Saturday, July 22, 2017

Inch One Hundred Eighty: Changes

This is the 180th Inch I have posted. Not counting a couple of soapbox posts from the time I resolved to post a weekly inch, I have been posting an "inch" of my writing weekly for over three years.

There has been a change in the lineup.

July, even though it is not yet over, has demanded a lot of me. I moved Aunt Ginger into an assisted living facility. With the help of several others, I emptied out and cleaned her apartment. Unneeded furniture headed to an auction, household/decorative items headed to my sister-in-law's yard sale, and all the rest headed to...our downstairs study, where it has taken over all available space. Mostly it is family-related: old photos to send off to cousins, old papers to shred. It has been an Augean task and I am not yet done with it, although with the move long behind me and the apartment empty and ready to be relinquished, two huge weights are off my shoulder.

July held, of course, a long-anticipated visit with my family traveling to Ohio. I still have not sorted through the photos I took, let alone the emotions. Biggest hit for the travelers? Fireflies. They don't exist out west and three of the five had never seen them before. Every evening, Ramona would announce loudly, "It's almost time for the Firefly Show! Come on, everybody!" Her very last evening in Ohio found her, Grandpa Warren, and me out on the deck, watching one last Firefly Show while the grownups packed.

One of my biggest regrets for the trip? That Ramona and I did not bake a pie together. She asked if we could. I simply did not have the energy to make one. I am hoping there will be another opportunity, here or out there, to bake a pie with my granddaughter.

This month also marks my return to treatment after about eight weeks of "holiday," which in Cancerland means simply "we're taking you off your drugs right now to let your body recuperate." (My body has been wearing down from the ongoing treatment and from the slow action of myeloma.) Last week I resumed treatment, starting a new drug regimen.

It has not been pretty.

I knew going in and had been counseled by nurses and oncologists that the initial treatment might produce a bevy of side reactions. That's why it is given very slowly in the first session. What none of us (least of all me) expected was for my body to react very strongly to the new treatment. Nausea? I threw up so hard and so much that I broke a blood vessel in my cheek and looked (well, still do) like someone cold cocked me. Rash? The skin around my eyes swelled and turned bright red. Respiratory? My nasal passage totally shut down and my throat started to close too. My reactions were such that my oncologist came up to Infusion from his office downstairs to consult with the nurses, talk with me and Warren, and shut down treatment until they could get me stable. I had to come back the next day to finish the initial treatment; Day 2 went off without a hitch.

No, I don't feel well. No, I am not myself right now. I go back this Tuesday, and will continue to do so for some time. We are all hoping I got all the reactions over the first time, but we don't yet know that.

The fun never stops in Cancerland.

And because the fun never stops, I am stepping back from my commitment to post an inch a week. I'm not going silent. I'm not walking away. I love writing. I just am out of inches right now.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Nine: Here And Gone Again

They should be in the air and headed back to Portland as I type. Too many feelings to write.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Eight: Update

Last week I previewed some of July and now I can update what has happened and what will happen.

Aunt Ginger is moved. I have the rest of this month to dismantle her apartment.

4th of July was a huge success. The weather was perfect and the crowd was large and enthusiastic. The link at the end of this paragraph should take you to the 1812 Overture, viewed from the orchestra, when the theater cannons are being set off at the end of the work. You do not need a Facebook account to see it. (Warren is on the timpani at the right of the video, playing timpani.) https://www.facebook.com/centralohiosymphony/videos/10154757183273603/ 

We are under 24 hours and counting for the plane to touch down and everyone to disembark.

And, despite my predictions to the contrary last week, Ramona will be able to pick a tomato.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Seven: What July Will Bring

It is early morning on the first day of July. We had heavy rains last night; the air is cool and damp. The skies have not yet cleared, but in looking at the radar, that should follow soon.

Brian and Margaret have come and gone. The pie was delicious. The company was even better. We did eat the pesto (it, too, was delicious), Brian took several lengthy bike rides, and Margaret joined me at Poetry Night. (Heck, even Brian and Warren sat in on some of it.)

Much is afoot here. Tuesday is 4th of July, which in this household means the day starts early and runs late. Long after the last firework has faded from the sky, Warren and I and a host of volunteers will still be striking the stage from the annual concert. Looking back at past 4th of July posts, in which I sound similar themes, I would also note that my garden is right on pace (perhaps even a little ahead) and the coneflowers, earthbound mimics of fireworks that they are, are already thrusting their bright colors straight up into the heavens.

Even without the 4th of July thrown into the mix, the first week of July this year starts out with a bang. Later next week I will helping my beloved Aunt Ginger move into assisted living.

Aunt Ginger will be 88 this October. I wrote about her on her 80th birthday, which we all (30 or so of us) celebrated happily and noisily. At 88, my aunt is frail physically and mentally. She is not happy at all about the move (this will only be the 3rd address she has had in almost 88 years), but after shedding a few tears every time we talk about it, she squares her shoulders and tells me she will just have to make the best of it. And knowing Aunt Ginger as well as I do, she will. With bells on.

And right after the Big Move? The contingent from the Pacific Northwest arrives with Ramona, Alise, Mackenzie, and my sons, Ben and Sam, flying into Ohio and into our house for a week of family and cooking and family and laughter and family and love and family.  Oh, and fireflies (lightning bugs) which Alise and, of course, Ramona, have never seen. We have a bumper crop this year and I cannot wait to see their reactions to our nightly light show.

And of course there will be pie. Likely more than one this time.

I started this morning (after typing the first paragraph) with breakfast with Warren followed by my going into the admittedly soggy garden and weeding. The basil is finally showing signs of coming up. There are lots of tomatoes on the bushes, but I doubt any will be ripe enough for Ramona to pick. That's life.

Any day (and month) that starts with breakfast with my beloved husband followed by quiet time in the garden is bound to be a great one. Welcome, July, welcome.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Six: Life's Essentials 70% Off

We have weekend company arriving later today. This will be a shorter post than usual because I have been putting my time and energy into cleaning the house, getting their room ready, and getting groceries. A little gardening early this morning and going to the office later today are tucked in there too.

Oh, and a pie is in the oven as I type these words.

The guests are family: Warren's brother, Brian, and Brian's wife, Margaret. I have known Brian even longer than I have known Warren, and that's saying a lot. Margaret and I are very close. I have commented more than once to Warren that I am so glad his brother had the great sense to marry that woman.

I recently deleted a piece of spam titled "Life's Essentials 70% 0ff." I never opened the email, so I don't know what those essentials were and why they were 70% off. I strongly suspect my list would be radically different and I would have found few of what I consider essential in that email.

This weekend is an example of life's essentials. Family arrives later today. There is a small ensemble outdoor concert tomorrow. Brian brought his bike, and my friend Corroto, who bikes all the time, marked out some area routes for him. Margaret and I will talk and talk and fit in some long walks. We will make cinnamon rolls together for Sunday breakfast. There is pesto from last year's garden in the freezer and one of our meals will be pasta and pesto. They are staying until Tuesday so that Margaret can join me at Poetry Night.

And there will be pie.

Life's essentials? My weekend will be full of them. I will have family and music. There will be good talk and quiet togetherness. There will be walks and laughter and Poetry Night. These sorts of things tend not to come 70% off anything, as they are one of a kind ephemera.

After all, how can you put a price tag on homemade cinnamon rolls, made side by side with a friend you love? Or a slice of that pie, which I made for those I love?

Life's Essentials, Priceless.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Five: You Know You...

You know you have lived a long time in a percussionist's world when, looking at an online auction to see its format, a set of five brass bells catches your eye and you bid on it. And then up your bid after the original bidder ups the bid. 

You especially know you have lived a long time in a percussionist's world when you watch the online auction tick down to make sure your bid stays the high bid and then gloat when it is over and you have won. I will be picking them up later this afternoon about five blocks from here. They are a gift intended for the percussionist in my life. He already knows, so I am not giving away any secrets here.

You also know you have lived a long time in a percussionist's world when, in trying to describe how you feel, you revert not only to musical terms but also to tuning terms. (Because, among other things, I have acquired more than a passing knowledge of how tuning bars and crotales works.)

For the next few weeks, I am on a drug holiday from all (ALL) chemotherapy and related treatment regimens. Earlier this morning, apropos of nothing, I said, "Well, I think we can answer Dr. Leung's question about whether it was the chemo making me ill all this time." 

Expectant pause.

"It's not. We all pretty much knew that. But it's different off the meds."

Oh?

"Well, the exhaustion is one long sustained chord now, instead of being broken up with a whole bunch of different dynamics."

Okay.

"And the sick feeling? Kinda the same. A steady pitch without any overtones. Does that make sense?"

Absolutely.

So you really know you have lived a long time in a percussionist's world when not only are you analyzing your incurable cancer in music terms but also your partner (the percussionist) understands what you are describing.

Warren and I are coming up on 11 years together. I have lived in his percussion world all that time, including but not limited to attending international percussion conferences, having a timpani room in the house in lieu of a family room (doesn't everyone?), having a machine/wood shop in what used to be a garage (ditto), and learning that absolutely anything—anything—can be (and often is) turned into a percussion instrument. 

And you know you have lived a long time in a percussionist's world when that's the norm. And you're okay with that.

More than okay. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Four: Detroit

I spent three days this past week in Detroit, attending the national conference of the League of American Orchestras. When you are married to the Symphony, you often end up at these things.

The League has stepped up its focus on and push for diversity and cultural equity in the orchestral world. These are topics that resonate deeply with me, so I was thrilled to attend three excellent panel discussions (two being interactive with the audience) on these themes. I came away with new points of view, some new discussion points, and some new approaches for the implicit bias workshop I will be co-facilitating at work later this month.

The conference was held in downtown Detroit, at the Renaissance Center. The Center is the world headquarters for General Motors, backing up to the Detroit River. We stayed at a small, just adequate motel within walking distance, and so walked the 4 or 5 blocks daily to the conference. I also went off by myself to walk around the downtown, exploring a little before I caught the QLine (light rail) to the Detroit institute of Arts.

Much was made at the opening plenary session, a panel discussion, of Detroit's rebound from its bankruptcy of 2013 and the Detroit symphony's rebirth from the musicians' strike of 2010-2011. Rebuilt neighborhoods, urban farms, the QLine: these are all measures of forward progress. The Detroit Institute of Art, one of this country's great collections, was saved in the Grand Bargain. But some panelists reminded us that much is yet to be done. This July is the 50th anniversary of the violent Detroit riot and, some reminded us, the city is still dealing with the aftermath of that event.

What struck me hardest about Detroit was the visible and omnipresent poverty. I am not a newbie when it comes to poverty and I know that in big cities, I am more likely to run into people asking for spare change, for a few bucks, for some help. What I saw in Detroit was far beyond that. Yes, there were people asking for change, but there were adults, mostly men but some women, who were sleeping nightly in the green spaces downtown or in a little protected back entrance of a building with no place to go. Unless you deliberately turn a blind eye, you cannot help but see them. It cut me deeply. Call me a dupe, but I gave away every bit of pocket money I had. I don't care what the recipients did with it; once it left my hands, it was theirs to spend.

On Thursday, the last day of the conference, I took a break late morning. I crossed over to the park that runs alongside the Detroit River, just behind the Renaissance Center, and sat for a long time in the dappled shade of a tree, looking across the river at Canada. A musical duo was playing steel drum and keyboard somewhere over my shoulder behind me. In front of me was a sidewalk fountain, a series of jets that shot up different lengths (a variation of a dancing fountain, but larger and more complex than the ones I have seen). It was a warm, sunny day and children were playing at the fountain. Children shrieking, laughing, dancing, jumping, drinking, squatting, yelling with delight. They would run back and forth to their parents, sitting or standing in near proximity. I watched in particular one little girl, maybe all of 3, who saw an older child bend over and wet his head in a spray. She carefully bent over and doused her own head: her forelock first and then all of it. Standing up with a gasp, she shook her head and trotted back to her parents, laughing in delight. There are far worse ways to spend a long half hour in Detroit.

We left Detroit a few hours later, and I carried a swirl of images: the tiger sculptures at Comerica Park, the woman who slept each day in a sleeping bag, one medium-sized purse near her, on a grassy sward just yards away from the Renaissance Center, the Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts—stunning enough to make me gasp when I entered it, the young teen, who looked surly and unapproachable, but who helped an older woman with a cane boarding the QLine car to a seat, and helped her up when she reached her stop down the line, listening to passionate musicians of color talk about the need to stop talking and to move forward on breaking down the barriers, and the elderly man to whom I gave money, who thanked me and told me his name, and then asked me mine.

And the laughter of children. The laughter of children dancing in the fountain.