Thursday, July 31, 2008

A somewhat remarkable (on a very small scale) day

Several remarkable things happened today – at least, remarkable in my little world. The first was as I was watering our plants. My aunt pointed out that it was just starting to rain, which is a rather silly time to water, but I pointed out in turn, that one could not know how much it would rain. Perhaps not enough. Anyhow, I was watering a tomato plant, when lo! There was an actual ripe tomato peeking out from under the leaves. Tom and I planted these tomatoes in the spring, and I was hoping at least one would ripen for him. It did, and it was remarkably delicious.
Then …. Our pastor, Father Michael Ryan came to visit Tom, and got to meet his little namesake, Michael Ryan the cat. They got on well, which was a relief, because while Michael is a lovely cat, he has moody moments and can be quite rude.
Then ….. the most remarkable of all! I told you that since the last chemo, Tom’s food tastes had radically altered, so that he no longer liked his old favorites, and now liked foods that he would normally have spurned. Much the same has happened with movies. He and Rebecca liked to watch dark, brooding, intellectual, somewhat pervy movies – movies that I have to read my book in the other room for. (Rachael once told her grandfather, that the only movies I liked were Shirley Temple movies. This is not true, of course. I do like them quite a lot, but they are not the only ones.) Tom disliked romantic comedies altogether, and spurned anything “sappy.” Well, the movies he previously has liked are all too oppressive. Even Monty Python is oppressive. So we brought out all our cheeriest movies. They were not cheery enough. I timidly suggested “Pollyanna” – a movie he never would have watched in previous days, and one of my all time favorites. I have watched it zillions of times and cried every time, of course. I was amazed when he said, “Okay, let’s watch it.” We did, and he loved it. This is truly remarkable.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A horticultural day

About fifteen years ago, my friend Tina had very nice plant arrangements in large ceramic planters on the tables at her wonderful wedding. As mother of a special friend and also as the organist, I got to take one home. I managed to keep the plants alive for a longer time than the marriage stayed alive (about 10 years, which is quite a while as marriages seem to things go these days.) Tina and her husband were pleased every time they came to my house and saw the plant thriving. Finally, however, feeling the effects of my absolutely not-green thumb, the last of the plants in the arrangement bit the dust -or bit the potting soil might be more apt. About that time, I was the confirmation sponsor for another friend’s daughter, and she gave me a plant as a thank you favor. I put it into the bowl vacated by the wedding plant. While I could not say that this plant thrived, it did not actually die, but soldiered wanly on. Then suddenly this year it spread its spindly arms, and parts of it flourished. Unfortunately, the proximal portion of the plant stayed spindly and weak while distal portion grew robust. It was very odd – a wispy stalk evolving into a hearty succulent vine-ish thing at its end. As was bound to happen, the wispy stalk finally gave way and the flowery end fell off. I don't remember the name of the plant, except that it has something to do with bells - as one might expect after seeing the flower. I saw the other flowers on my walk to the grocery store a day or so ago.
Update: Tom is weaker each day, and tires after very little exertion - even just talking for a moment or two, but he is still comfortable.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A quiet day

As I have said before, I am a master procrastinator. I have been meaning to get smoke alarms for thirty years. Actually, I have owned them for many of those years, but they have been sitting in the box where they would not be too effective if there were ever really a fire. A couple of years ago, a friend’s house burned down and she was saved by the smoke alarms. Immediately after this, I got them out of the box, looked at them, tried to put in batteries, and was foiled. So once again, I decided to wait for the opportune moment - the one that never comes. The hospice folk gave me a gentle nudge about this, so I called up Ana and Ken and asked them to purchase a couple of less antique ones, and to come put them in. Being the wonderful people they are, they came immediately, and now my house is quite a bit safer. I am so blest in my family and friends.
Ana brought a shawl which she had just finished, and it is one of the loveliest things I have seen, knitting-wise. She made it from a one ball of Brooks Farm Acero sock yarn, using size 9 needles. The pattern is called Kiri and you can find it here. Above is a picture so you can all lust after it.
Rachael told me that my blog, which was to be about my hobbies, had become my hobby and was leaving me no time to pursue my actual hobbies. That is not quite true, but I certainly have not done much knitting lately, and this will be a bit of knitting content for my Knitting Blog.
Tom is much weaker today, but still comfortable, which is the important thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More of the pleasant day

When Rebecca was a baby, my friend Madeline and I went grocery shopping every Friday, and this was the highpoint of my week. Now that I am a working woman, I generally don’t really like shopping at all, and marvel that I once found it to be such an adventure. However, the last few days, I have been more or less confined to the house, and grocery shopping has exponentially gained in appeal. When saintly Suzanne came to visit Tom, she suggested that I might like to run some errands. Wow! A trip to the grocery store! I was thrilled. I visited my favorite grocery store, and this was a little sad because I usually go with Tom. We chat with our favorite checkout lady, and I was relieved that she was not there. She would have asked where Tom was, and I would have cried. But they had a deal on mangos, the true food of the goddesses, which that comforted me a bit. Yesterday, when Rebecca was here, I walked to Safeway to get some of the odd foods that Tom is craving. Since the last chemo, he does not like any of his usual favorites, and things that he used to reject now have appeal – i.e. Cocoa Krispies. (Ick!) He has always been a salty guy, and now he is a sweet guy – foodwise, that is. He actually has always been both of those things in daily life. On the way, I took some pictures to immortalize my trip. I saw lovely grasses, and this young man sitting on his front porch. He looks a bit crabby, but actually he was very pleasant, and told me that if I made a lot of money with his picture, I must share it with him. I told him, that it was unlikely that I would (make money, I mean.)

A pleasant day

First off, Tom and I are really grateful for the prayers and kind thought you have been sending our way. The prayers and goodwill of others are very strength giving.
Yesterday, Rebecca was very strength giving in a more immediate way. She cooked a magnificent dinner, most of which Tom could not eat, but I managed to wrap myself around it quite nicely. Tom had asked for watery bean soup, so Rebecca made a sort of vegetarian chicken noodle soup, seeing as chicken soup is a world renowned cure-all. She also served an amazing cherry focaccia, and we topped it off with some Vietnamese Coffee ice cream. This latter was a wonderful recipe in that it was delicious, elegant, and took about two minutes to prepare. The things Rebecca cooked were delicious, and elegant as well, but they were not two minute dishes at all. They were filled with the labor of love – lots of both, I am sure.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A newish day

Tom has decided to forgo chemo and start hospice care. What this means is that a team of hospice folk will be giving us assistance and support, both physical, material, and spiritual, right here in our home. The first thing they provided was a hospital bed. What a boon this was! Tom was really not comfortable at night, and now he can be. With the fluid in and around his lungs, lying flat seriously impacts breathing. With his head raised, he can get more sleep. Minutes after we got home from the doctor’s appointment, Rebecca arrived for a visit. I told her about the bed coming, and she said, “You can put it right there by the window where it’s light and bright. You’ll have to move that table upstairs. Let’s go!” Tom and I had moved this table upstairs several times to accommodate the Christmas tree, and it took us at least half an hour and a tremendous struggle every time. Rebecca, all hundred pounds of her, picked it up and whipped it upstairs and through the bedroom door. This had been a major obstacle for Tom and I. We had trouble lifting it, and the technical issue of finding an angle at which its legs would go through almost stumped us anew each time. At Christmas time, we both marveled that she had done this alone every year. How did she ever do it, we wondered. Now we know. She had the space arranged in minutes. What I would have done had she not been here, I don’t know. Within a couple of hours, the bed arrived. What service! A nurse will be coming today for an initial assessment and I am not sure what else. I will report to you later. The fact that I am a nurse seems pretty irrelevant right now. My patients have very different needs and problems, and also I am too involved to give the dispassionate thought that good nursing are requires. I do know how to give a bed bath, however, and that is helpful.
The second picture is of Tom and Becca in hungrier days.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sad days to come

First off, not really sad, but a bit annoying -- the Creepy Man seems to have extended his hours of operation. When I brought Tom home from the hospital today, the Creepy Man was out there in his usual spot, but in a much more casual stance. Actually, not a stance at all, as he was sitting. Usually, he stands and faces south to perform his orations, but today he was sitting, orating rather tepidly, but still facing south. The midnight crowd is probably a more tolerant group, and he must feel fairly comfortable unleashing his venom to them. The afternoon set is another matter entirely and perhaps this cramped his style, as he was venomous in a subdued way, relatively. Here is a picture taken from inside my house, so you can see that he is Right There .
I brought Tom home, as I said, and he is not doing well. He is having trouble breathing, is on home O2, and nothing tastes good to him. As a nurse, I have always felt that if patients don’t want to eat, then they should not have to eat, and while I have understood why they do it, I have been annoyed at families who pester a very sick or dying patient to eat. Now, I am a bit frantic because Tom won’t eat. I know intellectually that when the body is shutting down, food and even fluids are counterproductive, usually do more harm than good, and can actually cause quite a bit of discomfort. But when it is our own loved one who is not eating, intellectual knowledge flies away, and it is so difficult to act on what we know rather than what we feel. Our instinct is to nourish, and it goes against the grain to be unable to do that. I tell families that the most important thing they can do is be there, and now I am having trouble remembering all my own nursely preaching.
In the picture of Tom, note the tail in his lap. That is Nurse Michael. The third picture is of some Tibetan prayer flags which Rachael's friend Jake gave Tom.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A question mark day

This picture is not related to my post today; I just thought you might like it. The related picture is below: my new radio. One of my big beefs is instruction manuals (i.e., for computer things, Photoshop, cameras, etc) which tell you: open VQR and attach LMN, tab down to OPI and type in the proper code. They never tell you, however what VQR, LMN, and OPI are, or what the code is though, so you can’t possibly do it. The instruction manual for the radio was quite different. The basic safety instructions had 18 steps which began: 1. Read the instructions; 2. Keep these instructions; 3. Heed all warnings; 4. Follow all instructions. At that point, I read no further.
As you can see, I am trying out colons and semi-colons. Rachael came home from school yesterday and I asked her what was happening in her classes. “We talked about colons,” she said. Being a nurse, I was rather astonished, and asked in what possible context could they be talking about colons. “Not those colons, “ she said, “It’s the ones that link sentence parts together and start lists!” I felt rather foolish. I think I have rather overdone it with the colons and semi-colons. I am way more fond of dashes and parentheses, and I usually overdo them – so I thought I would overdo something else for a change.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An interesting day

I went outside to inspect our tomato plants and see if there were any blossoms yet, and what should I find but actual tomatoes!! Green, of course, but miraculous in that yesterday, they were not there, I am certain. Not even blossoms! I have been looking every day. It is amazing how those little fellows can sneak up on you. I took this photo to the hospital to show Tom and he was equally amazed and pleased. Later, as I was coming into the house, I called to Rachael that there was a package for her on the porch. I knew it was for her because they are all for her. She looked at it, and said it was for me. Hmmmmm, I wondered, what could anyone be sending me? Then I remembered that I had commissioned Rebecca to order me a cute radio to replace our kitchen radio which was on the verge of death. We couldn’t find another red one, but this one is sufficiently outrĂ© for my taste. I was excited and rushed to try it out, planning to initiate it with The Mikado. To my dismay, it didn’t work! However, I had just been cleaning a rug with my Shark, and I suspected that the Shark had overburdened its circuit. I called faithful Ken to see what to do about it, and he patiently explained circuitry to me. And so it did work after all, and the Gentlemen of Japan are singing now.
Tom is feeling much better today, and thanks you for your prayers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A not so happy day

My friend Tom, whom my faithful few readers will know, has had leukemia for several years, but it has been under control. However, in the last few weeks it has suddenly gone over the top. I took him to the emergency room on Sunday evening, and he was admitted to a monitored unit (i.e. for very sick patients), and now is on the cancer floor. Earlier on Sunday, I went to Rebecca’s house for dinner (see below) leaving my friend John to watch Tom. When I returned, Tom looked so terrible that I insisted that we go to the hospital right then. He had been reluctant to go all day, but by this time, had reached the point of being to weak to argue with me. While staying with Tom, John prepared a lovely bouquet for Tom from flowers from my garden. Unfortunately, I am the only one enjoying it. Please keep Tom in your prayers.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A delicious day

Rebecca cooked a phenomenal dinner for the aunties and me last evening. It was ruddy and handsome to behold, and extraordinarily delicious. But that was just what one would expect with a Becca cooked meal. She made a mysterious grain/pasta dish which had – I guess actually no grain – but couscous and orzo or some such, and teensy garbanzo beanlets. And then lots of tasty vegetable matter to give it the final exquisiteness. There was a beet salad – those are red beets and yellow beets, and a turnip – and a pepper salad, one of my favorites - all prepared to perfection. For dessert she made rhubarb soup with strawberry coconut sorbet. And let us not forget the bread, by which we do not live on alone – or I guess I should say live alone on – or… At any rate, one could live on this alone. Rebecca said it took three days to prepare, and there were many possible pitfalls in its preparation – any one of which would spell culinary disaster. As expected, she avoided them all and the bread was super. We ate the whole loaf. It was a dinner fit for queens, and here are two of the auntly queens enjoying it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A really fun day

Wow! What a fun day! I had gotten tickets to The Mikado for Tom and I, but then his friends who are helping him move, selected that very day for the big event. On the principal that beggars can’t be choosers, he decided that he must take advantage of his kind friends' offers, and forgo The Mikado. So this was not a fun day for him, but a weary though rewarding one, as most of his things came to his new apartment in Seattle in one fell swoop. I can see that this is quite a weight off his mind, as moving, especially when one is ill and must depend on others for help, is a nightmare in the making. However, I was not moving, and I still had the Mikado tickets, so I callously invited my friend Kristen to use Tom’s ticket. We had a fabulous time. I am sure that even an inferior production of The Mikado would be fun to watch, but this production by the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society was super scrumptious and splendid! The scenery looked like an ancient Japanese print, and in itself was worth the trip. The singing was wonderful, and the acting was brilliant, especially Koko – prancing about with his little list. He was both hilarious and adorable. (Query: are Koko and Don Giovanni the only opera characters with little lists, or are there more?) Parker Albin, the tenor playing Nanki-Poo, was a real sex kitten. If I were thirty years younger, I would be a groupie. He was a wonderful singer, handsome, and seemingly full of personality. And Cara Iverson, as Yum-Yum, when singing about being the most beautiful woman in the world, was quite believable. She was really beautiful. I saw an opera recently, in which the dainty sylph was going to throw herself off of a cliff because of her sorrows. We were all eagerly anticipating seeing how this would be done, because the sylph easily topped three hundred pounds, I am sure. Somehow, this made for significantly less verisimilitude.
The third picture is of an outdoor sculpture at Seattle Center. From afar, it looked like gigantic bamboo, and from closer up, a sort of combination of paper and stained glass windows, but on a really close inspection, it was solid pieces of metal painted with a stained glass window look.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another planned out day

Once again, despite what Tom thinks, I got up, took Margaret for her walkies, drank tea, did the crossword, vacuumed the top half of my house, cleaned the toilets (such exciting news,), gardened a bit, charted the planned design for a pair of socks, went with Rebecca to the Family Kitchen to feed the Hungry, and then shopping at my favorite grocery store where I got lots of delicacies, including Kellogg’s Corn Pops – a favorite food since year one. Also mangos, avocados, peaches and nectarines. Yum! As usual, I had a lovely time at the Family Kitchen. I was quick to place myself in the “serving salad” spot in the northern half of the serving line. There are several advantages to this. I usually always serve in the northern line because it closes first, and I can get to washing the pots and pans sooner. Occasionally, I start out washing pots and not serving because there seems to be a quorum of servers, and later am called to serve (just like the apostles) when another server is needed. Then, since by that time I have missed my preferred spot, I must serve desserts in the less desirable southern line. For some odd reason, if there is trouble among our guests, it is most often the southern line in which eruptions break out. Perhaps because one has to walk across the room to get to the northern line, and that is a bit more work. Also, serving salad is a desirable position and serving desserts is not. The main dish server, next to whom I stand, frequently has to give out a specific amount, and sometimes this amount seems insufficient to some of our patrons. The rowdier of them can make this apparent in often quite unpleasant ways. Giving out desserts is the most traumatic of all for me, because there are decisions, sometimes painful, to be made regarding the virtues of cake vs. pie, and then cherry pie vs. apple pie, etc. And then some folks who simply cannot decide try to grab two, or change their mind and want to give the cake back and exchange for pie (a no-no – once you touch it, it’s yours), and become very aggravated when foiled in this. Salad is neutral, rather unexciting, and finite. Most people are happy with whatever I give them, although one woman was outraged last night because I offered her salad and she was allergic to tomatoes. “You should know this!” she shrieked. It was the first time I had laid eyes on her, so I can’t imagine how I would have known it. Rebecca, who was serving bread - worse than the main dish, but not so bad as dessert – was thrilled to see her mom the victim of a raving virago, and smirked happily for some time afterwards.
The creepy man comes to the Family Kitchen, and is meek as a kitten. He looks with kindly eyes on the server, politely says “Thank you,” and seems to be one of the nicest of our patrons. Perhaps he suffers from a form of lycanthropy! His ferocious rantings at night are the total obverse of his gentle demeanor at during the day. Rachael took this picture with her telephone of him at his ranting station . The top pictures are of some others of our favorite Family Kitchen regulars.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A planned-out day

My friend Tom was reading this blog, and said, “It’s all about how you don’t ever do any work. You have tasks planned, and then do something else every day.” “That’s not true,” I said. “It just isn’t very interesting if I do what I planned to do.” For instance, yesterday I got up, walked the dog, read the paper, drank some tea, worked the crossword, watered my flowers, finished the book I was reading, made lunch, went to work, came home and went to bed. Not an interesting thing there, was there? Today, I got up, walked the dog, read the newspaper, drank tea, worked the crossword, and then – thrilling to relate – vacuumed the house. I cleaned the dust moose out from within the bowels of my refrigerator’s mechanism, and that might have been interesting to watch, as I had to contort myself and crawl about on the floor, find all kinds of instruments (knitting needles, back scratcher, yard stick) to get the fellows out. But not interesting to read about, right? I was so enthusiastic about cleaning that I nearly forgot that I was to sing at our Archbishop’s Fiftieth Anniversary of his ordination. Fortunately, the CD player in the kitchen goes off at noon every day, and this reminded me that it was later than I thought. I scurried off, and then sat there for three hours, watching four cardinals, zillions of bishops, and a gazillion priests march about. And singing my little heart out! This may sound tedious to the uninitiated, but actually, it was wonderful. The liturgy was divine, the music was celestial, and it was heavenly to see all my choir friends, most of whom I haven’t seen since our choir vacation began in June. Now you know that I occasionally accomplish something, but was it interesting at all? Do I hear a resounding “No”? I think so!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Saturday sort of day

For years, Rebecca made us scones or some other yummy treat every Saturday morning. After she moved into her own digs, I did this for a few Saturdays, but since I fetch Tom at the ferry at just the time I would be tending to the scones, I soon gave up the practice. Rebecca’s scones - pronounced “scahns” if one is pretentious, which of course we are – were always delicious, and somewhat different every Saturday. I asked about her recipe, and it was, “throw in a bit of this, and a bit of that,” so, as Tom was already there and I didn’t have to fetch him, I did just that. I threw in some self-rising flour – the one constant in Rebecca’s recipe, a bit of butter, a bit of yogurt, a bit of milk, a handful of currants and chopped candied ginger. They were quite tasty! Dare I say as good as…….. No, I daren’t. Nothing is a good as Rebecca’s Saturday morning treats, but these were yummy nonetheless. And we had good company, our friend Ward, his bride Jeanie, and my sainted aunt, so it was all in all, a very pleasant morning. I might add, lest you be falsely impressed, that the nearly completed crossword puzzle is left over from Wednesday. We were not up to a Saturday one that day, and so found one from the archives. The other sweet looking furry person here, is Maria, who is actually not very sweet at all. She is haughty, and loves only her mother Rachael and Tom. She disdains everyone else. Michael, who actually is sweet, was not sweet that day, but bit Ward and had to be banished to the basement.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Three noisy nights

Margaret can be a fierce watchdog, and she has been very busy protecting us over the past few days. If an actual burglar were to visit us, she would wag her tail, say, “Come right in! You can have anything you like as long as you will pet me.” However, she is vigilant about the threat of thunder or loud bangs. Two days ago, Rebecca took me cherry picking at one of her secret places. This involved scaling fences, creeping past “No Trespassing” signs, and wading through waist high grasses. Actually we found a gate and did not have to scale a fence – a feat beyond me and my faulty knees - but the signs and grasses were all too evident. Due to the weird weather lately, Rebecca only got a quart of cherries, and I got cherry red eyes, a runny nose, and a body full of itch (vide waist high grasses). When I arrived home, I took a shower to rid myself of any speck of pollen, and settled down for a good read, swollen red eyes not withstanding. Seemingly out of nowhere, there was the most horrendous bang. At first I thought a bomb had gone off in my front garden. Then there was a rush of torrential rain. I called Rebecca, and she said the bomb had gone off in front of her house. Later, my aunt said that no, it had been in front of her house. At any rate, Margaret was right on it, and has been barking for the last three days. First the actual thunder, then the rain – a sign of potential thunder and therefore needing to be ferociously barked at, and then, of course, the dreaded evening and night-long Fourth of July festivities, about which our neighbors are extremely enthusiastic. Today, Margaret is exhausted, and her bark is a mere squeak. I am a trifle thankful about that, as there is still the occasional raindrop from which she must protect me!

Friday, July 4, 2008

A shocking day

Here are two sadly inter-related pictures. I imagine that you can imagine what the relationship is. I came home one evening recently, and had several shocks all at once. The first was finding Rachael’s boyfriend’s underpants (or whatever boy undies are called) lying on the floor of our spare room. The next and even more shocking shock was right next to the undies. I was leaning over to see what the undies were, when right there, almost in the same pile, was a poor little disemboweled bird. And most terrible of all, it was a wren! Wrens are one of my dearest birds, and I am always thrilled to see (an alive) one as they are a rather infrequently visitor to our garden. When I told Rebecca about it, she, being another speciesist (bird-wise at least), exclaimed, “A wren! That’s awful! It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been an English sparrow, or something like that!” This had been my very thought, and I was feeling guilty and thinking myself unreasonable. Hence, I was relieved when Rebecca had the same reaction. The fact that we both felt similarly proves that it was not unreasonable at all. I will spare you a picture of the bird, and give just this hint of its poor little self. Yet another shock was in store for me! I nearly sat on a gigantic horrible moth. (“Horrible Moth” is a trifle redundant, I fear.) Fortunately I saw him before I sat on him and got moth-dust all over myself. I went to fetch my camera so I could take a picture of him, but he was on to me, and flew away before I could find it.
PS. Rachael had a reasonable explanation for the undies. I won’t bore you with the particulars.