things to keep track off....

Back in Seattle. Moving forward.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Heavy Heart

Mom used to talk about having a "heavy heart". I've experienced the same many times in my life. The heaviness comes not so much from the emotion of grief but rather an overwhelming sadness that permeates the mind and body leaving a heavy, lethargic feeling. The heavy heart is my constant companion today.

Sitting at the airport, I'm waiting for my flight to Spokane. The weather outside is foggy, moist with dense fog and light rain; perfect for a heavy heart sort of day.  Although I dread flying in any weather, this overcast stuff bespeaks of a probable bumpy ride. I could do without that added stress right now. At least this is a short flight and far easier than driving the nearly 300 miles to get there.

When we are blessed with adult children, the roles, rules, and responsibilities change. I'm finding it increasingly evident that sometimes, all we can do is listen. Sometimes that is enough. Sometimes, advice is the last thing to help forge a path through a messed up situation. Despite my ideas and suggestions, I won't spout off unless invited. A simple presence, at least for now, is probably the best I can hope for.

I ask for grace.

If my heart is heavy, hers is heavier. How we hate to see our children hurt and struggle with life's problems.  

Typing Skills

My Dad was ahead of his day. As school superintendent of the Lago School in Aruba, he insisted that every student learn to type. Mind you, this was back in the day when typewriters looked sort of like the one below. This was also the time when young men launched into careers that had little to do with typing skills whereas women, be the teachers, clerical staff, or housewives benefited from knowing how to type without looking at the keys.

My brother learned to type in high school in Aruba and when he went away to college he was a hot ticket amongst his peers who asked him to type up their papers and reports for class. He earned money by the page. He's still a pretty good typist, probably far better than other men his age.

Hands down, typing was the best skill I mastered in school from the perspective of continuous utilization.  Knowing how to type fast and with accuracy paid off. Countless hours saved. Time is money. More time makes way for more rest.

These days we think nothing of younger folks pecking away at their computer keyboards. I'm not sure how people learn to type these days; probably either  entirely self taught or with a typing tutor on line. The learning starts earlier and earlier; I'd predict many begin as grade school students if not before. In Aruba, back in the late 1960's we learned the 'old school' way where the keys were covered over with heavy duty tape.  We learned to touch type as opposed to the "search and peck" style I see some contemporaries of mine utilize.

Although typing wasn't a necessary skill in Medicine until the early 1990's when email hit the scene, everyone in the field depends on the skill nowadays. The electronic medical record, a prime example of how medical documentation changed in the past ten years makes my point. We type constantly; clinic notes, communications, emails, and other updates fill the gaps between seeing patients. Many of us bring work home in the evening; although this may involve dictation, typing is more common.

Typewriters are a thing of the past except in the lives of  'eccentrics' or the technically challenged. Who among us is not a slave to the keyboard?

I'm grateful that my Dad, who at one time practiced his skills at the typewriter, who encouraged all of his students to get into that typing class. Now.

This post is also published today at Back in the Day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Joy of Watching Him Read

I snapped this photo of my Dad this afternoon. He's reading a large print edition of Laura Hillenbrand's stunning new book, Unbroken.  I thought he would enjoy learning about a contemporary of sorts, a man born in New York state in 1917. Louie Zamperini, had a far different life than my Dad.  He survived an almost unbelievable series of life and soul threatening experiences  in service as an air-force bombardier in the Pacific during World War II. Hillenbrand, the author of another bestseller, Seabiscuit writes about Zamperini's life and experiences so deftly I found putting this book down  tough, really tough.

Dad likes this book. The last few times I've stopped by for a visit, I've found him in his chair studying the pages.  I was glad to talk with him about the book today. Sometimes when I visit there's not much to say. But, with Unbroken, we could go on and on.

This is a highly recommended read and a piece of  American history. Mr. Zamperini, now 94, just like my Dad, is still living and worked with Hillenbrand for a number of years to document his life.  His  mind blowing war experience aside, (lost at sea, drifting for weeks in a raft without food or water and his gruesome time as an American POW in the Japanese camps)  he  also starred as an Olympic quality athlete as a young man and as an older man, overcame what would now be termed PTSD related to his war experience. No end of praise for this book and for this amazing man.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A New Blog Launches

On the first anniversary of my Mom's death, 10/12/11, I launched a sister blog to Ahead of the Wave. Weeks back, I wrote about an idea for a new blog.

The flash of inspiration required development,  a time to gestate and morph into something more tangible in my mind. I began by focusing on the design of the blog, spending hours composing the description, the dedications, not to mention the font, colors and layout of each page. Behind the scenes, I reflected on the theme of the blog, extracting memories from decades past and considering how I might write about them. There were several weeks when I had no time to consider a second blog and longed to surrender the entire idea. I worried that there wouldn't be adequate material to support a new blogging adventure. I stressed over writing about topics that might offend others or institutions. But, the idea and the desire wouldn't leave me alone for long.

I composed a few posts for the new blog and held them back in the archive. Several days before the first anniversary of Mom's death, it occurred to me that Mom would have emphatically supported me, "Go for it.", she would have said. Don't wait. Writing was one of  Mom's passions, a talent she put on the so-called back burner for a so-called rainy day and ultimately to her (and our) great disadvantage. In the meantime, she grew older, allowed herself to be distracted by other less important tasks, and let her great gift for written expression melt away. Although she made so many wonderful contributions in her life, I sincerely believe this was a gift of the written word was left unshared with the world.

As I think about Mom, I realize: the time is now, So what if I've written only a few posts? There are dozens brewing in my head. If I just let go and move forward, the momentum will sustain me. The reality of clicking the publish icon on the blog means Go. I could feel Mom's support everywhere and still do.

Back in the Day is a blog about my personal reflections; big and small, serious and humorous, critical and inane, on my life in Medicine. Although I may be inspired by specific experiences with patients, I will protect their anonymity. My focus is more personal; what I was thinking or feeling at the time and how experiences changed and influenced me. Written in random order, jumping from era to era (a span of 40 years), there's much to tell from my first thoughts of a career in medicine at the age 17 to where I stand right now, at the age of 57.

Thanks for checking out Back in the Day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Her favorite psalm, the 91st.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, 
  who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress;
  my Go, in whom I trust."
For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
  and from the deadly pestilence;
He will cover you with his pinions,
  and under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
  You will not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
  nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
  ten thousand at your right hand;
But it will not come near you.
  You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
  Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
  no evil shall befall you,
No scourge come near your tent.
  For He will give his angels charge of you
To guard you in all your ways.
  On their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
  You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent
  you will trample under foot.
Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
  I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
  I will be with him in trouble,
  I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
  and show him my salvation.

I wonder why she looked at the world as such a dangerous, treacherous place. Her fears were tangible, permeating her life with visions of disaster and horror. She took great comfort in words like these. She felt safe.

I know that wherever you are now, today, and always; you are safe.

Doris Bain Thompson
1917 - 2010

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Year Ago Tonight

Mary Margaret and I spent the entire day at her bedside. Visitors came and went. Dad sat in his chair in the room keeping a watchful eye on Mom, taking his meals in the bedroom as waited with her. Waited for the inevitable. Laura came and went. Caroline came and went. We worked on a puzzle. We were served coffee.

Towards evening, Mary Margaret went out for take out. We were hungry. She brought back Indian food from a local restaurant; it was quite tasty as I recall. There were leftovers that we put in the house refrigerator and never claimed.

Mom's breathing was erratic all day long. We'd look over at her when there was a longer than anticipated pause in the pattern.  Earlier in the day she was in pain, propped up in bed with her eyes open; she recognized both Mary Margaret and me. She called us by name. It would be the last time.

The day was cool and crisp, sunny. The lawn caretakers were at the property that day, mowing and blowing leaves into piles to be hauled away; fall cleanup.

My biggest regret is that I was not with Mom when she died. How could I have not known that this would be her last night, that the end was so near, that leaving her bedside would be a mistake if my goal was "to be there" at the end?  But, I left. Dad stood at Mom's bedside that evening, bid her goodnight, touched her hand and told her that he loved her. Then, he went to bed. Mary Margaret and I left together to return to my home for the night. We had every intention of continuing the bedside vigil in the morning.

But, as we ate breakfast on Tuesday morning, October 12, 2010, my cell phone rang and the news wasn't good; "Hurry", was the message. Halfway there, I got the call that she was gone. I wasn't able to be there but was in time to break the hard news to my Dad. He was sitting in the family room when I arrived, a worried look on his face, knowing in his heart that something was amiss with his partner of decades, troubled by the fact that no one would tell him anything but instead, had him sit in wait for me to arrive.

She was gone. Her spirit departed, vanished. Mary Margaret and I literally watched the life force disappear from her body over the minutes that we stood by her side.

I wish I had been there to see her take her last breaths. I wish it had been family at the very least. There must have been a reason for my unwillingness to stay the night, to be at her side. For my decision, I'll forever question the reason.

If I could re-do the past, dear Mom, I would do so. God Bless. I miss you and love you always.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Away We Go in a Cloud of Dust...

 Chapter IV


A half-dozen swarthy men are at the rail-way station to receive us,--runners from the hotels shouting the merits of their respective houses. We choose the Hotel du Nil, take an omnibus, see our baggage put on a little four-wheeled truck drawn by a diminutive donkey and away we go in a cloud of dust up a wide street, passing through the donkey and camel market, where large droves of those cheerful and solemn animals are exposed for sale. We pass beneath tall palms and wide-spreading sycamores, where a crowd of Arab hucksters are crying their wares; meeting camels laden with stone, timbers, bundles of sugar cane, bales of cotton, and boxes of goods; donkeys with bunches of green clover on their backs; panniers of oranges, or great stone water-jars, and driven by lively, bare-legged urchins; stylish carriages of Parisian manufacture, drawn by spirited horses with monograms and crests on the panels; fleet footed boys running ahead and shouting, "Chemullac! chemullac!" -- "Get out of the way!  get out of the way!" 

From Our New Way Round the World [1869] by Charles Carleton Coffin
       chapter 4, p 32-33
Mr. Coffin was an American journalist, Civil War correspondent, author and politician.

"Away we go in cloud of dust!", the phrase that sprang forth from Mom's mouth whenever the car pulled into the road on our way to anywhere, dances through my mind in these anniversary days of her death. I wonder where she came up with the phrase and kick myself for never asking. I would have needed to inquire long before her death because in her last years, she made up what she couldn't remember.

Today I searched the internet for books or other references for the phrase "away we go in a cloud of dust". I found nothing in the Bible where so many of her favorites bore origin. Could she have possibly read this passage above or the entire book for that matter?  She knew American History inside and out and read prolifically. Historical fiction was a favorite. Who knows?

She may have invented the phrase. To Mom leave-taking in an automobile was always an adventure, be it wonderful or plagued by worry. Leaving in a cloud of dust implied we were on-the-move, seat-belts buckled, peeling out, moving right along, and in our wake, leaving the dust of the past. 

Do I have it correct, Mom? 

A year ago, depending on how you look at the days and dates, we were sitting at her bedside, listening to her erratic breath, encouraging her with loving remarks, comforting each other and knowing that the end was close. Close and inevitable, her first steps on death's wondrous, yet ultimately lonely journey, unfolding.

The next day, when Mom died, I fulfilled my promise to her. I watched as her body left the home, carefully and lovingly placed in a vehicle that pulled out into the road, down the block and around the corner out of my sight. Her being, long departed from her body, had become the amazing, beautiful cloud of dust.


Friday, October 7, 2011

What She Told Me: # 10

This might be good advice although I doubt there are many people, myself included, who would do this.

Mom would say, "My Dad always said, if you're hurting somewhere, put a little red pepper in your eye and you'll forget all about what was bothering you". Yep, I bet there's truth in that statement..

I've inadvertently had something akin to red pepper in the eye. Great for wiping the slate clean in terms of other worldly concerns. But as my daughter, and Mom's granddaughter, would say, "Who does that?" with holy emphasis on the does, pronounced like "duzzzzzzz". LOL.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Things She Told Me # 9

"Always offer a firm handshake."

She's so right; this is great advice and one I've given my children. A limp handshake is so disappointing and in my opinion, unacceptable.

Addendum: Do you see what's wrong with the drawing above?

I'm noticing this days after the post published.  For shame; these are left hands. They had better be in a strong grip if there's to be any hope at all....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Things She Told Me: # 8

"May God hold you in the hollow of His hand."

How many times did she pray with me, holding me close as we'd say goodbye for yet another (long) time apart. I left home in 1969 at the age fifteen to finish high school stateside. Mom and Dad stayed on in Aruba for another eight years. The homecomings were sweet, the leave takings wrenching. All through my high school and college years were the highs of reunion and lows of bidding each other goodbye.

I remember those intimate heart-to-heart moments spent with Mom, those last minutes before we'd pile into the car, laden down with luggage, "passports, tickets, and money" to drive to Princess Beatrix airport in Aruba.  With tears blurring our vision, we embraced and allowed the pain of the goodbye flood over us. The months apart loomed around us like a heavy, sad cloud. 

Mom and I were both fearful of flying. We both invented scenarios where planes blew into pieces or spiraled out of control while airborne. She worried about letting me go and probably prayed mightily from the time I left her sight until she knew I'd arrived safely. I was scared in my own way about stepping on that plane. She'd try to comfort me with the image of God's powerful hand protecting that silver bird from any and all potential disaster.

"In the hollow of His hand; in the hollow of Hand, you'll fly...."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Things She Told Me: # 7

Mom had two classic comments about parenting; I heard these over and over and over again. They're both spot on.
"You'll never really know how much you can love a child until you have your own."

"When they are little, they're on your hands;
when they're grown, they're on your heart."

Nothing else need be said....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Things She Told Me: # 6

Mom could make snap decisions about certain people; their intentions, personalities, and style. I was always interested when she'd form impressions based on what she called, "the cut of their jib". An unusual strategy, I would ask her what she meant.  The cut of the jib, to Mom, was the specific angle of one's jaw and the shape of the mouth.

I must say, the few times she predicted  future behavior based on the appearance of a face, impressed me. Nevertheless, I thought it rather strange.In all cases, the predictions were in the negative; snippy behavior, selfishness, arrogance and the like.

As I recall, she told me she heard her own mother comment about the powerful predictive value of the cut of one's jib. At the oddest times, I'll remember her intuitions based on a quick look-see and tend to agree. The face tells all but unlike what my husband says, it may not all be about the eyes.

The phrase comes from maritime tradition. Interesting.

What would she think about the cut of this jib?