Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Les Paul and John

I've been in DC for a couple of months now taking care of John following hip replacement surgery. Johns recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. He's up and walking with zero pain. I give the guy credit, he's no whiner.
Sunday night we were talking about Les Paul and decided to just go. So we got online to make reservations, called the Iridium Jazz Club for tickets and before you knew it we had the day planned out. Caught a cab to the bus station as 1) I'm scared to drive in NYC and 2)trains and buses were too expensive. So off we went. I rode for 4 hours, John about 15 minutes. I say that cause he slept the whole way waking only at my urging while in the Lincoln tunnel. My records intact. I simply cannot sleep on planes, trains, auto's any kind of moving conveyance.
We got there around 6pm, cabbed it to the hotel and checked in. There are reported to be 20,000 cabbies in NYC and I'm convinced they are all Middle Eastern, have a secret death wish and learned to drive at the CIA. We weaved in and out of traffic, slid sideways through intersections and in general had a great time. Our driver did us proud by rolling down his window to shout at other drivers and flip off a few of them.
We checked in then walked down the street and there was "Manny's Music Store". It's a well known shop and so we went in. At first they didn't pay much attention to us. I asked the worker if he had an Anderson Hollow T atlas something or other. That raised some eyebrows and they took him into this interior room where their expensive guitars are. Hooked John up and let him rip. The guy was impressed. He went over and opened the door so the people outside could hear it too. That was pretty exciting. John played a few more guitars and we left for Times Square to watch the people and lights. We found the Iridium so we'd know where to go later. We ate a burger at McDonald's and were entertained by 2 women having a loud, vulgar, disgusting conversation. The details of which I shall leave to your imagination but I assure you if there were a sale of cuss words these women bought them all.
We got to the Iridium 2 hours early so we could be first in line. We were second. The couple in front of us were from Florida and the girl was wearing a skirt, hose and high heels. I was more than impressed. The building across from us had a marquee showing time and temperature and I watched it like the snake charmer watches his basket. It was 26F most of the time. The doorman told us he'd let us in at 9. The closer it got to 9 the more Wendy, my frozen friend, and I began plotting our strategy for getting in the doors fast. It was painfully cold. Unfortunately the early show ran over and we had to wait it out. That last half hour was a lifetime. When we did finally get in there were already people seated around the room. I was not feeling especially magnanimous at their warm happy faces. I snarled at the waiter and Wendy rallied to the call. We were itching for a fight. By the time the concert started we were back in our happy shoes. It was incredible. Les Paul is 92 years old now but he can still tweak some pretty crazy sounds out of a guitar. We were sitting reasonably close to the front. After a few songs, he invited a singer to join him for a song; then a fellow who had one arm amputated just below the elbow. It was his strumming hand. He had been experimenting with sound and played some riffs for us. It was great. Then he pulled an elastic sock on his stump that had a pick fixed to the end. You'd be amazed at the range this guy could get. He was fun to watch. A saxophonist joined him for a song and then Les started to go back into the scheduled set. The rhytum guitarist, Lou Pollo, spoke up and said well Les we have a guitarist in the audience we'd like to bring up. He's an old friend of ours. So I get John out of his seat and drag him around the club and up on stage. A stagehand takes him to the front where they get him a stool to sit on and a guitar to play. Les asked him what he wanted to play and John said "Honeysuckle Rose" so they launched into it. You could have heard a pin drop. The audience froze. The other musicians were looking at each other and seemed startled. John was oblivious. He was playing guitar and having a blast. His face was radiant, huge grin stretching his mouth. I was so happy for him. When the song ended John started to take off the strap on the guitar and people in the audience started shouting Encore, More More More, they stood up, they clapped and cheered, they wanted John to play. The guys played one more song and then Les wanted to go back to his set. It was late and pretty much the end of his show. He did a few more songs and the evening ended way too soon. Les is gracious and signs autographs so John and I sat around waiting for the line to go down. People were coming over to him and shaking his hand, patting his back and telling him how good he is. John was ecstatic just to be playing with Les Paul, but to get so much praise made him super happy. One fellow even gave me his business card and asked me to email him anytime John was playing cause he wanted to come to every show. The whole night was a kodak moment. Every time I think about it I get goosebumps. John played with Les Paul and it was fabulous.
Lots of people asked me for my email as they had taken great photo's of him. It will be fun to see if anyone remembers to send. One guy is going to mail his on CD cause they're high resolution and we don't want to lose that.
The heater in the hotel gave us fits so I never did really get warm. But the next day we went to Rockefeller Center and walked all around it. I took pictures. We walked around in Central Park then took a carriage ride around part of it. We went to Ray's for some authentic NYC pizza and called it a day. Rode the bus back to DC and got in time to spare. It doesn't get much better than this. Sometimes, he's very romantic. I love it that he's spontaneous. He has to be to live with me. Les Paul. I saw Les Paul play. I saw John play and crack jokes with the audience. He had them eating out of his hand. Les Paul. I am blessed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turn off the light and go to bed.

How many times have we heard that shouted at us? It's a part of the night time routine. So I turn off my computer and all the lights in the condo and go to bed. The wierd blip in my routine is that John is still up. He sits in his rocker chuckling softly to something on the internet. I can see his head surrounded by the bluish electronic glow. Other than that, it's completely dark. Since he doesn't see the screen he rarely turns it on. So it's the tiny lights showing power supply or such that illuminate him meaning its very dark in here. Even though I know John is blind, that he always has a black field of vision, it just doesn't connect with me sometimes.
Another disconnect is when I am standing someplace and he is walking towards me. Sometimes I remember to speak so he knows I'm there. Other times I stand there dumbstruck as he walks right into me. Not something I mind doing, but I'm sure he'd rather not get the unexpected thump.
I find strangers do this a lot. John and I get on the elevator freezing the person already in there. Then suddenly they'll scramble wildly trying to stay out of his way. A simple "hello there" would fix the problem, but they seem incapable of speaking out. We call it the deer in the headlights stance. Not just elevators, but everywhere. By the way, how many times have you gotten on an elevator alone and used the opportunity to tug a snuggie out of your posterior? Or picked at that ticklish place in your nose? Or farted happily knowing you were finally in a place where you could do that and no one will know? Not so for blind people. Anything and everything they do is on display. People stare with no sense of wrong doing. Most blind people I know hate being stared at. They'd rather you go ahead and ask what's on your mind, or better yet just engage them in conversation.
Some people switch into hyper gear protective mode around us. They block traffic with their arms, they hold doors as if John were royalty. Running ahead to open the next door also. They stop cars and block people from walking. They wave their arms at cars, push obstacles like shopping carts aside and so on. All of this is done without making a sound. I find it rather confusing, John just accepts it and tries not to crash into the door that is carefully held open for him.
He has come to accept minor miracles in his life. There is a swimming pool at the condo where he lives. No matter how many people are out there he always gets a chaise lounge. It's always in the same place. I asked him once if he knew how that happens. He says no, it just magically appears. I've watched the magic now and it is a life guard or a neighbor who will snatch up a lounger and place it in the same spot where he is sure to find it. Sometimes asking another sunbather to give up their lounger. All this is done, again, without a word. It's like his underwear, he doesn't know how to buy it, it magically appears in the mail. Yes America I am admitting that his Mother buys his undies. Although I got him some boxers before surgery. One has skulls on it, one has tiny spidermen all over it, my personal fave has a large spiderman flying across the crotch with a baloon that says "My spidey sense is tingling". I had him wear that one right after surgery. Made me smile. He's a hoot and wears anything I give him.
We were in Rehoboth Beach once for the 4th of July. John dresses like Captain America. He's decked out in red / white / blue shorts, shirt and a tall hat with blinking stars on it. He parades up and down the boardwalk collecting comments from strangers. One man approached us and said "I told my wife if I go blind she better never dress me up like that". He wasn't serious, he was one of the off beats as I call them. I am collecting off beat comments into a journal. In Florida and elder gentlemen advised me not to walk him out too far into the waves and then desert him there. Off Beat. Well meant, but off beat.
So good night Mary Ellen, good night myJohn, turn off the lights and go to bed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We interrupt this broadcast........

I wanted to title this one fingerprints but I hated to break the continuity. So... There are fingerprints all over my computer screen. They've been there for about a year and sometimes make reading difficult. Today I read t i g h t as t r g h t simply because a fingerprint added something to that i. I considered, for the thousandth time, wiping them off. I just can't do it though. They are Gwyndolyn's fingerprints from our favorite website. She loved Elmo's site. We would pick out hats to put on Elmo and then pick out which adornments the hat would get. She would point to the images she wanted and in doing so leave a wet print. I don't have to call up the site to tell you where the blue hat was, or the duckies quacking on the brim because I can look at my screen and see their faint reminder. Fingerprints on the screen, fingerprints on my heart.
She's growing up and changing now, a whole different child than the one who sat on my lap and played peek a boo with Elmo. I doubt she even remembers doing it. I keep this little photo album in my head. Cause I'm a 21st century kind of gal, my photo album includes movie clips. In my head, she'll always be 18 months to 3 years. Such a sweet child, I miss her lots. Come April I expect to be with her again. Yippie!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Super Glue and your body

I saw a television program recently in which a doctor closed an incision with super glue. Seems it makes sweet little scars and holds the skin together until it sort of wears off. Makes perfect sense to me. The tube has a warning label that says if you super glue your fingers together wash them with warm soapy water and roll the stuck part into a tube that you can roll off your skin. Well yippie ki yo ki yeah. What happens if you super glue yourself to some inanimate object. Not like you can roll something like say a dresser between your fingers. Hypothetical here but how in the world do you unstick yourself other than just pulling it off and leaving skin behind?
I found myself in this unenviable position recently. Trying to finish up scads of little jobs that never get done. I super glued the ribbon back on the Christmas decoration for my Mom. I glued the soles of my shoes back unto the body of the shoe. I repaired eye glasses, glued tiny wooden toys and a couple of cracked dishes got fixed. I glued the tear in the lamp shade and even tried short cuts to a small quilt block by using super glue. I glued broken picture frames and silk flowers onto frames and oh yeah, I glued myself to the table. I didn't realize I'd done so until I tried to walk away. Head, legs and trunk of my body moved out smartly. Right hand stayed in one spot.
I got a lot done yesterday. We're packing for a short trip to see my nephew Zak, his wife Rachel and their four babies. I am a reasonably intelligent person. I just don't understand how things like this keep happening to me. I glued myself to a table. sigh. The good news is I don't need stitches. Shoot, I managed to get out of it without even bleeding. My finger's are fine, my palm looks kinda dirty from the stuff that's still on there. But it will wear off, just like I did it deliberate. I'm just practicing to be a surgeon. I'll super glue your ouchies easily because I've got personal experience.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Warlords and Chocolates

I was in Washington DC recently riding the subway around and around. I love the subway and will spend time just riding from one end of the line to the next. My favorite subway stop is called Foggy Bottom. I don't get off there, but the name intrigues me. So.... on to my thought process.
I am obsessed with Africa. Especially the part of Africa (a moving wasteland) where babies are starving to death. Year's ago I saw this photograph by Kevin Carter and I've never been able to shake it from my thoughts. Neither could he as he committed suicide after this. Warning, warning, warning, Will Robinson, it's a horrific picture and will change your life forever. One cannot look at it without being altered on some cellular level. Daily I think about what is going on over there and how we can stop it. How we can't ignore it, how we must, must, must answer the cry of these innocents. America is a nation with great passions and compassions. We have poured money into the money pit of Africa for years. Billions of dollars have been poured into it's gaping maw and yet the babies starve. The definition of insanity is executing the same set of circumstances over and over again and expecting different results. Are we kidding ourselves here? Africa is hungry and we think we know why. It's the warlords who intercept the red cross and other aid organizations. They who keep the food for themselves and charge the villagers enormous prices for it. They who build up power and wealth literally on the skeleton's of their children. So far, we've been helpless to turn this around. I've often thought we should put together a think tank of some of our brightest and best thinkers. We know what doesn't work. Let them figure out what will.
Into this mess I get on the subway train and a young woman sit's near with a small girl and an infant strapped to her chest. The little girl is dressed in lime green and pink which sounds atrocious but looked good on her. I stared at the family and let my mind drift. If a warlord climbed into the car with us, raised a machete and started towards the woman. If I had a gun, I would kill him. If I didn't have a gun I would jump up and put my body between him and the children in hopes that it would buy some time for others in the car to jump on him. In short, I would sacrifice my life so the children could live. Now, lets go back to Africa.
Suppose I managed to orchestrate a plan in which I included a box of Russel Stover Chocolates with each shipment of rice and milk I sent to the villages. We know the warlords take charge of the food stuff's and dole it out at their leisure, and the villager's ability to pay. The difference today is the chocolate. Do you think they'll share it with the babies? Not a chance, rich smooth chocolate is going right to their own bellies. So let's poison the mix. Instead of creamy nougat you get creamy arsenic. I don't know which would work best, but I'm thinking it should be slow acting. Give them time to go home and relax before dying. That way they can't alarm the other warlords in the area. Not that they would. So I have now committed mass murder. I will be punished for this obviously. Will I sacrifice myself for the multitude with the same conviction as I did on the train? In the interests of saving the innocents, I've killed thousands and thousands of brutal men who are killing the children daily. Is it a sin? Of course it is, but is it any worse a sin than killing the man on the subway train who waved a machette in front of the woman and her children? Do you think God keeps a tally sheet in heaven and when the score is oh say...... 20...... you go to hell. I believe the death of the one man is as onus as the death of many. Does it matter that your intentions were good? I don't know. I suppose soldiers the world over struggle with this one. I could not sit and watch the machete man kill them. That would be a sin. But could I kill him to stop him? Knowing it's a sin? Yes, I believe I could do that. Could I kill the warlords in Africa? No of course not. I am an ordinary woman living in Kansas fer crying out loud. But if the means were available to me, it would sure make me think long and hard.
I tried to post that photo at the end here, but the blogger rules aren't letting me do it. I'm not sorry for showing it to you. I think everyone should know this is still going on today. If you want, google Kevin Carter and you can learn more about the photo and the man.

Monday, June 4, 2007

We interrupt this program.....

Aunt Tolli say's I exaggerate in my blogs about her and Alice. I think she's defending her actions at Hoover Dam by accusing me of fancying up the story. Either way I'm delighted she read about herself online. It was at the occasion of her 80th birthday and she cornered me by the buffet line. Shaking her finger at me she managed to keep a straight face for at least 30 second.

Baron Von Munchausen said: I pity anyone who doubts my veracity.

I think I agree.

Monday, May 28, 2007

mushrooms and toadstools

It's been a while since I wrote anything in here. I have a lot of catching up to do as it's been a very busy month. But I want to tell you about Davina's neices, Faith & Grace. These beautiful babies were born about the same time Popi-Da was exiting this earthly plane. He would have been pleased with the timing. They are beautiful little girls now, 3 years old. Their parents, Travis and Heather, are young enough to keep up with them. Truth is when you first meet them you wonder how in the world these kids can hold anything together. But it doesn't take you long to figure out they know more about marriage and parenting than some people ever learn. I'm off on a tangent here so shall return to the story.

Spring time in the Midwest means mushroom hunting time. From the prized Morel's that everyone looks for to the more common fungi that flavors stew pots. Mushroom hunting is a typical topic in a lot of families. This one being no exception. My particular fave is those who harness pigs to sniff out the morel's. Seems pigs are as fond of them as humans. I'm sure Grace & Faith had heard their share of mushroom stories. In fact, based on what happened next I'd guarantee it.

The girls were spending the day at the babysitter's house. She also has a young girl about the same age. While in the fenced in back yard there must have been some discussion about how to find them. I'm told the baby sitter's daughter pointed out some mushrooms on the other side of the fence from them. 3 year old arms are thin enough to reach through a chain link fence and the girls harvested some for themselves. We don't know how much they actually ate. What we do know is that they weren't mushrooms, they were toadstools and that everyone got pretty sick that day.

To her credit the baby sitter took everyone to the hospital and no one was seriously ill. The twins spent the night in the hospital and were released the next day. All adults concerned were flustered (including those only aware of the events by phone calls). The girls seemed to enjoy the extra attention once they got past the blood tests. I've been told that toadstools can be poisonous. I'm sure that's why they all had to be checked.

Everyone is fine now with a brand new story to add to their memory chests. We keep thinking "someday this will all be funny" but it's going to take a while for the poor baby sitter to get over.

Monday, April 16, 2007

guitar man

MyJohn collects guitars. Serious guitars. Boutique guitars as he calls them. That means one of a kind, special made, above the rest. Definately not mass produced. We've been organizing his condo into a more rational layout. Rational layout defined by me, of course. The guitars have been pulled out from all corners and stacked neatly on a shelf. They're easier for him to get too and play and they aren't underfoot this way. Each one is different according to John. I get the visuals, the "rootbeer strat" and the "cherry burst strat" looks different despite them both being strat's. That's Stratacaster to those of you guitar challenged. What excites John is that they sound differently. He says. I think it takes a discerning ear frankly. A g note played on one sounds the same as a g note played on the other. Right? But oh these guitars make him happy. Each time we arrange a guitar on the shelf it is removed from it's case and played for a while. John's fingers fly up and down the neck picking out notes. Sometimes he slides them along the string for a raspy sound, other times he flicks the string to create harmonic's. All of the time he grins blissfully. The last one he brought out for organizing is a double necked guitar. It's body is a shiny black with glitter shot all through it. John's grin reached new dimensions as he sat down to play this one. I took several pictures of him with it and was pleased with the way the glitter reflected. For his part, John could have been out in a field all alone or on a concert stage. Playing that guitar made him very happy. It was fun to watch.
The congenitally blind people I know don't have much facial expression. They rarely smile and when they do it is often contrived and gruesome. I think smiling is somewhat universal though so when John is happy he does smile. He's got dimples. I think that's cute. I kind of think he's cute, but could be prejudiced. He's myJohn. I sure am glad of that.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

We interrupt this program...

I awoke this morning to snow. Snow on the ground and more falling. It is April 7th fer crying out loud. How did this happen? Note to Al Gore: Global warming? Snow in DC, snow on the cherry blossoms, snow on the streets. Despite being warned repeatedly by my Mother I did not bring a jacket with me. I wasn't expecting snow. A few chilly days maybe but nothing like this. I'm afraid my trip to DC has been darn near disastrous. I'm delighted to see MyJohn, more on that later. I developed a life threatening toothache. Meaning I thought I was going to die. That old poison peanut butter hasn't entirely left my system and the residue is creating havoc with me and oh yeah, did I mention it snowed? Sheesh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kathy made me do it.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. She and I went to lunch one day at "The Saddle Ranch" chop house. They have a mechanical bull in an arena. For some reason everyone was super nice to us that day. They let us ride the bull for free. Kathy was all excited about riding this thing and sort of guilted me into it. If she was going to do it, I knew I had to do it too and yes I would jump off the cliff if everyone else was doing that. Kathy went first; she looked terrified the entire time the bull was moving. She went up and down once than began to holler for them to stop and let her off. They take pictures of you as you ride and her's are super funny cause she clearly is scared to death.
I found getting on the bull as big of a challenge as riding it. You walk across this puffy air mattress to the bull in the center. I thought it would be easier to walk if I took giant steps. I think it took me 3 of them to get there. At this time I looked to Kathy for support and noticed she was doubled over and having trouble breathing. She didn't look the least bit concerned. Now these mechanical bulls are a lot taller in person than they look on the movies. My cowboy kneeled down in the classic "will you marry me pose". He told me to step on his leg then throw my leg over the bull. I asked him if there was a weight limit on that thing. He said no, it will take some really big guys. In hindsight, I think he was talking about the bull. I was talking about his leg. So I stepped on his proffered knee and tried to sling my other leg over the bull. His knee sank into the air mattress right at the critical moment. I didn't get my leg all the way over. I now know how Spiderman does it. I found myself clinging to the side of that thing and praying for a boost. The cowboy jumped up and gave me a shove so I ended up on top of it. Unfortunately, I was also about 1/2 inch from sliding off the rear. They're a bit like a teeter totter so when I sat on the back, the front popped up.
Kathy shouted encouragement from the sidelines. Something to the effect of "oh my God, your killing me". The cowboy shouted at me to scoot up. Scoot up? I was clutching this thing with my legs so I wouldn't fall off. Scooting up meant performing a miracle of levitation. I had to scoot forward and quite literally, up.
I thought I'd use my arm muscles to pull myself forward. Since the front end of the bull was close to smacking me in the nose I just leaned into it and wrapped my arms around the part where his neck shoulda been. As I struggled to pull myself up, my cowboy had managed to stop laughing long enough to get behind me and push. With one hand on each buttock he gave a mighty heave and I was in the saddle.
I didn't even look at Kathy at this point as she was making these funny queeping noises. I was pretty sure those weren't sympathy sounds. She told me later she laughed so hard she thought she was going to hurt herself.
The cowboy returns to his post at the controls. I grab the handle, throw my arm in the air in the professional bull riders pose and hope for the best. I'm sure I made the 8 seconds, I think it was closer to 2 hours before I was finally unseated. They take a series of photo's of you as you ride. Mine shows a great picture of my smiling face and even has my arm thrown back. But I was minus the top of my head. Really from the middle of my nose up was missing by the automatic border. The next one has me from the side, then there is the pose I put on this blog, (bummer that it's blurry) and the final shot is an empty bull with my shoe oddly stuck in the air off to the side.
That's right, I got thrown. Nothing hurts! I think that's nothing short of miraculous. You know how cats always land on their feet? Well I always end up on my back. As I struggled to my feet on the air mattress the sounds of applause, hoots and cat calls filled the air. I had drawn a crowd. I guess they aren't used to seeing someone ride with such penache. I can hardly wait to do it again. I'm hooked now.
Yippie Ki Yo Ki Yeah. Get along little doggies.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

We interrupt this program

My Grand-Mother gave my Mother a start off her lilac bush 40+ years ago. Today I looked at all the fat buds ready to burst forth and it made me realize Spring really is here. Forsythia bushes in full bloom, spiraea, jonquils, tulips, daffodils and hyacinth's herald the rebirth of our planet. Spring is beautiful in the Mid-West. The warm breezes dance across my cheek and the pull is strong within me. It will be good to travel to DC. That wind blows and I want to go with it. My Mother sit's beside me playing free cell on the computer. 40 years in one place is an eternity to me. What I see as a death of spirit she see's as security. Hard to believe I came from that body.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I like the java jive and it likes me.

Popi-Da had his first brain tumor removed when he was 47 years old. It's hard to comprehend the devastating ripples from that one drop of information into the pool of our life. He was my Father, he was also one of my best friends. 35 years ago a diagnosis of brain tumor was pretty much a death sentence. You don't have a lot of choices left to you when you hear those words. It reduces you to a secret, primal place where you grasp at anything to hold onto. Anything solid will do, even if it's the floor after you've sat down hard.
We all turned to him to lead us through this maze. Somehow an upspoken decision was made to use one of his greatest strengths to our advantage. His sense of humor kept him alive years beyond what the doctor's anticipated. In fact, he outlived several of them! More surgeries were to follow along with cobalt (radiation) treatments. It was like his entire body was in revolt against itself. He grew weird things on his skin. His gall bladder died and turned gangrenous. I think I butchered the spelling on that one. He lost a saliva gland and another one behind his knee. I wish we had kept a journal or something to guide us down memory lane.
Tumors, skin growths, weird changes internally aside what finally felled him was a surprise. He had a hole in his heart that had gone undetected his whole life. It announced itself by throwing clots into his brain and finally into his lungs. The journey down was slow and uneasy for everyone. But this isn't about the sorrow, it's about the joy.
After one fairly spectacular stroke he was placed in a rehabilitation center for recovery and retraining. Alice would stay with him during the day then leave in the evening to go to work. I would work days then drive 45 minutes to spend the evenings with him. Rehab centers end up being an extended family for those who stay more than a month. Most people who find themselves in one, do stay much more than a month. So I got to know everyone's name and followed their progress with their families. Success is hard fought here, milimeters at a time. There is rarely any kind of huge breakthrough with brain injury. Learning to raise a spoon to your mouth is cause for celebration.
Because I was there every evening I quickly became a part of the normal meal time routine. I helped seat patients, tied on bibs, cut up meat, told rotten jokes, wiped up spills, I fed the ones who couldn't feed themselves and gently helped those who were trying to eat by themselves. Often times putting the same green bean on the fork over and over until it actually got into a mouth.
One evening I was met by an exhausted staff who had 2 new patients, one of which hooted the words "help me" every ten seconds. Dinner was late and the volunteer's didn't show up and would I mind making the coffee?
I told them I don't drink coffee and have no idea how to make it. The nurse said the instructions are inside the lid of the coffee can and to use the biggest coffee pot they have. Well I can follow instructions so off I went to the dining room to make the coffee. The note inside the lid said to add 8 cups of coffee to the largest pot, filling it to the top line. Plug it in and wait for it to do it's thing.
It seemed a bit extreme to me and I had trouble fitting 8 cups of coffee into that little tray and filter but once it got wet it tamped down and I could get more in. Coffee made I went about setting the table's, Popi-Da helping me pull chairs around for those who could still walk. With the two of us working as a team, the place was looking good by the time the other patients started arriving.
I got them seated, collected their trays, opened butter packets, and what idiot sends milk in a cardboard carton to a brain damaged person who can't make his hands work? I poured the coffee and we all started eating. I noticed a few startled looks from the folks, but thought it might be in response to my new Hawaiian shirt with the hula dancers I had worn for fun. Mrs Bass, a lovely lovely woman started foaming at the mouth a bit. That alarmed me as she is normally so serene and beautiful. looking around I saw all the coffee drinkers acting odd. Then it hit me, 8 cups couldn't be right. I went back to the coffee pot and checked under the lid and sure enough, it said 8 small cups of coffee.
Popi-Da tasted the evil brew and almost gagged on it. He fished around in the coffee can and brought out a perfect little scoop and pantomined scooping coffee with it. Lord help us all, I had dug through the cabinets until I found a one cup measure. I thought 8 small cups meant level, not heaping.
An injured brain can't always tell you what's wrong, nor can it accurately taste. A good deal of the 20 or so patients had faithfully drank enough to create havoc with their systems. I got a nurse and showed her what the problem is and she wasn't especially comforting about it. You'd have thought I did it on purpose by her reaction.
I was told the next day that the night shift was ready to hang, draw, and quarter me. The normally placid patients were up all night out in the halls, talking when possible, getting into stuff and creating chaos in their wake. The new patient had stopped hooting "help me" after drinking his cup so there was at least some salvation at hand. Needless to say it was the last time anyone asked me to make coffee. Can't say as I blame them.
Popi-Da slept through it. His roomie's wife was called in though as her hubby was hollering for her. I'm just like my Dad, I can sleep through just about anything. Sometimes that's a blessing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I used to hate talking on the phone

I've always thought talking on a telephone was akin to getting a root canal. A necessary evil. Even as a teenager when my peers would call and want to "just talk" for hours at a time I was disgusted and ready to end the call a few minutes into it. I've gotten better over the years, mainly because I keep moving around and the phone turned into a life line home. My Mother was house bound for over ten years caring for my invalid Father. She used to love to travel and would have happily spent her retirement on the road. But with Popi-Da confined to a bed, she sat in a chair by his side for many years. So I would call her from all the different places and let her listen to the surrounding sounds. Hey Mom, I'm on Fremont Street in Las Vegas! Hey Mom, listen to the ocean waves here in Florida! Hey Mom, I'm on top of the Empire State building! Hey Mom, I'm on top of the Eiffel Tower! (note to other cell phone users.... there is no signal this high off the ground. I called her, but it wouldn't connect until I was at a much lower level) I've called her from the Louvre, the cathedral of the Black Madonna in Spain, the ruins of Pompeii. I've called her from Arizona to listen to the mockingbirds singing. I called from the Grand Canyon. It was my way of taking her with me and she always loved hearing it.
I have a couple of people I can talk to on the phone for a bit. I do get antsy and nervous though and tend to prattle on about nothing. I can't stand the empty air sound on a phone. I always feel like I'm paying to talk on this thing so I'd best get to talking. I'm afraid my phone mates don't get much talking done as I tend to, well, dominate the conversation.
But yesterday I talked to Gwyndolyn on the phone! I didn't see the lightening, I didn't hear the thunder, the ground didn't move, but she talked to me! Oh happy day. Many have tried and all have failed. She holds the phone to the side of her head totally mute. She'll pick up a toy cell phone and walk around babbling into it, waving her hands for emphasis. She'll pick up a stuffed mouse and hold it to her ear imitating a telephone. Put the real thing in her hands though and she is not interested. It's an interesting phenomenon that parents everywhere have commented on. I told her I love her, I asked if she was playing at Ahnnie's house. (Onny? Nonny? We have to invent spelling but it's her name for me) The next thing I know she is babbling away. Gobble de gook house Gobble de gook school. Bye. I wonder if a person can die of happiness. My heart was full unto bursting. What a wonderful way to die, I was so happy my heart burst. Gwyndolyn talked to ME. Me me me me, she loves me. I knew that even before the phone call and I'm sure not making it a prerequisite to conversation, but oh how delightful. I don't think my feet have touched ground in 2 days. This is better than winning the lottery. Or maybe it is exactly like it. For the rest of my life, no matter how terrible things might go, she talked to me on the phone first.
I have another epiphany moment I use as a sort of mantra. It happened years ago when I sat in the doorway of an airplane watching the checkerboard countryside glide by below. I knew in that moment that I was going to jump and that no matter how tough things got for me, and it was bound to be tough, I could overcome anything. I faced down that fear and jumped out of the plane. Many times over the years I had to revisit that moment in my head when I needed a little extra boost of courage.
My new epiphany has nothing to do with overcoming fear, or courage or really action on my part. It's being deserving of love from such a magnificient creature God put in our lives. I did nothing to earn it, I'm without a doubt undeserving of it. I am also eternally grateful to have it. When she would lean her body against my leg and gaze solemnly at my face with love and security I wished everyone in the world could feel that moment at some time in their lives. How can anyone be the recipient of a child's love then turn around and do evil? It's a quandary I admit.
I'm rambling here so I shall quit. Just know this. One of the happiest things in my life is that I love Gwyndolyn and she loves me. It don't get any better than this folks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Murry, Joe and MyJohn

There is a Christian Mission in Elim Poland that is supported by a women's group in Heidelberg Germany. I've seen pictures of the mission and the nearby orphanage they serve. It makes me wish I could do more for them. It makes me wish I had followed this path when I was younger instead of the more traditional American way of life in which I failed so miserably. But, I digress.
I was amazed to find European people suffering and starving. I thought South America, India and Africa had sort of cornered the market. I don't believe I'm being elietst, I've never seen or heard of any mission work in Europe other than Russia. Just shows to go ya I've led a sheltered life. One of the women in Heidelberg had a sewing pattern for the entire Nativity scene. From baby Jesus right through to Camel's and donkeys. They're done in wool which looks perfect on them. I suspect it's all they have and not something done by design. When the Elim women got started making the figures none of them had ever operated a sewing machine. No one had money for them. They lived in concrete block house's no bigger than my living room. But they learned, and have been able to better their lot in life through these stuffed dolls. One woman proudly displays a small cook stove sitting under an electric light bulb. All items bought with her earning. Each woman learns one figure. They have created a little co-operative where they put together the finished ones.
Karen, my friend and Gwyndolyn's Mom, purchased one of the Nativity sets last year at a Bazaar in Heidelberg. We set it up in the living room on the coffee table (the one that looks like a coffin) Gary's StepDad made. Karen put out Mary, Joseph and the donkey first. Gwyndolyn liked them, but wasn't much interested in playing with them. We told her the dolls were named Mary & Joseph. Her 2 year old interpretation of that was Murry & Josie. I told her if she was going to call Mary "Murry" she might as well call Joseph "Joe" and for once she listened to me and that's what she did. Karen was concerned some of her more righteous friends would object to the Holy Family going by Murry and Joe, but I told her just tell them it's my fault. They'll accept that.
The big surprise came when one of the shepards came out of the box to join the set. Gwyndolyn snatched it up immediately pronouncing it was "myJohn". She flipped the shepard upside down so his staff or crook was pointed to the ground. She chewed on the end of it a bit, she even sang some garbled baby talk into it. Then she tucked "myJohn" under her arm and went out of the room chattering happily. She did eventually allow him to join Murry & Joe in the coffee table tableau. What made this so interesting to me was that she hadn't seen John for 3 months!
The first time she met John she was younger and more skittish. In an attempt to win her over he rolled the tip of his cane towards her thinking she would want to play. Instead, she cried and wouldn't even look in his direction. She didn't warm up to him until near the end of the trip, much to his dismay. The next time she saw him, she greeted him like an old friend. Practically jumped in his arms at the door. The two of them were inseparable the entire two weeks he was there. The same goes for his last trip, in which she happily snuggled down in his arms to nap, talked to him for hours, played games with him (Aztec sacrifice being a favorite) and in general staked her territory on him. But 3 months is a long time in a childs life. I didn't expect her to remember him as well as she did. Murry, Joe and My John. He use's a white cane to navigate around things. Gwyndolyn hated the cane the first visit, but by the 3rd visit she would often pick it up and walk with it. The shepard she picked had a raised staff he held towards the front of his body. I'm sure that is what connected for her. I sure got a smile when it happened. I related the story to John later and he too enjoyed it. I find that I think of him a lot as My John. It flows from the lips as smooth as silk. Thanks Gwyndolyn.
MyJohn loves babies and for the most part they love him. Gwyndolyn and he grew to be "thick as theives". In Florida he laid on the floor so the twin babies could crawl all over him. He wagged his tongue at them. He tickled their tummies, he steadied them as they crawled over the top of him on their way to a toy or food. It's official, MyJohn loves babies. I think that's cool cause I love them too.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Toto I think we are back in Kansas

I have itchy feet. I've also been fickled but that's a whole 'nother story. My Grandpa had it and it seems to skip a generation as both my parents were dug in solid. I can't seem to sit still despite an aching feeling of loss each time I "move on". I love my family very much. I love being home where everything is familiar. As I age, and my brain decays I find familiarity comforting. I walk through my Mothers home I touch everything as I go by. My fingers have brushed that same thing a thousand times over the years and it is known to me. Since my itchy feet demand I am constantly being confronted with new places and new stuff it's nice to feel at peace with these things.
It finally warmed up some recently. The whole day was so nice we drove with the window's down in the car. But then came the night and it rained "buckets" it rained "cats and dogs" it rained enough that creeks rose up and turned streets into lakes. Flash flooding filled with the incredible sight of lightening. Our front yard was covered with pea sized hail. I always liked that comparison. Pea sized hail. Sounds like a benediction. Just an hours drive south of us they had a tornado that was on the ground for most of 3 hours. Bopping up and down in the clouds in a nightmarish game of hop-scotch where the winner gets to keep his house. We just had high winds that blew trash cans down the street and into the neighbors garden. By morning, we had snow. Yep, I'm home. Kansas has once again reminded me of it's spectacular beauty; it's dramatic displays of climate. That sounds like a quote from Robert Heinlein. Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.
Davina had to let her horse Clyde go recently. It was a horribly tough decision and hurt her terribly. Clyde was an old fellow that she loved dearly. He loved her too despite his mule-ish wasy. Is that a word? mulish? I don't know. Some of my favorite memories of her and Clyde are in the winter. He was a big bay gelding. Fancy way of saying he was brown and had been "fixed". The snow always seemed to compliment his coloring and make him look sort of warm and fuzzy. I thought about that as she led him down towards the woods to his final resting place. Clyde in the snow. The woods and the woods in the snow. It was just so darned appropriate since her fave poem is by Robert Frost, it's called
"In the Clearing".
I memorized it for her and would often quote it to her as a gift. She would lean her head forward and I would whisper the words into her ear while her hair would tickle my lips. In hindsight, it should be a requirement that you whisper this poem to someone. It's not written for a normal tone of voice. I would do this usually while we were outside someplace looking at woods and freezing. But it never failed to give her happy goose bumps so I was happy to be able to do it. The best kind of gifts cost nothing and make the giver as happy as the receiver. Now whenever I look at those woods in the winter I'll think of that horse and the last time I rode him. I should say the last time he threw me as he was getting good at it. Without further ado here's the poem as I recall it.

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though
He will not mind me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The coldest night of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sounds the sweep
Of frozen wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
yes miles to go before I sleep.

The last three lines have been a catch phrase for me most of my life. I say it often, I think it more often. I have promises to keep. Hmmm... not one of my strong points. Although I used to be a lot better at it before my memory went south for the winter.

My John says I write with a Joycean flair. Sort of a stream of consciousness thing. This post is certainly indicative of that. I rambled with what ever came to mind. I think it comes from being a fast typist. The thoughts run through my head and fly out my fingers.
I learned today I have a fan base. It's now grown to 3 people. This is very exciting. I might get motivated to write more often.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

We interrupt this program

You aren't going to believe this. We have another jar of the tainted peanut butter in the pantry. My belly rolls just thinking about it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Midwestern Sisters at Hoover Dam

My Mother and her sister (Aunt) Tolli are the epitome of Midwestern women. They are gracious to a fault. Solicitious of everyone they come in contact with. My dear John is always amused by my Midwestern traits and habits and I'm the watered down version of them. Trying to shepard these 70+ year old women into a car is fun to watch.
"You sit up front", Alice will say.
Tolli comes back with, "Oh no Alice, you should sit up there with your bad knees"
"Why Tolli your knees are worse than mine, you sit up front".
"No I can get in and out better from the back seat".
"But you need to sit up front to tell Emily where we are going".
"Emily doesn't need me to tell her where we are going, she never gets lost, she just makes new discoveries"
Eventually one of these wonderful gracious ladies will brush the other aside and climb slowly and painfully into the back seat. This routine, with very little variation will be repeated at every stop during our car trip and on the way back home.
In my hurry up and get there youth this kind of verbal condescending sparring would drive me nuts. But with age comes wisdom I suppose or my ever present search for beauty. And it is beautiful to listen to them. They love each other unreservedly. The bond between them is more beautiful than any painting or sculpture could be. Their's is a love strengthened by the test of years and the knowledge that they alone share the same memories. I see their comments as part of an intricate dance between the two of them. Being Midwestern and born to the familiar cadence of "you go first" I enjoy hearing the same phrases repeated with the same exact intonation each time. It's comforting really, to understand they can't not do it. It's engrained into them from the time they were very young.
However, there was one time when I found myself on the receiving end of their deferential vacillating. I had taken the sisters with me on a road trip to Arizona. The seating arrangements were set early in the trip by Aunt Tolli who turned the back seat into a mini nest of sorts and brooked no objections from Alice. On an aside note, this trip brought about a lot of firsts for me the most notable being that I heard my first cross word from my soft spoken Aunt. I'd forgotten to get gas at the last rest stop and when the warning bell pinged telling me I was down to 3 gallons Aunt Tolli got down right testy. I assured her we had plenty of gas and would get to a gas station in time. She snapped back "oh yeah, that's what Jay always used to say and then we'd get stuck on the side of the road for hours". I was impressed, I didn't think she had it in her. Unfortunately this was not the last time I heard angry stories about Uncle Jay stranding them on the side of the road. I, who have never ran out of gas, forgot again in the tiny town of Jerome, Arizona. We climbed through rugged mountains without even a place to pull over should we run out of gas when that darn warning bell pinged at us again. I believe had Aunt Tolli not been safely esconsed in her nest she might have gone upside of my head at that point. Despite the heat she made me turn off the a/c and refused to let us roll the windows down. She explained the aerodynamic drag of the open windows would over rule gravity of our car going down hill. But, back to my lovely Midwestern Sisters and how they got me.
One of the goals of our trip was to see Hoover Dam. It played a big role in their childhood as I suspect it did a lot of people from that era. They certainly heard stories from their Father and Uncles about the mighty dam and how it was going to change the lives of so many people. The sheer size of it captivated a nation. I've been to the dam several times and never lose my sense of awe for it's human accommplishment. Aunt Tolli had never seen it, and Alice had seen it once years ago. 9/11 changed the dam forever though so a lot of it was new to Alice as well. They've put a large parking garage on the Nevada side of the dam. I love this silly parking garage because they used a dye in the concrete and it's a lovely shade of orange. The parking garage is up the hill from the dam and the visitors center. I had taken a wheelchair with us on our journey, not anticipating neither woman would sit in it in deference to the other. I have some pictures from this trip which usually shows Alice pushing the empty chair while Tolli walks alongside of her with a cane. I couldn't begin to tell if either rode down to the visitors center in the chair, but I sure know who rode up! We toured the new center, and walked across the dam looking tenatively over the sides. They more so than I as vertigo plagues me and that darned thing always makes me a little sick. Nevada and Arizona are hot states. The dam sits in the middle of rock canyons with literally no vegatation on them. The heat is unmerciful during the summer and this was indeed August. The outside temperature that day hovered around 117 degrees. The heat baking off the concrete made your skin sort of crinkle up. You could feel the heat waves coming off it.
I knew the walk back up that huge hill was too much for either of them so I approached an officer and asked him if there was someway I could drive down and pick them up. I was pretty sure they had something in place to assist folks like us and sure enough they did. He told me to take them over to the other side of the road where the police cars were. I was to drive down to them and they would remove the red cones so I could drive right into the sidewalk area and help them load up.
Sounds simple, right? For the first and last time I heard my Mother and my Aunt working in tandem on a seating arrangement. It simply wouldn't do to inconvenience the officer or the other cars. They came up with another plan. I was to push one of them half way up the hill in the wheelchair. Take the first person out and sit her in the shade of the lone palm tree planted up there. I would then return to the bottom with the wheel chair and pick up the other one, push her halfway up the hill where she would swap places with the original sister. Then I would push that one up to the car and get her seated then return with the wheelchair for the other sister and push her the rest of the way up and into the car. You notice I say the words pushed up a lot here? Well that's because that is exactly what we did. They thanked the officer for his trouble, then proceeded to their assigned positions whilst I began my trek. I was so addled with the heat I never argued with them, I just pushed. By the time the last sister was in the parking garage and into the car I was almost dizzy with heat and dehydration. Oddly enough, neither one of them remembers this event as clearly as I do. If you ask them about visiting Hoover Dam, they'll tell you about it's size, the water levels, the heat, even going inside the dam..... but not one mention of my rather herculean efforts.
I think I'll write more about this trip soon. It's hard to forget getting Aunt Tolli safely into our room in Las Vegas when she turned to me with trembling voice and asked "What would I tell Jesus if he came back tonight?" I told her just tell him it's my fault, he's used to it. That seemed to satisfy her and she got ready for bed.
Wow, this post is getting to long. I'd best stop.

Friday, February 16, 2007

poison peanut butter & snow

Round 2 of the alien invasion blew through this afternoon. If those little white flakes are aliens I have to wonder did they arrive in winter deliberately? Of course it behooves any invading army to paralyze the infrastructure and this snow has certainly done just that. The city slows to a crawl while the snow covers everything. But enough of this. Either they take over or they don't.
Winter always forces me to redefine my idea of beauty. The amazing thing here is that it takes me by surprise each time it snows. I spend hours staring at the icicles hanging from the garage door. The light emphasizing different angles as it melts or the wind blows. I become convinced I have never seen anything quite so beautiful in my life. My rational mind tells me I am talking about an icicle hanging from the garage door and that it's common place. Yet when I stop to admire it the beauty grips me. When evening fell I watched the blue sparkles on the lawn left there by the common street light highlighting the evenings snow. In all the world, this scene is repeated over and over and everyone who see's it is awed at it's simple beauty. The woods with the snowfall drifting through and piling up on the brown branches. There is so much beauty here it defies my logical mind. I'm miserable cold and hate being out in the snow... but I love the beauty it introduces into my life.
My love, John, is blind. He has been since birth. He had a sliver of sight as a child enough to think he remembers the color yellow but not enough to understand what visual beauty is. John and I were in Florida together bobbing around in the surf and finding seashells. We joke about my prehensile toes as I can retrieve a shell from the bottom by using my feet. I don't have to dive to the bottom or get my hair wet. There once was a time when we separated in our shell search and I heard him very excitedly calling me. I swam over to him only to have him present me with this "really cool shell" he had found. He wanted to know if it was pretty. It wasn't. It was an ugly hunk of rock and shell the ocean had carved holes into. Barnacles clung to the edges of the shell leaving it with a sharp edge. Without thinking I told him no, it was a plain to ugly shell and we threw it away. After tossing it out into the deep I realized what an incredible opportunity I had missed. What is beauty anyway? I dismissed the shell because it wasn't beautiful to my standards, but it was to his. I wish I had closed my eyes and felt the shell like he did. I wish I had found out what his idea of beauty was. I know he thought it wonderful because of his excited voice when he called me. Interestingly enough John accepted my version of beauty and went on looking for a shell that "I" would deign beautiful. That is a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life. As an artistic person I eliminated a huge field of beautiful experiences based on my own prejudiced opinion. It is a mistake I won't soon make again.
Before I quit I want to talk about Panda. She is my very dear friend for many years. She currently lives in Florida where it is warm. She's flying into KC tonight to spend a couple of days with her GrandMother who is ill. It's snowing here and very cold. After years of Florida returning to Kansas is going to be very difficult on her. She's flying one of the cheap airlines, AirTran and once again they have stranded her in a different city. I think it's in their bylaws that you have to get stuck in a new city each time you fly. She's about at the end of her rope with them, and I'll wager this is her last time to fly AirTran. She has been sitting in Atlanta Georgia for the last 6 hours waiting on a flight that may or may not arrive. (It finally did, but as usual it was late). Unfortunately, it's been snowing (alien invasion) here all afternoon and will do so again this evening. It's a coin toss as to whether or not the plane can actually land in KC. While talking with her online from the airport I told her my theory on alien invasion and frozen ET's waiting to thaw and wreck havoc on planet earth. She opined as to how they could have started their invasion with tainted peanut butter. It's funny only in the context that I have been sick all week with some wierd stomach ailment. I'll not bore you with the details, suffice it to say this has not been one of my finer moments. Well on the news yesterday there is a recall on Peter Pan peanut butter! Alice, my Mother got up to check our jar and sure enough the label on top says 2111. No wonder I'm sick. I've been contaminated with Salmonella. Sheesh. I've been eating the peanut butter cause it's a good source of protein and easy to digest while my stomach is so upset. Talk about a self perpetuating cycle. 5 to 7 days of this is what the website said. Invading snow peanut butter poison. Sounds like a plan to me. I've confused myself here. I was writing about how pretty snow is and got lost in that other stuff.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Are we sure that's really snow?

I should be able to think of something profound or thought provoking for my first entry in a blog, but all I can do is worry if the stuff falling from the sky out there is really snow or some kind of alien attack gone awry. The stuff is building up on the grass to the point where it's hiding the blades. Would aliens think it necessary to hide blades? To much to think about and so little time to do it. I'm pretty sure I can change this post once I do it. I just wanted to get started and see how it works.
I am the queen of mediocrity. I am a middle aged, middle income, middle american who has led an unusual life. Everyone has a story and I hope to put mine on here. As soon as I figure out the reason behind the snow stuff falling outside my window. What if we were wrong? What if it is the first wave of an invasion that's going totally bad for the invaders?