Monday, February 28, 2011

A Change of Heart

When I went for my 3-month check-up with my dermatologist, I realized I have been seeing him since 1987, when I was 38 years old.  He’s a few years older than I am, with his three children all practicing with him now. 

Much of our conversation, when it wasn’t focused on closely examining my skin, has been on his politics (180 degrees from mine) and his love of hunting.

It was just last summer that he told me he had added 150 ducklings to his property on Kent Island.  His intention was clearly so he would not have to obey the official limits if he was enjoying shooting at birds.

Today we were talking about what he might do with his time if he retired.  I laughingly suggested he could always shoot at things and asked how many of the ducks were left.  He admitted to having shot only 5 of them, a fox having claimed a few more.  He said they were just too cute to shoot, so he has contented himself with shooting at clay pigeons and feeding the ducks.   His nurse and I both congratulated him on his change of heart.

I didn’t dare ask if his feelings about Obama have changed.  I’m afraid his political stripes are a whole different story.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coming Back

This was the first day in about 10 that I have both exercised and played the piano, things I had otherwise taken for granted as part of my day.  Sometimes it takes an absence to make you realize how much you love something, even exercise.
I just spent some time beginning to learn this Chopin nocturne, which is strikingly beautiful.  It’s not an easy piece that I can sit down and sight-read.  But instead of my usual inclination to just dive right in, I began by playing the hands separately, listening to  how each contributes to the harmonic whole.  It feels like a delicious lullaby.  One of those pieces I will grow to love a little more each time I play it.
Even my exercise routine was a welcome part of my day.  Having exhausted all the early Glee episodes, I am now watching the BBC version of Shameless, a series about the most dysfunctional family imaginable.  I did my half hour on the bike and then started to stretch out muscles that had begun to atrophy.
I wish I could say my husband was recovering at the same pace.  His cough is lingering, making it difficult for him to sleep.  We’re both grateful to get the flu over with now however instead of a month from now when we are taking off for Poland and Israel.
As my doctor predicted, it would last all week and then I would feel healthy again.  I had a taste of good health today and I really like it.  The ability of the body to heal continues to amaze me.
I would hereby like to dissociate myself from this flu bug, having passed it along to far too many friends and loved ones.  I’m happy to let it be someone else’s flu, or better yet no one’s flu at all!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Seldom a week goes by without someone calling to ask for money.  There are the police, the firemen, a foundation for most every disease known for man, the walks-for-a-cure, the orphans in Israel, the natural disasters, and let’s not forget all those hungry Democrats.  They all seem to have our number and call it just when we are sitting down to dinner.
If we gave freely to each of these entities, we wouldn’t have much left.  As it turns out, we give generously to support things that matter a lot to us.  We mostly like to know how our money will be spent and make sure we’re not feeding a bureaucracy.
I’m ashamed to say that recently I have been ducking the system when I pick up the phone and it’s a solicitation.  I tell the person my husband takes care of this sort of thing (how unfairly sexist of me!) and he’s not available.  If the person is unreasonably obnoxious, I ask to be removed from the calling list.  By law, most organizations must respect such a request.  Unfortunately the politicians are exempt.
It’s tempting to think of dropping our land line and just relying on cell phones, where you are much less likely to get called.  
Right now I am considering making a generous contribution to anyone who is doing research to cure the flu.   I’m ready for my bout to be over and hope I never get it again.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Hindsight is always so much smarter.  I now know I was really too sick to spend the weekend flying to and from Atlanta to hang out with some of the best friends I will ever have.  It was difficult for me and not fair to them as I coughed and coughed, trying to contain every germ that flew out of my mouth.
Looking back about 45 years I remembered another weekend when I was sick but chose to ignore it and go on with my plans.  I was a senior in high school, almost invincible and certainly defiant.  Several of those same friends I saw in Atlanta and I had  been invited to travel to Gainesville to see our high school football team play in some state-level game, followed by a game at FSU the next night.  I came down with something having similar symptoms the day before we were to leave.  My mother, knowing she would have a hard time talking me out of going, hauled me in to see the doctor, who prescribed cough medicine and antibiotics for what was a viral infection.  Armed with my meds, I took off on my whirlwind weekend, kept alert only by the caffeine of the Excedrin I was freely popping.  By the time I was walking back to the FSU dorm where I was staying after the game, I felt the virus suddenly leave me and I was fine.
I suppose that was my hope when I decided to go on Friday.  The fever I had early in the day made me delay, but the Aleve I had taken caused me to think I was well enough to go.  And so I did.
Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging as we did our pretend hugs at a distance.  People made me tea.  They let me take a nap while they went off to have fun.  It was incredibly difficult to keep myself out of the kitchen while they were cooking dinner.  I knew that germs in the kitchen were never a good thing.
I waited patiently for the virus to leave my body as it had 45 years ago, but this one wouldn’t budge.  We made our goodbyes, vowing to meet up again sooner than this past time.  I’m counting on being well for that rendez-vous.
The biggest challenge was that of getting home.  Air travel is challenging enough when one is well.  And I couldn’t very well tell Delta I was sick since they have signs all over warning about flying with the flu.  I waited around at the airport for 5 hours attempting to get on earlier flights, full well knowing I had an hour’s drive from BWI upon getting home.
I finally walked in the door at 10:30 last night to find homemade chicken soup and a husband two days behind me on the illness curve.  The only good news is we don’t have to worry about infecting each other.  We could even kiss, but who has the energy for that?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Travel under duress

Yesterday I learned how important it is not to miss a flight. I was supposed to be on a morning flight out of BWI to meet up with 5 high school friends in Atlanta. But instead I woke up with a fever and a relentless cough. I decided later in the day to go despite feeling like crap. I finally managed to get myself on a 5:30 flight after encountering a couple of sympathetic Delta employees.

It was definitely worthwhile to come. One of my friends was diagnosed with serious cancer during the past year. Perhaps that was the catalyst for our trip. It was a relief to see her looking quite good.

Unfortunately my cough was only getting worse. I found myself escaping to the bathroom with my iPad in the middle of the night to send off a plea to my doctor for heavy-duty cough medicine. By the time I woke up she had called in prescriptions for cough medicine and antibiotics to a local pharmacy.

Hopefully I can enjoy the rest of my weekend trip and keep my germs to myself. Unfortunately my husband back home is starting to cough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Bounty of Winter

Whoever said winter vegetables had to be dull and uninteresting?  At least once a week I collect what is is left from the last CSA delivery and roast them.  I particularly like the striped beets and the purple carrots in this picture.

I drizzle a little lemon olive oil over the whole lot of them, add some seasoning, and roast at 375 degrees for an hour or so.  Roasting tends to intensify the flavors of all these vegetables.

The bounty of winter not only looks good, but tastes very good as well.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Acceptance vs. Resignation

After our sit tonight, we had a thought-provoking reading from Barry Magid’s book “Ending the Pursuit of Happiness,” in which he talked about acceptance versus resignation.

He described resignation as a rather negative state of hopelessness, whereas his idea of acceptance was much more positive. Not necessarily without anxiety, but also not without hope.

He gave the example of his own desire to live in a clean and neat apartment, whereas the reality of having a small child meant often that was not the case. Instead of resigning himself to decades of clutter, he decided it was within his power to clean up as necessary to be content with his environment. This is the same guy who made a pledge when he became a late-in-life parent to always be honest with his child, but not always nice.

I like to think of myself as accepting any physical limitations I now have with the idea that there is always the possibility of improvement instead of losing all hope. I had a small victory at my yoga class this week in that regard. My favorite teacher offered the opportunity to do a shoulder stand, something I hadn’t done for several years. She also presented a simpler inversion to those who didn’t want to try it. I opted for the shoulder stand and was surprised at the ease with which I moved into the pose and even more so at how good it felt.

I love the fact that acceptance still leaves open the possibility that anything can happen. It seems a far more exciting way to go through life.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Things We Know We Know

How many times have you felt a piece of information -- a name, a restaurant, an actor -- was just beyond your reach?  You could almost taste it, but you couldn’t say it.  It was just a TOT -- tip of the tongue phenomenon.
It happened to me last night as I attempted to tell our friends about the place where we had breakfast three days in a row in San Francisco.  A restaurant called The Grove on Fillmore Street it turns out.  Just as I went to consult Google, it popped into my head and I said “How did that happen?”
They mentioned their daughter had studied with Deborah Burke, a psychology professor at Pomona College, who has done research on TOTs for the past three decades.
I’m not alone in not having perfect recall.  The ability to recall all sorts of information diminishes with age.  Burke, who is just about my age, has shown that the left insula in the brain is most responsible for pulling up stored random information.  It shrinks with age and causes older people’s recall ability to vacillate.
We all quickly concluded the antidote to recall problems is Google.  Within seconds most questions can be answered with just the click of a few keys.  Unfortunately Google will not provide the name of a long-time friend you are trying to introduce.  We will just have to learn to call a TOT a TOT and move on without embarrassment, knowing this is an experience everyone has from time to time.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Another Shabbat Poem

The Swan by Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

I suppose it had never occurred to me that beauty had to serve a purpose...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

How Good Is It Really?

Do you get those holiday letters describing perfect families, where the children are all brilliant, they have traveled to exotic places, and even the pets behave?  From one year to the next, only the vacation spots change.
I am forever reminding myself that isn’t true to real life.  But it’s the image most people want to share with friends and family.
You never hear about the fights, the drugs, the depression, or any of the other negatives that likely enter into most families’ lives from time to time.  
I’m finding the same pattern often comes across in the Blogosphere. I am always suspicious when everything is always coming up roses.
I understand the desire not to share the family dirt with the friends and relatives that read one’s Blog.  But unfortunately I seem to have trouble writing meaningful posts that include family without telling the whole story, some of which might be unflattering to some or all of us.
So in an effort to respect my immediate family’s feelings on this subject, I have vowed to limit my posts to myself and Jake.  You will get the good, the bad, and the ugly as it pertains to our lives.  

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Car Talk

My husband and I don’t disagree about much.  But a current point of contention is the old Volvo.  It is clear that at some point we will need to replace it.
He has long refused to drive it and hates to even ride in it, declaring it unsafe because it doesn’t have airbags.  He firmly believes station wagons are for people with young children who do lots of home repairs.  He also tries to claim the brakes are bad and it performs poorly in snow, both patently false.
It is true that it’s old (25 years) and the body is falling apart quite literally.  But at 169,000, the engine has at least another 100,000 in it and it is quite reliable now that it has a new battery.
We really haven’t put much money into the old car over the years, but I’m thinking soon there will be “the big one” that even I know we shouldn’t repair.  
I’ve gradually been contemplating what to get when that time comes.  My first thought was a zippy, little sports car that would be fun to drive and fun to show off.  Then I considered a more modern station wagon.  I’ve been noticing all sorts of makes and models that fit those descriptions.
But today I realized that fuel efficiency and the environment need to be higher up on my priority list.  I started learning about electric cars that are just rolling off the assembly line.  There’s the Chevy Volt, the Ford Focus (pictured above), and the Nissan Leaf to choose from.  
They won’t be a bargain.  They won’t go too far without the need to be plugged in.  But they also won’t be gulping down gasoline.  It seems like the perfect option for short distance driving, like most of mine is.  What I read tells me these cars are just the beginning of our liberation from petroleum products, and none too soon.
Right now I need to keep the old Volvo going because it will be a while before electric cars will really be available.  
I guess I’ll just have to drive someone else’s sports car!