Friday, November 27, 2009

Wit, with Emma Thompson

I had no idea of the ride this movie would take me on when I slid it into the DVD last night. Wit, with Emma Thompson, is a brilliant rendition of her character's treatment of stage IV ovarian metastatic cancer, from the detached delivery of the diagnosis by her doctor in his office to the final ending scenes of her journey through modern medical science. I have known doctors like this, smug in their knowledge, flanked by a cohort of white-coated residents. I generally hope to avoid these types.

My friend Heather is currently undergoing chemotherapy, essentially a somewhat violent method of dealing with a violent intruder to the body: cancer. So that made this movie initially difficult to watch, but I wanted to learn, to know. This movie excels in narrating the journey that Dr. Bearing (her character, a renowned and tough professor whose emphasis is the metaphysical poetry of John Donne) takes from cerebral and abstract depictions of the struggle of life and death to the concrete and palpable illustrations of a patient who struggles with with her own failings, of issues of mortality. And chemo. And kindness.

I was thrown for a loop, as Dave will attest, struggling to process what I'd seen. I had just written my friend a somewhat light-hearted letter after she described to me the physical ravages of her first week of chemo. I tried to be empathetic and understanding because I'm keenly interested in her. But after seeing this movie, I wondered how I could be a better support to her--it's much different when a person might have physical discomfort recovering from a surgical procedure vs. having physical discomfort by choice--choosing the chemo to bring on symptoms of pain because the end result of ridding the body of cancer is the goal, the sought-after prize.

One of the best scenes (there were many) in the movie is the interchange of the younger Dr. Bearing with her mentor. This graduate advisor does figure in at the end as well, and is played with exceptional delicacy by Eileen Atkins. Her impatience with the use of a semi-colon rather than a comma in Donne's famous work Death Be Not Proud, is instructive.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Better Than Lady GaGa

I don't know why, but I like this remix/imitation version so much better than the real thing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods. . .

There's some new recipes up on Elizabeth's Kitchen: Roast Turkey, Turkey Gravy, Creamy Chocolate Fudge, and my famous Christmas Caramels. The category is Christmas/Thanksgiving if you want them all together.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 23, 2009

So Today's Just Such a Monday

It was one of those days, where after I finished getting ready for school, I walked it to say good-bye to Dave and said, "I just don't feel like going to class."

Just as I made the turn up into Crafton, Joe Cocker's "Feeling Alright" came on the iPod (do a search on YouTube to hear it) and that pumped me up enough to get into the flow of things. The students were higher than kites and the interaction was great and high and fun and when one young woman told me this was her favorite class, things were good.

Home again, eating my sandwiches from my lunch bag, feeling Alright and ready to jump into things. But the day went quiet, with me fixing up my Christmas list on my iPod, then it headed a bit south, then right on in to melancholy as I sat there in front of the computer hunting up new Christmas songs for this season (an annual event).

Judy called and it was great to talk to her again, and we spoke of lots of things: her mother's passing, the funeral last week in Utah, our kids, our challenges, Grading Avoidance (a condition we both fight on a regular basis), all things school, the changes in plans I'd had for Christmas and the new difficulties in the season ahead. The conversation wound down and I got off.

Dave found me trying to slit open the leeks to rinse out all the dirt, and I turned to him and said, "Can we just go and get a burger or something?" Wise man that he is, we shared a Happy Star experience at our local Carl's Jr. restaurant.

I finished the dishes from yesterday's Persimmon Bread bake-off (recipes to be posted maybe tomorrow) and came upstairs to hear him on iTunes this time, then YouTube, looking at different videos. We chatted, he left, leaving on Allison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma playing a duet. I clicked on to the next one, perhaps my all-time favorite Christmas carol. I post it here for your enjoyment: The Wexford Carol.

Another song to add to my Christmas tunes this year, and not a bad way to end such a Monday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

To Do List, November 20, 2009

Serious List of Get Things Done (take 3, 333, 234) Date: November 20, 2009

Dry and style hair (yes, it's this bad that I have to write this on the list)

Clean off computer desk and dust

Find Christmas China plates

Plan field trip next Friday (Galco's, furniture place, where for lunch?)

Do visiting teaching

Decide on Christmas quilt and begin to cut square #1 of 72

Stitch one block of above to see if I like it

Make the Bday present

Mail Keagan's birthday card

Organize calendar pages

Plan meals

Clear off microwave

Find red berry garland for chandelier

Do laundry

Post Munich posts on travel blog (finish that)

Write in Munich notebook (if you can remember any of it)

Write in Florence notebook (if you can remember any of it)

Stay off the interent unless the "timer" on Dashboard is going--a nifty widget that keeps a timer going for me when I need it.

Is there something wrong with me when I look at my house full of stuff, junk, dust bunnies in every corner, the constant hovering of YOU'RE NOT WRITING hanging over me and I'm stretching to find things to put on this list?

Time to go back to the internet, or grade something.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Annual Question

A brilliant observation from Bizarro.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day, 2009

Click on picture for a different Veteran's Day story, from the New York Times.

And the poppy, a remembrance of the veterans, often used in Europe.
Happy Veteran's Day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Altered Books

I was quite intrigued by Brian Dettmer's transfiguration of a Webster's Dictionary. He cuts, glues, keeps, discards pieces of the book revealing a closer look inside. I found his work through a series of links, but he is represented by a Chicago art gallery. They don't give the prices, but it's a different way to look at books, that's for sure.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


I check horoscopes frequently, usually just for fun. I like to think of them as little treasures from the universe but don't let them rule my life.

You can't gain one thing without losing something else, and you never lose without gaining something. The trick is in deciding what is most valuable.

Yeah, okay. Maybe the horoscoper had in mind something significant when they did whatever they do to come up with these things. But in my case, it fit right into my life. I've been sick for three weeks, and if you frequent this blog (which I really haven't given you any reason to lately, because I've been sick) you've seen the picture of me in bed with a cough for too long.

It began over three weeks ago with losing my voice. Yep--completely. Then it moved into a strep throat, then lung-cough-asthma and yes, I kept right on grading, teaching, because if you're as highly paid as we community college adjuncts are, you just don't want to let anyone down. I cancelled a class in there when I was communicable (disease-wise), but that's all. So Thursday I was finally feeling much better--in the 80% range. Yay!! I'd done it!! I'd beat the quasi-swine-flu-strep-throat-no-voice disease that had been dogging me out. A long-lost friend called about 9:30 that night just as I was headed to bed. I enjoy talking with this friend as it happens infrequently, but to be frank, after about 10 minutes I was done. However the Polite Disease kicked in and I finally crawled into bed a long time later.

That's where the horoscope comes in. I traded that phone call for what I am today: a sneezy-coughy-achy-tired person, tucked away in bed on a perfectly gorgeous afternoon when I could be out for a drive, or finishing up projects or ripping out the dead tomato plants out of my garden.

I did lose sleep. I gained this horrid cold. I did lose the quasi-swine-flu. I've gained a runny nose. If you want to know what I look like, check out last week's post. The only bright side I can see is that I'm knocking out all my diseases/illnesses in one month and come January when a new class starts and it's filled with hacking, sneezy students, I'll be immune. Wonder what my horoscope will say then?