HELLO GOD


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Hello God,

I don’t know if your remember me, it’s been awhile since we spoke. I know how busy you are, but I wanted to tell you about my friend Joan, who just moved in up there. She was one of the best people I have known down here, so I assume she has already settled in. I hope you saved a really nice place for her.

Some acquaintances through the years actually thought we were sisters since we were together so much. If that was so, she was the pretty one. I remember the first time we met. Her boyfriend brought her over to meet Dr. Advice and me. Of course he wasn’t Dr. Advice yet, and she ended up marrying her boyfriend. She was from Texas, with an infectious Texas accent, and we realized we would be best friends forever, which was a good thing because the boys had been best friends since the age of five, and it would have been awkward if we didn’t like each other.

Her mother Rosie from Texas, named her for her favorite movie star, Joan Crawford, which she pronounced “Joanne”, but like a lot of us, she was called by several names: Joan, Joanne, Josie, but she was always “Joanie” to me.

As you know, she had a lot of problems the past few years, so I hope that has all been solved by now. She was a mean competitor on the tennis court, and we hiked over a lot of terrain together. We went on many trips along with our dear husbands. She lost hers some time ago as you know, so if there is a way to connect them again it would be really nice. I know she missed all that. Speaking of being a competitor, I hope there are some bridge groups up there, because she spent a lot of time winning card games. She also kept me up all night once playing Monopoly, long after the boys lost and went to bed, and she finally won that game too at 6 a.m.

She didn’t win the health game though, but she surely tried. I never saw anyone so brave, and determined. As such, she was a great inspiration to those of us who need inspiration. When she lost her hearing, I asked her if we needed to learn sign language, and she said no, they wanted her to learn to read lips. She became a pro at that too. She took up boxing to try to help her balance. I keep a picture of her with her pink boxing gloves.

I suppose by now you have looked into her case and can see what a great mother she was to her children and grandchildren. She kept track of them all so well it made me feel like a real slacker. People who didn’t know her well said she was sweet. I need to tell you she was a lot more than that. She was smart, funny, and a good business woman as well as sweet. She loved meeting people, and really made an effort to meet new people wherever she lived.

It’s been hard to communicate with her the past couple of years, but sometimes just sitting and holding hands was enough. I will miss that.

Anyway, God, I just wanted to make sure you met Joanie, and took good care of her. A lot of people down here miss her.

NOTABLE & QUOTABLE


robin williams From a foreword by actor ROBIN WILLIAMS, who died on Monday at age 63, for “Tell My Son: A Father’s Last Letters” by Lt. Col. Mark Weber, who died June 13, 2013, at age 41:

We all eventually reach the end of our march. For some of us, the route is long. For others, the path is short. But it’s not the length of the journey that matters as much as the steps we take.

If you discovered disease was about to cut your life short, no one could rightfully judge you for dropping out of line. But for those who refuse to let an incurable illness keep them from doing their duty. For those who keep fighting, for those who live life vigorously and joyfully to the very end, we have names for those people. We call them heroes.

I had the pleasure of working with Mark during a USO tour he helped organize for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2004. At the time, he inspired me in the same way all military personnel do. Everyone who serves their country deserves respect for their personal sacrifice, and they sure get mine. But after learning of his battle with cancer, my respect for Mark grew exponentially….

Lieutenant Colonel Weber marched with purpose, humor, dignity, and grace. This book is about what drove him. It’s a look at who he was, what he believed, and what awaits his sons in their own lives. Reading it might help you advance through this world, too.

May he light the way.

<ayu

THE WAY IT WAS


Triangulate
“Triangulation” Stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Life in America in 1815 was dirty, smelly, laborious, and uncomfortable. Only the most fastidious bathed as often as once a week. People gave themselves sponge baths in large washtubs as water had to be carried from a spring or well, bucket by bucket and then heated in a kettle on a wood stove. Some bathed but once a year, and as late as 1832,an unnamed country doctor complained that 4 out of 5 of his patients did not bathe from one year to the next. Their homemade soap was harsh, so people usually only rinsed off saving the soap for cleaning clothes which was only an occasional activity.

taking a bath

An outdoor privy was not something everyone had, indoor light was precious and scarce, families made their own candles from animal tallow, and they were smelly and smoky. Everybody slept in the same room near the single fireplace, several in each bed, and privacy for married couples was a luxury.

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fletcher

Towards the end of the Victorian age, Horace Fletcher, an American nutritionist know as “The Great Masticator”, began advocationg that people chew each bite of food until it became liquid. Presidents and generals took up “Fletcherizing” as did authors such as Henry James, Franz Kafka, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and hundreds of otherwise intelligent people.

Supper conversation presented a challenge. J.H. Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes, and a follower, tried to jazz up mealtimes by hiring a quartette to sing “The Chewing Song”, an original Kellogg composition, while diners grimly toiled over their food.

It is probably a correct assumption that Fletcherites at table were not an attractive sight. It is said that Franz Kafka’s father hid behind a newspaper at dinnertime to avoid watching the writer Fletcherize.

Most of our mothers cautioned us not to gulp our food. My Great Aunt tried to lead me to chew each bite 27 times. I don’t know it that was “Fletcherizing”, but it did prevent gulping.

NIKE AND MR. BOWERMAN


I hadn’t gone far, not quite two miles, with not even a good sweat in the cool, foggy morning air. I was high, running easily, playing my usual mind game of imagining the cheering crowds at the imaginary finish line, me breaking the tape and then flopping down on the wet grass to celebrate the usual morning run. For several years we had run around the Lake chasing the resident geese out of the way and dodging dogs and people. Dr. Advice was beside me as usual, playing the role of the race announcer and critiquing my unusual running style, when suddenly without warning I found myself on the ground writhing in pain. The culprit was a board sticking up a bare half inch and my moving toe had connected with it. As it turned out, it was the finish of that race and all others to come when an x-ray showed a broken tendon in my right foot. The prognosis was not good. The loose half of the tendon had windowshaded up my leg never to be seen again.

runners 2

Early in the 1960’s a friend called me one morning about 6 a.m. and asked if I wanted to go for a run. Unaccustomed as I was to even being awake at 6 a.m. and not knowing anyone who ran in public unless going to a fire, I foolishly said OK. What began as a slow jog alongside the side of the road for the two of us, began a daily habit which soon had us switched to the high school track at 5:30 and included several other men and women. We all felt so superior and healthy.

All this time unbeknownst to us, Bill Bowerman, the great track and field coach at the University of Oregon, was working on an idea to make better running shoes for his runners. In 1970 he famously used his wife’s waffle iron to stamp the rubber sole of a running shoe which then became the iconic look of running shoes today. Together with Phil Knight, a business man in Oregon and graduate of the University of Oregon. they began the company known as Nike. My daughter then working in the sports department at the University of Washington sent me one of the first Nike shoes.

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It has been eight years since my accident, and I still miss those early morning runs while waiting for the world to wake up. Today I use a cane which amuses me sometimes because when my friend and I were very young we decided that if we ever grew old we would carry a really classy cane with a silver handle to discourage all intruders. My cane is not classy and there have been no intruders that a Jack Russell couldn’t discourage, but it works. One of my grandsons promised me he would pick me up one in London someday, but he never did. I found a shop in Nottinghill which had some lovely canes, but I didn’t need one then so I moved on.

I have discovered that if you can no longer manage things the way you would like, you can make adjustments. Sort of like that old saw about one door opening etc. My walker with its storage basket/seat is perfect for carrying things room to room, or stashing tools when gardening and purchases at the store. I can recommend one to everyone. My daughter was quite impressed when I used it to bring dishes to the table.

I began feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t go for a walk, so we bought a wheelchair. The first day we used it to walk around “our” Lake, the wind came up and Dr. Advice caught a cold and was in bed for four days! The chair stayed vacant in the garage for a month or so as a catch-all storage, but it’s there when needed. I met a nice lady at the store where we bought it who had purchased the same model for her husband, but when she took him out for a spin the first time, it tipped over and out he went. No idea if she ever got the hang of it. I guess I was lucky that I didn’t tip over.

The whole point of life is making the best of it. I’m glad I danced, rode horses, climbed mountains and ran. It’s time to move over and let the rabble run past.

BLIND AS A BAT AND TOOTHLESS TO BOOT


Wht the Hell
“What The Hell!” original multi-media figure by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

There is something viral about the Heathrow airport in London. For the third time the minute my feet found the restroom after landing, my teeth fell out.

I can’t read a word on the map without my reading glasses. I know we will find our hotel, if it’s the same place as it was. English hotels don’t seem to stray for a century or so. But finding a dentist to put my teeth in order was another question. Finding one to do it in a week was another problem.

I always felt comfortable being lost in Venice and in London. I knew I would run into water at some point in Venice, and the English have been trained since babyhood to be polite, and someone always shows up to help. Paris is another side of the coin. I once asked directions in my best high school French and received a snarl much as if I had tried to grab a bone from a starving dog.

Dr. Advice says he hates being lost, but we found him sitting happily nursing a beer with a group of artisans in a bodega in Guadalajara an hour or so beyond the agreed meeting time.

Teeth and eyesight become even more prized in later life, when you realize you can’t read the phone book, a map or a menu. I miss my relationship with the telephone directory. I used to believe you could find anything you were looking for in one. Now it contains everything but your can no longer see it.

When you are forced to call Directory Assistance you receive a disembodied recording from India asking for answers you can’t supply in one word.

The menu, the cookbook, and of course the map can only be read if written in large type–extremely LARGE TYPE. Mostly I’m sad about just plain reading. When I pass a bookshelf I need to stand on my head to decipher the titles. Reading is one of the main things I do and is entirely dependent upon the whereabouts of my glasses.

And I forgot to mention the pill bottle! Who can read that small print? They crowd all the information on one tiny little bottle and expect you to read it?

Three years ago when they finished excavating my mouth I discovered that you could survive by pulverizing all your food in a blender, but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Food vanishes. Not literally of course, but our concept of food as habit, as pleasure, as love.

Steak becomes a memory. You don’t smile because there is nothing to smile about. Your dentist becomes not only your best friend, but a constant companion. The waiter at a favorite restaurant supplies your lunch before you order. Soup and ice cream as usual? You nod while sadly watching your companions chomp away at their salads.

The same waiter is discreetly pleased when you next show up with glasses and teeth.

STAFF OF LIFE


Beside soup and possibly love, bread is perhaps the greatest source of sustenance the world has ever known. You can’t live on love alone, but it is possible to live on soup and bread.

It was 9:00 o’clock on a sunny summer morning when a small group of bright-eyed women, aprons in hand, converged on my kitchen, all intent upon taking home a loaf of their very own homemade bread for dinner. It wasn’t a regular cooking class, just a few curious friends interested in finding out what was so mysterious about a food which had sustained humans from nearly every culture since they stumbled out of their caves. We were doing different yeast recipes, and each woman took her choice of one.

The variety of bread around the world is mind-boggling. From tortillas from Mexico to the airy croissant of Paris, each have their place in history and on our dinner tables.

Bread is politically correct, not caring if you are a Democrat or a Republican, or a Catholic or Jew. A few yeast cells in a bowl of flour and some water, in a suitable length of time, can transport you to nirvana. The added pleasure of bread making is the glorious smell of baking bread, better to me than the most expensive bottled perfume.

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Once on a rainy morning in Paris a line of people drew me into the convention hall opposite Notre Dame cathedral where a large group of professional bakers were contending for prizes in their particular offerings. A good many were making sculptural renditions with bread dough. There were baskets, animals, flowers, etc. All impractical but beautiful.

The divine smell combined with the excitement and chatter of the great number of onlookers all engrossed in watching the expertise of the various bakers, was a morning I won’t forget. If you are a bread baker, or if your mother or grandmother supplied your daily bread you will know what I mean.

A week or so ago, I had made two kinds of bread plus a few jars of apricot jam. A grandson stopped by and promptly relieved me of a jar of jam and a loaf of bread. Clearly the smell of one or both were too much for him. I well remember my mother’s kitchen on baking day. It was like waiting for Christmas to come before she would allow me to cut into the warm loaf and slather it with jelly. It was a nice beacon to get me to hurry home from school on those days.

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In my own kitchen on our communal baking day, the several bowls were rising nicely except for one disappointed lady, whose dough looked sullen and unhappy with its situation in the bowl, so we had a vote and decided it might be better to toss it in the waste bin and she could try again. Given the unpredictability of yeast dough, the silly thing began to rise nicely while nestled comfortably among the leftover cabbage leaves! Not that it was planned, but cabbage can make a good biga, otherwise known as a yeast starter. Serendipitous.

We keep our kitchens so sanitary, and have all sorts of modern equipment to make baking fast and fun. We fuss over the dough trying to make it perfect. But yeast has a mind of its own and will do whatever it pleases.

In my first summer of staying with the Pueblo, I became part of the morning baking for the village. There were six of us working together to make about twenty-four loaves.

After the dough was mixed and while it was rising, a number of pieces of wood went into the beehive oven, and when the heat felt right and charred a small piece of paper, the dough went in. No timer, no thermometer, no bread pans, nothing fancy. When someone figured it was right, the first loaf came out and was thumped to see how it sounded, and it was pronounced done. Their people had been making bread the same way for centuries.

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My friend whose dough took a vacation in the wastebin, reminded me of that day recently. I don’t know if any of them still make bread, but I do. Every week. Drop over sometime and have a warm slice with butter and jam.

OATMEAL SCHMOATMEAL


oatmeal2
Oh I know you expect me to launch into a glowing account on the virtues of a bowl of hot oatmeal. Well, forget it. I hate oatmeal.

You can tell me how life-enhancing oatmeal is, and how warm and satisfied it keeps you until it’s time for the lunch hour hamburger fix. Acclaim its time-tested qualities, and how your grandmother dolled it up with brown sugar, raisins or bananas, and how it reminds you of being young and carefree again.

Well, I’m not convinced. I still don’t like it.

Dr. Advice loves oatmeal. He loads it up with bananas, prunes, raisins and brown sugar. I’m sure it is all the fruit which makes him think it is so good. Or maybe it is because it is one of the few things he has mastered as a culinary novice. What’s wrong with bacon and eggs?

A long time ago, before I became a charter member of Oatmeal Haters of America, I touted the appeal of Scottish oats to my friend Corrine. They come in a nice time box you can use for storing something else after you enjoy the oats, and besides they take up far less room than the large boxes of flakes. I even bought her a can as an introductory present as a dinner guest, and took it as a gift instead of the same old bottle of wine.

She returned them the next day unconvinced and told me she still hated it.

In addition to the taste and texture, the cleanup is gummy and if it happens to boil over, forget it. They were passing out free samples of the stuff at a local grocery store recently, so I bought some thinking perhaps it had improved over time.

It had not. It still tastes like wallpaper paste. I’ll take a “proper English breakfast” consisting of eggs, bacon or ham, hashed brown potatoes, and a nice hot cup of tea thank you.

RULE NUMBER ONE


Mrs. Lauderback 2
“Mrs. Lauderback at the Opera” Terra Cotta sculpture by KSR

It’s a fact that we grow older every day. I have had a great ambition not to be a cranky old battle-axe, but then I never wanted to be boring either. I’m trying to make a bigtime play at being old and interesting. If you’re going to be halfway interesting you can’t go around moaning abut your aches and pains. Do you think that’s easy?

You might tell yourself defensively that you aren’t boring you’re just focused. Pain can do that to you. When you develop a body part which doesn’t seem to work properly, it becomes the most interesting and important thing in the universe. Sort of like potty training when your kids were babies and it’s all you could talk about. I do understand that, we all did it.

Pain is different though. You begin listening to people discussing their aches and pains, and you think “Gosh, I have that too. What’s the big deal?” Do they think everyone wants to listen to that? On the other hand shared pain is a conversation starter. You meet all kinds of interesting people and begin to acquire illnesses you never heard of.

But there’s no denying that the discussion of pain is a real downer, and it’s contagious. You begin by feeling sorry for the other person, and end up feeling sorry for yourself. It leads to making excuses for poor performance.

On the other hand, it does absolutely no good for someone who feels like they’re ready to run a marathon to try to pep up the situation. In fact, it may lead to the end of a perfect friendship. Sometimes it feels good to just wallow in your own miserablness, but be forewarned—don’t do it.

Years ago my daughter was caught in a storm which ripped out the road in front of her mountain home. To get out, she had to scramble down a ravine with her two small boys before she could get to relative safety at our home. I was in bed with flu at the time, feeling like death warmed over, but my ever-cheerful husband took me in hand and told me not to make them feel any worse than they do. “No one wants to see your pitiful face.” And you know, he was right. They appeared at our door muddy and disheveled and hungry, and in trying to remedy their situation, I found that I forgot about the flu bug.

On another occasion when I was down with another flu bug, a second daughter in her “previous” life announced that she wanted to get married in a month.

At home.

That may be the fastest I ever jumped out of bed in my life. But again, thinking of someone else instead of yourself was the cure. There’s only so much room in your brain, and it’s truly uncreative to fill it with yourself.

Every month or so I have lunch with a group of my high school friends, all of whom claim to be 86 years old. There are a few canes in evidence, but they all live alone and drive to where we have decided to eat. I am the youngest by a year, and I am the only one fortunate to still have a husband. These are vibrant, interesting women with varied interests. We have made it a rule to begin each meeting by asking if there are any new health problems they need to discuss. If not, the rule is to forget them all for the duration of the lunch. It’s a good rule because everyone has something.

SEND ME NO LILIES


Star_Gazer_Lily

I began feeling a bit weird during a nice luncheon with friends last week. It was the same feeling I had been having which had sent me to a cardiologist the week before.

I had not planned to finish my day lying flat on my back in the ER and hooked up to monitors and EKG, and looking at concerned unfamiliar faces, and my husband sitting quietly beside my bed. I didn’t feel threatened, but it was unsettling. There are two worlds, you see. The Healthy and the Sick. You never realize that until you join the Sick or someone you love does. In that world, you wear hospital gowns that gape in the back, and these kind but unfamiliar people and their machines take over your body. Maybe since your body has apparently betrayed you, you never knew it as well or really owned it the way you thought you did.

I went in at 6:00 and they played around with me until midnight, poking holes in me, taking both my blood and blood pressure, checking monitors which were doing what I don’t know. I thought they would have a quick look and I’d be on my way, so there I was without even a tooth brush, but at midnight they tossed me into a bed upstairs, with a sleeping woman who groaned audibly when the nurse told her she was getting a roommate. Impossible. I was having a dinner party the next day and hadn’t even shopped.

The next morning a nurse came in and told me she had been my nurse two years before when I had the shoulder replacement. I was in the same room, same bed. I began wondering if they planned this whole thing. They seemed to know everything about me. It was surreal and unwelcome, and the food was no better than it had been two years ago. But that afternoon my two daughters came in after having driven all day up from Southern California. I began to think maybe something could be wrong, and they had come to pay their final respects. It was a long way to come just to say hello. Grandchildren began calling to see if I was still breathing.

At 6:00 o’clock the next morning, I woke to the sight of three large paramedics asking if I was ready to roll. I grabbed my lipstick, which was the only thing I had with me to make me look a little human. I asked if I could call my husband, and they said “nope”, so they loaded me onto a gurney and into the ambulance. We tore through morning commute traffic to Santa Clara about 25 miles away, to another hospital, darting in between cars as we went.

I was glad Dr. Advice and I had not tried to find this place by ourselves because they hide these three enormous buildings on foreign and unknown streets in a city we have no reason to ever go to. It was too bad he had to find it alone without my superb navigational skills, because he did get a bit lost on the way.

While waiting for the action to begin whatever it was going to be, I had chance to talk to a cute little nurse with dark horn-rimmed glasses and wearing hospital green, and I told her they better be nice to me because I was a blogger and I would tell all. She told me about a blog she followed by a woman who met her French husband in a gay bar in San Francisco, and they got married and moved to Provence, where they had two children and raised chickens and pigs and a couple of dogs. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun even though I love dogs and eggs. I could do without the pigs though.

Then I went into the operating room and in zipline speed they did an angioplasty, and sent me upstairs to the cardiac floor and I was officially a cardiac patient. A piece of cake until they said my artery had been 99% blocked. It might explain some of the mysterious incidents I had been having for they past several months.

The cardiac floor is a place all it’s own. You remain lying prone and absolutely still for 6 hours, and they don’t let you cheat even for 15 minutes. Try it sometime. They may get in and get back out in the surgery, but they make up for it by 6 hours of torture. They also keep you attached with a dozen wires dangling underneath the same kind of gown they seem to use everywhere. One size fits all and they said it isn’t big enough for some people. I suggest they either go on a diet or don’t get sick. Forget modesty, they don’t know the word, and you can’t even get up to go to the bathroom alone because you are tethered to an IV, and there is a sign just ahead of the bed which says in no uncertain terms NOT to get up without help. Later they connect an alarm to you to make sure you obey. I have always been a person who went Up the Down staircase, but believe me, I obeyed this one, because the nurse I got was a very large man who looked like he meant business. After spending another night, we picked up more medicine, which I guess goes along with the operation, plus another for nitroglycerine. My clever granddaughter said “Good. Now we can make a bomb.”

Well, I’m back home, and Dr. Advice is cooking. Need I say more? He did make my daughter’s oatmeal pancakes for breakfast yesterday to celebrate our 67th anniversary, and to go with the beautiful red roses which suddenly appeared, so all is better than normal. I will share the recipe for the pancakes in another post sometime. It’s the only way to eat oatmeal.

I make light of the occasion, but I am grateful to everyone for the wonderful care they have given me, and very glad to be here.