Thursday, January 26, 2012

The iPhone Economy

If you didn't see this video on the New York Times, may I suggest you watch it now?

It begins with the iPhone, but gives an interesting overview of our US economy now.  I clicked onto the video from an article Dave recommended to me, "How the US lost out on iPhone Work," also good reading.

More New York Times news: my friend's daughter is featured in an article about Mormon foodies, and as of today has hit #17 on the Most Read List.  That's her in the photo.  *Here's* the link.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Twenty Minutes

I ordered a A Year with C.S. Lewis from Amazon (thanks, Matthew!) and have been reading every night, right after I jot down my day in the Charley Harper Engagement Calendar. Above is a picture of Harper's Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica 1999,  which is on the cover of the engagement calendar, and I love studying it after I write.  It's full of details, surprised, layers, color--all the things I love in a visual piece. (Can you see the chimp?)

Back to the Lewis: I read all the days up to today in January's readings in order to catch up and be on track for the rest of the year, then couldn't resist and read a couple more.  Here's January 26th's thought, from Lewis' The Great Divorce, Preface:

"We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a pool but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good."

What else, this January month?  I upgraded our computer OS software; we now have Lion installed so it will work with our iCal and our Mail and our iPhones and the iCloud (and our iBrains).  I will have been to the doctor seven times before the month is out, eight, if you count the 3 1/2 hours in Urgent Care on the 31st of December.  Two other people I care about were also hospitalized and they are both home.  I started teaching again in the new semester; a friend who has had her battles with cancer says that initially she had much less patience for the complaints of the students, a side-effect of the experience.  I know what she means.  I miss feeling like I could conquer the world, but that may be just having a birthday.

Oh, a birthday!  And this is how my mind works right now: like a trying to take a walk in the night with no moon and a dim flashlight, feeling my way through all things, recognizing some only after shining the light on it twice.  I find "lost" things in strange places and am surprised by where they are, as I don't recall putting them away there.  I intensely miss people.  People exhaust me.  I tear up too easily.  I tire by mid-afternoon and stand in the laundry room looking at cans of Barq's root beer, trying to decide if I should drink some caffeine or go take a nap.  I can do either, at my stage of life.  Usually the nap wins.

And now like to say I had cancer for twenty minutes, but that someone has imbedded a hatchet in my upper thigh.  That's about how it's going around here these days--with new dressing change routines, the asthma kicking in (esp. today with its high winds) and the gratifying realization that I don't have to do chemo or radiation like my other friends with cancer.  Hence, the 20-minute cancer.  Just need to get rid of that hatchet now, and although changed, life will go on in its branching ways.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Poems for Post-Tweflth Night

Trouble Coming, by Charles Simic
One saw signs of it in certain families.
The future was like an unfriendly waiter
Standing ready to take their dinner order
From a menu they could not read.

To look without understanding was their lot
While a salesman in the TV store
Kept changing channels too quickly
For them to retain a single image.

The little flags freshly posted in a cemetery
Said nothing as they hung listlessly
In the early summer breeze,
Not that anybody particularly noticed.

The sunset over the approaching city
Was like a banquet in a madhouse
The inmates were happily setting on fire
Just as our train ducked into a tunnel.

My father sent me a whole passel of The New York Review of Books, and the above poem was published there.  The next poem is a haiku written by one of my students last semester and I thought a fitting counterpart to Simic's.

Zipline, by Suzanne Shields
Zipping through the trees
Altitude is everything
Life is delicate.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Trip to Foodie Paradise

When we were back in Ohio, Matthew said we had to go to a place called Jungle Jim's.  We were thinking it was a play place where the young girls could horse around.  We were wrong.  The place bills itself as Foodie Paradise.  This giant frankfurter was just outside.

Yes--these lights really work.

Emilee and Megan pose in front of one his statues.  I watched the video clip where Jungle Jim--Jim Bonaminio--talks about how he likes to mess around with animatronics (among other things).

High above our heads--a swinging soup can.  So at this point I'm thinking that it's just a giant grocery store with regular food.  Wrong.

Matthew and girls near the deli section.

Barra de Salsa, where they have a variety of fresh salsas.

Dave, in blue, stands by the blue cheese section.  Yes--all those packages are blue cheese.  Overall they have over 1400 cheeses.  I began to wonder if I could buy another suitcase and take some things home.

A display of salamis.

Now, I really wanted to take some of their selections home.  A butter bar?

Hand rolled butter from Wisconsin.  Think what my shortbread cookies would taste like with this as the base!

European-style high fat butter content.  I've been buying some Plugra at home, but I'm sure this outranks it.

Goat butter.

And cheeses in animal shapes and packaging.  I was beginning to catch on to why this store was famous.

I caught up with Kim & Megan at the candy aisle.  Yes, I bought a gumball monkey that clangs its symbols together when you push a lever.  Who cares if the candy is any good--I love the packaging!

Lots of displays--this, obviously, is the bakery.

Kim got us totally hooked on Servatii's pretzel slices.  They take a giant fat pretzel, run it through their bakery slicer and you use the little rounds for dips or snacks.  We brought a bag home with us all the way to California and we are down to the last little bit.

 Random flying pig.

Alligator meat.  In case you don't like that, there are buffalo steaks (below).

Bet you didn't know there was more than one kind of coconut, did you?

The hot sauce aisle, complete with fire engine.

Along the side wall are little alcoves that have products from a single region.  Here's Scandinavia.

And a theater where you can watch the history of Jungle Jim (some of it is in the video I linked to above).

The Holland alcove has fuzzy slippers in the shape of wooden shoes.

We were running out of time, so we made a beeline for the chocolate aisle.

We bought the bacon flavor, plus two others.

And one of those machines that gives your fortune--the Brain!  (Dave posed under duress.)
We had a great time there, and if I lived there, I think I might make this a regular habit--esp. for that butter!  Matthew said he's already gone back once in order to get Blenheim's Gingerale, which this place carries.  (It's one of his favorites, esp. the red-lid variety.) 
So, when you go and visit Matthew--go to Jungle Jim's!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Convalescing, and That's All for Now

After a visit with my doctor, this time to check that the brochitis has come to an end, but now the asthma has flared up (more drugs), I stopped by the Customer Relations office today to speak with Marylon (correct spelling) about something that has bothered me since that lovely day I found out about the cancer.

That particular morning, I was sitting in my dermatologist's examining room, my "vitals" having been taken by a young man.  He had a copy of my lab report in his hand, and leaned forward and asked "Are you going to cry when you find out your diagnosis?"  A creeping flush began at the back of my neck, confirming what Dave and I had talked about this morning--that whatever the news was, it was bad--but I'd be hanged if I was going to give this young man any indication of my emotions.
"Depends on what my diagnosis is," I answered calmly.
He did not leave well enough alone, but instead went back to reading my lab report.
"I guess I'll let the doctor tell you the news," he said.
"That would probably be wise," I answered, wishing that a hole would open up in the floor and swallow him.  Couple this experience with an incident later that hour when the botox-ed blonde young woman (office assistant) counseled me to "Ask more nicely," when I requested a copy of the pathology report.  At that point, I was struggling to stay on top of the inner storm surge, so could not even answer.  I simply stared and wished that same hole would get her too.  I did get the report, got out of the office before I broke down while talking to Dave, sitting in the parking lot outside the office.  That whole day was strange, but these two comments left me wondering if I should say something to someone.  And who?  I didn't want them fired, but I certainly didn't want to let their unprofessionalism go unchecked.

So I guess this means I'm getting better.  Better, as in the surgery is now two weeks in the past.  Better, as in now I don't have bronchitis and a double ear infection, but instead, asthma.  Better, as I don't randomly tear up every twenty minutes, but instead every afternoon or so.  Better, as in I didn't climb once on the bed today, but am on track to wait until after dinner to do that, where I will curl up with my laptop and stream Downton Abbey, Season Two, Episode One.

Better, as in now I am now technically someone who once had cancer, but now does not.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Convalescing, Part Two

We parked across the street from the courthouse, and slowly Dave walked me across the street.  This was the earliest I'd been out of the house in a week, and I remarked to him how interesting it was to be out this early in the downtown, watching the different people moving around in their very normal day.  I felt completely unnerved and was not happy to feel tears well up--for what?  For leaving the house early?  I blinked them back.

We went through security; the guard had to repeat twice that I should take my cell phone OUT of my purse and put it in their basket. I must have looked strange: flat hair, sallow skin, no make-up, creeping along in my sweats and T-shirt, clutching the left side of my pants as I held the fabric away from the prong-like sutures projecting out nearly a half an inch from my leg.  Upstairs in the jury reporting room, I was directed to the woman in the office who did postponements.  I had brought my doctor's note, the hospital admitting records.  I said quietly, "I need a postponement.  I had emergency surgery for melanoma.  I'm sorry."  She looked at me.  "No problem."  We agreed on a date and she was so kind and I was so relieved that again I started to cry.

Dave walked me to the elevators, back through the guarded doorway, across the plaza and helped me into the car.  "How can I teach a church lesson on Sunday?" I asked, "if I cry when I have to ask for a jury duty postponement?  How can I start teaching in two weeks?"  I swallowed hard.  "How do I get my life back?" He was quiet for a minute.  Then we talked about how the surgery had interrupted what things were planned and how getting the bronchitis on top of that was like a double whammy.  As he drove he told me he'd found a bargain trip to Iceland in winter because "Haven't you always wanted to see the Northern Lights?"

Back home I filled the sink with soapy water, pulled the knobs off the stove and tossed them in with the dirty dishes to be done.  Then I got out the cleaner and cleaned underneath the knobs, the front of the stove, working my way down to my knees to remove the spaghetti sauce that had splattered across the front.  Don't too much, cautioned Dave, saying that he knew it was hard for someone like me to remain idle.  "But maybe that's why I was crying," I said.  "Because I'm not me right now."

So this is convalescing, part II: not feeling like myself, not really knowing who I am, unable to do the regular things that bring rhythm and a pacing to my life.  The idea of cancer and melanoma are an abstract--unreal, not me, not my life.  Given the surgeon's comments post-op, I am confident that the pathology report this Friday will give me good news: no cancer, clear margins around the original site.  So where does that leave me now?  Knowing more than I want to know about carcinomas and melanoma, yet less about how to absorb and apply this information.  The sutures and the lymph node wound sites are reminders of what has happened on a physical level.  Perhaps the tears, the wobbly gait are reminders for the rest of me?

A late lunch date that allowed me to change out of the clothes I'd worn all week, curl my hair, and stroke on eyeliner and mascara.  We ordered our food, talking about blessedly mundane things, the wait staff, the too-warm January day, details from his morning's work.  How the lady at the table who waved to us is from a neighboring church congregation.  How Romney won the caucuses by eight votes.  How a small trip like this to a local restaurant can act as a beacon to my new normal, the light shimmering as it casts its beam across that revenant life.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Random Whatevers

from the balloon kiosk, South Coast Plaza Mall
Orange County

Playing Chinese Checkers with my grandchildren
Christmastime 2011

Bumper Sticker Reads
"We Speak English"

Rotunda with Christmas Tree
South Coast Plaza Mall

 Lights at Mission Inn
Riverside, California

Horse-drawn Cinderella Carriage
Mission Inn, Riverside

Happy 2012
Sparklers in Time Lapse Photography
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

Quadriga, Brandenberg Gate
New Year Fireworks

Lights for the New Year
Temple of Heaven Park
Bejing, China