Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lunch with old friends

They're not really old friends.
But they feel like old friends.
They are two graduate students in Occupational Therapy
who worked with G at our house over a six month period,
from October last year to early April
when he became ill and was hospitalized.

We hadn't seen them since then but have stayed in touch,
so I invited them to come for lunch today,
after they finished the last of their graduate work
and before they start their new jobs.

It was great to get caught up
and celebrate the next chapter of their lives.

Their future patients will be in very good hands.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fill in the blank

I saw this sign on my way to work.

Patience Please.
Student Driver.

Hmmm...maybe I should get myself one of those. Not that I'm a student driver, but asking others on the road for patience might be a good thing.


Patience Please
Directionally Challenged

What would yours read?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saved, again

Thanksgiving morning G awoke and was ready to get up
just as I was about to get into the shower.
It was one of the few mornings
I wanted him to stay in bed a little longer.

What to do, what to do
to entice him to stay in bed?


Procure one warm dog.
Place in arms.
Listen for contented sigh.

(And, check this out: Emma at Silverpebble is sponsoring a wonderful giveaway.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is Thanksgiving Day, and I have a lot to be thankful for -
or as Penny says, be cheerful about.

This week my younger brother and his wife and three sons
drove north from New Orleans (about a 15 hour trek)
to visit my parents and the rest of the Chicago area family.
We live so far from each other,
visits like these are very precious.

My Plethora of Plans
(dinner guests 3 times in 4 days,
something that was totally out of the question for several years
because of G's moods)
were fun to plan, G enjoyed them,
and I think our guests did, too.
The first night was an omnivore menu,
the second night vegetarian,
the third night vegan.
(Do you see a pattern here?
If we had had one more dinner party,
it would have had to be Raw.)

In keeping with the origins of Thanksgiving,
I'm thankful for the farmer
who provides us with our weekly box of vegetables.

Our house is the host site for about 15 families, who come each week to pick up their box of vegetables and eggs from our garage. Normally the boxes are neatly closed. But not this time. The latest delivery included huge squash - these are called pink banana squash. Ours was over 12 lbs! The farmer's instructions said to par-bake it to make it easier to cut open.
Now to find an oven that size.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Metallic taste disturbance

A mystery has been solved.

In July, during our family vacation week in Wisconsin, I suddenly had a strong metallic taste in my mouth. It was so strong that it concerned me, and I went to a clinic to find out what might be going on. The nurse practitioner kept asking me if I had a sour taste in my mouth. No, I said, not sour. Metallic.

She examined my mouth, could see nothing amiss, so suggested it was nothing to be worried about. The metallic taste finally went away after about a month.

Then, last Friday, I got it again. And this time I remembered a warning label I'd seen (and ignored) on the bag of pine nuts I used in a butternut squash and leek lasagne we had for dinner Thursday night.

Pine nuts from Trader Joe's,
product of Korea, Russia, and Viet Nam

And...the bag has been stored in my freezer since mid-July, when I used the first part of it to make pesto sauce to take to our family vacation week. I hadn't noticed the warning label when I opened the bag in July.

Metallogeusia is what I am experiencing. I've never had this problem before now (and July), and I've eaten pine nuts in the past. Luckily, no one else in my family had the problem when I did in July - and everyone ate the pesto sauce.

I also found this news story, from ABC News in July 2010, which says there is an upsurge in cases, and the FDA is investigating and wants the public to report any occurrences.

Hello, FDA?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saved by the dog

Our caregiver arrived yesterday morning, set her bags inside the front door, and proceeded to greet us, which included pats and love for Oscar. He was very interested in one of her bags, but then was distracted by something else and left the bags alone.

A little while later, I saw Oscar trotting towards me with a slice of wheat bread in his mouth. Eeek. Behind him on the floor near one of Elizabeth's bags was an open plastic bag with another slice of bread still in it.

I took the slice of bread from him, apologized to Elizabeth about Oscar purloining her lunch makings, and was about to throw the bread away when Elizabeth suggested putting it out for the birds. I went out the back door, started breaking up the bread to toss in the garden, when I saw...


Elizabeth looked at the remaining slice. Also moldy. "I just bought this bread!" She then called her home and told her daughter, "Find something else to eat for lunch today."

That's our good boy.

OK, so it's not exactly a "rescuing Timmy from the well" story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Reasons to Be Cheerful

Continuing PlanetPenny's focus on cheer,
I'm happy to share my three for this week:

One: G is still upbeat, which is going on 3 months now. It makes such a difference in our lives. Like day and night.

Sunday the weather was mild, though windy, and we used the borrowed wheelchair to go for a short walk. That G is willing to venture out for something other than getting into the car to go to appointments is rather a new trend.

Standing in our neighbor's driveway;
picture taken by Elizabeth, one of our caregivers.

Two, we still have some color in the garden.




Brilliant spring-green moss.

Oak leaf hydrangea

And three: I have finished the shopping, wrapping, and packing for the family we are sponsoring this year in Cathedral Shelter's Christmas Basket program. It's nice to have this done a few weeks ahead of schedule. The rest of my Christmas shopping progress. Sort of.

Cathedral Shelter is serving about 1800 families this year in the Christmas Basket program - and there are still families waiting to be sponsored, if you are in the Chicago area and looking for a great way to contribute. Cathedral Shelter cares for some of the most vulnerable people in society. They do phenomenal work.

If the wrapping looks a little rumpled,
it's because I decided to use thrifted fabric
as reusable wraps.
These are pillow cases.

Need more cheer? Go check out some of the other links on Penny's blog.
And you have to see the mouse choir Penny created.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A plethora of plans

Have just made plans to have a friend (hi, JJ!) over for dinner Friday night, which means we are having company for dinner three times over the next six days.

I'm so excited - this has not been the normal routine for us in the last two years. G's continued good mood makes this possible.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A day out

Saturday morning I drove to meet my friend C,
who lives in the suburbs near the Blue Line,
the el train that runs into the city.
We walked from her apartment
over to the town's business district,
and wandered in and out of the shops.
Spied a sign for cupcakes in the bakery window,
so that sealed our next stop.
The bakery has a few small tables,
so we sat and ate our cupcakes
and drank coffee and talked.

Then we continued wandering,
until it got late enough that our plan to have lunch
got amended to picking up some Thai egg rolls to go.
I had a date in the city and didn't want to be late.
Bag of egg rolls in hand,
I boarded the eastbound train.

Lunch on the el, where, I learned, eating is prohibited.

It was beautiful on Saturday -
mild and some sun -
and the walk to my friends' apartment
was easy and fun.
I don't get into the city much,
so it always feels like an adventure.

When I came out of the el stop
I was at the Daley Plaza, where they were setting up
for the annual Christkindlmarket.

Daley Plaza is home to our Picasso,
which nicely framed a Christmas tree.

Walked through the Theatre District
(our overseas family love to take pictures of this -
leaves no doubt to friends at home
about where they've been)

Passed the iconic Marshall Field's Macy's clock.

The Macy's windows are in the process of being decorated
for Christmas. How thoughtful to include me.

There are still beautiful colors.

And my destination: Aqua.
I had first seen this building
on the Chicago Architecture Foundation
River tour two years ago,
and found it fascinating.
The architect is Jeanne Gang,
who recently won the MacArthur genius grant.
The building is just north of Millennium Park
and has wonderful views.
My friends are living there
while they are between houses.
It's their first time living downtown,
and they are loving it.
It was so much fun to hear about
all the different things they've done
since they moved there in July.
(I took a cute picture of them,
but there is no way to crop it
and leave it looking like anything
except feet and grass or top of heads and buildings.
You'll just have to trust me on this.)

Then it was time to head back,
to be home before the caregiver had to leave.

There was a busker with a beautiful voice
at the Washington street stop.

I'm not good at directions
so signs like this make me happy.

Back home just before 5pm,
in time to see a beautiful sunset
in the park by our house.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


She carelessly threw off her golden cloak
and allowed it to fall around her feet,
reveling in her natural glory.

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Thanksgiving

My grandfather, age 17, in 1917

In recognition on this Veterans Day for all who have served or are serving in the military. In my family: my maternal grandfather (WWI), maternal great-uncle (WWII, killed in action), my dad (WWII), paternal uncle (WWII), brother-in-law (Navy, but fortunately never had to serve in battle, though they did have some dangerous times in the North Sea on a carrier), and G (Dutch navy, before I was born - also never had to serve in battle). I pray for the time that this day of recognition will be able to focus solely on remembering veterans of past wars because we will have achieved the other focus of Veterans Day, "the dedication to the cause of world peace."

Posted on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Reasons to be Cheerful

PlanetPenny has launched a weekly "Reasons to be Cheerful" theme now that the time change darkens our days earlier. I think counting blessings is an excellent idea, so here are three for me:

The ever-present thankfulness for my health and family, including this sweet guy, our Oscar. He came to live with us 2 years ago when he was five years old, and he is a source of joy. Just looking at him makes us smile. Here he is waiting for us at the back door, being careful, of course, not to get too close to the edge. He's afraid of stairs.

The gorgeous autumn colors that continue to delight. This year it feels like the color show has gone on so much longer than other years. Or maybe I'm just appreciating it more. This tree is next to the railroad tracks in our village, and while I waited for a train to pass, I had time to admire the colors and composition. It looks like a wonderful example of pointillism.

That I remembered to order, in time to pack and ship before Sinterklaas, chocoladeletters for my family. The box arrived yesterday.

If you visit PlanetPenny, you'll see links to other people's Reasons to be Cheerful. Just in case you need a lift.

Edited to add: I forgot to say that I learned of PlanetPenny through Mrs. Micawber, who has some beautiful pictures on her site. And fresh snow!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Heard on the stairs

We're headed upstairs to bed.
The new handrails are such a help.
But sometimes there is still coaching required.

Me: Move your hands farther up the handrails before you step up.
Me: Move your hands farther up the handrails before you step up.
Me: At least move your left hand farther up, to the top of the handrail.
Me: Let me guide your hand.
Standing on the stair below him, I try to lift his left hand off the handrail to move it.
G: You're getting mad.
Me: No I'm not.
G: You're getting mad.
Me: No, I'm not.
G: You're getting mad. I can smell it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ode on Our Caregivers

Fair Ones, Young Ones, Old Ones, Passable Ones
Who come into our home to care for us,
Who teach us with their patience, serenity, grace,
Some of whom have come to our shores from shores far away,
Have left their loved ones to care for my loved one,
Whose good humor reigns, or sometimes doesn’t,
Who deal with things pleasant and unpleasant
And with people pleasant and unpleasant:
What brings you to this work?
What other jobs did you consider, before selecting this?

Our experience with people like you is so recent,
Just six months of our journey has been spent in your company.
I had heard of your sort, in good tones and bad,
From others with knowledge and experience.
And from those tales, told around the support group table,
I can only conclude: We have been blessed.
Our encounters have been mostly good, occasionally comical,
And sometimes, oh sometimes, heartrendingly tender.
Why do we deserve your care, your concern?
What have we done to reap the benefit of your company?

When you came to our door for the first time, did you feel a tremor?
Did anxiety play havoc with your pulse?
Or did you come in confidence, knowing that you have the skill and patience
To weather whatever storm you may encounter with us?
Some of you have come with a warm heart, first concerned with your charge,
Yet with room in your heart also for the spouse.
And so you say, “What else can I do to help?” and “Would you like me to…”
And the blank is filled in with many and mundane tasks that normally fall to the wife.
Laundry, dishes, dusting, cleaning spots from carpet, plumping pillows.
Sometimes the mistress says yes, sometimes no. But always gratefully.

Some of you have come with a focus on the job, not the person;
Have interrupted when I attempt to introduce ourselves
To give you an idea of who we are, of what backgrounds we have
In order to give you a frame of reference in which to work.
But you have interrupted with questions about tasks.
That list will come in a moment; may I help you understand us, first? No?
Happily for all concerned, after a few evenings with us,
Other circumstances prevented you from coming back,
And we can hope that your next situation was a better fit for you
And for the person under your care.

O Caregiver Agency! What a valuable service you provide,
And yet, how much angst you have in your power to create!
Last minute changes, communicated moments before the doorbell rings,
That our familiar caregiver won’t be there, and instead, a stranger.
And a seeming reluctance to come out with the real reasons behind the changes,
Which we inadvertently find out from the unwitting caregiver,
Who explains that the other person has a new job (isn’t sick).
Unexplained switches in schedules, which bewilder us as well as the caregiver.
And still, we are grateful for your service, flawed as it sometimes is,
For it has brought us one of the most special people we know.

Our dearest friend, small and gentle, wise and witty,
You are a precious gift in our lives.
You inspire the mistress with your patience, your willingness to say to G,
“I’m sorry,” when it wasn’t your fault but his.
Noted! The mistress attempts to emulate.
You left your family and went far away to work on a kibbutz in Israel
To provide the money for university tuition for your children
When earning enough for them was not possible in your homeland.
Because when you were university age, there was not enough for you to reach your dream.
“What would you have studied,” I ask. “Chemistry, perhaps,” you reply.

We talk, sometimes, about choices and alternatives.
Decisions made, good and bad, and consequences, good and bad.
The law of unintended consequences was on our minds last night.
The university education you provided your children has not only enriched their lives,
It has also enriched the lives of so many more.
Because some of your children chose careers in healthcare
And emigrated to this land, to nurse the sick in hospitals,
Or to provide therapy to those recovering from accident and illness.
The ripples made when you dropped your stones into the water
Continue to spread and spread, reaching out with goodness to so many.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Watching the clock

Today I'm scheduled to pick up an older man (100)
and his much younger girlfriend
(I'm told she's about 80)
to drive them to church.

To do this for the first time
on the weekend daylight saving time ends
is a quadruple threat:

Will I get the time right?

Will they get the time right?

Will our caregiver for Sunday morning
get the time right?

And will her ride (she has no car)
get the time right?

The worst that can happen (I think)
is we all show up an hour early.
That's not so bad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spiked hair

Oscar did something last time we were at the cottage
that he has never, ever,
in the two plus years he's lived with us,
done before:

Roll in something yucky.

I had no idea he was rolling with any purpose
other than scratching his back.
He was clearly enjoying himself.

I always am reminded,
when he rolls on his back and his white belly fur flies around,
of surf crashing onto a beach.

But then I could see...

he spiked his hair with it.


He's clean now.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The leaves tumble and twirl.

A sudden gust whirls them into spirals.

Eddies send them end over end;
brittle, they skitter on pavement.

A momentary pause before the next onslaught.

Tossed in the air,
released from their summer quarters,
at the mercy of each draft,

their dance reveals the invisible.

Edited to add: Emma from silverpebble is having a making winter bloghop.
Really fun to see what people are doing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Modern fossils

Seen while walking Oscar yesterday.

We have walked over it hundreds of times,
and I've never noticed it before.

When someone has written their name or initials
in fresh concrete in a new sidewalk,
I find it less than appealing.

But this, I find charming.

And it matches one in front of our house
that always delights me.