Sunday, February 10, 2013

Start the year with a laugh ...

Start the year with a laugh ...

10 January 2013, Minneapolis MN
When I was a senior at Northwestern, I took a course that included studying “black humor,” not the jokes of Redd Foxx but rather stories and books about situations that were so absurd, so no-win that you have to laugh or else you’d slit your wrists.  Kind of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario.  (Been there, done that.)  One of my books was Catch 22 by Joseph Heller:  Yossarian could not get a mental discharge from the Army because if he really was ‘crazy,’ he would not know it. And since he wasn’t crazy, he had to stay.  Not unlike Cpl. Klinger in M*A*S*H.  

Since 2012 was a year of too many downers, let’s start the new year with a laugh and some good news.  First for the laugh:  

My friend Jan and I went to see Argo today, not a funny movie but a very well done one that we both enjoyed.  On the way Jan told me a wonderful must-be-shared story about one of her granddaughters.  You know how kids can get obsessed with something. Well, it seems that this eight-year-old loves owls and wants everything “owl”  - from stuffed owl to PJs with owl motif.  So she cannot understand why her folks won’t take her to “Hooters.” (For my European friends, Hooters is a restaurant known for its extremely well endowed waitresses.)

Took this in DC

Now for the good news.  My friend David had a raft of tests done at Johns Hopkins today to see how he’s progressing with the treatments.  One of his brother’s called just as Jan and I sat down in the theatre.  Preliminary results of the tests were looking good.  Hurray!  I’ll be going to DC on the 20th for 10 days.

Now to back track as I am usually doing with these entries lately.  Have had several dinner parties since the new year.  Sounds a bit more formal that they are; my dinners are never formal.  It’s been fun cooking for friends and family.  I’m into comfort food these days, and making that fit into my new eating habits:  no “whites” (sugar, salt, wheat flour), no dairy, no alcohol.  I refuse to give up coffee.  Since I’ve lost 20 pounds, I am being a bit looser about some of the “no’s” but am pretty good at avoiding the whites and dairy.  When I have too much, my belly itches!

Can’t recall if I’ve shared with you the cookbook my niece Tomery gave me for Christmas, “The Wheat Belly Cookbook.”  I haven’t read all of the info, but essentially wheat is a big cause of the belly fat that we have, especially women.  The cookbook is full of recipes for things we enjoy, but the recipes use non-wheat flours.  So far, I’ve used almond flour, almond meal and garbanzo bean flour.  Who know such flours existed before?  Not I.  The cookbook refers readers to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, noting the latter is more expensive.  Off I drove to the ‘burbs and Trader Joe’s where I found almond meal and other ingredients I’d need.  And I returned to try my first recipe.

Since I don’t eat bread in general often, I thought I’d try something that I might enjoy -- walnut-raisin bread.  Being very unsure of what I’d end up with, I followed the recipe to a T.  The batter seemed looser than I remember of such bread batters but baked up just right (if a bit quicker than written.  I think my oven is hotter than indicated on the dial.).  And I liked the bread.  Perhaps a bit blander but the raisins and walnut made it a palatable alternative for breakfast or a snack.  Especially good with almond butter and sweetened-with-fruit-juice-only apricot jam for breakfast.  

Decided to try again and add some vanilla (I have some real stuff from Acapulco) and a bit of stevia to enhance the flavor.  Much better although the batter was thicker.  Couldn’t figure out why until I made a third loaf ... and realized that I’d used 1.5 cups of almond meal/flour, not 1.33.

16 January
I’ve been watching Wallender, a BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh as a Swedish police detective.  Very interesting stories and characters and lots of scenes of Wallender driving the sunless Swedish plains in his Volvo wagon.  It’s left me with an impression of Sweden as vast expanses of green countryside with a few trees and many large birds (There seem to be large birds in almost every episode.).   

18 January
It was 40F (4.4C) in Minneapolis today!  And as usual, a few people were practicing a time honored Minnesota winter tradition -- walking around in their shirtsleeves like it was summer,    

Have I written about trying to get out and meet more people?  Yes, I recall mentioning the wine group that I go to now and the dancing group that Marilou and I joined.   Well, we ventured into online dating.  I decided I wanted to have dinner with someone other than Marilou.  She jumped in more quickly than I, had email and phone exchanges with several prospective males, even a few coffee dates.  I took it more slowly but finally took the plunge and signed on.  Got a message from someone saying he liked my photo, so I checked his profile, found many common denominators (especially international travel) and wrote back suggesting we explore further.  He replied that he was already in a relationship!  I wanted to ask if she knew he was still looking.  Had coffee yesterday with someone, a nice fellow but not much in common.  He seems interested, but I’m not and I don’t quite know what to say.  Stay tuned.

My nephew Craig and I went to the Art Institute today to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  It always astounds me what ancient (and not so ancient) rulers can decree will be done and it is by the legions of slaves or serfs.  This collection of sculptures  

The Terracotta Army is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of the first emperor of China. A form of funerary art, the army was buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
The figures, dating from around the late third century BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers. They vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals.  The collection includes warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses.  A majority of these are still buried in the pits near the emperor’s mausoleum.  Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.
Ready for another laugh?  This one is courtesy of Peter, the son of my friends Cathy and Dean.  He posted it on his younger son’s caringbridge site, and I’m just copy-pasting here:

Tonight at bedtime, Enzo [older son] insisted that instead of Jodi [his wife] reading a book to both he and Maceo [younger son], Enzo would be the one to read to Maceo.  Instead of picking a book he knew by heart, Enzo picked a relatively new one about shapes. And since Enzo can't yet read, what followed would probably be classified as “reading improv.” 

But unlike all the improv I've ever witnessed, Enzo reading to Maceo was actually funny.  And nothing forced Jodi and I to double over laughing more than hearing Enzo "read" to Maceo that "a circle has no corners, a square has four corners, an erectile has six corners. 

I'm already picturing some awkward future parent-teacher conferences with Enzo's geometry teacher.

19 January
So early in the year and I’m already feeling like I need to laugh to avoid crying.  Got a long email from my college roommate/pledge mother Karen detailing why I hadn’t gotten her always fun-to-read Christmas letter for 2012.  (My ex used to look forward to them, so you know they are good reading.)  Karen has been dealing with a diagnosis of bile duct cancer, which is about as rare as my son’s ocular melanoma, and with ‘next steps.’  I hesitated for about 15 minutes, trying to decide whether to call, what to say, how to say it etc. etc.  Then just picked up the phone, and the words just came out.  We talked for an hour.  Her best friend from high school, a nurse, thought Karen looked a little jaundiced and insisted she go to the doctor.  Because Karen has a huge support system, I won’t go to Ohio while she’s having chemo.  But I may go there when she has her surgery.

20 January,  Washington, DC
Left a windy 5F in Minneapolis and arrived at 50F here.  What a relief.  Because we had such a strong tail wind, we arrived 30 minutes, and I welcomed sitting outdoors to await Inga’s arrival. David seems to be doing well.  The girls have two days off school for inauguration/Martin Luther King Day and a teachers’ work day.

21 January
Inga got a call from friend Tomek who is remodeling a condo in a row house ... and a fire started on the deck where he was working.  I called 911 and was told a fire truck was already en route.  So we drove over to Northwest Washington to see how we could help.  Luckily the fire truck arrive quickly, and the fire was restricted to the outdoors. Inga stayed to help start the clean up while I drove home to wait for the girls to return from school.

24 January
Martin Luther King Memorial
Weather report.  Of course, the weather turned cold within days of my arrival.  We all watched the inauguration together, and when the MLK memorial was shown, Antonia, 10, commented that she’d never seen it.  So we bundled up on Tuesday and took the long way to that area.  The map on my iPhone had a bad direction, and we went “around the block” (more likely around the mile) twice before I winged it.  Finally found a parking place about as far away as it could possibly be and bucked icy headwinds as we schlepped along the path.  I can’t decide if I like the memorial, but I’m glad it exists.  We also stopped briefly at the gift shop to buy postcards for my “kids mailing list,” then at the nearby Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial.  Antonia is very interested in history and asked good questions at both places ... hope my answers were equally good.  It’s been too many decades since I took American history.  We plan to visit more memorials and museums.  Antonia was six when the family moved to Poland, so she hasn’t seen much of Washington.

David & Antonia enjoyed snowfall

26 January
The girls were released from school early yesterday due to a prediction of a major storm starting at 11:15 am.  Flurries started by time they got home and we probably had a total on an inch of snow.  Today the sun is out and I saw two robins on the deck.

Since this is a “job search trip,” I’ve made arrangements to meet some contacts that I know here.  Tomorrow breakfast with Meghan who was a consultant for me in Macedonia and is now the global gender specialist for Peace Corps and dinner with Judy, who is an IT consultant/specialist at USAID.  

29 January
Took the Metro to meet Peggy and Nancy, two friends from my Poland days, for lunch.  Lovely meal at Founding Fathers and lots of good talk.  Just as I was ready to descend into the Metro to return, Inga called.  She and David had just returned from Baltimore and his treatment when he started to have a seizure.  I told her I’d return in about 15 minutes and to call the EMTs.  They had arrived before I did, and David had already started to stabilize a little and didn’t want to go to the hospital.  We agreed to wait an hour and reassess, but about 45 minutes later, Inga told me she thought he needed to be hospitalized.  Mary, a doctor friend, drove over to take them; I’d stay and take care of the girls.  David was admitted at Georgetown where they’ll do an MRI tonight.  This year is just not starting out very well.

31 January
Inga is calling me “Suzi Express.”  Yesterday and today I drove to Baltimore to deliver Georgetown-produced MRIs and CT scan CDs to David’s medical team at Johns Hopkins.  The neurosurgeon who removed David’s tumor back in July is telling us that he needs additional surgery now.  Unfortunately his primary oncologist is out of the country, and the oncologist who’s taking his patients hasn’t been as responsive as we’d like.  David’s brother Jeff has been designated the point person for her.  Everyone’s stress level is off the charts.  Need to find some laughs ...

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