Sunday, July 10, 2011

the plight of the misanthrope

I am getting old. Which is to say, I'm getting curmudgeonly. And this is from a girl just learning to appreciate the first prime number of the third decade of her life.

When faced with the choice of seeing a couple of people I love in concert and seeing the person I Love The Most's quilts in a not-too-prolific quiltmaking year, I chose the former, which of course was a big mistake. The Minnesota July air was thick, expectant really, but no rain made it a false labor of sorts, and it hung like a damp rag over every inch of browned skin surrounding the basilica, a gorgeous neoclassical building for which the festival is named. The singers were good, naturally, although I would prefer seeing them in a climate controlled building, or in Seattle which itself seems to auto-regulate right around 65, which is delicious.

Encore done, feet aching, 1+ pitting edema in ankles and as oily and defeated as ever, I was ready to get out of the crowd and into bed in an air conditioned room. Unbeknownst to me, however, my co-spectators had other plans and we walked; were herded rather, on those tender, dusted feet to a rooftop bar overlooking (well, theoretically, if people weren't packed in like sardines) the city. Immediately upon stepping foot on the deck I thought "I've died and gone to Hell", except we went the wrong direction on the stairs, and, while close, the temperature wasn't quite to the flame-igniting stage. Pushing through the polo-clad crowd commenced, bumping noise ignored, friend found, the requisite Happy Birthday! greeting done, re-introductions to the people I remember from last year done ("Megan?" they shouted, "no, Mindy", I corrected, not as loud as was necessary, apathetic), toes stepped on, elbows digging into side, stares noted as I neither have highlights nor own anything with sequins nor intend to crack my ankle by wearing "wedges". Deterioration was swift, drowning out the vapid conversation simple, weary eyes fixated like some sort of savant on the spotlight broadcasting the Worst Place on Earth to all of Minneapolis, and I have mastered the art of misanthropy.

So now the question, do you risk the guaranteed offense taken by reticent co-spectators who-should-know-me-better-by-now by not going to a place full of people you don't like in a part of town you don't like? Do you tag along, even though every fiber of your being resists? Or do you do what I did, escape in the only way possible, being absent (and incredibly selfish) in every form of the word?

And what is going to happen when I am sixty? An implosion?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's safe to say that, as a practitioner on an inpatient neurology floor, I get to be a spectator of peoples' lives in ways that others wouldn't. It's not necessarily a good thing; most of the patients fight a huge battle of recovery after illness or injury, and some have absolutely no one to care for them or even verify their identity, which is heartbreaking. It's difficult to think of what their life had been like, oh, 72 hours before their stroke/onset of infection/what have you. But watching the interactions family members have with their ill loved ones is both enlightening and an admonition. You see, it seems like there are two types of people: ones who visit you in the hospital and ones who don't. And the ones who visit you tend to return. And those people are the rocks that make this whole thing personal and worth fighting for. They give that patient a story and make us realize, in our day replete with more sick people and innumerable tasks, that this person is not just another slice of MRI with diffusion restriction or set of comorbidities bound in muscle and organs and bone.

There were two couples on the floor celebrating wedding anniversaries today, one 64 years and the other 56 years. The moving, transcendent part of this is the way the healthy person sees the sick one. The patient had longstanding dementia with an acute bleed requiring surgery but knew who his wife was. He slowly handed her a card; a folded-up piece of white computer paper made with the nurse's help, Happy Anniversary carefully scribed and below, an arrowed heart with their initials in the middle. She cupped his face in her palm, the staples still fresh on his shorn skull, then kissed his hand adoringly as if he was royalty. I can't imagine what that amount of time with one person would be like, and unless I live to be 95 I won't know. But it gives me something to strive for, to be that person who fights for healing, for a voice for the vulnerable, who hopes for a miracle but is realistic when the situation is grim, but above all, who loves someone wholeheartedly.

When my grandfather was dying after his second stroke, I stood in the doorway of that hospital room and listened to his groans as he tried to communicate with my mom at his bedside. I was 19 and terrified, paralyzed and selfish, and my grandmother was the one grasping her husband's hand and smoothing his hair. I don't know what makes marriages last or how people don't end up hating each other after a year but I know what love looks like, and I can only hope that we all have it some day.

Friday, March 04, 2011

To do list

Walking home tonight, passing the 24 Hour Emergency Vet on 41st and Stone, I noticed their quilted wall hanging, the ballast behind the check-in desk. I suppose in a situation that would bring you to such a place, maybe only a muted, old-fashioned cotton medley can provide comfort. Juxtaposed against the buzzing neon sign outside, with the sharp lines of a red cross announcing strength and relief, it shows warmth and care.

My mom is a quilter, and a prolific one at that. I am ashamed to say that I have not carried on this trait. Well, not yet, anyway. Said quilter mailed me a sewing machine a few years ago, perhaps in order to stymie my fate as an impatient, non-ladylike non-sewer. It’s plugged in and the bright, fun stack of fabrics I have are piled in a cute wire house, waiting to be put to use. Waiting. For me. Still.

Today I removed a TO DO LIST on a green Zyrtec post-it on my fridge. It had the following, all of which I have done/am in the process of doing. (Thanks to my cello teacher, Emily Ann Peterson, the Seattle Sailing Club, my friend and travel partner Sarah, and a little trip down under that has encouraged me to be a little less fat).

So it’s time for a new list of TO DOs I am motivated to accomplish. See #4. Let’s hope this one goes as well as the first list went, for my mother’s sake if not for that of some worried pet owners.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wanna Be a Baller

A few of us ladies get together once a month to have breakfast, discuss faith and what's going on in our lives, and just have community. Today's breakfast cinnamon rolls, the topic what roles we play and how we identify with others and with Christ. Melody, the chef and hostess, told us she is referred to at her job (architect) as a "baller", which she had to look up on Wikipedia (Urban Dictionary says "a thug that has 'made it' to the big time"). Most of the women are married, some are moms, which is sort of the norm in this demographic, and I figured the roles I play right now just don't compare. Work is work, I like the job, it's hard for me as I feel like an idiot at least some part of most days, it's what I spend the majority of my time doing. The other role is daughter and sister; which I feel lousy at right now as I'm 1600 miles away from my family. I didn't include friend, because it didn't come to mind, and I need "my" time to regain the energy that social interaction drains from me. For these reasons I feel like a bad friend; I'm not socially proactive, I don't let people in. I guess I identify with "loner" and "misanthrope" more than friend, the latter of which my friends pointed out as not true. That's what they're good at, isn't it, seeing the "you" you don't see. And if these more-important-role-having wives and moms are right, being a friend is good preparation for those possibly more special roles I would like to have some day. Like a baller, shot caller, 20 inch blades on the Impala.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I generally despise Valentine's Day. I mean, why wouldn't I? In the profound words of the Superbowl halftime show-bombing Black Eyed Peas, "where is the love" in my life? And the fact that I'm taking energy to write about it is even more pathetic. I received an email from FTD (those rats latched onto me ever since I sent my mom flowers 5 years ago) and it fired me up √° la the "Make her forget you forgot" St. Paul Hotel billboard circa 2006. Because I'm sure an overpriced dinner will completely negate the fact that you forgot your wife's [insert special occasion here], poof!

I think being the "envy of the office" is passé, but for argument's sake let's say it's not. It's 2011, for crying out loud, and I think a woman's intelligence/leadership/credentials should do the envy-making; not some overpriced, finite, albeit pretty, perennial given out of obligation.

Switching gears a bit, just when I was feeling sorry for myself as I usually do this time of year (I am pretty sure that there should be some sort of content filter for television which blocks the showing of "Say Yes to the Dress" in a household containing a single woman >30), I saw such a beautiful act of love in the nontraditional sense this morning. It's no secret that I'm concerned with the plight of the homeless in this city. It's palpable. I volunteer when I can and I work at a county hospital but I still feel utterly helpless when I see these people standing at main intersections with signs proclaiming their helplessness. Today I witnessed three women, two older and less agile, one younger, carrying backpacks and duffel bags and coffee thermoses and stopping from person to person on the street offering goods and a smile. It was so touching. And beautiful.

I guess, Fergie and, that's where the love is.

Happy Valentine's Day to those of you who celebrate, which I do in a way, Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon here I come!!!!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

this moribund frame

Heather gray sweatshirt sleeves dab hot tears, the most I've cried in awhile. I'm watching Le Scaphandre et le Papillon, the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, about the French editor of Elle who suffered a brainstem stroke, rendering him able to communicate only by blinking his left eye. So eloquent, so beautifully envisioned, the book, dictated by that eye, recalls his life replete with trips he took, women he loved and couldn't love, his vibrant children, literary works he recalls with peerless detail and with which he weighs against his current and ultimate lot in life. The film, vivid, perfectly portrayed, brings the most rudimentary of daily tasks alive: a humiliating dunk in the bathtub, the complete frustration of life in that body, unable to yell at a man who turns off the TV at the culmination of an important soccer match, unable to soothe his elderly father who cries on the unanswered end of the phone. Still, and I think this was Jean-Dominique Bauby's intention, I am reminded of the resolute power of memory, of passion, of imagination, of human relationships, of physical touch, of what being present means, and this is something to incorporate into my job, where locked-in syndrome isn't uncommon, every day.

Anna, my coworker, opened a padded envelope at work yesterday. In it were two small 2011 calendars, one of songbirds and one of World Wonders or something, and imprinted on them was the name of an adult family home. Ironic and sad, I took the latter of the two as a sign of places to visit, to imprint pictures and videos of life in my memory, before I am stuck in a home or stuck in this body. Stonehenge and the Colosseum (check!) and the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China and the CN Tower and the Chichen Itza and the Great Barrier Reef (will check in March!) and the Pyramids of Egypt and the Northern Lights (check!) and Angel Falls. And of course you'll use what's there, way back there in your mind; the sound of your mom whistling her way into the house, the smell of a Beacon apple pie baking, the burn of your fingers after splitting wood on a frigid day, the way it feels to be enveloped in someone's arms, the way it feels to hold your child.

There's a lot to be thankful for. There's a lot of life to live.

"Today is Father's Day. Until my stroke, we had felt no need to fit this made-up holiday into our emotional calendar. But today we spend the whole of the symbolic day together, affirming that even a rough sketch, a shadow, a tiny fragment of a dad is still a dad".

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

*this is why

I live here. For now, I mean. It was so good being home at Christmas and so hard to leave; I cried when I left my mom this time. But it's nice to have this to come back to. And to try my hand at Tom Douglas' Triple Coconut Cream pie (which in this picture totally looks "boughten" as Minnesotans would say:), that would have been so much easier and much cheaper!) I can already tell I am going to use my All Clad saucier and stainless steel mixing bowls I got for Christmas to death!

It's a New Year and today I started it out by getting my pores cleaned out by Ildiko, the hilarious aesthetician from Budapest that I've loved going to for a facial a couple times a year. You know, for pampering.
Me: "How does everything look?"
Ildiko: "Oh my god, every pore is clogged"...
I: "This is when I torture you" - chemical peel
I: "My friend decided he didn't like lamb shank. He's an idiot."
I: "Thanks God I get to see my son. He lives in London, and when he comes home and we go to a restaurant, he says to the waiter 'cheers' instead of 'thank you'. I tell him 'you sound so gay'".

It's been beautiful and sunny and crisp/clear and today was a perfect picture-takin' day! Mount Rainier was boasting, let's face it. Saturday and Sunday I'm taking my Basic Keelboat sailing class! In the Puget Sound! From Shilshole! Under the shadow of Leif Erikson, my countryman!

Tonight I learned a new song on the cello (after I spent a whopping $6 on rosin while checking out the $7500 cellos at Bischofberger!). It's called Lightly Row and it's 38 seconds long and I'm still intimidated by it and 4 year olds play it better than me.

Blah, blah blog is right.
Happy New Year!