Tears in Heaven

August 28, 2008

I got some very sad news this morning.  One of my all-time favorite students collapsed on a basketball court at a college in Pennsylvania, and died of an undetected heart condition. He was 19 years old.

Michael was such a good kid.  I first met him when I was working at the Middle School over the summer several years ago.  He was in sixth grade at the time.  Every morning, he greeted me with a hug.  I am heartsick over this.

Rest peacefully, Michael.

Song of the Day:  Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

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My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

August 28, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum yesterday…  My cousin, Kathy, came over to give me a birthday present, and suggested that we go get something to eat at our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant.  I hadn’t showered and was wearing cut off sweat pants and an old t-shirt.  I considered changing my clothes, but then thought, “Who’s going to see me on BLANK Ave?  It’s been a ghost town since the road construction started months ago.”

As it turns out, a lot of people saw me.  I ended up on the local news.

BLANK Ave. is a mess because of the seemingly never-ending road construction.  Because of that, many people are avoiding the area.  A reporter was doing a story about how the construction work is affecting businesses.  She interviewed the owner of the Middle Eastern restaurant, who said that sales are down 80%, and the utility company is threatening to turn off their electricity.    He then told her she should talk to me because of the extra trouble I had getting to the restaurant due to my sprained foot.  The next thing I knew, I was holding a microphone and being taped.

When I watched the clip on TV last evening, I laughed so hard my already sore ribs were aching even more.  It starts with a shot of me trying to get across the torn up obstacle course of a street, with curbing a foot and a half deep in some spots.  Then it shows me talking about how my cousin had to go ahead of me to check the depth of the curbs so she could let me know where I had the best chance of getting over the hurdles.  The clip ends with me saying that I hope the damage to the businesses isn’t irreversible, and that the people will come back to support the merchants on BLANK Ave.  It’s hilarious, and gave me a much-needed good laugh.

Another thing I’d like to mention is today’s Simple Abundance essay.  Sarah ban Breathnach writes about “meditative handwork.”  When our hands are busy, our minds can rest. She goes on to say, The next time the fabric of real life seems to unravel before your eyes, get busy with your hands so that your mind can serenely sort out where to pick up the next stitch.

I guess that explains my passion for knitting.   This is my latest project – a shawl/scarf, named a “sharf” by my brother, Mike.

In other news, I’m going away again for a couple of days.  We’re taking Leigh to school.  Orientation is on Friday.  Because check-in starts at 8:00 am, we’re going to spend Thursday night in a motel not far from the campus.  Leigh is scared stiff (being so far away from her boyfriend is her major concern), and I’m worried that she won’t give this experience a fair shot.  All good vibes and positive thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

Speaking of Leigh, when she came over to take me to dinner for my birthday, she found fleas on the dogs.  We immediately went to the veterinary clinic for supplies, which set me back $200.00.  I actually felt sick when I saw the bill.  Plus, the house and furniture (including mattresses) need a good vacuuming, and then everything has to be sprayed with this stuff the vet recommends over bombs. (That was only $15.)  Unfortunately, I can’t vacuum because of my sprained foot and Daniel is in Canada.  Another piece of fabric of real life is unraveling before my eyes.  I think I’ll go knit.

Happy birthday to 54 year old me.

Reading:  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Song of the Day:  Fame by David Bowie

Rhode Island Hates Me

August 26, 2008

I had a wonderful time in Rhode Island – until Friday, that is, but I’ll get to that later.  First, the good stuff.  The weather was perfect (Thanks, Jim!), and the rental place was really nice.  This spiral staircase was a bit much for me to navigate, so I chose a bedroom on the ground flour.

This is the view (of a salt pond) from the lower deck.

And this is the view from the upper deck.

One of my favorite activities was watching shore birds, like Great Blue Herons and egrets.

On the Sunday when we first arrived, the beach was packed.  Honestly, I’ve never seen so many people on a beach.   Fortunately, the crowds thinned out quite a bit during the week.  To further ensure a good spot, my mother and I made it a habit to get to the beach when the gates opened at 8:30 a.m.  At that hour, the beach looked like this.

Besides reading, knitting and wading, I also enjoyed watching people fish from the jetty.

The carousel at Watch Hill is always a highlight of the trip for me. Dating from about 1876, this is the oldest carousel of its type, and may be the oldest carousel in existence in the United States.  The carousel is unique in that its horses are not attached to the floor, but hang by suspended chains.  The faster the ride goes, the farther out the horses swing, which is why it was given the name “Flying Horse Carousel.”  Each horse is hand-carved from a single piece of wood, the tails and manes are made of real horsehair, the saddles are genuine leather, and the horses have their original agate eyes.   Whichever child gets the brass ring is treated to a free ride.

Friday was our last full day in Rhode Island, and our plan was to go to Newport to do part of the Cliff Walk.  At 8:00 am, my foot got twisted in the corner of a too long bedspread.

I went down hard.   The pain was so intense, I couldn’t move at first.  When I finally managed to get up, I realized that I had done a fair amount of damage.

Still, even though every breath I took caused pain in my chest on the ride side, and my left foot was quite swollen (I had to walk on the side of it because of extreme pain in the toe area), I went along on the trip to Newport.  We drove along the shore route, where we saw many beautiful sights.  This is a shot of cormorants sunning themselves on a rock.

I had to sit in the car while the others went on the Cliff Walk, but I did manage to limp far enough to take these photos.


Around 4:30 that afternoon, I figured I’d better go to the Emergency Room.  X-rays showed that nothing was broken, thank goodness.  My left foot is badly sprained, and my chest wall is deeply bruised.  What a great way to end summer vacation.  And it’s always fun to start work with a new pain.

It still hurts every time I take a breath or bend forward, and I still can’t step down on my left foot. I can’t wear a shoe on that side, either, which should add to the fun of going back to work next week.

I had an unrelated doctor appointment yesterday morning, and she noted that the trauma of the fall has caused my other problems to flare up.  My trigger points are swollen and very tender to the touch.  Consequently, a steroid was prescribed.  I know all about the dangers of steroids, but, frankly, I don’t care.  They’ve worked wonders for me in the past, and I’m hoping for similar results this time.  Anything is better than this god-awful pain.

As luck would have it, Daniel left for Canada the day after I returned from Rhode Island.  He offered to stay home because of my injury, but I insisted that he go.  Work has been stressful, and he’s been putting in a lot of overtime.  He really needed a vacation.  Still, the timing is unfortunate.  I’m having difficulty dealing with the dogs, not to mention everything else.  To top things off nicely, tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m not much in the mood for celebrating.

I don’t know what Rhode Island has against me.  Last year, I ended up in the hospital right after I got home from vacationing there.  Back in 1989, I was hit by a moped and suffered a tibial plateau fracture.  Perhaps it’s time for a different vacation destination…

Song of the Day  Love/Hate by Liz Phair

How Does Your Garden Grow

August 16, 2008

Before I leave for Rhode Island, I want to post some garden photos.  I’ve never had much success with gardening, but am quite pleased with this year’s results.

My cousin and neighbor gave me some morning glory plants, and, when I planted them, I hoped that at least one of them would produce blue flowers.  I got my wish.

I love this color, too.

The lasagna garden is coming along nicely.

So are the shade gardens.

The porch plants are thriving, as well.

This sweet potato ivy came back nicely after the deer did their dirty work.

I had a fair amount of success with vegetables this year, too.  These are my jalapeno peppers.

I pick a handful of cherry tomatoes almost every day.

The regular tomatoes were the big surprise.  I planted two small, sickly looking plants my cousin gave me and this is what they grew into.  They’re so tall and heavy, I had to prop them up with large sticks.

This is a rainbow broom corn plant grown from seeds my mother brought back from Hancock Shaker Village.

Last but not least, this is a fawn in my back yard.  (Thank goodness for homemade deer repellant.  I learned my lesson after the sweet potato ivy massacre.)

Song of the Day:  Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen

I had a fabulous time at Crane’s Lochaven Lodge in Canada. The road trip, however, was brutal.  We left at midnight and drove straight through the night.  I tried, but failed, to sleep in the car.  My father and brother, on the other hand, did fall asleep, but it was while they were driving. That was pretty scary.

Sue and Ed, the owners of the lodge, are wonderful hosts.  My father and brothers have been going for several years now, so our family is pretty well known there.  I was very moved to see this tribute to Mark hanging on a wall in the dining hall.

I was also moved by the beauty of the French River.

The weather could have been better (it was cold and wet), but we weren’t there to sunbathe.  We were there to catch fish.  And catch fish we did – small mouth bass, large mouth bass, rock bass, perch, catfish (which we gave to the owners for the Friday fish fry), sunnies, walleye and pike.  I was ecstatic when I caught this pike, even though it was too small to keep.

Then I caught this one – the “Trophy fish” of the season – an astounding 41 and 1/4 inch, 16 pound Northern pike.

Ed’s son demonstrated the proper way to hold a large fish for photographs.  You get a better idea of the pike’s size this way.

What a thrill!  Never in my wildest imaginings did I think I would catch a fish like that – on a worm, no less.  My father and brother were casting with heavy poles and expensive lures, and, after I caught the big pike, the guide suggested that they might want to see if they could get their money back for the lures.  Heh.

I had no interest in having the fish mounted, and was told that pike aren’t good eating (apparently, they’re gamey tasting).  I wish I had released the pike, but I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.  I was in shock.

Anyway, Ed wanted it for advertising purposes, and offered to give me other fish fillets to bring home in exchange, so I let him keep it.  However, he neglected to follow through with his part of the bargain.  When I questioned him about it as we were leaving the island, he said he forgot, and promised to  make it up to me.  My father and brother are going back next month, so they’re going to remind him of his promise.

We visited the place where Mark’s ashes were scattered.  It was his favorite fishing spot.  After shedding some tears, I dropped my line and silently asked Mark to help me out.  Believe it or not, that’s when I caught the monster pike.

We had a guide for three of the days we were out on the river, and, most of the time, Jerry called my brother, Mike (Mark’s identical twin brother), by his correct name, but every once in a while, he called him Mark.  It was weird, especially considering that he knew nothing about our family.

Speaking of Jerry, he makes a mean “shore lunch.” A fire is built and the freshly caught fish are cooked up along with potatoes, baked beans and coffee made in a can.  Everything was delicious.

After Friday’s fish fry on the deck of the lodge, it has become a tradition for whichever guests and staff members feel so inclined to jump off the railing into the river.  There was no way in hell I was going to do that, despite everyone urging me to do so since I had caught the biggest fish, so one of my nephews volunteered to do it for me. He enjoyed it so much he did it again, and got one of his cousins to take the plunge with him.  We had so much fun.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for Rhode Island. I sure have spent a lot of time on the road this summer.   It’s been great.

I have loads of stuff to do, so I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Song of the Day: Proud Mary by Tina Turner

Sasha’s comment in reference to the 15 hour drive to Canada’s French River really made me cringe.  She wrote:  “The last time I was on a ride (almost) that long was when we moved up here. For two nights after I had awful leg cramps overnight. It was pretty horrible.”

Coincidentally, I’ve been suffering from agonizing leg and foot cramps for the past few days. Even when I’m not experiencing a full blown cramp, it always feels like my muscles are on the verge of cramping.  Besides worrying about what this long ride will do to my back, I now have to be concerned about leg and foot cramps, as well.  I dread the thought of being in the grip of these excruciating paroxysms of pain while riding in a car.   Shudder.

We’re leaving tomorrow, and will return late next Tuesday night.  The following Saturday, believe it or not, I’m going away again.  This time, I’ll be headed for a week at the seashore in Rhode Island.  My suitcase sure is getting a lot of use this summer…

Bye for now!

Song of the Day:  So Long, Farewell from The Sound Of  Music Soundtrack