Saturday, December 21, 2013

saturday morning home day

We are watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, eating scratch-made biscuits and gravy, just home from an early run to Costco where we bought a nice slab of meat for the holiday and if I wasn't so freakin' sick, I'd think life was normal. I am tired. I was up the entire night, Ambien and all, with post-chemo yuck. Round two. I still think I'm winning.

Days bleed into each other, separated by visits from friends, gifts and treats delivered: a beautiful blanket, a growler of kombucha to tame the tummy. time spent chatting instead of lingering in morbid reflection as I am prone to do.

I only know it is Saturday because Kurt is home with me. I know it is getting close to Christmas because the tree has been up for awhile and it hasn't been christmas yet. We bought ready made fruit breads at Costco -- a sin in my house -- but I'm just not up to baking, or much else. I made biscuits and gravy from scratch and about passed out. I just have no stamina. I love to cook, but don't have it in me right now. Smells gag me. I went to Fred Meyer yesterday and found myself wandering over toward the dairy section which, it turns out, is near the seafood section. I couldn't get turned around fast enough and there I was, stalled in shrimp and day old fish land. Typing brings it too close.

Day after day I live with two dogs who keep close watch on me. They are learning to be less noisy, less demanding. I think they like having me home, but I miss my peeps, the crazy little grayhairs that loved to sing Christmas carols with me, who didn't remember my name but knew the words to every verse of Away in a Manger.

Menu for Christmas Day: 

Late Breakfast

 Scrambled eggs
Twisted Brioche

Early Supper

Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup
Beef Roast, rare-ish with Au Jus and Horseradish Sauce
Roasted Winter Veggies


 Apple-Marionberry Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream. 

Show up!

Monday, December 16, 2013


Me? Nah.

I ordered a bunch of slouch beanies. I did so because I wanted a floppy, hangy cap that would not call a great deal of attention to itself and, by association, my bald head. If you've been following along, I last said "we left a little (hair) to keep out the cold." That didn't last. The 1/2 inch of hair that remained, kept falling out. And it itched. The whole "take back your power" about cancer was appealing, but the sentiment was over-sold, as is usually the case. I feel less empowered than bald, sad and cold. So, back to the beanies.... In the pictures they looked floppy. In fact, they are beanies. Just beanies. Which is fine. Beanies are fine. But I didn't need plain ol' beanies. I needed floppy. So now I am the proud owner of six beanies of various dull colors. But scarves... now they are pretty. I have a pile of lovely scarves, and I know how to tie them so its like a ponytail.

I've thought of a million things to blog about, but am tired, and any effort is 10x as hard as it should be. Going to the store is hard. As I wheel the cart from aisle to aisle, my endurance fades and I feel like a cancer patient. I'm spacier than usual, have nearly burnt the house down twice. Maybe should stop cooking for awhile. At least not when I'm home alone.

Monday, December 09, 2013

day fourteen

The nurse at the chemo lounge said it. On day fourteen your hair will fall out. She said it like she knew, like she had some insky with the cancer gods. I didn't believe her then, but today is day-fourteen and my hair is falling out around me like snow.

I don't know if this will make sense, but in 1972ish I rode with some guy down to Santa something -- Rosa, Barbara, Clara -- some big city in California. I'd never been to a real city before. I'd never done much. We went to visit some people who lived in a huge apartment complex. I'd never seen an apartment complex before. The carpets were futuristic white, the ceilings solid panels of light. In the middle of the grassy hills of the common yardspace was a fake pond and in the fake pond was a fake sunken ship. I was a little hippie chick back then, categorically opposed to anything unnatural. The entire place filled me with a sickening awe, such a contrast to my au-natural life in a tree on the Applegate river.

Oh, and I forgot a pretty important part: we were smoking PCP. 

So... As we left the apartment, high as kites, the manager said, "Be careful where you step. The frogs come out at seven."

Way back then I remember thinking, much the same as I did when the nurse said, "Your hair will come out on day fourteen," I thought, "Bullshit. How can you know what time a frog will do anything?" But sure enough, at precisely seven, a b'zillion frogs began careening over the grassy hills toward the fake pond and the fake sunken ship, leapfrogging over one another in their daily seven o'clock frenzy. Big frogs, little frogs. I remember collapsing in a puddle of forlorn hippie chick tears, certain that the whole of civilization would become one of timed frogs and ceilings of pure light in honeycombs of mass humanity.

And as much as I'm sure the PCP had something to do with my moodiness, I scurried back to my cabin in the woods and stayed there.

For awhile. Until Portland.

I cut all my hair off this afternoon. Like many women, I couldn't tolerate the waiting, the knowing that the chemo would take it, a chunk at a time. I drove to town, bought three beautiful scarves, learned how to tie them so it looks like a ponytail, and whacked off my hair. When Kurt got home from work, he took the clippers and evened it up and told me I'm beautiful. We left a little to keep out the cold.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I think debacle is the appropriate word for "What I Did On My Thanksgiving Vacation."

I can't tell you how many of my friends and family asked me in voices rife with supportive and logical concern, "Are you sure you think it's a good idea to travel south (the day after your first chemotherapy treatment when you have no idea at all how it will affect you; where you'll be happily off the grid, no cell or other service, where the lovely little cabin is frozen solid, thus no running water or flushable indoor plumbing without lifting and dumping a five gallon bucket each time, where the wood fires are still burning, only the intrinsic smells of sulfur and kerosene that once comforted are suddenly noxious to my now-sensitive nose, where walking over hill and dale for the eggs I forgot and to see people I love is part of the culture) for the holiday?"

"Might as well go while I still have some strength," I said. "Most people say chemo isn't that bad at first." And maybe it isn't, but on the continuum of "that bad" are things like: queasy, don't get far from the bathroom, continual hot-flashes, no sleep, dehydration, and bedridden.

"I'm sure I'll be fine," I said. And I am, but I'm not. After three nights of zero sleep, we came home two days early. I would do just about anything to sleep. I'm exhausted, but sleep is not for me. I just lay there and lay there. With the chemo, they dump in a bag of dexamethasone, dex and meth being the operative syllables, and I haven't slept since Tuesday. In another life I could've made some serious money with that shit.

So, I'm respecting my treatment and taking more thoughtful care of myself. I'm stubborn. Born that way.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Feeling a little John Malcovitchy today. Getting a port installed in my chest, on my chest. They say it won't hurt. How silly is that?

"We're just going to carve a hole in your body, fish around in there until we find the vein that runs (happily, undisturbed) under your collarbone, ask it very nicely to hold still and stuff a tiny little hose down it. Then, we'll stitch you back together with fishing line and send you home with some Ibuprofen."

Oh. Okay. How 'bout I do the same to you?

I mostly love doctors. I've moved along the periphery of their world all my life, and I'm pretty comfortable with all the medical ins and outs, but the whole carving=no pain? I'm not buying it. While I'm screaming about the painful swelling under my arm (post-lymph node-carving) my surgeon says, "It's not supposed to hurt like that." Well, I agree completely. Com-fucking-pletely. And yet it does. But, I don't want to piss off the surgeon prior to portal installation with a sharp object, so I'll just smile and say thank you. Thank you for hurting me while you save my life.


Wating for Jessica to pick me up at ten:ten. My friends. Wowzer. It almost makes me believe in the intrinisic goodness of the human race ala Rousseau. Almost.

Friday, November 15, 2013

so far

so good. (this post is out of order. Written prior to lumpectomy, just to clarify.)

All xrays, radioactive injections and bloodsucking done. Everthing so far is negative. I'll learn about my bones on Monday. Boy, the staff at the surgeon's office is really in a hurry to get the information back to you. Most women must be in a hurry and easily frustrated by the eternal wait that is western medicine. But me? Nah. I can wait. If I was a doc, and people were rushing me, I'd probably lie just to shut them up. "Yeah, you're fine. Now go away." Be happy I couldn't afford med school.

It is somewhat anxiety provoking, made all the worse by life without estrogen. I'd rather do life without oxygen. And, it turns out, that is my choice. I've argued with Szeto (my doc) for years about the suck of menopause, my general impatience with the anxiety I experience in the absence of HRT. I may be finished with menopause for all I know, but will still have to experience withdrawal from estrogen, hot flashes and sleeplessness. I guess its better than death.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013



Now it is not the best of me
that glorifies the worst in me
and it is not the east of me
that contradicts the west of me
nor is it just the first of me
has changed to suit the last of me.

the last of me has not yet been
the worst has never given in
or given up
or ever will
or even can
or has the will
to go beyond
the who I was
and still may be
and without pause
I celebrate the rest of me
I celebrate what’s left of me.   jk19??

I don't remember why I wrote this poem, or when, but asha asked me to call it up from the shadowy ethers of my past. I think she knew it would make me cry. 

I am less. I am 1/2 of one boob less. Boob and Bob.

Today I thought I had an appointment with the radiation guy, but it was the chemo guy. Probably best that I was surprised. I didn't want chemo. But these are the decisions of my life these days. You can have chemo or you can die. Oh. Well. Since you put it like that. 

So, there I was, sitting in the oncology office. The awareness that everyone sitting next to you has cancer is profoundly unsettling. A sad little woman came in and she was escorted by her giant son, and her cancer was consuming her face and he had to suction her so she could breathe and she should have been somewhere safer, somewhere she could have been treated tenderly. but she was one of those odd little people who have probably known little tenderness in their lives. It broke my heart at the same time I nearly vomited in my gucci bag. 

I don't have a gucci bag.

But the thing is, I am frequenting these places now. And when I need an appointment, they don't ask, "what's a good day for you?" They give you a card with the next available appointment on it and you show up. Cancer is in charge. I'd like to get ahead of it, but it is calling all the shots these days. The first appointment that got MADE for me, I said, "I'm not sure about thursd..." and before I could finish my sentence, the scheduling woman looked at me with such -- I don't know -- not disdain? incredulity? that it put me quite literally in my place. Your little tea parties are backburnered for the time being, bitch. Its a good thing I don't have a job. They wouldn't care. But the thing is, they do care. And I am simply expected to adjust. Its kind of like I unwittingly stepped onto that conveyor belt -- you know the one in I love Lucy, where the chocolates keep coming faster and faster and she is trying to keep up.Only in this scenario, the chocolates are doctor's appointments and I am still Lucy. And there is really important information to be gleaned at each one, and I'm functionally deerintheheadlights. Let us not forget I was diagnosed on the 17th of October and surgered on halloween at which point my husband thought he would draw a jack-o-lantern on my tit. It hasn't been a month.

I am having a port put in near my clavicle next Thursday so they can just back a truck up and dump the chemo into it. I always wanted something like that, only not for chemo. Where were these devices back in the day?

My friends and family have been stunning. The food alone: chicken soup, chili, lasagne, spaghetti and meatballs, take out from our favorite bbq joint, Hagen Daas vanilla, and burritos and a "fuck cancer" t-shirt, banana nut muffins, beef stew. Rides here and there, help with shopping; and generously shared experience, not easy stuff. 

My son is so scared, and my husband... When he said " sickness and in health..." he wasn't kidding. He is broken-hearted. We have cancer. It is in our house and we will spend the next six months getting it out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

big day

I blog, therefore I am.

I have breast cancer. I've been wondering what my body was up to. No good -- that's what. When I showed up for the mammography, I had already made out my will, doomsayer that I am, packed the boxes, burned or deleted any writing that isn't good enough for posthumous gatherings, and said my prayers.

As they moved forward with the ultrasound and proceeded straight to the in-office biopsy, I could tell they were concerned -- in a hurry to know. I could see the pictures. They drew on my breast with a blue sharpie and poked "it" five times, no six, just to make sure -- then the same for the lymph node that has been conspiring with "it" to kill me. They even left a microchip in there for proof of biopsy. So in case I get lost.... I am sore. I appreciated her directness. Having lived in and around death and disease for soososososososo long, I couldn't bear the manners, the things we say to people instead of the plain truth. I didn't need the weekend to believe I had a lump of something else. I can only tolerate denial under certain circumstances. In the end I said, "Just tell me." She said, "You're gonna need a surgeon. Start shopping." I felt like I was on Jaws. "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Indeed.

So I am. Shopping. This is day one of having cancer.

I've always judged the people who refer to their disease as "My cancer," like it was their special friend. But as I looked at the image, the dark lumpy image becoming more familiar as she moved the scope around, as she identified the boundaries of what was mine and what was other, it became personal. I felt bad for the girl. She didn't want to tell me. She didn't want to be the one to find it. "It must be hard to be the one to find these things," I said. And she pushed harder into my armpit and found the lymph node. I'm glad she found it, although at the time all I could think was, "Why is she digging around up in there?"

So, although I'm eulogizing myself well in advance, little planner that I am, and probably for no real reason, I also wonder if maybe I'll finally get the breast reduction/lift that I've always wanted -- the hard way. I am grateful for insurance and a husband who really doesn't want me to lose my ta-tas. Isn't that sweet? Personally, I can take or leave the tissue. Its the beating heart behind them I want to preserve.

Now I think I understand why my life has been unraveling: To make room for this. To make room for the fight of my life. Stay tuned, but I'm not going to make my blog pink, I promise.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I tried to title this one arachniphobia, but am pretty sure, given the red line, that I can't spell it. But don't you just hate the end of summer, allegedly-ever-so-helpful, gigantic spiders that spin their webs across anywhere you are known to walk? I do. I did a project in the second grade, a science/art project and painted a huge garden spider. Mrs. Sherwood gave me an A. I was terrified of them then and now. In the new "Simple" magazine that I subscribe to, which does not make my life any simpler by the way, there is a girl dressed up for Halloween and covered with real-looking, fake spider tattoos. I would cut my skin off. In Safeway, there are furry black spiders all over the place for decorations. These are not decorative. Nothing about over-sized black widow spiders is appealing or food-related. I resent having to stand next to them in line. These spiders that weave their trouble all around my house are on an every-two-year cycle. Or so I hear. They get bigger the second year. I walk through my yard, the old washer woman next door, string-mop in hand, flinging and swatting, ruining the finely spun homes of my many-legged garden friends. Allegedly -- keep that word in mind. My garden is hardly pest-free. .

But the end of summer is upon us. Peaches are mush. Its over. The chill in the morning air is brief, but still, the sun has whirled itself away from us, or we from it -- I forget how all that works. We're all whirling toward the cold of winter. I miss school shopping for my son.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

if you don't want no peaches, honey

It's a learning curve. Canning. Preserving. Putting up peaches. I've been holding my breath for the ripening of the Maryhill peaches, famous for their uniformity of size and flavor. Now finally ripe, they are good, but not so good as the smaller "Starfire" from Jossy Farms in Northplains. I've canned 22 quarts this week, and one peach cobbler. I tried baking a peach pie while on vacation, and it turned out okay, but not great.

The zen of peaches is all about getting the fuzzy skin off. If you like the fuzzy skin, then I think we would have little else in common.

Canning Peaches 101

Boil a kettle of water, prepare an ice bath in a deep bowl. I use one of those wire wok utensils to dip the peach in the hot water and transfer it to the ice bath. I've seen most websites tell you to leave the peaches in for 30 seconds. That's a long time. I think I leave mine in for ten or so, maybe 15, or the peaches cook. If your peaches are truly ripe and you're not playing god and trying to push your way to the head of the line, you shouldn't need more than 15 seconds.

Now comes the fun part: getting them out of their slippery little nasty skins. If you have 1.) patiently waited for ripening, and 2.) done the hot/cold baths properly, you won't even need a knife for this part. I just pinch the skin around the stem area and pull it away. I compete with myself to try to peel all of the skin off with one pull. It can be done, but I can't really explain it. I could show you, but you're not here. Duh.

So now you have a bowl of nekked little orbs of wonderfulness. Now you need to step it up just a bit or they'll go brown on you. You can toss them with lemon juice and they will stay nicer, or you can snap it up and toss a sixteenth of a teaspoon of ascorbic acid into each jar to acheive the same result without blurring the flavors. Nothing against lemons. Really.

So, now you halve the peach with a paring knife, and if it is a kind peach it will fall apart in two perfect segments into your hand. If it is a stubborn little bitch, you may have to pry it apart ever-so-gently, and what you wreck, you may eat. Then, I quarter the peach and just start tossing the quartered pieces in the pretty clean jar.

Pretty clean means it was boiled before you started this process two hours ago and was, at one point, damn near sterile, but not quite.

So, you keep tossing peach quarters into the jar until it is full. shake it around a bit to let them settle. Go ahead and push 'em in, just so long as you leave a good half inch of "head space" (we all need this.).

Then, oh shit, I forgot to tell you to make the syrup. So, make the syrup. You can can with plain water if you like, but the peaches will taste, you guessed it, watery. So a lite sugar syrup is indicated. You won't get to heaven any sooner if you skip the sugar and the peaches you eat will taste better. But, if sugar is your enemy, which it should be but I live in constant denial of this fact, then a couple cups of sugar in a gallon of water should do it. Most sugar syrups call for four or five cups. Yeesh. So you make up your mind to do whatever. Sugar doesn't do anything magic for preservation, it just keeps the fruit from tasting washed out. Your call. I use a little sugar. Sue me.

So set up your table with the sugar syrup -- hot, the ascorbic acid, a rubber handled spatula, a damp cloth and a magnet for lid-getting.

Pack the jar; add ascorbic acid; fill with syrup to leave a good half inch; slide the rubber handle down inside the jar to release trapped air bubbles; wipe the top of the jar; go get the lid with the magnet thingy; put on the lid without touching the lid.

So, the thing with canning peaches is putting on the lids. You do understand by now that we're not working in a sterile environment, right? Tossing just-cut peaches into a pretty clean jar and wiping the jar clean with a damp cloth is not sterile. Then you drag the hot but not boiling lid with a weak magnet across the kitchen hoping it doesn't crash to the peach-strewn floor, and dangle it over the rim of the pretty clean jar, land it like a robot arm on the moon, and voila! its ready for the ring.

Now for the rings:  "Finger tight" can have many interpretations. For me, I read it as: spin on the lid and give it a little push when you reach the end. NONONONONO!! If you tighten the lids too tight, here's what happens. As you lower your perfectly peeled and glossy yummy fruit that you've slaved over for two hours, down, down, down into the boiling water, you will hear this ever so subtle snapping noise. This, my lonely readership, is the sound of jars breaking. You'll know for sure as peach bits begin to float around in your water. So, without scalding your legs, pull the jars from the water as quickly as you can and undo the damage. Get them to solid ground and unscrew those lids. I don't need to tell you to dispose of the fruit from the broken glass, do I?

Turns out finger tight really means finger-tip tight. Really. Just barely. A butterfly could do it. AND, start those jars out in warm water. Not lava-hot boiling oil water.

So you get the jars into the water, boil them for awhile. At least ten minutes, maybe 15. The old ways would have you boil them to death. A good roiling boil for 10 to15 is fine. I didn't die, right? But then, I believe in bacteria. I'm a fan of dirt. I am immune.

Then, you wait for the good popping noises. The noises that mean it worked. It is not uncommon for a jar or two our of 20 to fail. If this happens to you, put these little personal failures in the fridge and eat them within two weeks.

I only lost one jar to breakage, all the rest of them sealed and I have 22 pretty little jars of peaches.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

where we been and what's next

I'm on an extended, if not forced, stress vacation, so it was challenging to get in the appropriate mood to go camping, although I am almost always in the mood to go camping. Last Friday we headed out, trailer packed imperfectly as though we'd never done this before. Did you bring the stove? I thought it was in the trailer. I think it is. Okay. Fast forward to an RV park situated along the Skagit River, and no stove. After blame was successfully assigned, camp life went on. We do have a stove in the trailer, but it was hot inside and out, and I had planned to make curry for dinner and wanted more than one pan. Long story short, we had our damned curry. The thing with camping food is that things thaw in a certain order, and should be used within a certain time frame so you don't die of ptomaine poisoning or botulism or something. Chicken first, pork, then beef. Beef can hang out for ages, it turns out, if its really cold, and we do have a great cooler. Better than the baby blue fridge but not as cute.

So I limped along with a crab cooker, 50,000 btu's of propane blasting whatever meal I came up with. We ate well, as usual, first in the RV site, then on up to Birch Bay.

This time we took a side trip around the base of Mt. Ranier. Neither of us had been on that road, and it was nice, but not spectacular. I'm sure there was a place to get off the road and see things, but we weren't chased by grizzlies with claws the size of butcher knives as promised by asha. But you know how she is.

Camping was excellent, but interrupted. I like to get somewhere, set up, and sit there for four or five days. This was not possible due to the lack of pre-planning, driven primarily by forces beyond our control (work) and procrastination. Most of the good spots are taken at least nine months in advance. That's the soonest you can reserve sites that are reserve-able and almost all of them are nowadays. So I've made a calendar that tells me what to do for next year.

We made it to Birch Bay the second day and got lucky to find a crappy spot which was so much better than the RV camp that it was fabulous, then stood in line for another crap shoot the next day. A spot came open for two days and we snapped it up. It was a beautiful site with a view of the bay, sunset included at no additional cost. Dazzling. But only two days worth.

On the way north, we took a side road toward Larrabee State Park, because of our last name, just to check it out. The drive there was terrifying for Kurt, pulling the trailer and all, past rocks that jutted out into the lane just shy of the aluminum siding. The park was outstanding and I immediately decided I liked it better than Birch Bay. I've since changed my mind. It doesn't have the ease of access that I prefer, no great bike rides like the more level bay. But I'm gonna try to get #36 if I can for next year and try it anyway. The best sites at Birch Bay are a secret and I'm not going to tell you. Try me.

So, back to the story of my uncertain life: It seems I have developed a Severe Panic Disorder. For the past two years or so, work has become nearly impossible for me to, um, looking for the word... endure? tolerate? do? Whatever. I can't breathe when I'm there. I take deep breaths all the time and try to suppress that crushing sensation with a number of medications, none that work. I didn't realize this was happening, really. I just thought I was anxious. I am. I was. I thought being away from work would fix these symptoms, so I jumped at the recommendation for a leave of absence. The problem is, the anxiety has become much worse, I'm not having any fun being away from work, and the breathlessness has now been identified as panic. I didn't know. Now, I don't see myself as someone with a Severe Panic Disorder. I don't think that sounds like me at all. I think I'm a little too serious and self-absorbed and basically lazy, but the shrink I'm seeing (must see to justify the leave) thinks I've endured burnout past the point of no return. I don't know what this means for the immediate future. I don't know if she'll okay me to return to work or not, and I'm truly conflicted by that. So much of who I am is what I do. I've always said I'm a writer and an artist -- and I am -- but my day job.... may have been more than that. I feel my age just now, and I'm not sure I've really allowed the fact that I am sixty years old to settle into a comfortable place in my psyche.

Waxing philosophical.... my apologies....

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

quiet morning on clinton street.

What are car alarms for? I'd really like to know. There has been one going off for about 45 minutes for a second time this lovely morning and I've even gone out to make sure it isn't mine. Just in case my hearing and perceptions are as skewed as I sometimes think they are. Really? 45 minutes? Twice? What is so valuable in or around that vehicle as to make all that racket. If I had a solid gold car I wouldn't make it that loud.

I retain a reasonable expectation of quiet, however misplaced, living in a big city and a busy little micro-mecca for foodies and shoppies and special Portland-ites with tall bikes and ribbons of colorful ink swirling around their fit arms and legs and necks and bellies. Me? I'm a jailhouse girl: black on white. No color for me. Alas, I have no tattoos. I'd have words, if I had one at all. But which words? So many to choose from. My own or someone elses? But I digress.

I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train. That's nice. And true. But if I wrote that, permanently in blackadder font down my left leg, for instance, you might assume that I'm a Deadhead, which I am most definitely not, although I do love Workingman's Dead. I did know Nancy Norcross's older sister who Jerry Garcia carved a zucchini for to remember him by back in 1969. It was a good sized zucchini with GARCIA carved in block letters. She kept that thing til it rotted. I wonder what happened to the Norcross sisters?


Another day in which I try to figure out what to do instead of working. These are the hours I swore I'd write, but I am rather consumed by anxiety and not-knowing, and the threat of return to a job that has killed me. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

cabin view

I am spending a day up at Judith's cabin to add to that sense of r&r that is so hard to come by when the dishes call my name and there is laundry and the floor needs vacuumed and my husband is fishing and I am supposed to make jam. I have 6 quarts of blackberries, 4 of raspberries, 3 of marionberries that I can hear from up here in Brightwood. They threaten to rot, to not taste the same, to vanish, to disapprove of me.  I don't care what they say, I'm going to sit by the river and mend. That is at least as important as jam, don't you think?

Friday, July 05, 2013

the view from clinton street

Here's a list of what not to do on the 4th of July:
Go to Bluesfest.

They do not play very much blues music really at all. There is some weak R+B sung by white chicks, a little rockabilly, some disco , zydeco and little else.

The fireworks are set off behind trees that hide the fireworks. I'm not sure who can see them, but those of us watching the main stage cannot.

The backdrop to the fireworks is classic rock radio. As the explosions ebbed to the lyrics of American Pie "...singin' this'll be the day that I die," only to start up again for the finale with something by Van Halen or White Snake or Tim Burton or something, it was much like sitting inside a huge old 8-Track player, tapes scratchy and overplayed with bees buzzing in the background, little firefly sparks just barely visible above the treeline. Glowsticks would have been brighter.

The organizers have hidden in the small print that, in addition to charging ten bucks and two cans of food for admission (we paid cash, garbanzo and refried beans) the only show worth seeing -- Robert Plant -- costs FIFTYMOREBUCKS!!! So much for old school Portland freebie blues shows. Now, I can't really claim the right to be Portland Old School. I'm a Rogue Valley transplant married to a Portlander. And what do Portlanders want? Weather between 70 and 73 degrees and free shit. I mean, look at the sidewalks around my neighborhood. Even the garbage is up for grabs.

Okay. I'm not working so I'm back to scathing but erudite observations of lowlife. I love home. I have learned, however, in my first week of R&R to get up and shower and make coffee before sitting down to the soul sucking internet or come 5:00 I'm ashamed of my lazy self and there is nothing taken out of the freezer for dinner, which is my only responsibility these days, which I love. Steak, corn and zuchinni on the grill tonight. w-o-m-a-n.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

sunny day

I opened the back door this morning to let in the clear air of morning and got a face full of canine habitat aroma. The sun is out and roasting their side of the yard. They have half, we have half. They crap in theirs. We usually don't. We hadn't changed out the cedar chips in awhile, so that's what the day called for. Much better now.

It is the first really warm day in Portland. Everyone is out and about. I went to a very good meeting and felt like I was part of something for the first time in awhile. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I wish a happy Easter to all of the faithful and a happy Spring to you heathens, my husband included.


I cut off my hair. In the background I hear the strains of Crosby, Stills and Nash, maybe Young. Only its not almost. Most of my long blonde curlylocks fell out because of rapid weight loss, so I'm starting over. Short and sweet. But, like Samson and Delilah, I have this lingering belief that I have lost some essential power. Like many beliefs, it isn't true, just coercive and unsettling. Too many Bible stories, too young.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Her face is smooth now, long gray hair drifts across the many pillows that surround her tiny body. She is taking her last many breaths, pulling air in, pushing it out, as her children surround her, telling stories of their youth, laughing, crying. When nothing is left of her, only her husband's name lingers on her breath: "Sam." She calls to him as though he might be just around the corner, just beyond her reach. "Sam."

"Sam's in heaven, honey. He's waiting for you." I tell her this and it calms her for a moment. Heaven is such a nice idea. "Go on home, now."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

starlight and rose petals

In an Alzheimer's unit, Valentine's Day is never quite whole. Half of the lovers are dead, the others don't know it. In total, I had five couples to celebrate -- well, six, but one couple wasn't speaking to each other because she has persistent beliefs about his infidelity and a nasty temper. Who can say what is true? And one couple is just friends, but friends count. When you're ninety, it all counts. 

So we planned a party, a starlight party, with red globe centerpieces, scatttered rose petals and Hershey's kisses from the dollar store. I found plastic champagne flutes for the sparkling cider. The chef made a beautiful dinner: broccoli soup, puff pastry, pork loin, pasta and squash. For dessert, a four layer red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and strawberries cut so the heart shape was evident. Sweet. 

But here's the thing. (You knew something was coming. You, my faithful readers, you know everything is never really okay in the merry ol' land of Oz.)

So Pansy, she was dying. Not right in the middle of the party or anything, but dying just the same. She'd been trying to make a ladylike exit since the Thursday before, but her daughter, a nice nice woman, unfortunately the tiniest bit impaired by her mother's slight case of OCD. By the time I got her mom, she couldn't remember the O part. Growing up she had polished the bottoms of her child's white shoes every morning with white shoe polish. That kind of OCD. Untreated. Lifelong. So the daughter, having the final word, needed to say some things. Lots of things, for a really long time. So Pansy, captive little blue-tinted lady by this time, stayed to listen long after she was ready to be onto her next thing.

In another room another of my little people had been on his way out, was taken to the hospital for repairs, and was set to return the next day. 

The party was set to begin at 5:00. Dinner time. Everybody was dressed up, spouses wheeling their ways to the table, single long-stemmed red roses given to the wives by the husbands. Oh -- I told one of my guys that his wife was sitting next to him. He said, "Don't threaten me." I told him I had a rose for him to give to her. He asked, "Are there any thorns on it?" Anyway, there we were, all red and pink and romantic. 

Pansy's daughter, who had been calling me all day, asking for guarantees, like families do: "If I wait until 3:00 to come can you guarantee she'll still be alive when I get there?" 

Uh, no. No crystal ball here.

"I see (she lied), well, how far is she since I was there? How's she doing?"

She's doing fine.  

"She's doing FINE??!!?? Oh my God, she's better?"

No. By fine, I mean she's dying just fine. She's coming right along. She's about half as alive as she was the last time you called. She's dying at about exactly the same rate. Slow. (I didn't really say all of that.)  

So the daughter shows up about an hour before dinner and Pansy is still hanging on. and on. and on. I ask her please to sing or talk quietly. This means, if it makes your mother jump, its probably too loud. I whisper these instructions. To make a point. Its hard work dying and one must honor the process. 

 -- Really, if someone you love is dying, or someone you have unfinished business with, suck it up and wait until after they're gone. If you couldn't figure it out while they were alive, don't lay it at their poor little lavender feet at the bitter end. Not fair. 

So finally, we are ready. At 4:45 the food arrives. Drumroll... You know what happens, right?

At 4:45 Pansy dies. ("I think she's gone. Do you think she's gone?") 

At 5:00 we begin to serve dinner. 

At 5:15, Charlie rolls in from the hospital on a stretcher.


Now, there are things that must be done. So, between courses, we do them. Personal things. All the while, having a romantic dinner, and escorting the mortician around the back door, closing the fire doors so we don't have to wheel Pansy's corpse through the rose petals and chocolate truffles. 

Charlie, of course, thinks the party is a welcome home for him. 




I realized late last night that a newish dresser would solve many if not all of my organizational problems. I considered buying new, but the WWII officer's chest I've been using for 35 years is and has been so unattractive that it seemed selfish to spend much to replace something that, while homely, is fully functional. .I also considered shopping the many vintage shops in SE Portland, but their idea of retro is that slick, blonde, danish-modern, Jetson kock-off crap that is the stuff of my impoverished childhood. Instead, I fired up my computer: craigslist.

There were more than seven pages, at 100 dressers per page. As I cruised the offerings, I narrowed my choices and developed a plan. This is the beauty of craigslist: you see so much shit you end up galvanizing your choices. I realized, for instance, I needed a highboy (rather than lowboy), with as many drawers as possible. If I had nine drawers, I could have a whole drawer just for black turtlenecks. Oh, and it would need to be more or less in the arts & crafts style, preferably a darker stain. And real wood. No chipboard. There was so much to consider. And the drawers needed to work flawlessly. Nothing I hate worse than sticky drawers. Well, that's a lie. There are many things, but not at the same time. If I'm hating something and I pull out a drawer and it sticks, I hate the drawer more.

I'm stunned at the items for sale, the sheer number of dreadful things: long, low, mediterranean-esque sets with carved fake-wood moldings; shiny black disco-era dressers with chrome swans for pulls. Sexy; Lots of white french provencial sets, aged with brown or gold or avocado green, swirled around spindled accents.

After about twelve hours I found just what I wanted. Of course I did. two hundred bucks. So we drove out to Tualitin and picked it up. It wasn't easy or fast. And it had one tiny little problem: a history of bug infestation. Not like bedbugs, but some kind of floridian powder beetles that chew through lead to get to wood, apparently. This scared my husband. Nothing scares me. I live my life on the principle that: I've never chewed up your dresser ergo you'll never chew up mine. This works for robbery too. The fact that I used to be a robber doesn't count. My rules.

Anyhow -- We did a thorough inspection (It's pretty, let's buy it) and humped it out to the truck, home, up and into my dressing room. A place for everything and everything in its place. Amy fucking Vanderbilt.

The next morning, my darling husband says, "What if the bugs aren't gone? What if she lied?" Well, I just don't operate on those fear-based, people-are-inherently-bad, beliefs. I stroll happily through life, surprised at the mayhem of the human race. So we drive back out to Tualitin and get the actual jar of poison that killed the alleged bugs. I say alleged because I didn't see any. There is the smallest, ever so unnoticeable bit of damage across two thirds of the entire top of the dresser, but that's what dresser scarves are for, right?

My husband's fears were only allayed when he looked up the dresser online and found that it sold retail for 3 thousand dollars. It may chew down our old wood house, but he does love a bargain. He says the sale price compared to the original price supports the argument that she is lying about the bugs. I say it supports the argument that she is nice.


My husband has been out buying bullets. Rather, trying to buy bullets. There aren't many to be found in the post-Sandyhook-hysteria. Not even in a liberal oasis like Portland. Its a redneck Easter egg hunt, four-wheel drivers filling the lots of Bi-mart just as it opens, waiting at the door, rushing the counters. We may look like Liberals, but we're country folk at heart. Even with limits, boxes of .22 shells sell out in minutes.

Why am I writing about this? It's Sunday morning and I slept way in. My husband went fishing and I slept and slept, having circus-bizarre dreams, finally to awaken to an empty house. Ahhh. I could be doing so many other things. Laundry, dishes, bad things.

So I said to him as he left the seventh store in search of ammunition, "Just how many rounds you think you're gonna get off before the army that is marching down Clinton Street gets you?"

But for him, it is just not liking to be told what to do. Or not do. There is no army marching down our street shooting citizens. We just aren't that interesting. But it does raise those questions, doesn't it? What is freedom? I won't try to answer that, but I do question the political debate that focuses soley on guns and again and again turns a blind eye to mental illness.

Since Reagan de-institutionalized the mentally ill (whenever that was -- don't ask me about dates, I wasn't paying attention during the entire Reagan administration) -- the "rights" of the mentally ill have, in my opinion, created a false reality that behavior can be predicted with mimimal oversite and the assumption of appropriate use of medication. This paradigm works well for insurance companies that don't want to pay for care/housing, or long term treatment, or diagnosing of the breadth of the problem. Associations like NAMI, persuasive organizations that advocate for the rights of the mentally ill, have a great argument, but faulty at its core. You can't fix a broken brain with a broken brain.

 Its not that I would return to the days of trepanning, but it is, I'm sure, far more costly to deal with the mental health crisis than to go after the guns. All that being said, it is only one facet of gun violence: what about black men shooting black men? It's a great solution for white men, so we won't look too closely at that.

Anyway, happy Sunday. I'm gonna heat up my wax and paint.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

french toast

I have been living on Medifast and pumpkin seeds for a long time, and the last few days I've been cruising the well-merchandized deli sections of Freddy's and Safeway and best of all, New Seasons -- so pretty-- hunting for the perfect bad food to satisfy my endless craving. I've tried to be good with whole grain cookies; bad with maple bars, ridiculous with a whole lemon pie from Safeway that may have been sugar free. Nasty. But finally, finally, I found it: satisfaction is sourdough french toast at the Cup and Saucer restaurant on Hawthorne. Cooked just for me, with maple syrup and raspberry jam and butter.

Portland girls walk by the window in the cold of morning, whims of blue-black ink scrawled across skin white as canvas, wrapped around and around sun-starved necks and upper arms, anemic little girls with permanent opinions that will not fade when their minds change, and change they will.