Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We are off to the coast for a much needed vacation. For New Year's Eve. For fun. Half the challenge will be getting there, as the crack Portland weather crew fortells of winter snow storms to rival the east coast. In the coast range there might be an inch or more. An INCH of snow. In Oregon. Can you imagine it? In December? Christ almighty.

Anyway, we are staying in Netarts at this funky little oceanfront motel called Happy Camp Hideaway. How could we resist? We've crabbed here before, and my husband intends to crab in the ice and snow. We'll snowshoe to the beach and rent a snowmobile to get back to the cabin.

Naw. Just kiddin'. Its beautiful over here. Sunny and windy, cold and gorgeous.

Duffy almost got swept away in a multi-directional surf on a high, outgoing tide. Boy was he ever surprised! Once he'd saved himself, he hopped around until he was dry. He may be smart enough to remember what happened. Not Sid. If the frisbee was out there, he'd be after it, til' death do they part.

Today we drove to Cape Mears Lighthouse which is no longer operational, but beautiful nevertheless. (I didn't know that lighthouses are typically made of iron. Sturdy.) Then we went into Tillamook for crab cracking implements. I can't just chew through the claws like my mate. He's captured four dungeoness and two rock crab with huge claws. He didn't bring crab pots, but those small, flat traps you fling out with a fishing pole. So, for New Year's Dinner we will have rib-eye steak, crab with garlic butter, sourdough rolls and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Will we wander down the beach and dance with the Netarts locals? Will we stay up past nine o'clock? Will we blow something up in honor of the simple passage of time? I can't say. Anything is possible.

So there's the little guest book in cabin #5 where other happy campers have recorded something profound about their travels. As the resident writer, I feel compelled to do my bit, to elevate the discourse, blah blah blah. But I'm not feeling all that wise or profound. Just relaxed and lazy and happy to be away, watching the water go in and out and in and out as though something or someone other than me is in charge.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

christmas day

Started the day with Sunrise and eggs benedict, homemade hollandaise. It took us all five hands to get breakfast happening what with answering the phone and promising to call back. Julie sent us these fantastic english muffins from Harry and David, where I worked when I was seventeen, where I sat in a large carboard box and blew dirt off the crocus pots with an air hose; where I sorted through embryonic amaryllis bulbs until I vomitted and the line boss slapped me for sitting down on the job. I know I've complained about this before. -- anyhow, the benedict was great, a bit lemony for me, but tasty. Then came the presents. Lots of presents. I got a lap desk to rest this laptop upon. Its an old school style, a wooden student desk with lift-top for my papers and pencils. Makes me think of LeeAnn, this girl in second grade who peed her pants, sopped it up with that little packet of tissues they make your parents buy, and hid it in her desk. ew.

I got a beautiful framed photo of Duffy, some body butter, some original art by Haley, some Barnes and Nobel money, a little monkey, a tiny swallow, a book I've already read and a gift certificate to stay at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Whee.

Dinner was great, stuffed pork roast with baked apples, all the usuals, with pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. mmmmm.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I have spent the past few weeks imbedded in Christmas past, spending time with so many levels of family, family that has changed with the passage of time, marriage and death, separations and reunions, and really, not much changes at all and is still changing.

Clearly, I am having a difficult time expressing my thoughts.

Here's the thing: Taditions are gravity. They remind me who I am, who I have been.

I married into a family with different traditions. In the beginning I said they have no traditions. Then, I think I downgraded the description to crappy traditions. Now, I just like mine better, and have spent the past seven years trying to teach these people how to have Christmas. Not because I think they need to learn, but becasue I want to have Christmas my way. Slowly but slowly my enthusiasm is wearing them down. My husband asked me if he ever gets a voice in decorating the tree. I told him when he stops trying to put bats and devil horns on it. This is some serious shit. I have little patience for athiests, agnostics and pagans this time of year. I am willing to share the holiday, but not to accomodate religious differences. So. To quote Anne Lamott, I'm not exactly Christian, I'm Christian-ish. I love the baby Jesus. Bad Santa is not a Christmas movie.

We just walked up and down Peacock Lane and watched White Christmas, my holiday favorite. (And Elf. I love Elf.) My husband used to leave for a couple of hours -- but this year he watched it with me. I love the whole commercial mess -- well, not the whole mess, but I love giving trinkets to my friends and family, love shopping the shiny aisles, thinking of someone else for a change.

At work, it is the busiest time of year, as long absent relatives show up and ask, "Why is the lady across the hall wearing the sweater I got grandma last year?" And I try to explain, in the nicest possible way, that Alzheimer's disease improves a person's ability to share; that personal property has little meaning. Finally. That I, personally, look forward to forgetting what is mine. They don't always embrace my philosophy.

We always have a Christmas Cookie Party. Family members bring in a plate of cookies and the recipe and we sing Christmas carols. It is a sweet time. It has become a pretty big deal. I am not nearly good enough at singing to be in charge of entertainment. Next year I'm hiring a singer.

This year, a new man and his wife moved up from LA , and as always, their children are torn over the decision to move them. The upheaval has been difficult, but the wife, (we'll call her Marigold, he can be Harold) has Alzheimer's, so she pretty much goes with the flow. So, they come to the Cookie Party and I'm leading the singing, and Harold says, "Do you think we could sing "White Christmas?" I said, "Well, none of us is Bing Crosby, but sure, let's give it a try." So he starts singing, and Harold IS Bing Crosby. He has this deep, resonant voice, obviously well-trained pipes, and Marigold leans into him adoringly, the absent glaze of dementia or pure love, and I'm thinking pure love. And just as he gets going, his daughter comes around the corner and sees all of this, and I think it made leaving them a little easier for her.

Then, we all tell stories of our favorite holiday memories, which doesn't sound fair, I know, to ask in an Alzheimer's unit, but there you are. And they do have those long ago memories. Anyway, the chef comes over and shares his favorite memory of going over the river and through the woods to "Old uncle so-and-so's house." And how he was very rich uncle so-and-so and getting old and wanted all the family together and they drove across California and all that to BelAir or something and when they get there, Old uncle so-and-so is Bing Crosby. And he sang White Christmas.

I wish I could tell you all of the amazing things families do for their folks this time of year. I think there is a common misconception that nobody comes, nobody visits. This is not true. Wednesday night, one of my patients who is on hospice, who is 95, her seven children came in and sang carols for her. Seven grown children, older than me, who have, like so many families, scattered to the four winds, gathered together for a party in her room.

And for Ella, who no longer understands leaving and coming back, her huge family will visit her where she is, two by two, and she has a new Christmas every couple of hours, and she can handle that. ...and apple Stollen for Inga, and chopsticks for Miso; and rolled flat cookies from Norway for Betty who can't stop eating them and won't save any for her great-grandchildren; and for Laverne, Fred will come and eat lunch with her every day and every day and every day and she will never know why they arent' at home.

This year I bought two boxes of ziplock bags for people to take cookies home so we wouldn't be stuck with all of the chocolate in the world. The pharmacy rep, a delivery guy and the mailman all took bags home with them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

white christmas

We spent the weekend in Southern Oregon -- actually, Northern California. (Is it necessary to capitalize directions?) at the outlaws. We found time for everyone. We stayed in the cabin and woke this morning to a dusting of snow, a winter wonderland. That is what it looks like, for a minute. We were the first ones on the road -- it is now a gated community -- JoBar, three miles north of the Blue Ledge Mine, which is superfunded for cleanup. Arsenic and no lace. As another car passed us on the road, the pristine wonderland was sullied and nasty, spoiled.
The lock on the gate, cold and finicky in the snow, clanked open and released us. Being out of contact for the weekend was wonderful, but heading for I-5, it was unclear exactly what we were in for, weather-wise. As we left Grants Pass, it was snowing on Sexton, really coming down and beginning to stick, fat flakes of wet snow, warm snow, that had no intention of staying the night. We (he) took our (his) time, and made it home in one piece.
It is so good to be home and to have the driving portion of Christmas done with for this year. Now, we turn on the heat and begin to wrap our gifts, one by one, and wait for Christmas morning.
I spent a portion of the trip home explaining the meaning of the phrase "round yon virgin," which my husband thought was "round young virgin," which is wrong, and, well, wrong.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The tree is up, cards are written and almost ready to post. I didn't make them by my own little hands this year. I took a year off. Sue me. I'm writing a book. I did like my cards last year, and will do them again, no doubt, but I can't seem to find enough time to pursue all of the creative endeavors I want to in the time alotted after the job and the house have taken their respective pounds of flesh.

We will head south at some point during the holidays and visit the various fams, make time for everyone, not enough for anyone, and return home glad to have done it, and glad to be home.

Friday, November 26, 2010

thanksgiving day after

After dinner, most of the food went home with the kids, packed in little plastic boxes that were also nice to be rid of. Food was great, company pleasant and it was good to be home, nowhere to go, nothing to pack and unpack except the bird, which was small. The kids did the dishes. Yay kids.

I don't like turkey. Stuffing? 'nother story. Gravy? Worth fighting over. But as for retaining the carcass, boiling it to bits and making turkey soup? Pass. Turkey soup smells like dirt, like poverty. I think it was all those pots of turkey and rice that we ate for months, from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve when we cooked another one and ate it until New Year's Eve. Then, it was onion dip and potato chips on a good night.

Oh, I'm not bemoaning poverty so much as I am tired of cooking traditional food. Any food. I think I'll become a raw food person just so I don't have to do dishes anymore. A fruitarian. I will not murder any food, but wait until it falls dead from the source.

This will limit my consumption, of course. Will bring this unruly body under some control.

I wish. But I have about as much control over what I put in my body as a tourette's patient has control over language. I have dietary tourette syndrome.

This year I made a mince pie. It was so good. And my motherinlaw took home the carcass. She won the prize for frugality. I waste. I want.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

coming apart

I am a listener. All day I listen to people who are coming apart, who don't know where they are or why, or who knows them or doesn't, and they are surprised when I do.

"Its a miracle!" she said. "I have so much less to worry about now."

She was right, but didn't know why.

So when I come home, I don't want to listen, for instance, to other people's health problems, or problems of any kind. I don't want anyone to have problems around me. I don't want to have problems myself, will deny having any if you ask me. I have no problems. Just luxury problems. Like having to listen to people.

I just want to type. It calms me down. It is much better than, for example, watching National Geographic Channel about an exploding whale in downtown Taiwan.

I was watching Oprah earlier and she had this thing on about nuns and their ceremony of becoming brides of Christ. One of them, when renouncing posessions, referred to her laptop as a ball and chain. I've seen it that way, but not today. Today it is my link to sanity.

If you read the last post, the last line. I was right. Sometimes it sucks to be right.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

as he lay dying

Sometimes I get too involved. Sometimes I care about the living as well as the dying. I am always interested in the deathbed experience, and it is difficult to talk about it here, here in cyberpublic. But I love this old woman and her husband was dying and she wanted to be alone with him and she, like most, has some kids. And some of them are, shall we say, a little Ozarkian? A daughter with under-developed social antennae and two grown sons, both of them meth cooks if I do say so myself and I do. So the good daugher asks me, as the ruler of the Alzheimer's Universe, to make the cast of Deliverance go home, or at least back under their rock. What a pure waste of subtlety. I couldn't really just tell them to get the fuck out of there. And the old woman couldn't do it herself. So, I guess I did it. You can tell when somebody is there for support, and when they are doing deathbed time to earn something. You can smell it.

The first time I met her she was wheeling down the hall with an irridescent blue hydrangea in her hand. I commented on it and she told me, with tears in her eyes, that it was hers. She had grown it, and they had moved from that home into Assisted Living and she couldn't stand it and she had driven her car back to their house to pick a flower. "I don't know how you women do it," I said. "I really don't. I couldn't." Leave my house? My garden? My stuff? Are you kidding?

So, I helped her husband on his way to heaven. She'll be right behind him, I got a feelin'.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

new monkeys

There are two new monkeys in the monkey clan. Nicole took a photo and will hopefully upload it for me.

We are in the Indian part of the summertime. It is too warm for fall, mornings not yet crisp, still leaving the bedside window open at night -- which I would do if I lived in Antarctica -- but anyway, no need for the bed warmer just yet. I sleep with the window open and one foot out from under the covers as though trying to escape, and given my history, it wouldn't be entirely senseless.

My husband fears the dark days of our long northwestern winters, sees them coming mid-July and begins to fret. Not me. Bring it on. I do regret the absence of light, but not the heat (yes, even the wimpy heat of Portland as compared to Southern Oregon's blast furnace), and wish that the laws of physics did not apply to me and I could banish one without losing the other. I wish no laws applied to me, but as ever, another story for another time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I've already missed one appointment. I have this burgundy leatherish appointment book at work. I keep most of my schedule in there. I forgot a hair appointment for today, but when I made the hair appointment, I'm certain I forgot that it was the day of the Memory Walk. Memory Walk indeed. I have no memory.

So, this morning I wandered down to Pioneer Square in the pouring rain -- actually, my husband dropped me off -- and stood around until our whole team of walkers arrived, then I begged off due to cortisone flushing like fire under my skin, and found a bus home, plunked two dollars and five cents in the slot, and hung on.

This gives me cause (and pause) to purchase an iphone. If I had an iphone, I could sync all of my appointments into one place. Into one thing.

But would I?

Friday, September 24, 2010


I'm not good at this. Self-care. As I was lying on the narrow gurney, head turned right to expose my cervical spine to the needle, the surgeon says, "What do you do to relax?" I said, "Watch soap operas." He said, "Think of something else." I couldn't. So this tells me that I have to consider things like meditation that I have never really put any energy into learning about. Slowing my mind has always taken second (third, fourth) to trying to speed up my body -- not my forte either. I'm screwed. Or, at this point I feel screwed. First, I know, is to bring food into perspective and the rest will follow, dominoes one and all.

Tonight I am tired and sore, but willing. We'll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow. I have a week to pull my shit together. Yeah, that's a stress free plan. Yup.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

professional bum

I think what I'm getting at, after all these years as a professional something, I should rather be paid to sit at home and think. I think pretty well, and know some stuff, and its just that now I've dyed my hands brown and have to go to a convention on Monday, and I just can't figure out what to wear.

I just wish I had to wear a uniform and that the condition of my fingernails didn't matter. I don't want to have manicures, like some women who seem to think it is part of getting dressed for work. My husband simply chooses from navy blue or orange T-shirt. It is what makes prison appealing. I have to get up and think. I have to try things on. I have to decide what looks passable for that day. I have to remember what I wore the days before. I should have gone into, oh I don't know, painting or construction or something. Anything but the industry that thinks sterile conditions are important. I think sterility leads to illness, personally. I think the reason we have these nasty flu bugs is because we can't fend off normally occurring bacteria. I think Clorox wipes should be outlawed.

As usual, I digress. The thing is, I got this new blouse at Target and I like it but I wanted it to be brown, so I bought some brown dye and now my hands are shot. I hate to go to professional events looking like a farmer. I'd rather be a farmer. I don't think they have conventions and if they do, they'd be outside and you could wear your overalls.

I'm just tired of working and there's eight (I'm counting) years to go until Social Security will allow me to be the bum I was destined to be. You know how I see it. I've said it a million times: Those guys with the shopping carts have very little overhead. And if I didn't know better, I'd think it was freedom.

Friday, September 17, 2010

billy goat story

I'm a storyteller: a liar by trade. I love stories, always have. Some, if not most of the stuff I take the time to type right here, is true -- at least true in my memory which is faulty by anyone's standards.

But today was staff appreciation day, and we boss-types made breakfast for the crew. Picture me, sitting with my coworkers around the breakfast table, talking about goat meat. I think the general topic was greek food. It seemed like the perfect time to tell the only story I have about goat meat. I mean, wouldn't you? If you had a story about goat meat you'd tell it, right? I don't think everyone has a story like that. So.

When I was a hippie, living way up Yale Creek in a somewhat communal setting, there was this guy we called Hippie Dennis who was passing through the Applegate Valley. He lived in his big navy blue delivery van and had a billy goat. I don't know about you, but I can't stand billy goats. They jump on your car hood and suck their own genitals. Right? So this goat was all over the place, getting into our gardens, over any fence, unmannered as his owner who he co-habitated with in the big delivery van. He couldn't keep track of that goat anymore than he could perform his own personal hygiene.

It was high summer-- the perfect time for many outdoor festivities, a big BBQ would be one example. We invited everybody from Sterling Creek on up to Dog Fork and McKee Bridge. We even invited Dennis. It was a beautiful day and we had a really nice time. The meat was a little tough and Dennis kept asking if we'd seen his goat, but we'd just offer him another plate of food.

So this story may have worked better among less civilized sorts. The problem is that most of the people I hang out with these days are pretty civilized or at least politically conscious, and it left me feeling, well, criminally insane.

Personally, I think the story is kind of funny. I found myself defending the community act to kill the goat. But in retrospect, I suppose it was wrong. Okay, it was wrong. Sue me. Situationally and culturally, it didn't seem like it at the time. But once again, after I told my little story, my coworkers had that look about them -- that look that I've learned is a subtle form of fear -- or at the very least, psychological discomfort, the kind of look that made me want to say, "Jesus, its not like I shot the fucking goat myself, painted my naked body with its blood, danced around the fire and still carry the gun in my purse or anything..." but that would be little comfort to my nervous workmates. Geeez. You can't kill anything these days without somebody jumping up in righteous protest.

They should hear the stories I don't tell.

Monday, September 13, 2010


The trip South felt nostalgic this time. I don't regret moving north -- I never will. I've hated that Rogue Valley hot weather my entire adult life. Walking the streets of Jacksonville is always memory lane for me -- for us. My husband reminiscing about the time he bashed his head through the plate glass window of the JVille Tavern on purpose. Ah... those were the days. But walking the barely paved streets where houses used to be, my house, where split-rail fences have been and gone, where I lived and others lived, and lived and lived.... where our black lab Jodean pulled Marky out of the middle of the street when he was not even two years old. I remember these things.

And in this, age is a blessing. I've seen so much. Driving past barns, once standing and red, now decrepit with age, leaning into the decades with the same dependency I feel sometimes, that will fall. Are falling. We don't make wood barns anymore. Not really. There are a few, but more often I see these ungodly compounds, industrial in their scope, lacking the Amish bones, the neighborly customs of having been raised rather than built, of pie and lemonade in the hot august sun. I know these days are gone -- and truth be told, I missed them, mostly, although there was some civility even then, even in the mimicry of the sixties and seventies when we ached to get back to the land, whatever that meant. I did. I got back to it. I carried water, dammit. I cut my own wood. And when I walk the familiar streets, I wonder that I got to be a part of old Jacksonville. That I am a part of its history, just as it is part of mine.

Monday, September 06, 2010

facing fear

I know you're probably thinking that this is it: the big face off, face down, face it head on kind of thing, but really, its just that I went out in the boat on the Columbia. Now seriously, that river is huge, with swells as high as the boat, the possibility of getting swamped very real. But it turns out that the Alumacraft people thought this through and filled the seats with foam, so the boat won't sink. Well, still, its scary. Still, I got in the boat. I remember my fisherman brother Doug saying, when I asked him if he was scared when he was out to sea in a storm, he said, "When you put out to sea, that's when you make the decision. Live or die. Once you're underway, there's too much to do to worry about that shit."

So, it was an okay day in the boat, but I didn't pay to park, didn't see the sign, and parked in a double space that was only for trucks and trailers. So, rather than pay an eighty dollar fine, I made a short day of it.

Well, its labor day, the last day of summer, the last day to wear white.

Friday, August 27, 2010

do si do

Today I leaned down and whispered in Stella's ear: Go on, now. Your husband is waiting. Your children are fine. Go on now and squaredance in heaven. I'll bet it will be really fun.

So she did.

Stella loved to squaredance. She loved the company of men, and touted the benefits of vitamin D long after she'd lost track of time and family. Every day she would ask me if I'd seen her people. I'd lie, like I do, and tell her they were coming, just before dinner or lunch or whatever came next. She had pink gingham squaredance dresses with layers of tulle under-slips that spun when she did, and a husband who wore one of those string ties, texan ties, with a fishing fly embedded in resin for a clasp. Stella had perfect white hair and piles of costume jewelery. She always matched. Knee deep in Alzheimer's and still had her manners.

The girls say they go in threes. They say it happens on the full of the moon. I don't know if any of this is true. They all die, and the moon is full sometimes. Stella makes two. Or two hundred. They, the girls, the women who work in the trenches, have to make sense of it all. To me, it is both random and predictable. An even hand doling out pain and justice in equal parts. Life is fair, misery optional. It seems about time for death to take a holiday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

death in the time of hypochondria

Aubrey's heart is dying and she knows it. Today I sat down next to her and she said,

When is this service going to be over?

Me: Are we at a service?

(Nodding) The funeral.

Me: Oh. Who are they burying?

Anyone who stops by.

Me: Ah. Well, I can't hear them. I didn't know.

Well, they don't talk in words you can hear.

Me: Oh. I see.

It is hard to know when a hypochondriac is sick. Even harder to convince a family who has grown tired of the chronic complaints, suspicious of symptoms, reluctant to even answer the phone.

But she was sick, and with bluing fingers and a rapid heart, she slipped away. The cry of wolf echoing in the hallways.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


My cousin Darla sent me the poem below. I love it.

Last night she and her guy and me and mine had dinner at our house: a seafood boil. It was an experiment in trust. Us to make it, them to eat it. We layered red potatoes, broken corn on the cob, fish fish fish, 5 lbs. of steamers, 2 lbs. of shrimp, 2 dungeoness crab --

(Crab is plural for crab. Like sheep and sheep. You wouldn't say "crabs." Crabs is only proper usage such as in the following sentence, "He has the crabs." Its something you might hear around Charleston in the winter. But how would I know?)

--and andoullie sausage. So anyway, you cook it all in this broth of seasonings: 1/2 bag of louisiana crab and shrimp boil, 2 lemons, one beer, an onion and a head of garlic. Boil the heck out of it and let it set. The longer it sets, the spicier it gets. Yum. The corn was outstanding.

It was good to get together for something other than a funeral.

I Confess

I stalked her in the grocery store:
her crown of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
the way she placed yogurt and avocadoes in her basket,
beaming peach like the North Star.
I wanted to ask
“What aisle did you find your serenity in,
do you know how to be married for fifty years,
or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting,
but you seem to possess some knowledge
that makes the earth burn and turn on its axis—”
but we don’t request such things from strangers nowadays.
So I said, “I love your hair.”

Alison Luterman

Friday, August 20, 2010


I was driving home today, trying to figure out what to make for dinner and Bad Moon Rising started playing on the radio. I have had the best last few radio days, B-52's Love Shack, Don't You Forget About Me (Simple Minds), but Bad Moon Rising, that was pure Joyce. I knew immediately that she was controlling the music and playing it for me.

I don't really believe that, but I could.

So I thought of her, fondly, remembering the time we crashed head-on into an Ashland cop while listening to Credence Clearwater and anyway, she went to jail and I didn't. And she died and I didn't and my brother died and I didn't and my sister is strung out on methadone and I'm not and I know I've made some unpopular decisions and walked away from my family to survive, and there is guilt in that. Survivor guilt.

and an element of grace.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

fake berry picking

When my honey hooked the truck up to his new boat and trailer and said, "I'm going to take you blackberry picking," I knew we were really just going on the maiden voyage. A boat ride. Nevertheless, I wore my overalls, the painting ones, the ones that are more patch than pant, and a red cami underneath. It is so hot. Too hot for me. But I won't pick berries in my good clothes. I know better.

So there I was, looking like a poor farmer's wife, waiting to climb in the new boat. Now during fishing season, this wouldn't be such a big deal, but this is high summer and Willamette Park was packed with every million dollar race boat, every hot babe, male and female, in the metro area.

Its bad enough to be old and overweight in public, add to that bra-less and in paint-spattered, quilt patched overalls, with a brim-only straw sun hat. If my sun hat had a price tag hanging off it, I could have been mistaken for Minnie Pearl. Only she wasn't fat.

It was not a good self-esteem moment. Note to self: always dress for success. Get new berry-picking clothes.


So, I'm coming down off the family death thing. Joyce's funeral was nice. My sister didn't make it because she was in the hospital, and the wierd thing is, when Marc died (Joyce's husband-my brother) my other brother went into the hospital the day after the funeral and was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. Turns out this is the same thing my sister has. I'm not surprised. I rarely am.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

stolen poetry

Thanks to K&F Coffee Shop for this one, torn thoughtlessly out of the June 7 New Yorker.

A Maxim

To live each day as if it might be the last
Is an injunction that Marcus Aurelius
Inscribes in his journal to remind himself
That he, too, however privileged, is mortal,
That whatever bounty is destined to reach him
Has reached him already, many times.
But if you take his maxim too literally
And devote your mornings to tinkering with your will,
Your afternoons and evenings to saying farewell
To friends and family, you'll come to regret it.
Soon your lawyer won't fit you into his schedule.
Soon your dear ones will hide in a closet
When they hear your heavy step on the porch.
And then your house will slide into disrepair.
If this is my last day, you'll say to yourself,
Why waste time sealing drafts in the window frames
Or cleaning gutters or patching the driveway?
If you don't want your heirs to curse the day
You first opened Marcus's journals,
Take him simply to mean you should find an hour
Each day to pay a debt or forgive one,
Or write a letter of thanks or apology.
No shame in leaving behind some evidence
You were hoping to live beyond the moment.
No shame in a ticket to a concert seven months off,
Or, better yet, two tickets, as if you were hoping
To meet by then someone who'd love to join you,
Two seats near the front so you can catch each note.

~ Carl Dennis

Friday, July 30, 2010

sister joyce

In my family we die too young. We barely make sixty, if that. It is usually because we drink.

There are certain people who have geographic weight. I can't explain this. Joyce lived in Central Point and now she is gone. It is hard to know why I would go back there now. She tethered our family for over forty years, a family that was fractured by her presence. She came to stay when I was thirteen and we were never the same. She is not to blame for our undoing, that would not be fair or true, but sins and decisions being what they are, we were changed by those things.

I drove around Central Point and Medford today as if in a dream, lost in time, memories so dense I had to brush them from my vision, thick as cobwebs, driving to and from the hospital as she died. I had to come back to say goodbye, to thank her for taking care of me in the years before I decided to save my life -- to let my life be saved by the outstretched hands of others, hands she would not hold onto. Could not.

I just wanted to keep standing in her house among her children and her belongings, little things we had gathered at yard sales, had packed and repacked, moving to house after house: gnomes with green hats, red spatterware spoons, fiestaware, small oval rag rugs, a glass scottie dog, a sock monkey, a framed picture of Christ in Gethsemane, endless earrings and candles and fifteen tiny bags of weed here and there, forgotten in the clutter of life's ending. As long as I stayed in the house, it wasn't real.

But I am home now, and she is gone, my sister -in law and out,-my friend of so many many years. I miss her already. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

yard sales

Saturday was the Division/Clinton Street Fair(e). We walked up Division looking at all of the booths and I am always intrigued, and frankly, bored, by the similarity of all the crafty offerings. We drove from Ashland to Nevada City to Yosemite, to San Fran, to Tomales, to Fort Bragg and to Port Orford, and everything is pretty much the same. Not the view. Not like that. But things that are for sale. Used to be you went to the coast and found coastie things, went to San Francisco and got, well, you know. Sourdough. But now, the homogeneous nature of saleable items is tiresome. I was looking for candlesticks. For those of you who know me, you'll recall my former habit of going to yardsales to find the best candlestick I could for five bucks or less. Now, willing to spend almost any amount of money, I can't find anything unusual. I found some at Pottery Barn that I liked, but I wanted something unique, not some yuppy factory that pumps out the good life in cookie cutter perfection. So I looked and looked. 2000 miles later, I came home bought the Pottery Barn candlesticks.

I am so predictable.

But what, you'll ask, of all my old five-dollar candlesticks? Well, I have some of them here and there, but I needed black ones for this one special place. So now I have them. I hope I'm happy.

Between the trip and camping, we had a yard sale. It was huge and I sold things I swore I'd never part with. I hold out and hold out and think I know what will sell and what won't and I'm always wrong. I keep stuff until the yard sale people don't even want it. I wonder what it is about stuff, about shopping for stuff, about the way stuff catches my eye and I must have it. Must have it. Like the bird at Twist that costs 264 dollars. It is not a live bird, let me clear that up right quick. It is this kitschy plaster thing that I could probably make, and may try, but it is so cool and as my darling husband says as he drags me whining and drooling from the store on his birthday, it'll end up in a yard sale two years from now.

I hate it when he's right.

So... yard sale over, we were able to locate the camping gear. We packed up and camped up the Clackamas at Indian Henry for a couple of days, only a couple, because my neck broke again. We canoe-d on Lake Harriet which was really fun and beautiful. Carrying the canoe may have been the straw that doomed the trip. I don't know. I was picking moss out of Duffy's coat for days.

So, yard sales and vacations over with, I'm back at work and beginning physical therapy tomorrow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

more and more

Now I prepare to camp. I am always pretty much ready, but lacking a memory, I must forage through pre-packed boxes and make sure I don't get far from home without a coffee pot. And coffee. Let's not forget the coffee. And matches, all safe in baggies, and dish soap. I own everything one can own for camping with the exception of a camper, which, the older I get, the more appealing they are. Was a time I thought it was a sin to use anything but a tent -- akin to the lead pencil society and those good women who still use cloth diapers and serve nothing but turkey on Thanksgiving, but I digress.

We will rent a trailer -- an open one this time -- and head up the Clackamas for a couple of days. It ain't Yosemite, but it is nice and green and cool, and I will finish typing my book if it kills me.

It won't kill me, right?

Thursday, July 08, 2010


There is alot to be said about National Parks, and OPB did a fine job of it last year. Their piece on Yosemite inspired this vacation. This part of this vacation anyway. At this time I am back in my (90 degree) house, dogs as happy as we are to be out of the truck. We've travelled some 2000 miles since last Friday, and I only drove for 45 minutes. Men.

So, Yosemite... As a writer, I should be able to come up with something at least descriptive, but adjectives fail me. So far it is probably the most remarkable geological sight I've seen. I'm so glad we went, so glad we could go... that is, had the resources to play, spend, etc. Our fabulous vacation has been dimmed by the knowlege that two family members are losing their homes to foreclosure, both trying to save them, but probably not going to swing it. I am acutely aware that this could be me, could be us, and we discussed considering a plan B should we find ourselves out of work or otherwise unable to earn. We do earn our pay, my honey and I. We both do stuff we'd probably rather not, every day. I don't feel guilty, but I am grateful.

So, back to the parks. I loved Glacier. It was so surprising. And Ansel Adams had already sort of pulled the cover on Yosemite, but still, being there doesn't compare. We drove to the top of Glacier Point and looked down over Yosemite Valley, cars like ants, and looked through a scope of some kind at Half Dome where there were a bunch of people standing who had climbed up there. Climbed. My visit to Yosemite was pretty much a drive-by. We did walk up to one waterfall, but we all know how atheletic I am. (See post on Devil's Churn.) Still and all, I prefer the Redwoods to anything. Anything I've ever seen. It is heaven to me, tall lacey trees, dense fern undergrowth, fog hanging in the treetops. Dappled sunlight blinking through the curves. Yep. That's the one for me. Fortunately, we also went through the redwoods.

So we exited Yosemite and spent that night in Mariposa, an armpit of a town, and left the next moring for San Francisco. It was another drive-by because the point was not the city, but the drive up Highway One. The Whole Thing. Again, searching for adjectives and modifiers: very curvy. We spent the next night in Fort Bragg after stopping for oyster shooters at Tomales and enjoying the cool of the coast as we learned that inland it was 100. We debated going back into the valley (Rogue) to visit family on the way home, but phoned in our apologies: we are hugging the coast as long as we can.

Tonight I will sleep in my living room with a fan blowing on Duffy and me, and await the coming of fall. Pictures to come

Monday, July 05, 2010

from the road

Sutter's Mill

4th of July Parade, Nevada City

Sutter's Mill Three tin buildings in Nevada City

Stone house in Nevada City, Downtown NC

Castle Crags where Kurt didn't want to go but I insisted because I was absolutely certain the view would be better but it wasn't.

Spent our first night at Shona and Bobby's house in Ashland, breakfast with Cooky and Tracy at the Talent Cafe where I used to breakfast on weekends and on the road to Nevada City a day early. Stayed 2 days at the Northern Queen, a great spot for the dogs and for us. Sid and Duffy get to poop in special places and sleep on motel beds. The 4th of July was a small town parade in Nevada City with an enormous Tea Party contigent, no doubt sponsored by the Republican Party. We returned to our room and the pool. Put on a movie for the dogs and swam for the first time in a long time. I bought an awful boob-fest of a bathing suit at Walmart, but now that we are in Sonora California, I'm damn glad to have it, splashy hibiscus flowers and all. When we checked the weather before we left, I packed for the low eighties, but being a Portland resident, with access to sunlight only via the consumption of liquid vitamin D, I am in Southeast California and it is hot.

Damn hot.

So like the natives, we hide in the daytime, beautiful room in Sonora with a nice pool and AC. It is dangerous for the doggies, and at this point, I could be resentful that they are with us, but I don't even want to be out in it. Tomorrow we will see Yosemite and stay at the lower end of the park and head for San Francisco Wed. morning.

Nevada City is beautiful, and like all beautiful places, I think I could live there, given a huge advance on that novel I never seem to write. Sonora is too hot for me.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I am in Manzanita again, Summer in Words, a three-day workshop with various writing instructors, writers, poets, wannabees. Few of the latter this time around. Very good information about structure that pulls little threads loose from the fabric of all I think about writing and unravels certainty.

This is not a bad thing. But it does inspire me to create a folder called "writing practice" and put the last 15 years of writing in it. One of the instructors was that convincing. Those of you who know me, and who write because you have to, will not be surprised. I've been looking for the grail for awhile and may have found it. Or that's how it seems today. The whole notion of get an idea and just see where it goes has cost me alot of time and money.

But Duffy and me are here, staring out at a bright ocean, kite-surfers flinging along the waves, and I am heading over to have jambalaya with Jessica. Duffy is being so good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

return day

This is not the photo I intended to post. I was going for a shot of my coffee table, but here is it anyway, my old house in Talent.

From time to time I dedicate a day to saving myself a little, or a lot, of money. It usually evens out in favor of money, but I do what I can.

I am a catalog shopper. Truthfully, I'm just an all around shopper, but for today, let's just focus on the catalog expenditures. They add up. They never seem like much, late in the evening, feet up on the coffee table, the click of numbers don't seem related to cash. But they are. Then the clothes arrive -- always clothes -- and sometimes they fit, sometimes I hate them. So back they go... but that's the thing... often not for months and months. I gotta hand it to those catalog companies.... too many to mention, j.jill my favorite, they'll wait a very long time, take my returns, and give me my money back. They are patient though. With each new return comes another catalog, another opportunity for disappointment or delight. Neither lasts very long.

But today is return day. I gathered up that pair of maroon velvet shoes that were too narrow; a great big vest I must have bought on a very fat day; an even bigger black silk blouse I could get lost in; one black turtle neck sweater -- I have too many already -- and a number of other items I once couldn't live without. I marched down to Fred Meyer, purchased a roll of strapping tape, some brown wrapping paper and went for it. I sat in the parking lot and wrapped my packages like Christmas in June on asphalt. Only one person commented on the amount of tape I was using. You could hear it stripping off the reel across the parking lot. I always consider nuclear explosions a possibility and take appropriate precautions. I forgot to bring scissors, so my pocket knife had to do. Since I was in the wrap and send mode, I also send some beautiful wool fabric to my friend. Then, I stacked my packages in front of Duffy's little car seat, drove to UPS and off they went. Ahhhh. A cleansing breath.

Thanks for not asking why I thought I needed maroon velvet shoes.

At any rate, there's nothing like new carpet and linoleum to inspire a good house cleaning. Our carpet goes in tomorrow, linoleum next day, yard sale the following weekend. It's gonna be big. I'm in the mood to get rid of everything. I won't, of course, but once the house gets put back together, there is likely to be some excess. Tiny bit.

One thing for sure, I'm finally getting rid of my coffee table, the one I bought for ten bucks from Tracy. She'd had it stored beneath some rabbit cages for years. Cooky had it before she did. looking around, it is one of the only remaining vestiges of my yard sale life. I love that table.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

myna and earl and carpet carl

I am (we are) finally finally finally getting new carpet and linoleum. Carpet in the living room, linoleum in the entry and the kitchen. And you are first to see it. As you might expect, I chose linoleum that looks like faded barnboards. Poverty lingers. Had things gone my way, I'd have had the carpet changed before I moved in. I didn't post a picture of the 60's gold hi-low shag that I've lived with, decorated in spite of, for the past six years. Poor me.
So.... The carpet is called praline frieze (pronounced frizzay) I called it pecan frappe. Close enough. We are buying it from Carpet Carl at a huge warehouse because his saleswoman was really helpful and knew her business. We had to check three places because Kurt has to be a smart shopper. Me, on the other hand, will write you a blank check and trust it will turn out nice. I knew what I wanted, carpet-wise, but had to go back -- but only once -- to choose the linoleum. Once I found the faded birch floor boards, I was done. I know what I want. And the carpet already looks dirty, so I'm home free. The other carpet places weren't nice to us. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman trying to shop. If they only knew how willing I am to spend.
Well, back to living among the dying.... last week two slipped away. We'll call them Earl and Myna. Earl had the smile of a young man, grinned ear to ear whether he knew what was going on or not. His family, simple round people, were kind to him after solving the problem of one of the relatives going after the big money. People are so wierd about money. Really. These two didn't care at all. They just got Dad what he needed, paid his bills and came when they could. Earl always seemed happy to see them. His heart finally failed him, or gave him an out. I can never decide which it is. Heart failure? Not always.
Myna was a pilot. I don't know if she lived with the same dignity with which she died, but this was a woman with Parkinson's who knew what was happening to her. She made the decision long ago to let things go at a certain point, and when the certain point came, she stuck to her guns. I have great respect for hospice, overall, but the particular agency that handled her passing was crappy. I won' t out them here, it wouldn't be right, but they actually challenged her decision to deny tube feeding. As she lay dying, she looked at the nurse, and back at her husband, and said, with great effort, "Haven't I already told you this?" I called them, complained, and they left her alone (well, not alone, but you get the idea.) Dying is hard enough work without some bozo nurse overriding advance directives in some misguided heroic intervention. So Myna found her way out. Quietly, calmly, sweetly. We found a picture of her flying: beautiful, alive, at the controls panel in the cockpit. I will remember her that way.

Monday, May 24, 2010

southland in may

Soft new green spreads seductively across the rolling hills of southern oregon, my homeland. They will be brown mid-july. Its all a trick. But there is nothing like the Applegate Valley in the springtime.

The first night we stayed at Marky's house. He made a London broil and a great salad with Yukon Gold potatoes. He is such a good cook. He says I always made red potatoes. He talks alot about his growing up years, and fondly. I shudder and hope. He is kind and forgiving. At 32 he is talking about forgiveness in ways I didn't consider until well into my forties.

Saturday night we stayed at the outlaws place. I am becoming more and more a part of that family. I feel like the children who come up when we visit -- they aren't children, really, but 20 and 30-somethings -- know me, and trust me. That feels good. We stayed in our usual little cabin and it is so beautiful there, Eliot Creek babbling outside the bedroom window, sky full of stars I never get to see anymore.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I am tired of writing about the failure of my physical body.

I just signed up and paid for a weekend writing workshop. It is called "deepening the craft." I paid for it so I have to go. This means I now must fine tune the first few chapters of my book for the pros to look at. Hey wait. I'm a pro. Anyway, Even though I am bringing chapters to be "workshopped," I don't want to be caught too off-guard. And... the process kills me. But I am a writer, and must, from time to time, sit among my peers and take the heat whether I agree with it or not.

We just finished dinner, dry-rubbed pork chops, red beans and rice, quick-fried zuchinni, red peppers and onion. We are trying to eat a little differently, less food, more exercise. I actually made a week's menu: pork, eggplant parmesan, lemon-garlic chicken and salad, clam chowder, then on friday night, Mark will cook for us in Gold Hill. We're doing a drive-by visit to the fams. Mark wants to take us on a drift boat ride on the Rogue on Saturday morning, so we might do that. Then, out to Bob's for Saturday. He has a pretty mean old dog, so I'm not exactly sure if we'll be staying out there with no place to keep our pups. Duffy is mean, but he couldn't take Bandit on his meanest day. Bandit is a badass country dog. Our white city dogs just don't know how to act up there in the dirt. Just to clarify, they are white dogs from the city. Not White City dogs. Big difference. Huge.

Well, it is the final episode of Survivor for this season. We literally plan our week around this stupid show. I always have since it started, but it has anchored our married life for six years. Every thursday night is Survivor Night, which means we have thin-crust pizza from Papa Murphy's, sit and wait to see the darwinian exposition play out. Tonight, someone will win. Will it be Russell the Evil One? He could win, although I hope he doesn't. I don't know who I really want to win. I'll just miss it when its done.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I know I shouldn't let my happiness hinge on a single phone call from my son on Mother's Day, but it does, these thirty-some years later. And he called early, so my day was a happy one.

We took Kurt's mom out for breakfast and my eggs were cold, so was the sausage, but the french toast was fine. I only order the eggs and sausage to justify the french toast anyway. My logic is complex. Live a long long time on Adkins and you eventually begin to consider things like sausage and cheese health food.

When we got home I began painting another old wooden table. This one will be off white, red, yellow and purple to begin with. It is to remain on the porch, so will be painted to match the red adirondack chairs.

So it is now two days until my shot, but who's counting?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

spine needles

I am scheduled to have an injection in my spine next Tuesday. That gives me four days to think about it, or talk myself out of it, which I would if my neckshouldercollarbone didn't hurt so freaking bad. I've had the year of bronchitis, the year of the bladder infection and now, the year of pain. But sticking pins in me..... in my spine, ick. I have quadraphobia: the fear of becoming quadraplegic. I made that up.

As is my custom, I plan for the other side of this calamity, the finish line, the end of all discomfort. I look forward to the moment when I am released from surgery or whatever, at which time I will embark upon my real life, the one where I eat right and keep fit. In some countries, this is considered magical thinking -- as though one event could flip some sort of psychic switch and change me into a motivated and energetic life-magnet, with a new lycra wardrobe and sketcher tennis shoes that would stablize my core. Magically. Effortlessly. That's my mantra: effortlesslyeffortlesslyeffortlessly. Ah, if only.

While I was visiting the spine and pain center, we got to talking about women who have fibromyalgia -- now I don't want to start any blogwars or anything, so if you have it, just ignore me. Most people do. But I've never considered it a legitimate diagnosis. I think it is evidence of misery-- quite real misery-- and a penchant for visiting medical professionals. Either that or they are just too old and tired to hit the streets for dope anymore.

Whatever the case, I told the doc that I was much to young to feel so old and didn't believe in pain-as-life, or pain instead of life, and just wanted the shot. Now please. But I couldn't have it now. I have to wait four days. Four whole days. I'm not that good at waiting.

He asked me if I wanted sedation for the shot. It was hard not to laugh. Yes. I want sedation. Me and sedation are old friends.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


What's it all mean? Is this Mexican independence day or what? We went out to dinner at a crappy Mexican restaurant on Division. I wish restaurants would only serve what they are good at. For instance, this place probably does great vegan food -- it has a full vegan menu -- but the carne asada, my favorite, was awful. Tough as shoe leather, flavorless, no charring, no salt, and no salt in the house. I like salt alot. Ask my blood pressure. And the salsa was watered down so much the plate was a swamp. But the plates were square, and you got to bus your own tables, so that was fun.

It is my brother Marc's birthday, that much I do know. He would have been... let's see... 63 or something. He didn't live long enough. His liver didn't, anyway. Happy Birthday Marc. Wish you were here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

six moonstruck truffles

It has been six years since I married the boy of my dreams. I remember so clearly, ironing his shirt before we left for the small ceremony, a light blue denim to match his eyes and my baby blue summer linen dress. I carried flowers that Deborah gave me and even though I didn't like them, I put a bunch of roses from our back yard in among them and they were beautiful. I didn't plan a wedding. I couldn't. The move alone created enough anxiety.

Now, a Portlander and a wife, I am content in my home on Clinton Street, still fascinated with life in this odd little town of a city.

Last night we drove to Seaside and stayed in the motel we usually stay in on our anniversary. We clammed this morning, drove home, cleaned them, ate fried clams for dinner and shared six moonstruck truffles for desert.

Happy Anniversary to us.

Monday, April 26, 2010

duffy makes the front page

The first LazyDogCrazyDog Newsletter! Duffy makes the front page!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

one fish two fish

The first bite was mine -- utterly unexpected, and the squeal that followed (my brother Marc always referred to it as my Hollywood Scream) was heard across the Willamette. Alas, it was a native and we set her free after what looks to me like a significant amount of suffering. No blood-letting, but still, if you set a hook in my lip and drug me upstream against my will, well, I'm just sayin'.

So, some sunny hours later, we are back home with two fresh salmon and a sunburn. Three in a weekend. Hooray. I do like to fish.

Friday night we had dinner with Vali, my cousin who I met via (see previous posts) at her house. For all of my uncle/her father's idiosyncracies, her small family remained much more intact than mine did. Growing up, I have some memories of my uncle -- mostly that he was a good artist and an activist and Communist when it wasn't cool to be one. I remember his house over on Cleveland in NE Portland, a big craftsman place with a deep front porch. Inside was a fireplace and over the mantle was a painting of a young boy and girl, the boy holding mistletoe, about to kiss the girl, who looked not exactly thrilled about it. Vali had this painting. On another wall (in my memory) was a painting of a woman. Now, I know it was probably something like a hooker, with a streetlamp and signpost, a long narrow painting. Vali didn't have that one, but she had one of a blonde woman in a low cut green dress, a young man in the corner, the woman looking like she was just out of bed, the man just leaving the room. In my memory -- that of a nine year old -- the paintings were photographically real. Now, they are not so perfect. But seeing them, proof that my childhood did happen, was moving. Then, she showed me one of my uncle's notebooks. It is remarkable to me that this man I did not hardly know -- and this is one of my few regrets -- (reading along, you might think I would have many regrets, but I don't, not really, but I do endeavor not to create any as I go...) may have been not only kin, but kindred.

Anyway, during my undergraduate studies, Sociology was my major and Marxism my favorite flavor. That my uncle was a Marxist (not a communist it turns out, big difference) is stunning. I wish I'd known him. I think we would have had alot to talk about.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I am playing hookie. or hooky. whichever. I am actually staying home because my nerve bed or something is squishing out between C-5 and C-6 and my arm is numb and my face is becoming number and my brain oh my poor good brain is mush now. I am going to have a shot in my spine and it will get better I just know it. It has to. I can't ride my bike or shrug, and with my indefensibly poor attitude, shrugging is required. The primal shrug. mmm.

So I am home with the doggies, watching daytime TV and not eating bon bons. There will be a self-care end of this whole freakin' breakdown, wherein I will do what I am told, what I have been told to do for eons, and I will build myself back to my former glory. Which, truth be told, wasn't exactly glorious, but it was okay. I had moments. At least I wasn't in constant writhing pain. Now, I can't get away from it.

So I sew, and I plant little flowers and I do what I can. I made a sock monkey for Thea, the daughter of my friend asia who is the daughter of my friend asha; a trifecta of fabulous women. It is a blue sock monkey with wild eyes and a yamakuh (which is definitely not spelled that way) instead of a hat, so a blue jewish sock monkey with a long long tail. My first original. But it was a real blue sock, not nylon, not anything else. I think, now that I know how to make sock monkeys, that i'll find some great socks at sock dreams and make something new and different. It took awhile to make, and I wish I'd taken a picture, but maybe her mother will. Sitting and sewing by hand is so relaxing.

Duffy is now attending kindergarten three days a week at lazydogcrazydog in Montavilla. He loves it there and the prices are manageable. It is operated by two gentle dreadlocked folks who Duffy seems to like and he has friends there, one is an older scotty female -- too old for Duffy if you ask me -- but if she can put up with him, I won't stand in their way. He gets his nails done there and everything. Isn't that ridiculous? He was eating the decorative baskets and the moulding around the floor at work, not to mention the table and chair legs that no one has really noticed so far.

If you were to stand way back, like fifty years -- or maybe forty -- and predict what my life would be like, you would not have guessed that I would be a nice lady with a little white dog and a little white car and a husband and a garden and a cleanish house on a pretty street.

I'm telling you, you wouldn't have.

So.... work is still work. We made grudges the other day. I thought that since the theme of the week was "forgive and forget" that we could make ugly stuffed things, call them grudges and hold them. I'll post a picture one day. I promise.

Friday, April 09, 2010


All of my adult life, which began in earnest at about forty or so, I have been plagued by mail. It comes, every day, unsolicited piles of it, each piece demanding my time and attention, neither of which I have to spare. Avoidance, however, is more time consuming, mentally and physically, shifting uneven piles of shit from one place to the next, purchasing yet another plastic box to store it in until I have time to deal with it. The illusion of organization, always just out of reach.

Now, "dealing with it" just isn't that hard. I know this. I know I know I know. All I would have to do is to hold each piece in my hand, identify it, open it, scan the contents, and ususally, toss it. but do I do this? I do not. I wait months, years even, to go through boxes and bags marked "later" and "even later than that."

I'm exaggerating, as usual.

But I used to. I used to have mail bags big as the Pony Express. Great heaving sacks of unopened mail: bills, notices, refunds, advertising... you know. At one point I asked my old friend Vivian to sit with me while I opened all of it I was so scared of what I might find. There were bills, of course, but I remember one check for 85 bucks that I really needed, a refund from the electric company of all places. But the thing about the electric company is that if you don't open their bills, they'll just eventually come to your door and bring it to you in person. That was a pretty long time ago, but it was, for me, disincentive to open my mail. Or pay my bill for that matter, but that's another story for another time.

I have always been good about reading letters. And writing them. I love letters. I like email okay, but really, I miss 13 page letters from Lorretta on scraps of paper and beautiful stationery. It was kind of like a competition to see who could find the most interesting paper. I was a good letter-writer. So was Joyce, my sister in law. We wrote piles of letters back and forth rather than picking up the phone. Now, all I get is an email from time to time. And the rare phone call.

What's the point? I do have one. I just plowed through a pile of mail and it was all just crap, and I'd been avoiding it for two years, just moving it here and there, dedicating a drawer to it, a nice wooden box. But I couldn't just throw it away. I had to do my time, give it its due. Because in my piles, there are bits of writing, some of it good; there were 100 dollar bills with GW Bush's face on them, and old photographs of my neice's kids, and a great recipe for lemon curd, so I can't just toss the pearls out with the paper.

Finally getting through the pile always makes me feel like cleaning house. Freedom. but instead of cleaning, I saved my gardening overalls for another year. I sewed on about ten more patches over the patches from last year, so they should be good for awhile. They are my favorite pants. I actually wore them out of the yard today and got a few looks, but who cares. They have character.

Gardening update: Tomorrow is fuschia saturday at Freddy's. I'm taking five pots. I'm being somewhat conservative because I am also taking pots from work. I don't want to seem over-eager.

The big bowl I made last year -- the one with spring bulbs, didn't make it through the winter. I think they froze and rotted. Truth be told, they didn't do all that well over the summer. When I dug into it, the bulbs were all just gooey white muck. I replanted it with these trailing flowers, kind of a cross between evening primrose and petunias, only smaller. Orange and purple. Should be pretty. And although I built a handmade pea trellis, I found a nicer one for pretty cheap, so replaced it. It is bamboo, stretchy, and not so tall.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

death of scrabble

He is gone, Alfred Mosher Butts, the creator of Scrabble, whose name, anagrammed, spells: "board flusters them". I learned this on the Sunday Morning Show and called my friend Madonna -- my scrabble partner for years. Although I know "q" words that don't need a "u", am damn good at triples and am known to pull out of a slump and make an eighty-pointer late in the game, I am not a tournament quality player. I do miss the game, though.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I made kabobs, or, more accurately, kebabs, for dinner. I also made white sticky rice with almonds and green onions and little individual cheesecakes for dessert. Tiny little cheesecakes with a vanilla wafer for the crust and white chocolate on top. (see previous post). I love kebabs because in the mix were 3 vegetarians and 3 carnivores and the veggies each at a different level of dedication. I just cut up bowls of marinated shrimp, beef, zuchinni, cherry toms, red onion, peppers, mushrooms and pineapple and let them go at it. The grill is big enough that the beef can stay on one side and not contaminate the other.

Grilled fresh pineapple is candy.

It was good to see my neice. She is, by far, just about my favorite family member. Just enough of a mess to feel the kinship of common suffering. We were talking about days at the beach -- the beach at McKee Bridge in Southern Oregon. Her mother and I so hammered we couldn't find the gearshift knob to drive home. We'd lay there all day, drinking cheap whiskey, smoking good weed and eating whites. We were so tan. It was our job to get dark. As an afterthought, we'd feed her two children (my son was not yet born). Their sandwiches were layers of white bread, sand, bologna, sand, butter, catsup and white bread. I made it very clear that the catsup was not my idea. Or the butter, for that matter. Then, having done our duty, we would lay back in the blistering sun, moving the blanket eastward as the sun went behind the mountains. The drive home was braille and blind luck. All of our children are lucky to be alive.

Friday, March 19, 2010

hypochondrial suicide

I give up. Now, in a long line of ailments, add a pinched nerve in my cervical spine that is causing my left arm to go numb. At least that's what I think. Again, I await diagnosis and relief as my left arm hangs at my side, buzzing like it has fallen asleep and can't get up. It isn't a heart attack. this much I know.

Whoever said getting old ain't for sissies wasn't kidding. And here's the thing -- in my mind, my body may be aging, but I'm not. The line I draw between my body and my mind is a serious problem. In the immortal words of Bob Earl: "My mind thinks it can kill my body and go on..." In my world, I can continue to live a sedentary life, eat anything that strikes my fancy, gain weight, compromise joint after joint -- knee, shoulder, neck... and the only thing that seems like a serious problem is the sad fact that I can't wear my favorite spring clothes. I remember the quote from Postcards From the Edge, as the main character is hospitalized for a suicide attempt. "Well," she said to the admitting nurse, "My behavior may be suicidal, but I'm not."


I apologize to my friends, my readers, the gang of women who encourage me, who love me anyway; to my husband, who is blind to my many defects. This has become the diary of a fat housewife, an aging woman who has lost control of the wheel, whose body had tipped some magic balance and is sliding headlong for disability. I joke about this shit, but I do not change. I am hostage to advertisers and appetite, to fast food and excess. To the fourth meal. And the fifth.

It is a beautifuld day in Portland. I planted pansies and grace ward lithodora and coral bells. My neice and her family are coming for dinner and my husband is fishing. I am alone with the refrigerator. A deadly situation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

breaking news

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I hate the news. If I hear one more tagline that goes something like, "...and all that remained was the sound of lapping waves, and they aren't talking." I swear, I'll puke.

Since when is Victorian prose a requirement? Since when are sappy metaphors a substitute for information? Somebody kill somebody quick, or pass healthcare. Something. Anything. Give the morons something else to do.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

duffy's baby picture

Is this a cute puppy or what? Now, five months later, chew marks on every table leg and piss spots on my Pottery Barn carpet, he is still a little cute.
Now where was I? It has been a long fucking winter. Not weather-wise, just gray and dreary for oh-so-long. Kurt says he thinks he has SAD. I said maybe its more like MAD. But we knew this going in.

My only complaint is probably the opposite of the rest of the country: I'm sick of working. I don't want to work. I never did. Review my life. But I have worked, and consistently in the same dreary field that inspires dismal prose the likes of which I rarely compose anymore. A list of who has died would be long and pointless. Right now, on the unit, they are relatively wellish, up and walking (or ambulating, as we say in the trade) and never a day passes without a good laugh. I think my favorite was when I was applying my skills redirecting a man who was confused. He thought he had lost his car (hasn't driven in years) needed to go to work (likewise) and I said, with a certain amount of professional brio, "Are you feeling anxious?"

Then, he answered, "Not until you started asking."

Well, flattened and humbled, we went for a walk, which is what I should have done in the first place. How would he know if he was anxious? He doesn't know who he is, let alone how he is.

(My husband just started playing the youtube of Janis singing Summertime live, arguably one of the finest musical moments in my life. Her life. Our lives. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Yes.)

We just got back from seeing Alice in Wonderland in 3D. It was pretty fun. Still haven't seen Avatar and have no real desire to. Not a sci-fi buff. And I'm not a Johnny Depp fan except for his Keith Richards interpretation, but I do love the classics.

As I was sitting in the movie, I thought about my life -- it IS all about me -- and the rabbit hole of my decision to move to Portland. There are times when I look back on the life that was: my eternal, unstably-stable first-half, and the wonderland that is my life today. I know it is a sappy thing to say, but who gets to start life over at 50? Anyone who wants to, I suppose, but I did. And although the bumps in the road have required some heavy lifting, we have done it together. And the question is, who is the real Alice?

I am.

A side note: Wouldn't it suck to be known as the chia pet bandit? I mean really. Is his hair green? Is his head shaped like a hedgehog? I'm just wondering.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I blog along in relative obscurity, happily assuming my exaggerations and blathering go unnoticed but for the loyal few.

Not necessarily so. Enter Blogger alerts.

In the previous post I reviewed a Valentine's Eve performance by a female singer and noted that she looked like a librarian. Imagine my surprise when her comment posted. Apparently this was not the first time she was referred to as more studious than hip.

Not that studious isn't hip. That's not the point.

What is the point? Well, if you've been following this mess, you'll know I rarely have one. So, I found her website and emailed an apology and she forgave my faux pas. I had said that she was worth the price of admission, and that was definitely true. She was great. I was embarrassed, but happy to add another reader to the short list.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I used to try to think of clever -- or at least germane -- titles for each post. At one point I began numbering them. That didn't last long. I'm now down to initials.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Last night we went not dancing, (see previous post) but out, nonetheless, to listen to some blues. My favorite thing to do other than a drive through the gorge, which isn't as fun at night. Last weekend, still in knee denial, we drove through the gorge and hiked down to Bridal Veil Falls. I love that. My knee, on the other hand, did not. I paid dearly for that little 2/3 of a mile. Duffy pulled me back up the trail.

Anyway, last night we went out to Oregon City to this crappy little bar we like (Trail's End Saloon) and a woman named Mary Flower opened the evening. She looked like any librarian in any real library (not the wanna-look-like-a-betty-page-librarian-black-hair -short-bangs-hornrimmed-stripey-socks-se portland girls) but she played acoustic muddy waters type blues. Old Mississippi real blues. What gets me are the cover bands, the bar bands, that bill themselves as blues bands but really just play the same three chords and wear sunglasses and red fedoras. That's what came after Mary Flower. Boogie Bone. Well, since my bones cannot boogie just now, we went home early, but well past our bedtime. But Mary was worth the price of admission, which wasn't much. She even played bottleneck slide.

This morning it was red roses and breakfast out with my sweetie.

Friday, February 12, 2010


This coming Monday I am having an MRI to establish, to my surgeon's satisfaction once and for all, what is wrong with my knee. Again. Still. He kept saying the things that Dr's say to me. You know, the eat-right-get-more-exercise shit. Then he said it was probably gout. But I'm not a rich man so it can't be that. The things they say to fifty-something overweight women like me. He kept saying, I think this is a soft-tissue situation, which, interpreted, means something like this: "You're too fat and you've ruined your knee but if you want to do some physical therapy which I know you won't follow through with, you're welcome to waste your time. Eventually you'll be the obese lady in the Jazzy in Winco with Doritos and HoHos in the basket, but go ahead, try to change your fate." Or something like that. In November -- November. That's three fucking months ago -- My regular MD sent me to a physical therapist who charged me three grand to put ice on my knee and ultrasound it while he told me stories about celebrity sightings in Vegas and how really nice Jerry Lewis was to some guy he knew. Three grand. And he told repetitive jokes, like: What did the salmon say when he ran into a rock while he was swimming upstream? Dam.

Yeah. Three grand.

Anyway. I saw this surgeon again on Wednesday and he said, "I could try one more thing to figure out what the problem is." I said, I don't care if you stick pins in my eyes. I'm over it. My knee has hurt for so long I can't remember what its like to have two legs.

So he says, "I'm going to stick a (huge) needle full of novocaine in your knee. If it stops hurting, the knee itself is the problem. If not, its a soft tissue injury and (see above)." So I say, okay. Fine. Needles and me go way back.

So he does and it stops hurting, like immediately. Like completely. Like for about two hours I had both legs actually working. Oh it was so nice.

Now this is both good news and bad. Good that we can find out what is wrong. Bad that surgery may be in order. I don't much care.

Wasn't that interesting?

Monday, January 25, 2010


asha is in town and because asia is in the midst of home revival, we were allowed a slumber party at my house last night. What joy to sleep in and spend the morning with my friend. I am sick, and home at my doctor's bidding, but still and all, it was a timely visit for us both, I think. The chatter was wonderful and welcome and so so missed. There is nothing like a good girl friend and lots of catching up to do. That she is a writer, and prods me to produce, is icing on the cake. We all need a push. I was invited to join a writing group, but you have to pay to be in it, and there is a leader or someone who is the identified "writer" and I can't imagine paying. That is, beyond the bzillion dollars for that oh-so-useful master's degree. There was that. We had a late breakfast at Cup&Saucer on Hawthorne. I had french toast. I'm sick. I can have whatever I want. After breakfast, asia arrived and took my friend away to babysit her adorable grandaughter Thea.

I always try to post something on Groundhog's Day. It has been an important event at different times in my life, when I needed a reason to celebrate in the middle of a long, gray winter. Today, the hog must have seen his shadow, although I was not in Nebraska or Kansas or wherever flatlander's find prairie dogs. I think that's what a ground hog is, isn't it?

Today, the view up and down Clinton Street was bright, my home embarrassingly unprepared for the legions of walker and bicyclists. My dogshit yard and naked chickenwire fencing stood unadorned, absent summer's tendrils of tomato and nasturtium, ripped from the sodden ground after freezing, seeds falling here and there, willing to endure winter's face-slap, that scolding time that ensures a certain reverence for days like this, even if the shadow promises another six weeks. We delight in these fickle days that remind us of times to come, times to prepare for. The liar days of winter, where the light is not warm, but reminiscent of it; where the dark comes too soon anyway.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Tonight, its dinner with Haley at the Barleymill Pub on Hawthorne and 21st. He's bringing me home a reuben. Sounds fine. I feel like I may live after all. Today I spent half the day in the Drs office and had a chest xray. I'm fine. Just sick, as usual.

It is Friday night and I want to rent movies. Instead, we went to a Hollywood Video store that is closing and bought 65.00 worth of old movies. Watching "The Morning After" with Jeff Bridges and Jane Fonda. Next, the Stones new documentary by Scorsesi and "Love in the Time of Cholera" and Little Miss Sunshine and Mystic Pizza. Then maybe I can find the strength to go back to work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I was watching Rachel Ray make fish tacos after watching Paula the Southern Belle make five dishes out of cheese after watching four consecutive episodes of House Hunters International, and having decided a move to Bali was a great idea, I saw the mandatory mosquito nets and decided to stay put. After being sick this long, the mindnumbingness of daytime TV is evident. I am paralyzed, coughing fit after coughing fit, sick of the dogs, sick of myself.

I haven't worked since last thursday and couldn't if I had to. This is a bad one.

But I'll live. I always do.

Kurt is out, taking his children to dinner one by one. I think that is so nice. Each night he brings me something from wherever he ends up. Tonight he is taking Nicole to Authentic Thai on Division. They have the best shrimp salad rolls I've ever had. Or maybe its the best peanut sauce. My friend Cameron says to dilute the peanut butter with a coconut soda found only at asian markets to make good peanut sauce. So, if yours turns out anything like mine, a hint would be helpful.

With this much time on my hands, I sleep and shop online. Right now, I'm after a pair of red velvet flats by Blowfish. Wish me luck. Right now I could really use some Ruby Slippers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

weather and family

Well, "a little under the weather" has turned into a bit more like a hurricane. I am sick.Bronchitis again. But happily, it is the first time I have been sick since May, and with my track record, that is fabulous. I'll take it. One bad spell. I'm waiting it out, hoping my body and the various supplements will put up some kind of a fight. I'm rooting for the C and D combo.

Changing the subject -- back to Arcata and funerals and such...

My aunt who passed in November, I think I mentioned, was a genealogist, even before computer databases were easily accessed. She had populated with much of our family tree, both of her sides, her husband's side and my father's end of things. It is difficult to tell this story without some kind of a recap of who's who, and that will take a minute. Bear with me. I'll limit it to one side for now.

There were four Forster children: my mother, her sister (the one who just passed) and two brothers. Both uncles were interesting: one a Marxist, the other schizophrenic. The Marxist had one child, Darla, who I knew when she was tiny, but family fracturing being what it was in my family, I'd heard nothing from or about her since she was about four years old.

Well, one of the grandsons decided to pick up where my aunt, his grandmother, left off, and after the funeral, he took a bunch of information and entered it into the database at

So... a few weeks pass, and one of the cousins gets this email from Darla asking are we who she thinks we are. We are. So, long story long, she lives five minutes from me and we decided to get together for dinner.

So... good for the internet. Good for the mormons. (who run the database, I'm assuming.) She seems like family. We seem to have alot in common. She loves camping and she knows all the stories about her end of the famly and why things were the way they were and went the way they went, from a Marxian-schizo perspective. She knows, for instance, that my uncle stopped drinking port and started eating a little bit of dirt each day in penance to remember how much he loved god. This, clearly, was not the Marxist. Anyone listening to talk radio back in the sixties and seventies would have remembered him. He was an opinionated man.

It is always fascinating to me how truly fractured a close family can become, and even so, no matter the disconnect, how much family is still just family. Darla, (which is not her name, but in fairness, why would I drag her into this mess?) is a manic gardner and understands that there are many shades of not-quite-white, and the difference between purple and, say, periwinkle or cornflower. My husband kept saying at dinner, "She's just like you." We were both nervous, Darla and I, that we would have nothing in common, that our husbands would feel alienated from this happy little reunion. Turns out they both fish and were able to talk about that while we started catching up.

So, we shared old photographs (you know how I am about those things) and in among the bad Kodak shots was one of my grandmother sitting in the east-facing window with her dog on her lap and my mother's african violets sitting in the window. Seeing those small pots of flowers in a winding wrought-iron stand, a fixture of my childhood, was like reaching back forty-seven years in time. I could feel the velvet of their petals, hear my mother telling me they don't like to be touched. My grandmother, my favorite person in the whole of my life, was sitting in the corner just where I'd left her.

So we will try dinners, and camping, and maybe knitting the clan back together in a few odd places.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I am home from work today, feeling a little under the weather, a little happy to be home. Probably happier than I should be, but not going to work is exhilarating, even when it is legit.

My blog suffers from my busyness, my consumption with the need to make a living. I wish I was one of those women who could live simply to simply live, but I don't know how to not work. (Today being a notable exception...) and I don't know how to live on less. I live on more. and more. and more.

I have been thinking about my mother lately, about how hard she worked, and for so little. At one point she was a night-shift janitor at the Bear Creek bakery (Harry and David, now Jackson and Perkins), a huge warehouse factory orchard business in the Rogue Valley where everyone has worked at one time or another. I have. She swept their floors, washed gigantic and heavy pots and pans. She mopped -- three times every night: wet mop, damp mop, and dry mop. Its funny what you remember. She worked with a crazy person who thought a big black dog followed him everywhere, who had suffered more than one crib death in his family. She brought home tins of pineapple macadamia cake, and broken bits of fruitcake that we'd have for breakfast. She raised five children without benefit of welfare -- some of the "children" long beyond the age of maturity -- maturity being a somewhat ambiguous term in my family. I remember she saved anything left after bills very carefully and bought a dinette set: six chairs around a small, oval formica table with one leaf, upholstered in the latest mandarin orange and avocado green vinyl print. She was so proud of that little set, which I now know was a cheap thing, but it meant so much to her to make our house a home. Everything was mandarin and avocado, with chocolate brown accents, all of the wood pieces "antiqued" white with gold and avocado highlights. I think that was in the sixties. Yes. With Aretha playing in the background, one brother in VietNam, one passed out on the [avocado green] sofa and one playing quarterback for Medford, the best looking kid in school, my sister not yet on methadone.

As I go through my excess, attempting to put together a yard sale in the spring, and I continue to acquire more and more, I think of how hard she worked, and how little we had, and how much we appreciated small things.

Ah well, poverty follows me like a stray dog that just won't go home. Or is home.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

long winter IV

I have been to seven funerals in three months. Too many, even for the angel of death. I should show some caution throwing words like that around, but so often, in the winter, it seems true. I look forward to spring and the promise of new life and green where there is mud and blue to overtake the gray. I wrote a line in a book once that went like this: the season progressed in a continuum of rain, from mist to downpour, and Ruby forgot the color blue. I'm feeling a bit like Ruby just now, cleaning up dogshit that is mush. There is an art to it that I won't bore you with, but leave it at this: frozen is good.

We were driving down 82nd today, and there are trailer parks in among failing restaurants and seedy motels. The urban version of Bolder City. I loved Bolder City. I don't know if I've said so before, but its true. A forested trailer park on a river. There is life in all of these places, many better lived drunk, I'll admit, and I was, but I never want to live in another trailer. Drunk or sober.

This evening we are planning (I am planning and my husband is nodding) our summer vacation. "Do we have to take both dogs?" he asks, as if I'd leave Duffy behind. "Yes. We do." We will take them with us to Yosimite where they will be eaten by bears.

I watched the series on National Parks and want to see some of them. Our trip to Glacier was amazing, and the Ho Rainforest and the Northern Cascades, and the Redwoods, and Crater Lake. It seems very American, but I'm American. so.