Monday, March 25, 2013

Just Like Lightning

When grilled on the subject of school-in-country vs. school-in-city, he replied that the chief difference is that the day seems to go so much quicker in the country. "Just like lightning," he reported. From "Education," by E. B. White.

Days in school aren't the only things that go just like lightning.

Here is Ramona coming home from the hospital way back in September, all of three or four days old:

And here is Ramona recently coming home from a day in the park, almost seven months old:

Just like lightning, indeed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breaking the Silence

I have been quiet for a long time (well, three weeks almost, truth be known). I was struggling on the cancer front, waiting for lab results and a sit down with my oncologist. The work fronts, both mine and Warren's, have been wild. And writing, even when I thought of it, was not merely shoved to the side, but seemingly off the screen all together.

In short, it has been an intense, overcrowded, exhausting, worrisome several weeks.

The posting will resume (soon, soon, I say). In the meantime, here is the short version of what happened yesterday in Cancerland: the news from the lab was the best I'd had in years. My oncologist Tim grinned ear to ear, which he only does when he is really, really happy. Not out of the woods yet, but the forest just got a lot lighter. The cancer is receding! We are tweaking my regimen to spread the steroid out over the week, instead of all clumped up at the beginning of the week, as he thinks my adrenal gland is beat up from cancer/treatment and not functioning full tilt, hence the always feeling lousy long after the chemo (which does not make me feel lousy!) until the day of chemo, when I get 2+ good days and then feel lousy again. We'll review in four weeks when I see him again. 

Warren, who is always there for my appointments with Tim, hugged me hard before he went back to his office (he did not stay for the chemo treatment, which involves a lot of waiting around). Actions often speak far louder than words. 

I did not got home until early evening (a long and wild day at the office, once I got out of oncology) and, no surprise, I was wound up from steroids and the news. I called my sons, sent some emails, posted on Facebook, smiled a lot, and managed to get some sleep, but it has been a short night and a long, long, long day faces me today. (It is the height of truancy mediation season, which is my bailiwick, and there is no break until spring break next week.) 

So while I am steaming towards spring break, I wanted to share two links with you. The first is my third column for The Myeloma Beacon. In a nice twist of fate, it ran today, shortly after I got back from my oncology appointment. I was writing about my treatment, and had the pleasure of updating the situation in a comment to the post, The Velcade Velocipede

The second link is to a brand new blog that the Central Ohio Symphony debuted today: ReconnectingRhythms. I am proud to say that Warren is the pen behind this one; there will be other contributors as time goes on. Although he teases the reader, I will not: the Symphony will be starting a therapeutic drumming circle in collaboration with a local treatment provider and our Juvenile Court to provide drumming to young offenders with mental illnesses and/or addictions who are currently in the Court's treatment docket. I am so proud of Warren and the Symphony for this groundbreaking program! 

Warren's opening post encouraged the reader to "grab a drum and play a little every day." He surprised me at the end of last week when a new Remo Versa timbau arrived on our doorstep with my name on it. Warren decided I needed one to help me through my treatment. 

I have been drumming a little every day. Sometimes more than a little. Saturday night our good friends Margo and Gerald came over and Margo drummed on my timbau too. (What are drums for but to share with friends?) Warren is right: I needed a drum It lifts my hearts and it reconnects me to where I need to be: here, both feet in the present, facing the future. 

These are pictures of the Versa timbau drums from the Remo site. My drum has the finish on the right:
Warren knows I like colors. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Train Trip

Chicago's Union Station
Because the space in which the Symphony performs is closed while OWU renovates the chapel organ, Warren did not start 2013 in the midst of rehearsals and executive preparations for a March concert. While it is never easy for him to slip the surly bonds of the Symphony, February represented as good a time to get away as he was ever likely to get. So we were extravagant with our time and took the train to Portland to meet Ramona.

If passenger rails still threaded this country, I would never fly again. It was that wonderful an experience.

We traveled by train from Toledo, Ohio (our nearest Amtrak station) to Chicago, where we boarded the Empire Builder to Oregon. As a nod to my health and energy levels, we bought a roomette. (More about it later.)

We have traveled by train before, but never so far for so long. We left Toledo in the early morning, after a very short night and a two hour drive from our home.  I thought briefly of napping on the five hour trip to Chicago. But as the train rolled through the dark, I caught a glimpse of someone standing in their kitchen, the yellow light of the room spilling out into the still, dark morning and I could not go back to sleep.

It is that intimacy—that quick glimpse into peoples' lives—that makes train travel so gripping. Train travel is travel at a personal level and rhythm. The train flashed through Indiana downtowns that mirrored our own, the Italianate structures so familiar that I felt I could walk down those strange streets and not feel disoriented. As we moved further west, we passed little towns pinned in place by the train tracks that split through them. The vaster the spaces became between communities, the more the train served as connecting thread and viable short-distance mass transit.

There is a soliloquy about baseball in the movie "Field of Dreams," about the importance of baseball to this nation's history. I feel the same about railroads and train travel. As E.B. White noted more than 50 years ago, we did ourselves a great disservice when we turned our backs on passenger trains and took to the air. Now, as airlines disappear and airports contract back in upon themselves (St. Louis and Cincinnati, to name two), I wonder whether we will turn our eyes back to the rails as a viable way to travel.

As I mentioned, we bought a roomette for our travels. An adventure in micro-living if ever there was one, a roomette requires two adults to live in a space in which one youth might comfortably take up residence. It taught me a lot about packing light and being compact in how much space one takes up. Fortunately, Warren and I are highly compatible travelers (no surprise), so we made the roomette work with a great deal of laughter and love. While a roomette adds to the cost of travel, it includes hot showers (a wonderful luxury), linens, and all meals, which on Amtrak are substantial and excellent. (There is a full galley on a dining car, and the food is cooked right there on the train.) I don't think Warren and I stopped smiling from the time we got on the train in Chicago, we were so pleased.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, like E.B. White, also spent a lot of time on trains, even after she took to the air. In a letter to her younger sister, written while en route from the east to Mexico City (where her father was the US Ambassador), she wrote, "Tonight all through supper, having ordered baked apple with cream (I hesitated between that and cornflakes), I regretted the cornflakes. And it occurred to me later that life might so easily be that eternal "If only I'd ordered cornflakes—"

At breakfast, I contemplated the hot crab cakes versus the Amtrak french toast. I chose the french toast. It was magnificent.

I did not once regret the crab cakes.

Sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge