Friday, July 31, 2009

Our concrete takes off

Finally we poured decorative concrete bands yesterday. The forms were all made and approved but the truck came up a little late. Everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly and I really like the color we selected. The group of people, about 5 in total got a rythm going and the bands were oozed into place. They got about 3/4 of it out of the truck when the driver reported that the concrete was "taking off" which means it's hardening up. It was hardening up in the truck!! Unfortunately aobut 1/4 of it set up before we could get it troweled which meant it had to be let dry and then hammered out. They will re-pour this stuff on Monday along with the stamped concrete. Ken didn't have enough finishers..we needed to have at least 5 or 6 and only had three. So we paid for that mistake. It was not a pleasant scene. Everyone was mad and depressed. It did give us time to go around and review where the stamped will be poured and we discovered a few things that were left undone. Drains that should have been fixed. Pool equipment that we don't know about. Arggghh. Also I made a mistake with the fountain space and didn't communicate what I wanted.

Funny that I had an uneasy feeling about the pour in the morning and got up and was out there at 7:00 pacing and anxious.
Guess I had an intuition.

What caused it? Too few finishers who couldn't keep up; Jeff didn't show up; concrete pumped slowly, truck arrived late - 9:45 and the sun was getting too high. Personally I think the color in the crete caused it to set up faster and the concrete company should have allowed for this.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dinner at Shari's

Dinner for eight at Shari's last night was a great time. Kabobs, sour cream tortilla casserole, grilled zucchini, fresh veggies and
Laurie's lemon ice cream with fresh blueberry sauce. Everyone was lively and in good spirits. Shari's back yard has turned out beautifully...'specially at night with all the lights. She and Joe were excellent hosts.

The group is maturing and it's enjoyable to watch them fully middle-aged and becoming empty nesters. Feeling like I've aged a decade in the past year, the gap between us feels wider than ever.

What a fun evening. We didn't leave until almost midnight.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting comfortable.

Oddly, since my hearing change, more noises bother me. Last night we ate at Rosa's - a local Mexican joint and it was all I could do to sit there for 45 minutes. A car alarm kept going off, kids were shouting in the parking lot, a plane roared overhead, the radio was playing and people in conversation surrounded us. A fly kept hovering over the food and with shooting pains in the ear, the incessantly itching foot and a pulled back muscle, I can't get comfortable. The sounds all enter my one hearing ear at about the same level. Sorting them out - screening out one thing for another is almost impossible, so trying to hear a conversation even when sitting right beside someone is difficult and I strain.

Altogether an exhausting hour instead of a time to relax. We're starting to know as soon as we go into a building if it's going to be uncomfortable for me or not.


The short wall at the side of the house is complete. Guats have been up to place gate poles. Chevo is setting the concrete forms and today the facia should be placed on the wall and the front of the house. I'm struggling with the pavers, trying to get the right mix of shapes and colors. Yesterday I spend four hours in the rock yards talking to paver guys about laying and figuring out what we need. After this is all done, I will probably miss these excursions because I learn a lot..more than necessary.

Already the outside of the place looks dirt and debris disappeared. Richard removed every single scrap of it and the
concrete guys are looking at a clean slate.

There's a charming woman/clerk working at SouthWest boulder. I thought a woman owned it because she is always around and hosts the seminars they hold from time to time. I learned that she and her husband own the place - the clerk told me the woman owner is very nurturing of everyone. For instance, she said, "If she hears someone cough she'll ask if you need a cough drop." Apparently she carries everything in her purse, like June Pierre who could perform a tracheotomy in a restaurant if necessary with the various tools and gimcracks she toted around.

I love to wake up early on these summer mornings when the house is still cool, the yard is full of birds but not a peep from a human; not a slamming door, or a mowing machine or voices from a pool.
Marco, Polo. I hate that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Speaking Chinese

Richard told me that when he was living in Taiwan, he'd taken up calligraphy and needed a special brush with a very fine hair. He went to a shop that sold such supplies and asked the young clerk for a "maibee". She turned red and ran to the back of the store. An older woman came out and asked him what he wanted. He repeated his request and she realized what had gone wrong. Due to misuse of tone, he was asking for a pubic hair...not a brush. Apparently it's the same word, different tone. One example of the many problems you can get into with a new language.

I've read of people doing such fracturing of a foreign language in a restaurant: ordering a hemmorhoid instead of an oyster. Usually people are amused by these language butcherings particularly in touristic areas.

Crispy Tacos

Last night we had crispy tacos for dinner. Until Eilleen died I'd never made these at home. While at Lawry's, I had some product development responsibilities at the taco plant and ate enough of those things to last me forever..also enough of the Lawry's taco seasoning mix. Being a food snob I sneered at these Americanized tacos and only ate the genuine Mexican variety, wrapped in a soft tortilla. Eilleen and Jimmy loved the crisp tacos and ate them often - I'd harangue her a bit - she would still say taco with a pronounced as in stack instead of like in paw. For some reason, after she died, I'd feel an urge to eat these things - another haunting by Eilleen.

Her mispronounciations were hard for me to understand because she had a such a good musical ear. Yet, she couldn't seem to hear the difference in words like "taco". There were many of these and the butchering was mostly of foreign words. Even French words, she would Anglicize to the death. I wonder now if she had a hearing anomaly - some small translation thingie either in the ear or brain that didn't work with language.

Sometimes I catch myself babbling to the Hispanic workers, going a mile a minute about a concept they couldn't possibly have in their English experience. That blank look starts to appear and I realize what I've done. I imagine what it would be like to be transported to a foreign country and to try to master the language. Getting by is one thing but to express a concept or describe a feeling would likely be impossible. Fluency is necessary to achieve nuance.

I sat next to a Korean woman once on a plane and she told me she couldn't speak English well enough to express her thoughts, dreams and feelings. Sadly, she said that due to lack of use and lack of keeping up with language changes, she was barely able to do so in her native language. While living in Korea she had been something of a wordsmith and this loss was very painful for her and she felt isolated. Interestingly, she expressed this feeling to me very vividly and I could understand quite well how lonely she was.

At last, outside

After what seems like months of agitation, tension and negotiation, we are finally going forward with the exterior patios and walkways. Stalled, our pool has been sitting with it's beautiful new bonnet - the three rivers coping - and inside, an ugly scraped out shell. Half a deck sits drunkenly at it's edge. Ditches for irrigation scar the ground everywhere make walking hazardous and we track dirt inside every day. The straw I placed around the house under the eaves has ground into the dirt making it even hard to sweep up. It has the look of a war zone which in a way, it was.

Richard finally cleaned up the whole site himself, weary of trying to get Ken to live up to his obligation to leave the property "broom clean". Ken is hopeless at clean up and we have to accept this as part of his very low prices. What a lot of work it took Richard...sawing up all the old crates, carting rocks to the dumpster, sawing retaining logs. He did it over a period of weeks squeezing the job in after putting in a full day in the grove. He's been exhausted.

He drove up to LA yesterday to have a timer repaired - dropped off in the wilderness of Riverside County - dried up groves and dirty unkempt farm properties. Battling terrible traffic including a funeral cortege for a deceased fire fighter which even had the freeway at a stop, he made it to Solheim for his quarterly meeting with the staff. Patty is failing now...on morphine and down to 98 pounds. The steel trap brain is slowing and her memory seems to be deteriorating. That brain has had a marvelous go...lasting in such good condition for so long. Most telling is that her acerbic personality is losing its edge - morphine will do that. From what I hear, morphine is a marvelous drug and makes you feel wonderful. I'm glad she is in that "floating" state (as was my mother at the end) and able to have pleasant feelings as her last on earth instead of the terrible pain she would be feeling otherwise.

Jenio the welder has taken out gates for welding, Chevo is building a decorative wall at the side of the house and if on schedule should have most of the front leveled out today. They are expecting to pour the concrete on Monday or Tuesday. Manny can do the tiling week after next, once the concrete is dried and cured.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twins times two

Pat called today - a real treat - and told me about a visit she had with Sandra and her twin grandsons. I've been thinking all day about how utterly unique this situation is - two grandmothers each with a set of identical twins. Pat said the meeting was a first for all concerned - the twins had never met identicals before. She said they could all tell each other apart! And they had a good time together, bonding instantly. They met at McDonalds and visited the zoo - how much better could a day be for little boys.

Crappy weather in Winnipeg; not a good summer so far. Winnipegers earn good summer weather by enduring that awful winter. I cannot remember a bad summer - probably because as kids every summer day is good. The sound of lawn mowers and smell of cut grass transports me to 1251 and summer mornings. My memories are of roller skating, playing hide and seek on the never-ending front yard of Dominion Street - we used it all from Yarwood half way to Notre Dame. Swinging on the swings at Sargent park, catching tadpoles in the creek, playing with a yoyo. Slathering ourselves with baby oil and iodine at the pool or later at Bird's Hill. Mom would drop us off in the morning and pick us up baked like hot dogs on a grill. I can remember looking straight into the sun so the sun tan wouldn't be creasy from squinting. No wonder we have age spots and cataracts.

And those humid warm nights when it was light 'til almost 10:00. Sitting on the front steps with my Dad proclaiming as he did every year, "Here we are sitting on the stoop reading the Winnipeg Free Press at 9:00 p.m." Swatting mosquitos, scratching the bites ( ahhhhh). Picking warm tomatoes off the vine and sitting with a salt shaker gobbling them up with Mom and Eilleen. We didn't even wait to walk a few steps into the house. Rhubarb!! Mom would make a compote we'd eat with vanilla ice cream. The mint that grew in the side yard crushed between the fingers for a swoony sniff (we didn't eat it), the crab apples, crisp and sour.

Treats from the garden - fresh green beans, yellow wax beans, baby beets (before they became a gourmet treat), baby potatoes. One year we grew peanuts. Dad ordered the seeds (peanuts) from the Burpee catalog and they grew into scraggly struggling plants; we got to see the little peanuts tangled in the roots. Fresh crisp cucumbers transformed into Auntie Addies pickles - the crispest pickles without too much vinegar or dill. Her pickles were legendary and gobbled up as fast as she could make them.

The splendid long, long summers of our childhood memory - a week passed as slowly as a month does now - giving us a chance to store the sensations away and recall and enjoy them now.

A screen door banging shut...and we'd be back at school again.


I have never written poetry but my sister did. Yesterday I came home, sat down and wrote this without prior thought, inspiration or inclination. Clearly Eilleen is at work. It must have been a haunting.

Walking straight.
A challenge? Who would guess?
The brilliance of our gyroscope -
Its praises unsung, is a quiet miracle.

I stagger now and list left-wise.
Loopily, my destinations reached.
But I see eyebrows raised…
My aura broadcasts “Oddball”

Aging brings gifts in its wrinkled basket.
Becoming invisible was an unexpected pleasure.
Different again - I’m sticking out.
Looking crazy, looking drunk.

What did you say? I can’t hear you either.
Whisper something in the good ear.
Something kind.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sugar in the morning, Sugar in the evening......

Sweetness perception comes and goes from day to day and sometimes from morning until night. Typically I can't sense the sweet in the morning and it returns at night. A glass of wine is a challenge and I'm training myself to concentrate on the aroma and only note the tastes, trying to ignore the lack of balance. A new way of enjoying the wine...maybe I'll see something in it that I was over-looking.

Ants have invaded my computer space and they are emerging every once in a while from the keyboard in the vicinity of "u,i,o". Woe is me, I have to clean off the whole desk and spray in order to get rid of the beasties. Their original target was the wrapper from an energy bar with a tiny piece of chocolate exposed. Thinking the invasion to be minimal, I've just been slapping them down one at a time, but now I see they are on the floor in marching formation - it's a serious attack which I must rebuff using all of my anti-ant resources - primarily the can of RAID.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chest Xray

An X-ray accompanied me on another significant part of my life. To emigrate from Canada to the US in 1964, the requirements were virtually nothing compared to what they are today. At 21 years old, I hardly had a history to investigate and Jack Rock's brother Alex, sponsored my immigration as I was single and a student when I made application. It took six months of gathering
documents completing paperwork and being interviewed. After we were married, Jack and I left for our honeymoon and our new life in California. First stop was at Pembina, North Dakota where clutching a large manila envelope full of stamped and approved documents and the vital chest X-ray, we stepped across the imaginary line separating Canada from the US.

Twenty five years later I became a citizen and took the oath in Seattle along with 67 other grateful people, many from South Africa and South Asia. That was a great day.

Vanished sweetness

A particularly beautiful day here - dawn was splendiferous, but we may have a hot afternoon. Yesterday was difficult in that I was awakened in the middle of the night with a terrible taste sensation in my mouth and it continued all day. The taste was so bad and so distorted that it made me nauseous - finally I bought various candies to keep sucking to mask it and the nausea subsided. Today, I tested myself and I have no ability to perceive sweetness. Salt, sour, bitter and umami come through loud and clear - only sweetness is gone. However, the taste in my mouth is tolerable and I'm no longer noticing it so much. Overall, the tinnitus is less, the mild depression I was suffering (likely steroid after-effect) has lifted and even my balance seems better. Yes!!!

Richard got somebody to come and remove the dirt pile from the front of the house...the heap of asphalt, concrete and mixed stuff that Ken scraped off the back. What a relief to be rid of that stuff!

We have half finished irrigation, a half finished deck, a half finished pool and half finished exterior hard scape. Sort of stuck in a hole looking over the edge.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Looking inside

A trip to Eaton's department store was high on the joy list when I was a kid. Opportunities for exploration abounded. I would dream of being locked in the store overnight - able to run around unsupervised, jumping on the mattresses, running down the up escalator, trying on the clothes and jewelry, nosing into all the books. A visit to the shoe department on the fifth floor where they had a shoe fitting machine/x-ray machine installed was the height of delight. All the kids found this device utterly could look in the viewfinder and actually see the bones in your feet. The machine was a marketing gimmick installed by many department stores during that time period. The picture of my feet and bones - watching my skeletal toes wiggling, watery white on black, was mesmerizing and we couldn't get enough of it. The shoe guy would admonish us with the usual "This is not a toy". But we would wait until his back was turned or he went into the stock room, then push and shove to have a turn. The machines were poorly built and leaked radiation all over the place, we found out later. In those days we were innocent of environmental hazards - we would run with glee behind the mosquito fogger which was spraying DDT all over the city. Who knows how really damaged our DNA is?

My father had bits of shrapnel in his body, left from WW1. Once in a while he'd get a bump somewhere and inside the bump would be a small piece of metal. I imagined that his foot x-ray would show little bits of metal like pepper all over his feet.
I would have liked the chance to see inside my Dad, clanging along full of metal.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Sandi from Village Kitchen Designs came up to the house today to continue with the kitchen layout. She did the plans originally and I want her to redo and redraw the plan with the updated ideas that have accumulated as the house as unfolded and taken shape. She was very helpful and had many ideas. She listened and absorbed my ideas and fed them back with improvements. I enjoyed our short collaboration and hope the meeting will yield the results I'm after which is to capture the kitchen and add some style.

I felt almost normal today and it was quite a relief from the screaming meemies of the past few days. Warp speed is not easy to maintain for days on end. The onlly thing sad to see go is the endless stream of energy, nifty to have at your disposal.

Tonight is one of those perfect summer evenings where the valley is purply-blue in the shadows, a brisk breeze is blowing and everything looks almost shimmery. The sky is bright blue but the light is just starting to fade out. Cats are winding down, snuffling around for something to eat. Richard's cruising his snack shelf in the pantry.

We have to plan a trip because somebody is going to break out with itchy feet soon!!!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


On steroids for 14 days to see if some hearing can be saved in my AN ear. 10 days of a full dose and the past three days have been ratcheting down. Never having taken a drug like this before, I was surprised at the effect. Hearing almost immediately returned to the ear which is like a miracle. In fact the AN ear is now about like it was when first diagnosed. I can hear sound - still can't distinguish words, but hearing sound means stereo, so much safer than the monoaural world I was descending into. Most of the 10 days were just fine and then like a bucket of cold water in the face, the speed turned on. I was compelled to move fast and for some reason, organizing things appeals (not just too me, but this is typical) and eating everything in sight. Food doesn't "hit bottom" and no satiety value can just keep tossing it down and it seemingly disappears. Eilleen told me that this was the sensation she had with amount could ever be enough -- never satisfying so there's always the drive to get more.

Because of a huge appliance sale at Lowe's I ventured out and bought a new washer/dryer and dishwasher for the house. In the big box stores my ears are clanging and ringing like a fire alarm and of course, this puts the whole body on alert. As the swelling decreases in the tumor tissue, I imagine that the pressure on the blood vessels constricting flow changes affecting the whole system. While the swelling is changing presumably from minute to minute, so does the alarm in my head. It can't be ignored and the result is tension exhaustion after a while. Interestingly (this never lacks for interest) with perseverance the brain adjusts - at first you want only to retreat and then you notice, OK, it's coping and with a little more time, coping more. Our CPU is a magnificent piece of work...astonishing.