Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/16: Benefits Questions, Library Visit, Molly's Mad Kitchen Skills

1.  I am very fortunate that Heidi is the LCC Benefits Analyst assigned to me. I emailed her this morning with a couple of questions and, as always, she responded immediately with a detailed and insightful response and expressed me her best wishes on a personal level. Part of why I value Heidi's work so much is that the Deke does not have a reliable person she can turn to with questions at HR in the school district she works for, and this is a source of confusion and frustration.

2.  There's nothing special about the Greenbelt Public Library.  It's a modestly sized library with a modest collection of materials and a handful of study and meeting rooms and an ample number of computers for patrons, always in use. I love this place in much the same way I loved the library when it was on 13th Ave. in Eugene and that I love our old and small Greenbelt Co-op grocery store.  Rather than awe me, the way the library downtown in Eugene does or the U of O's Knight Library does, the Greenbelt Library welcomes me, gives me a comfortable place to explore books and movies and audio materials, all on one level. Today I checked out a couple of cookbooks -- Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook and The Smitten Kitchen.  Both books have eggplant recipes.

3.  Tonight Molly improvised upon a recipe and made a rice and chicken sausage and mushroom casserole and complimented the casserole with a sheet of dreamy and flaky cheese cayenne pepper biscuits.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/16: Cheers at LabCorp, Spiffing Up, Food52 and Burnt Toast

1.  When I walked into the LabCorp office to have my monthly blood sample taken and sent to the transplant center, the people there treated me like an old friend had just walked in. Angela, my favorite phlebotomist, was at the front counter and whisked me into a room immediately, knowing exactly why I was there, and in just a few minutes I was out of there.  I took a second to marvel that I enjoy my monthly blood draws and, even though we don't converse or anything, I always look forward to Angela doing her work.

2.  After being away for over seven weeks, today I had some time by myself in our apartment home and had a relaxing time spiffing the place up, doing laundry, putting fresh sheets on the bed, vacuuming, putting stuff away, and making our home more comfortable and peaceful.

3. This evening, I went in search of cooking podcasts and found one that seems the most promising and it's attached to a phenomenal cooking website,  The website is brimming with recipes and articles. The food52 podcast is called Burnt Toast. The episodes seem to range from ten to thirty minutes long, are low key, informative, and, so far, speak to my non-gourmet, but adventurous fun in the kitchen.  This evening, I listened to two episodes, "What We Cook When We Don't Feel Like Cooking" and an interview with Kristen Miglore, who writes a regular column for food52 called "Genius Recipes" and has published a book entitled, Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook, here.  I was very happy as I listened to this interview that these recipes didn't seem out of my league and I look forward to looking more fully into Miglore's work and trying out some new recipes.  (By the way, the first recipe that caught my eye was a pork and eggplant stir fry!)

Monday, August 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/18/16: The Awning is Up, Walk to the Alma Mater, Bacon and Scotch Ale Bliss

1.  After a night's rest and with a little distance from the task -- and in the cool of the morning -- Everett, Paul, and I went back to work on putting up Everett and Christy's new awning. With a little bit of trial and error and some adjustments here and there, we muscled it into its brackets and secured it in place.  (I shouldn't say "we" secured it or "we" made adjustments. All I did was provide some lift. Paul and Everett were the brains of the operation.) Christy and Everett can already feel its cooling effects, not only on their deck, but in the north side of their house.

2. Unlike when I was a student at Kellogg High School from 1969-72, now a trail runs along the east side of the high school building and winds through the Ponderosa pines and fir trees up to a little bridge that crosses Jacobs Creek and ends at the football practice field on the upper level behind the high school. Starting at Mom's, I walked the trail to the high school that has been there since the birth of Moses and continued on this "new" trail and then I inspected the two levels of property behind the high school and returned to the old trail and on back to Mom's.  I'm not quite back into a rhythm of exercise -- I'll get back to that in Maryland -- but it sure felt good to walk about a mile and a half or so before it got hot today.

3. After I changed my flight date back to Baltimore from Wednesday the 24th to Monday the 22nd, I went to work in the kitchen, at Christy's request, and made ground beef patties, enriched by eggs, saltine cracker crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning. I also cooked up a bacon and fried Yukon gold potato mixture (Everett's favorite) and Christy brought over garden fresh green beans she steamed. She baconed up her dish, too.  Lord, it was good. While I cooked up my part of this blissfully greasy and flavorful dinner, I enjoyed a pint of Cold Smoke Scotch Ale from KettleHouse Brewing in Missoula, a gift from Kirk "Goose" Hoskins (KHS, Class of '72), proprietor of Stang's Food Center and Liquor Store in St. Regis, MT. This is, without a doubt, among the best beers I've ever enjoyed.  I will miss it when I return to Maryland and will seize upon it immediately when I return again to Idaho.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/16: More Magazines to Recycle, Awning Challenge, Intro to Clam Chowder

1.  I casually mentioned to Mom that I was taking her newspapers and some cans and plastic bottles down to the recycling bins and she responded, "Oh! There are more magazines I forgot to tell you about that I want to get rid of. They are in the big cupboard either on the right or left side behind the doors." I turned heel, descended into the basement, moved a pile of stuff from in front of the cupboard, and made three or four trips back up the stairs with a milk crate filled with magazines (I tore off or tore up all address labels; Mom doesn't want her address in the recycling barrel), loaded them in the trunk of the Malibu, and made a generous contribution to the county's recycling effort.

2.  Tomorrow is another day. Christy and Everett ordered awning for their back deck and Paul and I lent Everett a hand putting it up, but it doesn't quite work yet and so after Everett tries to make some adjustments, we'll give it another shot on Thursday.

3. Mom loves clam chowder and has expressed being hungry for it. I don't remember ever making clam chowder before, but I tracked down an uncomplicated recipe on the World Wide Web and went at it, adding celery, carrots, red pepper, and grated cheese to the basic recipe and it turned out pretty good.  Well, I do know this: it passed the Mom taste test.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/16/16: Getting Winded, Mom's New Glasses, Tiring Out Tucker

1.  I admit it. When I come to Kellogg to help Mom, I almost never walk, let alone flop around in a swimming pool, the way I do in Maryland. I really get out of rhythm here. I've been feeling sluggish from not moving around enough, and, today, while Carol and Mom weeded in Mom's front yard and Mom cleaned up some tomato planters, I hiked up the wellness trail near the Shoshone Medical Center, just off the trail that leads from Riverside Ave. to the high school.  I got winded, increased my heart rate, and it felt great.

2.  When Mom fell last Monday, the fall damaged her glasses beyond repair. I ordered Mom new ones that afternoon and she has been antsy, impatient for the them to come in. Today, the glasses arrived and Mom and I went over to the Kellogg Vision Center and she picked up her glasses and was happy with how they look and with not having to do day to day tasks using her prescription sunglasses any longer.

3.  Mom and I have eaten dinner the last few evenings over at Christy and Everett's and every single night, once we've eaten, Christy and Everett's young heeler, Tucker, brings me a toy to toss and he sprints after it and brings it back to me, again and again and again, until, finally, he is, well, tuckered out.  It's fun to help Tucker expend his energy and to build our friendship. He's a good dog.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/15/16: Slow Day, Deep Nap, Steak Dinner

1.  After a full weekend, today was slow. Oh, I watered flowers, did some laundry for me and Mom, took care of some things around the house, but with a quilt of humidity having moved in, I spent quite a bit of time reading news stories and other stuff online.

2.  I woke up quite a bit earlier than usual this morning, with a sudden urge to look up information about open enrollment for health insurance.  I now know that the enrollment period is underway for a month, but my early rising resulted in needing a nap later in the day, and it had me feeling comatose.

3.  Last week, Mom eagle-eyed a great buy on petite sirloin steaks and Christy cooked them perfectly for dinner tonight along with pasta salad and biscuits.  By 6:30 or so, it had cooled off enough that we could enjoy our dinner outside, a refreshing relief.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/14/16: Rose Lake Breakfast, Slow Brew, Indonesian Chicken Dinner

1.  Jake and Carol Lee have a trailer perched above the road across from their lake home and outfitted it so that Ed and I could spend the night Saturday rather than drive home late and this morning I stumbled down the hill to the deck overlooking Rose Lake and hungry osprey and joined my life long friends for some coffee and, in time, a delicious breakfast casserole, cinnamon roll, and fruit. We picked up conversations from the night before and started to look forward to what was in store for Sunday.

2. Jake, Ed, and I bolted down to Worley to the Cd'A Casino where I played around for a few hours and didn't spend any money except when I went to the Red Tail Bar and Grill and enjoyed watching some of the Olympics while sipping on a slow pint of Grand Teton Brewing's Sweetwater American Pale Ale, a crisp and pleasant brew.

3.  Ed, Jake, and I returned to Rose Lake where Ed and I gathered our stuff and returned to the Silver Valley.  Even though she had hosted nearly thirty people in her back yard on Saturday, giving a wedding shower for niece Molly, Christy cooked up a gingery and very tasty Indonesian chicken dinner and Mom, Everett, Christy, and I enjoyed both our dinner and the relaxing twilight as the Kellogg air grew cooler by the minute.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/13/16: Rose Lake Party, Cold Smoke Scotch Ale, Spaghetti Feed

1. I arrived in Kellogg on July 5 and not long afterward, Carol Lee and I began to discuss when we might have a party for as many of our friends as possible at Jake and Carol Lee's home on Rose Lake. I've been looking forward to today's get together for over a month.  Jeri came up from Boise, Patty from Oregon, Joni and Lars from Spokane, Kirk from St. Regis, Jim and Sue from Spokane Valley, and, from here in the Silver Valley Bucky and Debbie, Ed, Wanda, and I joined the party. It wasn't long before we were getting caught up on news about our lives these days and launching into stories about parties and road trips and romances and other high jinx from deep in our collective history.

2. Kirk owns and operates Stang's Food Center, a combo grocery store, deli, liquor store, and gas station in St. Regis.  Soon he'll be selling firearms and ammo, too. The good news for me is that today, like the last time Kirk came over, he brought me several cans of beer brewed in Montana. Until today, I had never tried (or heard of) the Cold Smoke Scotch Ale from Kettle House Brewing in Missoula and it was as fine a beer as I've ever enjoyed. I told Kirk that I if I could, I would drive from Greenbelt, MD to St. Regis, MT just to buy more of this beer.  Yes. It is that good.

3. Good conversation, good stories, and good adult beverages all become even better when accompanied by top notch food, and Carol Lee and Joni spearheaded the creating of a superb spaghetti feed which everyone remarked time and time again was absolutely terrific.  We all greatly appreciated everyone's efforts to make this meal. We not only consumed it, but moaned and groaned with pleasure as we did.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/12/16: Shower Samples, Cosette Brightens Our Day, Shrimp Salad

1.  Sister Christy is hosting a wedding shower for our niece, Molly, on Saturday and today Christy prepared the snacks for the event and shared some really tasty samples with Mom and me. Wow!

2. Cosette is in town! She lives in Moscow and is K-Town for her sister's wedding shower and she came over to Mom's house and brightened things with news about her life as a university student and gave Mom some help by cleaning outdoor chairs to be used for the shower and by deadheading flowers out front.

3. Mom requested shrimp salad for dinner so I cut lettuce from her garden, chopped up some vegetables, warmed up the cooked shrimp in butter and lemon, made a honey lemon vinaigrette, tossed it all together, and served it out on the back deck as cool late afternoon breezes refreshed Christy, Mom, and me as we enjoyed our dinner and Christy relaxed after her day of shower preparations.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/11/16: Dump Run, Best Shot Breakfast, Relaxing August Evening

1.  Everett and I piled Carol and Paul's busted hot water tank and an old toilet into the back of Everett's pickup and then swung by Mom's and loaded up the yard waste from my weeding projects earlier in the week and we hauled it all up to the Shoshone County Transfer Station, also known as the dump, and lightened our load.

2.  After the dump run, on the spur of the moment, as I headed uptown to get some cash for Mom at the bank, I popped into Best Shots to give their breakfast a try. The sausage, eggs, hash browns, sourdough toast, and coffee staisfied me and so did the arrival of Christy and Everett who joined me. I never imagined having breakfast at the old Kopper Keg, and I'm sure glad Best Shots is an all day joint.

3.  Under a comfortable cool evening sky, Mom and I joined Christy and Everett in their backyard for a delicious dinner. Christy baked a pasta, ricotta cheese, and vegetable dinner pie and sauteed zucchini from their garden. We also enjoyed a bottle of peach wine from the Beauty Bay winery in Harrison, ID. It was a refreshing complement to Christy's tasty main dish.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/10/16: Magazines Out, Cauliflower Soup, Mom Update

1.  Over the years, Mom has accumulated a lot of material items and she finds it difficult to let go of them either by donation or by throwing things away.  I love it when she decides something can go. Today, out of the blue, when Mom knew I was taking the recycling to the bins down the street, she instructed me to load up the trunk with the magazines filling a filing cabinet in the basement.  Mom wants the address labels torn off each magazine before they leave the house, so I did that, magazine by magazine, loaded them into a Darigold milk crate, made about five trips to the Malibu, and emptied the trunk at the bin down by the Gondolier.

2.  I didn't use all the cauliflower last night when I served salmon patties. I set aside enough to make a soup to meet Mom's request for a potato soup-like cauliflower soup. Christy and Everett came over and we all enjoyed our dinner and I'm happy to have found another recipe that worked really well.

3.  It was good to see Mom have another pretty good day after her fall. Her elbow is responding well to the ice and heat she is applying to it. If you were here at the house through the day, you'd see that Mom sleeps during the day in her chair quite a bit -- it's understandable: her system is working hard to heal and regulate itself with the help of medication.  Her numbers, blood pressure, pulse, and weight continue to be stable and better than they were a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/09/16: After the Fall, Weeding, Nouvelle Cuisine

1.  If you walked in Mom's front door today, you might figure something was up because Mom has to wear her prescription sunglasses while the optical lab puts her new glasses together and, if you look closely, you might notice the bruising around her right eye. Otherwise, you'd really never know Mom fell on Monday. She was a little stiff and a little sore, but was antsy to get outside and deadhead some flowers. But, an unseasonable cool snap has hit the Kellogg area, and Mom didn't get out on the back deck to deadhead flowers in planter until in the afternoon where she cleaned up the pots of zinnias and other flowers with surgical precision.

2. I took advantage of the cool weather and continued to weed the chaos of grass and thorny growth in Mom's back garden and did some deadheading, too. I filled three garbage cans and two black plastic yard waste bags with debris -- I see a dump run in the not too distant future.

3. A day ago, Mom asked me to find a can of salmon in the basement pantry and cook up some salmon patties. I'd never cooked salmon patties before, but after reading a few recipes, I dumped the salmon in a bowl, crushed some saltine crackers, beat three eggs, diced some onion, mixed in all together and squirted some lemon juice over it and fried up four patties and boiled some cauliflower and fried some red potatoes to accompany them. I'm very happy to report that this dinner hit the spot for Mom and that it was fun to cook something I'd never made before. Earlier in the day, to add to the lunch possibilities for Mom, I hard boiled four eggs, peeled them, chopped them up, added some mayo and mustard and minced celery and, presto!, an egg salad.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/08/16: Mom's Fall, Lunch and Tour with Byrdman, Yesterday's Pasta -- New Dish

1.  The good news is that we didn't need to call for emergency help. It was 9 a.m. In the short space between where Mom parks her walker and the bathroom, Mom got in a hurry to answer the call of nature and fell, half in the bathroom and half in the carpeted area just outside the bathroom.  I sprang to Mom's aid and, slowly, helped Mom sit up and then helped her get on her feet. Mom tried to identify where she felt pain. She wasn't feeling very hurt. Her glasses had flown off and one of the temples broke, meaning Mom had to buy new frames today. She has bruising near her right eye where her glasses jammed into her face. Her right elbow is bruised.

Back on her feet, Mom had no trouble pushing her walker and returning to her chair and, as the day progressed, she had no trouble getting herself around, always with the help of her walker.

My single regret about helping Mom after her fall was that I didn't think to immediately ice her elbow.  Mom didn't realize right away that her elbow was bruised and, I have to admit, that I was so relieved that she hadn't broken any bones and that she seemed in pretty good shape that I failed to think of helping her with ice. I won't forget again. (I'm hoping that writing this in my blog will help me remember.)

Mom's fall today underscores what those of us close to her know is always true: Mom's condition leaves her vulnerable to accidents and her margin of error when she's moving from one place to another is slim.

2.  Mom was not seriously injured and with Christy next door and aware I was leaving, I felt fine about not changing my plans to go to Best Shots (the former Kopper Keg) and have lunch with Byrdman.  The remodel of the old Kopper Keg and the great food we had for lunch impressed Byrdman -- we both remarked that the food in this joint had come a long way since the days of the Lane Burger or shrimp pizza over forty years ago.  After lunch, we took a tour of Kellogg, remembering where friends of ours used to live and where we used to play ball and do other stuff.  Next we'll tour Wardner.

3.  Christy refashioned the pasta dish she cooked on Sunday into a very tasty new pasta dish for Monday's dinner. Mom took charge of her all-terrain outdoor walker and charged through the gate between her yard and Christy's and we sat in the cool of the early evening and enjoyed our dinner and Christy's rhubarb upside down cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  (When Mom returned home, she iced her injuries -- hoping that late ice is better than no ice.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/07/16: Mom Gets Out to the Garden, Mom Returns to the Garden, Perfect Dinner

1.  Especially since her retirement in 1988, Mom has been an avid gardener, loving to grow a variety of flowers and vegetables. Even as her mobility deteriorated over the last several years, she determinedly made regular trips outside, both in the front and the back of the house, and watered, weeded, dead headed, and harvested, often while in significant pain.  This summer, Mom has rarely gardened, but today Carol helped set her up in a chair near one of the large oblong planters, a horse trough, out back and she weeded and dead-headed away. I joined in and started weeding the tangle of grasses and other uninvited guests in the very back of Mom's yard. Mom went at it for over an hour, but as the morning warmed up and the shade disappeared, she came in and rested, sleeping on and off in her chair.

2.  Mom has been sleeping well again over the last week. This is a relief because she had slept fitfully some nights, troubled by weird dreams. I sometimes wondered if Mom was troubled by the anxiety that some where in one of the four corners of the world a neglected flower might need dead heading. Numerous times we've been out with Mom, at a restaurant or visiting someone's house, and she has spotted flowers that needed dead-heading and expressed consternation, sometimes even sneaking in a pinch to get that dead head off the stem. Well, this afternoon, Mom relieved herself of some of her dead head worry. She returned to the back yard and I helped her get set up near planters in the east side of the yard and and tended to the health of several pots of flowers.  This is the first day the summer that Mom has gardened twice in one day, thanks to Sunday's mild weather and the fact that it appears that after a week taking some new medicine, the change in therapy is working.  Especially encouraging has been the improvement in her blood pressure and her heart rate.

3.  After two gardening sessions, Mom and I opened the gate between her yard and Christy and Everett's and pranced over for a delicious pasta dinner with sides of Swiss chard and green salad and enjoyed drinking a little Ste. Chapelle's Soft Huckleberry wine. It was the perfect way to relax after a productive day of yard work.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/06/16: Carol Declutters the Kitchen, Handyman Anxiety, Remembering Molly's Birth

1.  Because of a slight miscommunication, Mom's cleaning woman didn't come on Thursday or Friday, so this morning Carol did some light cleaning in the kitchen and, in addition, cleared up some clutter: the epsom salts and slug killing Coors Light beer went in the garage; the can of chow mein and the breadmaking machine to the basement; three nearly empty bottles of liquor off the floor into a cupboard; she cleared some items off the kitchen table. It may not seem like much, but Mom's kitchen suddenly seemed to have grown, contributing to our halting and careful efforts to expand Mom's incredible shrinking house.

2.  I never learned how to be a handyman, and when I undertake the simplest of tasks involving tools, I get nervous. Mom's new license plates for the Malibu arrived in the mail and I took several deep breaths, found a screwdriver, put the new tags on the plates, and succeeded in removing Mom's expired plates and putting on the new ones. Not long afterward, I napped.

3.  Carol and Paul's daughter Molly's birthday is on Monday, but we had a quiet birthday celebration today in the Roberts' backyard. When she was born, in 1990, Lynette and I lived out in the country near Marcola, OR and remembering hearing the news of Molly's birth and the stories surrounding her coming into the world in Glendive, MT calls up memories of living for eighteen months in nearly absolute quiet, sitting on our front porch watching elk come down from the hills to feed, chopping and stacking firewood for the wood stove that heated our small rental home, in short, enjoying the pleasures of our brief experiment with rural life, an experiment that ended when I was hired full time at LCC, a job that started in January of 1990 and necessitated our move back to Eugene.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/05/16: Sparkles Paper Towels Odyssey, Cribbage Memories, Lobster Debut

1. I volunteered this morning to go on a shopping spree for Mom and drove the old road out to Pinehurst where, at True Value, I was helped by the World's Friendliest and Most Outgoing and Solicitous (WFMOS) floor clerk. You see, Mom sent me to True Value with a coupon for a six pack of Sparkles paper towels at $4.99 and after I flubbed up and mindlessly grabbed an eight pack of Sparkles paper towels and was kindly patiently corrected by the checker, I took the eight pack back and asked the WFMOS for help and he scanned the shelves where I had grabbed the eight pack, surveyed a special display shelf area, searched the stock room in back, and came back to me with the grievous news that True Value did not have Sparkles paper towels in six packs. Moved by his crestfallen face, I tried to be gracious and said, "No problem" and quickly got on my pocket computer/cell phone and called Mom with the devastating news, telling her I could get an eight pack for $6.99. Our conversation ended abruptly when she laid down a simple mandate: "Get 'em."

2.  My marriage back in 1976 to Eileen ended badly about six years later, but playing a little more cribbage on my pocket computer/cell phone today triggered memories of our 1979 three month tour of Great Britain and Denmark and the way we often passed time on the Brit Rail playing cribbage when we took a break from reading Thomas Hardy novels on the train.  I have a lot of sweet memories attached to cribbage whether it was playing with Dad, good friends, a former girlfriend, or rumbling from town to town on trains in England, Wales, and Scotland.

3.  On Tuesday I redeemed a rain check at Yoke's by buying Mom and me a couple of lobster tails and after extensive research online, looking for help in how to cook them up, I  broiled the tails, successfully (!), and served Mom and me each a lobster tail, a baked potato, mushrooms sauteed in butter, and a fresh green salad, featuring lettuce and carrots from Mom's garden.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/04/16: Mom in the Garden, Cribbage with Dad, Christy Cooks Up a Keeper

1.  This morning, Carol arrived, fixed Mom some breakfast, hustled her out to the backyard, and helped her get settled in her gardening chair where Mom thinned her carrot patch and yanked out some weeds, going at it for about an hour.  She rested comfortably afterward, catching a few naps, and reported feeling pretty good.

2.  One of the fun things about playing cribbage on my phone is that it takes me back to when I was about twelve or thirteen years old and Aunt Lila (I think) game me my first cribbage board for Christmas and Dad sat down with me at the kitchen table and taught me how to play. I was never very good -- just ask my friends Roger and Terry who always thumped me when we played -- but I loved it whenever Dad suggested we play and, for some reason, Dad loved to drink brandy when we played cribbage.  When I grew older, Dad poured me a brandy, too, and, while I can't remember who ever won or lost our matches, I remember these times as among my very favorite with Dad.

3.  Nearly ten years ago, Christy attended a conference at Mt. St. Michael's near Spokane, and the group was served zucchini garden chowder for one of their meals and Christy loved it so much she hot footed into the kitchen and asked for the recipe and left with a hand written copy.  You can read her story and see the recipe right here.  For dinner, Christy fixed this tasty chowder and she and Mom and I enjoyed it in nearly perfect evening weather conditions in the growing shade of Mom's deck.

Here's Mom working away on Thursday morning:

Mom in the Garden -- picture by Carol Woolum Roberts

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/03/16: Mom's Restorative Sleep, Sibling Lunch, Fifteen Two Fifteen Four . . . . .

1.  There was a difference, a good difference. After Mom went to see The Music Man, she was both tired and didn't feel very well and slept a lot for a couple of days.  Today, after her shopping extravaganza yesterday, Mom fell into a deep afternoon nap -- she didn't hear me come home from lunch and didn't hear Paul come to borrow her car.  But, she didn't feel lousy. She said the sleep just felt good.

2. Speaking of lunch, Christy, Carol, and I waltzed into Best Shots (in the former Kopper Keg building) and talked about the near future and Mom's care, especially in light of my return to Maryland. We had a good talk and I came away feeling good about Christy and Carol will go about helping Mom, but I was again left with the frustration that comes with not being able to be in two places at the same time.

3.  I decided to give a cribbage app a try on my phone and enjoyed playing a bunch of games against the robot and occasionally enjoyed the thrill of reaching the 121 point mark ahead of my nameless, software animated opponent.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/02/16: Mom Goes Shopping, Lunch with Steve, Mom Wiped Out? No!

1.  With Molly Roberts' wedding approaching, Mom wants some new clothes for the event, so Mom and Christy and Carol buzzed to Coeur d'Alene where Mom purchased some new threads and the three of them went to the McKenzie River Pizza Company for lunch.

2.  I jetted over the Coeur d'Alene, too. Stu, Byrdman, Steve Jaynes, and I met at Capone's for lunch and some superb fat chewing. Steve continues his remarkable recovery after suffering a torn aorta back in March and plans to return to his part time job when school resumes for one more year.  We were very happy to Steve doing so well -- I mean, yes, he's a little shaky and moving slowly, but is steadily improving.

3.  We all wondered how Mom would respond to today's travel, shopping, and dining.  In a word, she astonished us. You might remember that about ten days ago, Mom attended The Music Man and it wiped her out for two or three days.  She wasn't wiped out at all by this outing and her energy stayed good as Carol and Mom toured Mom's backyard and as Mom gave us a little fashion show, showing off her new clothes.

Saturday, Mom began taking new medications meant to slow down her heart rate and treat her heart's arrhythmia. They might be working -- I'm cautiously optimistic. It might still be early to say for sure, but Mom's morning blood pressure numbers and heart rate measures have improved and, in particular, her heart rate numbers have been more stable. She also feels better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 08/01/16: Mom's Wardrobe Project, Auto Tour with Byrdman, Relaxing at Hayden Lake

1.  Mom had a lousy night's sleep and was up at 5 a.m.  This did not deter Mom from working on another project with Carol this morning as Carol brought out different articles of Mom's wardrobe from her room and from the basement closet.  It's impressive to listen to Mom remember everything about each piece of clothing -- where she purchased it, why, where she has worn different outfits, and how long she has owned each piece.

2. I drove to Cd'A for a day out and about with Byrdman.  Moderate sunny weather smiled upon us, so we enjoyed some time on Byrdman's front porch, sampling some excellent Helles Lager beers, including the tasty Ninkasi Helles Belles, before taking an auto tour of the Blue Creek Bay area and Fernan Lake, admiring North Idaho's breathtaking beauty.

3. At Rusty's Bar and Grill, Byrdman and I enjoyed a pizza and some banter with Amanda, our excellent bartender, and then took a drive out to Hayden Lake and sat outside for a while at the Boatside Bar and Grill, soaking up the beauty of the lake and we continued to get the problems of the world solved.  We ended our day out where it began, at chez Byrdman on the front porch, chewing more fat and getting more stuff figured out.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 07/31/16: Paper Project, Breakfast Dinner, Near Future Questions

1.  Mom couldn't sleep any longer at 4 a.m. I got up at 5:30 to make sure Mom was doing all right and she was frustrated with her anxiety dreams, but she was not having any problems bigger than that. Carol arrived about 6:45 and it wasn't long before Mom and Carol were in Mom's room clearing off her desk and sorting through papers. By 9:00 or so, they got this project about 95% completed, a great relief to Mom, and she finished it later in the day.

2. Christy and Everett went on a drive this afternoon so Mom and I were on our own for dinner and we decided to eat breakfast. I fried up some sausage patties, fried three eggs, and made waffles. Mom gave me specific directions about how she wanted her egg cooked, and I'm elated to report that I succeeded! I had a lot of fun making this dinner and would love to have breakfast dinner more often.

3.  For a nightcap, I went over to Christy's and started to try to figure out when I'll return to Maryland, when I might return to Kellogg, and what it will mean for Mom when I leave. Soon, we'll start making some real decisions when we find a time to continue this discussion with Carol.