Friday, March 26, 2010

St. Paddy WOW

Welcome to the St. Patrick's WOW last Friday. My camera bonked out, so Cathy sent me some of the pictures she took that night and I combined them with the flower shots I had already taken earlier. I made Irish lamb stew and potato soup, Suzanne brought some excellent dips and crackers, Debbie made the best bread I have ever eaten, Cathy an excellent salad, and Lynne and Beth brought cake. Judy and the rest of us also contributed wine. In fact, for such a small crowd this month, we managed to polish off seven bottles of wine (including a bottle of champagne). Woo-hoo!

Phoenix steps in as mascot for the evening....

Could not resist tulips - they just say 'spring...'

I twisted St. Patrick's charms around daffodils for party ole' man Scat-cat sleeping away in the chaise....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Observations of a spring day

If you aren't watching Molly the barn owl as she sits with her 6 eggs (two have hatched -- just), then you must see this live-stream. I'll wait. It's fascinating.

The woods behind the house are a riot of bird song. Birds calling, raucous, squabbling, trilling....birds building nests everywhere. Bluebirds back, defending their box from tenacious chickadees. Blue jays nesting in the bramble of the wisteria vine on the front porch. Phoebes constructing a mud and moss pillar on top of the security light above the terrace, far from the reach of raccoons.

Flying squirrels in the roosting pockets I never take down on the porch. Baby squirrels in the tack room too young to not know to come up and sniff your boot. (Never can seal the hole in the tack room for fear of sealing somebody up). Bunnies munching new grass in the yard and sneaking into the horse's grain buckets in the corral. Beaver back working on their lodge on the pond. Geese and duck families showing off their young.

Daffodils, jonquils, forsythia, grape hyancith, snowdrops, tulips, redbud up and blooming in the yard. Calves on Angelo's cattle farm bawling for their mamas. So much richness, hope, diversity. So much promise.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

R U Justified?

I am loving the new FX show, Justified. If you haven't seen it, it began only last week and the second episode airs tonight (Tuesday). It stars Timothy Olyphant, who was the most interesting character in a stable of intensely interesting characters in the late-lamented Deadwood (I still can't forgive HBO for not even wrapping that fascinating series up).

Olyphant is an interesting juxtaposition of a sweet-faced deranged lunatic. He could kiss or slap you and either way you wouldn't be able to back away or take your eyes off him -- it's like, I guess (having never been), mesmerized by a snake - is it deadly or a 'good' one?

This modern western was taken from an Elmore Leonard story. It's been described as having taken a haunted lone gun-slinger from the 19th century and popping him into the 21st century. He does seem ill-at-ease in the world, and his mannerisms and speech are slightly stilted. He has to move home to Kentucky, and our hero, Raylon Givens, is reluctant to face the demons of an impoverished past, an ex, a jail-bird dad, red-necks and the neo-Nazis that await him (who wouldn't?). But it's not just drama. The writing is witty and humorous. *

Leonard was interviewed on NPR last week and sounded remarkably humble, considering his knack for creating characters as hubristic as Chili Palmer from Get Shorty. This new-style western is going to be one of the best shows on TV. Now that Burn Notice is on hiatus, it couldn't have happened too soon.

*Though I'm already over the blonde white-trash from his past who wants to lure him to bed. She stupidly married a BMOC from high school whose luck ran dry, who then became a white supremacist before she shot him (over his favorite dinner of chicken and gravy and corn, or some such starchy sounding meal). All Ava can offer our hero is sex. Givens needs a sharp-tongued, femme-fatale-type woman in the mode of Myrna Loy or Barbara Stanwyck who can shake things up and keep him on his toes.....(see what I mean? What a mix of characters).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Helping Hands

Since 2004, I've facilitated grief-bereavement workshops, and held a workshop for the chronically ill I called STARS (Survivors Talking about Real Stories). But mostly the groups have been for people who need to process loss -- a death, a job, their good health, divorce, infertility, etc. Early on I learned the most powerful thing anyone can do is to actively listen. People need to be heard. They aren't there for a 'quick fix' -- most of the reasons they are there aren't fixable. They want to share their story in a safe nonjudgmental environment, with people who have also undergone their own sense of loss, and they want to be heard. For that people must carefully listen.

Too many people are surprisingly uncomfortable around people who are grieving. They don't know what to say; what to do. They are afraid of causing additional pain. Or they want to 'fix' it and help in some concrete way. There's really nothing that can change the circumstances. But that are things you can do - things that convey you care. Don't just write a note to 'call or write if there's anything I can do.' I don't know anyone who has taken someone up on this 'invitation.' For one thing, the onus in now on the sick or grieving -- or whatever -- person to call you up. People seldom want to impose or to feel they are seeking charity. Far better would be to write that you are going to call, and saying that 'when you have some time you want to take care of something they've had to put on hold that they'd like done, so be thinking of how you can help.' And then call and follow through. For example, it's been my fervent dream that I'll get some help in my disheveled yard. It still has fall leaves in it, for gawd's sake, and weeds choking perennials. Here are a few things off the top of my head that can be of tremendous help:

Errands. Going to the grocery. Fixing a meal (and please, deliver in containers you don't want returned, or now on top of all else, the person must now save and deliver back your dishes!). Walking their dog. Returning library books. Picking up dry-cleaning. Taking their kids out for pizza or a movie and giving them time alone. Replace burned out light bulbs or helping around the house for the elderly or infirm, like taking out garbage or bringing in wood and building a fire, sweeping a patio or doing some light chores. If bereaved, help make calls or write letters. I have been known to write obituaries for friends and family (I've written six so far). I will always remember one lovely friend who brought over a technician who gave us manicures and pedicures when I was house-bound for 18 months, and another who just pops by with dinners on occasion.....get the idea? You feel good at being helpful, they feel so relieved and cared for. It's a win-win, as a former boss liked to say (all too often).

I will write more on this subject in future posts, including a few platitudes I've collected over the years of things not to say. Most people don't want to be hurtful, and people realize that, but even though they realize the person may be a bit clueless, things still sting and are remembered...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This One's for Zodiblog....

When we designed our bedroom addition one top priority (to me, anyway) was making it a space for our cats. After all, as 'indoor' cats they are here far more than we are. I also wanted them to feel they could still get 'out' when they wanted. So the catwalk over the bed leads to a high column, and under the skylight are two beams they can sunbathe on and watch the raccoons up close at night. The glass walls have wide ledges for hanging out. The screened-in porch has a cat door so they can come and go as they please. C over at Letters from Joshua has an actual tree his cats climb as their scratching post in their bedroom that is waaay cool. It's on his blog somewhere; maybe he'll post it again....and no, Krowe, no cat additions as of two years ago -- four in the house is my limit.

Happy St. Patrick's day! I am off to clean the house and make an Irish lamb stew and a pot of potato soup (for my vegetarian guests) for the monthly WOW I'm hosting Friday. (Witches of Wye, as we call ourselves in jest -- though with all the black cats I seem to accumulate, maybe there is something to it...). Surprised TCM isn't running The Quiet Man today, but I have a copy.....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lenny Say 'Chill'

Who Dat??!

Don't Worry....Be Happy*

* Much easier with good news.....
I wrote this in the waiting room at NIH last week after reading an article, from which I've extrapolated:

Animals don't have the capacity to worry about anything that might happen more than 30 seconds from now, according to studies. "Consider the cat," says Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York and author of Anxiety Free. "No cat has ever wondered whether he offended anyone or if his ass was getting fat." (Yes, and that's one reason I love them so. They think -- no, they know - they're perfect).

A certain amount of worry is a good thing. And necessary if it's channeled in a productive way. (Pleasing a boss, keeping an annual gyno or mammogram appt., buying airline tickets ahead of time for a particular flight). Such productive worry can avert disappointment or help waylay deeper issues to worry about.

But worrying about what you cannot control is neither productive or helpful and I do my level best to 'let it go,' as soon as I feel I've done all I can and have reached the saturation level of 'there's nothing left to do now.' Worrying about something you can't avoid in the hopes that dwelling on it won't make it happen is magical thinking. Kids do a lot of this. Adults shouldn't.

Worry is a form of introspection. Introspective people, I think, are generally unhappy. They over-analyze everything to death. Over-thinking things makes you sad, interferes with concentration, impairs your ability to take action. Or maybe, I'm just against it because it's unnatural to me. Does anyone have a different take on this?

In the article, a psychology professor from U of CA, Riverside, whose written a book on happiness (The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky), (what, she couldn't have a name that didn't use all the letters in the alphabet?), says the 'secret' of happiness is to lighten up and not 'dwell.'

When I dwell too frequently on the negative, I know it's time to reach out and join the human race in a more positive way. I feel more productive when I feel helpful and when I concentrate on others -- and other things. This has always pulled me out of a slump. If you sit around and stew about what hurts and what you can't do, it never fails to make it feel worse. I find it awkward and boring to recite a list of woes (typically health-related). I know I tend to avoid certain people at church who are all too happy to launch into detail about their latest ailment or exactly how they're feeling. I've learned not to ask, and how to change the subject --but fast. I know all of you know people like this.

My parents like to say, "No one really cares - your friends don't know what to do or say, and your enemies will gloat." Maybe this is extreme. I tend to think your real friends wouldn't ask it they didn't care and they do want to know, somewhat. Chanting "everything's fine," when it's not, doesn't do anyone justice, and it's just odd. But you don't have to go into acute detail or dwell in the land of 'let me recite every little twinge and pain or go into detail why we divorced (save it for your BFF)' until their eyes glaze over.

Be considerate. Reach out. Breathe. Feel free to adopt one of my favorite mottos: this too, shall pass.
And for God's sake, lighten up, already.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Movies for Grownups

Several movies we watched that I highly recommend:

Up in the Air. George (Clooney, for those of you who don't venture out much) just keeps getting better and better. This is a quiet simple movie that doesn't pander to the audience or tie up the character's lives in a cute red ribbon. It's real, the characters are complex and messy, and it's simply wonderful.

Bright Star. I had to watch this twice, and got more out of it the second time around, frankly. There's a lot of dialogue and the emotions are quiet and profound. Plus, the costumes are exquisite on the lead actress. I want her gold ball gown.

The Duchess. Wow. The apple certainly doesn't fall far from the tree. This is about Princess Di's great-great-great-great grand relation (I think I have all the 'greats' right here). It's also well acted. And it's a visual feast.

I watched the Oscars and called all the winners except for the shorts, foreign film, and documentary. Should've had money riding in an Oscar pool somewhere......

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Abject apologizes for not writing earlier in the week. We returned from NIH only to discover a friend died. Her funeral was Sat., my grief workshop met Sunday afternoon, Sun. night was the Oscars (always a 'must-see' in our house), Mon. was a business meeting that required preparation, Tues., I drove mom to hair appointments and errands, and today I had to work out a business proposal and tackle a mountain of laundry and a ridiculously dirty house. I can't think well in a dirty house. I crave order. So. I want to thank you all for your good wishes and thoughts, and they obviously worked. So much so, I asked my surgeon if he was sure he had the right patient file! My little remnant is functioning as well as a transplanted kidney would, AND the tumors/cysts have not grown or changed. They feel so confident that unless my kidney stops working, they don't want to see me for at least a year! Excy and I went out with friends and celebrated that night! Two bottles of wine...I go back in August about my brain and spine, but the biggest apprehension was the kidney, and I feel a huge weight has been lifted. Life is a continual source of amazement. Just when you think you know what's going to happen......Excy's surgery is still looming before us, but at least we can concentrate on it and not have to coordinate one for me in between.......