All future posts will be found here. Thank you.
Stuart Woods: White Cargo
Entertaining read. Good for sitting and spending time. (****)
Ruby K. Payne: A Framework for Understanding Poverty 4th Edition
Interesting and thought provoking points on class differences and their importance in education. Also full of generalizations and few hard facts. (****)
Barbara Vine: The Minotaur
Good. Satisfying though not complexly developed. (****)
Stuart Woods: Severe Clear (Stone Barrington)
The soap opera continues. I've missed a few episodes. Still entertaining. (***)
Catherine Shanahan: Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
Obviously thoroughly researched with a fair amount of good information, and yet not rigorous. I feel the author gets ahead of herself, lets her enthusiasm and writing get ahead of what she can actually prove. This doesn't mean she is wrong but it doesn't also mean she is completely right. Still, worth reading. (****)
Ian McEwan: Sweet Tooth: A Novel
Rather annoyingly clever. Not as interesting as I hoped it would be until the end, when as I realized what he was doing, I was dismayed at not having seen it from the beginning. (***)
Jonny Bowden: The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will
I found this to be an incredibly easy read. I would say it is good if it makes people question and not just take everything on faith (even this book). Not rigorous. (***)
Francine Rivers: Redeeming Love
Christian Romance based on the story of the prophet Hosea. Very good and powerfully told for the genre, at times even poetic. (****)
Audrey Niffenegger: Her Fearful Symmetry
thought-provoking novel of great intensity and detail masquerading as popular fiction. Does not quite work as a simple story but is very rewarding for those willing to plumb its depths. (*****)
Ken Follett: Hornet Flight
Flawed and derivative but highly enjoyable (***)
Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island
Gripping. Fast read. (***)
Lee Child: One Shot: A Jack Reacher Novel
Good. Tightly written fast fiction. (***)
Audrey Niffenegger: The Night Bookmobile
wonderful but also disconcerting. (*****)
Norm Robillard: Fast Tract Digestion Heartburn
Interesting, informative. Reviewed 3/8/13 (***)
Sam Kean: The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code
fascinating and entertaining read which made me rethink some assumptions about how I viewed the word. The author has a talent for making the complex understandable. (*****)
All future posts will be found here. Thank you.
We have power now and I am able to post the photos I took Wednesday evening before the rain set in.
This is a reflection of the sunset on the thin layer of water sitting on the pool cover. It was precisely this reflected light that prompted me to grab my camera and head outside.
Followed by a lovely effect in the clouds,
and the last glimmers of light above the trees.
I am terribly spoiled. Every week I get a delivery of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms from a local grower. I first encountered him at the Rhinebeck Farmer's market, where I became a regular customer. When the market closed for the winter I learned that he delivers to local markets and restaurants weekly, including some here in Hyde Park. My house is right on his delivery route, much to my advantage.
So I am always looking for perfect things to do with my mushroom bounty, not that this is a burden mind you.
Last night I made sockeye salmon with oyster mushrooms in red wine and it was fabulous. This recipe is a new staple in our house as the presence of red wine and oyster mushrooms is pretty much a given and salmon is a favorite as well.
The recipe is from the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine and can be found on the web here.
I look forward to the late-night hours after G has gone to bed. Sometimes those are the hours that I seem to be most myself. I work on projects, I read, sometimes I watch TV, I dream. No matter how tired I need some time, even a few minutes, to catch up with myself.
This week I was better at putting my own goals first, at making room for me, and also making room for "we" in our daytime schedules. Neither of these is easy in a world that revolves primarily around G. Although it sounds strange, the "we" part gets left out of "G" time all too often, and there are days when sharing is difficult. This week was more rich in togetherness than usual, and this was good.
But it is only at night after G has gone to bed that I seem to be most fully myself. It is no surprise then that I have trouble balancing the need for sleep with the need for those precious hours where there are no demands. Often my night-time sleep is interrupted. Sometimes I get grumpy although I try not to. It becomes a difficult choice. Do I stay up a little longer, knowing full well that I will probably not be allowed to sleep through until morning. Or do I give in to tiredness, knowing that sleep alone is not enough. I need both, I need sleep, and I need that unencumbered time. I try to find a happy medium between competing demands.
We went through a rocky week where sleep neither patient nor caretaker got more than 2 to 3 hour snatches of sleep. Then we caught up a bit and I was able to sleep through the night but at the cost of falling asleep myself almost as soon as I got G settled into bed.
Last night the inner demands took over and I was compelled to stay awake much of the night, unable to sleep, but perfectly content with myself and the silence of my space. Blessedly G slept well even after I came to bed at 4 AM, usually his most restless period. Of course we were up at 6 but I expected that.
What did I do? I watched "Legally Blonde". I made stock and baked brownies. I knitted and finished another piece of my current sweater. I sat with two cats jockeying for position on my lap as I read A Three Dog Life which hit far to close to home in places and made me cry and pause and have to put the book down and distract myself before returning, hence the light and entertaining movie. Besides I love that movie precisely because everything is such and extreme caricature of reality; it makes it so much easier to laugh at ourselves and let our defenses down allowing wisdom to sneak in unawares. The book was not so light and filled with laughter, but I can't really tell you about the book yet. Too much of it is too close. I wonder how I would feel about it if my life were different. I will never know the answer to that question.
Of course I know this extreme wakefulness is a symptom of something else, of something I am avoiding or not facing, perhaps not even admitting to myself. It is a new thing. Yes I love the evening hour or two, but these recent inability to sleep, this craving for the darkness as opposed to the daylight is something else. I know I am on the cusp, it is just there, just past the tip of my mental fingertips, waiting for me to grab hold. I know I'll get there.
It is just past 9:30 AM. G just went to the gym with J. I have two hours. I think I am going to back to sleep.
I adore September. I adore fall generally, but September holds its own special place because of the way it lies just on the edge between summer and fall. The nights and the mornings are crisp and cool, and often the days also are on the cool side, possessing that unmistakable feeling of fall with its sparkling crisp feeling, and its brittle, humusy, dried aroma which is so different from the warm wet floral earthy must of summer. There are still warm days but they lack the oppressive humidity of August, they feel precious and fleeting.
And then there are the vegetables and fruits. The fruits of September are definitely of the autumnal variety, pears and apples, crisp and sweet with a hint of tartness and an occasional melting tenderness but without the lushness of summer fruits. They are like the autumn air. But the vegetables, the vegetables are another matter all together. Yes there are fall vegetables coming in, pumpkins and winter squash, crisp greens that shunned the summer heat. But, here in the Mid Hudson Valley at least summer vegetables tend to reach their peak just as August begins to fade into September leaving September full to bursting with eggplant, and peppers, zucchini and tomatoes. In September we have a wealth of tomatoes and eggplant, peppers if we are lucky, and the summer squash is still prolific even as the winter varieties start to ripen.
Of course it will all come to a halt with the first frost. But in the meantime we are allowed to savor the waning warmth and bounty of summer. It will be gone soon enough.
Chicken Breasts with Zucchini Pappardelle. Thinly sliced raw zucchini, wilted slightly by tossing with hot sauteed chicken breasts. From this recipe. Perfect for a summer evening by the pool. Perfect for a September lunch on the deck, savoring the warm sunshine and crystal clear skies.
Have you ever seen "Holmes on Homes"? My contractor asked me this the second day he was on the job with my dec renovation and my heart leapt into my chest. I looked at what he showed me and knew he was perfectly correct. I felt so stupid. I even said this to a friend.
There is more to this story. I knew this part of the deck had a problem. I knew it while the contractor was building it, and I knew all along I would get to this point someday. Why feel stupid now? I made a decision; it was a good decision for me at the time and I stand by it today. That momentary clutch of insecurity? Gone. Well, I wish I could have come up with some snappy response at the time rather than letting my sense of insecurity flap in the breeze.
This deck is only three years old. It took three years from planning to finish (well, winter did get in the way). I thought I did all the right things: got quite a few quotes, talked to people who had worked with the various contractors, polled everyone I knew, got recommendations, narrowed it down to three who who all had quoted similar prices and then picked the one that seemed to have the best recommendations, who seemed to know what we wanted and seemed competent to do the job.
Except it didn't quite work out that way. I knew there were problems fairly early on. The contractor seemed to read the plans with blinders, only looking at one little piece at a time, not relating the pieces to the whole. But my hands were full. We had just learned G had lung cancer. I was supervising the deck, closing the business, and trying to get G through chemotherapy and major depression. Then there was more depression and heart surgery and a deep dive into dementia and frontal lobe impairment.
At some point, after the concrete was poured and the foundations were solid and sound, somewhere between the third and fourth carpenter on the job, I just said to myself "its only money; I just want it over and done and I'll fix it later". I had stopped paying as much attention to how the job was going by that point. I had too much on my mind but I knew the cost was running well over contract. But I also knew the hard stuff was done. The concrete pool was now reinforced and no longer tipping down the cliff. I didn't have to worry about my pool falling down on the roof of the house below me. The french drains were in place and the deck was no longer pitched toward the house so that all the rainwater ran into my foundation. Those were problems left me by the contractor who built the house. I knew the pool, for which a permit had never been issued to begin with, was now up to code.
Lumber and labor are expensive, but they were the least parts of this job. I could do them over. I didn't want to pay for another extension on the building permit. I didn't want a long legal battle and I knew the contractor was going to want all the money he could get. I didn't want the distraction when I needed to apply all my energy to helping G.
This spring I was ready. I had two goals for the summer deck redo: Fix the area immediately around the pool, which had some issues and would require some structural modification as well, and replace the decking on the entire deck, as the material we originally requested has major mildew problems. That second item was not the fault of the original contractor as that information came out after the deck was planned and under way and the company declared Chapter 11 rather than deal with the unhappy customers. It was a necessary expense that falls into the general life category I call "suck up and deal". I talked to a contractor I know and trust, and reserved a spot in his schedule.
In the end, we will only get the middle section of my decks done this year, the part around the pool. I needed more structural work than I anticipated which means the job is taking longer and costing more than expected. The good news is that I love the way it is turning out, and I love watching carpenters who take pride in their work and tackle a job with care and meticulous planning and workmanship. The final results will be worth the effort. Even now, before they have finished, the deck looks worlds better than it did before, as seen in this post. This makes me very happy, happy enough that I don't mind having to put off replacing the deck surface on the other two-thirds of the deck, the parts that are structurally sound, until next spring.
Yesterday morning I sat out on the plaza at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) for half an hour, sipping a cappuccino and just enjoying the cool, sunny September morning. I had been there a couple of days before, over the weekend, when the plaza was pretty empty. But on a Tuesday morning the plaza was busy with students walking back and forth and few visitors toting bags from the bookstore or just enjoying the view.
Truthfully I was one of those people toting bags at one point. I had an hour to myself while G was taking an exercise class at his gym, a mere quarter mile down the road. Usually I get the house to myself a couple of hours in the morning while G and J go to the gym and then go out for coffee, but J wasn't available Tuesday and I volunteered for car duty, knowing full well that I had the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little cookbook shopping.
I had no particular reason to be there, especially not in the bookstore. I already own over 300 cookbooks and certainly don't "need" any more. (The photo shows only a small portion of the cookbook shelves.) But need is such a subjective term, and I love cooking and cookbooks. I love reading them. I love cooking from them. In fact there are over 150 cookbooks on my cookbook wish list. I would probably find most of them necessary as well, if I owned them. I am no minimalist, especially not where cookbooks are concerned.
Truthfully, every cookbook in my collection is used, although not perhaps in steady rotation and has been saved for a specific reason. This is not to say that mistakes aren't made, or that a well-meaning interloper does not occasionally invade the space. The books that can't keep up usually fail pretty quickly.
Like everything else in my life, I tend to cook in cycles. We might go through a Middle Eastern phase in the kitchen, or a Mexican phase, or a seafood phase. Or I might just glom onto one or two cookbooks purely on whim and cook from them over and over for days or weeks until something else catches my fancy.
I had seen a few books I was interested in on Saturday, but at the time we had a reservation and I knew I could come back anytime. And come back I did. But I didn't come back without a plan or rules. I checked my cookbook wish list and even printed a copy of it to take with me. And I decided that no matter how many books I wanted to buy, and there would be many, I could only come home with three.
I think my choices worked out well. I indulged in one frivolous, just because I want it book, David Tanis' A Platter of Figs. Then I purchased two books that helped to fill holes in my existing collection.
Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings will not be universally applicable as wheat starch doughs are far more common that doughs I can actually eat, but there are things I can use directly here, and I am hoping that there is enough information that I can understand other doughs better with the hope of eventually creating my own, compromised versions of old favorites. I do have Florence Lin's book on Chinese Noodles and dumplings, but this book covers a much wider variety of doughs and I think I will learn much and enjoy the process.
It seems odd to me to think that I have very few Indian cookbooks, but it is true. I have longed liked Indian food, but until about a year ago, G wouldn't touch it, always blaming the yellow rice he ate in the cafeteria during the late night shift at Passavant Hospital in Chicago during his internship. But a year ago he discovered a little Indian restaurant near us that he loved, and he loves going out for Indian food. We've been exploring more Indian cuisine at home as well. He likes to help grinding the spices and is eager to try new dishes. 660 Curries should allow for quite a bit of exploration with new tastes. Now that the weather is cooling down a bit the idea of cooking is getting more appealing. Cooking curry might be just the thing.
(photo of the plaza at the Culinary courtesy of the CIA's website)
We are having a good morning today. We are the Audi dealership in Danbury because my car is having an issue with one of the computers that operate the braking system. I was told it would take 3 hours. I said I would wait because the drive is an hour and a half each way, and it hardly seemed worthwhile driving home merely to turn right away and drive back again. I should have asked more questions. It will take 3 hours once the problem is diagnosed, 4 hours total. Still not so bad. I am comfortable here with a book and my knitting.
G came with me and although he brought something to read with him, is happier picking up the magazines that he finds on the coffee table in the waiting area. He gets up and looks at the cars on the showroom floor. "Audis are expensive" he tells me. "It's good we got our car before it was expensive." I don't tell him they were expensive then too. In another hour the entire episode will be repeated word for word. I look up from my knitting and smile at him. He smiles back.
Yesterday was not so good and I was caught by surprise. The day before that, Saturday, we spent the day with a friend of mine and her spouse. It was a lovely day and we chatted and ate at the Culinary Institute. We ate in a restaurant we used to go to all the time, but to which we had not been for a few years. In the evening we nibbled salted dehydrated green beans and gouda. We sat holding hands while we watched In Her Shoes and The Family Stone.
I forget that what I think is good is not necessarily what G thinks is good. When we drop off my friends G tells me that they are very nice people and very interesting. Sunday, I wake up curled next to G, feeling tender and content. G wakes up with a snarl. "You threw me to the lions" he tells me. I am stunned. When I ask him about it he says "yesterday was a very stressful day". Later he tells me "You don't love me. You're just waiting for me to die." I try not to cry. I try not to take it personally. I know this is his fear talking and has nothing to do with me. I know it is the part of his brain that damaged by the NPG, by the swelling of his ventricles. I was told he had moderately significant impairment to the frontal lobe, that some of this would revert to normal once the fluid was drained, but that there would be residual damage which would probably be permanent. No one could predict how, or when, this would manifest itself, or even if it could be corrected over time.
And yet I am still surprised sometimes. I do start to cry. I try not to. We are in the kitchen. I am making breakfast. I ask G not to do something at that particular moment, but there is an edge in my voice because I am still fighting tears, still trying to reason with my emotions. G leaps away. "I'm going to live with my sister", he says. "You are always so mean to me. You don't have to yell at me". I didn't yell, but there is no point in reasoning with him, it will only make things worse. I feel worse.
The air around G is palpably sad and angry Sunday morning. He carries around a cloud of despair, self doubt, fear, and anger; he carries it around much the way Pigpen always trails a cloud of dust. He tries to press it on me, so that if I feel like a failure he will feel better. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I catch myself first and try to save us both.
We have a concert on Sunday afternoon up in the Berkshires. As we get into the car, G tells me that he doesn't want to get in the car with me because he is afraid of me. My heart sinks and I feel sadness washing over me again. Why does he make me feel like an awful person? No. Why do I let myself feel like an awful person? This is not about me. We've discussed this before. I know he is actually afraid I will leave him. But he doesn't understand the difference between "I am afraid you will leave me" and "I am afraid of you" because if I left him he fears it would do him permanent bodily harm. I've never said I would leave him. I will not leave him. I ask him if he is afraid I will leave him at the side of the road like an abandoned kitten. He says yes. I tell him that I will not leave him at the side of the road. I promise him that if we stop I will not drive away without him in the car. He smiles at me and gets in the car.
All during the drive to the concert he tells me how much he loves going to concerts with me and chatters about how much fun we are going to have. The cloud has lifted.
We are still at the Audi dealership. G has just gone to look at the cars again. He comes back. "Audis are expensive" he says. I smile and say "I guess so."
I am sitting here this morning in a cotton skirt with deep pleats around the hip, a button-down shirt and ballet flats. It is a very classic outfit, in many ways more traditionally classic than I have worn in a long time. I feel completely at home and "in character" although in some ways this character I am in today may seem to be at odds with the person I may have appeared to be on other days. We humans are complicated that way.
But back to the outfit. My skirt is a cotton print on a background of a deep plum wine color. In fact if you had a pantone color card you would see that the color of my skirt is Pantone 18-1411 which is, indeed, called plum wine. There are other colors in the skirt as well, green, yellow, more muted plums and although the skirt has many colors the overall effect is muted. This may be why I have not worn it much this summer although I used to consider this a summer skirt. This summer it has felt more like a fall skirt. Whether this is due to the colors of the skirt and something that has changed in my perception of these colors, or the fact that all my sleeveless summery tops that used to go with this skirt no longer fit, or just the fact that it has been such an unusually hot and humid summer than the entire idea of muted deep colors seems oppressive, is beyond me right now. I only know that today the skirt is perfect even though summer is far from over.
With this skirt I am wearing a deep plum somewhat fitted shirt with 3/4 sleeves. The sleeves are my concession to summer and the shirt is only somewhat fitted because I have lost weight. I have a warm yellow-amber belt and a pair of bronze ballet flats. When I write the colors and look at what I am wearing I can see that my head is heading toward fall even though it is still August and we are still in the midst of summer. But the nights are growing cooler again, and early mornings in the garden are crisp. Today is cloudy and somewhat cooler and perhaps that too has affected my choices
But the truth is I am thinking about fall and renewal. Perhaps I am thinking about renewal because I am thinking about how happy I am about the progress on the front yard, which is now on hold for a month while the mason is away. Or perhaps I am thinking about fall because I bought a pair of boots which it is still far to warm to wear. Or perhaps autumnal thoughts are only background music and I was actually thinking about this skirt because I have been working on transforming another skirt, one made from the same pattern as this skirt, into something new. The new skirt in progress is on my other blog, here. At the moment that seems to be my public frivolous face blog, and this seems to be my self-absorbed inner face. I am willing to link from here to there, but not at the moment the other way around. At times this has been different; it may be again. My blogs and I seem to be in the middle of a dance but we haven't yet figured out the tune.
Or maybe I am thinking autumnal thoughts because I am thinking about aging and how our lives change, and I am thinking about how we can embrace the changes of life gracefully or we can struggle through them in denial. But that is really much too weighty a discussion for this frivolous post today. Maybe it is enough for today just to wear a full cotton skirt and ballet flats, an outfit that embraces the past and the future, that makes concessions to summer but admits that fall is on the way, realizing full well that whatever I wear today has no bearing on how the day will unfold. Maybe it is enough not to think about what we wear or what we do or how we do it, but just embrace each day and say "This is what I want today" and hope for the best.
Or perhaps I am just ready to metaphorically come home to one of my favorite colors, to a classic shape, to what is tried and true and familiar.
"We cannot love ourselves unless we felt affirmed by the parent." James Hollis The Middle Passage, p 68.
No, I am not starting a diatribe against parents here. My parents raised three successful children who shared and carried out their mores and became responsible respectable members of the culture in which they live. All parents are only people who tackle a job that has been defined for them by a culture in which they are only bit players; most of them hope they are doing the right thing. As I said, this is post is not about parents.
But, if you have been reading any of my blogs for a while, it is no secret that I have been struggling with a lot of issues revolving around who I am and my place in the world. Whether fretting about what to wear, a representation of my place in the world, or what I really want as opposed to what I feel I should want, it has been a rocky couple of years. And truthfully, during much of this struggle, I have felt pretty stupid. I felt stupid because I didn't understand how I could do and become everything I was brought up to do and become, well almost everything, and still not know who I was or what I wanted. I felt stupid because I felt the yearnings of my 6 year old self, the idealism and anger of my 20 year old self, the magic and spiritualism of my pre-teen self, and I wondered if my adult self had anything to do with me, the actual me, or if it was all just an illusion of the self I thought I was supposed to be.
I don't particularly feel stupid anymore, and truthfully, finding Hollis's book has contributed greatly to that acceptance. I found the book on a lark. I knew nothing about the author. I really didn't know anything about the book. But the title appealed to me. I expected some frivolous self-help book. I was surprised. I have read the book twice now in the last month and feel I need to read it again. I can't really review the book at this point because every time I read something I start making connections and thinking about things in different ways. I am still in the middle of this whole process of discovery.
But back to that quote. It is not necessarily representative of the book. The book is not about blaming one's parents for all life's ills, quite the opposite, it is more about seeing one's way through the choices one has made, and the choices that have been made for one, accepting responsibility, and moving on. And yet the ease or difficulty with which one embarks on that path begins early, before one even has a choice.
The quote above struck me the other day when I read it because as I read that line that day I gave myself permission to forgive myself for loosing myself and for working on finding my way back. I felt like saying: "Well of course it took you this long". And with that statement came acceptance.
This line struck me because something else has been on my mind as well in this period of turmoil. In mid-July, soon after I began reading Hollis I made posted a comment on this post at La Belette Rouge about a dream I had throughout my childhood and at different stages of my adulthood. I called the dream my gluttony dream, and although I won't go into it here you can find it at the link above. My comment garnered the following answer from Belette:
"What is supposed to be nurturing has holes in it and instead of being a source of nurturing for you has started to eat you up. Is that how it feels? Did you have that kind of feeling as a child?"
In reading that comment I suddenly looked at the gluttony dream differently. Oh it was still about gluttony, but it had a broader context, which well may be true of all dreams. And I realized that this feeling that nurturing had holes and was eating me up characterized much of my childhood from an early age. And of course this feeling has occasionally consumed me lately as well. It is no one's fault in particular that the child I was felt she was being consumed in the process of trying to be the child she felt the world expected her to be. It was no one's fault that the adolescent I was felt that there was the true me and the me I presented to the world. All adolescents feel this way to some extent or another, and probably all children feel consumed during some stage of the passage from childhood to adulthood. Why it plagued me so much I may never know.
I don't know that the six year old girl who first had that dream knew anything about being consumed by nurturing. But that night is permanently imprinted on my memory and I know that that little girl knew that she had to chose between who she was and what was necessary to be a part of that laughing family on the other side of the wall. I only know that that little girl who sat in the dark and cried that night needs to come out now. That girl cannot escape the woman she has come to be, that woman cannot escape the world in which she came to live, but she must also embrace the girl she was. It is nice to come home again I think, although sometimes the passage is rough.