Thursday, December 31, 2009

Embers of 2009

In less than nine hours, the new year will begin, 2010. In less than ninety days, a new kind of life will begin -- Bernie's job will end, and for a time, at least, he will be a free man.

The future could be daunting, but instead, I'm looking forward to this next year. There are a number of things I'd like to accomplish, but before I do that, I should remember what 2009 was like.

Let's see ... around Superbowl time I caught some horrid flu (was it h1n1 in disguise?) and coughed so hard I herniated a disc in my neck. Muchas owies, lots of pain-killers, physical therapy. Not only did I get sick again after physical therapy was done, but also I had some freako physical reaction to --- something --- that caused me to break out in painful and ugly blisters until nearly the end of May. Lovely!

In the mean time, my mother's 24-hour caregivers turned into a batch of idiot flakes, allowing a boyfriend to come in and steal my father's tools from the cellar (as well as some of her medications and a LOT of food), and requiring me to pursue sending her into protective care in a nursing home.

"I feel like I have nothing left to deal with everything," I told my medical consult, a genius nurse practitioner who assists my physician. "I hear a phone ring, any phone, and it hurts me like someone slapped me across the face."

That was the key she needed to unravel my lousy physical state. After some in-depth questioning, she prescribed a serotonin-uptake inhibitor called Lexapro. "You're depleted," she said. "The neurotransmitters that allow your rational brain to tell your flight-or-fight brain to calm down aren't there, so everything makes you want to run away."

Now maybe that explanation was right on, or maybe it was dumbed down for me, but after three weeks I went back to see her. She practically pounced on me with one word in question: "WELL???" Dropping my usual deadpan, I just smiled and nodded. I was feeling better. "And it just keeps on getting better," she told me. "Then after six months you should be all right."

Right again! January will see me gradually reducing the dosage of the drug, and I do feel that I'm ready. Strong again. There's a well that's no longer dry inside. Very cool feeling. Now it didn't hold off the stomach flu (yuck) but when Bernie brought a cold home from work, I was the only one who didn't catch it -- I'm strong again, yeah!

In accord with the year ending, I finally received, the day before yesterday, from my mother's trust officers three boxes of memorabilia: fading slides and ancient photos, bags of letters that Mom had saved, the wooden bowl and chopping blade that must have been Dad's grandmother's; the flag sent to Mom when Dad was buried, a framed picture of his SeaBee battalion, a couple of his knives that I hadn't thought to ask for but was tearfully grateful that they included in the shipment.

In the old photos of my mother when she and Dad were young, I was able to see again the indomitable personality that I admired so, and the hope and innocence in her eyes that age and the steadily encroaching Alzheimer's turned into meanness and suspicion and anger in her later years. At the end of 2009, I remember again with fondness the shiny curly black hair, the ready grin, the refusal to conform, her clear light brown eyes ... and the love she did have for my sister and me.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Drifting in the Clouds

The skies of this area are never as richly blue in the summer as they are in the winter. That dark blue reminds me of the color of Alex's eyes a few hours after she was born; her eyes were already open wide, seeking the source of the light beside my bed.

How easily I'm distracted! I was going to make this post about writing, not about how it felt like I was holding my very heart in my arms as a new mother.

In spite of having tried to cement in a new habit of getting up and writing in the mornings -- that was why I finally decided to do the National Novel Writing Month challenge -- the habit crumbled with the first cloudy daybreaks and a strange sleep/dream cycle that hits me around 7am, causing a very sound sleep and some VERY interesting dreams, so that I sleep in past 9:30 a.m. most mornings and am left bemused and unmotivated.

So much for that new habit.

However, what I have of a new story (minus the stupid word count efforts) is pretty solid. I love the story, in fact, and have had a lot of fun with the main character so far. She's feisty and furious, inventive, and mischievous. Her name is Roj, and bullets won't stop her.

God alone knows when I'll get a chance to finish the story, with the holidays coming up, the onset of a shitty cold last night, and the lovely prospect of coming down with the stomach flu that hit John last week, and Lillian this morning.

Back to the old evening habit now, of taking my place in the comfy chair in the bedroom with pillows to prop me up, my laptop glowing, my faithful dog Howie staring accusingly at me from the bed because I'm in his favorite spot, perhaps to write, perhaps to re-read what has been written, and to thank God that for this hour, at least, I'm not plagued by that stomach flu.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Bernie and I went to see the movie 2012 last weekend, a couple weeks or more after its debut, when we could get in on the $5 bargain that Kerasotes Theaters run.

That's what happens when you have impending financial squeeze times ahead of you. You stop seeing the stuff at full price when it comes out, and just wait for the cheap seats.

B and I have done a review over on the Piker Press, but I didn't really feel like I said quite enough about the film there.

The "chase scenes" were okay, only as long as you were able to ignore the premise that billions of people were dying all around them. In that respect, the movie was really callous; only a few people were allowed to understand what was going to happen to them; humankind was considered by the UberGovernment to be too damn worthless and stupid to be informed that they ought to prepare to meet their Maker.

That alone would have pissed me off, but the movie, as a whole (or as a 'hole') really stunk. It was BADLY acted, POORLY written, and paced to allow moviegoers lots and lots of time to get up and go to the bathroom and never miss a key point.

After we came home, I thought about the movie before I wrote my review, and came to the conclusion that if someone had picked up a semi-somnolent possum from the side of the road, and forced it to watch this movie, PETA would have been all over them for cruelty to animals and unethical treatment of living creatures.

Too bad PETA doesn't bother with people.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Food, and Dogs, and Food

This morning I woke up hungry, not having eaten supper the night before.

I thought of taters and eggs, which I had promised Alex I'd make before she and John had to go to the Bay Area. I thought of the soft and scrumptious loaf of Dutch crust French bread I bought at the store the other day. I thought of what to make for lunch with things on hand.

There was a container of egg whites, left over from making pumpkin custard the day before yesterday, so the taters and eggs made use of that. Delicious. Perfect. Hearty breakfast accompanied by tomato juice. Good start to a freezin' ass cold day.

Around 10 am, I opened the freezer to see what was available for lunch. I spotted a small container of onions and ground beef that I intended to make into some variant of minestrone -- but I knew Bernie wouldn't eat that as it would have too much tomato flavor to it. Aha! A bag of pre-cooked prawns (50 % off sale at the grocers one weekend) and a package of chopped broccoli. Got it, lunch is on the way!

The minestrone fixins I pulled out as well, just because I couldn't stop thinking about them.

Baby portobella mushrooms ... a package of them needed to be used up, so I cut each one into halves or quarters and tossed them into a frying pan with Saffola Margarine (good taste for sizzling) and cut up half a yellow onion into 3/4 inch chunks and began to cook them in extra virgin olive oil in a separate pan. The pot of white basmati rice began to cook.

Prawns thawed in a solution of sea salt and lemon juice and water; some of the mushrooms went into a pot with the minestrone stuff on a back burner, along with a hefty amount of "Italian Seasoning" by McCormick.

A can of chicken broth was mixed with 2 tablespoons of corn starch, some salt, and a heavy shaking of garlic powder, and added to the onion pieces when they were done, to slowly come to a boil. When the rice was nearly done, I put the frozen broccoli on to steam. A few minutes later, most of the mushrooms went into the thickening chicken broth, along with the cut up prawns. (Some of the mushrooms went into the minestrone pot.) When the broccoli was done, so was the rice, and with that, lunch was served. Delicious, nutritious, and satisfying.

The minestrone-to-be slowly thawed on its low setting, seemingly forgotten, but not.

I walked to the school to collect Lillian. We checked the mail, and then, ambling up the street came a man with his Great Dane bitch. She was beautiful, black with a white spot on her chest, and a hint of whitish toes. Maybe a third again bigger than our dog Sebastian, but looking like his auntie. Lil and I stopped to talk with the owner, who assured us that she didn't bite, and we petted the large, lovely lady, comparing her loopy ears to Sebastian's, and the breadth between her eyes, and the gentle eyes themselves. Yeah, I think Sebastian has some Great Dane in his ancestry.

Return to the minestrone variation. I dumped some leftover fried cabbage (don't knock it until you've tried it, cooked with onions in bacon fryings) into the pot, and a cup of tomato sauce. A little later, I tossed in about a quarter cup of nopalitos (cactus strips) and a handful of sliced black olives. I added more oregano, more garlic powder, and a cup of asparagus, cut into half-inch pieces. Dumping in maybe a cup to a cup and a half of Wolfgang Puck's beef broth (no MSG) and about the same amount of the water from the broccoli steaming, and a cup of pasta ...

When the pasta was done, I cut a couple pieces of the French bread, and slathered them with cream cheese. Serving the minestrone in a bowl, I sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese and ooohhh, perfect soup, perfect meal for a cold, cold winter evening.