Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why does my 'smart phone' make me feel so stupid?

So we've been doing a bunch of technology-related stuff around our house for the past couple of weeks.

It began with David installing Windows 7. We never upgraded to Vista, but my son tells me that Windows 7 is 'what Vista should have been', and I believe him. It seems like a good OS, but the installation process was a nightmare (mainly for David, my resident Tech Support Guy), and we're still trying to find replacement software for several programs that don't run on the new OS.

Because I always believe in doing as much stuff at one time as I possibly can, to increase the stress levels as much as possible, we decided to upgrade our perfectly usable cell phones and purchase the new Motorola 'Clik' phones. Since the last thing I ever do is read the manual, I have no idea how to use the damned thing, and I'm going a little nuts trying to figure it out. To add to my confusion, I somehow managed to erase about 75% of my email address book, and am trying to figure out how to recover that data without being forced into endless data entry. I suppose I should be grateful to my father, who insisted that I spend an hour every morning one summer, learning how to touch type. That skill, once developed, allowed me to support myself as a secretary several times during my early working life, and it has sure made using computers a lot easier. That said, I now need to learn how to type with my thumbs, rather than with all ten fingers, so add that to the growing list of stuff I need to learn, just to make a damned phone call!

My phone might be smart, but lately I'm feeling kinda dumb.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I slipped and fell this morning

It's easy to forget that stuff gets slippery after it rains, especially after several months of dry weather. As I was gathering some ripe cherry and grape tomatoes from our garden, I lost my footing and fell (not very far, and on a not-too-unforgiving surface -packed down soil). I grabbed onto the side of the raised bed to break the fall, and ended up bruising my hand in the process, and I'll probably have one helluva bruise on my right flank -- neither a big deal. Luckily, I was only carrying a small, plastic bucket (not the big ceramic planter whose contents I had just dumped onto the compost pile), so nothing inanimate was damaged, either.

So I got back up, finished collecting ripe tomatoes, grabbed the ceramic planter, and started thinking about falling in more general terms. I fell, got hurt a little, got back up, and continued with what I was doing. (This wasn't an MS-related fall, by the way. I didn't fall because I got dizzy or lost my balance. I fell because the ground was slippery and I lost my footing; a healthy person might have done the same thing.)

And then I thought: but isn't that a metaphor for life (at least my life)? I fall (or screw up, or fail in some way or other), just as we all do from time to time. Sometimes, I get hurt; sometimes, I don't. But inevitably, regardless of how hurt I feel, I get up and continue on with my life, my 'tasks'. It may sound odd, but that realization turned an unpleasant event into something positive.

Yep. I screw up. Yep, sometimes screwing up causes pain. But I somehow manage to stand up, brush myself off, and move on (limping at times) with what needs to get done.

So here's the challenge: can I focus on getting up rather than falling?

Thursday, July 30, 2009


No, not the kind Albert Einstein talked about (something I memorized but never really understood). I'm talking about the kind we regular folks experience when we stop to think about our reactions to things.

It's been horrifically hot here in Portland for the past week. We've broken records for high temperatures all over the state, including a high of ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN DEGREES in Portland yesterday. Portland was hotter than Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV yesterday. So I'm not being a wimp when I say it was brutal outside. My son referred to it as 'volcanic', and I think he hit the proverbial nail on the head with that description.

We installed a heat pump in our house before we moved in, one that both heats and cools the house. We knew it could only lower the temperature by 20 or 25 degrees in comparison to the outside temps, but since we keep the thermostat set at 74 degrees during the day, we figured that would be just fine. And, until this week, it was.

But the heat pump simply couldn't keep up with the kind of heat we were experiencing, and the thermostat showed an indoor temperature in the high 80s - inside the house - when I gave up and got ready to try and sleep last night.

That might not sound too bad, and probably wouldn't be too bad for most people, but hot weather is deadly for people with Multiple Sclerosis. My symptoms get a lot worse when it's hot; fatigue is unbearable, balance gets even more wobbly, and life is just miserable. So I've been a very unhappy camper for the past few days.

I've been waking very early, and going outside to water the planters on the front and back decks before it got too hot for me to bear being outside. This morning, the air felt cool (even though the thermometer showed a temp in the high 60s), and that's when I thought of relativity: in relation to morning temps in the high 70s, the high 60s actually felt good!

I took a cool shower last night, dragged another fan into the bedroom and pointed it directly on me (David does much better in the heat than I do), and put a spray bottle of water on the night table. Every few minutes, I grabbed the spray bottle and essentially hosed myself down, using the old process of evaporation to cool myself when I started feeling too warm again. So I may not understand E = MC2, but I sure do remember what I learned about evaporation back in high school, and that bit of knowledge saved me last night, for sure.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer rain

I used to love the smell of rain on hot sidewalks when I was a kid. I remember how it smelled when thunderstorms rolled through the neighborhood on hot summer days, sending me and my friends scurrying for shelter under the blue-and-white-striped canvas awning that covered our postage-stamp sized front porch. I remember how the temperature would drop precipitously, chilling our rain-wet skin, causing us to shiver moments after we'd been hot and sweaty in the midst of a game of hopscotch or jump rope. I remember how scary the lightening and thunder seemed, especially since we refused to go inside the house, choosing to stay outside, a bit closer to the swiftly passing storm. Then, just as quickly as it had arrived, the storm would move away, and the day would return to its normal, hot, sunny, summer self.

As we'd emerge from the safety of that awning, I would drink in the smell of the rain on the still-hot sidewalk, a smell I've always loved.

Uncharacteristically, it's rained here in Portland, OR for the past few days (yeah, I know, it rains all the time in Portland, except in summer, usually), and that much-loved smell of rain on hot sidewalks has returned to my life, albeit briefly. I thought about trying to find a set of jacks (another one of our traditional summer pastimes back in the day) but thought better of it, opting to enjoy the smells and memories instead.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good-bye little Caruso

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that we adopted an elderly kitty in May, 2007. Caruso was fourteen years old when he joined our family, and was already in the beginning stages of kidney failure. But that didn't matter, because he and I bonded the very first time we saw each other (a good friend of mine claims that he adopted me, and I think she may be right). It took a while, but in time he became part of our family unit (although he and Harley, who is a typical tortoise-shell cat, complete with attitude, barely managed armed neutrality) and settled into a comfortable routine.

He would greet me every morning when I came out of our bedroom (the bedroom is Harley's domain, and Caruso never made it in there for more than a few moments before she hissed him out of the room), making it very clear that he needed his special wet food - NOW! I used to think about him as my little gray shadow, because he followed me around the house a lot. In the evenings, when David and I would settle in to watch TV for an hour or so, Caruso would leap onto the sofa, and curl up on the cushion behind my left shoulder, purring whenever I'd reach up to scratch his ear or stroke his silky, soft fur. Late at night, when David would sit in the living room, reading, Caruso would jump up onto the armchair, circle up to the top, and down the other arm, finally curling up in David's lap. It seemed as though he'd found his home, and I really hoped he'd stick around a long time.

But he began sliding downhill in late January. We took him to our wonderful vet, and discovered that his kidney disease had advanced - a lot. We came home with a bag of fluid and needles; David gave him subcutaneous fluids every morning and a quarter dose of Pepcid every night, to settle his tummy and (hopefully) allow him to eat more. We stopped giving him special cat food (for kidney disease) and began feeding him all kinds of different foods - whatever he'd eat. We even gave him a pill to jump-start his appetite, in hopes that he'd eat more and gain back some of the weight he'd lost. Everything seemed to be working for a couple of weeks. But a second blood test indicated that things were worse.
For over a week, one of us would sleep on the sofa in the living room so Caruso wouldn't be alone all night. When I did that, he'd curl up on my shoulder, close to my face, or snuggle close next to me.
A week ago today, just as our vet predicted, little Caruso made it clear he'd had enough of needles and pills - he stopped eating. I tried everything I could think of to tempt him. He'd come into our home office, where I fed him his special wet food, croak out a weak meow as if he wanted food, but when I'd put the dish down in its usual spot, he'd look at it and walk away. And he stopped purring. Completely.

On Monday, February 16, I called our vet's office and made what would be Caruso's last appointment. David and I drove there together, and I held little Caruso wrapped in a warm blanket (no more cat carriers for him). He perked up a wee bit, looking around curiously as we drove, but then he settled into my arms, quiet. We were taken to a private little room, and within ten minutes, sweet Caruso was gone. I still cry when I think about how I'd been kissing him gently on the head, telling him everything would be okay, and then - he was gone.
Even though we know that he was in a great deal of pain, and that ending his life meant ending his pain ... I still feel as if I betrayed him somehow.

Yesterday, I picked up a small wooden box with filled with his ashes. It's on my desk, just to my right, with a Tibetan Buddha sitting on top of the box, to protect him.

I loved the little guy, and I miss him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A day of joy and celebration

This photo was taken at a dear friend's home, with the same people with whom we watched the election results on November 8, 2008.

Months and months ago, I posted my thoughts on why I supported Barack Obama in his bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 Presidential election. He was, I thought, a true leader, someone who could inspire and motivate us all, something this country desperately needed after eight years of an administration that will, I believe, be seen in historical hindsight as the worst we have had to endure since George Washington was elected our first President. Everything President Obama (can I stop and interject just how thrilled I am to type those words?) has done since his campaign first began has convinced me that my assessment was correct. He is calm in the face of hardship and stress. He sees the big picture as well as understanding the importance of detail. He is inclusive. He accepts dissent - even invites dissent - because he knows that allowing himself to be surrounded by yes-men is a sure path to ruin. He doesn't need to raise his voice in order to be heard. I believe his election will return this country to a focus on the values that formed us, and that have helped us continue to forge ahead, despite wars and internecine struggles, because he both respects and believes in our Constitution. He really is a man whose actions are consistent with his words, who (as we used to say in corporate-speak) 'walks the talk'.

As far as I'm concerned, he has given us our country back, and I will always be grateful to him for doing that.

Once again, I can honestly say that I am proud to be an American. We did it!!!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Losing a friend

Rubi, in her office at home

I turned 61 last month. You'd think by this time, I'd gotten used to death. Both of my parents have died. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and dear friends have gone. But this latest loss has left a hole in my heart that keeps filling up with tears.

I met Carol online. We were both part of a magical online community called The WeLL (for "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link"). I joined the WeLL in 1992; Carol, in 1994. We 'met' and connected in an all-women's conference on the WeLL, and became friends - real friends - after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1995. Her log-n ID on the WeLL was "Rubicon" , and we all learned to call her "Rubi", a name she loved.

We were very different people in many ways, but similar in ways that truly mattered. She was a tiny, petite woman, with a head of thick, beautiful, silver-white hair, and the most beautiful, big, blue eyes I've ever seen. Ever. You could lose yourself in those eyes, listening to her talk about her beloved family (her partner-now-wife, Kay Ryan, her daughter Peggy, and her three wonderful grandchildren) or her work teaching at the College of Marin. She loved fiercely, deeply and passionately, and everyone who was lucky enough to be loved by Rubi had a warrior at his or her side.

The first time I saw her 'in real life' was at a party of women on the WeLL at a beautiful home in Marin County. My eyes kept being drawn to this gorgeous woman across the room, wearing a skin-tight, black turtleneck and a floor-length red-and-black skirt, and I swore the room glowed wherever she walked. That was when we were introduced for the first time, and when our friendship really began.

But the image I'll hold in my mind and my heart is a more simple one. She'd driven over to meet me for lunch, and we met at a wonderful little Indian restaurant in Berkeley, a mile from my house. We sat at a small table, and I listened, fascinated, as she talked about her latest work project. Her face glowed with energy. She talked with her hands, energetically and passionately. And those gorgeous blue eyes shone with excitement as she shared her thoughts and ideas. I can see her face in my mind's eye (where tears can't blur the image).

Rubi and Kay were married (the first time) in San Francisco City Hall. That was one of the reasons David and I chose to be married there, even though the same-sex marriages had been declared invalid several months later. They were married again in July 2008, on the same day Kay found out she'd been named Poet Laureate of the United States.

In the midst of these wonderful events, Rubi was locked in battle, for the third time, with cancer. She'd managed to fight it off two earlier times, but this one looked a lot worse. All of us who loved her kept hoping against hope that she'd be able to win another battle with cancer, but this time the cancer was too damned aggressive. Despite radiation treatments that burned her skin, despite chemotherapy treatments that so sickened her she wasn't able to find any release from the nausea and pain, and despite her fierce determination and love of life, the goddamned cancer won. Rubi lost this last battle two days ago, and a light has gone out for all of us who loved her. I know I'll never see her again, at least not in the lovely body she inhabited for over sixty years, but so much of her will always be with me. I need to be grateful for that.

But right now, all I am is sad. I miss you, Rubi-cue. And I love you.