Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting A Grip On Things

For a woman with a generously endowed midsection isn’t it peculiar that I am shortchanged in the tummy settling department? For instance just the smell of liver cooking half a block away sends me hurtling to the nearest flushing facility. Likewise a generous wift of cigar smoke is enough to make me puke. I grew up one of those kids with terrible car sickness. “Daddy, go STRAIGHT, I’d wail.” In my teens I got coaxed to ride a roller coaster. Wrong choice. Turning bilious green my friends swore never to suggest that disaster again.

So this week has brought unfair gastronomical challenges, unfair because what is wrong with me is respiratory.

Five days ago, by x-ray, I was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. I suspect I’ve been harboring the virus since before Christmas as I’ve been dragging around like an old rubber galosh. I thought it was just sloth. Rounds of prednisone for allergy and then a magic antibiotic for “a bug” gave temporary relief. Alas, relapse was on my agenda.
Making a sour face I rejected my doc’s hospital proposal. That’s where people really get sick these days, right? In retrospect an i-v might be a gift. Science has provided the perfect antidote. The problem is the new antibiotic comes with a digestion challenge.
Even though I live in the city limits I am still on a septic tank. This week my sturdy old tank in the rose garden has had its work cut out for it as I explore various strategies for keeping down the pills. They are supposed to be taken on a full tummy. My appetite is nil but I try. The current strategy goes like this: eat a bowl of anything, trying not to cough between bites, stand tall, swallow a quarter of a pill with a full glass of water, walk erect for six minutes. Opening the sliding glass doors to the deck do 25 toe raises humming America the Beautiful, all the while waving both arms in the air to distract the contortions going on in my mid section. Open my jammie top to the elements to get in more air. Ignore Kodi’s looks of skepticism and keep one eye peeled for the police helicopter patrol. Return to the kitchen table doing either the polka or the schottische. Still standing tall, march in place while stuffing down four more tablespoons of whatever. After twenty minutes of keeping the pill down I know I have it made. Repeat whole process four times a day. I’m getting pretty proficient at this at last but I may loose my sanity.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Life, Death and Jewels

Shortly before Christmas Lee’s cousin Patricia fell on the black ice in front of their home in Lodi, cracking her head severely. As she staggered to the bathroom to stop the bleeding, she insisted over and over, “I can take care of this.” Alas, she was bleeding from the front, middle, and back of her brain.
Following a helicopter ride to UCDavis, it was determined it was not something anyone could take care of. Pat’s last words were so much like the way she lived her entire life.

Of course I don’t know the whole story, but it bears repeating in order to understand the context of Patricia’s life. The story, as I heard it, follows: Verne, Lee’s dad, was about 14, living in the family home in Emeryville where his cantankerous father eked out a living truck farming. I once saw the two story frame farm house, but it has now been demolished.
On this day Grandfather Lee was so mad at the plow horse’s behavior he beat it to death, his son, Verne, observing. Seconds after the horse fell down dead so did his father. A stroke of anger no doubt took him.
Altogether Mother Lee bore 21 children in that big house, only ten living to adulthood. The youngest, her favorite, she named Jewel. “Mother’s Precious Jewel” as he came to be known, grew to a handsome adult, with an outgoing personality. I suspect he was spoiled. Her adoration of him was so significant that some of his siblings and later on their spouses felt resentful.
Jewel married a beautiful woman who turned out to be unfaithful. Following an affair with another family member (don’t all families have scandals?) she attempted suicide, but the attempt failed and left her emotionally and physically disabled, or as they said in those days, “never the same.” Patricia stepped up to the plate, and became the mother to her younger brother. Ever afterward her main goal in life was first of all to be a good mother, a goal she accomplished with incredible success.
What is fascinating to me is that Pat and Paul’s four adult children walk such different paths in life and yet all were adored as if each were named Jewel. Considering her roots, how is it that Pat came to be the special mother that she was? I suspect the ten grandchildren who stood on the stage of Montclair Presbyterian last Saturday singing in unison for their grandmother will follow in the same footsteps, each being celebrated for their uniqueness. I am blessed to have them in my life.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Funny Bucket List Story

Two weeks ago I mentioned bucket lists and my lack thereof. Its almost the middle of the new year and I still score zero on both resolutions and bucket list items. So I've been interviewing friends and decided Sue and Jeanne's story was simply too funny not to share.
I'm lucky to have visited Alaska on vacation once, but it was a very warm summer. Imagine! It happened to be 90 when we hit Fairbanks. Sue and Jeanne's experience was the polar opposite. Changing planes at SeaTac, they had packed a Thanksgiving Day picnic lunch to eat in the airport lounge with their friends Leslie and Renee. So far so good. Of course it was totally black out when they arrived in Fairbanks. Still they were able to rent a Ford Expedition and locate their digs, a lodge called Taste of Alaska, which they hold in high esteem. Venturing out the next day to find the Northern Lights they were quickly pulled over by a police car. It seems they had their headlights on high. Trooper Rick warned them and asked where they were going anyway. Clearly these old ladies were bewildered but intent on something.
When they said they were driving all over looking for the aurorea borealis he suggested politely they look out their rear window. A rainbow sky was right there. Chagrined, they turned the car around and followed his instructions to a nice turn out spot. The sky was ablaze. In the excitement they jumped out, leaving the motor running but locking the doors. One passenger only had on a sweater but one of the party had a cell phone. The 9-1-1 operator hardly believed them that it was an emergency but eventually agreed to send help. In a few minutes who comes driving up but Ranger Rick. He shook his head and then bundled them up with blankets in his own patrol car while they waited for the locksmith. It was a dramatic beginning to wonderful adventure.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Nature And the Russians Have the Upper Hand

Winter skies from my hilltop, as this one two nights ago, implode my senses. They are the jewels which make living in this old house a fair trade-off. They give me visual orgasms. In the last moments before sinking behind the hills San Francisco Bay takes on all the colors spread in the canopy above it. Yet I've never painted even one of them. I think I feel inadequate to the task. Nature has the upper hand. Instead I paint people and old buildings and sunflowers. Musing on this picture I realized it is the same color pallette as many of my sunflower watercolors. How curious.
Yesterday I chatted with my very Russian pilates teacher, Yulia, about the fact that we have Peter the Great to thank for our crops of sunflowers even though the seeds came from America, the Indians having long cultivated it. I had heard this on NPR driving to the gym. Seems sunflower oil was not on the forbidden list of oils during Lent in the Russian Orthodox church and so the clever Russians hybridized the plant to satisfy their palettes and produce the lovely oil which is today used all over the world. Virtually all American potato chips are now fried in sunflower oil.