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22 March 2009 @ 01:15 pm
Except for a tough 2-week cold/flu combo, I've been feeling great all winter. I think I owe a lot of it to an exercise plan I found in this book.

It has a graduated program of free-weight lifting, aerobics, balance and stretching exercises. I've been able to do the aerobics portion by going up and down the stairs between the first and second floors of the house (rather boring, but great for quickly getting the heart rate up and great as an anti-osteoporosis routine, plus we don't heat this stairwell in winter unless we have guests staying overnight, so it's nice and cool in there--a good place for a workout).  Plus, I was able to stay pretty much on schedule no matter what the weather was doing outside.  That certainly helped on icy, blizzardy days.

This week's unseasonably warm weather provided an opportunity to do the first hefty-type yardwork of the year--pruning trees, dragging big felled branches around, and raking up dead leaves left over from last fall--stuff that normally leaves me with pretty sore muscles every spring.  It was amazingly easy this time around, no doubt because I'm stronger. 

But I overdid one of the stretches recently and may have exacerbated the problem while pruning. It feels like I must have torn something behind my right knee.  So I'm favoring that leg a bit, limping slightly. 

16 December 2008 @ 01:20 am
I spent the weekend dreaming up elaborate menus of dishes I would cook for guests next week, or even this week (and freeze) if I really got it together.

And I did, by yesterday, get some holiday baking done, and I'm pleased to say that some of it is on its way to Guyana, South America right now, where friend Katrina, who is expecting only a package of two-year-old magazines from me, is stationed with the Peace Corps. Katrina will find brownies and date bars along with the periodicals. And I managed to do up a goodly batch of that great thick Laurel's Kitchen tomato sauce that's so wonderful on pasta.

Tonight, however, while heating a casserole, my oven's heating element suddenly went haywire.  A two-inch piece of the element flared white-hot with what looked like flame and began to buzz like a broken doorbell. It then went quiet. And dark. I opened the oven door, but no clues presented themselves--the casserole hadn't boiled over; no liquid had landed on the element. At Keith's suggestion, I tried turning the oven off, then on again. To my relief, the temperature began to climb. But then it stopped climbing. It didn't fall, but it couldn't get any higher than 310 Fahrenheit. I tried turning it off and on again, but 310 appears to be the oven's new top temperature.

Which is not going to cut it for cooking, holiday or otherwise.
Here I would like to put in a good word for the art of complaining, because I took this opportunity to rail against the unjustness of it all to Keith, who suggested that I complain all too often, which led us eventually to a much more far-ranging discussion about what we do not (and do) still love about each other after almost 30 years of marriage. We decided to keep at it, in case you're wondering. The marriage AND the discussion.

But in the meantime I am going to have to (a) arrange a quick fix for my oven,  (b) replace it or (c) forget about feeding holiday guests anything that requires cooking in a conventional oven.   
23 October 2008 @ 02:10 am
Traveled to Ames today to check out a possible assisted living apartment for Dad that just went on the market. Then headed for Des Moines to catch Jennifer O'Connor's (www.jenniferoconnor.net/) show at the Vaudeville Mews--only I was the only person who showed up. Walked into what looked like the right place--her photo was on a poster on the door. There she was standing in the vestibule. It's 5 minutes past showtime.

me: Uh, hope I'm at the right place.

JO: Are you here for the concert?

me: Yes. (looking closer at her--it's kind of dark in the vestibule) Are you Jennifer?

JO: Yes.

me: Cool! Wow! I love your music!

JO: Thanks! But so far, you're the only one here. Did you bring anyone else?

me: You're kidding, right?  How can that be? (we walk into the bar; the dude who takes the money is there, I start to dig out my $8)

dude: Uh, there's a chance we're gonna cancel the show.

JO, me: What?

dude: See, you're the first person here. The only person so far. See, we kind of need to have at least $75 in tickets sold or we can't really (looks at JO) justify letting you perform or else your fee comes out of staff pay.

JO: (in disbelief) You'd cancel the show on me? After I traveled here with my band?

me: Isn't your staff going to get paid whether or not Jennifer performs? What do you do, shut the place if not enough patrons show up?

dude: Well, we'd send some of 'em home, but not everybody.

me: So you're gonna pay some of the staff whether Jennifer performs or not..why not just let her perform if she wants to?

dude: Well, see, the staff pay plus her fee means we lose money on the whole night. Better to cancel the show. Unless we can get, say, eight or nine more paying customers in here.

me (to JO): I can't believe this. Your latest CD was 'CD of the month' on KUNI.

JO: I know. We called them. We figured they'd want to know that I was performing here tonight. But they never got back to me. To my agent, I mean. (lowers her voice) And this place--they didn't market me at all.

me:  Well, clearly this place is the pits. This dude is clueless. And KUNI doesn't even answer email now that they're part of Iowa Public Radio. They used to be independent and much more responsive to listeners. (to dude) I'd call everyone I know in Des Moines right now if I hadn't worn down the battery on my cell phone today. Look, I'm gonna write a check for 75 bucks right now.

JO: No. Don't do that. I'd feel bad. Really. (walks away)

dude: You wanna use our phone? (hands me a cordless phone)

me: Yeah, but my cell phone's dead and all my friends' phone numbers are in it.

dude: Ya wanna phone book?

me: (resigned) Yeah.

(20 minutes later I've left half a dozen messages on answering machines and found out that most of my Des Moines friends--90% of whom are community organizers--are unreachable because they're all on a get-out-the-vote conference call that won't be over for another hour. I've told the dude this; it appears to confuse him. Meanwhile the opening act, some guy with a ho-hum voice and an electric guitar, is singing on the little stage up front. JO comes back.)

dude: I can't believe it. He started playing before we told him he could go ahead. 

me: ? He's ON the docket. I'm sure he just started because your own poster says he's supposed to play tonight.

dude: Ya know, we might be able to do this for 60 bucks. You already paid eight. So..

me: OK. (I get out my checkbook.) I'm writing a check for $52..

JO: Stop. Don't. Let's just cancel. I want to cancel the show.

dude: (surprised and a little sad) OK.

me: (to JO) Do you have CDs for sale?

JO: Yes.

me: Woohoo!

dude: (reluctant) Here's your $8 back.

I end up buying 4 CDs--JO's entire solo career output since 2002--for $40. She throws in a canvas tote with her name on it. I'm ecstatic. She's glad I came.

KUNI will hear from me about this.

Except for the part about getting to meet Jennifer and getting all this great music, the whole episode reminded me of Greg Brown's tune 'Mose Allison Played Here':
                                                                                                 the joint is a dump
                                                                                                 the owner is broke
                                                                                             at least that's what he said
                                                                                                       the P.A.'s a joke
                                                                                    the waitpersons are snotty   the bartender's rude
                                                                                    they want to make sure I know they forgot me        
                                                                                                     but not their attitude
                                                                                         the bellyachers played last night
                                                                                                   everybody got sick
                                                                                   don't even try dancing   your feet would just stick
                                                                                             the band signs their poster
                                                                                                    "fuck   u   miguel"
                                                                                               & that's all the good part    
                                                                                                the bad part's the smell
                                                                              & what was your name again   oh   yeah   right   brown
                                                                                            your crowd just drinks water
                                                                                            surprised you're still around
                                                                                 & nobody's coming   because   hey man you see
                                                                                advertising's expensive       hey   what guarantee

                                                                                       but as i set up i am proud to be here
                                                                             because once last November    mose allison played here

20 October 2008 @ 12:06 am
Maya said awhile back that she had trouble finding music she really liked. Amen to that. But a few weeks ago I was listening to my favorite radio station, KUNI, and this tune 'Highway Miles' written and sung by Jennifer O'Connor really got to me. I'm not a super sophisticated listener--certain chord structures are sometimes all it takes to grab my attention--but this song had that and more: the pain and loss in the lyrics, the way her voice breaks when the emotion is high, the lead guitar like a scalpel, spare and sharp. Now I see she is playing in Des Moines midweek. She did a gig in Chicago Friday and will be in Atlanta Nov. 22. Check her out. 
18 October 2008 @ 12:43 am
A couple months ago my dad called from Arizona and said he might want to move back to Iowa--to Ames, the family's home city for almost 30 years. But it's more complicated than simple nostalgia.

Dad married again shortly after mom died in 1995. His wife is quite healthy. Dad, though, has Parkinsons disease, glaucoma and macular degeneration. He is claustrophobic. He takes a good deal of medicine. He sleeps 10-14 hours a day. He and his wife agreed long ago that neither wanted to be a caregiver for the other--each of them had gone through that experience with their first spouses, and neither wanted to repeat it. They keep their finances completely separate. At the moment, he owns no real estate. He lives in her house.

It seems we all see a day coming when he will step out of her house and not return--at least not for long. And so we are haltingly beginning to plan for him living elsewhere, probably in a so-called assisted-living environment, since his afflictions render him helpless to do some of the ordinary tasks of daily living.

I'm Dad's eldest daughter, and the only one of his six offspring that still lives in Iowa. He's entrusted me and one of my brothers with a Durable Power of Attorney, and me with another such Power, for Health Care.  I have access to all the important papers and I know his financial situation. I feel the weight of the responsibility for his well-being slowly shifting to me. Family members have expressed disbelief that his wife won't cover his care, although she could easily afford to. I take no position on that, since the two of them have already agreed not to depend upon one another. That case is closed. What's left is to make the decisions that will obtain for him the most he can get out of the remaining years of his life. He makes them now, but he solicits my opinion more and more, and one day it will be me making most of the decisions.

Raising a child comes the closest, but it's like the child is aging backwards toward infancy. Instead of the child learning more and more, and gaining independence, he loses a little bit of memory, of independence, of physical ability, each day. In the face of that, Dad exhibits such a generosity of spirit and good humor that it takes my breath away. He has every reason to get depressed, but he rarely exhibits that--around me, anyway. He jots things down to counter his poor memory. He shares jokes and loves to share music.  He's so happy just to be alive. More and more, I see courage where other people probably just see a geezer.

As I step into a role as his agent, or advocate, or confidante, or whatever he needs me to be, I am learning things and going places that are completely new to me. I now have some idea of the differences between a continuing care facility and a skilled nursing facility.  I'm gaining an understanding of what's involved in home health care, and in hospice care. Eventually I'll be knowledgeable about Medicare and Medicaid. Throughout it all, the notion of time marching on demands attention because all of these things are about aging, and therefore about everyone of us aging. The sadness of that feels overwhelming at times.  Then Dad's pluck and pleasantness bring me back to almost a Zen state--the beauty of now, right now, which is like no other time.
18 September 2008 @ 06:04 pm

take a picture of yourself right now.
don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair... just take a picture.
post that picture with NO editing.
post these instructions with your picture.

22 May 2008 @ 01:15 pm
Her sister is still getting used to the jungle.
22 May 2008 @ 12:51 pm
A few more pictures. This girl obviously would like to be a Jungle Cat.
22 May 2008 @ 12:42 pm
This one's my favorite. I call her Scrambler, since she was the first one to scramble up my blue-jeaned pant leg. She's obviously another calico, but she's got more black on her than her sisters. She's got a lot of white on her legs, which make her look kind of gangly when she walks around. One foreleg is yellow-and-white striped and she's got a yellow streak down the middle of her face. Definitely a cutie!