Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/15: Saved by the Bus, Recovery, Jack Frost Solves Again

1.  By the time I walked to the tax preparer to turn in the paperwork (corrected with the Deke's last name) and walked to the Greenbelt Public Library, I was overcome with weakness.  I sat for a while in the library, took care of the business I could, and went outside and found a bench and sat for a while longer and then walked over to the Roosevelt Center and thought I might lose consciousness.  I got some money out of the bank, sat some more, and then went into the Coop and bought a bagel and some orange juice.  I was beginning to think I had become dehydrated and I felt under nourished, so I hoped the bagel and orange juice would help.  I was over two miles from home and didn't think I could walk it, wondered what to do, and then remembered that the G12 Metrobus travels right in front of Roosevelt Center and has a stop close to our apartment home.  In all of this, this was the beautiful thing.  I knew the G12's route and, sure enough, I walked to the bus shelter, after about twenty minutes the bus arrived, and I started to regain some energy and my walk from the stop near our apartment back home went pretty well.

2.  Once home,  I drank water, ate some fruit, and took a short nap and by the time I drove to the school to pick up the Deke,  I was doing pretty well again, helped by eating leftover chicken soup and some leftover curry and rice and drinking more water.  It's odd.  The temperature was in the low fifties, yet I felt like I had been walking in hot weather.  I am determined to carry water and some food with me when I walk, stay hydrated, and work to keep this from happening again.

3.  After this afternoon incident and dinner, I settled into another episode of A Touch of Frost, a disturbing story about elderly women in Denton being robbed of pension money and then a couple of others were beaten to death.  Watching the irritable, untidy, tea loving Jack Frost, and old school detective relying on both evidence and gut feelings, solve this case was impressive -- as is his ongoing existential crisis growing out of his loveless marriage having ended when his wife died.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/15: Past and Present, Sacred and Secular, Frost and the Zags

1.  I can never keep this kind of stuff straight in my head, so I don't know if, for the church, Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, but, for me it does.  The Palm Sunday service packs a lot of drama in it, beginning with Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem and before long the service features a congregational reading of the events leading up to the crucifixion and the crucifixion itself.  So, this is what happens: the Palm Sunday service takes us into the contrasting emotions of triumph of Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem and the horror of what followed -- betrayal, denial, despair, mob violence, and the capital punishment of Jesus.  And then, as Holy Week progresses, the services relive these events, beginning with the Last Supper on Maunday Thursday, the death of Jesus on Good Friday, the sweep of biblical history on Saturday in the Easter Vigil service, and the celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday. As much as anything, I experience my personal history at the United Church of Kellogg, my days at Whitworth College, and my years at St. Mary's Episcopal Church the most deeply during this week -- sunrise service in Kellogg, turning the campus into stations of biblical history at Whitworth, including a sunrise service, and the dignity of Holy Week services at St. Mary's.  It all poured into my memory this morning at St. Andrew's, College Park today and I had that scintillating experience of being physically in one place, but spiritually in many places during the course of today's service.

2.  Just in case I would happen to lose track of my residence in the secular world, I went for a cinnamon raisin bagel and cream cheese at College Park's Bagel Place after church where the place was packed with University of Maryland students, some just getting out of bed at noon, enjoying bagel breakfast sandwiches and others with laptops open, doing schoolwork.  For me, this is what my life has always been about, the living in the tension between the sacred and the secular, relishing both, and today, as morning turned into afternoon, this bagel shop gave me entry back into the world where I spend most of my hours and days.

3. I double tasked late in the afternoon, keeping an eye on the developments in the Duke-Gonzaga game by checking the score on espn.com and watching an intriguing episode of A Touch of Frost. The episode focused on race relations in the fictional town of Denton and an attempt by Supt. Mullet to diversify the police force.  It was fascinating to see Jack Frost duped by his white informant, who carried a grudge against the black father of her child, into thinking a string of robberies in Denton had been carried out by black residents of a Denton housing project.  Sadly, Duke defeated the Zags and Inspector Frost uncovered the truth, all in a close to two hour time frame.  I experienced more emotional contrast on this most interesting Palm Sunday.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/15: Mom Sounds Strong, Candyland!, Existential Jack Frost

1.  MOM UPDATE:  It's not easy to patch a phone call through to Mom these days.  What with a CNA coming to her house to help clean her and do some light housekeeping, a physical therapist visiting, an occupational therapist visiting, and with Pat Elfsten delivering a new medical lift chair to her house, it's a whirlwind at her place.  Finally, shortly after 7 EST, I was able to get a call in and Mom sounded strong and most appreciative of all the help she's getting from family and the professionals.  About ten minutes into our talk, the doorbell rang and Pat had arrived to deliver the new chair.  I'll have to see tomorrow if I can get on Mom's social schedule (ha!) and get another call through -- but, good news.  The Roberts are taking her across the church to the church, they have borrowed a wheelchair, and Mom will get to hear people from across the Silver Valley sing an Easter Cantata, directed by Joy Persoon.  Getting out, seeing some people, and hearing the music performed will be great medicine for her spirit.

2.  Molly and Olivia and David paid a visit this afternoon and the youngsters experienced an important rite of passage:  the Deke had bought the board game, Candyland, and the children played it for the first time.

3.  After Molly, the Deke, and I ate a steaming bowl of massaman curry over brown rice (next time, I'll make a thinner sauce and use less peanut butter), I watched a very satisfying episode of A Touch of Frost.  For Jack Frost, detective work becomes an existential crisis as, within himself, he wrestles with crime and the pointless deaths he investigates, giving him pause to silently wrestle with whether life has any real meaning -- or is life just a series of random and meaningless occurrences? Are they occurrences that a cop like himself must get to the bottom of to satisfy the law?  Doesn't he know know all the while that solving a case will never satisfy any craving he has to make sense of what happens in the world?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/15: Flowers for Mom, Great Walking Day, Zags and Inspector Lewis

1.  Christy and Everett bought Mom a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and here, two days after her surgery, sits Mom, enjoying the flowers, and you can see how she's holding up after being in the hospital:

2.  It was a great day for walking.  I returned by foot to the tax guy.  He had corrected the returns so that the Deke's name, not mine, was on them.  My route to his office took me part of the way around Greenbelt Lake, and then I picked up the trail again and finished walking the circumference of the lake and headed on home.  By day's end, thanks to a trip to the store and the library and a stroll down to the mailbox, I racked up about 9,000 steps, a great walking day.

3.  I tried to imagine how happy Christy must be, along with all the other fans of Gonzaga men's basketball I know in the greater Spokane-CdA-Kellogg metropolitan area, when the Zags defeated UCLA this evening, 74-62.  I double-tasked during the game, checking on espn.com periodically for scores while watching an unusual episode of Inspector Lewis about a writer of fantasy fiction and a murder committed with a magic mirror and a C. S. Lewis sword.  Honestly, sometimes, as I watch episodes of Inspector Lewis, it's as if the movie Blue Velvet were transported to Oxford -- the series examines a dark underbelly of weirdness existing underneath the intellectual and respectable and posh veneer of Oxford University life.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/15: Tax Error, Hint of Humidity, Lewis and Hathaway

1.  It was an easy mistake to make and Bill, the tax preparer will correct it this evening and I'll pick up the revised tax stuff on Friday:  he used my last name when the Deke's name popped up on the returns instead of her own name.  Ha!  It was kind of weird, having known her by her last name all these years, to have her appear on these returns with my last name.

2.  The temperature climbed up into the early 70s today, accompanied by showers and I got my first hint, in 2015, of the duvet of humidity we'll live with every day before long.

3.  I settled into another episode of Inspector Lewis and realized that the plots spun in this series don't interest me nearly as much as the way the series develops the character of Lewis and of Hathaway and develops their relationship.  The relationship is mostly professional, but friendship also emerges. Nothing about their relationship reminds me of anything I've seen before in pairs of cops, whether Cagney and Lacey or Friday and Gannon.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/15: Mom is Home, I'm Not a Photographer, The Deke Keeps it Real

1.  MOM UPDATE:  Mom returned home to Kellogg today after an overnight stay in the Post Falls hospital.  I called her and she talked almost non-stop for about a half an hour about the surgery, how happy she is with the care she received at the hospital, the private life of her male nurse, and then veered off into family news and her hopes of borrowing a wheelchair and attending the Easter Cantata on Sunday.  Almost the only things I said were, "Right" and "Yes" at key times, letting her know I was on the other end of the call listening.  Her nearly non-stop talking was a good sign to me that she is in good spirits, not in much pain, and, above all, came out of the surgery not only put back together, but with her mind sharp and active.

2.  I think one of the reasons I find it difficult to call myself a photographer is that I don't have the devotion and discipline many photographers have.  I read time and time again that what a photographer needs to do is always carry a camera.  I often, on purpose, don't carry a camera because there are times I don't want to see the things around me in terms of pictures and don't want to interrupt a walk or my contemplations by taking a picture.  Today I visited the National Park that sits right on the edge of Greenbelt -- Greenbelt Park.  It's kind of astonishing to have this wooded area with creeks and wild flowers sitting right between the Washingon-Baltimore Parkway, the cars zooming on Greenbelt Road and so close to the Captial Beltway.  I walked the Dogwood Trail and didn't bring my camera -- and, I have to admit, I regretted my decision a bit when about 200 yards into my hike, two white-tailed deer walked about 200 feet in front of me, stopped and stared, and practically begged me to take their portrait.

3.  This evening the Deke told me about the aftermath of today's Honor Roll Assembly at her school. Once back in the classroom, several kids were crying, either because they hadn't received achievement certificates or only received one (out of a possible three).  The Deke sat them down on the classroom carpet.  This is what they do in her class when it's time to have a talk.  She invited them to talk about the assembly and why some children were crying and why others were so happy.  In other words, they took a break from test preparation and testing and talked.  The Deke asked her students why so many of them enjoyed knitting with her when no one got a certificate for that.  She had random students stand up and the children talked about what each of these students could be rewarded for (she is nice, she gets her homework in on time) that wasn't rewarded at the assembly. The Deke will never get these children to be quiet in class and they will continue to exhaust her, but then things like this happen when the Deke gives the children a way to be real, and it's inspiring to hear her talk about her work as a teacher.  She just never gives up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/15: Mom's Successful Surgery, Money, A Most Welcome Dinner

1.  MOM UPDATE:  Mom came through the surgery on her upper arm successfully.  She will stay in the hospital in Post Falls over night and be home after lunch on Wednesday, March 25.  The surgeon told Carol that once he saw it,  the fracture was worse than he thought.  As I understand it, he mended the fracture with a rod.  Carol will bring Mom home and then I'll learn more about what she'll do to recover and rehabilitate.

2.  It money day today.  I sat with the tax preparer for an hour or so figuring out the ramifications of a multi-state return and our move and so and so forth.  The results, so far, are favorable for us and we'll know the final verdict at the end of the week.  The Deke and I then had a sit down with our financial advisors and we are getting a clearer picture of what our financial future looks like.  This money stuff wears me out -- always has -- and I enjoyed coming home and enjoying a cold, fresh satisfying bottle of Port City Monument IPA, an easy, refreshing beer brewed in Alexandria.

3.  I made the Deke and me a green curry with eggplant, red peppers, and onion and served the coconut milky concoction over ramen noodles pan fried in sesame oil.  After the Deke had had a noisy day at school, we confronted our finances, and the Deke stood in a long line at CVS to get a prescription refill, this really tasty meal was most welcome.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/15: Surgery on the 24th, Staying Home, Lentil Stew

1.  MOM UPDATE:  Mom checks in at the hospital in Post Falls for surgery on Tuesday, March 24th at 11:15.  The surgery will happen some time later. Carol will be with her.  Carol has been getting help being with Mom from her daughters, Cosette and Zoe, and from our friend Francie.  It's a little bit of an unknown as to whether Mom will come home after the surgery or come back to Kellogg.

2.  I stayed in and got things done at home:  preparing for tax day tomorrow, setting up the Deke's laptop with our printer, unpacking some IKEA shelving, starting to scan transplant letters and records for electronic storage, and more.  I made myself stay in and it was worth it.

3.  In the midst of taking care of home stuff, I put together a very tasty lentil stew, a simple combo of onions, carrots, garlic, lentils, vegetable broth, water, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.  It was quick to make and both the Deke and I found it very satisfying.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Couple of Hours at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland

Saturday afternoon, I took a drive from Greenbelt to Sandy Point State Park, just over thirty miles, so I could have my first experience being at Chesapeake Bay.  In reading about Sandy Point before driving over, every one of the articles emphasized the views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge available at this park.  So, I fell right in line and took a few bridge pictures:

I walked behind the beach.   For some reason, I wasn't in the mood to walk in the sand. Here are some of the perspectives I had:

I discovered a short trail in a wooded are called the Blue Crab Trail and I walked it and took some pictures in color.  I especially enjoyed finding a little pond that was still topped with ice:

I also took some shadow pictures I enjoyed:

And from the Blue Crab Trail, I could see this Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse in the distance:

While on the trail, I took some black and white pictures, too:

I ended my visit to Sandy Point State Park by walking on some docks used, I think, by crabbers and for other purposes I'm sure I'll learn more about when I return.

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/15: Olivia and David Arrived, Deep Personal Church History, Laptop Tune-Up

1.  I went to Safeway early in the morning to replenish the pantry and when I returned, I could hear children's voices in our apartment home and, indeed, in my brief absence, Olivia and David had arrived for their day with Grandpa and Nana while Molly drove to Harrisburg to hear Hiram perform in the symphony.  Later, David and Olivia and I played the single die game the Deke invented -- the numbers 1-6 written down twice on a piece of paper, roll the die, and circle the number on the sheet of paper and try to get all the numbers circled.  I tried to teach the children what I learned from my father:  how to blow on the die and shake it under each arm pit.  This method didn't really catch on.

2.  I once again worshiped at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in College Park and, once again, it was unspectacular and deeply satisfying, not because the choir was amazing or because the sermon was out of sight -- they were both fairly run of the mill, and just fine -- in short, not because there were great performances.  No.  It was over an hour of prayer and meditation inside my personal deep history and the deep instutional history of the liturgy and of Lenten hymns that threw me back to spiritual experiences so deeply rooted inside of me, I couldn't specifically locate where I'd first sung them.  The United Church in Kellogg? First Pres. of Cd'A? Worship at Whitworth?  St. Mary's in Eugene?  Some of these places?  All of them?  I don't know -- I just know that the hymns gave me the deep satisfaction of being a part of a history of worship much larger than the moment I was in at St. Andrews, College Park.

3.  I had done the same thing with my laptop earlier in the morning and then I spent some time on the Deke's laptop, as well,  running security scans and getting a tiny bit of infection knocked out and tuning up our computers and they are running well.  I get kind of nervous about this kind of thing and it was a relief to me to spend some time doing this.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/15: Sandy Point State Park, Mom Update, Great Talk with Christy

1.  I took a drive over to Sandy Point State Park just outside Anapolis and enjoyed the Blue Crab trail, a stroll along the beach line, crabbing docks, the view of the Bay Bridge, and taking some pictures, pictures I haven't looked at yet.  The park has acres of parking which makes me think this is a very popular destination during the warmer times of the year.

2.  I had a good talk with Mom and she sounds good, though tired.  I think she sounds tired because people have been so good to her!  It's just great news that friends in Kellogg have been dropping in to check on her and that she's been getting some phone calls.  The visits, the phone calls, the cards she's received all mean the world to her.

3.  I had a good talk with Christy, too.  She's getting the hang of taking care of Mom -- by that I mean getting her pillows arranged when she goes to bed and other caretaking things that Carol has learned how to do and Christy is perfecting.  Christy also told me about changes Mom is willing to make so that more/all of her life is on the main floor of the house and she stays out of the basement.  Christy as shown her sets of stackable washers and driers that would fit in the kitchen and Mom is very interested.  This has been a long time coming and I'm not only relieved, but very happy that Mom is getting serious about making changes that will make her life in her home more safe.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/15: Letter from the Transplant Center, Helping Molly, Fun with Massaman

UPDATE:  On October 1, 2006, I started this modest project, a blog I named kellogg bloggin' and today, on March 21, 2015, I am posting my 3000th entry.If nothing else, I've stuck with it.

1.  I received in the mail today the official notice that I have been placed on the kidney transplant list and I learned what I need to do as far as informing the transplant center of a number of things, including travel, change in insurance plan, and if I have a change in address.  I will have blood drawn once a month.  I'll have heart tests run annually.  None of it sounds onerous.  I just have to remember. It makes me want to make a poster-sized reminder list and post it in a conspicuous spot in our apartment home.

2.  Molly arrived at our apartment home around 4:30 or so, bedraggled.  David had wet himself. Olivia was upset about a spill in the car.  She stripped David of his wet clothes and I laundered them. As I left to go pick up the Deke, Olivia was on a time out and David lay prone, wailing about not having his clothes.  I returned home with the Deke and things had calmed down and the children were happy to see their Nana.  It took a big load off Molly, who has been alone with the children for a day or two since Hiram went to Harrisburg recently for a symphony gig.  Soon enough, Olivia was eating quesadilla wedges and jasmine rice at the table and the Deke was reading Mike Mulligan and Steam Shovel to David.  I got David's clothes out of the drier and finished fixing dinner.  Later Molly, the children, and the Deke left to go back to Alexandria and the Deke and Olivia and David will be back here on Sunday and Molly will go to Harrisburg to hear the orchestra Hiram is working for perform.

3.  When I shopped at Hung Phat yesterday, I bought some massaman curry paste and was eager to give it a try and so I stir fried about 4 oz of paste, added a can of coconut milk, let it boil before adding kaffir leaves, fish sauce, lime juice, ginger slices, brown sugar, soy sauce, hot sauce, and white sugar; I brought it to a boil, let it simmer a bit and put in another can of coconut milk, and added in a pound of chicken and a chopped onion.  Once the chicken had cooked, I added green beans, roasted peanuts, peanut butter, and potatoes.  This was really fun, especially as the different aromas of the curry and peanuts and ginger and kaffir leaves rose out of the pot and it was most rewarding when Molly and the Deke enjoyed eating this curry over rice.   Half the coconut milk I used came out of the carton I use for my oatmeal in the morning and it is not as creamy as the canned coconut milk.  In the future, I will only used the creamier stuff in curry dishes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/15: Not the Tin Woodsman, Hung Phat Grocery, Nong Gal Mara @ Thai Taste by Kob

1.  Well, the day got off to what's becoming a familiar start:  another doctor's appointment.    Although I've been placed on the transplant list, I'm not quite done with the pre-op evaluation -- keeping in mind that the transplant could be years away.  Today I had my first of three appointments at the Johns Hopkins Community Heart Care Clinic in Silver Spring.  My consultation with Dr. Samuel Itscoitz was terrific, not only because the early indications of the EKG are that my heart is in good shape, but also because Dr. Itscoitz, the clinic staff, and Maggie, the nurse, were so good, they almost made me wish I had heart disease so I could come back.  In a couple of weeks I'll have an echocardiogram and a week later an echo-stress test and then I'm done.  I'll be all done with this pre-op evaluation if the Univ. of Maryland medical people like what they read on my 2011 colonoscopy report.

2. I had done a little reading around on the World Wide Web, and discovered that up the road a ways in from the Heart Care Clinic, in Wheaton, sits an out of the way Asian market with a hole in the wall, highly rated, Thai restaurant next door.  First I went to the market, Hung Phat Grocery, and bought some sauces, some pastes, a bag of rice, and a few other things.  Hung Phat is my favorite kind of Asian grocery store:  a small space with narrow aisles jammed with countless food and non-food items, everything from candies to incense.  It also features a hot food bar -- I'll try it on a future visit.  It makes me very happy that I now know exactly where to go for stuff I like to cook with and that this store is so enjoyable.  Oh!  And the prices are good.

3.  Thai Taste by Kob is right next door to Hung Phat Grocery.  As far as ambiance, it immediately reminded me of the original Yi Shen on Chambers in Eugene -- creaky tables with cheap chairs, dingy linoleum, and lousy lighting.  I loved Yi Shen, so experience had taught me that eateries cannot always be judged my their atmosphere and environment.  I started with a summer roll.  The pieces were packed with shrimp, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, and other delicious herbs and the peanut dipping sauce was just what I wanted:  good and peanutty and a pleasantly hot.  For my lunch, I read deep into the menu and offering #89 (out of 99) caught my eye and triggered my imagination.  It is a chicken noodle soup called Nong Gal Mara.  It features a drumstick swimming in a dark chicken broth seasoned with cilantro, preserved cabbage, and other herbs, along with broccoli, scallion, and bitter melon.  Given a choice of noodles, I ordered flat rice noodles.  Vin, the restaurant's only server for lunch, brought me a "spice tray", a tray of four jars of peppers and a jar of hot powder to raise the heat of my soup, should I want to.  I did, happily, but not so much that the heat overwhelmed the deep mysteries of this soup's multiple flavors of mild sweetness and sout meatiness.  What a great lunch!  I can hardly wait to return.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/15: I Made the Transplant List, Walking at Lake Artemesia, No Eggplant

1.  Upon receiving the blood work results that established I'm not a drug addict and other important facts, my nurse coordinator today placed me on the transplant list.  I immediately, now, begin to accrue time.  When I have crawled to the top and am offered a transplant, if the time isn't right, I don't lose my spot.  I still have some evaluation work to be done, primarily cardiological.  If something bad comes up, I'll get knocked off the list, but no one anticipates that.  Let's hope that prediction holds up!

2. Earlier in the day, I drove the short distance to College Park, MD and the Lake Artemesia Natural Area and braved the gusty winds and bracing wind chill and walked nearly three miles on the Painted Branch trail.  I'll keep going over there, explore more of the trail system, and, eventually, start taking pictures.

3.  I used a green curry recipe and the menu at Eugene's Chao Pra Ya as a guide and whipped up some pretty good curry tonight.  I had recently bought a jar of kaffir leaves, liked how they worked, and the Deke and I both liked that I chopped up and boiled potatoes and included them in the curry.  It was a lot of fun to be guided by a recipe but to improvise.  For those of you who are on eggplant watch, I managed to create a green curry dish without eggplant.  Can you believe it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/15: Records, Walking, Coffee and Scone

1.  Because faxes with medical records are not reaching the nurse coordinator of my transplant team, I'm taking matters into my own hands, scanning records and emailing them, getting a hold of my primary doctor and asking him to send stuff, and having some records mailed in hard copy.  It's good I have time to stay on top of this and my hope is that by month's end, depending on when I take the cardio tests, this evaluation will be over and all the proper records will be in the nurse coordinator's safe keeping.

2.  With the temperatures back up to a comfortable level, I walked to the library to pick up a DVD that I ordered on Interlibrary Loan and back home again.  By day's end, counting this walk and my walking around the Whole Foods store in Silver Spring, I racked up over nine thousand steps and over 4.5 miles.  I should add that I continue to lose weight, making life easier for my kidneys.

3.  The best part of shopping at Whole Foods in Silver Spring today was the oatmeal raisin scone and Italian roast coffee I enjoyed when I was done buying a bagful of food items for the pantry.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/15: Delayed Surgery, No TB, Diseased Kidneys Stable BONUS: Burkina Faso Movie

1.  First, Mom.  Something came up on Mom's EKG last week that the cardiologist didn't like, so she'll be going to CdA this Thursday to see the cardiologist and this concern also means the surgery on her upper arm/shoulder is canceled.  When Mom and I talked on the phone, the Roberts family was making dinner at her house and a roar of laughter filled the background.  Carol's family members are doing a great job being with Mom 24 hours a day and Mom sounded pretty good given all she's going through.

2.  I started my day back at the Laurel clinic for a quick visit where James, the open, friendly, very competent lab guy at the clinic, checked the TB test he gave me on Friday and within seconds determined that I do not have tuberculosis.  I celebrate by going to my favorite Starbucks at the Centre at Laurel and indulged in a chocolate croissant and a cup of Pike Place coffee.

3.  I continued my day in Bethesda where I saw my superb nephrologist, Dr. Fahim Malik.  Thankfully, he told me what I've been hearing since first seeing Dr. Charles Zakem back in 2005 in Eugene:  my kidneys are slowly deteriorating, but the progress of the disease is very slow.  Over the last year or so, I lost one more percent of function, but Dr. Malik assured me that this was not a cause for alarm and that I will most likely continue to feel good for a few years to come.  He was happy that I'm losing weight and taking good care of myself.  So, here's my take, as I've written before;  if a guy has to have a progressive kidney disease, at least what I have is not debilitating and dialysis/transplant is not in the near future and I can keep living well.  It's good that I'm being evaluated to be on the transplant list.  Once the results come in for bloodwork I had done last Monday, I should be listed and start accruing time and then, hopefully, I'll be in a good position for a kidney at the time I need a new one.

BONUS:  The American Film Institute is running an African Film Festival in Silver Spring and today I picked up the Deke at 4:15 and we went to a movie from Burkina Faso entitled Soleils, about a young woman who is guided by an older man through her history as one who lives in Burkina Faso, both deep and recent history.  The fantasy trip served to initiate her into adulthood and had the added bonus of acquainting us who watched the movie with the history of a place we may or may not have been familiar with.  The Deke, of course, teaches in French all day and has several French speaking African colleagues and it meant a lot to her to see this movie and to deepen her experience of getting to know people she teaches with.  The movie took me into a world I was unfamiliar with and helped me see things about Burkina Faso and the larger picture of West Africa in ways I had never thought deeply about before.  We were both moved to silence after the movie and, on the way home, talked some about the movie, primarily to express to each other how happy we were that we went.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/15: Back to St. Andrews, Bagel Place Dreamin', Stout at Fenwick

1.  I hadn't been to church since December 7, 2014 for any number of reasons having to do with being in Kellogg and getting settled back in here in Greenbelt.  Nothing spectacular happened this morning at St. Andrews, College Park.  I simply entered into the liturgy and experienced the familiarity of moving through the words of Moses, Jesus, Paul into a sermon and eventually to the Communion rail. I don't long for spectacular worship.  I long for familiar structure and the knowledge that what I am a part of in College Park is happening on Sunday morning across the USA and around the world as we celebrate the Eucharist together.  It's profound to me, but not spectacular.  It's what I long for.

2.  After the Eucharist, I popped over the Bagel Place just a block or two away and sat quietly with a cinnamon/sugar bagel with cream cheese and a cup of lukewarm coffee and a copy of the Washington City Paper and read about all the goings on in the D. C. area:  plays, musicals, exhibits, movies, concerts, and more.  I imagined myself going to hear Leo Kottke or Tom Rush in Arlington or going to plays at the downtown Shakespeare Theater or at the Ford or hearing concerts of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, not to mention Grieg and Schubert being played, smiled wistfully, and stumbled upon an ad for a beer shop in Silver Spring I didn't know existed, featuring, they say, hundreds of beers. The exterior looked kind of like the House of Records in Eugene and I decided I would go there later today.

3.  The trip to Fenwick Wine and Beer in Silver Spring was a success in couple of ways.  First, I familiarized myself more fully with what I find the baffling intersections of streets and roads in downtown Silver Spring.  I also spotted public parking garages to use when I return to go to movies at the AFI Cultural Center.  The trip to Fenwick was a success, albeit a bit expensive -- no problem. The Deke really likes both Rogue Chocolate Stout and Yeti Imperial Stout (from Great Divide).  I huge plus was that Fenwick sells Yeti Imperial Stout in 12 oz bottles, great news since it's ABV is over 9%.  Since I haven't seen much (if any) Yeti in Maryland, I justified paying the high price I paid and also enjoyed how happy the Deke was when I brought these two favorites of hers home.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/15: Magic Wand, Under the Chair, Eggplant Conversion

1.  While Molly and Hiram spent the afternoon on family business, the Deke and I hosted David and Olivia.  They were delightful and played beautifully with each other -- well, except for that moment early in the afternoon when they started to get physical over who got to have the magic wand, uh, the invisible magic wand.  David wanted it and Olivia wouldn't relent.  Quickly, the Deke separated them and when it was over, it was over.

2.  We have a chair in the living room that for some reason I didn't think anything could fit underneath.  For days, I've been looking for a card reader I irrationally really like a lot.  Turns out there is room under the chair for things to disappear.  During a routine cleaning of the living room, I found it.  I was irrationally ecstatic.

3.  Late this afternoon, Hiram played a gig with the President's Own, so Molly came by herself to pick up David and Olivia.  I think Molly is a relatively recent convert to eggplant, so in the middle of the afternoon I fixed an eggplant tomato sauce to put over pasta and I was irrationally ecstatic when Molly dug into her bowl of dinner and really liked it.  Dinner also featured a conversation about narrow tastes in food with Olivia -- and brought back memories of Molly as a youngster and her narrow tastes.  We had a good laugh about those days.  I think Molly is happy they are over so she can enjoy the many wonders of eggplant when she sits down to a meal I've prepared.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/15: Late for my Lab, Social Worker Calls, That Soup is Really Good

MOM UPDATE:  Thursday Mom found out from her doctor's examination of her X-ray that the broken bone in her upper arm would not heal properly unless she had surgery.  Mom will be having surgery Tuesday morning in Post Falls to put a plate (and possibly pins) in to help the bone heal.

1.  I forgot that when I drive toward Laurel on Old Baltimore Pike, the only road, after Powder Mill, that goes through to Rt 1 is Muirkirk.  So, I was about ten minutes late for my PPD lab appointment. It took me a while to get turned around, drive (unnecessarily) down to Powder Mill Road, get on Rt. 1, turn on Contee Rd and Van Deusen, and make my way to the clinic.  I have a chance to get it right on Monday when I return to the clinic so my skin test can be checked out.  (I figured if I wrote this out, it will help me not make this mistake again.)

2.  When the Deke got out of the car to start her day at work, she requested that we have some meat for dinner.  Later in the day, I was driving to the Co-op to shop for meat and other things (like eggplant and tofu), my kidney transplant team social worker called, so I pulled over to the side of the road in front of St. Hugh's Catholic Church and had a good conversation with her.  The transplant team met today to go over my case and she thought some questions might come up and so she we talked about those questions.  I felt good about how I filled in some blanks and about my mental preparedness for a possible kidney transplant.

3.  About that request the Deke made;  until today, I had never fixed a recipe I have called Chicken Sweet Potato Kale soup.  It was easy.  First I skinned the on bone chicken breasts and covered them with odobo seasoning salt and set them in fridge.  Then I sauteed a chopped onion and three stalks of chopped celery seasoned with thyme, cumin, and oregano and later added four cloves of garlic and let the garlic get brown.  Once this mixture was soft, I poured six cups of chicken broth over it, added in the chicken breasts and a bunch of cut up celantro and a jalapeno pepper cut length-wise in half.  This cooked for about 20 minutes and then I added three chopped sweet potatoes and a bunch of chopped up kale.  This cooked until the sweet potatoes got tender and the chicken was cooked and then I removed the chicken breasts, stripped the meat from the bones, returned the meat to the pot, and let it sit, covered, until the Deke returned home and about a half an hour or so later, we ate this really, really delicious soup.  My favorite flavor in the soup was the way the sweet potatoes sweetened the savory broth.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/15: Renal Life, Colonial Beer, Sergeant -- Not Father -- Hathaway

1.  Today my getting stuff done regarding the kidney disease I deal with came to a climax.  I got the referrals from my primary doctor.  I made the cardiology appointment I needed to make.  I found out that the chest X-ray was a walk in so I drove over to Silver Spring and walked in to the radiologist and got a chest X-ray.  I made an appointment for a TB skin test.  I go in on the 13th and return for the results on the 16th. And, in non-renal news, I have a tax man appointment.  Now I just need to make sure that the colonoscopy clinic in Eugene is acting on the voice mail I left there and sending the report from the 2011 procedure to my nurse coordinator in Baltimore. Good thing I'm retired so I have time to do all this stuff.  Lord.

2.  Our region's Total Wine superstore is outside Laurel and not terribly far from the clinic I go to.  So I dropped in to check out their inventory and buy twelve bottles of assorted beers.  I'm on a mission to find some Yeti stout for the Deke in Maryland and this part of my shopping trip was a failure, but I picked up some other beers we like and bought a six pack of Brewer's Alley 1634 Ale, a beer made from a recipe based on ingredients found in colonial Maryland, using malted barley, malted wheat, malted rye, molasses, and caraway -- no hops.  My first bottle struck me as more interesting than tasty -- you know, getting a feeling for something like what colonists in 1634 drank, using only the ingredients available to them -- and, the beer started to grow on me after about half a glass.  Over time, I'll finish the six pack and be glad I gave it a try, but I probably won't buy more inte future.  However, if I went to the Brewer's Alley brewpub in Frederick, I might give the 1634 Ale a go served on tap.

3.  If you've ever seen the episode, "Life Born of Fire",  in the second season of Inspector Lewis when people involved in a group called The Garden are murdered one by one, then you know that it's an episode that reveals a lot about Sergeant Hathaway's days in the seminary and how he came to his decision to leave a possible vocation as a priest.  In other words, the mystery of Hathaway was far more intriguing and enlightening than the murder mystery of these people getting killed.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/15: Carol's Difficult Challenges, Tax Prep Chuckle, Referrals Come Through

1.  Mom needs someone with her 24 hours a day and Carol can't do it all.  Mom is learning how much help from outside the home Medicare will pay for, so that's something.  Carol is faced with the daunting challenge of finding help beyond Medicare.  I am proud of her for all she is doing and happy she is enjoying all of this time she's spending with Mom, but she is juggling a lot with her job and Mom's needs.  It's overwhelming.

2.  I went to the Bagel Place in College Park today and did one last sorting out of our tax records and discovered I needed a document from the Lane Foundation in Eugene.  An email later, I got the document, but it wasn't quite accurate and the letter of receipt was addressed to me and my former wife!  That gave me a chuckle.  It's been nearly twenty years since we were married.  A few light-hearted emails later, Shelby and I got the receipt corrected and a letter of receipt addressed to me alone and my tax documents are all ready for the tax guy to go over and help me prepare a return.

3.  For me, it was a great relief when I got word this afternoon from my primary care doctor that he put in orders at two clinics in Silver Spring for me to get the cardiac testing and the chest X-ray I need for my transplant evaluation.  Now all I have to do is pick up the referrals at the clinic in Laurel and make appointments which will open the way to make an appointment with the tax guy.  I hope I can get these procedures done fairly soon and, for the time being, have these medical visits done for a while.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/15: One a Day, Deep Sleep, Marvelous Eggplant

1.  Have I ever mentioned before that I do best with the business of my life if I take on one thing a day?  I get overwhelmed if I try to take on everything at once, and, unless it's absolutely urgent to get another thing done, I focus my efforts on one thing each day.  Today I returned to the seemingly never ending string of tasks renal transplant evaluation requires.  I found out that the insurance authorization I procured for my day in Baltimore is good for the cardiology tests, chest X-ray, and TB rest still to come and that cleared the way for me to write to my primary doctor and request that he put in orders for these procedures.  I've decided to have them done at the U of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore so that I combine medical visits with messing around in Baltimore some more. I'll be really happy if my doctor gets these orders in soon so I can make appointments, get these procedures done, and put this evaluation in the rear view mirror.

2.  Well, one of the good things about being retired is that I have time to take care of these medical matters and, when it wipes me out, as it does, I have the time and leisure to collapse with the corgis and take a recuperative nap.  In fact, a coma nap.  Jet planes from Andrews Air Force base just down the road could have screamed overhead and repeatedly broken the sound barrier and it wouldn't have awakened me.

3.  For those of you marveling at the amount of eggplant the Deke and I eat (and enjoy), you can mark down March 10th as another eggplant day.  I just happened to have one in the fridge and I just happen to have a really easy thai dish recipe on hand and I whipped it up tonight and I gotta tell ya, it was really good.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/15: Lab Work, 410 to Silver Spring, Patterns on the Ice

UPDATE:  I'm happy to report that the reports I received today from Christy indicate that Mom continues to recover comfortably and she is slowly figuring out how to do some things made difficult by having her arm in a sling.  Once again, I'm very happy to report such undramatic news.

1.  First thing this morning, after dropping the Deke off at school, I had about a dozen or more vials filled with my blood by the kind phlebotomist, Angela, at LabCorp.  It was a double whammy of lab work, some of it for my nephrology appointment on Monday and the rest for the continued testing being done to assess my fitness for a kidney transplant at the U. of Maryland Medical Center.

2.  I enjoy going on drives on the bewildering routes in the immediate area where I live and try to figure things out.  So, this morning, I broke my lab work fast at the Bagel Place in College Park and headed west on Rt. 410 (East West Highway) to Silver Spring.  I got off the route a couple of times, so I did some meandering in Takoma Park, but I found my way back and I might have figured out the baffling intersection where Rt. 410, Georgia Avenue (Rt. 29), and 13 St. intersect.  I never lost my way returning east to Hyattsville and back up Rt. 1 to Greenbelt Rd. and back home again.  I enjoyed this drive a lot and soon will repeat it, just to make sure I got it all right.

3.  With the warmer weather, I got in about two miles of walking between a stroll to Greenbelt Lake and walking some errands.  The Greenbelt Lake trail is still unsuitable for very much walking, but I slogged my way through the slush and mud to a finger of land that sticks out in the lake and took some pictures of the patterns the ice has formed on the lake's surface.  Here are a couple:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/15: Getting Organized, Mom Abides, Molly Eats More Stuff Now

1.  It was a list writing morning as I try to get the tasks organized I need to complete in order to finish this kidney listing project.  I want to have the information I need and the appointments made by the middle of the week.

2.  The reports from Kellogg regarding Mom continue to be good.  The best news is that a person will be coming to see Mom on Tuesday to assess the care she needs and to get things going with a CNA and, I hope, help with other things around her house.

3.  The Deke and Molly arrived safely in Greenbelt around 4:00 and I chopped up some tofu, cauliflower, red pepper, mushrooms, and green beans and made a red curry sauce and we ate that mixture poured over rice for dinner.  I was especially happy that Molly found the dinner both delicious and nutritious.  She is so much more fun to cook for now that she's 29 -- as opposed to when she was in middle school!  I still haven't quite shaken the memories of how narrow Molly and Patrick's eating habits were 15-17 years ago, so, I am always, even now, extra pleased when, as adults, they like stuff I cook.  I'm really happy they are more and more open to different things all the time.  (However, it doesn't look like either of them will have their come to Jesus moment with cilantro...dang it.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/07/15: Uneventful Update, Amateur Mistake, Eggplant and Inspectors

1.  Christy spent the day with Mom and when she texted me with updates, things sounded stable. Mom seems to be resting well, seems steady on her feet, and is eating just fine.  I'm really happy that this report on Mom's Saturday is so uneventful.

2.  I finally knocked all the snow off the Subaru and drove down to Greenbelt Lake to see about taking a walk and some pictures.  I snapped off a few pictures and suddenly my camera informed me that my battery was nearly run out.  I suddenly realized I was wrong.  I thought I had charged this battery before putting it in my camera case, but I didn't.  Consequently, my photo tour was brief.  I went home and made sure my camera batteries were charged.  This is what I think we can all agree was an amateur mistake.

3.  I thought early in the day that with the Deke on a road trip, I might have a meal out.  After some deliberation, I decided I didn't care to go somewhere solo, so I sauteed some onion and garlic, added a chopped up eggplant, sauteed it for a while, poured a can of diced tomatoes generously herbed with basil and oregano and bay leaf over the mix.  Meanwhile, I boiled some penne, put the tomato/eggplant mixture over it, and enjoyed a dinner superior to anything I could have found in the Greenbelt area.  Well fed, I settled into an episode of A Touch of Frost and another of Inspector Lewis.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/06/15: Update on Mom, Frost and Lewis, Safely in Nyack

1.  Carol kept in touch with me a couple of times during the day.  Mom is resting pretty well, is managing her pain, making adjustments to not being able to use her right hand for much, and had a routine check up with the doctor this afternoon.  The best news of the day was the doctor made a referral for a CNA to come in and help Mom out.  This will be especially helpful when it comes to getting dressed and washing up. I'm not sure when the CNA will come in to assess things and set a schedule.  I'm really happy and relieved to know that Mom readily agreed to this -- it will help Mom significantly and be a great help for Carol and Christy.

2.  I watched episodes of A Touch of Frost and Inspector Lewis this afternoon and into the evening. Both Jack Frost and Robbie Lewis delighted me as solid working-class cops.  Both are gruff, while also big hearted, and without delusions when it comes to their own shortcomings and social rank. They are astute, hard-working detectives, easily put off by pretension, and have little patience with phonies and liars.  I've got to be careful not to let whole days get eaten up by watching the endless available episodes of these two shows.

3.  The Deke and Molly arrived safely in Nyack.  Evidently, it didn't take them long to get over to Growler and Gill.  Molly is abstaining from alcohol during her pregnancy, so when she texted me that the joint had Festina Peche (as well as Fin du Monde) on tap, it was with a heavy heart.  When the baby is born this summer, Molly and I will raise a Festina Peche to his or her good health and long life!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/05/15: Writing on a Snow Day, Watching *Page Eight*, Mom Fractures Her Arm

1.  The snow fell steadily today for about ten hours and the Deke had a snow day and so we hunkered down, drank coffee and tea, and enjoyed the great indoors, checking up occasionally on the snow piling up, and trying to keep the dogs quiet.  I enjoyed writing about The Last Metro and how it made me think back to teaching The Family in American Drama over thirty years ago at Whitworth.  If you'd like to check out what I had to say, just click here.

2.  One of the benefits of having a library card in the Prince George's Library System is that it offers two online television, movie, and music download/streaming services.  This evening I went to Hoopla and watched a BBC show featuring Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, and Judy Davis entitled Page Eight.  It was an internal politics movie about people working at MI5, and, as these spy v spy movies often are, it was a dizzying story and gave Bill Nighy a means of playing a character who appears, on the surface, to be numb, but is actually a complex character with some conscience and a lot of wiliness.

3.  That my mother fell in the basement bathroom yesterday afternoon and fractured her upper arm/shoulder is not a beautiful thing.  It's upsetting in a number of ways.  But, some good things happened.  The medical alert system she recently purchased worked.  All three people on her list got calls when Mom pushed the button.  None were at their phone, so a call went in to the EMTs who came to the house and got Mom to the Emergency Room.  My friend Terry Absec got one of the calls and called me, so I knew to call Carol and find out what was happening.  Mom was treated at the hospital.  Her right arm is in a sling.  Carol was staying the night.  I talked with Mom after she got home and she reassured me she was fine and told me not to worry.  I could tell the adrenaline was still doing its work.  She'll be in the sling for two months.  Christy is going to come to Kellogg on Friday once she's off work.  Mom has a lot of help and support nearby.  My guess is she's going to need more help than what family and friends can provide.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sibling Assignment #159: Truffaut's *The Last Metro* and American Drama

For Sibling Assignment #159, Carol asked an intriguing question:

"Pick a movie you have watched recently, and talk about how that movie changed the way you look at the world."
Christy loved Into the Wild, here and Carol's piece is still to come.

For years, I've been aware of Francois Truffaut's 1980 movie, The Last Metro, and, for the life of me, I can't remember why it ever came to my attention.  Maybe I heard Siskel and Ebert review back when I started grad school; maybe, because it's a Truffaut movie, it was hip for graduate students to see it; I can't help but wonder if maybe, when I returned to Whitworth to teach in 1982, if maybe it was a movie Leonard Oakland talked about in our several conversations about movies.

I don't know.

But, last Saturday, when I went to the Greenbelt Public Library, I spotted it, checked it out, and yesterday I watched it.

Briefly, it's a movie about a theater in Paris that continues to mount plays during the Nazi occupation.The theater's owner, Lucas Steiner (Heinz Bennent) is a Jew and has disappeared into hiding and his wife, Marion, played by Catherine Deneuve, is not only a lead actor for the theater, but she takes over her husband's administrative duties. For the production of a play entitled, Disappearance, the theater hires an accomplished young actor, Bernard Granger, played by Gerard Depardieu.

Early on, we learn that Lucas Steiner has not disappeared to South America, as rumored, but is in hiding in the cellar of the theater where he listens to rehearsals, passes notes to the cast through his wife (it appears they are her notes), and continues his marital relationship with Marion in secret.

In the same way that Lucas Steiner hides in the cellar of the theater, the movie explores feelings and secrets characters have hidden in the cellars of their inner lives, feelings that can only remain repressed for so long before they come rushing out, sometimes in dark and violent ways and sometimes in expressions of unleashed passion.

In case anyone reading what I'm writing here sees this movie, I'm not going to get into the details of the movie about the secrets or hidden feelings different characters hold inside them or how those feelings get expressed.  Suffice it to say that I thought Truffaut turned the historical reality of Nazi oppression and how it forced characters into secret lives into a way of also understanding the ways human lives and human actions are also defined by the secrets we push down into our inward cellars and the how our repressed feelings -- whether of affection or of malice -- can come rushing out of us, violently sometimes, sometimes sexually.

Carol raises a good question:  How did this movie change the way I look at the world?

Mostly it changed what was on my mind yesterday.  I watched the movie to take my mind off of anxiety about money, whether I have good reason to feel anxious or not.  The Deke and I had a late afternoon appointment with a couple of financial planners and I was nervous.

So, instead of thinking so much about retirement accounts, the movie inspired my mind to travel back to teaching the Family in American Drama course at Whitworth in January of 1983 and 1984.

This idea of repressed memories, desires, and secrets is at the center of such 20th century American plays as Long Days Journey Into Night, Death of a Salesman, Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Memories of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof came rushing back to me because like The Last Metro, Cat on a Hot Tin Room featured a cellar (or a basement).  The basement was littered with relics, well, junk, that Big Mama has bought on hers and Big Daddy's world travels.  It's in the midst of this junk, in the cellar, that Brick and Big Daddy clear out the junk in their relationship and, in the cellar, get to the bottom of what's true in their lives.

In that course, we also worked with a metaphor we called the frozen pond.  The idea was that often the surface of our lives look placid and calm, like the surface of a frozen pond, but underneath that still surface is all kinds of swirling activity -- fish swimming, the food chain in action, and water currents moving,  This activity is hidden until something breaks through the surface.

It's not a perfect metaphor, but it applies really well to how we humans function.  We often hide what's going on inside, the truth, underneath an exterior much like the surface of the frozen pond. Then something happens -- say Brick confronts Big Daddy or Willy Loman's memories of his infidelity can no longer be pushed back or George breaks through Martha's drunken, shrewish exterior to the what's actually vulnerable and affectionate inside her.  This metaphor was a great help in our discussions of Ordinary People (remember when Berger [Judd Hirsch] breaks through the frozen surface of Conrad (Timothy Hutton)?].

There's a brief moment of such truth telling in the cellar in The Last Metro regarding Lucas' knowledge of Marion's feelings of love/desire for Bernard, swirling feelings she's tried to push down beneath the frozen surface of her professionalism and sense of propriety.  She's also found a way to displace her feelings when she lashes out at Bernard for physically attacking the movie's villain, a theater critic.

I won't give any more away.

I will say, though, that I welcomed this change of focus during my day.  I will always love to think back on that Family in American Drama class.  I also enjoy the self-examination that inevitably grows out of thinking about the frozen pond, about the cellar of secrets and repressed feelings that reside inside of me.  They don't have the power they did when I was younger.  I suppose I have come to grips with my understanding that not everything I think or feel or have done needs to be out in the open.  With that understanding, these things don't eat at me, but are, in fact, sources of happiness that are not violating, nor will they violate, any trust and that I don't care to share.  I assume that those I am close to have their secrets, too.

I hope so.

Pauline Kael called The Last Metro an embarrassment, a lukewarm nothing of a movie. I wouldn't go that far.  I enjoyed that the movie was made in a 1940s style, never pretending to a piece of realism, but always keeping before us the melodrama of the theater company's backstage life and the melodrama of keeping Lucas hidden.  Even though the movie opens in a documentary style, soon any idea that this is an historical look at Paris during the Nazi occupation dissolves and much more nostalgic and romantic feel takes over.  Nonetheless, within this nostalgic and melodramatic context, the movie explores the realities of human life I've already mentioned, keeping it from being, for me, neither lukewarm, embarrassing, nor a nothing of a movie.


Three Beautiful Things 03/04/15: Fending Off Anxiety, The Deke Rocks, Cookie Break

1.  I spent much of the day feeling a constant and low level of anxiety about our appointment late in the afternoon with our new financial planners.  To combat this anxiety, I watched the 1980 Francois Truffaut movie The Last Metro.  The movie runs over two hours and helped occupy my mind with some suspense, a love triangle of sorts, and a peek into the backstage life of a theater company working to stay alive during the Nazi occupation of Paris.  I'll be writing more about this movie in my next sibling assignment later today.

2.  Our financial, ahem, empire has not collapsed and the Deke and I enjoyed talking with the two men we met with over the Deke's classroom.  I probably enjoyed being in the Deke's workplace for the first time even more than talking about our financial future.  The Deke also told me about intervening when two of her students got into a tussle.  She settled them down and talked to them, without doing what she's supposed to do -- that is, have disciplinarian from outside the classroom come in and deal with the fighters.  The kind way she talked to the boys and the relief they felt that she didn't call anyone in moved them to tears.  When we were done with our financial business, the Deke returned home to grateful emails from both of the boys' mothers.  It's the happiest I've seen the Deke since she started this job at Robert Goddard French Immersion school.

3.  All of us in the greater Prince George's Countyopolis are anticipating a massive snow event tomorrow and so I ducked into the Co-op to make sure we had plenty of tofu, eggplant, and beer.  My best purchase, however, was a bag of Geneva cookies and the Deke enjoy a few with her HopDevil IPA and I enjoyed a few with a bracing mug of English tea and milk.  It was a simple and satisfying way to bring our day to a close.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/03/15: Kidney Day Off, Calm Beltway, West African Peanut Stew

1.  I took it easy today.  I decided to go a couple of days before returning to the kidney stuff.  I need to make some calls, do some organizing and filing, get some things straight, but not today.  Yes, my kidney disease continues, but I took a day off from it, aside from enjoying and feeling grateful for the many messages I've received giving me encouragement about my visit to Baltimore yesterday.

2.  It was time for the dogs to come back home.  Molly and Hiram generously let Charly and Maggie stay with them while we went went to Baltimore and the drive down to Groveton and back on the Capital Beltway was really easy.  Traffic was steady, without incident or delay, and it was as if all of us out there had agreed to a pact that no one needed to get aggressive, we would let each other move to new lanes when need be, and we would keep things calm.  This general attitude prevails much more often than not on the Beltway and I'm very grateful.

3.  The Deke found a recipe called "West African Peanut Stew" and it looked like a good one for a sleetly, gray, late wintry day so I went to the Co-op and picked up a few things and made this stew. All I had to do was sautee some onion, garlic, and ginger, make five cups of chicken broth, season it with red pepper flakes, pour it over the stuff I just sauteed and boil and simmer the chunks of three sweet potatoes.  About ten or so minutes later I added a can of diced tomatoes, a cup of chunky peanut butter, and collard greens along with some leftover spinach leaves I had on hand.  Chicken was an option, but I kept it vegetarian.  The soup was out of sight.  We both loved the peanuty broth, the slight heat of the pepper flakes, and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the way certain bites reminded us more strongly than others that ginger had come to town.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sibling Assignment #158: The Inner Life of Pictures

Christy gave a simple, but not easy, assignment:  "Write how photography has enriched your life." Christy's reflections and pictures are here and here you can read Carol's response and view pictures.

Maybe because I don't have words to describe the inner life I see radiating outwardly in people I observe or in what I see in nature, like trees and wetlands and birds or in chairs and benches and old sofas on porches or in bridges or bodies of water, I try to bring this inner life alive in pictures I take and this inner life comes alive for me in many pictures I look at.

Seeing things this way has greatly enriched my life, greatly increased my sense of wonder.

I'm not sure I can write very well about this.

But, I can say that when I take pictures, I am in a state that takes me inside myself and outside myself at the same time.

I like to take, and enjoy viewing, street photographs because rather than portraying a controlled or posed moment, these pictures are candids that give the viewer a glimpse into the inner life, maybe even the private inner life, of the subject and opens the way for anyone who looks at the picture to more deeply explore, and maybe be perplexed by, the riddle of human existence.  When I take candid street pictures, I am outside myself.  I am watching, even studying, people around me.  I'm also inside myself.  I find myself feeling what people seem to be feeling when I take a picture, or when I decide to pull back and not open the shutter. I'm enriched by experiencing and entering into the reality (or realities) of shared feeling as expressed in the person's face and body.

I don't always have words for what the feeling is, but I have a picture:

It's the same way with the pictures I take of people holding hands (or holding each other in some way).  They are physically joined to each other and I find myself, if only for a moment, joined to them in feelings of happiness or protection or enjoyment or whatever is happening at that moment:

If I am enriched by these moments, am I richer?  Yes, I think I am.  You see, I'm not very motivated in life by things that define me as an individual.  I'm not much of an achiever.  When I've won awards, I've been embarrassed. My thoughts almost always tend toward what is best for the all of us -- say our family or the church or other social arrangements and not so much about what is good just for me.  It's why I seek out ways to help and do things with the family I was born into,  why I am so loyal to my friends, why I enjoy the Deke and our family.    It's why I enjoyed teaching.  It's why the church means so much to me.

And, so, pictures enrich me because of what they bring to life that portrays the bonds we have with each other and the bonds we have with the natural world, and, believe it or not, with the material world.  I know that each picture I take of a material thing is a picture of some kind of history, some way that this thing has been cared for or neglected, how it's been a means for some kind of human deed or interaction.

I'm not as adept as I'd like to be at taking pictures of storefronts and buildings and houses, but I follow photographers on tumblr who are and their pictures enrich my imagination as to what happens in these stores or bars and how these buildings and houses came to be and what these places have contributed to the building, or the destruction, of bonds between people.

I take pictures of chairs and benches and other things people sit on.  I see an inner life in these seats. I pretend like each of them is inviting people who see them to "Come, have a sit" and I also imagine the many people who have taken time to sit on them.  Maybe you don't, but I also see an inner life in the personality of these things people sit on -- these chairs and benches and sofa seem, to me, to have an emotional life and sometimes, when more than one are in the same place, they seem to be speaking to one another.  Sometimes, they just seem lonely.  See what you think:

Most often, I don't know what story a picture tells or what its inner life is when I take the picture.  I have a sense that something might be there, but I don't plan these things out.  In fact, I find it very difficult to think while I take pictures.  My reading tells me that other photographers think a lot more than I do, especially about composition.  I actually try to empty my mind mind of thoughts when I look through the view finder and I try to feel the inner life of what I see, hoping that inner life will be expressed and that the picture will convey feeling beyond its surface.

That emptying of my mind, that sense of connection with what I see -- that's what enriches me.

Three Beautiful Things 03/02/15: Getting There, A Day at the Transplantation Center, Brazilian Fish Stew

1.  The first challenge of the day was to drive from the parking garage at the Day's Inn to the parking garage at the University of Maryland Medical Center.  I was behind the wheel and I got a bit disoriented, but the Deke got me turned around, headed in the correct direction, and after a few minutes, we found the garage and got ourselves parked.

2.  The Deke and I spent about six hours or so at the Transplantation Center.  I met my Nurse Coordinator, watched a video, and we talked with a surgeon, nephrologist, social worker, dietician, and the finance person.  I had blood drawn.  I also received a list of other things I need to do in the near future, including more blood work, chest X-ray, cardiology work, and possibly a colonoscopy. There were two themes of the day:  I've been taking good care of myself and no one sees any problems that would keep me from getting listed and, if I find a living donor, the kidney I would receive at some point would be a better one. One other thing:  I started this process early on.  I'll see if what I'm about to say still holds true when I see my nephrologist on March 16th, but, right now, I am not in urgent need of a kidney.  I am not on dialysis and, right now, I feel great.  My disease has progressed very slowly and I'm hoping it will continue to be very slow.

3.  The Deke and I had originally thought we might have a dinner in Baltimore after all these appointments, but we changed our minds and made our way, with ease, back to Greenbelt.  I went to the Co-op, bought a couple of cod fillets and a couple of red peppers, brought them home, cut up the fish, coated the pieces with a combination of lime juice, cumin, paprika, and minced garlic and let them sit in the fridge for over 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, I sauteed an onion, sliced up the red pepper, and then combined the fish and red peppers with a can of diced tomatoes and a can of coconut milk, let it all simmer for about 20-30 minutes and the result was a fantastic fish stew.  It was a comforting meal for topping off a tiring day.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/01/15: Dog Delivery, Arriving at the Day's Inn, Pratt Street Alehouse

1.  Wintry, sleety, rainy, icy conditions invaded the Greater Greenbelt and the surrounding area and after much deliberation (fretting), I put the dogs in the Subaru and braved my way through the puddles and a couple of crashes on the Capital Beltway and delivered the corgis to Molly and Hiram's so that the Deke and I can go to Baltimore.

2.  The Deke and I cruised through the gray and the sleet up the Balitmore/Washington Parkway to the Inner Harbor Day's Inn hotel and were greeted by Gerald (or Gerard),  the most overbearingly friendly counter host in the history of hotel hospitality.  We managed to survive his piles and piles of b.s. and got settled in our room for a relaxing night.

3.  Just down the street from the hotel, we found the Pratt Street Ale House and the Deke and I settled into a beer each.  I enjoyed an English bitter on Nitro and the Deke went for a double IPA.  We relaxed with our beer for a while and then I ordered a plate of fish and chips and the Deke had a black and blue hamburger.  We enjoyed our dinner experience and went back to our room, satisfied, ready to rest, and get our ourselves mentally ready for whatever our Monday at the UMMC Transplantation Clinic might bring us.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/28/15: No More Shaggy, Ready for Fitness, Back to IKEA BONUS: Grandchildren

1.  I've been letting my hair go shaggy for a few years now and I went to the Hair Cuttery this morning figuring I'd keep it that way, and have about and inch and a half trimmed off.  Beatriz, the really lovely stylist I was assigned to, didn't really understand my instructions and she gave me a real haircut and my shaggy look is gone.  I took it in stride.  My hair can always grow out again and suddenly, as I sat there watching pounds of hair fall on the floor, I thought, I kind of like this change. It does me some good.  Beatriz and I had a great chat about our families and why I moved to Greenbelt and her family in Ecuador and I left happy with how everything worked out.  Beatriz gave me her card and I'll return to her again -- and I'll decide, in the meantime, whether to let my hair go shaggy again or keep this much tidier look.

2.  With my new membership at the fitness center, I needed to purchase a few things at Modell Sporting Goods and got some help with shoes from a friendly and patient college-aged woman who stuck with me as I deliberated and deliberated about what shoes to buy.  I prefer shoes that are a single color, but not white, and these days running/walking/workout shoes feature multiple colors and showy patterns.  I definitely didn't want, like, an eggplant colored show, but I managed to find a pattern, among the cornucopia of choices, that made me happy and that felt good on my feet, too.  I picked up a few other things and I'm ready for either the fitness machines or the swimming pool at the Greenbelt Fitness and Aquatic Center.

3.  Today featured my return to IKEA -- a solo run.  Knowing the my last visits to IKEA gave me vertigo, the Deke had other plans for how to get the shelves and another chair for our apartment home home from IKEA, but I interrupted her mellifluous ponderings and volunteered to make the short trip myself and navigate the IKEA maze and bring the goods home.  And. I. Succeeded.  I only had to call the Deke once for some help -- it wasn't pathetic -- I just needed her to text me a couple of numbers -- and everything worked out great.

BONUS:  Molly and Hiram met with a realtor for much of the day today and David and Olivia had an extended visit in our apartment home.  They were great.  They love what their Nana has collected here for them to play with, they enjoy each other as playmates, and about every twenty minutes or so they knock our socks off with some kind of statement or some use of a word or some thought or idea that we find remarkable.  They are really, really good children.