Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sibling Assignment #99: "I was that lonely"

InlandEmpireGirl gave this assignment:
" A Tribute to a Favorite Flower" using words and/or pictures.
You'll find InlandEmpireGirl's tribute to the iris, here and Silver Valley Girl's tribute to the sunflower, here.

A couple of summers ago I snapped geranium photos at Silver Valley Girl's house and used those pictures to create one of those nifty Picasso collages. It is many geraniums (gerania?) mashed water color-ly into one. I chose the geranium, not only because it is a favorite flower, but also because one of my favorite poem's, written by Theodore Roethke, is a lonely, hard living man's tribute to the flower. First the poem, and then I'll say a few words about it:

The Geranium

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!--
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me--
And that was scary--
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.


It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the geranium comes to embody in this poem. One way I look at it is to see the geranium as an image for the inward life of the poem's speaker. The speaker has been ready to give up on himself, but upon review, takes himself, like the geranium, back and gives himself, like the flower, whatever sustenance seems sensible, always mindful of the demands he has put on his soul: the dead beer, cigars, gin, bad steaks, shrieking women -- and he never quite gives up on himself, but sacks the maid who gave up on his geranium.

I also see the geranium as the embodiment of the abuse the speaker piles on himself and others; but the geranium, unlike the others, endures, stays with him, continues to bloom and survive in spite of the dead beer, cigars, gin, bobby pins and other crappy elements of the speaker's life. The speaker regards the geranium as reliable company. He can't leave it by the garbage pail and is beside himself when the maid dumps the geranium.

Without the geranium, all he has is loneliness -- and this is true no matter what the geranium comes to stand for.

Sibling Assignment #98: Old, Used Up, and Ready to Be Restored

I gave sibling assignment #98:

1. Go out and take a picture of a subject you do not remember having photographed since we started doing our blogs and using digital cameras.
2. Try to align this photograph with your mood at the time you are taking the picture.
3. Write about the subject of the photograph and how the subject and the way you shot it reflect your mood/feelings at the time you took the picture.
InlandEmpireGirl focused on contentment, here and Silver Valley Girl focused on thankfulness, here.

I'm sure glad my sisters are thankful and content, because they really help balance it out when my spirit and outlook is on the darker side.

I've been sick for two months and I feel like the current condition of the paint job on our house: chipped, exposed, scraped, old, ugly, and in need of restoration.

Fixing the house is easy. We've hired a painter and he'll make it look better and provide protection for the house's siding and trim and doors.

I'm hoping I'll soon feel less chipped and old. I'd love to feel restored and healthy again, but for the time being, I feel like an old paint job, that looked pretty good for a while, but has fallen into disrepair.

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/09: BBQ Pleasure, B-day Cake Dilemma, Sheila in Charge

1. I haven't had a very good appetite over the last week or so, but the BBQ chicken and steak and potato salad at the Walsh's really hit the spot.

2. A moral dilemma arose: when Deke ordered Pat and Ardemis' birthday cake and the cake decorator said she'd spell Happy Birthdays with an apostrophe, should Deke have corrected her -- or let it go? What would you have done? (I'm not telling what Deke did.)

3. Bridgit recently adopted Sheila, a corgi. Another dispatch about life with Sheila came wagging into my email box today and it's a delight to read the experience of another person with a corgi in the house. Bridgit loves Sheila and Sheila is doing a fine job of training Bridgit.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/09: Case Closed, Coffee Relief, Bubbie's Live Culture

1. No last minute bullshit. No change of mind, no 11th hour surprises: the man who has stalked MB for at least twelve years entered a guilty plea for violating the stalking order. He is on probation for five years; the stalking order continues; if he violates it, bail is higher than before and he will have committed a felony; he must submit to psychological examination; he's banned from our college's campus; he dropped his civil suit to have the stalking order rescinded. These penalties are stiffer than usual, reflecting the gravity of the case.

2. MB, Michael, Jeff, and I had coffee this afternoon and MB let us in on what occurred at court (though she was excused from being there) and expressed her great relief that both the civil and criminal cases are finished.

3. As I sink my teeth more deeply into a probiotic diet, I gotta say, the checker at MC who raved about Bubbie's sauerkraut when she plucked it from my cart was right: it's really good and teeming with just the kind of bacteria I want my gut to be full of.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/09: Stalker Clipped, London Feast, Much Needed Sleep

1. MB left me a message last night. I just caught up to it today. The man who has been stalking her for the last dozen years or so and who violated the stalking order this past fall submitted to a plea agreement. I will know tomorrow, for sure, that no last minute crap happened in court today and will post the terms of the agreement then.

2. It had been a while since I visited Annie Mole's breezy and informative blog focused on the London Underground railway system. I love the pictures, videos, tales, and news she posts. Visiting her blog sent me all over London via the Internet today, looking at maps, museum websites, and pictures. It's been nearly 24 years since I've been to London and these days I am grateful for the World Wide Web and the access it gives me to this great city. I don't know that I'll ever be able to return.

3. I badly need the medical leave I'm on right now. Today is a good example. I was wiped after merely doing some grocery shopping yesterday and needed not only a full night's sleep last night, but a three and a half hour nap today to recover. Thank goodness I belong to a union and work at a place where the arrangement I have right now is possible.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/09: Not Worth a Shit, House Paint, Wiggly

1. I've been thinking all day about my dad and how much I enjoyed being out at the golf course or at the bar with him and when someone asked him how was doing, he'd always say the same thing, "Not worth a shit." It was almost never true but he always said it and I always laughed and he always made his friends laugh. "Hey, Pert, you one-eyed son of a bitch, how you doin'?" "Not worth a shit, especially since I saw your fat ass sittin' there."

2. Dean, the house painter came by and I liked his attitude, his estimate, and his plans for prepping and painting our house. Now the hard part: what color?

3. A fun thread of comments brought the ancient board game "Uncle Wiggly" to mind. I used to love playing that before I graduated to my all-time favorite: Sorry!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/09: Victory in Sight, Thin is In, Beige? Gray? Blue? Yellow?

1. The unpleasant visits to the bathroom are decreasing in frequency. I and my body and the medicine are getting the upper hand on the demon c-diff.

2. The sausage, six cheese, and pepperoni pizza I ordered from Papa John's tonight secured my sense that I really like thin crust pizza. I might even prefer it. Maybe strongly.

3. Momentum is building: we should have a freshly painted exterior to our house in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/09: Cell Room Gallery, Simple as H2O, Checks and Balances at the Supreme Court





1. My collection of Zinc Plant cell room pictures is only at four, but those four photos engendered some great discussion that I hope will continue at Facebook and maybe here, as well.

2. I started feeling crappy this afternoon and drinking water got me feeling better. This c-diff makes me prone to dehydration.

3. I always enjoy reading Jeffrey Toobin and I found his essay about Chief Justice Roberts in the recent issue of The New Yorker illuminating.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/21-24/09: Nurses and CNAs of Mercy, Ministry of Friends, IV Crush

A May 21st trip to the Emergency Room followed by admission to the hospital interrupted my Three Beautiful Things posts. Right now, I look back at 05/20 and read that I felt good. I was active that day. I didn't need any naps for the first time since coming home from the hospital on April 11th. Irony can be cruel. About four hours after I posted this sliver of optimism, all hell broke lose in my intestines. The Clostridium difficile (C diff) that I'd contracted a couple of weeks earlier and that I thought was gone, recoiled, returned, and entrenched itself in my nether regions and by 8:00 the evening of the 21st I was in the ER, dehydrated, a fever looming aroung 102 degrees. I'd been throwing up all day and diarreha was kicking in. But, beautiful things did not evaporate. Here are three:

1. The nurses and CNAs worked efficiently and cheerfully to help relieve me of my illness and to help me be comfortable. I enjoyed their ministrations and our conversations. The nurses and CNAs uplifted my spirits, and helped me feel better in non-pharmaceutical ways.

2. Margaret, Russell, Michael came to the hospital to visit and I relished our conversations. My Kellogg friends Jake, Ed, and Scott called me from Harrison, Idaho during a break from riding their motorcycles and Jake made me laugh harder than I had in weeks. High school classmate Ken Carter called me from Anchorage. He comforted me. So did Diane, another high school classmate. I returned home today to many messages from Facebook friends and discovered I was being prayed for by people in a prayer chain. Immeasureable. It's immeasurable how much of a boost friends are when I'm sick, and how much I appreciate the prayers of friends and strangers.

3. IV's. I love IVs. I want a home IV kit. I'm staggered by how much good the IVs have done for me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/09: Awkward Family Photos: Stuffed, Flexible Work Space, NO NAP(S) TODAY

1. In the last month, with the help of Taryn in Spirit Lake, I discovered www.awkwardfamilyphotos.com and I get a kick out of it. If go here, you'll see that the family of a very accomplished math prof. at the U of O, who loves stuffed penguins, made the awkward family photo cut. Thanks to Meghann for pointing me to this family portrait.

2. A quick gratifying trip to Staples: land line phone, some new pens, and, best of all, USB extension cord and extension cord from my computer to my speakers. This opens up so much flexibility. Trust me.

3. No nap(s) today. That's right. I went to Staples and to the Post Office. I wrote thank you cards. I cooked dinner. No nap(s). Could this be a sign of things moving in a more energetic and positive direction in my recovery from pneumonia?? *fingers crossed*

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/09: Mose Meets Van, Shear Decision, Beautiful Day Meets Deep Purple

1. Heard Van Morrison sing my favorite Mose Allison song "Your Mind is on Vacation (But Your Mouth is Working Overtime).

2. I finally got a haircut today at Perfect Cuts. I never learned the name of the woman who cut my hair. All I know is that she contracted pneumonia from infected teeth and that she cut my neckline with a six hundred dollar pair of scissors and decided the fifty buck pair would work better. She finished the job with the cut rate shears.

3. I listened to It's a Beautiful Day play "Bombay Calling" which called to mind Deep Purple's revising of its opening for their own beginning to "Child in Time" on their "In Rock" album. It's an ingenious borrowing, in my opinion, and a nice mash up of "Bombay Calling" with Deep Purple's own song.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/09: Geek Squad Returns, Thai-Hop, Bloated Major League HItters

1. The Deke looked to the one man Geek squad (me) again today to back up her computer files on CDs. I was happy to do it, glad to do what little I can to help, despite the fact that it was tedious.

2. In Eugene, we can get some pretty good food from Thailand at a joint that used to be a IHOP. I got some carry out there tonight. I love calling that place Thai-Hop. (That nickname did not originate with me.)

3. Adam, a Facebook friend via the Troxstar, out in Mass., and I have been trying to think of former bloated sluggers the Red Sox might hire to DH for the slumping David Ortiz....Boog Powell, George Scott, Mo Vaughn, Moose Skowron, Cecil Fielder, Gorman Thomas, Ron Blomberg, Andre Thornton, Steve Balboni, Willie Horton, Rob Deer.....so many fat sluggers, so little willingness to sign 'em up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/09: Dreamin' Kellogg Again, Logs and Specks and Eyes, Billy's One Man Geek Squad

1. My blog post, here, narrating my dream of sliding backwards in my Honda down Kellogg's icy Main Street into a funeral attended by mountain men with high powered rifles has attracted some interest, but, better yet, has attracted some interpretations of what this dream might mean. If you are into interpreting dreams, come read this one and feel free to take a crack at telling me what you think is going on the dank cavern of my id.

2. Bishop Thornton is capable of astonishing insights when he preaches; sometimes, he just hits hard on what we already know to be true and as he examined the destructive nature of evil speech and meanness and being judgmental, he hammered away eloquently at what we knew, but can't hear spoken enough.

3. I loaded Norton 360 on Deke's computer today, an easy enough task, but I really enjoy being of help, in any way I can, with others' computers. Yes, there's not a ton I can do, so when I can do something, it's a thrill.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/09: Mutual Birthday Friend, Snug-ship, Healing Conversations

1. It's been decades since I've had any extended conversations with Ken Carter. We were born on the same day in the Wardner Hospital in 1953 and now, thanks to Facebook, we are having conversations about the past and about how we see things in the present that are very enjoyable.

2. I think Snug and Deke are getting along better. The more friends Snug has, the better.

3. My blog post on my doubts about healing not only is inspiring good conversation with Ken Carter, it initiated a great exchange with Desert Diva and with a student whose name I'll protect. Healing is such a complex and tricky subject. It's one I've been recently skeptical about and it's been good to have some of my doubts challenged.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Streets Sure Are Slick: Sunday Scribblings #163 Disconnect


Looking north down Kellogg's Main Street without snow and ice in the 1950's


(If you are new to my blog, my hometown is Kellogg, Idaho.)

About 4:00 this morning my Springer Spaniel, Snug, jumped off the bed, his nails whooshing across the hardwood floor, and began to head butt the bedroom door.

Sometimes he eats breakfast this early. I submitted, fed him, let him out, grabbed the morning paper, and came back to bed. Snug soon joined me and we both fell back asleep.

Within seconds, I dreamed.

I was uptown in Kellogg. It was Monday. The grounds at St. Rita's Roman Catholic church had been expanded, and I helped plant new trees in the winter ground, joking that it was a good thing Father King was on vacation or else the money to do this would never get spent.

Landscaping parishioners included my good friend Timothy Patrick O'Reilly and in my dream we hadn't seen each other since high school and we smiled broadly and couldn't figure out how to shake hands with each other: High five? Give each other skin? Traditional shake? Drug brotherhood peace shake? We mimed them all and laughed and laughed.

I had parked my little Jonathan apple colored 1993 Honda Civic on Main Street in front of the old Masonic Hall. I tried to get out, but I got stuck in a small berm by the sidewalk. I gunned the engine, extracted myself and started going backwards, downhill, down the slick ice of Main Street.

My car moved slowly, but out of control. I slid past the old Liberty Theater and Joe and Henry's and Ford Hoback's variety store and tried to steer out of my backward slide but I just kept sliding past Sass's Jewelery, Patano's Apparel, and then toward the intersection of McKinley and Main.

Just north of this intersection rests the Shoshone Funeral Home and giant broad shouldered pot-bellied mountain men with Z Z Top beards dressed in church clothes were making their way across Main Street, on their way to a funeral.

I couldn't stop the car. I hit one, two, several of them and could only see their purple and swollen and enraged faces, first through the driver's window, and then in my rear view mirror.

My Honda came to a stop near the Shoshone Funeral Home. I got out of my car and no one seemed the least concerned about what had happened. I wondered if anyone had called 911, but I was met with contented, indifferent faces, the faces of people about to attend a funeral.

Suddenly, a police officer appeared. It was Dana Bisaro. He was freaked out.

I asked, "Do I have anything to be worried about?"

"Worried about? Those guys up there have you scoped, man!"

I looked back toward the intersection of Main and McKinley.

At least three of the giant bearded mountain men in church clothes were armed with .338 Winchester Magnum rifles and had me in the cross hairs of their 2-8x Burris Signature scopes.

I shook myself awake.

I can't make sense of this dream.

It came from inside me.

I feel completely disconnected from it.

To read more Sunday Scribblings on the topic "disconnect", go here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/09: Dan Turns Loquacious, Return of the Doughnut, Leftover Curry Delight

1. I took the Honda in for an oil change and the usually laconic Dan, at the counter, told me more about how he sees the world outside of auto maintenance than he has in the nearly ten years I've taken cars to his shop. Very enjoyable.

2. What do you call a maple bar that has chocolate on it, not maple? I had one today while I waited for the car to be repaired, my first doughnut of any kind since I contracted pneumonia. Pleasant!

3. I heated up Wednesday night's vegetable curry, poured some peanuts over it, sweetened it with apple-cranberry chutney and was taken aback by how much better it tasted as a leftover than it had when freshly cooked.

Bob Rosburg R.I.P. -----> What Major Sporting Event Would I Most Like to Attend?

Long-time PGA golf professional, former PGA champion, and familiar ABC golf commentator and reporter, Bob Rosburg died today at the age of 82. He'd been ill with cancer, but a family friend claims Rosburg's cause of death was a fall from which he suffered a head injury.

When we could, back when we were in our twenties, I used to get together with Roger Pearson to watch the U.S. Open on ABC television. Those broadcasts featured Bob Rosburg walking the course. He was the first television golf reporter to do this and his up close observations of how the ball lay in the fairway or what kind of trouble a player's wayward shot might be in enlivened ABC's broadcasts and established a trend in golf reporting that we take for granted today.

Roger and I loved Rosburg's pessimism. It seemed like every time a player hit the ball in the trees or in the rough, Jim McKay would ask Rosburg, "How's it look Rossy?" Invaribly, Rosburg's response was, "Jim, he's in jail" or his famous, "He's got no chance". Then Nicklaus or Watson or Trevino or Andy Bean or Jerry Pate would stand behind the ball, assess his shot, address the ball, and rifle it out of the jail Rossy said he had no chance to get out of.

Roger and I laughed and laughed. We'd imitate Rossy. We'd say, "Jim, he's in jail. He's got no chance" before Rossy himself would and nothing was more thrilling than when the player hit the right shot.

Having listened to Bob Rosburg help bring so many great golf tournaments to life, I got to thinking about what major sporting event I would attend if I could choose from the following:

1. Super Bowl
2. World Series
3. NCCA Men's Basketball Final Four
4. NBA Championship Series
5. BCS College Football Championship
6. Stanley Cup Finals
7. Wimbleton Championships at the All England Tennis Club

Maybe your choice is listed here, but mine isn't.

I would attend any one of these men's golf tournaments.

My first choice is the Masters.

My second choice: the British Open, which is officially called The Open Championship.

My third: the Ryder Cup.

My fourth: the U.S. Open.

That's right. If given the chance, I would rather be at a golf championship in person than any other spectator sport.

I spent four of the most exciting and entertaining days of my life at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course as a gallery member of the 1997 Women's U.S. Open golf championship.

If I could attend the Masters, I would try to do some of the things I did during those four days. For starters, I would try to go out early with an obscure pairing of golfers who attract few spectators and walk with them as a way of getting familiar with the golf course.

My guess is that many who attend golf tournaments are star struck and want to see the most famous players in action.

If I were at Augusta National, I would never regard the players as the stars. At Augusta, the golf course is what prevails and I'd love to walk this gorgeous layout early in the morning, watching golfers no one cares about, and taking in the pine trees, azaleas, dogwood, magnificent water, and the undulating challenges of Augusta's fairways and greens.

On another day, I would decide on a hole to camp out at and get there as early as possible. If it were a par 4 or par 5, I'd find a place to stand close to the landing areas of tee shots, and if a par 3, I'd camp out where I could, either at the green or the tee.

I did this at Pumpkin Ridge on the fourth day of the Women's U. S. Open. I camped out near the landing area on hole 14, a long par 4, with the look of a boomerang, bending from right to left. The green is fronted by a pond, but only half the green. For the first three days of the tournament, the pin wasn't placed behind the pond. On the fourth day it was.

Coming to the course on Sunday morning, I predicted to myself that with 14 playing as a par 4, measuring about 470 yards, and with the pin place behind the water, there might be some great drama. Some players could safely play the right side of the green and not deal with the water and others would have to go for the pin and come in over the water.

Indeed, there was drama. As the final twosome of Alison Nicholas and Nancy Lopez approached the 14th tee, Nicholas held a three stroke lead. Lopez drove in the fairway and then Nicholas blasted the longest drive I saw all day on the hole, leaving her a sand wedge to the pin.

Lopez safely put her second shot on the green and then Nicholas, adrenaline pumping, flew the green with her short iron into the wetlands behind the green.

I immediately thought of Rossy. "She's in jail." "She's got no chance."

She was in jail. She was out of bounds. She double bogeyed. Lopez parred. If Lopez could exploit this two shot swing, she could have won her first US Open. But, Nicholas held on and won the tournament.

I got sucked into the mobs of fans that tried to watch the final four holes.

I never will, but I'd love to have a similar experience at the Masters, with the added emotional impact of being on the most revered golf course in the USA.

I was sad to hear about Rossy's passing. But his name and picture made me think how much I love being a spectator of golf and how I would rather take in the beauty and pressure of a major golf tournament than be a spectator to any other sport or any other event.

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/09: No Longer the Bank's, Full Spectrum Coffee, Shared Enjoyment

1. The title to the Subaru arrived in the mail today. Our handy station wagon no longer belongs to the bank. It's ours.

2. Robust, raucous, caustic, belly-laughing coffee with Margaret, Jeff, and Michael today. Whoa, Nellie! There's a lot in the world of movies, books, students, Bob Dylan, LCC, and teaching to be, on the one hand, embittered and demoralized by, and, on the other hand, uplifted and mirthful about.

3. Michael and I talked for a few minutes in the parking lot. I was ecstatic when Michael told me he'd seen both "3:10 to Yuma" and "Appaloosa" and fully enjoyed them both. The same is true for Jolene. I really enjoy finding shared pleasure with others in movies I've seen. I don't enjoy sharing disdain about movies a fraction as much as I enjoy sharing enjoyment.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/09: Hugo is Home, Through a Scanner Operative, Slightly Above Mediocre


1. The UPS driver rang the doorbell and handed me a box with Richard Hugo in it. The DVD arrived: "Kicking the Loose Gravel Home" -- a film portrait of Richard Hugo from 1976. I've never seen it and I'm eager to watch it....but today didn't seem like the right time.

2. Sometimes it's the smallest of things that make me happy: like getting my scanner up and running today.

3. I fixed a curry for dinner tonight and even though the spinach curry sauce was a little weak, a bit watery, I learned from a mistake I made and it felt pretty good to cook again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/09: Cross-Cultural Lunch Bowl, Billboard Hot Tracks, Croce on YouTube

1. I fired up a packet of Trader Joe's fully cooked Thai-style lime pilaf with coconut milk and lemongrass in the microwave and poured it in a bowl, sprinkled some unsalted peanuts over it and sat down with a jar of apple-cranberry chutney, put a few dollops on the pilaf, and brought Thailand and India together in tasty truce for lunch this afternoon.

2. Napster has Billboard hot 100 tracks for each of the four seasons for every year since 1955 and so I listened to song after song from the summer of 1972 as a way of taking myself back to that uncertain summer following high school graduation and before I started college and enjoyed some songs I hadn't heard in quite a while: "Alone Again (Naturally)", "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)", "(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to be Right", and I'm sure other titles featuring parentheses. The one song I replayed three times was Harry Nilsson's "Coconut". It swings.

3. Playing these 1972 songs took me back to Jim Croce and I took time away from Napster and went to YouTube and watched several of his videos. I enjoyed this one, featuring "Bad Bad LeRoy Brown". I liked listening to how Croce introduced his song:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sibling Assignment #97: Tribute to Mom on Mother's Day

Silver Valley Girl's latest assignment to us siblings is to write a tribute to our mother for Mother's Day. InlandEmpireGirl's post is here and Silver Valley Girl's is here.

An image: my mother, Mary Idell West Woolum, knees and hips slowly giving out, although she's been helped with one hip being replaced. Her back has been slowly bending for the last seven or eight years. Like many people in their late seventies, she's beginning to shrink some.

So there she is, back bent, knees a bit wobbly, her gait deliberate, pulling the lawn watering hose from one side of the yard to the other; there she is, slowed down but not stopped, yanking weeds out of her raised garden boxes; there she is, putting in as many as three straight hours in her yard, harvesting, watering, weeding, fertilizing, and finding spots, which are getting scarce, to put new plants in the ground.

This is hard work, and it continues in the house when Mom finishes in the yard and waters her many, many house plants, vacuums her carpets, mops the kitchen floor, and takes a round steak or a chicken or a pot roast out of the freezer to thaw in preparation to start cooking dinner.

When I think of my mom, the dominant image is of a hard worker. When she was a teacher in Kellogg's District #391 she not only gave her classroom, her students, and their work all the attention she had, she also attened PTA meetings, was active in the union, and served her fellow teachers and district in a number of other ways.

When I think of my mom, I often think of those summer days in the mid-sixties or those evenings during the same years when, in order to keep her certification, Mom had to take summer classes and night classes toward earning a Bachleor's degree. For two summers, she lived in Moscow, Idaho, taking summer courses at the U of I, these summers falling not long after she'd given birth to Silver Valley Girl. For one of those summers, she took Silver Valley Girl and InlandEmpireGirl with her to live in Moscow, so not only was she studying, but she was taking care of her daughters and hoping against all hope that Dad and I held down the fort back in Kellogg. (Mixed success.)

Mom has stamina and determination. She blocks out pain. She's one of the hardest working people I've ever known.

The fruits of her labor are everywhere: robust flower gardens, productive vegetable gardens, a spotless house, a highly regarded teaching career, and three kids who are doing all right, inspired by her hard work, hard work that never took precedent over being a loving, tender, attentive, tireless mother to us kids.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/09: Delight in the Federation, Cooking Ingredients, Rebate Breakthrough


1. Star Trek. I wondered what kind of crowd would attend at 11:15 a.m. and it was a bunch of over fifty old farts like me. I did not watch Star Trek when it came out, but I wondered if I was seated in the theater with old fart Trekies. The movie? A pleasure. I enjoyed simply being transported to a totally unfamiliar world/universe and watching the crew of the USS Enterprise fight a terrible enemy. I'm very happy I went.

2. This pneumonia I've been up against messed up my appetite but I'm beginning to have cravings. I'm craving vegetables. Chickpeas. Curry. Basmati rice. Spinach sauce. Chinese noodles. Hummus. Black beans. I went to Trader Joes late in the afternoon and bought groceries so I can cook stuff up that will satisfy my cravings and keep me from dining out so much.

3. I sat down and filled out the rebate coupons from Staples so I can get money back on my new computer and on Norton 360. It's always a good thing when I buckle down and fill out forms. It's one of my least favorite tasks, even when it means money back in my purse. I'm very happy and it's a beautiful thing that I submitted the paperwork for these rebates.

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/09: Computer Improvements, Sex Ed on Facebook, Fortune Inn


1. A disk here another one there and I have Microsoft Office and Norton 360 up and running and my computer now has more services and is better protected.

2. Speaking of better protected, my Facebook friend Miriam Chalmers is soliciting comments from people about their school experience with sex ed. I don't know when I've enjoyed a thread more. Great stories are emerging.

3. I enjoyed tofu and shrimp and assorted vegetables over steamed rice on the west end of 6th Avenue this evening at the Fortune Inn. My server was dragging, almost asleep on her feet, from the evening's earlier onslaught of mothers. By the time I arrived, the Fortune Inn was empty of mothers or any other customers. With hits from the 60s and 70s gently wafting around me, it was a peaceful way to enjoy my meal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #162: Healing: Not Sure I Buy It

Self-portrait, 2007

I'm not sure I buy the concept of healing. From my own experience and from my observations of and conversations with others, I don't see much healing happening. Rather, I am, and I see others, as damaged, unhealed, trying to navigate the choppy waters of insult, trauma, sudden change, and violation.

This isn't to say I don't make my way through the days. I do. I often do pretty well.

Always underlying my making through, though, is unhealed damage of one kind or another.

Before I write a word or two about this unhealed damage, let me admit that I might have the prompt wrong. Maybe the prompt, "healing", suggests that one is never healed, but always on the way of healing, that things get gradually healed, but never completely.

Nonetheless, here's some of my experience:

Back in October, 1981, my first wife, Eileen, suggested we go out for ice cream and about half way through a bittersweet nugget, told me she didn't think she wanted to be married to me any longer. At the time, I couldn't tell if she was talking hypothetically, but I soon learned she wasn't and in December we were separated and in August, divorced.

Understandably, I was devastated. But, I believed that over time, I would heal from the emotional and psychic trauma of this divorce. I took friends' advice as well as that from books and other sources. I tried not to stuff my feelings. I expressed my anger. I cried. I sought therapy. I believed that these actions, along with letting time heal this fracturing of my life, would eventually bring me to a point of peace.

It never has. I continue to feel the pain of the loss of my first marriage. I'm ashamed of myself. Everything in the church, the world of psychology, and in how people talk about these things says that after nearly twenty-eight years, the healing should be completed, I should have let this go, and I should not be feeling the pain of this separation and divorce.

It's not how it's worked for me. I won't do it here, but I can point to any number of other insults, disruptions, violations, and failures that are not healed, that happened as recently as two weeks ago and as long as forty years ago that are still pretty fresh, unhealed, and cause me suffering and regret.

I feel and experience parallel doubt about my body. I suffered a serious industrial accident in 1973 that involved the inhalation of sulfur dioxide and heavy metal dust. I suffered toxic pneumonia. While I've been functional and even successful in the thirty-five or so years following this injury, as I lie here typing this post, I can hear my wheezing in my chest, whistles, squeaks, and rasping. I am recovering right now from a bout of pneumonia that started about six weeks ago. I think that because the toxic pneumonia never really healed, that I'm having problems with this pneumonia healing because the first pneumonia, in my opinion, compromised my respiratory system.

Maybe I've had my hopes up too high about healing. Maybe I see advertisements for the healing arts and I put too much hope in what they can do. Maybe I've put too much trust in the long- term healing impact of therapy. Maybe I have believed too strongly that time heals and that when I settled into middle age and as I moved toward old age, these old injuries and events would have dissolved into the past and I'd feel healed.

But I don't.

It leaves me wondering just how much healing really takes place in the aftermath of the events in our lives that cause us so much pain and suffering.

It leaves me wondering to what degree our trust in healers and healing is misplaced and if a major part of the human experience is not healing, but continuing to suffer.

If you'd like to read other contributors' pieces on healing, go here.

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/09: Torino, Family, Hopkins

1. I loved watching Clint Eastwood play embittered Walt Kowalski's heart slowly thaw as he becomes closer and closer with the Hmong family next door in the movie Gran Torino.

2. Rarely do I get to talk on the phone with my sisters and mother while they are pounding down Sangria out back at Mom's in the early May sunshine, having just shared in a Mother's Day meal (a day early). But today I did.

3. I enjoyed reading a New Yorker essay on Gerard Manley Hopkins, not because the essay was stellar, but Hopkins' poetry is, and I enjoyed remembering the indelible impact his poetry made on me when I was twenty years old and a sophomore at North Idaho College.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/09: Dr. Boredom II, Mr. 1492 at Riverbend, Cars Comin' Around the Bend

Click image for a larger view

1. No drama. No stern warnings. No dark prognosis. I visited my kidney doctor today and, with in the framework of my chronic kidney disease and within the framework of having 30% kidney function, the news was good. My kidneys, in their crappy condition, are stable and have been for several years. The doctor saw no need for immediate concern.

2. I wish I could say that I love going to new medical campuses and that I love finding my way around in a large medical facility I've never been to before; I wish I could say that going to a new medical facility is an opportunity, a challenge, a chance to open up my world wider and deeper and to expand my horizons. When it comes to medical facilities, I'm happy with my horizons as they are. Nonetheless, I managed a) to find Riverbend Medical Monstrosity b) make my way around the campus sufficiently to park, find my way to the correct building, and find the right suite housing Nephrology Associates and c) not make an late middle-aged, resistant to change ass out of myself by wandering like a blind man, unable to figure out where I needed to go.

3. When I screwed up at the roundabout just south of the Riverbend Medical Monstrosity, I didn't get T-boned. Honked at, yes. T-boned, no. *Looks skyward with gratitude.*

Friday, May 8, 2009

J J Cale and Frozen River



Watch and listen to JJ Cale in this video and you'll experience his understated musical genius.

If you haven't seen it, I hope you'll watch the movie Frozen River. But only if you enjoy movies that are like J J Cale: subtle, understated, calling no attention to their genius; movies, like J J Cale that are powerful because there's no vanity, self-flattery, or self-congratulation.

Frozen River is the J J Cale of movies.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/09: Dr. Boredom, Bratty Kidney Sis, Yokisoba Pleasure

1. A remarkably boring, uneventful, undramatic, routine visit to the doctor today. C-diff is clearing up, lungs sound better, blood pressure is good: I don't see the doc for four weeks.



2. Nurse Michelle put the blood pressure wrap above my elbow and blurted out that she was having a bad hair day and that she'd have to put it up later and that she needed a haircut and started to apologize for giving me too much information and I told her it was okay because when I got ready to come to the clinic today my hair was sticking straight up to the ceiling and it was all I could do to get it matted down to meet my appointment and that I needed a haircut, too. About twenty minutes later after I'd seen the doctor, Michelle told me she her sister had needed a kidney transplant and she gave her sister a kidney and when I asked her how her sister was doing she said, "Bratty as ever. She's always been a brat. A new kidney didn't change that!" I might love Michelle.

3. I had a delicious plate of vegetable pot stickers followed by a plate of Yokisoba noodles generously piled high and covered with vegetables, tofu, and thin slices of pork at Yi Shen's. I wanted to eat at their new location on W. 11th. I'm very glad I did.

Three Beautiful Things 05/06/09: Aftermath Photos, Govinda's Fine Food, Celtics Won't Die

1. Jim Etherton (KHS, Class of '72) posted vintage photographs of The Aftermath, the greatest band ever...and the greatest band ever was four man electric band from Kellogg, Idaho.

2. I enjoyed some Hare Krishna vegetarian buffet at Govinda's for lunch today.

3. The Celtics crushed the Orlando Magic and did it with Paul Pierce on the bench in foul trouble for most of the game. Garnett out. Leon Powe out. Paul Pierce essentially out. And Celtics win. Remarkable. I doubt they can win the Eastern Conference, but they sure aren't lying down for anyone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sibling Assignment #96: Funeral Planners

InlandEmpireGirl gave the most recent assignment and it zeroes in on the year our dad died. He died on June 1 and it was right about this time of the month of May that he found out he had terminal cancer and it was the 10th of May when I left Eugene, went to Kellogg, and did what I could to be of help. Here's the assignment:
1996 was a year filled with life-changing events in our lives, both joyous and sad. Write about an event of 1996 and why it was significant to you.
InlandEmpireGirl wrote about meeting JEJ, whom she would marry the following year, here.

Silver Valley Girl -- hmmm --- well I got an email from the family slacker today. She wrote the following:
I do need to get through the Renaissance Dinner that Paul, Zoe and I are potraying the King, Queen and Princess at tonight ( I hope to have pictures) and the NIC field trip with all the 8th graders tomorrow. Then Zoe has District Track on Friday and Saturday, and throw in Spamalot in Spokane Friday night, and Mother's day Dinner Saturday night.
I don't think she'll be getting this assignment done for a while, but I'll post its location when she does. OOPS! My mistake. She does have it finished. It's HERE.

Dad died shortly after noon on a Saturday. I can't remember what day his funeral was held, but I do remember when Burt Roberts, SVG's father-in-law, came over to the house to talk with Mom, my sisters, and me about putting the service together and what might happen.

Burt barely sat down and suddenly my sisters were talking about Frank Sinatra, Roger Whitaker, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washingon, Teresa Brewer, and other of Dad's favorite music to be playing on the church sound system while people walked in.

They had hymns picked.

They wanted me to contribute a eulogy.

They knew everything.

They knew that Dad's favorite patriotic song was "God Bless America" and they wanted the congregation to sing it to close the service.

My jaw dropped.

They knew everything.

As the oldest of us three kids, I often had a magnified sense of my importance and my need to take care of things. What's more, as Dad's oldest child and his only son, I thought I had special knowledge of my father.

But, in June of 1996, in my parents' living room, at the age of 42, all that feeling of special knowledge and heightened responsibility melted away.

As we planned the funeral, my sisters spoke from intimate knowledge of my father, had creative and dignified ideas for his service that would profoundly reflect my father's passions and what he loved most in life.

These weren't my little sisters anymore. I had always respected my sisters, but, for me, our relationship was transformed during that meeting with Burt Roberts in my parents' living room.

I realized a new bond with my sisters and it was a bond of love for my father, a love I didn't know we shared in the way it turns out we did, that filled me joy that day.

My transformed understanding of my sisters deepened my love for them. From my perspective, the way we related to each other, our enjoyment and respect for each other, and our trust of each other changed that day and over the years this transformation has manifested itself in many ways, not the least of which is giving each other writing assignments and having outings with each other.

As I read over the paragraph I just wrote, I realize that my sisters may have already felt the enjoyment and respect and trust for each other and for me that I describe as having deepened that day. I realize that I may have been a late bloomer in this regard. It's not that I didn't enjoy and love my sisters before this meeting. My point is that the funeral planning revealed depth and feeling and compassion in my sisters that I had been asleep to.

My dad's funeral not only woke me up, it marked the beginning of new life in our family.

Maybe this should have been my Easter piece. The themes of life coming from death are pretty vivid here.

Sibling Assignment #95: Longing for Richard Hugo

Silver Valley Girl originally assigned a piece asking us to remember Expo '74, but it fizzled out. She replaced that assignment with this one:
Write about a journey, trip, place you would like to visit this summer, and why.
You can read about InlandEmpireGirl's yearning to visit the Olympic rainforest, here and Silver Valley Girl's dream of riding in a boat on the Coeur d'Alene River from the Cataldo Mission to Harrison, here.

As I was writing about the connection I see between Edward Hooper's "Nighthawks" and Richard Hugo's "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg", here, my memories of the summer of 1992 flooded me.

It was the summer of our twenty year high school reunion. My ex-wife was in Palau. I had decided in April that I wouldn't finish my dissertation. It was my first summer in six years without the thesis weighing on me.

I decided to come to Kellogg for the twenty year reunion via Burns, Oregon, Salmon City, Idaho, Butte and Bozeman and Missoula, Montana and see parts of Oregon, Idaho, and Montana I'd never visited before.

I decided to visit as many of the small Montana towns as I could that provided settings for Richard Hugo poems. For example, I went to Philipsburg and walked

. . . the streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn't last, bars that did. . .
Somehow, walking the streets of Philipsburg and Butte and going to Hot Springs and hiking up to Walkerville, Hugo's collected poems in hand, deepened my experience with the poems. I saw the world of Montana through Hugo's eyes and entered into his imagination and felt an even deeper affinity with his world view.

I'd like to go back on Richard Hugo tour. I'd like to take more time and drive to Drummond, visit Belgrade, return to Wisdom, see if I can find Silver Star, take the poems again, read them aloud, and drink in the landscapes and towns and feel those wondrous places inside myself where my soul and Richard Hugo's merge.

Three Beautiful Things 05/05/09: HP Chat, Blogging Like It's 2009, HBO Front Page

1. I was having trouble getting my LaserJet printer to work on my new computer and Jai Prakash Baduni and I worked together via HP chat and my printer is working smashingly. I meant to ask Jai how the weather was in Duluth.

2. I blogged like an Orofino Maniac (inside North Idaho joke) today and am getting close to being caught up on the Sibling Assignments I fell behind on while I was working an overload winter quarter, lost my computer to a thief, and got this pneumonia. Don't worry sisters: I'll catch up and be ready to deal some assignments myself!

3. After a long absence at the Spokesman Review's North Idaho blogsite Huckleberries Online, I re-entered that world today and, to my surprise and pleasure, my blog entry about moving too far away but trying to stay close with my sisters got front paged.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sibling Assignment #94: A Commendation on Your Record

InlandEmpireGirl stayed with the rhythms of the Christian calendar and asked us to write about a vivid Easter. InlandEmpireGirl's piece about her church in the country is here and Silver Valley Girl's exploration of her marriage as a source of renewal and resurrection is here.

During my freshman year at North Idaho College, I worked weekends at the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant. Sometimes I stripped zinc in the cell room and sometimes I poured anodes with Sparky Jasburg, Mike Rieken, and Dale Fattu out in the anode shack.

Working weekends at the Zinc Plant was a good gig. I earned plenty of rent and spending money for the month and I was good enough at both pouring anodes and stripping zinc that I could come to work hungover or still kind of drunk, let the sulfuric acid fumes sober me up, grab a couple of naps during the shift, and get all my work done.

In the spring of 1973, I was working in the cell room, and I was on a lunch break, and into the lunch room strolled the Plant Superintendent, Bob Bird. I nearly shit my salami sandwich. I'd never seen Bob Bird in the lunch room before. I'd seen him stroll through the cell room a few times, but he was always talking with a shift boss or some other manager: he never talked to us workers.

I still don't understand why Bob Bird took on the matter he raised in the lunch room. I don't understand why he was at the plant on a weekend. It was close to Easter, either the weekend before or the weekend of. Easter was a paid holiday and the cell room was short-handed. That's kind of weird, actually, because working a paid holiday meant earning double time and a half.

Bob Bird explained the situation and asked if anyone would be available and willing to work on Easter Sunday. Now looking back, I wonder if there was some kind of labor action informally taking place. Looking back, I wonder if the strippers were trying to slow down production and make the company hurt a bit.

I don't know now and sure didn't know then.

I volunteered. Almost immediately.

I broad smile filled Bob Bird's face. He thanked me for my willingness to give up my Easter Sunday for the good of the Zinc Plant and, furthermore, exclaimed, "I will put a commendation on your record."

He said this in front of all my fellow workers.

I felt like the biggest ass kiss in the whole plant. I volunteered for the double time and half. I wasn't thinking about giving up my Easter and I didn't even know I had a record onto which a commendation could be entered.

Bob Bird left.

Bob Cassidy said, "Not bad, man. A fucking commendation on your record." He was sticking the needle in pretty deep.

The Easter Day shift came and went, I got my fat paycheck, and my life went down the track of earning a college degree, going to grad school, and picking up a two year temporary full-time job at Whitworth College in 1982-84.

In the spring of '84 I came home from Spokane for Easter. On Holy Saturday, Dad and I went to Dirty Ernie's uptown and got really drunk, so drunk the cops had to drive us home, and I had to walk uptown on Easter morning and get the car.

We got drunk with Bob Cassidy and the first words out of his mouth, after not having seen me for over ten years, were, "I will put a commendation on your record."

I about died and we laughed and laughed and drank schooner after schooner of draft lager beers and remembered how much fun we'd had at the Zinc Plant and laughed about all the psychos we worked with.

A couple or three years ago, I went to the University of Idaho to be a guest speaker in an American Studies course taught by Bob Bird's son, my friend for nearly fifty years, Kenton Bird.

Kenton had arranged for me to look at Bunker Hill records and artifacts in the afternoon. The University of Idaho holds these Bunker Hill records and artifacts.

I looked at different things for about an hour, and then I thought, "Hmmm, I wonder.....", but alas, search as I did, not only did I not find my Zinc Plant record, I didn't find my commendation either.

Sibling Assignment #93: The Last Good Kiss You Had Was Years Ago

For our 93rd sibling assignment, InlandEmpireGirl went a little bit outside what we usually do. Here's what she assigned us to do:

"A Perfect Pair.... find a piece of art and a poem that are a perfect pair. Explain why they are so perfectly matched."


I hope you'll go look at and read my sisters' work on this. You'll find Silver Valley Girl's -- well, I was going to say "here", but I can't find her post for this assignment. I hope she'll help me find it! But InlandEmpireGirl paired an Anne Sexton poem with a piece of art by Lauren Hamilton, here. Between the two you can experience how the world of the child and the adult are not far apart. At all.

Click on this image for a larger view.

Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" portrays the loneliness of a man at a diner, presumably late at night. His isolation at the counter is magnified by the presence of a couple at the far end of the counter, and the distance between him and them and by the distance between him and man working the counter. The man is sitting at an angle that has him looking away from the diner's employee and the downward tilt of his head suggests little contact with the couple. Furthermore, the diner itself curves, it curves into darkness, suggesting that upon leaving this place, the man will stroll further into isolation.

Similarly, Richard Hugo's "Degrees of Gray In Philipsburg" explores loneliness, isolation, and defeat. Philipsburg is a rural Montana town on the decline. There's not much reason to go there....but, "You might come here Sunday on a whim./Say your life broke down. The last good kiss/ you had was years ago." Nothing else to do. I'll go to Philipsburg. I can be lonely, broken down in that broken down town, that town whose glory days are deep in the mining past, as well as anywhere else.

The man at the diner: when was his last good kiss? Has his life broken down? Why is he seated at this Chicago night spot, all alone, folded into himself? On a whim?

This is what I'm most attracted to in poetry, art, movies, and stories: loneliness. I just watched The Wrestler not long ago and its portrayal of the brokenness of a man in his early fifties without love, with an alienated daughter, thanks to his own failings, and with his glory days way behind him speaks to the shadow side of American optimism and faith in the strength of the individual. For many, as represented in this painting, this poem, and in The Wrestler, individualism equals isolation, loneliness, and lives broken down.



Degrees Of Gray In Philipsburg
--Richard Hugo
You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn't last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he's done.

The principal supporting business now
is rage. Hatred of the various grays
the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,
The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls
who leave each year for Butte. One good
restaurant and bars can't wipe the boredom out.
The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,
a dance floor built on springs--
all memory resolves itself in gaze,
in panoramic green you know the cattle eat
or two stacks high above the town,
two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse
for fifty years that won't fall finally down.

Isn't this your life? That ancient kiss
still burning out your eyes? Isn't this defeat
so accurate, the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?
Don't empty houses ring? Are magnesium
and scorn sufficient to support a town,
not just Philipsburg, but towns
of towering blondes, good jazz and booze
the world will never let you have
until the town you came from dies inside?

Say no to yourself. The old man, twenty
when the jail was built, still laughs
although his lips collapse. Someday soon,
he says, I'll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no. You're talking to yourself.
The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it's mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall.

Sibling Assignment #92: Snug

Silver Valley Girl posted a sweet assignment for us to work on:
Write a poem, essay, song, story about one of you pets, and how having that pet has made your life better.
She assigned it, but she has not squeezed time in between track meets, a spaghetti feed, play going, play auditioning, career day at the middle school, and a 1001 other demands to write it just yet. But the every faithful, reliable, and steady (I thought those were the traits of the oldest child...where did I go wrong?) InlandEmpireGirl posted a poem devoted to her Springer Spaniel Annie. It's here.

It's hard for me to write only laudable words about my Springer Spaniel, Snug. He makes life difficult. He's a very protective dog. If he's unsure about a person coming into Mom's house or our house, if a person bends down to pet him, he feels threatened. He lunges. He bites.

Similarly, when I walk him in the neighborhood, he cannot abide other dogs to walk close to him. He growls at them, sometimes leaps straight up in the air on the leash. He wants to protect me as well as himself.

I can't take Snug to the dog park anymore. When dogs come around to sniff him, he stiffens up and turns on the dogs, pins them to the ground. He doesn't really bite them. He slobbers them. But it's frightening, for me and the other dog owners. It's a shame. Snug loves the open spaces in the dog park. He loves to run and, once he feels comfortable, he loves to play chase with other dogs.

It's the feeling comfortable part that's hard for Snug, at home when the doorbell rings, around the neighborhood on the leash, and with other dogs at the park.

But then there's the Snug I spend hours with at home. He's relaxed, at peace, restful, affectionate, a comfort.



When Snug is relaxed, when he's calm, when he's with me in our protected little world, he is the epitome of restful presence.

I don't know if Snug has a sense that a past has happened or that future is to come. When he's pressed against my shins or licking my face or licking his paws or turning on his back so I can rub his stomach or staring peacefully at me, he is completely present in that moment, an example of how I might be, enjoying the pleasant sensations of the moment I'm in, letting my regrets of the past and worries of the future go.

I'm grateful to Snug for the pleasure he derives from our hugs, from his licking me, from me petting him, and from his habit of pressing against me when I'm lying in bed.

I can't measure his pleasure, but if it's half of what mine is, then in these moments protected from past and future, locked in the present, we experience sheer bliss.

Sibling Assignment #91: Going Far, Staying Near

My absence from blogging has rendered me way behind in sibling assignments. I'm going to get caught up, starting with an assignment I gave. It's very simple: Spring Break.

You can read Silver Valley Girl's post, here and read InlandEmpireGirl's, here.

By far, for me, the most difficult aspect of my job as a community college instructor working in the quarter system is having three new start ups each school year. It's mentally and emotionally demanding to work intensely with as many 80 students over three courses for ten weeks and have that work suddenly end and have to gear up to prepare new classes for new students the following term.

It's particularly difficult to make this transition between the winter and spring terms. Nevertheless, for several years, I drove to Kellogg to see my sisters and Mom over this spring break, but I just don't have the energy or the will to do it any more.

The last time I traveled to Kellogg for spring break was 2007. That year, inspired by our sibling writing assignments, I recommended to my sisters that we have a Sibling Outing. What a radical idea: I recommended that the three of us, for the first time ever spend a day together, without spouses, kids, and (this was the tough one) without Mom.

Let me digress here for a moment. Without thinking of the impact, I left the Inland Empire in 1979 and, as it turned out, settled in Eugene. I know that thirty years ago I thought that this was what I needed to do as a young man: separate from family, get out of the Silver Valley, and expand my horizons.

It never crossed my mind that I might put my intelligence to use in the Silver Valley. It never crossed my mind that maybe I belonged in the Silver Valley, where my worldview originated, my best friends lived (or near by). It never crossed my mind to live near my parents and sisters.

No, these things never crossed my mind. I subscribed fully to what I heard adults in my life say: "Right, Bill's bright. He'll go far." In other words, he'll go far from the Silver Valley.

Going far meant separation from my family and as I have moved into my fifties, I've become more and more acutely aware of the number of people I know who have sketchy relationships with their siblings. I know people who don't speak to siblings. I know others who rarely see their brothers and sisters. I'm aware of jealousies, old grudges, money battles. I'm aware of others who have been benignly neglectful of their siblings. They don't dislike them. They've just drifted and never thought to do much about it.

When Silver Valley Girl suggested that we siblings give each other writing assignments, it put the three of us in the closest and most frequent contact we'd ever been in. It invigorated our love and care for each other.

And, so, I suggested a Sibling Outing and over Spring Break, 2007, we piled into InlandEmpireGirl's vehicle and headed west with coffee drinks, cameras, smart ass remarks, and plenty of belly laughs. We had a great day at Doma, Jack and Dan's, and Huckleberries. We checked out Grandma's old house. We did some shopping for Mom. We found out what I think we knew: we were good company for each other and could have a great time, just the three of us.


Since this outing we've had other fun ones.

The happiest aspect of my life is being in close touch with my sisters, despite having gone far. I'm happy that we enjoy each other. I'm happy that we are loyal to each other, look out for each other, and care so much about each other.

My feelings of happiness blossomed in 2007, over Spring Break, heading west with Sissy and Pooh.

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/09: Computer, Lovely Starbuck's Barista, Ahhh! Napster Again

1. I threw caution to the wind today and bought a new notebook computer. It's cheap and basic. I think it will satisfy my basic needs and, if nothing else, it's got me blogging again!

2. I went to Barnes and Noble to pick up a book about the Vista operating system and in the back of my mind wondered if a very sweet student of mine from winter quarter might be the Starbuck's barista. She was. I really enjoyed learning about her ballet and voice class at LCC and what she's thinking about as far as education after LCC. I'd been wanting to talk with her a bit about us both being Christian. It's not always easy to do at school. We talked a bit about Christian universities. I hope money, grace, and good luck fall into place so she can study at a Christian university when she's done at LCC. (That was my path. Two year school to a Christian college, North Idaho College to Whitworth. It was perfect for me.)

3. I'm plugged into Napster again and what a pleasure to listen to the Allman Brothers rock out the "Statesboro Blues" as I finish this sentence.

Long Absence Over

You know how Dirk Nowitzki will score like 24 points through three quarters of an NBA playoff game and then mysteriously disappear in the fourth quarter and score maybe four points as the pressure and tension of the game grows?

For the last couple of months I've felt like a fourth quarter Nowitski when it comes to this blog.

I disappeared.

My computer got swiped.

Then I got pneumonia.

But now I'm back and I'm going to get my Paul Pierce on and score on this blog late in its game, not just pile up posts in the early phases of kelloggbloggin'!

A brief reflection on being ill: the fatigue, loss of energy, apathy, listlessness, hunger for sleep, slow ambulation, and malaise of having and recovering from pneumonia created for me a whole new reality. Sometimes I so profoundly forget what it feels like to be well that I start to think that being ill is well. I begin to think that I should be out doing things, going back to work; I begin to think that I'm actually well and vital, not ill.

It's a weird sensation, starting to think that ill is well. It upsets my sense and memory of wellness.

But these last couple of days, I've started to feel a little bit more well, sometimes for a couple of hours at a time. I have been reminded of the sensations of wellness. The confusion between ill and well starts to dissolve.

I went through this same confusion when I was recovering from bacterial meningitis in 1999 and on into 2000.

I made a big mistake then. I returned to work way too soon, confused as to how ill I was; I'd forgotten the way it felt to be well.

I made it through the winter quarter of 2000. Some weekends I slept from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, being awake only to eat and relieve myself.

I was stupid. I promised myself I'd never make that mistake again.

I'm not making that mistake.

I am on medical leave for the rest of this academic term. I am not being a fake hero, pushing myself to work before I'm ready out of some sense of duty, obligation, and false inner strength.

I don't have inner strength that's stronger than this illness. I didn't have inner strength stronger than meningitis. When I was 19, I did not have inner strength stronger than the SO2 and zinc and magnesium and cadmium dust I inhaled in the bottom of the Zinc Plant roaster.

I rarely have inner strength stronger than my bouts with clinical depression.

I hear people say that in times of suffering, we need to draw on our inner strength to get through it, even to triumph over it.

I don't have that strength.

I have to rest, sleep, and recuperate.

I'll leave heroism in the face of illness to others. All that trying to show I have inner strength in the face of illness has done for me is make the illness worse.

Why would I want to become more ill? To demonstrate I have strength that I don't really have?