June 30, 2009

Down to the studs

The bathroom is down to the studs, with the bathtub leaning on its side. I will try to bring the camera tomorrow and take some photos.

I went to Art Tile and chose (and paid for) floor tiles and shower wall tiles. It came to twice the estimated amount, but then again I have expensive tastes. I think I will like it when it's done!

We are enjoying our co-housing stay with the G family. All the dogs are getting along extremely well. I cooked dinner last night (halibut, rice, leftover caponata and cherry pie for dessert). H and her friend who is staying here for the week also offered to make dinner tonight. Here's hoping they remember they offered to cook!

June 29, 2009

Bathroom remodel begins today

I got up at 6:15 this morning to be ready for the bathroom demolition crew when they arrive at 7:30. How do people start their work day so early?!

Everything that was in the bathroom has been moved out -- stuff we use but not on a daily basis, stuff we will donate, and the few things we use every day. After I take my shower I'll move the last few items into our suitcases, hang the wet towels in the bedroom, and pack up the bed linens for our move to temporary housing with friends.

In addition to bringing bedding, I have to empty the refrigerator of perishables and cart over any produce, open bags of cereal, etc. Plus the dogs and their stuff, including dog beds. It's like getting ready for vacation except that we'll be back every day to get the mail and check on the remodel.

June 28, 2009

Achoo! Achoo!

I am still blowing my nose, sneezing, and honking away after a week of this summer cold. Who knows? Maybe it's allergies. All I know is that my nose is still running merrily away. Thank goodness we have lots of tissues on hand from a prior Costco run. (I should buy stock in Kleenex.)

June 26, 2009

Celebrity deaths

The deaths yesterday of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson have stirred the internet. So many of my friends are posting on Facebook about the profound impact MJ had on their musical lives. I think what disturbs them the most is that an age peer has died an untimely death.

Well, that's one I've grappled with many times in the past seven years. I've sat the death watch for young women in their 20s. One friend only wanted to live to celebrate her 30th birthday. She did -- and a month later was dead. And when I worked in the AIDS world, my colleagues had all been to many more funerals than their parents had ever attended.

Yes, it's a tragedy when a young person dies. It's not supposed to happen that way. Death is supposed to come when we have lived a rich, full life, accomplished our goals, and are surrounded by those we love. Preferably when we are in our 90s. So my guess is that MJ and Farrah's deaths hit too close to home for my friends who are in their 40s and 50s.

And by the way, what's up with all the coverage of Farrah? I tuned in to Dateline last night and not once did anyone mention anal cancer, much less advanced or metastatic disease. Now I don't know the details of Farrah's cancer, but maybe those words are just too scary to say on TV.

June 25, 2009

Remodel update

Yesterday I looked for tile at Art Tile on Roosevelt and think I have found the right stuff!

For the shower wall tile, a pale green with a glossy finish.

To accent the Israeli tiles, 1x1 bright blue tiles. They'll make a border around the Israeli tiles in the shower and on the backsplash. I'm trying to decide between the matte and glossy finish. (Ignore the flash of dots on the bottom of the picture.)

For the floor tile (12x12 squares for the main floor and the same tile in 3x3 squares for the shower floor), a darker green with a slate finish so it's not slippery underfoot. Very important in a wet environment!

The extra bonus was finding a local place, Oregon Tile and Marble, that carries Jerusalem stone which we might be able to use as a countertop. I've put it next to the possible finish choices for the vanity cabinet and we have a few days to decide before ordering the vanity.

The pictures don't really do the colors justice. Now I have to call to see if we can afford the Jerusalem stone......

Still scratchy but no longer a bass

My throat is still a little scratchy, but my voice has moved up the register from bass/baritone to at least tenor now. That appears to be a sign of general improvement.

I felt well enough yesterday to go out with a friend and do some more errands for the bathroom remodel. Demo is supposed to start next Monday! I've bought a toilet and have ordered a sink from a local potter.

He will decorate it in exactly the royal blue, sea green and reddish brown of the tiles from Jerusalem Pottery in Israel.

June 23, 2009

Under the weather

I think I am coming down with a summer cold. You know that itchy, ashy-tasting feeling you get in the back of the throat that signals something is wrong? Well, it showed up last night and 1000 mg of vitamin C before bedtime didn't help. I slept poorly -- couldn't quite cough, clearing the throat (ahem ahem) didn't help, and yet that scratchy feeling kept waking me up. (Not to mention night sweats from the Megace. That is a side effect that wakes me EVERY night.)

We've had a cold start to summer, 60-some degrees after a month of a very warm late spring with lots of sun and no rain. Maybe that's the culprit. At any rate, I think I will settle in with some tea with honey and lemon, more vitamin C, and hope for a quick conclusion to this thing.

June 21, 2009

Bittersweet Father's Day

Not only is today Father's Day, it's also the civil anniversary (not the Jewish anniversary) of the day my dad died. One year ago I had been back east for a visit when my dad appeared to rally again, so I went home. Only a few days later the phone rang at midnight. It was my sister, calling to say that they had just heard from the nursing facility that our dad had died.

Mom is here for a visit and told me she chose this weekend specifically so we could share Father's Day and this anniversary together. Given that she spends most holidays with my sister and her family, because they live only two towns apart, it was a great idea.

We've had a lovely visit, catching up with each other, watching old home movies, playing cards and Scrabble and filling her in on our bathroom remodel. Mom and I spent hours on Friday going to bathroom showrooms and checking out sinks, shower heads, etc. We even made the first purchase -- I bought a toilet!

Today, Father's Day, will be a bit more low key only in that we don't have specific plans. We'll go check out the new farmers' market near my house (if the rain holds off), run an errand, maybe get an ice cream cone. And of course we'll reminisce about my dad.

Mom says that what she misses the most is having Dad around to confirm that she remembers a certain event correctly. "Shel, what year was it that we....?" Mom is the last sibling (her brother died many years ago), she's in touch with friends from high school and beyond, but she and Dad went back to her sweet 16 party. They shared a lifetime of common history and I'm not surprised that she misses being able to ask him a question.

June 18, 2009

dogs Dogs DOGS

I am so in love with my dogs that I had to post these two photos Rik took last night.

Pumpkin is the regal cocker spaniel.

Bob likes to sleep with his chin on a pillow.

They are the bestest dogs ever!

June 17, 2009

The end of the dry spell

It looks as though we will have rain today for the first time in 29 days. That is something of a record for Seattle! However, the skies are grey and lowering and I consider this a harbinger of wet. I think I should rescue some strawberries before the heavens open.

On another front, I did catch up with the ironing and the phone calls yesterday. I just could not get motivated early in the day, but after a nap and a snack, watched "Oprah" while ironing and made the phone calls after dinner, when at least most people would be home. So it wasn't a completely wasted day after all.

June 16, 2009


Why is it so hard to be motivated sometimes? Today is a great example. I have piles of ironing to do, seven calls to make for a volunteer project, and all I want to do is cuddle up with a book and the dogs. And eat. (That Megace again...)

Maybe I'm so unmotivated because I have no externally imposed pressures forcing me to take action. When you provide your own motivation, it can be tough to get started.

Yesterday was productive -- I baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie with the farm stand berries we picked up on our way home from the beach and rhubarb from our garden. It was delicious with vanilla ice cream.

So I think I will cuddle up with that book and the dogs, after I have a snack. Pie, anyone?

June 14, 2009

Beaching it

We spent a lovely but short weekend at Copalis Beach on the Pacific Ocean. Friends had invited us up to stay the weekend at their beach house. It's a wonderful A-frame cabin with a sleeping loft and bathroom, basement bedroom, and main floor eating/hanging area, bedroom and bathroom. The house is in the woods and you walk down stairs built in to the bluff to get to the beach.

We left on Friday afternoon and fought traffic in three cities (Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia). It took us three hours to get to the turnoff for the beaches! But from there on it was an easy ride. We brought both dogs and I think Bob was afraid we were going to leave him at the beach. He hyperventilated for an hour Friday night after we went to sleep and finally I had to get up and take him into the living room, where we cuddled up on an easy chair under a blanket and slept until it got light. Then we were able to get back into bed. The things I do for my dogs!

Our friends are very dog-friendly and our dogs got along very well with their two Cavaliers. Their Blenheim is colored just like Bob and is about the same size, so it was occasionally hard to tell them apart. Their tricolor is much smaller and brown, black and white. Both are very easy going dogs who LOVED romping on the beach.

These may even have taught Bob how to play! He really enjoyed running along the beach, and Pumpkin did a good job of keeping up with the three younger dogs.

We ate, we napped, we frolicked on the beach, we read books, drank a gin and tonic and watched a movie ("Bolt" -- what else would you watch with four dog lovers and four dogs?).

For the piece de la resistance, I took Rik to the Ocean Crest Resort, our favorite restaurant in the area, for a wonderful birthday breakfast of eggs Benedict (his with crab, mine with smoked salmon, and he gave me his side of Hollandaise sauce). The drive home was nothing much.

It was a most relaxing weekend!

June 12, 2009

First fruits

I went out to water the strawberry patch very early this morning (so that I could also do the laundry and run the dishwasher later). Lo and behold, the first berries are ripe!

I picked these three yummy looking strawbs and plan to eat every one myself, since RIk is already at school and the dogs don't like strawberries.

I am looking forward to harvesting many more berries.

June 11, 2009

Happy 100th, Young Judaea!

Yes, it's the 100th birthday of Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement that helped make me the person I am today. This article by Gil Troy says it all so eloquently.

Gil and I were age peers in the movement, and so our experiences were similar. I too fondly remember the debates about matters large and small, the inspiring peer leaders who were often only a few years older than I, the summers at Camp Tel Yehudah, regional conventions, and intense city club meetings.

Young Judaea changed my life for the better. It made me strong in my beliefs. I learned to stand up for myself. Judaeans accepted me the way I was. I never had to pretend when I was in Young Judaea. YJ instilled in me a life-long love of Israel.

Because of my YJ experience, I earned two degrees in Jewish Studies and Jewish Communal Service. I worked my professional career in service to the Jewish people. I married a Jew and am involved in Jewish life as an adult.

Not bad for a youth experience that my mother had to drag me to the first time!

June 10, 2009

Other people's milestones

Because Rik and I battled infertility and had so many failed attempts at adoption, our childlessness has led us to vicariously experience other people's parenting joys and issues. Over the years I have been guest of honor at a child's school, hosted and shared many holiday gatherings, celebrated birthday, bar/bat mitzvahs and graduations, but always at a remove.

Last night we attended the high school graduation of a young friend who I have known since she was a baby. (Rik came along a little later.) H was so grown up. It was a privilege to share in her family's celebration and her accomplishment.

And yet the knife continues to turn in the wound of childlessness. Every such celebration reminds me that we will never have these moments for ourselves, that we will always be on the outside looking in. We're like hungry kids with our noses pressed to the bakery window, able to smell the appetizing aromas but not able to taste the sweets.

And as our friends' children and our niece and nephews grow older, the knife continues to turn. There will be no marriages and grandchildren to rejoice in, no direct celebration of life's continuity for us. Instead we will continue to press our noses to the glass window of children, able to see and smell but not taste on our own.

To those who have let us share in their families' joys and sorrows, we hope you understand how much it means to us to have even this vicarious, secondhand experience of parenting.

Dad's yahrzeit

Yesterday I prepared for Dad's first yahrzeit by baking the onion cookies and lighting the yahrzeit candle that burns for 24 hours.

This morning I got up early to attend morning minyan. A few friends joined the regulars so that we'd have a minimum of 10 Jews in order to say kaddish. And there were two other people with yahrzeits today.

When we got to the point in the service where we recite El Maleh Rachamim (God full of compassion), I decided to chant the prayer myself. It was a somewhat surreal moment. I was holding the very large and heavy sefer Torah, following each word in the prayer book with my finger so that I was sure to pronounce it correctly, and trying not to be so emotionally overwhelmed that it interfered with my ability to chant.

I shared that my dad loved being a Cohen and that he loved to potchkey around in the kitchen. Hence the onion cookies.

After the service ended, we ate onion cookies spread with butter or cream cheese, some coffee or orange juice, and toasted my dad.

The yahrzeit candle is still burning....

June 09, 2009

May his memory be a blessing

Here are some favorite memories of my dad, as well as some photos from over the years.

My mom has most of the photos from when they were young, but over the years I have snitched a few. This is one of my favorites. Here Dad is age 12 (still in short pants, so we know it was taken before his bar mitzvah).

My dad was very proud of his service to his country during World War II. This was taken in 1945 with his parents.

My parents visited cousins in California in 1985. Ray and Dad used to play cribbage together all the time.

You can see the passion my dad brought to his marriage with my mom in this pic, taken at the surprise 36th anniversary party Susan, David and I threw for them in 1985. Why a 36th anniversary party? Susan and I were too young to plan their 25th, and to tell the truth, we missed their 35th. So throwing a double chai 36th anniversary party seemed like the best choice.

This is of course the father-daughter dance at our wedding in 1995. When my dad suffered his stroke in 1989, he confided to me that he was worried that he wouldn't be able to dance with me at my wedding.

While we were dancing, Dad accused me of leading. I insisted I was NOT leading. I asked, "What dance are you doing?" Dad said, "I'm doing the foxtrot." I shot back, "Dad, they're playing a waltz!"

At their 50th wedding anniversary party, the air conditioning in the hotel had gone south and we were all sweltering in the Cincinnati summer heat. Not Dad!

Rik took this photo of Dad tinkering with the old 8 mm film projector. When Susan and I were kids, a favorite family pastime was to watch home movies. Mom, Susan and I would sit on the steps leading down to the basement. Dad would set up the projector on the ironing board and pull out an old free-standing screen.The movies were shot on 8 mm and Super 8 film. Mom and Dad would reminisce over the oldest films, taken when they were teens and first married, then we would retell the stories of family vacations. Talk about early adopters -- my parents had a "video" camera in the 1940s!

Dad, zichrono l'vrachah, may your memory be a blessing to all who knew you.

Onion cookies and memories

Beginning tonight and lasting until sunset tomorrow is the first yahrzeit for my father. In his memory I will light a candle tonight, go to shul in the morning, recite El Maleh Rachamim (God full of compassion), and share a memory or two with the morning minyan.

And of course I will bring the onion cookies. A recipe my father persuaded his mother to share, these savory biscuits are a staple every year when we break the fast after Yom Kippur. Today I made a small batch to share. Spread with cream cheese or butter, with a cup of coffee or some orange juice, they are a taste of heaven and the perfect way to remember my dad, who loved to cook and bake his special dishes.

Komen Puget Sound Race for the Cure

Last Sunday was the Seattle area Race for the Cure benefiting the Susan G Komen Foundation. In past years I have raised more than $1000 per Race, but this year things got away from me. Well, that and a hospital stay.... Rik and I were going to show up but he overslept and I didn't have the heart to wake him up that early on a Sunday morning.

This year's Race had more than 14,000 participants who raised more than $2 million or breast-cancer research, patient care, educational outreach, and screening programs. You can read more in this article from the Seattle Times and see photos here.

Sadly typical, there was no coverage of the women with metastatic disease who walked together during the survivors' parade. We're not survivors -- we're living with breast cancer every day.

And then there was this sidewalk art made by my friends from the Young Survival Coalition. Young women get breast cancer too!

June 06, 2009

Time to remember

Next week marks the first yahrzeit, the anniversary of my father's death last June. Although he died on June 21, 2008 (a week short of his 81st birthday) the Jewish calendar counts 28-day lunar months, so his yahrzeit will always be on 18 Sivan, which this year falls next Tuesday eve and Wednesday, June 9-10.

In our synagogue, we read the names of those who have a yahrzeit in the coming week on the Shabbat before the anniversary. My dad's name will be read today. I asked permission to lead Shabbat services again since my year of mourning has ended. Our rabbi said it was a marvelous idea to remember my dad by taking up my leadership role as a shlicha tzibur again, one who leads the community in prayer. (There is a custom that one doesn't lead Shabbat services while mourning a parent, if others are able to do so. One thing about Beth Shalom, we have plenty of trained volunteers!)

Yesterday I reviewed the musaf service to be sure I was still pronouncing all the Hebrew correctly, to decide which tunes I wanted to use, and to imagine myself standing up in front of the congregation and singing instead of sitting in my usual place. Rik will join me today.

I'm looking forward to rejoining the ranks of Shabbat shlichei tzibur and to remembering my dad in a way that made him proud.

June 04, 2009

It's like yesterday never happened

I woke up today feeling great after a reasonably good night's sleep. It's like yesterday never happened. No more diarrhea, no more nausea. (I guess eating the bowl of cereal at 10 PM made a difference in morning hunger levels.)

I was kind of tired this afternoon and took a nap in the hammock, but that might also be due to the record-breaking heat we've had the past two days. 91 degrees, last experienced in 1978.

I spent some time in the garden too. I bought two caladium plants at Lowe's. Caladium come from Lake Placid, FL where Rik's parents winter, and we have always wanted to bring some back. Caladium don't transplant in December, when we are usually in Florida. I was so pleased to find variety "Blaze" in the Lowe's garden center. And while we're on the subject, what is the plural of caladium? Caladiums? Caladia?

I moved the poppies from their nice shady spot and put the caladium there. The poppies needed a sunnier locale, so I moved them into one of the raised beds that is currently unoccupied. I also moved a lavender bush that was in the wrong spot in the herb garden and never had a chance to spread properly. I hope all these established plants survive their hottest-day-of-the-year-so-far move!

June 03, 2009

Small Megace crash

I woke up at 6 this morning so hungry that I felt nauseated. It took all I had to eat a cracker and crawl back into bed. I got up at 7 and staggered around the house, had diarrhea and threw up. The sleeplessness, aches, nausea, vomiting, hunger pangs are among Megace's side effects. But I didn't expect to experience them all on the same day.

I called the oncologist's office and got an appointment for later in the day. Somehow I managed to take a shower, down some anti-nausea meds, and feed the dogs. I certainly didn't have the energy to walk them and left the back door open all morning while I napped on the sofa. Thankfully it has been very hot here and the cool breeze coming in from the back yard was very pleasant.

Went to the onc and waited for a couple of hours while they squeezed me in. Dr G said that it's possible these symptoms are Megace side effects. It's also possible I ate something that disagreed with me. But he decided to halve my current dose and see how I do. I'll go back and see him next week.

If I have similar symptoms tomorrow I am to call the office right away. I hope that taking the tincture of opium again will stop the diarrhea, and that the nausea and vomiting will go away on their own. If not, I have more anti-nausea meds.

I really hope that the severe hunger pangs will be reduced with the smaller dose of Megace. And I will remember that when I get up in the middle of the night, I must eat something, even if it's only a cracker. Evidently going from 7 PM to 7 AM without food is more than my body can take while on Megace.

June 01, 2009

Post-gardening pains

The garden looks terrific, but I woke up this morning so stiff in the hips I could scarcely get out of bed. Vicodin helped, but I must really be out of shape to be so sore after only three hours on my knees. Today I swore off any more gardening and hope to be able to do some small tasks later this week. The sun keeps on shining, amazing for usually rainy Seattle! And of course the ironing awaits...

I went to Costco with L and watched her pile a cart high with everything under the sun. My own purchases were more modest -- olive oil, maple syrup, coffee, lox, some Copper River sockeye salmon and a new rug for the front door. I also found a teak shower seat marked "last one" and at an extraordinarily reasonable price. Someone must have returned it.

Everyone should have at least one Costco treat per visit!