Monday, August 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/16: Haunted, Podcasts, Soup

1.  I finished the book Ice and Bone and I can tell it's going to haunt me for a while. Callous, cruel, motiveless murder does that to me.

2.  I expanded world the of my phone and tablet a bit more my downloading a podcast app and a radio app. This evening I listened to an episode of Radiolab on the unreliable testimony of eyewitness accounts of people who witnessed the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi and a companion piece on a small group of men in their seventies who plan a terrorist attack and are arrested. The Reveal episode looked at the way that only about 25% of the money granted to states under welfare reform is used as aid to people in poverty -- instead, it's used for things like marriage seminars in Oklahoma, helping financially secure high school graduates attend private colleges in Michigan, and to finance pregnancy advice programs in Indiana.

3.  The Deke requested a simple chicken and rice soup dinner tonight and I complied. The soup just had carrots, mushrooms, and chicken in it and basmati rice cooked separately to put in each bowl.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/16: Smooth Jazz Flashbacks, Beer Bliss, Reading *Ice and Bone*

1. It was 1976-78. I was trying to figure out whether to go to seminary or graduate school.  I was newly married. I worked as a Chaplain's Assistant at Whitworth and wrote and led the weekly Compline service. I loved being newly married. I started my long life of teaching English Composition, also at Whitworth. Smooth jazz provided a soundtrack for this happy time in my life -- Joe Sample, the Crusaders, Wayne Shorter, Michael Franks, George Benson, Joe Farrell, Chuck Mangione, Bob James, etc.  -- this was definitely the "Feels So Good" period of my music listening, brought back to me the other day as I listened again to Steely Dan's Aja and the smooth jazz session players filling out Fagen and Becker's studio band. Today, I took a trip back to this smooth music for the first time in many, many years and I felt young again, my mind filled with fantasies I had back then of what I really thought married life could be like, too naive to know that Michael Franks was writing dream songs and Chuck Mangione was delivering his listeners temporary escapes, not stories of how day to day life with a spouse really is.  Yeah, music that once made me feel so light and airy tonight left me feeling foolish and a little sad, but it was fun tapping into that old idealism and naivete again.  It was dreamy.

2.  I'm trying to get back into the rhythms of life I'm familiar with here in Maryland and helped my cause my taking a trip to Costco. I make leisurely trips to Costco, enjoying the many varieties of people who live around here.  After I dropped of my purchases at the Diazes, for the first time in many weeks, I dropped into a tap room -- I went to Quench -- and enjoyed a sampler of some version of Firestone Walker's Luponic Distortion, a pint of Oliver Brewing's anniversary Imperial IPA called The Floor is Snakes and a sample of another Imperial IPA, Troeg's Nimble Giant.  I had sorely missed drinking draft craft beer.  This session made me happy.

3. While at Quench and on into the night, I fired up my Kindle app and continued to read about the viciousness of an Anchorage serial killer Josh Wade and law enforcement's attempts to track him down and to try to successfully convict him of his murders.  The book is a true crime procedural, Ice and Bone. I picked it from our Kindle Unlimited subscription knowing nothing about it and I think I should make blind book picks more often. The book is very disturbing.  It explores the difficulty of police detective work, especially when the police have to rely on the help of witnesses and associates who are themselves criminals. It also focuses on the cold violence visited upon victims and the havoc wrecked upon the families and friends of the victims of crimes.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/16: Mom's Week, The Small Things, Enjoy Every Sandwich

1.  I have called Mom each day this week and have kept in touch with my sisters -- today, talking to Mom and texting with Christy, it made me very happy to learn that she's had a great week:  Rosie Rinaldi brought her lunch and they visited; Jane made her a dinner; the new cleaning woman impressed Mom; Kellee explained some knotty medical billing practices to Mom; Roger and Trudi paid Mom a visit -- she hadn't seen them for many, many years. All of these things happened in addition to the daily help Carol and Christy provide.  I was especially happy that Mom had visitors. I think all the time how difficult and isolating it is for her to be confined to her house unless someone helps her leave.  I hope she'll have other visitors as time goes by -- but, one of the difficulties of growing old is being preceded in death my friends, and Mom is outliving a lot of them.

2.  It really is the small things that get to me. When I drove Jack to New Jersey on Thursday evening, as I pulled out of my parking spot at Bob Evans restaurant, the Sube's "Check Engine" light came on. In the Sube's twelve year life, this light has come on twice and both times it was because the gas tank cap needed to be on tighter. I got gas in New Jersey and I heard the crunch crunch sound of the gas cap going on after the attendant filled the tank, but the light stayed on all the way to Silver Spring. When I arrived at the Diazes Thursday night, I cranked hard on the gas tank cap, crunch, crunch, crunch.  In the morning, I ran errands. The light persisted, but, after I got out of the car, took care of some business, and returned to the Sube and fired it up, the light was off.  At the end of a week filled with many demands and points of stress, I was profoundly relieved.

3.  Today, after listening to an hour or so of Warren Zevon songs, I went to YouTube and watched, for the first time, Zevon's last appearance on The David Letterman Show. It aired about a year before he died. Zevon talked about his cancer diagnosis and his impending death. Letterman asked him if, now that he was close to death, he had learned anything about life and death the rest of us should know. Zevon replied, "You're supposed to enjoy every sandwich."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/16: What is the Nature of God?, Driving Jack to Jersey, Fortified to Wrestle with Angels

1. I've enjoyed the way Karen Armstrong's book, Paul: The Apostle We Love to Hate has transported me back to my days at Whitworth, back to when I led a weekly study group about different epistles of Paul with a group of baseball players, and the questions we used to raise together about how Paul understood the phenomenon of Jesus. The book has also moved me to continue the questioning that has been going on my entire adult life regarding the nature of God.

2. After joining his cousins for a trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, Jack needed a ride to Mt. Laurel, NJ to meet Adrienne at a point about halfway between Silver Spring and Nyack. I volunteered to drive Jack up and we left at 5:30 p.m. and arrived at Mt. Laurel's Bob Evans restaurant about three hours later. Jack was a champ in the car, playing games on an IPad and, just as he started to feel a bit car sick as we entered New Jersey, he fell asleep and was konked out until we reached our destination,

3. Somehow, I forgot to eat breakfast and lunch and Jack and I left before dinner. Oh, around the middle of the afternoon, I ate some Dorito chips, but by the time I had reached Mt. Laurel and, after much wrestling with the angels of theology, I sat down at Bob Evans and ordered a chicken fried steak with eggs, hash browns, and biscuits and I drank about three cups of coffee.  The meal fortified me for my drive back to Silver Spring in the company of more angels and all those questions about God and faith and, especially, kenosis, the self-emptying of one's own will and becoming receptive to the will of God. It's what Paul most deeply admired about Jesus and what Paul saw as the centerpiece of a rich spiritual life. It's this emptying of one's self, the surrender of ego, that aligns Paul with wisdom figures across time like Buddha, Lao Tzu, and others. All this discussion in Armstrong's book about Paul and Jesus and kenosis got me thinking about the emptiness and transformation of  King Lear, and Shakespeare's understanding of the concept of nothing.  These thoughts ate up a lot of miles on I-95.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/16: Amazon Prime, Harry Nilsson Fantasy, Karen Armstrong and St. Paul

1.  I had a great day with my electronic devices.  I hooked up to Amazon Prime music and listened to all kinds of stuff, including Warren Zevon, Bach, jazz classics, the Who, and Harry Nilsson.

2. As I listened to Harry Nilsson, I realized that I often fantasize about playing all the instruments and singing the lyrics of "Jump Into the Fire", one of my favorite tunes in the whole of recorded music.  I'd love to drum this song. I'd love to play that gnarly bass line. I'd love to be the wily electric guitar player.  And I'd love to sing like Harry Nilsson.  I shivered with pleasure at the thought.

3. I listened to much of this music while reading Karen Armstrong's book on my Kindle app. It's entitled, St Paul:  The Apostle We Love to Hate.  It's a compact book, focused not only on Paul's mission, but on the conflicts among the earliest Jesus people, especially regarding the place of Gentiles in this new movement, and Paul's agenda within these conflicts.  Paul's project is egalitarian and inclusive, according to Armstrong, and she does good work addressing, in a scholarly way, those passages in Paul's letters which express a misogyny that Armstrong's research tells her he didn't possess.  I'm intrigued by her account.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/16: Moderate Heat, Wooden's Limitations, Back to WAMU

1.  It's been really good to have the weather cool off a bit so that I didn't return to the heat wave that has plagued this area.

2. By the time I went to sleep on Tuesday night, I had finished Seth Davis' superb and enjoyable biography of the former UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden entitled Wooden: A Coach's Life.  It's an even handed biography.  Because Wooden's coaching record is so stellar and his impact on college basketball so immense and because his reputation as a saintly figure lies so deeply in the very soul of the John Wooden myth, it's easy to regard Wooden as more an angel than a man. But, Seth Davis helps us see that he was both admirable and deeply flawed, even a cold man, who was widely, but not universally, admired.  The blessing of Wooden's longevity -- he lived to be ninety-nine years old -- was that his heart softened and his disposition grew warmer as he aged and Davis' book takes us into the many reconciliations that transpired between Wooden and several of his former players in the winter of Wooden's life.  I was relieved, in reading this book, to learn that John Wooden was not a saint, even though it was painful to learn about his limitations and the painful impact his aloofness and sometimes unbending will had on others.  If you are a strong admirer of John Wooden, will this book disillusion you?  I doubt it. It simply does what good biographies do: it helps us see that no person, no matter how successful or admirable, is immune from his or her own imperfections and limitations.

3.  I was away from Maryland from July 3 to August 22, about seven weeks, and I missed life here in the D. C. area. Today, I tuned back into WAMU-FM, the local NPR station, and it was a comfort to hear the local radio people, to begin to get familiar again with things going on in Washington, D.C. -- for example, Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed an interim police chief to replace longtime chief, Cathy Lanier, who stepped down to accept the NFL's offer to become the league's Senior Vice-President of Security.  Stories like this are distant when I am in Idaho, but once back in Maryland and the D. C. suburbs, they are immediate and riveting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/16: Longtime Friends Have Breakfast, Absorbing Reading, The Kindness of Strangers

1.  I started my fifteen hour day of travel by jumping into Christy and Everett's Jeep Cherokee and cruising to Coeur d'Alene (a.k.a. Breakfast Town) where I got dropped off at Nosworthy's Hall of Fame so that I could snark down some superb biscuits and gravy and eggs with four friends I have known for over 50 to 60 years.  Here we are in this picture, from left to right:  Scott Stuart, Jim Byrd, well, me, Steve Jaynes, and Roger Pearson. We managed to squeeze in a lot of good talking, remembering hilarious things that happened when we were young and talking over some of the things that preoccupy our thoughts now that we are in our sixties.

2.  My flight to Chicago, my layover and delay in Chicago, and my flight to Balitmore took a lot of time, but I hardly noticed as I read about two thirds of Seth Davis' superb and absorbing biography of John ("Pert") Wooden, Wooden: A Coach's Life.

3.  I was down at Gate 10 in the B Concourse of the Midway Airport and a guy and his girlfriend and his mother asked me, in an agitated tone, one of anxiety, if I was flying to Baltimore.  "Is it leaving from B10?" the guy asked.  I replied, calmly, that I thought it was.  But, a quick bit of looking deeper revealed that B10 was closed -- I hadn't noticed. The agitated mother said that "a sign down there" said the plane was leaving from B24. I nodded, this being new information, and they trotted off to get this confirmed. Soon they came back to me. They'd talked to a Southwest ticket agent.  Yes.  B 24.  I thanked them, thinking that if they hadn't been so kind as to tell me about the gate change, I might still be sitting in Chicago, absorbed in tales about John Wooden.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/21/16: Breakfast at Sam's, Getting Packed, Pert Wooden

1.  I had a great start to my last day in Kellogg for a while by sauntering down to Sam's and having a great sausage and eggs breakfast with Ed.  This was my only trip to Sam's this whole time I've been in Kellogg and this hearty breakfast and generous helpings made me wish I'd gone down to Sam's more.

2.  Mom left with Carol and Paul to go see some musical theater in Cd'A and I spent my time alone doing laundry and getting my stuff gathered and packed for my trip to Baltimore on Monday.

3. I also spent some time familiarizing myself with the Kindle app on our tablet and I bought a copy of Seth Davis' book Wooden: A Coach's Life and successfully downloaded it and right from the get go I have found it a riveting book.  The one think I learned that made me laugh:  John Wooden's nickname in high school was Pert -- same nickname as my dad! Reading it should make my time on the jet planes on Monday go by fast.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/16: Getting Pills in Order, Relaxing Up the River, Leftovers

1.  Mom woke up this morning and made it through the day free of any ill effects of her Friday morning fall. This is a relief. She and I are starting to get a few things done before I leave on Monday. Today, we went through her list of medications and I wrote down what time of day she takes each pill.  Mom takes pills four times a day and it can be confusing which pill she takes first thing in the morning, which after breakfast, which after dinner, and which at bedtime. It's all written down now and Mom and either Christy or Carol can consult this list when helping Mom fill her pill box on Wednesday.

2. I drove up the North Fork of the Cd'A River near Prichard to visit the Byrd/Carrico compound and relax in the upriver shade with Byrdman and Dan Carrico and a whole host of Byrd and Carrico family members. Along with a lot of really fun conversation, I was especially impressed with the refreshing Prichard Mai Tai, Byrdman served me, a frozen concoction combining lime and lemon flavors and a variety of liquors.

3.  It was kind of nice for all of us to have a night off as far as cooking dinner. Not surprisingly, we had a bunch of leftovers from the last few days and they provided Mom and me an easy and delicious dinner tonight.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/16: Mom's Early Morning Fall, Cardiologist Trip, Perfect Timing and Dinner

1.  Around 4 a.m., my phone on the stand beside my bed in Mom's basement rang. At first, I thought it was an alarm clock, but I didn't remember setting this function on my phone. My head cleared a bit and I answered.  "Bill, come upstairs. I fell." I dashed upstairs and Mom was sitting up in the dark near the head of her bed. "Get some rags. I spilled my water." Okay, I thought, Mom wants things cleaned up before I help her on her feet. So I toweled up the small amount of water and helped Mom to her feet. She had scraped her arm and it was bleeding so I got a square bandage while Mom dressed the injured area. Mom seemed all right. Mom had awakened to use her commode and the night light in her room had burned out and she sat on her commode wrong and she tumbled, along with the commode.  I was very happy that Mom went back to bed and slept some more. (I didn't.)  When she woke up and came out to the living room, I quizzed her about what was sore and Mom assured me that basically she was all right.

Christy is researching the purchase of a heavier, more sturdy commode and we have replaced all the burned out bulbs in Mom's night lights.  We have also reviewed with Mom how her Medical Guardian works and have urged her to press the button on the necklace she wears if she falls so that Christy and/or Carol and Paul will receive a call that Mom needs help.  Up to this point, when Mom has fallen, she has scooted herself to a phone and called one of us rather than using her Medical Guardian service.  My sisters and I are trying our best to persuade her to just push the button.

2. Carol arrived for her every morning visit around 6:45 and we worked together to soak and launder the bedding Mom's blood had stained and Carol kept an ear on Mom while she showered and started to get ready for our trip to Coeur d' Alene to see Mom's cardiologist. Christy and I accompanied her and listened as the doctor expressed concern about the fact that Mom has fallen four times since June 14th, ordered an echocardiogram to be administered in about 10 days, and explained to Mom that she has overlapping maladies and that it's difficult to treat one thing (say, the swelling in her ankles and legs and feet) without creating a risk elsewhere (for example, increased diuretic could lower her blood pressure and risk dizziness) and that the goal is to keep things stable. Mom's heart is out of rhythm, but she doesn't experience symptoms, so he decided not to take any action -- like sedating Mom and trying with electricity to shock her heart back into rhythm.  So, with an adjustment to one of her medicines, she will continue to do what she has been doing and stay the course. Mom's heart condition most likely will not improve.  She can, however, realistically expect, for the foreseeable future, to maintain stability, especially if she can eliminate her episodes of falling.

3.  After getting up at 4 a.m. when Mom fell and with Christy, Mom, and I making our trip to Cd'A, today was the perfect day for Carol to prepare and bring dinner over to Mom's house.  The dinner was out of sight -- grilled chicken and vegetables over fettuccine and a green salad.  Our family relaxed together, recounting the events and details of the day. Before long, Molly arrived and conversation turned to her wedding preparations, so I retired into the living room for some quiet time to myself.