Monday, May 28, 2012

Celebrating Virginia

Virginia Maher would be 98 years old on this 28th day of May if she were still alive. Today we celebrated her birthday as we've done for years with the usual meal shared in a booth at Spiros Restaurant in north Seattle.  The Vangelis Special pizza is the only pizza we'd consider ordering on this important day. It's a good thing it's the favorite. Virginia enjoyed this tasty pizza on many an occasion when she lived in Seattle. The tradition of a medium Vangelis Special, iced tea and a small salad lives on today and hopefully for years to come. Delicioso!

Happy Birthday Virginia!

I found this photograph of Virginia and her three children taken on Memorial Day 2002, the day before she turned 88. We had a party for her at our house and the family gathered to celebrate. The rhodie was in full bloom on that day, just like today. Happy memories.

May 2002/Memoiral Day

Three Day Weekend

Sometimes it feels really good to do very little except what pleases. This three day holiday weekend has so far been all about a bit of this and a bit of that. In the case of games on the I-Phone, I'll admit it's been a lot of time spent playing Words with Friends, Hanging with Friends, and Scramble with Friends. I let myself play as much as my little heart desired, figuring that I'll slip into my age related dementia more slowly if I challenge my mind with word games.

There was also a trip to church with Dad yesterday which left me feeling guilt-free for the day.

Plus, 3 two mile walks, amazing food (D made halibut, spaghetti, and sirloin sliders), sorting, cleaning, fresh air, sleep, television shows, a dumb Netflix movie (Midnight in Paris), The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on audio book, and an old fashioned in-the-hand book which I'm loving called Swamplandia!. How does Karen Russell write like this? She looks about eighteen years old.

Plus the weekend will end with an annual tradition planned for later today. More on that in a blog post if I can find the photograph that tells part of the story.

Happy Memorial Weekend!
Happy Birthday Virginia!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hacked Accounts Have an Upside

Both my email and Facebook accounts got hacked this past weekend while we were in Chelan. Did this annoyance have something to do with the unsecured hotel internet connection? I'll never know. I've no idea how hackers do their bad deeds in the first place. I only know they create havoc, a sense of dis-ease and concern over what else they might have accessed while they were busy creating bogus emails and sending them to everyone in my address book.Sigh.

Fortunately, I was tipped off by a friend who received the "click here and make an easy buck" email that went out under my name within an hour and I was able to change my password. All back to normal? Hopefully.

Hackers and their nasty work piss me off.

What surprised me, however, was the unexpected benefit that came of this mess.. I received emails from three people I hadn't heard from in a long, long time who wanted to let me know that my account had been hacked. But that wasn't all; their messages contained personal messages and an update on their "news". Nice to hear from these folks even if it took scammers to bring us back in touch. Who would have thought?

Good to hear from y'all again; P, P, and S!

Now, NO MORE HACKERS. Be gone you turds.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Heading Home after a Good Weekend

The long weekend in Chelan (sadly) comes to an end today but I'm looking forward to the drive home. We've some gorgeous terrain to revisit as we retrace the miles back to Seattle. I'm hoping to check out some fresh produce stands; the local asparagus should be great right now.

I'm also salivating over the requisite stop at the DQ in Cle Elum for the soft serve vanilla cone. I strayed from my usual on Thursday last and ate a hot fudge sundae; not nearly as good as the cone. Something about the cold ice cream and the crunch of the cone does me in. Gotta. have. it.  Denny will sit in the car, indulging my persuasion patiently. He'll only eat one of DQ's cones if it's dipped in that waxy chocolate stuff. Oh well, leaves more for me.

This weekend has been all about rest, walks by the lake, food and visits  to local wineries offering barrel tasting this weekend. Barrel tasting? That was a new one for us but quite interesting. On the  third weekend of May, wineries in this area offer a taste of their youngest wines, right from the barrel. We tasted a Pinot Noir that won't be bottled for several  more years and (kind of) got the sense of what the wine would become. That sort of expertise we'll leave to the vintners but it was fun nonetheless. As usual, we ended up buying lots of wine; mostly white but some of those nice(older) pinot noirs as well. My sad comment was, "There's a headache in every bottle". Oh well.

Another nice treat was to read an entire, albeit short, book this weekend.  I loved the feel of a "real" book in hand after "Kindling" for the last years. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka is but 129 pages but  each one reads like poetry. She's a beautiful writer.. The first few chapters were especially touching, personal and full of longing. Now there's a good book.

As an aside, Denny wouldn't touch this book with a ten foot pole. We have such disparate tastes in what constitutes a good read. Even the books I think he'll love, like Killing Lincoln  or  11/23/63, are met with comments like......"it's OK", "or, " it's taking me awhile to get into it". Seriously; it took the man 6 weeks to finish King's 11/23/63 which I'd purchased him for Christmas.  He probably finished it because he can tough out almost anything (think of those law books), even  Moby Dick back in the day. What he won't do is get started on one of my hard core reads; he can tell in an instant that it's literary poison. I digress.

So,  now we head home. Here's to ice cream and asparagus. But, not together. And, no wine either.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Roughing It (not) in Chelan

A short vacation in the middle of May is a nice treat. This is the second year I've accompanied Denny to his WSMA sponsored Leadership Development Conference. This is half work, half play for him and all play for me. I'm not an attendee at the conference; rather just along for the experience of sunny Chelan, the views of the lake, wineries, and plenty of rest. We're staying in a great room overlooking the lake with a deck that was quite pleasant this morning as I sipped a cup of coffee. Ahhhhh. Wonderful.

Last year I found a lovely bookstore on the main street of the small town of  Chelan called Riverwalk Books and bought the Locavore Way. I can't walk passed a used bookstore or an Indie bookseller and not go in for a look. Even though I'm reading most of my books on a Kindle or listening to audiobooks in the car, I bought two that look like good reads. I can't get away from the feel of a book in hand. There's not substitute.

I'm headed out for a walk soon. The day is perfection; cloudless blue and low 70's. Last year we had low clouds and cooler temperatures. There's no predicting Washington weather. I'll take today over just about anything else.

Mama Duck and her ducklings
View of Lake Chelan from hotel deck

Monday, May 14, 2012

Saving Lives for Mother's Day and Every Day

Sure, Mother's Day is nice.... but it seems that each year brings more hype, expectation, and commercialization of what I've learned began with far different intentions. The founder of Mother's Day,  Anna Jarvis  wanted to honor her Mother, a woman who organized an association of women on opposing sides of the Civil War with disarmament and peace being the central goals. In 1914, after Jarvis's petitioning, President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. The focus shifted to a public declaration of honor and thanks to mothers in general. To Jarvis's dismay, within a decade of the official declaration of Mother's Day, rampant consumerism incited her to criticize a confectioner's convention in 1923 by stating, "You are using a beautiful idea as a means of profiteering and as the founder of Mother's Day, I demand that it cease."  She didn't have much sway with the momentum inherent in making a buck.

When my two kids were young, Mother's Day was an excuse to be pampered  and to expect some better behavior out of  them. Now as  an empty-nester, mother to twenty-somethings, a phone call from them wishing me a nice day sits well. Cards and gifts aren't necessary. It feels weird to have my own Mom gone these last two years; the ritual pull of  selecting a card and stopping by or calling is forever a memory.  Recently MM and I  sorted through hundreds of greeting cards Mom had saved through the years. Many were Mother's Day cards from the two of us. We threw them out after looking at each one for a last time.

When I read this powerful Op-Ed piece published in the Sunday NY Times entitled Saving the Lives of Moms, it hit me: this is what we should be thinking about on Mother's Day. Instead of spending money on flowers, candy, and cards we should be thinking about how to change the lives of girls forced into motherhood at  young, grossly inappropriate ages and whose lives are made a living hell by obstetric fistulae. The article commends the dedicated work of Dr. Arrowsmith, a urologist who has devoted his professional life to repairing fistulas at the Addis Abba Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. The hospital was founded by Drs.Reginald and Catherine Hamlin years ago. Dr. Hamlin says;

"These women are the poorest of the poor. They're alone in the world without hope, without friends. They bear their sorrows in silent shame. Their miseries, untreated are utterly lonely and lifelong."

I'm going to honor my Mother by sending a donation to the cause. I'm confident she'd be pleased.

Let's think about how we celebrate. 18 billion dollars was spent to honor our mothers yesterday. Think how even a fraction of that amount might change the lives of less fortunate women who live a hellish nightmare as a result of becoming mothers.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hooked on 'The Killing'

The second season of AMC's "The Killing" is well underway. Denny and I've spent the last few weeks catching up (courtesy of Netflix) on Season 1.  The first few episodes were excessively gloomy and heavy with sadness making us question why we decided to watch in the first place. The story takes place in Seattle which is the major draw. Although there are lots of familiar cityscapes and shots of Discovery Park (the site of  unsolved murder), much of the show was filmed in Vancouver, B.C. which visually ia a remarkably similar city.

Linden and Holder
The Killing casts a deep hook in your hide by about the fifth episode of Season 1 as the interestingly paired detectives Linden and Holder investigate the murder of a teenaged girl. The girl's past, her family's hidden secrets, city politics, and the duo of emotionally scarred detectives make for great escape as the search for the perpetrator escalates, moving from one suspect to the next over an entire season.  Season 2 is more investigative work on the same crime but the stakes get higher, the violence escalates, and everything is not what it appears to be. Good stuff, huh?

My only beef is the incessant rain, overly heavy for Seattle which tends to mist rather than downpour as anyone who has lived here awhile can tell you. There must have been some negative critique along the way; I've noticed that Season 2 is far less soggy than Season 1. Sure, we get rain in Seattle, especially in the fall but, please.... October can as easily showcase sunny days with brilliant fall color. You'd never know that from Season 1 where Seattle transforms into a rainforest where moss grows abundantly on every dripping surface. Otherwise, this show rocks.

Mireille Enos plays the lead role as detective Sarah Linden. She's tough, complex, and insightful but personally troubled, flawed and floundering below the intensely serious surface. The other characters are equally unique blends of good:bad, innocent:guilty, and trustworthy:conniving. We're left wondering after every episode: Who (actually) Killed Rosie Larsen?

Enos, playing the role of  Detective Linden, never smiles. Never. Serious to the core, troubled, vexed by every twist and turn in the story line, she eats breath mints and smokes a few cigarettes and drinks scotch straight up. But smile? Never. Her persona doesn't leave room for any lighter moments.

Enos is quite striking as this photograph  shows. What's cool is that she grew up in Houston and attended HSPVA (High School for Performing and Visual Arts), the school just across the street from a house we lived in from 1983-1988. I doubt she was old enough to have attended while we were in the neighborhood but it's interesting nonetheless. HSPVA turned out some major talent.

Anyway, maybe you'll enjoy this show as much as Denny and I have; worth a look if you're up for a heavier, darker tale set in dreary Seattle town. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Woe is Me, Alcohol is Not to Be...

A crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is my happy indulgence. 

A cold beer after sweating in the sun is a thirst quenching blessing.

The Cuba Libre is a favorite mixed drink, especially when celebrating a reunion with Brenda Pate.

Unfortunately, all types of alcohol whether wine, beer or spirits cause the same problem for me with 100 percent predictability. Migraine Headache;. pound, pound, pound. After a busy work week, D and I shared a lovely bottle of dry Riesling last evening. Four hours later, an unusually nasty right hemi-cranial misery, recalcitrant to the usual soothing effects of sumatriptan. ARghhhh....

The situation makes me angry.

There's definitely a serious incompatibility going on here. Even today, I feel sluggish.

Damn it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ethiopian Food; Spokane Style

The weekend I spent with Laura in Spokane wasn't completely taken up with sorting, organizing and cleaning her new apartment.  There were a few diversions, the most notable a lunch at Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian restaurant. What a delightful treat. The food was great (although we should have been more adventurous with the heat factor) but even more, the owner was such a lovely woman I could have stayed there all afternoon sipping spiced Ethiopian iced tea and chatting with her.

The restaurant is small and we were the first lunch guests of the day. We took our time, enjoying an appetizer called Veggie Sambusa. Next came the shared meal of two different vegetarian entrees served on an edible pallet of injera with two additional rolled pieces of injera. No utensils.  "Tear, scoop, and squeeze" where the owner's instructions on how to eat the meal in traditional style.We were so hungry and the food was hearty and satisfying.

Injera fascinates me. I've tasted it before at my Dad's adult family home where all of the caregivers come from Ethiopia. They often serve their traditional foods at the open house parties at Christmas and Halloween.  Several times, one of the caregivers has offered me some of her food to taste, a bit worried that I might not be up for the spiciness but I've really liked the flavors. There are lots of vegetarian dishes, too and that makes me happy.

Eating injera is like eating a sponge; non-salty and slightly sour tasting. It grows on me the more times I eat it. Clearly a vehicle for getting the food from the plate into your mouth, it's also quite nutritious. It absorbs the flavor of whatever food it touches. Yum.

Laura and I polished off our meal with baklava and a homemade peanut cookie dipped in chocolate. I'm not sure how authentic these desserts are to Ethiopia but they were delicious nonetheless.

I've got to go back. Better yet, I've got to check out some of the local Ethiopian restaurant sin Seattle. I'm hungry just thinking about this "hole - ey" looking pancake and all the good things it wants to soak up.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grateful for my Feet

Growing up, I didn't like the look of my feet. They reminded me of my Dad's feet. Mom's feet were so feminine and nice looking. Somehow, my Dad's genes reigned strong on this trait, for me and my siblings.

Dad would say, "What's wrong with your feet? They look like mine and they're fine, strong feet". I wasn't able to see what he saw until many years later. He was so right; these feet are just fine. Think of all the miles they've carried me and they still look OK.

Feet can be timeless (note: can be). If all you see is someone's feet it can be really tough to predict their age. Truly young feet can look old and vice versa. My Mom's feet maintained their youthful, feminine look up until the day she died at age 93. Amazing. Amazing feet.

As an aside, two days a week I ply my trade as a kidney doctor in the Podiatry clinic in our Federal Way location. When working at a remote site, you take whatever space is available. At first I was off-put by the anatomic posters of feet on the walls and the three dimensional models of ankle and metatarsal bones. Now I've come to appreciate my home-away-from-home in the foot clinic. The podiatrists are an interesting group; I've grown to enjoy their company and enjoy the  fact that we work and think from such different perspectives. Vive le difference.

What makes me chuckle is listening to my podiatrist colleague dictate outpatient notes. He describes in great detail things that sound incredibly gross....

"......the severely mycotic ram's horn toenails..." brings to mind these images. I've seen them frequently and fail to understand how something like this takes hold in the first place. I could always ask my podiatrist friend. From the number of those afflicted, clearly this is bread-and-butter business for him.

I'd best not be smug. When I'm old I may not be just wearing purple; I may be sporting these However, if I continue in the path of  my 95 year old Dad, I won't. Thankfully.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Three Week Marathon

A sprint, not a marathon, for me please. I'd much rather grit my teeth and get through something self limited than steam ahead on a seemingly endless and exhausting moving treadmill. Yesterday marked the end to my three week nose-to-the-grindstone, work-like-a-dog (who is that working dog, by the way?), date with a mixed up stew of responsibilities and tasks.

I'm settling in to my second day off, at home, free of my paying job and trying to ignore the non-paying jobs as best I can, I'll take a stab writing about what went on in these three weeks above and beyond wine, chocolate, coffee, red bull, imitrex, tears, and curses.

Photographing Everything
MM and I tackled and made a decent dent in the enormous task of sorting through and archiving items at the house on Arapahoe. Our goal is to get the house ready to sell although we've lots more to do before that can happen. She was here for 10 days and we worked together most days; sometimes for 8-10 hours at a time, sometimes for just a few hours in the evening. I had three full days OFF of work to really dig in. MM took hundreds of photographs from furniture and wall hangings to treasured family dinnerware, decorative plates, and crystal; the basis for a master spreadsheet for the extended family to view and choose what they might like to inherit. We also donated at least four carloads of stuff to charity and generated bags of trash and recycling, Hand sorting and making a decision about every single item is emotionally draining. Hauling box after box of archived family papers and photographs into the car and then into my basement was physically exhausting. The work was important. We knew this down to the bone.

Living Room at Arapahoe

Happy 24th!
Laura and Scott breezed in for less than 48 hours the weekend of her Birthday in the midst of the Arapahoe project. We jam packed their hours with good food, drink, conversation, and of course hauling boxes out of Scott's car and back into Scott's car for their trip back to Spokane. Sometimes it seems as though we move STUFF from one location to another continuously. STUFF; the things that begin to weigh us down and take over our lives. There is a theme here, people.

Then came my ill advised 48 hour trip to Spokane to visit Laura a week later. I drove the 285 miles each way, listening to audio books and stopping regularly at Dairy Queen franchises for soft serve cones to fuel the journey. I agreed to make the trip because she wanted me to see her new apartment and......she was alone for the weekend and felt like company would be nice. In her defense, I think she anticipated tackling a few small (sorting/organizing) projects but, NO.....over ambitious Mom was in high gear and ready to work relentlessly on a life-long project that, unless I consciously put a stop to it, will never (ever) end. She and I are both too old (in different ways) to be doing this dance. She ends up frustrated. I end up frustrated and things go to SHIT before long; usually by the 24 hour mark. In retrospect, her apartment looked better for my visit but at what cost to us both?  Live and learn over and over and over again.

Baby Noni?
Top this exhaustion off  with a legitimate allergy to guinea pig urine (I've learned it is not so much dander as it is urine that morphs into aerosol). That's gross especially for me, a Nephrologist who loves urine. Within a half hour of arrival at Laura's new digs, I could feel the familiar itchy throat, raspy voice, and the start of chest tightness. The rest of the story involved an albuterol inhaler, zyrtec, wide open windows that allowed stinkbugs free entry into the apartment, and frizzled nerves all around.

The not so good news about pulling into Seattle late afternoon last Sunday was the looming 7 day on-call week starting bright and early Monday morning. Couple that with a 95 year old father who hadn't seen me in a week. The final seven days of the marathon seemed like impending hell. In the end, it was half easy:half hard and I lived through it.

I'm taking these two days off to do exactly what I want. Oh, and a few things I don't want to do like clean the house. Denny's wonderful about cooking and laundry but as for cleaning? That's mine.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shoes: Made in America

Shoes made in America?  You must be joking!  Ever taken a look at the inside of (every pair) your shoes to see from whence they come?  I did once and found that 100 percent came from China. 100 percent.

Today, I proudly purchased a "made in America" brand at  Bartell Drug Store, no less. My sister turned me on to these a few weeks ago. She has several pair and bought more this recent trip to Seattle. Yes, they're akin to "flip flops" but way better. What flip flops have you purchased lately that cost less than ten bucks and came with a two year warranty? Well, then... I didn't think so.

Check out Okabashi brand upscale flip-flops (aka zoris or thongs; yikes!; don't you love synonyms?) which come in a variety of colors and basic small, medium, large, xtra large sizes..They are MADE IN THE USA, recyclable and as noted, have a 2 year guarantee. The tag attached to the shoe indicates the shoes are also "dishwasher-safe, anti-microbial, slip resistant, and vegan friendly". Could you possibly ask for more?

Bartell Drug had them on sale. They were perfect for a gorgeous, sunny spring day and will be the go to shoe for the upcoming vacations to sea and sand.

Yay for Okabashi!