Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Oops, I did it again

My dog is old (which is a topic for another post) and has become rather lacksadaisical about where she pees. In an effort to contain the damage, I laid a chair across the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, to keep her off the carpet. Then I forgot I had done so and tripped over the chair in the dark, landing nose first.

Compared to last time, this fall had a lot of positives to it: I landed on carpet, not concrete; I missed the dining room table; if I had fallen from the dining room into the kitchen, I could have hit the breakfast bar on the way down; my glasses remained unharmed. There was blood to contend with, and icing one's nose is awkward, but I felt *lucky* things were not worse.

I did go to the doctor to make sure nothing broke. Even though she is a "real" doctor, she didn't examine me as thoroughly as the PA did last time I fell. She suggested having my face x-rayed, but said if there were a fracture, they wouldn't do anything about it, so I asked what was the point? The visit turned into an exercise in due diligence on my part, followed by the purchase of an Ace bandage and two Cadbury eggs.

Almost everything I read about falls discusses balance and muscle mass, both of which are negatively affected by aging, but there is something else never addressed. Once upon a time, when I tripped, the fall occurred in slow motion, giving me time to react. Now the fall is instantaneous - one moment I am upright, the next I am kissing the floor. Is there a remedy for this?

I look worse today than yesterday, and hurt more. The modifications to make my house safer are useless in protecting me from myself. Any remedy for THAT?!?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The ideal vs. the real

Having read a piece in the NY Times by Massimo Pigliucci titled "How to be a Stoic", I find myself drawn to ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. In college, I enrolled in a philosophy course, but dropped it after one week (much to the professor's dismay) because it seemed to be a pointless exercise. Now, in my dotage retirement, there is room in my brain for contemplating such stuff. Apparently, this is part of a trend, as evidenced by such exercises as Stoic Week.

Today I read a piece in the NYer about Seneca, ostensibly one of the Roman Stoics, who it turns out was quite the hypocrite, exhorting us to live one way while doing the opposite. He's not the only so-called paragon to ignore his own advice; Thoreau, Kahlil Gibran, and Chögyam Trungpa immediately come to mind. Which brings up the question of how to balance what one says with what one does.

I suppose it is not much different than parenting ("Do as I say, not as I do"), but I wonder what our cultural advisers thought of themselves. Did their lovely words provide some kind of psychic balance to their messy lives? Were they like me when my kids were toddlers, arising each day with the intention of being a loving, kind, patient mother and turning into a screaming harridan by the end of the day? Were they completely blind to the difference between their philosophy and their deeds? Or did they shrug off any criticism while accepting their foibles?

And what are we to take from their teachings? It certainly seems fair to cherry pick what is helpful and ignore what doesn't apply to our modern lives. It seem prudent to take what they say with a grain of salt. And it helps to consider our path through life a journey where we continue to strive to be better than we are without attachment to an outcome.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

So many books, so little time

I joined a group on FB called Read26FW, where the challenge is to read 26 books during 2015. This group is for Fort Wayne, but anyone can join, and other cities have their own version of this project. Group members post progress, sometimes with a short review. While I am not interested in most of the books, I have bumped into some new authors to try plus reminders of books I've meant to read but have forgotten about.

As knitting ramped up for xmas and the winter, my reading has fallen off, but so far I am more than on target for 26. (Some were started in 2014, but whatever.)

The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly. I like murder mysteries and I'm a Michael Connelly fan, so was thrilled when this latest Harry Bosch novel "The Burning Room" became available on my library holds list. I cruised right through it. His writing is clear and concise, the characters "true", and he touches on topics like the difference between justice and revenge. If you like crime fiction, this is one for you.

Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin. This is the first book I have read by this "critically acclaimed author", and probably the last, too. Not much happens - it's more of a character study. And even though the blurb on the back says this male novelist writes convincingly about women, I thought he never really broke past the surface. It takes place in Ireland around 1970, and I missed a lot of the references to Irish politics, etc., so maybe I missed other things as well.

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast. This is a combination of cartoons and text about aging parents, some of which I have seen in the NYer. Chast is brutally honest about the challenges her parents face and the ones she faced caring for them, especially her "bad daughter" feelings. Well worth the hour or two it will take to read.

Tracks, by Robyn Davidson. After seeing the movie, I was intrigued and wanted to know more, so picked up the book. Although the movie and the book share an outline of events, the slant and message are quite different. Of course, I liked the book much better. I added another of her works, Desert Spaces, to my list. She is working on a memoir as well.

You Disappear, by Christian Jungersen. I think I actually finished this in 2014, but don't think I have mentioned it before. It's a Danish novel about a woman whose husband suffers a brain injury. There is quite a bit of information about brain injuries and personality in the book, but it is presented almost like sidebars. Besides an entertaining read, there is a lot of food for thought.

Does your hometown have a "Read 26" group or program? If not, start one!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A resolution with a plan for 2015

When I retired from my job (which, by the way, I do NOT miss at all), I decided not to take on anything new for at least six months. That turned out to be a good thing, as the final remodeling of the house was underway and continued to be underway for what seemed like an eternity. Once that was complete, I settled into what I had planned to do all along during retirement. And very soon became a bit bored.

Not bored enough to find another job. One should never say "Never" but that is how I feel about having a conventional job. I can't imagine the kind of work that would draw me back to the labor force. But I do feel ready to rejoin the rest of the world.

A couple of semi-social opportunities have presented themselves of late. One is a group called the Wild Walkers. Twice a month they gather at a nature preserve of one kind or another and hike. The first gathering of the year is next week, so I'll find out more about what is what then.

In anticipation of becoming a Wild Walker, my SO and I joined the Resolution Reinforcement Hike at Kokiwanee Nature Preserve today. (The assumption is some people will make a resolution to visit all the properties owned by Acres Land Trust. I am not one of them.) We have both been to this preserve before, but not with a group. Despite the cold and blustery day, there was a good crowd. About half went on a physical hike (less talk, more walk) while the others went on an educational hike (more talk, less walk). We chose the former as I did not want to stand around getting educated while the wind froze my cockles. Instead, I worked up a sweat clambering up and down the ravines. I thoroughly expect my haunches to be complaining tomorrow.

All of this brings me to a New Year's resolution of sorts: to get out and about more. I tend to be a homebody, but even though I have a vast capacity for solitude, I do get tired of me on occasion. For a resolution to stick, one needs a plan. Part of my plan includes joining the Wild Walkers whereby all I have to do is show up every two or three weeks dressed appropriately for the weather. I think I can do that.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A good enough death

My father passed away on December 1, at the age of 95. He had surgery in September for a bowel blockage and recovered from that. A second blockage sent him to the ER, and when they started treatment - insertion of a nasogastric tube and catheter - his heart stopped. After two resuscitations, we decided to let him go. My older brother was with him for the end.

Over the past six months, Dad had been going downhill slowly. He was sleeping more, so much so that I would not have been surprised if he had simply not awoken from one of his many naps. I was in the habit of phoning him several times a week, and he sometimes struggled to find words or remember names or dates. After his surgery, he couldn't follow plots or keep track of characters in the John Grisham novels he favored. Facebook, along with most computer tasks besides email, was a lost cause. He still loved to watch the Red Sox, though, listen to classical music and opera, play dominoes, dine with his friends, see family.

After his surgery, he spent about a week in "continuous care" getting rehab so he could return to his apartment. On the first day there, he told me he was in no hurry to leave. But the better he felt, the more horrific that unit became to him. He was one of the few that were mobile; the other residents spent their days in wheel chairs, watching the same show on TV in the day room, clutching teddy bears. He was very happy to leave that place behind, and said he would rather "jump off a bridge" than ever return. With his failing mental capacity, though, that is what I was afraid would happen.

Dad told me that, before the surgery, he had decided that if he were diagnosed with a terminal condition like cancer, he would not seek treatment. While recovering, he had a bout of incoherence caused by low blood oxygen, but it was interrupted by his asking me point blank why we did not just let him go. After the surgery, he said that he "would rather die" than have a nasogastric tube inserted again. So when my oldest brother called to ask if I had any objections to Dad not being resuscitated the next time his heart stopped, I said I had none. It was what he would have wanted.

After my stepmother passed away a year or so ago, I asked Dad if he had done any preplanning. No, he didn't care what we did, but he suggested his cremains be buried in Chicago where his parents, one brother and his wife, and my mother (Dad's first wife) are. My brothers and I decided not to have a service in Massachusetts but to gather in Chicago at a later date, to celebrate a life well lived. With no service, though, sometimes his passing feels like a dream and I get a little panicky thinking I have forgotten to call him.

My two brothers that live in Massachusetts are taking care of business at that end: cleaning out the apartment, executing the will, etc. The brother in Chicago is tasked with interring the ashes. There was nothing for me to do, no ritual to mark the end. But then the Chicago brother thoughtfully asked if I wanted to be there for the interment. So on Monday, my son and I are going to Graceland (cemetery, not Tennessee). Afterwards, we'll eat lunch at the Olive Garden, one of Dad's favorite restaurants.

My mother passed away when I was 20. I was young and callow then, and forged ahead into my future without much thought. Older and maybe wiser now, when I look back, I see what a hole was left by her death. Dad's demise is another hole. Even though I am 62 years old, I feel abandoned and orphaned. I miss him very much.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Summer to autumn reading

I like to listen to books on CD while I knit. At my older brother's urging, I recently selected Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I thought The Passage of Power was long - AH has it beat by two disks. But I did it. I listened to the whole thing, although I had to renew it twice. Fortunately, it was very interesting and educational. I didn't realize just how critical Hamilton's role was in the establishment and preservation of a federal government, as well as the economic framework that is basically still in place today. Aaron Burr was the prototype for the modern day politician (and an asshole). John Adams was a nut case. It's amazing that the nation survived its fragile beginning, and yet many of our modern day issues have their roots in the post-revolutionary period. When it comes to politics, some things never change.

Other recent reads:

  • Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King. Not one of his better novels. The first of a trilogy - don't think I'll read the others.
  • Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail, by Louise Shivers. I'd never heard of this author until she passed away this past summer. The story in this novella rings true.
  • The Divorce Papers, by Susan Rieger. Told indirectly through correspondence, emails, memos, legal briefs, etc. Very effective. Quotes Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.
  • The Real Thing, by Tom Stoppard. It's a play, so a lot is lost in the reading of it. One of my frustrations from living in the hinterlands is limited access to live performances of plays.
  • Starting Over, short stories by Elizabeth Spencer who is 93. She's still got it.
  • New Life, No Instructions, by Gail Caldwell. Not what I expected and a bit disappointing.
  • Dept of Speculation, by Jenny Offill (pronounced "awful"?). I think I would like to try being an art monster.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's, by Truman Capote. Too bad Tru spent more time resting on his laurels than writing.
  • Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt. My daughter liked this one, but I didn't despite the provocative title. In fact, I abandoned it after a couple of chapters.
  • No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy (on CD). Did not see the movie, but liked listening to the book.
  • All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy (on CD). Read by Brad Pitt, the economy of language is stunning, makes Hemingway sound verbose. I didn't realize this is the first book in a trilogy, will have to read the others.
  • Mathilda, by Roald Dahl (on CD). A little disconcerting - I can see why some parents object to this book - but fun.
  • Tibetan Peach Pie, by Tom Robbins (on CD). He is so full of himself I didn't make it to the end
  • After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman. Classic Lippman.
  • Mr. Tall, short stories by Tony Earley. I particularly liked "Jack the Giant Killer".
  • Daring: My Passages, by Gail Sheehy. Having lived through the same time period (but while leading a much less exciting life), I enjoyed this survey of recent history. And yes, Sheehy was *very* daring.
  • The Third Plate, by Dan Barber. I'm enjoying it, but not making much headway due to Nook issues.
  • Misdiagnosed, by Jody Berger. This one will cause you to run screaming from any kind of health care professional, conventional or otherwise.
  • Silences, or a Woman's Life, by Marie Chaix. A bit confusing, and just as scary as Misdiagnosed. Don't get sick, don't get old.
  • Top Secret 21, by Janet Evanovich. One of the better Stephanie Plum novels.
  • Not My Father's Son, by Alan Cumming. I don't usually read celebrity authors, but I'm a fan of "The Good Wife" so I gave this a try. 
  • Stone Mattress, short stories by Margaret Atwood. Loved some of the stories, hated others.
  • One Simple Change, by Winnie Abramson. I already do almost all these things, and contrary to the subtitle, my life is not transformed.
  • Slow Dancing with a Stranger, by Meryl Comer. I heard one or two interviews with the author and was intrigued, but the book was a bit disappointing. Maybe I've read too many books on Alzheimers.
  • Rooms, by Lauren Oliver. When I realized this was about ghosts, I almost quit it, but the story is so well crafted, it sucked me in after two chapters.
  • Sex Is Forbidden, by Tim Parks. I really, really, really enjoyed this book. Most Buddhist nonfiction is a snooze fest, but Buddhist fiction tells it like it is. This is no exception. And such a provocative title!
  • If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, by Heather Lende. Should be titled, If You Died Here.... Lende writes obituaries for the local paper in her tiny Alaskan village, so the main topic is death. BUT! This collection of essays is very entertaining and uplifting if a bit christiany.
Wow. I've been reading a lot, which is a good thing and one of my goals in retirement. And I read more fiction than I used to. Initially, I had a little bit of trouble giving myself permission to read more - shouldn't I be *doing* something? - but reading *is* doing something.

What are you reading these days?

Monday, November 17, 2014

More Nooky

Once upon a time, I decided I needed a treat and purchased a Nook Color. I found it handy for reading ebooks, took it with me on vacation when I wanted to be able to check email, etc. (I did not have a smart phone at the time), and of late purchased learning games for my g'daughter to play. It was the latter that drove me over the edge, Nookwise.

The primary issue is not being able to install purchased apps. This has happened repeatedly. Customer service recommends a soft reboot and/or archiving and unarchiving the offending app. These tactics have worked for me once or twice. Their next step is to unregister and reregister the Nook, which sounds too drastic to me. The last time I had this problem (this past week, in fact), the customer service rep tried to load the app on his Nook Color and it failed, which means, I guess, that the app is at fault. I received a refund, then I sent the developer an email: Are you going to fix this or not? No reply.

I decided some shopping was in order. After looking around online, I went to Best Buy (NOT because I was going to buy anything there, but because they are all stocked up for xmas and I could check things out; since it is pre-xmas, the sales staff is in assertive mode and practicing their spiels, so be forewarned). Nothing there appealed to me, especially the price tags, so I headed over to Barnes and Noble.

You might be wondering why I would consider another Nook after my experience with the Nook Color, but functionally and financially, that is what I wanted. And that is what I bought, this time the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 7. It's like the Nook Color and my smart phone hooked up and produced an heir to the throne. The touch screen looks better and behaves better, it has more memory and is faster, and it weighs less than the Nook Color. Since both devices are registered with the same B&N account, there was no fooling around transferring purchases from one to the other. And best of all, now my g'daughter can play her learning games.