pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: November 2012

30 November 2012

You know, it's not what I needed

Orange County, California
29 November 2012

I knew it wasn't going to be a good week.

I joked with D. that if I could get through it, I'd have really earned Sunday's trip to Houston.  Chaos took me at my word.

Finally, I gave up screaming about everything that was being flung at me, and just worked through it all, a problem at a time. Some of the issues were mundane--the daughter destroying one of the rubber tips of her crutches just in time for the pouring rain--and some were more problematic. You would think I would know by now that the best approach is to keep my head down and keep plodding forward, but I'm just out of patience with things being wrong.

Speaking of things being wrong, the daughter saw the orthopedic surgeon today. MRI time. It looks like there is a bone fragment lodged under her patella. Not exactly good news, but surgery isn't a foregone conclusion.

Tomorrow, I turn my back on the problems, leave my family to fend for themselves, and get on a plane.

They'll be fine. Probably, so will I.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

23 November 2012

The lighthouse

Long Beach, California
April 2002

We'd taken them to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Just a day out.

They were so young.

Tech stuff: Taken with an early digital point and shoot. I had an Olympic (I think) and later a Canon. They were both pretty awful. I was still more likely to shoot with film 10 years ago.

19 November 2012

Making up for lost time

Honda Center
17 November 2012

This is precisely why I don't spend a lot of time taking cell phone photos at a concert. At the end of the day, you get a really crummy photo! But I took it to send to the far away son who missed the tour this year and was sad. Let's see. This brings my lifetime photo-at-a-concert total to...six, I think.

It's hard to quantify exactly how stressed I was prior to the start of the show. Daughter--on crutches. Arena with lots of stairs. Not to mention she had to shoot a film Saturday afternoon, and since she was on crutches, I was enlisted to act as soundwoman, carrying the Zoom and the boom mike all afternoon.


Anyway, I arranged it so we got to the arena early. And as luck would have it, guest services saw the daughter hopping around and they brought her a wheelchair, took her down to the floor and she hopped up to our seat in the sixth row of the section where we were sitting. And they promised to bring the wheelchair back at the end of the show (which they very responsibly did--in the middle of the encore. And as I didn't know exactly how much of the last song was being played, there we were, helping girl on crutches down the stairs--just as the final section was being played. So it goes.)

But! We got there and were in our seats for the start of the show. No one fell down any stairs.

As the show began, my heart was pounding so hard, it felt like it might burst.

For all the reasons I've previously mentioned, my concert-going activities have been severely curtailed. In June 2011, I was in so much pain, it was hard to concentrate on the show at all.

"It will be a long recovery," the surgeon said.

And it has been. But I'm back.

Okay, so maybe not quite where I'd like to be. And I know that's probably not going to happen. But enough that I could scream "The Anarchist" at the top of my lungs and not even think about the fact that my body was moving to the music.

That's a long way back, baby.

As shows go, it was pretty damned perfect. But this band always is.

And the daughter stood there and bounced on her crutches, and she and I sang together, and the spouse laughed at us, and the people around us looked bemused.

And it was good.

So good that I can't wait to do it again.

Hello, Houston.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Gleefully, I prepare for my life to once again become an out-of-body experience. In the best possible way.

16 November 2012

Dog wrangling in Liverpool

Liverpool, United Kingdom
20 July 2012

The Liverpool story is a long one and rather multi-faceted, and let me just say that I really liked Liverpool, not because I have any great love of the Beatles, but because it was our first really sunny day in the UK, and the people who lived there and helped us around were just a delight.

The spouse was ill that day, so I packed up the kids and set out to adventure. It was a good day (meaning I could charge around like I'm not partially paralyzed), so we decided on some stuff to do and went to do it.

Our first stop was the Anglican cathedral, enormous, majestic and gorgeous on its hillside. Although I was raised as a Catholic, I'm rather partial to Anglicans. There are reasons--some of which are stories in their own right--but in part it is that the Anglicans that I've encountered in my travels (and only in my travels) seem to have their heads on straight and seem to approach the world in a spiritual but very real way. It's refreshing.

Anyway, we got to the cathedral, and there were a group of camera-wielding tourists milling about outside. How these two met up is a mystery, but I had fun watching her wrangle the dogs and the photographer try to get a shot of them. The photographer gave me a filthy look when he discovered me taking photos of his endeavors to photograph the other group, but this bothered me not at all.

So there it is: a lighthearted photo to end a rotten and exhausting week. The weekend brings challenges of its own, not least of which is trying to figure out how I'm going to get the daughter-on-crutches into her seat at an arena tomorrow night for a concert. While I'm half tempted to just let the tickets go, the wiser half of me hopes for the sort of magic that sets my soul free and my heart on fire.

I could use it about now.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. And today, I found my camera battery charger. At least that sort of puts me back in business.

14 November 2012

The day I didn't need

Key Bridge
Washington, D.C.
13 October 2012

This morning, I sat in the doctor's office staring at a poster that read "When You're Healthy, Every Day is a Precious Gift."

I cannot deny this.

But the daughter was sitting beside me in a wheelchair, so the day wasn't feeling like much of a gift.

She'd called me at 9:15 am, her voice halting, on the verge of tears. Immediately I'd assumed she'd forgotten something, but no. Her knee had done something terrible during her belt exam in Taekwondo...

My mind spun back 6 years to her brother sitting in the nurse's office after dislocating his kneecap.

I thought carefully but quickly, told her exactly what I was going to do, how long it would take for me to reach her, and then did precisely as I told her.  In an earlier life, I'd have made a great triage nurse.

After exams and x-rays, the daughter was sent home with me on crutches, a brace to wear for the duration. Because of swelling and the difficulty of assessing soft tissue damage, it's too soon to know how quickly she'll mend.

I got her fed and filled with ibuprofen, set to study, and finally six hours after we began, I realized that I was exhausted. I told her that I was going to lie down for a few minutes. No sooner had I done so than the phone rang.

It was my mother, calling to tell me that unexpectedly, my uncle had died. He'd been ill, suffered from dementia for some time, but the end came quickly and without warning this afternoon.

H. was from hell, really. He'd terrified me when I was a child because all business was conducted at the top of his lungs. He was an Irishman, an Air Force helicopter pilot. He was angry and loud. I kept my distance.

Some years passed, and he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. The tumor was removed, and the next time I saw him, he was still loud, but less angry.

When my grandmother died, I ended up stuck at my aunt and uncle's house for an extra day after the funeral. My aunt had to fly to Florida, so in reality I was stuck with H. for an extra day. He crankily suggested that I get on a bus and head into DC, but when I declined to do so, he suddenly decided to start talking to me. And not at the top of his lungs. We discussed...investing of all things. And politics. For the first time, he spoke to me as a peer (I was in my 20s by then), and I've long remembered that day as a time when I heard him speak without shouting and he was not impatient. He was interesting and almost kind.

A few years back, I was visiting the family at Easter. My aunt had long since died, and H. had declined dramatically.

"They told me you were coming," he said to me, and I was shocked at how diminished he was. He peered at me with something that looked like friendly and expectant confusion. "Do I know you?"

It broke my heart.

His death hasn't really sunk in. How does someone like that cease to exist?

In October, the son and I sat on the banks of the Potomac and ate sandwiches, enjoying the warm sun of a perfect autumn day. I told him how H. used to take us out on his boat and we'd travel along the river. The memory made me laugh.

Every day is a gift. Even the bad ones.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPad. Have I convinced myself that today was a gift? No. Not even close.

11 November 2012

In Flanders fields

Essex Farm Cemetery
Ieper (Ypres), Belgium
9 July 2012

It was here that John McCrae wrote his poem "In Flanders Fields" while serving as a physician in World War I. Behind the poppies is the advanced dressing station where he treated casualties. The rooms are dank, dark and hopeless. All I could think looking at them was what a horrifying place they must have been, cold and damp, echoing with the sounds of the dying and wounded and those tending them. An awful place to serve, an awful place to die.

The cemetery, which was behind me as I took the photo, is a very small one, narrow and neatly tended as are all the cemeteries like it that hold war dead. A busy road runs alongside, and life goes on all around. Yet, there is a stillness in this little parcel, an out-of-time quiet.

And poppies, at once miraculous and terrible.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. In honor of those who served.

10 November 2012

Fly away

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
Paris, France
24 July 2012

Ten years ago, I got on an airplane.

I don't like to fly. It's a well-known fact. As much as I enjoy traveling, I really dislike being in the air.

But I got on an airplane.

"You must really want to do this," the spouse said, wide-eyed as I prepared to leave. I have rearranged travel so as not to get on an airplane.

I really wanted to do it. And I flew somewhere I'd never been.

You'd stolen my heart, you see.

And that trip.

It changed everything.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. No, not this airport, of course. This was taken on a hot day last summer.

08 November 2012

Henry Pootle as Alien

Orange County, California
31 October 2012

She built the structure herself out of cardboard and wood. I papier mached it, then spray painted it and painted over that with acrylic.  It was a labor of love.

Her school is big on things like Halloween. There was a costume contest, and she entered but didn't win. Her win, though, was her fellow students asking to take her photo. That made her very happy.

That, and scaring the daylights out of some of our trick or treaters later that night.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4, and fiddled with a lot in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. The daughter used the pen name Henry Pootle (which is from Winnie the Pooh) for a story she wrote when she was very small. One of my nicknames for her since then has been Henry. It makes us both laugh when I call her Henry in public and other people stare in confusion. With regards to the mask, if you look closely, you can see the Alien's retractable mandible within the jaw. The girl worked hard.

05 November 2012

Pretty but prickly

Isle of Skye
18 July 2012

The thistle is the Scottish emblem. The story is that barefoot, would-be invaders would step on thistles in the dark, and their subsequent cries of pain alerted the Scots to the danger.

Depending on the outcome of tomorrow's Presidential election, I may need to find something equally thorny as a safeguard.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, and fiddled with slightly in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11.

03 November 2012

Noche de Altares

Noche de Altares
Santa Ana, California
3 November 2012

The daughter was nominated for membership in Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica this year (you have no idea how bizarre it seems when my kids end up in organizations that I was in during my high school years). Like most of these sorts of organizations, demonstrated academic excellence is important, as is community service. And the first service opportunity was helping to create an altar for one of the local Día de los Muertos celebrations, Noche de Altares, and then sitting at the altar for an hour during the actual event.

As community events go, this one was pretty good. Altars lined the street--some were personal and honored departed family members; others memorialized influential individuals; some were dedicated to groups like service personnel; and still others represented different states in Mexico. Some were clearly labors of love; some were amazingly elaborate; and some had a definite sense of humor. All of them were colorful and wonderful to behold.

Of course, there was also food, music and plenty of politics. 

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. I loved this memorial, though I missed the name of the man to whom the car had belonged. The street was mobbed and I was trying to get out of the way of others taking photos. The altar that the daughter helped with commemorated Amalia Hernández (1917-2000), founder of Ballet Folklórico de México.

01 November 2012

The steps

The Exorcist Steps
Washington, DC
12 October 2012

I've never seen The Exorcist. I was too young to see it when it hit the movie theaters, whenever that was, and later, I just never really had the desire. Besides, I'd heard so much about it (Linda Blair's head spinning! Gallons of pea soup everywhere!) that there didn't seem to be much point.

So as it stands, I am the only person I know who has never seen this movie. And evidently, there was more to it than Linda Blair's head and pea soup. Because I didn't know, until this past summer, that a character falls down a treacherous flight of stairs. These stairs.

It is evidently a Very Big Deal and quite the tourist attraction on its own.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Now what is interesting to me is that the wall to the left is part of the Car Barn where my great-grandfather worked. And are the steps treacherous? Oh yeah. I walked down them. Very slowly.