Thursday, June 30, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/29/16: The Waiting, Supreme Court Podcast, Bobby Tolan's Son Got Shot

1. I arrived at the Greenbelt Imaging Center and suddenly I remembered. This place is home to the hell wait -- the Deke came here for some pictures to be taken earlier in the year and it took forever for her to get in. Once I realized this, I surrendered. I counted myself fortunate that I was not on any kind of a tight schedule and figured I could read a lot of the February 29, 2016 issue of New Yorker I found in the waiting room while I waited.  I was right! After about an hour of reading Jeffrey Toobin's eulogy of Justice Antonin Scalia, reading Anthony Lane's review of The Witch, and getting about half way through Evan Osnos' profile of South Chicago's famous priest, Father Michael Pfleger,  the CT scan guy called three of us into a second waiting area where I read Sports Illustrated's account of Jordan Spieth's lousy back nine at the 2016 Masters and about the time Spieth splashed his penalty shot into Rae's Creek on the 12th hole on his way to quadruple-bogey 7, I got called in to the CT scan room and everything went fine and my doctor should receive a report Thursday or Friday.

2. A day or two ago, I discovered that Radiolab now has a spin-off series called More Perfect which focuses on stories about the Supreme Court. Today I listened to an episode entitled, "The Political Thicket". It examined the 1962 redistricting case, Baker v Carr. The case cost the court two members. Charles E. Whitaker suffered a nervous breakdown (and never voted on the case) and resigned and Felix Frankfurter, after the court ruled against his position, suffered a massive stroke and never heard another case. Chief Justice Earl Warren, reflecting back on his career, called Baker v Carr the most important case of his tenure. This podcast examines what, in terms of judicial philosophy, was at stake in Baker v Carr and examines the backgrounds of William O. Douglas, his chief rival, Frankfurter, and the justice caught between them, Charles E. Whitaker. If you'd like to listen to this podcast yourself, just go here -- and note that some commenters on this episode were upset that the episode features some profanity.

Just for the record, to fill the two vacancies, Pres. Kennedy appointed Byron White and Arthur Goldberg to the Supreme Court.

(I wish someone could answer this question for me:  Was Arthur Goldberg the commencement speaker when our class graduated from Whitworth in 1976? I vaguely remember that he was, but after some searching, I couldn't find a way at my fingertips to verify my hazy memory.)

3.  I dove deeper into the podcast pool this evening, and of all things, I found myself immersed in the life of a former Major League Baseball player whose baseball card I once owned and who had a solid season in 1970, helping catapult the pre-Big Red Machine Reds* into the 1970 World Series where they lost to the Orioles in five games, a World Series that featured the Orioles' Brooks Robinson making some of baseball history's most mind boggling and gorgeous plays at third base.

My discovery of Bobby Tolan's family's traumatic experience in 2008 began when I decided to listen to one of my favorite of all podcasts, The Big Listen. It's a production of Washington, D. C.'s local NPR station, WAMU-FM, hosted by Lauren Ober, and is a podcast about podcasts. Ober interviews podcasters, solicits recommendations of podcasts from listeners, reviews podcasts, and plays clips from the podcasts of people she interviews.

This evening, I listened to Episode 8, "The CSI Podcast". It focused on true crime podcasts, found here.

Lauren Ober interviewed Lauren Spohrer and Phoebe Judge, the two creators of Criminal, a podcast about true crimes.

And, suddenly, thanks to this podcast, I discovered that on New Year's Eve, 2008, Bobby Tolan's unarmed son, Robby, was shot in the chest in the family's front yard by a police officer who suspected Robby of having stolen a car. Robby Tolan survived the gunshot wound, but the incident kicked into gear a series of court hearings that lasted for seven years, including a ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court. In fact, when this podcast episode, entitled, "695BGK" was produced, the case had not yet reached its conclusion and I searched Google to find out what the ultimate resolution was when the dust finally settled this past September.

(Coincidentally, and this is not mentioned in the podcast, on this same night, as December 31, 2008 became January 1, 2009, unarmed Oscar Grant III was killed by a BART officer at Fruitvale Station in Oakland, and this story was the subject of the heartbreaking movie, Fruitvale Station.)

* I tried to remember on my own who started for the 1970 Cincinnati Reds. I knew Big Red Machine stalwarts  Ken Griffey, George Foster, Caesar Geronimo, and Joe Morgan were not on this team, and I remembered that Lee May played 1st base and that Tony Perez was still a third baseman in 1970.  If you'd like a reminder of who was on this team, it featured:

Manager: Sparky Anderson -- his first year as a MLB manager. These Reds won 102 regular season games. It was quite a start to Sparky's Hall of Fame managing career.

C Johnny Bench (who hit 45 homers and knocked in 148 runs in 1970)
1B Lee May
2B Tommy Helms
SS Dave Concepcion
3B Tony Perez
LF Bernie Carbo
CF Bobby Tolan
RF Pete Rose
Pinch Hitter and sometimes starter:  Hal McRae

The pitching staff included Wayne Simpson, Gary Nolan, Jim Merritt, Jim McGlothlin, Tony Cloninger, Whitworth grad Ray Washburn, Pedro Borbon, Don Gullet, Clay Carroll, and others.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/28/16: A Good 10,000 Steps, Summer Rolls and Noodle Salad, *Macbeth* Unnerved Me

1. I walked over 10, 000 steps today and never had any lasting discomfort in my right foot. I took in the Sube for an oil change and walked back home from the Sunoco station and walked back down to pick up the Sube and I walked some more later in the day when I went to Silver Spring to see the 2015 movie version of Macbeth.

2. The temperature hovered in the low 80s today, but it was a steamy day, climaxing just before Macbeth started at 7 p.m. with violent thunder and relentless rain, rain hammering the streets so hard that when the movie had ended around 9 or so, I couldn't leave the theater for another fifteen minutes or so until things settled down a bit. Because it was so steamy, I did not order a bowl of pho at Pho Tan Vinh in Silver Spring. Instead, I ordered, for starters, summer rolls, rice paper stuffed with basil, shrimp, and rice vermicelli noodles accompanied by a tasty peanut sauce for dipping. My meal was a bowl of cold rice vermicelli noodles combined with chopped lettuce, diced cucumber, shaved pickled carrots, and grated pickled daikon served with a fish sauce on the side -- a salad dressing, really. It was a very refreshing meal, perfect for a sultry Maryland afternoon.

3. As I watched the 2015 movie Macbeth (directed by Justin Kurzel), based on, but conceived in many ways independently of Shakespeare's play, I kept thinking back to the 1971 Peter Brook movie version of King Lear. One striking difference between the two movies is that Brook's film is in black and white, whereas Kerzel's Macbeth is shot in foggy, fiery, blood-soaked color. Like Brook's King Lear, this movie strips the script's language of explicit vigor, as if the weight of each story's events, crushing the psyche of both King Lear and Macbeth, also renders their speech flat, sometimes mumbly, often fatigued. It's anti-theatrical. Tonight, because this version of Macbeth was so vivid in its portrayal of medieval savagery, because its cinematography and action was so focused on the basic elements of air (fog), fire, earth, flesh, and blood -- and, early on, sex -- and because the actors spoke their lines within the intimacy of a sound stage, not the spaciousness of a theater stage, I reveled in the fact that this was in every way a movie version of Macbeth.

At times, the thought ran through my head that Kurzel was deliberately creating a movie antithetical to what we might expect from Shakespeare's Macbeth: often the movie's pace is slow, deliberate, not the more traditional helter skelter pace of the play. I heard every set speech in the play differently than I ever had because their rhythms and emphases went against the grain of how I've heard them performed so many times over the years. The movie characterizes Lady Macbeth in a more complex way than I've ever experienced her.  Are the tears she sheds, fully awake, not sleepwalking, during her "Out damned spot!" monologue, tears of repentance and regret?  As the credits rolled, I could feel it:  I was unnerved. Whether the movie was good or whether I liked it or whether I would recommend it doesn't really matter much. I can't answer those questions.  What matters is its impact.

This movie unnerved me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/27/16: Staying Listed, Tofu Steak, Brookside Garden Flowers

1. I really don't do something every single day associated with staying on the kidney transplant list, but sometimes it seems like it. This morning I sprang out of bed and met my 8:00 appointment to have my TB skin test read. Being listed requires that I get tested annually. It was, in the breezy and most capable lab tech's words, "totally negative". Good news. Then I met my 9:15 appointment to have my monthly blood draw done and, as always, Angela drew a tube of blood with kindness and efficiency. Now I just have to report to Greenbelt Imaging on Wednesday morning to have a chest scan done and I can take a break from medical stuff for about a month.

2. I hadn't been to Beijing of Greenbelt since December and I dropped in this evening and enjoyed a meal called tofu steak.  It featured generous slabs of tofu with red and green pepper slices, mushrooms, and onion on the side, covered in a special soy sauce and served with white rice. I was in the mood for something unusual and meatless and this plate of food satisfied me.

3. This morning, at the last minute as I was gathering my swimming gear, I discovered I had lost my combination lock to secure my locker at the aquatic center. It's the second lock I've misplaced.  I decided to stay home. I've been in the locker room in the aftermath of petty thievery and decided not to risk being the next person robbed. So, I looked again at the pictures I took Sunday evening at Brookside Gardens and did some editing and I also read a couple helpful articles on how I might improve the pictures I take of flowers. Here are some of the photos I snapped:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/26/15: Tranquility, Family Fun in Indiana, *Invisibilia* and Instability

1. I got a couple of lenses together, loaded up my backpack, pried myself into the Sube, and hightailed it over to the Brookside Gardens, located in the spacious Wheaton Regional Park. I set out to complete Sibling Photo Assignment #2 by taking pictures that would express jollity because, when I used to grow flowers, I often thought they had jolly expressions, especially when I watered them. But, after I returned home, I looked at the pictures I took and decided that many of them expressed tranquility more than jollity and so I built my blog post, here, around the idea of tranquility.  If you don't really want to read my blog post, but would like to see the pictures, scroll to the bottom of this entry.

2. It saddened and disappointed me that I couldn't go to Battle Ground, IN this weekend and be a part of the Deke's family reunion nor go listen to the relaxing and invigorating strains of string music at the Indiana Fiddle Gathering nor enjoy the food at breakfast heaven, the Eye Opener Cafe. But, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, today I got to see some great pictures that Nini posted of family members enjoying themselves and each other and a picture of the plate of food Molly ordered at the cafe -- I had a brief bout of sausage gravy envy --  and the Deke sent me a couple of text messages telling me that she and the Diazes arrived safely at Brian's lake house in Long Beach, IN and that she was enjoying an awesome mango double IPA brewed by those restless innovators at Burn 'Em Brewing in Michigan City, IN.

3. On my return trip to Brookside Gardens, I listened, for the first time, to the NPR show, Invisibilia and today's episode challenged the idea that we humans have a fixed personality. As I listened to the stories being told about reformed (and unreformed) prisoners and to experts discuss the entirely mutable nature of human life and biology and neurology, I kept thinking about all those years I tried to help my students dig into the philosophical underpinnings of Shakespeare's plays and how Shakespeare assumed flux, mutability, and constant change and how his plays dramatize possible ramifications of this fundamental instability in all areas of life:  love, politics, morality, war, friendship, and on and on.

Here are the pictures I posted, attempting to illustrate the concept of tranquility:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Photo Assignment #2: Tranquility

Back in the old days, when I was an instructor of English, I used to urge my students to turn in their essays no matter whether they were pleased with them or not -- I can't remember if I said it this way, but I know I thought, "Just get the damn thing done."

I was tempted to ask Christy for an extension beyond today's due date for this next photo assignment because I found myself wanting to go back this evening to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park and shoot these pictures again in different light.

But, then I thought, how long would I drag this out, always thinking I could do better if I just took more pictures at different times of the day. That's probably a delusion.

I decided not to ask for an extension, but to just get the damn thing done!

Here's the assignment Christy gave us -- an assignment, I think,  worth repeating many, many times and a very challenging one:

"There is nothing more useless than a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept."
                                                                     -- Ansel Adams
Pick a particular mood or feeling (cheerfulness, sadness, anger, nostalgia,mystery, suspense, starkness, tranquility, etc. ) and take a series of photos to illustrate that mood or feeling.
Christy went on a drive up the Old River Road on the Coeur d'Alene River where she experienced surprise, here. Carol explored joyful patriotism at Kellogg's July 4th parade, here.

I set out to take pictures that expressed being jolly because when I used to grow flowers, I used to think they were smiling at me, especially when I watered them,  and were being jolly.

But after I looked at this set, I decided I would say they illustrate tranquility.

Three Beautiful Things 06/25/16: Corgis Up and at 'Em, Good Day for Mom, *Forensic Files* Therapy

1. I didn't have to go anywhere today. So I didn't. The dogs established a new record this morning by whining and nosing me out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to be fed and to go out. Later in the morning, I napped and kept dreaming about being asleep in the Sube in a Denny's parking lot and then I backed up the car while asleep and couldn't wake up and I couldn't stop the car and I started having dreams inside my Sube dream and, frightened,  I shook myself awake in both my dream life and my earthly life and spent time reassuring myself that I wasn't in the Sube, that I wasn't in an unstoppable car, and decided I would do all I could tomorrow morning to persuade the corgis to get up and eat a bit later in the morning. I rose from my nap and toasted myself a bagel.

2. In the afternoon, Christy sent me pictures from Mom's backyard of the work Christy did to put wood chips down where Mom's raised boxes used to be and how she got Mom's yard decorations out and it all looked perfect. Carol was in Mom's house cleaning Mom's bedroom and putting things away upstairs and Everett was painting his and Christy's garage and Paul was filming in Wallace and came to Mom's later and fixed Mom's toilet. Christy reported that Mom was energized today. She toured her yard to inspect Christy's labor and Christy sent me a picture of Mom sitting on the deck, looking happy and healhier,  eating dinner with her daughters and their husbands.

3. Sometimes when I'm alone, like I am now and will be for the next six or seven days, I get obsessed with my confusion and vivid memories come rushing forward from all stages of my life of things I've done when I honestly didn't know what I was doing and screwed things up. None of these memories are pleasant. They erode my self-confidence. I reprimand myself. To get out of this rut, it helps me to watch television shows where people seem to know what they are doing, where things work out, where clarity and competence vanquish confusion.  I've watched countless episodes of Forensic Files over the last few years and I know that it presents stories in which ghastly things happen, but that in under a half an hour, the crime gets solved and I can be reassured that moving from confusion to clarity is possible. I watched four episodes of Forensic Files this evening. Each episode horrified me at the outset, but I knew the investigators would piece together the fragments of evidence into a coherent story and satisfying resolution, always told masterfully by Peter Thomas,  It worked. I quit berating myself and enjoyed watching other people enjoy the success of thinking clearly and getting it right.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/24/16: Tastee Diner Seminar, Reassembling, A Taste of Honey

1. After I shoehorned myself into the Sube and sailed up to the clinic for a TB skin test so that I don't get kicked off the kidney transplant list, I went to the Tastee Diner in downtown Laurel and sat at the counter and enjoyed a breakfast of bacon, eggs, homefries, English muffin, and chipped beef -- a gravy I used to cover my home fries. From time to time, as I drank my coffee and put my bacon on my English muffin and mixed up some egg yolk in my potatoes,  I couldn't help but listen to fragments of the speechifying of a pontificating mansplainer in a Ben Hogan cap, a retired guy, a little older than I am, in a booth several feet away, clarify for his breakfast mate, who rarely spoke and always needed correcting when he did, the meaning of the UK's exit from the European Union and how liberals in this country have destroyed the family and ushered in the failure of public schools in the USA. I kind of envied his certainty. I wondered what it must be like to know you know you know what's absolutely true, to be unsaddled with and unbothered by even the slightest nagging voice of doubt in your head.

2. It wasn't far from the Tastee Diner to Weis Market and since I was fresh out of cans of Polar seltzer water, I stopped in and purchased four 12 packs and as the day wore on was glad I did. The day before I'd had to prepare our apartment home for pest control and had to empty all of our kitchen and bathroom cabinets and having some lime seltzer water made the job of putting these rooms back together again much more pleasant.

3. The best part of the Greek pasta salad I made tonight was the vinaigrette. I combined olive oil, red wine vinegar, pressed garlic, oregano, Greek seasoning, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and honey together in a jar and shook it up and poured it over the pasta, red onion, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and fresh basil and the interplay between vinegar, lemon, olive brine, and honey worked perfectly for me.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/23/16: The Deke Flies to Indy, Radiology Relief, Inertia and Emergency Dinner

1. The Deke and I were up at the crack of this morning's dark rainstorm and out the door at six o'clock to drive to Reagan National Airport so the Deke could catch her flight to Indianapolis and join other family for a reunion and the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering. Cars, trucks, and buses clogged the roadways and I had never made this exact drive before, but with the Deke's help and with the wizardry of GPS, we arrived at the crowded airport and the Deke got inside, got through security, and found out her flight was delayed two hours. If only we'd known!

2. I spent time this afternoon sorting out the recommendation from the radiologist that I have a chest CT scan done. Through the online Johns Hopkins My Chart service, I received the radiologist's report and discovered that my pre-transplant chest X-ray in 2015 as well as Wednesday's X-ray show potential minimal and unchanged infiltrates in the lower region of my right lung. In other words, what was there fifteen months ago is still there, unchanged. In 2015, the doctor did not recommend further action, but, with this X-ray, the doctor recommended a CT scan to get a more detailed look at this spot so he can evaluate in further. Infiltrates often equal pneumonia. I've had pneumonia twice, toxic in 1973 and "regular" pneumonia in 2009. I'll find out next week after I have the scan done on Wednesday the 29th if the doctor thinks what he sees presents a problem that should concern me. All of this information was a relief to me. The words "minimal" and "unchanged" lead me to think there's some abnormality in my lung, but it doesn't seem like a major problem.  We'll see. I am remaining calm and hopeful and positive.

3. I had thoughts about going out for a bite to eat around dinner time, but I just couldn't get myself out the door. Inertia.  So, I put a little oil in the cast iron skillet, heated/fried several small corn tortillas, covered them with black beans, and topped the beans with feta cheese. It was an inertia driven-I don't have many groceries-I don't feel like leaving the apartment emergency dinner, and I was happy and a little surprised how much I enjoyed it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/22/16: Appointments and Orders, Our First Taste of Space Reaper, Chest CT Scan Coming?

1. I called central scheduling at Johns Hopkins to schedule a PPD (skin test for TB) and after the scheduler told me she would have to have the Laurel office call me to make an appointment, I decided to drive to Laurel, make the appointment, and find out if my chest X-ray order was ready for me to pick up. I scheduled a test for Friday and the X-ray order was ready.  Excellent! This meant I could drive to Silver Spring and have the X-ray done today. And I did.

2. After going to the clinic and to the radiology center, I arrived back at our apartment home and before too long the Deke and I climbed into the Sube and lumbered on down to DC Brau to have our first taste of Space Reaper, the brewery's new Double IPA, released on Sunday. We both loved it and so we had a half gallon growler filled and headed up to the Diaz's for some dinner and to share the beer. Both Molly and Hiram found the Space Reaper tasty, too.

3. I checked my email early in the evening at the Diaz's house and Towanda, my pre-transplant nurse coordinator, had contacted me. She told me it looked like the X-ray result suggested I have my chest further evaluated with a CT scan. I sent Dr. Cullen, my Primary Care Physician, a message asking him what to do next and asking him how urgent this was.  My chest has a kind of a lousy history what with all the exposure to Zinc Plant toxins that rushed inside me when I got injured in 1973 and the resulting toxic pneumonia and with later bouts of bronchitis and the bacterial pneumonia I contracted in 2009. I hope I find out soon why it appears I'm being recommended for further evaluation.

Thurs. morning update:  As of 10 o'clock this morning (EST), my PCP has not received the report on the X-ray and will be able to tell me what to do next when he receives that report. I'm going to stay calm and deal with the news when I receive it. If nothing else, I'll be at the clinic tomorrow morning and can check up on this in person at that time. Let's all hope for the best and if bad news is about to befall me, I'll do all I can to proceed prudently. Thanks for thinking good thoughts and sending out a prayer or two on my behalf.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/21/16: Pre-Transplant Readiness, Writing About Watery Love, Celebrating with Rosé

1. Word came back to me today from Towanda Jackson, my pre-kidney transplant nurse coordinator, that all I need to be up to date with tests is a chest X-ray and TB test. I learned today that I need to have these two things done annually. I'll have cardiac testing, a colonoscopy, and re-evaluation with the transplant team done again in 2018.  It's a relief to know that by submitting a blood sample each month, keeping in touch with Towanda, and seeing my nephrologist regularly that I am doing what I need to do to stay on the transplant list.

2. I spent quite a bit of time today composing my latest Sibling Assignment. I wrote about my love for Delta Ponds in north Eugene and how this wetland area and its abundance of all kinds of life affected and continues to affect how I take pictures and what I hope happens when I snap off any picture, anywhere, really.  If you'd like to read what I wrote and see four pictures from Delta Ponds, click right here.

3. Today was the Deke's last day of work for the 2015-16 school year and we celebrated by going up to Old Line Bistro and surprised ourselves after a beer by each having a glass of French Rosé wine and buying a bottle to take home and enjoy. The wine transported us back to one of our most enjoyable nights in Eugene on June 14, 2014 when Thomas organized a Pinot/Rosé wine festival on the patio of the 16 Tons Cafe.  The Deke's celebration tonight was hard-earned.   The Deke endured many difficulties this school year and is very proud of the work she did to forge alliances with some testy parents, win the trust of many of her students and make learning fun for some of them, and continue to try within a regimented system to teach in an interdisciplinary way and touch the students' inner selves, not just work to raise their test scores.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sibling Assignment #181: Wetland Love

Here is what I assigned for the latest Sibling Assignment:

Write about a specific place,but NOT the Oregon Coast, that is powerful to you where there is water. Do your best to describe this place is some physical detail -- you could also include pictures! --, explain why it is powerful to you, and reflect upon the power of water as it relates to this place and to your life in general.
Christy wrote about retreating along the Clark Fork River, here,  Carol will post hers when she can.

As I was growing up in Kellogg, I didn't spend nearly the time in, on, or around water that so many people I knew did.

I didn't fish.

I am the world's worst inner tube floater.  (Remember?)

Our family didn't have a place up the river or out at any lake.

We didn't own a boat.

I'm prone to motion sickness if I'm in a boat, especially if that boat in on the ocean. (Carol wrote about this problem of hers and mine.  Remember?)

I didn't drive up the river to jump off any of the railroad bridges into the water.

I didn't water ski.

Once I was out of grade school, I rarely went swimming. I worked, played baseball, and played golf.

I hate cold water.

Thanks to my love of taking pictures, my relationship with water started to change back in 2012 and 2013 when I began to spend many hours in north Eugene at a city owned wetlands area, Delta Ponds.

I loved the variety of life at Delta Ponds, the geese, ducks, cormorants, herons, egrets, turtles, hawks, sparrows, warblers, kingfishers, pheasants, and the varieties of trees, bushes, grasses, and other vegetation.

All of this life, so deeply reliant on the water, calmed me, filled me with wonder, moved me to feel and experience the spirit of life that moves turtles to bask in the sun, heron and egrets to patiently wait and wait and wait until the moment is perfect to snatch their food from the ponds, geese to honk and fly in formation. and cormorants to flirt and court in anticipation of mating.

Walking the wide and groomed paths circumventing the ponds and crossing the handsome bridges that went over the edges of the ponds and small Willamette River tributaries, I started to understand the photographer's maxim that the best camera and best lens is the one you are holding in your hand. Oh, I admit, sometimes I thought it must be fun to have a lens with, say, five or ten times the reach of mine as I watched photographers snap close up photographs of subjects that were quite a ways away from them, but more and more the water and life teeming all around me helped me see that it wasn't the camera or the lens, it was my love that mattered.

The watery environment and abundant life of Delta Ponds helped solidify what I probably already intuited, that when I take pictures, I'm a lousy planner -- the rules of composition I've studied and all the other technical information I've absorbed melt away when I look into the viewfinder at a heron I've fallen in love with near the shore or try to express the romance I feel when the lowering sun casts the shadows of slats across one of the park's footbridges.  My thinking mind goes blank. I'm not consciously analyzing the shot for leading lines or complementary colors or patterns or textures or much of anything -- the many elements I read about that make good pictures.  I want to express my love.

I take pictures as a romantic, guided by intuition and feelings of love. At Delta Ponds, I realized that I was making intuitive adjustments in my shutter speed and aperture and unconscious artistic decisions as I took pictures, hoping mainly to express my gratitude for all the copious forms of life at Delta Ponds.

I suppose what I'm really getting at here is that I experience water and watery places as vitality. I didn't know when the Deke and I left Eugene that I would find other such sources of vitality here in the D. C. area. When we lived in Virginia, I discovered Huntley Meadows, a protected wetland near where we lived with Molly and Hiram and as I first strolled the boardwalk cutting through the cattails and marshland, my heart soared to the music of bullfrogs and various birds and insects and my romantic involvement with this swamp skirted by forest land got underway.

Once we settled into Maryland, I discovered the overwhelming vitality of life at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, especially the floral life and the lush lotus and lilies and other flowers that thrive in the humid air of this little marshy section of the Anacostia River basin.

The vitality of these wetlands, marshes, ponds, and aquatic gardens invigorates me, heightens my vitality, sharpens my senses, and, most of all, excites my love.

The only way I know how to express my love and thanks for these places is to make pictures, and if and when I succeed, my hope is that those who look at them can feel some of the vigor and energy that animates the watery beauty all around us and all the life this water nurtures and supports.

Remembering Delta Ponds:

Three Beautiful Things 06/20/16: Back in the Pool, Mom's Visit to the Heart Center, Drunken Noodles (I Guess)

1. Last week, I was concerned about the Deke being at work with the pinched nerve in her back and stayed close to home in case her back seized up and she needed me to take her home. Consequently, I didn't go to the swimming pool for any of my improvised workouts. Today, however, the class I take met and it was refreshing to be in the water and jog, cross country ski, kick, and stretch. I also got to flex my so-called muscles.

2. Christy emailed me a report of Mom's morning visit to the P. A. (Physician Assistant) today in Coeur d'Alene. He is happy with Mom's progress with losing water weight and changed some of her medicines and was pleased with her oxygen levels after her seven minute walk. Mom will hook up to the oxygen at night -- it helps her sleep better -- but will not be hooked up during the day. The P. A. set a target weight for Mom. Now she and Christy have more precise numbers to work with to assess her success when she weighs herself  every day. The P.A. would also like to see Mom walk more so she and Christy are working out where she can go to get some steps in. Overall, this was a good visit to the Heart Center and a positive report. She returns for another check up on July 6th and I'll get to pile in the car with Mom and Christy and go to the appointment, too.

3. I had fun late this afternoon boiling and then frying wide rice noodles and combining the noodles with stir fried onion, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage, and mushrooms and making a stir fry sauce that combined the sweet with the salty and the vinegary with crushed red pepper heat. We topped this meal with fresh basil and cilantro and peanuts.  I guess this dish is a version of drunken noodles, but, whatever it is, the Deke and I loved it. I was really happy to be cooking again after an absence of several days.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/19/16: Fun and Disappointing Trip, Mike Tells His Story, A Happy Father's Day

1. On Saturday night, Laura, our Old Line Bistro server, told us she wanted to go to Frisco in Columbia, a tap house with a zillion taps and food. The Deke and I decided to drive through Maryland's broccoli forestland and give Frisco a try. Today they carried about six taps of beer brewed in house (Push ales) and about two dozen or so other taps. I ordered an Iron Fist Gauntlet Imperial IPA and loved it, but we were disappointed with Frisco's service and the franchise/chain restaurant feel of the place wasn't what we were looking for and we decided not to eat at Frisco and headed on down to Silver Spring and enjoy a second beer at Quench. I'm really glad we drove the twenty-five minutes or so it took to go to Frisco. I enjoy trying out new places, and, even though Frisco disappointed us, we had a lot of fun making the trip and we both enjoyed our beers. And, I'll add, we both left Frisco fully aware that we were its only disappointed customers -- isn't that funny? People around us seemed very happy, but, for us, even though Frisco was clean, open, and comfortable,  the vibe wasn't quite right and neither of us were having a very good time.

2.  We are right at home at Quench and today the Deke struck up a conversation with Mike, the owner, and learned about how he came to the USA as young man from Iran with his family and how he and his siblings have worked to become successful here. Mike loves owning and running Quench and it's been fun to see the ways he has expanded the joint's offerings with a new liquor license and an expanded food menu. Quench always has a reliably diverse tap list, with great information published about each beer, and, even though the prices can be a little steep, the quality of service, the comfort of the place, and the neighborhood feel make paying a little extra worth it to us. (By the way, Frisco's beer prices were less expensive, but unpublished and not displayed; Frisco didn't offer flights of beer, a big disappointment at a place with so many beers available; Frisco offered no information about their beers -- I only knew Push was their in-house beer because I read about it online before we went and I learned about the powerful and awesome Imperial IPA I loved when I later went online and found out that Iron Fist brews their beer in Vista, CA. I enjoy tap rooms where there's a commitment to informing customers about the beers and where beer can be purchased in smaller volumes, making sampling and learning more about unfamiliar beers possible.)

3. Molly did some improvising in the kitchen and whipped up a tasty taco casserole with cabbage salad and, before dinner, she mixed a peppery Moscow Mule in a copper cup for me to enjoy. It was fun that she had bought ginger beer for the Moscow Mule that was subtly heated by some kind of pepper. It all made for a very enjoyable Father's Day dinner -- oh! and Molly gave me a flight set for Father's Day -- tray, four 4 oz glasses, and a little board of slate on which to write the name of each beer.  What a fun and perfect gift!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/18/16: I'll Do My Best with What I Got, Loving National Parks, Party with Laura

1. My sisters and I are adding a photography project to our life of sibling assignments. For now, Christy will be giving weekly sibling photography assignments, assignments growing out of the workshop she took a few months ago in Spokane with the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. I completed the assignment today by driving down to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and then to the National Arboretum. I had decided that when I think of summer and color, flowers are the first thing that come to mind. I loved seeing some lotus beginning to bloom along with water lilies at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and wished I could see some of the pictures that the numerous photographers were taking, aided by tripods, huge lenses, and light diffusers. I take seriously the stuff I read that dissuades me from suffering photography gear envy and try to do what these articles say again and again:  learn what I can do with the equipment I have, explore it as fully as I can, look for ways to improve, and always know that every lens can help a person take good pictures -- but, really, it's not the lens, it's the person releasing the shutter.

If you'd like to read the assignment and see the four pictures I posted, go here. For anyone interested only in seeing the pictures, I'll put them at the end of this post -- and I'll include a few others.

2. The parking lot at the National Arboretum was packed and, even though it took me a while to find a parking spot, knowing all these people were here made me happy. I didn't walk deep into the arboretum but strolled around the garden beds near the Visitor Center. I loved what I saw.  A bunch of families had come to the National Arboretum to picnic. Many were young families, two or three families together, relaxed under trees, shaded from the increasing heat, enjoying one another's company. As I walked around snapping pictures, I heard bits and pieces of conversation about national politics, what was happening where picnickers worked, raising children, and I realized that when I'm in Washington, D. C. it's scenes like this, whether at the National Mall or at the National Arboretum or at the Aquatic Gardens or at any of the national parks around here, that make me feel the most connected to being an American. I felt the same way on the public beaches on the Oregon coast and when I went hiking to waterfalls in the North Umpqua River basin. I love the physical beauty of the USA and deeply appreciate being able to enjoy these places. I enjoyed the solitude I almost always experienced on certain undisturbed Oregon coast beaches and at  Watson Falls and other such spots in Oregon.  I also enjoy the throngs who stroll the lawns and are moved by the monuments at the National Mall and the crowds who were loving the beauty of the National Arboretum today.

3. The Deke and Laura, a server at the Old Line Bistro, and I love hanging out with each while Laura is working, especially when she is the server for our table. Late this afternoon, for a while at least, things were kind of slow at Old Line and Laura spent chunks of time with us, talking about beer and different festivals and flow fire tricks with nunchucks and hula hoops, and, as always, when we talk to people in their twenties and thirties, the Deke and I had our knowledge of the world expanded. Laura is especially good at telling us about stuff we know next to nothing about. It's really fun. We had an exceptionally good party at Old Line.  The tap list was awesome, the po' boy shrimp tacos rocked, and we had a ton of fun yakking with Laura.

Sibling Photo Assignment pictures: 

Here are a few other pictures I took:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sibling Photo Assignment #1: Colors Summer Offers

My siblings and I are going to add a second project to our (usually) written Sibling Assignments by starting to do Sibling Photo Assignments.  For now, Christy will take the lead on giving assignments.Back in the spring, she took a workshop with the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and is going to have Carol and me work on things she learned to work on in her course.

Here is the first assigment:   

Summer Color. Take four pictures that depict summer to you. Focus on color by creating an arrangement of colors that are pleasing to the eye. When done we can compare colors we chose and what stood out in the arrangements taken.

Christy did a photo walk around her house and found much beauty. The pictures are here
Carol took pictures of the beauty of the Tri-Color Birch Tree in her family's backyard. The pictures are here

I went for two photo walks in Washington D. C. today in order to complete this assignment.  First I went to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and then I went to the National Arboretum. I decided to let these places tell me what arrangement of colors depicts summer for me since my favorite feature of summer is appreciating, and sometimes taking pictures of, the many flowers in bloom. In the last picture I've posted below, you can see that at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, it's early in the blooming season and many buds are scattered throughout the park, giving the place a look weas sociate with spring in other gardens. 

Three Beautiful Things 06/17/16: Diner Failure and Poppies, International Quench, Ana the Plopper

1. Back on April 14th, while I was merrily getting a haircut and taking the dogs to the Diazes in preparation for a trip with the Deke to Nyack to see Adrienne and Jack, at about noon a fire broke out in Plato's Diner in College Park. I didn't know this until today when I thought I'd drive down to the National Arboretum and take some pictures and eat at Plato's on the way, just like I did back on March 26th, but before I was going to leave today, I went online to look at Plato's menu and I discovered the terrible news that a lunch hour kitchen fire gutted the place. No one was injured.

So, I pressed myself into the Sube and blasted off for the College Park Diner. I arrived and suddenly realized I'd left my phone at home. I couldn't be away today without my phone in case the Deke's back seized up and she needed me to take her home from work, so I blasted back to our apartment home and fixed myself some fried red potatoes and eggs and suddenly it was as if the Wicked Witch of the West was seeing me in her crystal ball, chanting:  "Poppies...Poppies...Poppies will put [him] to sleep." The fact that the corgis had insisted on eating at five a.m. caught up to me and I took a nap and when I woke up, I decided to stay put and wait until Saturday to take pictures.

2. The Deke's back did not seize up. By her own diagnosis, she has about 80 percent of her back's function back again, but is still under the chiropractor's orders not to knit. No heavy lifting either, by the way! I picked up the Deke from school and we did some light lifting at the Quench Tap Room as we each enjoyed a pint of Weyerbacher's gorgeous #2 Imperial IPA and listened to the three servers talk about their native countries: El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to listen more. But, the servers had work to do and we had grandchildren to visit and so the Deke and I left Quench, relaxed and a little more knowledgeable.

3. Molly fixed us some chicken and Greek salad and after dinner we couldn't take our eyes off Ana who is on the verge of walking. She can walk while steadying herself on the coffee table. She can stand without support. From time to time, she walks about six steps or so, then plops to the floor, not quite ready to push it any farther. She's a gamer. Plop. Right back up. Smile. Plop. Crawl. Pull up with the help of a chair. Stand. Stagger. Plop. Again and again. It won't be long until she's done plopping and discovers the exhilaration of walking all over the place.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/16/16: Storing Pictures, Continued Improvement, Popcorn Dinner

1. I took care of backing up several folders of pictures and made sure they were all up on flickr.

2. The Deke went to school today and when she was done, I took her to the chiropractor and she continues to steadily improve.

3. I stayed close to home today in case the Deke's back went nuts and she needed to come back home from work. I didn't go to the grocery store. The possibility of going to Molly's fell through. We had a popcorn dinner.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/15/16: Mom Improving, The Deke Improving, *Runnin' Down a Dream*

1. From all I can tell, things are stable with Mom after her fall. She had a good night.  She got the blood work done she needs for her heart appointment on Monday. She and Christy figured out some ways to make things better in her bedroom so that it's safer when she has to get up at night.

2. I know from listening to her and from first hand observation that the Deke is improving. She saw the chiropractor again on Wednesday and goes in again on Thursday. He was pleased with her progress. I am very happy that the Deke slept much of the day. (Actually, now that I think about it, I got in a very good coma nap myself during the afternoon.) The only bummer is that the doctor has barred her from knitting until next week.

3. I didn't know it was streaming on Netflix. I was doing the digital equivalent of flipping through the channels and there it was: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:  Runnin' Down a Dream, Peter Bogdanovich's four hour documentary film. I had no idea it was streaming.  I've wanted to watch this movie for several years and tonight I seized the moment, thinking I'd watch part of it and pick it up again tomorrow, but, no, I stayed up until one a.m. and savored the whole movie.

I might write a separate blog post about Tom Petty at another time, but, for now, I'll say this. Tom Petty has been working on me quietly and intermittently for about thirty-three years. I never bought his music and I've never been to a Tom Petty concert, but I know now that I was hearing it a lot on the radio and on MTV and the songs were embedding themselves inside me without my conscious knowledge. When I was a subscriber to satellite radio, starting over ten years ago, Tom Petty came on the stations I listened to a lot -- and he has his own radio show, Buried Treasure -- and I realize now that his music had taken residence inside me. I know this because I can be somewhere -- a tap room, the Old Line Bistro, certain grocery stores, a mall -- and I'm hardly aware of the recorded music playing in the house. A Tom Petty song will come on and suddenly I stop and I stare into the great wide open and if the Deke is with me I'll mutter, "Man. (Long pause. Slow head shake.) Tom Petty." I'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/14/16: Mom to ER, The Deke on the Injured List, Troegs Imperial Amber Ale is Heavenly

1. It was 4:30 a.m. in Kellogg on Tuesday morning when Christy called me to report that during the night Mom, needing to get up,  had gotten tangled up in her oxygen cord and fallen to the floor by her bed. She landed on her right elbow and it immediately ballooned. Christy, Everett, Paul, and Carol all came to her aid. At the Emergency Room the news was as good as it could be. The doctor drained Mom's elbow. She did not re-injure the area that broke a little over a year ago. Mom's vitals were all strong. She was alert throughout the entire ordeal and returned home exhausted with pain in her arm, which Christy is helping her ice. Mom had an appointment this very morning with the heart clinic in Coeur d'Alene and she was too spent to meet it, but the people there were very helpful. They took Mom off the diuretic and potassium, told her to have blood work done in Kellogg, and rescheduled her appointment for Monday. As the day continued, Christy and I exchanged texts about who was who in pictures of Kellogg people on Facebook. It was good, because Mom's situation had stabilized so well that Christy and I could have some casual and fun texting. Christy will sleep over at Mom's on Tuesday night.

2. Joining Mom on the injured list is the Deke. On Monday and again today she called me to come to school and take her home early because of back spasms. This afternoon we buzzed down to a chiropractor's office and the Deke learned she has a pinched nerve caused, almost without a doubt, by, and I'm not joking around here, KNITTING. The Deke had had a five hour session using a two-stranded technique involving an unusual (for her) use of her left hand and arm and she contorted something and got blasted by excruciating back pain and intermittent searing spasms. The chiropractor ordered her to stay home from school on Wednesday, sent her to Urgent Care so a doctor could prescribe her some medication, and the chiropractor will see her again on Wednesday.

3.  Really. What else could the Deke and I do after going to Urgent Care? We did the sensible thing. I piled and the Deke gingerly floated herself into the Sube and we crawled up the congested Beltway from New Carrollton to Baltimore Avenue in Beltsville and sat down for a couple of beers and some dinner at Old Line Bistro. I was ecstatic to see Troegs Scratch Series No. 232 Imperial Amber Ale on the tap list and enjoyed two snifters of it. It took me back to an afternoon at the Church Key in D. C. when I had my first taste of Troegs' other Imperial Amber, the heavenly Nugget Nectar.  They are different beers, in the same ways two siblings can remind one of the other, and my beer today rekindled my excitement for the wonders of an Imperial Amber. I enjoy the extra kick, the higher alcohol content, and more aggressive flavors of the Imperial Amber over and against the milder, and most enjoyable, regular Amber Ale. Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber is a once a year autumn beer and this No. 232, I'm almost certain, is a one off batch, so when I see the words "Troegs" and "Imperial Amber", I seize the moment and be sure to order one of these most satisfying beers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/13/16: Socializing While Exercising, *Knuckleball*, *KidPoker*

1. I arrived about ten minutes early for today's senior water aerobics class and did some exercising on my own until the instructor started calling out instructions for the exercises we all did together. We had a sub today and I couldn't always hear her, mainly because, and I get a kick out of this, about half the members of class socialize while they exercise and talk right through and right over the leader's instructions. So, often I figured out what she said by watching what she did or I just improvised and did my own exercises. Why do I get a kick out of my classmates? I enjoy how the pool seems to not only rejuvenate my classmates, but seems to infuse them with youthful energy -- as if I'm in the pool with incorrigibly excited middle schoolers who just don't obey that most fundamental principle of courtesy: don't talk while the teacher is talking. It's all good.

2. I am really slow. Back in March of 2015, Russell dropped me a message telling me I might enjoy the documentary Knuckleball streaming on Netflix. Well, here it is, fifteen months later and finally I watched this movie this evening.  Russell was right. I enjoyed Knuckleball thoroughly. The movie was released in 2012 and focused on the careers of Major League Baseball's two remaining knuckleball pitchers, Time Wakefield (now retired) and R. A. Dickey. I was especially happy with the passages featuring past knuckleball pitchers Jim Bouton, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, and Tom Candiotti. It was fun having so many of my baseball memories surface and to learn more about these practitioners of the rare art of throwing a knuckler. Hmmm....unless I'm mistaken, when R. A. Dickey hangs up his spikes, no knuckleball pitchers will be left in the major leagues.

Wait! I was just informed by Randy Trox that the Red Sox' roster includes knuckle ball pitcher Stephen Wright . . . great news!

3. Before watching Knuckleball, I had been browsing at Netflix and noted that a documentary looking at the life and career of poker player Daniel Negreanu entitled KidPoker was available and I watched it. The movie was bound to be interesting because Negreanu is really bright, charismatic, and outspoken. More interesting to me, however, than his back story and what he learned and how he lives because of a personal transformation seminar he attended, would have been interviews about his poker strategy and a look back at why he played certain key hands in different tournaments the way he did.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/12/16: Rice Salad, The Movie *Seabiscuit*, Good News from Kellogg

1. After cooking up a pot of rice and making a quick trip to the Co-op and a shopping stop at Weis Market and Costco, I combined the rice along with cherry tomatoes, almonds, chopped cucumber, red pepper, feta cheese, fresh mint, fresh basil, and fresh cilantro into a bowl, added olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper into a bowl and the Deke and I had ourselves a mighty good salad for dinner.

2. Late in the afternoon, I rented the movie Seabiscuit from Amazon and had a lump in my throat for the next two and a half hours. In the book Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand not only tells the moving and uplifting story of Seabiscuit and his owner, trainer, and jockeys, but she delves deeply into the how the horse racing business operated in the thirties, details the many challenges Seabiscuit faced and the difficulties of Red Pollard, Seabiscuit's jockey (when Pollard wasn't injured). We learn a lot about Pollard's injuries, his struggles with alcoholism, and his marriage. The book is a detailed and fully documented biography and history. To me, it was a perfect blend of popular non-fiction and careful, detailed historical and biographical research.

The movie implies a different purpose and is a different work of art. I know from reading Hillenbrand's book and from other reading I've done, that escapist movies featuring themes of overcoming great difficulties were popular during the Depression and it was as if Gary Ross, in writing and directing Seabiscuit, wanted to resurrect a Depression Era style of making a movie.

In the horse Seabiscuit and in the stories of Charles Howard, the owner, Tom Smith, the trainer, and in the jockey Red Pollard, Laura Hillenbrand provided Gary Ross with the perfect characters to tell such a story and so the movie was structured around the lowly overcoming the mighty, the little horse with a big heart ("Though he be but little, he is fierce"*) outracing more majestic horses, and around the dream all of us in the USA were born into:  with hard work and grit we can overcome all obstacles and prevail.

Laura Hillenbrand's story is more complicated -- but the implied purpose of her book was very different.

Actually, the movie swept away my memories of the book and, while I was watching it. I realized, at some point, that I was so engrossed in the story as told in the movie, that the book disappeared and it wasn't until after the movie ended that I thought about how the two media approached this story so differently.

My experience with Seabiscuit was enriched by Jeff Bridges playing Charles Howard and especially by Chris Cooper playing Tom Smith. Jeff Bridges created a character who struck it rich as an automobile entrepreneur and whose glad handing and public relations instincts never overshadowed his basic decency and his care for Seabiscuit, Tom Smith, and Red Pollard. In contrast, Chris Cooper created a character of few words, without a glad to hand, but whose deep love for and understanding of horses, and, in particular, Seabiscuit, moved me, put that lump in my throat throughout the movie.

* You might recognize this quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Helena uses it to describe Hermia -- so Red Pollard improvised it a bit on it: in the play, Helena says "And though she be but little, she is fierce" (MND, III, ii, 325). 

3. More good news reached me from Kellogg.

Mom continues to shed water weight.

And, after losing their heeler, Shelby, Christy and Everett have adopted another heeler through an organization in Coeur d'Alene, Second Chance Pets. His name is Tucker and, from this picture, I think you'll agree -- he's a beauty.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/11/16: I Overdid It a Bit, Solitude in the Pool, More Encouraging News

1. I filled up my pack with my swim suit, pool shoes, soap, towel, wash cloth, lock, and water bottle and headed off to walk the banks of Greenbelt Lake and then leave the lake trail and stroll over to the aquatic center. For reasons too convoluted to explain, I got mixed up as to where to leave the lake trail took a much longer route than necessary to the swimming pool. I ended up adding at least a mile and a half or so to my walk. Then I walked home, without error, after working out in the pool and ended up walking about 9800 steps. As far as my right heel is concerned, I overdid it just a bit, but my heel will recover and I won't make the mistake again I made today on the trail. I am trying to find the right amount of walking I can do to add to my exercise in the pool. I'm very pleased with my efforts today, even if they caused me a small level of discomfort.

2. It being a gorgeous and hot day out, I was alone in the exercise area and one of only two people in the pool.  Bored lifeguards relieve each other about every twenty minutes or so. Occasionally I glance at them paying no attention to me flopping around with my styrofoam noodle, and I am relieved by their boredom and lack of interest in what I'm doing. I enjoy the feeling of solitude, of being in my own world of jogging, cross country skiing, churning my knotted styrofoam noodle, stretching, and devising ways to invent resistance for my muscles in the water and stretching my aging limbs.

3. The news from Kellogg about Mom continues to be very encouraging. She continues to lose weight as she relieves herself of the fluid that had collected in her ankles and legs and abdomen. When I checked in today, she was eating lunch, and by all I can tell, her appetite is good and Christy reports that she keeps looking better and improving.  

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/10/16: Day Pack, Not Peaking, Mom's Improving

1. I'll test my right heel. I'll see if it really is doing better. I'll walk along the bank of Greenbelt Lake and on to the swimming pool for my workouts rather than drive. I can more readily do this now because today I bought a day pack to strap to my back and use to carry my swimming gear. I think this pack will double as a camera equipment pack. I also bought a water bottle.

2. Before making these major purchases at REI, I drove down to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to see what kind of water foliage was (or was not in bloom). I think these gardens peak in July, so for seeing the big blooms, I was early, but I was hoping to find some turtles basking in the sun or come across some other surprises. The turtles stayed hidden. I don't know where the geese were. I was too slow to photograph dragonflies! But, I did take some pictures of what things, in general, looked like today.  Scroll to the end of this post if you'd like to see them.

3. I checked with Christy to make sure Mom was feeling like being on the phone and late in the afternoon I called her. She sounded good and has a sound understanding of her condition and what she needs to do to improve. The treatment is working. She started her treatment on Tuesday and by Friday afternoon, she had lost about twelve pounds of the watery weight that had built up in her frame thanks to the edema. Yes, her sleep at night has been interrupted by frequently needing to void her bladder, but, thanks to the oxygen, Mom told me that she has been sleeping more peacefully than she has in quite a while and she's not having oddball dreams like she had been. So, reduced swelling and water weight. Better sleep. Good appetite. Devotion to appropriate hydration. Loving attention from Christy. A couple of meals from Carol. I hung up feeling pretty good about how this past week has progressed.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/09/16: Mom is Improving, Finishing *Seabiscuit*, Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas

1. Because of the diuretic Mom is taking to help rid her system of excess liquid, she was up often Wednesday night, but the good news is that she has lost five watery pounds since seeing the doctor on Tuesday and this is great news. Christy's reports have been positive, that Mom is responding well to her treatment plan.  I deeply appreciate your continued thoughts and prayers on Mom's behalf.

2. This morning I buzzed up to Panera in Beltsville for a raisin cinnamon bagel and a cup of dark roast coffee, found a comfortable seat, and finished reading Seabiscuit. The book gave me great pleasure. Lauren Hillenbrand gathered a ton of documents and interviews -- I loved reading her acknowledgements at the end of the book -- and translated the records of this spirited horse and those who cared for and rode him into an elegantly written, beautifully plotted story. The book not only peers into the heart of Seabiscuit, but it also invites us to see one bit of cultural history of the USA during the Great Depression through the popularity of horse racing, a popularity difficult to imagine today as horse racing is, on the whole, a marginal interest that pops into public awareness primarily in the spring if a horse is making a run at winning the Triple Crown.

3. I love pulling the cookbook, Joie Warner's No-Cook Pasta Sauces off the shelf and reading recipes and deciding which one to prepare on any given day. Today, I decided to make Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and serve it over ziti rigati. It was simple: chop up tomatoes, put them in a bowl, stir in olive oil, fresh oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, shredded Romano cheese, and chickpeas, warm the ingredients by placing the bowl atop the pot of water as the water nears boiling before putting in the pasta, boil the pasta, drain it, combine the pasta and sauce and heap generous amounts of fresh ribbons of basil and cilantro leaves into the mix. Once I served myself a bowl of this delicious meal, I added more pepper, Romano cheese, and lemon juice to the pasta and sauce. It worked.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/08/16: Positive Mom Update, Swimming Pool Illusion, The Near Future

1. Christy's news reports about Mom were positive. Christy reported that Mom slept well Tuesday night and that on Wednesday her color was already improving and her appetite was good. Mom must reduce her sodium consumption and Carol prepared a low sodium meal and brought it over. Christy decorated a notebook and filed Mom's information in it and this is where they can keep the records as Mom and Christy document Mom's blood pressure, fluid intake, weight, and other observations. Many thanks to all of your for your thoughts and prayers.

2. Once again, flopping around in the pool, going through the workout routine I've made up and improvise upon a bit, made my skin tingle with pleasure and, at times, helped create an illusion I decided to enjoy that I am sleek.

3. At the Old Line Bistro, the Deke and I continued our discussion of what we might do in the upcoming several months. The conversation was relaxed --we changed subjects a lot, especially as news from Christy began to come by text message regarding how Mom is doing -- and, as expected, we arrived at no decisions. For now, we are focused on the Deke wrapping up the school year, the Deke's trip to Indiana in late June, my trip to Chicago on July 3rd to join her and her brother's family for a 4th of July celebration, and our trip to Kellogg from Chicago on the 5th. I purchased tickets today. As always, we both look forward to seeing our families on these trips and I'll get to see some of my best and oldest friends.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/07/16: Navigating the County, Big Night at the Diazes, Mom's Illness and Christy's Care

1. Prince George's County School District required the Deke to attend a workshop on the district's adaptation of a new science curriculum next year. The workshop was in the southern part of the county, in District Heights, a D. C. suburb, and for a while we were disoriented trying to find a Starbucks (!) in the midst of the bewildering roads, drives, traffic circles, streets, state highways, and shopping malls of this corner of the D. C. suburban-opolis. We found a Starbucks! The Deke arrived on time to her workshop! I had an easy time returning to pick her up. It all worked out fine with the added bonus that I got to learn more about driving in a part of our county I'd never been to before. I'm not being sarcastic when I say that I always enjoy adding to my knowledge of where I live.

2. This evening, after a refreshing pint of Oliver's Big D IPA, brewed in Baltimore, the Deke and I joined the Diazes to celebrate Olivia's completion of the first grade as a home schooled student. (We might have also been celebrating the end of Olivia's career as a home schooled student -- she is signed up to attend a public school for the second grade.) Molly served a tart and slightly hot jalapeno margarita which was a fun drink and, after a tasty chicken curry dinner, Hiram, Molly, the Deke, and I had an excellent discussion about the possibilities of the Deke's and my future in relation to the Diazes. My guess is that we'll resume this discussion when the Deke and I return from our July visit to Kellogg. We all have a lot to think about and I'm glad we aren't trying to figure things out at the last minute and that the table that has everything on it keeps getting a little bit bigger!

3.  When I talked to Mom on the phone Saturday, she told me she hadn't been feeling well and my email conversations with Christy confirmed this. Today, Mom found out she's suffering from congestive heart failure. This explains the water retention in her legs and ankles and elsewhere, her shortness of breath, and dizziness. Thankfully, there's a course of action involving in-home oxygen and medication to reduce the water retention and to help Mom feel better. Christy was with Mom every step of the way during her exhausting two hour appointment and wrote me a detailed email of what she and Mom learned and how Mom will proceed and how Mom and Christy will monitor Mom's condition. Because Christy lives next door, she can keep a close eye on Mom and, if necessary, sleep at Mom's -- especially while Mom is treating the edema. I am most grateful that Christy has been right there with Mom and that she was so attentive during the appointment and is giving Mom such loving support as she treats these problems. Please keep Mom and Christy in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/06/16: Blood Draw, I Felt Graceful, Slow Food

1. I arrived at LabCorp today without an appointment, read another installment of Seabiscuit while I waited my turn, and, after a while, Angela with her accustomed kindness and efficiency, drew another monthly tube of blood from my arm to send to the transplant center in Baltimore. It's not a high achievement to stay on schedule and get this done every month, but, still, I find it satisfying each time I get it done.

2. Everything seemed perfect during today's water aerobics session. Our instructor, Marcia, who is always jolly, seemed in especially high spirits and her high spirits were contagious as one shared smile spread across the pool. The water warmed me, seemed to make my movements smooth and, for the first time in decades, I had this slight sensation that I possessed a sliver of physical grace. I didn't want this session to end, so as the others filed out of the pool, I spent about ten minutes or so doing an agility drill I learned when a high school freshman when I was on the football team, a drill I enjoy much more in the water than I ever did on land.

3. It all started Sunday morning when I soaked cashews for over eight hours and put the nuts and the water into the blender to make cashew cream and added the cream to the vegetable broth, teff, and corn grits boiling and simmering on the stove. I stored the grit/teff/cashew cream mixture in my new 7 x 11 Pyrex pan overnight so it could firm up and then, today, I peeled an eggplant, diced it and roasted it; I peeled half a dozen tomatoes, dropping them in boiling water and then plunging them in a bowl of ice water and removed the skin; I roasted cumin and coriander seeds, let them cool, and crushed them into powder with my new mortar and pestle. I took the grits out of the ice box and cut them into eight rectangles, heated oil in my new 12" cast iron skillet and fried the grit cakes. After I sauteed diced red onion seasoned with the cumin and coriander powder, several roasted garlic cloves, paprika, and red pepper flakes, I tossed in the peeled tomatoes I had diced along with the eggplant with some water and let that mixture simmer for about a half an hour. Soon the Deke and I spooned the eggplant/tomato/onion mixture over the fried teff and grit cakes and topped it off with unsalted roasted peanuts, and we thoroughly enjoyed our first helping ever of Crispy Teff and Grit Cakes with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Peanuts.

Talk about slow food! This meal took nearly thirty-six hours to prepare!  I'm very happy I made this.. Each bite was unique from every other, depending on which spice asserted itself, and the combination of peppery spices and garlic with the more bland, but corn-y and nutty, grit cakes balanced each other tastily.

Will I make Crispy Teff and Grit Cakes with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Peanuts again.  YES! The one thing I'll work to improve is how I fry the cakes:  I want them to be more crispy than I was able to make them on this first go around.  I have confidence I'll figure it out.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/05/16: Breakfast in England, Plans Almost Finalized, Getting Teff and Grit Cakes Started

1. A couple of weeks ago I bought a toaster for our apartment home. I've been enjoying toasting bread and the occasional bagel. This morning I realized that because I bought some eggs at the store, I could fix one of my favorite breakfasts:  soft-boiled eggs over buttered toast with a cup of black tea and half and half. So simple. So good. So memory packed -- it's the only way I ever travel to England (or ever will again) -- this breakfast always takes me back to thirty, thirty-seven, and forty-one years ago and bed and breakfasts from Ambleside to Rye.

2. The Deke and I had planned to go to the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering in Battleground again this year and join in the family reunion. It turns out, though, that Hiram has a job in Chicago around that time and the Diazes are going to seize the opportunity to turn his job into a family vacation. The Deke is still going to Indiana. I am going to stay behind to take care of Maggie and Charly, keep an eye on the Diaz house, and look in on their cat -- keep her company and feed her. I'll join the Deke in Chicago when the Diaz family returns and we'll fly out to Kellogg for a visit of just over two weeks. This afternoon, the Deke, the Diazes, and I worked out some of the details of our travel plans and looked at plans for other times during the summer over a dining table-sized calendar Molly made a while back. I'm very happy we almost have everything figured out -- the Deke and I just have a few Chicago wrinkles to iron out and then we'll know exactly when we are traveling to Idaho.

3. The first step in making Crispy Teff* and Grit Cakes with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Peanuts is to make a batch of teff/corn grits/creamy cashews and pour this thick porridge into 7 x 11 baking pan and let it sit overnight. I'll cut up these grits into rectangles on Monday and fry them in hot oil to make grit cakes and pour the eggplant/tomato/peanut mixture I'll prepare over the grit cakes. When I finish making it this Monday afternoon, it will be the first recipe I've prepared from the awesome Afro-Vegan cookbook that I've been reading and studying he last few weeks.

*Teff is an ancient, gluten-free staple grain of  Ethiopia and Eritea, very fine, like poppy seeds, with a nutty flavor. It's a favorite ingredient in the cookbook, Afro-Vegan.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/04/16: Saturday Brunch, Talking with Mom, Reading *Seabiscuit*

1. My new 12" cast iron skillet needed breaking in, so I chopped up a bunch of red potatoes, poured some olive oil over them,  dusted them with Montreal steak seasoning, and put them in the oven. About twelve minutes later, I pulled out the spuds and blended in three cloves of garlic (crushed with my new mortar and pestle set!) and sliced mushrooms. Once the potatoes were tender, I pulled this out of the oven and folded a bunch of baby spinach leaves into the mix and let the heat of skillet and its contents wilt the spinach. Then I sprinkled some pepper flakes over the top and covered the contents with grated sharp cheddar cheese and made four pockets. I cracked an egg into each pocket and returned the skillet to the oven, kept an eye on how the eggs were doing, and when I thought they were done, I yanked the skillet back out and the Deke and I had a filling and very tasty brunch. It was the first time I ever baked eggs.  I had a blast cooking this meal. I loved how my new cast iron skillet performed. And, well, I'm going to let myself believe that by crushing the garlic cloves using the mortar and pestle, the garlic taste was more pronounced.  Who knows?

2.  I had a good talk with Mom this morning and she told me that she's not been feeling well over the last several days, but thought she was doing better today. She was disappointed that she hadn't felt up to planting seeds in her new silver raised beds yet. We talked about Jack and Jackie who had passed away in Kellogg. Mom wondered if I'd heard the news that Muhammad Ali had died and we talked a bit about how Ali rubbed Dad that wrong way and I said I thought Dad softened toward Ali over the years. I was thinking that Dad softened after seeing Ali light the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta, but then I remembered Dad had died about six weeks earlier and was left trusting that Dad would have been moved by the sight of Ali's once nimble and powerful body shaking, being ravaged by Parkinson's, and by the way those in attendance in Atlanta sobbed and cheered for Ali.

3. Somewhere along the line today, I decided to have a day in and read and nap. I'm reading Laura Hillenbrand's eloquent equine biography, Seabiscuit. I'm enjoying the way it's taking me into the world of Depression Era horse racing, a world I know nothing about. While, on the one hand, the book is a thrilling account about the rise to fame of this great horse, on the other hand, it's a disturbing account of the exploitation of jockeys, the extreme measures jockeys took (take still?) to keep their weight down, and the injuries horses incur as racers. In short, I'm about halfway through Seabiscuit, and it has, by turns, troubled me and exhilarated me, the mark, I'd say, of a very good biography.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/03/16: Mortars and Pestles Multiply!, Everything is On the Table, Camping and Pizza

1. During Teacher Appreciation Week, three parents gave the Deke gift cards from Target and today I redeemed those cards by purchasing a 12" cast iron skillet, a micro grater, a mortar and pestle, and a pack of washcloths. Soon after I arrived home, a package came from Amazon and inside was a thank you gift for me and the Deke -- another (and much nicer) mortar and pestle. I have never owned a mortar and pestle in my life and now I have two! I am rich in mortars and pestles! I can hardly wait to start roasting and crushing cumin, coriander, mustard and other seeds and learning more about unlocking the tasty secrets of crushed basil, sage, thyme, cilantro, and other leafy herbs.

2. The Deke and I ducked out of a torrential downpour into Quench and, while enjoying a stunning 2IPA from Wyerbacher Brewing Company called, simply, #2, we resurrected a conversation we haven't had to have for a while: what might we do with our lives in the next few years? Changes are inevitable in that the Deke will leave her job one day.  So, we started putting possibilities out before ourselves and we are back to where we were in 2013-14: everything we might imagine for ourselves is on the table and our discussion is earnestly underway.

3. We went over to Molly's. Olivia and David were in a camping tent in the t.v. room watching cartoons. I don't ever remember Christy, Carol, and I pitching a tent in the living room at 516 and watching cartoons. I regret that. I'm sure Mom doesn't! It sure looked like fun. Molly baked three awesome pizza pies and invited the Deke and me to scarf a few slices and we did, with much admiration and appreciation.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 06/02/16: Wegman's Safari, 7 Grain Crunch Bread, Sweet Potatoes and Black Bean Salad

1.  I did something semi-impulsive today -- not 100% impulsive, mind you, but semi -- ha! On the spur of the moment, I decided to squeeze into the Sube and bolt up to the Wegman's Food Market in Columbia, MD, about twenty-five minutes away. I've been looking for a 7 x 11 inch Pyrex baking pan and for whole cumin seeds and for a mortar and pestle. I haven't had much luck here in Greenbelt, so, I thought, "Hmmm. I've heard that Wegman's Food Market has everything. I'll give it a go and do the regular shopping I want to do there also." I batted .666. I found the baking pan and the whole cumin seeds, but struck out looking for a mortar and pestle. I had a lot of fun, though, lollygagging around at Wegman's, strolling the aisles, looking at their products, not buying much, but just taking in as much of  the joint as I could. It was a fun trip -- not nearly as overwhelming as my first trip to Wegman's last year. That time I went to the one at Woodmore just off the Beltway about fifteen minutes or so south of here. Remember?

2.  On my way home from Wegman's, I took a detour and stopped at MOM's for a fresh baked loaf of Seven Grain Crunch bread from a Maryland bakery, Spring Mill Bread. Spring Mill has their own counter in the back of MOM's and their bread is superb. I looked for a mortar and pestle at MOM's. I struck out. (I'm wondering if I should just buy an electric spice grinder -- it's just that the noise bothers me. But the noise wouldn't last long. I think I'd like to try the mortar and pestle first. The search goes on -- before I order online.)

3. Before I went on my grocery shopping safari, I'd had a hankering for sweet potatoes and black beans and wondered if I might find a recipe for a salad. I couldn't find my Bean by Bean cookbook -- I found it later in the evening on the little table by our bed -- so I dove into Pinterest and sure enough I found a great recipe. I diced a red onion and a two pounds of sweet potatoes, covered them with olive oil, salted them, and, for the first time in my life, I put a sheet of parchment paper on a backing pan, and covered the paper with the onions and sweet potato. The parchment paper was a game changer. I loved how the vegetables came out of the oven roasted with no sticking to the pan. I will use parchment paper for the rest of my life! I mixed the roasted vegetables with a couple cans of black beans.  While the vegetable roasted, I had made a dressing: olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh squeezed lime juice, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. I shook it up about nine hundred times and poured it over the sweet potatoes, onions, and beans, and then garnished it with roasted sesame seeds and a bunch of cilantro. The Deke and I loved this salad.  If you'd like to check out the recipe, it's right here. (By the way, the recipe calls for pumpkin seeds -- we loved the sesame seeds I used as a substitute.)