Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I spent at least a decade in academia. So I’m well aware that a tech “sabbatical” is a pretty pathetic thing. Three weeks, every five years.

I start mine on my birthday a little over a week from now. I’m attaching my extra three weeks to a “shutdown” (Adobe has 4 weeks of enforced vacation this year, one for each quarter, taking vacation as it turns out helps Adobe’s bottom line).

What to do with this precious gift of time? Something as far away from work (and it’s inflection on my life) as possible. What is my life at work? I admit up front I have an amazing job. If I must have a job, this job is an intellectual and monetary blessing. Here’s what I do. Figuring out what is next. Lots of strategy and imagination. Never a world of daily, repetitious grind exactly. But. It’s stressful. Action items. Next steps. Plans. Milestones. Proposals. Processes. Workflows. Guidelines. Accountability. Business goals. Lots of meetings. Lots of talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. You get the idea. . . . .

So here’s my plan. I get in my car and head East. I’m hoping to land in Williamsburg, where my son and family live, about half way into the two weeks--more or less. Really the plan is no plan. I have GPS. I have a computer. I have an iPOD. I have cell phones (which thankfully may be “out of service” a significant part of the time). Take it a day at a time. Smell the roses. I keep inviting folks to come with me. The requirements: No planning to speak of. And I get to decide what comes from the speakers. Mostly books. So far no one seems up for the trip. Which is fine. Another part of the plan: not much talk, no action items, mushy milestones, quiet, peace. I think this means avoiding cities. Which is fine. Also probably not that many museums, tourist musts.

On the way out, I’m going to complete the tour of the history that organized my childhood, my young adulthood, that presses on my imaginative life still. Mormonism. My son has called me an gentle apostate, as I recall (Nathan you can correct the phrasing). But here are the only cities on my plan beyond Williamsburg/ Jamestown. Nauvoo, Illinois (I’ve been there). I have a colleague at work from Illinois who needed a basic lesson in how to find these places on my list. Kirtland, Ohio (haven’t been there). Palmyra and Manchester, New York.

That’s pretty much the plan. Though my colleague at work recommends Highway 12 in Idaho. Highway 6 in the midwest. I have a few more notes I’m not remembering now. I’m also thinking I want to go through a few states I haven’t visited yet. Put a few more push pins on my map.

But that’s the plan. And that is all the plan I’ll have. The anti-work sabbatical. With no deliverables at the end. But a bit more peace and quiet and serenity in my head.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My adventure

Here are some pictures that Sarah took the day of my excellent adventure with TGA. I really am pretty vague in remembering anything until the very end--vaguely remember the picture with nurse and doctor. I do remember the lake. We were waiting for Don’s plane.

Update. I’ve had a further test (EEG). And the results were good. Doctor agrees I had an episode of Transient Global Amnesia. How weird this all was. Still can’t remember that day until the afternoon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A weird trip

Last week I took a very weird trip. The first thing I remember is sitting in a hospital room, my daughter Sarah telling me to read the papers in my hand and at the same time plying me with food--a burrito, chips, a soda. I kept reading and rereading the story my daughter handed me, trying to make sense of the words on the page:

“Mom you woke up this morning feeling disoriented (about 6:30 am). You called Don. He called me. I called the paramedics. I met you at your house and the paramedics decided to bring you to Northwest Hospital by ambulance. This morning you dressed yourself and have great physical response. Not a big stroke or something. Maybe something small & localized.

At 10:00 a.m. this morning you will have an MRI that will last about 45 minutes. They will check for a small stroke. (You have no bleeds.) Dr. Hooker has glasses and a moustache. He thinks you have global localized amnesia (?) which he sees about once a year. It is rare but people recover and have normal function after the event (just can’t remember week or so around the event). Don called your work & they know you aren’t coming in. Don will probably fly up soon. I will be here at the hospital with you. You are going to be fine. I love you. Your daughter, Sarah.

Don is flying up and will be here this afternoon (3 pm?). I wrote this down so you can remember what happened. The Dr. feels like this is not dementia, just an isolated memory problem from a small brain (stroke like) thing. They’ll know more after the MRI. You’ve always been calm and lucid in conversations in the moment. I will always be here nearby.

Update. (12 pm)
After the MRI the Dr. came in and told us there are no bleeds or tumors in your brain. You respond normally & remember people, surroundings etc. Good news! The neurologist will come and speak to us--likely it is transient global amnesia which means you will recover normal memory but not much about the event itself or a week or so surrounding the episode. He sees this about once a year, very rare. You’ll be ok. Your brain looks healthy and actually exceptionally ”young“

*The neurologist will come and see you later this afternoon to see how your memory is c\coming. You can remember further back--4th of July but still foggy on last week. Memory will continue to improve. Dr. will determine if you spend the night for observation. Don is on his way. You spoke on the phone here at the hospital. Relax & Know you are ok.

Discharged from hospital at 1 pm. Call for neurologist appointment after 2 pm for follow-up. Symptoms should lessen and resolve in the next day or two with no lasting problems.”

It’s now almost a week later. I have the neurologist appointment later this morning. Here’s a description of what happened to me:

Transient Global Amnesia

And here’s the story I pieced together of last Wednesday’s events. I still have no memory of that day--except for fleeting images--until I remember reading and rereading Sarah’s story of what happened. What a clever thing for Sarah to have done (apparently remembered the movie Memento).

I called Don about 6:30 am. I was confused and knew something was wrong. Don was alarmed because I had no short term memory, I kept repeating myself and asking the same question. I was particularly concerned because the back of my very green house seemed to have turned white. So it seemed that I also must be hallucinating. (Footnote: the back of the house was white. I had hired college students to fix the peeling paint, they had started the day before, and I had neglected to tell Don of the project.) When he rang off to call Sarah, I called back and started the story all over again, not remembering that I had just called. From there to the hospital Sarah tells you the story.

Don also called the office--left a voice mail on my boss’s phone and a message with one of my co-workers. Unfortunately, my boss didn’t pick up her messages. And he left the second message on the phone of the “wrong” Robin. As I began missing important meetings--my boss’s staff meeting, a follow-on meeting where I was helping with a presentation we had worked on for the previous four days--folks got worried. Freda in my office went to my house. My car was still there. But I didn’t answer the door. She went around to the back. The painters were there but had seen nothing. She looked inside the bedroom--bed made, no Susan. Finally folks talked to Margie at the reception desk, who had talked to Don. And put him through to a Robin in our group. They looked in her office and saw the phone blinking red. They called Robin at home, had her pick up her message, which was from Don. She gave Don’s number to my boss’s admin. She finally contacted Don at about noon. That’s when they learned what had become of me. They had imagined me unconscious in the house, wandering about the streets. . . . . . . .

I was discharged from the hospital in the early afternoon, still pretty vague about what had happened and what was happening. Sarah and I went to a park and waited for the time for Don’s plane. We picked him up, drove to my house. Things slowly began settling into place. Memories of the previous days mostly returning. That night I settled into read. I had been “reading” two books--reading one on my Kindle and listening to one on my ipod. I couldn’t remember the plot of the Kindle book (I was about 60% of the way through), the plot of the audiobook came back when I replayed the last five minutes. By morning I could remember the plots of both books.

And over the past week, my memory has been settling in around the remaining hole for that morning. Still weird lapses here and there. Things that just won’t stick or quite return.

Somehow this experience wasn’t frightening. Left me feeling a bit mystified and quizzical. How slight our tether to “reality” can be I guess. I knew who I was. I knew who people were. I managed to get up, shower, go through all of the details of getting ready for the day, even making my bed. I was dressed and put together when my daughter and the ambulance arrived. But my ability to maintain short-term memory was totally gone during that period. A very short loop, round and round.

Not sure the lesson. Still left wondering about that.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation

Here are photo’s of last week. Spent on the Olympic Peninsula. Rialto Beach, the river, Hoh Rain Forest, La Push. Washington is a wonderful place. Played backwards I believe. A little narrative chaos for good measure.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Daddy's Toupe(e)

These are pictures of my dad.

Notice the hair. By the time all of these pictures were taken, my dad was completely bald (a little fringe around the nether edges). He lost his hair on his mission. This means that by his early twenties he had no hair to speak of. Legend has it that as a young man he had an amazing head of hair--auburn hair. This was important to me because I was known as a young person as the “red head.”

But by the time he returned from his mission, courted my mother (another wonderful story), he had no hair. In the late twenties, early thirties of the last century, that was definitely not cool. So until well into my childhood, my dad wore a toupe(e)--sort of.

My dad was a farmer, a laborer. He worked in the fields, worked with his hands. He completed high school, but then went to work. So during the work week my dad was a bald man. On Sunday and for special occasions (like pictures), my dad had a head of hair.

I well remember Sunday mornings growing up. My family getting ready to go to church. For Daddy that meant taking the toupe(e) out of the box. I remember that he would cut tiny pieces of white adhesive tape, loop them, set them on the oil stove we had (no furnace at that point) to warm. And the toupe(e) would sit there as well--to warm. He’d pluck the loops from the stove, arrange them on the inside of the hairpiece, and plunk it on his head. On for morning services. Off for lunch and the afternoon. On again for evening services.

Or for funerals, special occasions. On. A fashion accouterment as I think of it now. Like a hat. And for years, lots of real actual hats during the week (I should post another slideshow of my daddy with hats in his early years).

By the time I was in late childhood, my teens, the Sunday ritual was gone. My daddy was a very bald man. Grey hair with blackish highlights (I never saw the red). A tie and a suit on Sunday--that was the end of the dress up.

Those images of the loops of white adhesive tape on the stove in the living room on a Sunday morning. And the toupe by the side of those loops. An image in a child’s memory.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Books galore

I do have a problem. A garage in California full of books. A house in California full of books. All the brand new shelves I had in the house in Seattle--filling up with books.

How to manage what I know defines me in very real ways. But can get out of hand. Options I’ve discovered:
  • Libraries. Take too much planning. Never did these that successfully. At one point in time returned a car full of books to the library. And later found them all on the shelves. Do you know how hard it is to get books “deaccessioned” (is that how you spell it) from the University of Utah library.
  • Books. I’ve talked to you about that. Filling up my house(s). And I had a basement full of shelves built to help manage the problem.
  • Audiobooks. AAAAAAAAH. What a wonderful discovery (Audiobooks. . . . ) I love being read to. I can read while I drive, while I work, while I’m supposed to be reading, while I walk or run, while I hang out with Bev, while I go out to eat with Bev--you get the idea. No media. But not all books are available. And I still like to read (eyes on words).
  • And now my latest vice. I bought a Kindle. Here’s the sad story. I’m listening to Little Dorrit (a fine Dickens novel brought to my mind again by a very good Masterpiece Classics adaptation). I always have trouble with that first chapter. What is going on? What in the world does this chapter have to do with the book? So I went to the walls of books on my shelves. And who knew. I had no copy of Little Dorrit. Wanting to solve the problem that minute I went to Amazon and bought a copy of the book. And then I saw the Kindle version--I could have gotten Little Dorrit for free or near it. What a world. I remembered a recent discussion with someone at work about how good the experience with Kindle is getting. The book I want to read right now--Sarah Waters’ Little Stranger is not yet available on And it’s available--and cheaper--on Kindle’s site. A click away.
I have to say I like the Kindle. Now those books I buy and read once but don’t care about keeping. They come without media. One click away. And I can get Our Mutual Friend for free. A wonderful book I’ve been thinking about recently.

A pathetic story??

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Holy Basil

Last summer when I was in India, I was talking with my co-workers about cooking and recipes. I asked, “Do you use basil in your cooking?”

Preran, one of the writers I work with, answered. “No we don’t use it for cooking. We worship it.” He went on to tell me that women have basil shrines as part of the household. Basil is apparently very good.

Anyway, later in the week Preran came with my husband and I on a weekend trip to Jaipur. While there, we went to a “historical Indian village” that locals visit. I thought of it as the Indian version of an “authentic frontier village” in the states. For the entry fee, you get a free authentic historical meal. And waiting for the meal, you can enjoy authentic entertainment (puppet shows, beautiful girls dancing with towers of pots on their heads, snake charmers. . . . .). You can play on the playground or take an elephant, horse, or camel ride. Or you can stroll around the recreations of various authentic historical buildings styles and periods.

As we strolled along, Preran stopped and pointed. “There! See! A basil shrine. But that isn’t basil. If the basil shrine contained basil, we’d have to stop and worship it.”

I loved India!

Friday, May 01, 2009


In Teton City, Idaho, where I grew up, everyone had a garden. The sign at the outskirts of town when I was a girl said: Population 350. The congregation of our church was larger than the population of the town. The standard lot in Teton was an acre. That gave you room for a house, a large lawn with flowers, a very big vegetable garden, and a pasture with barn for cows, chicken coop, pig pen, and maybe a shed for sheep--or a horse. (We also had a baseball diamond adequate to the game of “workup” and a very big swing.)

By the time I was growing up (the second round of kids in the family), it was clear my dad wasn’t going to continue full time as a farmer and our pasture and buildings in the back had seen better days, but did we have a garden. Rows and rows and rows of glorious vegetables--and berries (raspberries, strawberries). In the vegetable garden, rows of: beans, peas, corn, beets, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, potatoes, onions. Nothing fancy to be sure--no argula or herbs in sight. But lots of rhubarb to go with the strawberries. And plum trees and apple trees in the back (the only fruit that would grow in southeastern Idaho). We grew up “foundering” on the bounty of the garden (that was the word of my Mom). Glorying in each vegetable as it became available. Lettuce with sugar wrapped inside. Corn on the cob. New potatoes and peas. Strawberry and rhubarb pie. . . . . And canning the bounties that exceed our abilities to consume. The memories of that summer bounty coming to our table all winter.

Recently I found a notebook that my grandmother had kept, starting in the middle of WW2. A few entries about babies, children, war, illness. But then the notebook found the rhythm which continued well toward the end of the fifties and beyond (when I knew and loved my grandma well): Grandma carefully noted how many bushels of tomatoes, apricots, peaches, apples, pears she had grown or purchased and canned--how many quarts, how many pints. I remember my grandma’s “fruit room” and my mom’s.

As a young married in the still “hippie” Seattle of the early seventies, I planted a huge garden myself. And then tripled the size of that garden when I moved to Utah. I grew bushels of fruit, berries, vegetables. Canned them (and by then froze them). I call this my earth mother phase.

That phase ended some 30 years ago. Since then I’ve gone on to serial lives: student, editor, and now information architect at a computer company (and what in the world could that mean). But there is still a gardener inside me hoping for one final act.

The gardener has had a lean decade or two--patios and pots. And two small “1-foot gardens.” But now I’m making a final stand. Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked with a landscaper to create a garden plan for my back yard. Get rid of that grass. Plant native plans that will stay green and need little attention through the year. And give me room for my vegetables and berries. Next Thursday, the work begins. I’ve decided not to remodel my kitchen. Rather I’m remodeling my yard.

And he promises to have it completed in time to plant my vegetables. I checked last night that my wireless for the computer will reach back to the corner where my little table nook will go. So I’m hoping to unite the best of two worlds.

Hoping this is more than a dream. . . . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How I learned to love Dostoyevsky

I was even younger. Oh so far away. Southeastern Idaho. I went shopping at a bookstore in Rexburg, Idaho--near Ricks college. I found a book describing books. Brief descriptions and then a set of categories, each complete with an icon. One icon meant a “classic.” The other icon meant something like “mature, challenging.” I was 14 years old, about to be a sophomore at South Fremont High School.

I went through the book, making a list of the books that had both icons--classic plus challenging. And I began to read. One of the first: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Reading that book really did change my life. So weird. So much beyond my life: Mormon, rural, conservative, lower middle class (I didn’t know that then--but we didn’t have any money). I was mesmorized. Loved the book. Went on a Russian jag--in close order. The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, and a brave but unsuccessful run at War and Peace. I remember knocking at the door the The Red and the Black. Loved Steinbeck. It was such a mixed up amazing world of reading. So much beyond anything I had encountered before in books.

My real life at that point was encountering a radical kind of Mormonism--a crazy teacher who was actually a polygamist. But at the same time I was reading. No one could tell me I couldn’t read a book. It was my private magical world. Lady Chatterly’s lover. . . . . . You get the drift.

Reading was the way I found myself. And Crime and Punishment is at the very place where those paths that lead to who I am begin. . . . .

How I learned to love Dickens

It was long ago and far away. I was a young, thirty-something (oh so long ago and far away). I was on a trip to Seattle with a friend. I succeeded in getting him to move to Seattle, become a tech writer, and eventually get me into the great tech world in the sky. But that is another story.

This story is about Dickens. We got on the train in Salt Lake City, waited for a very long time before the train finally left (I remember it as being in the middle of the night), and we headed toward Seattle. It was a leisurely pace. You could look out the window of the train and see cars buzzing by. And we stopped at every town, I’m sure, between Salt Lake City and Seattle. That means very many, many, many towns. We gave everyone in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington a chance to climb aboard our train or disembark (I think that’s what you do with a train).

As I said, a leisurely pace. I brought a book along: Charles Dicken’s A Mutual Friend. I settled down to read--a very, very, very big book. I read the first scene. Father and daughter on a boat, a dark filthy Thames, salvaging a body. I had such detailed visual images of the scene. (As I thought about this more, I realized I had watched a very good version of a Mutual Friend on Masterpiece Theatre.) In this case television was my friend. The flashes I saw, the images, almost the smells were so much more intense than my feeble imagination could have allowed.

So I settled into the book. You don’t press toward the ending in a 1000 page novel by Charles Dickens. You settle in, relax, enjoy, listen, let the emerging plot trails intermingle and twist in your head and heart. The train was perfect. I let go, settled in, relaxed. And the book took over, intermingled with the leisurely pace, the stops, the twists. . . . . .

I was hooked. This will always remain one of my most impressive experiences with a book.And an introduction to a writer I love. So many wonderful books to come. But I learned how to read and savor Dickens on a train with our mutual friend.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


My ex retired this past month. My son posted an appreciation of his dad. And he “tagged” me in Facebook on a couple of old photos with his dad and his dad’s family that I've included here.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing older. I envy Richard. I too would like to retire. I have all kinds of projects I’d like to address while I still have thought and memory. It’s hard to keep at the day to day grind of work. And I’ve only done this for 10+ years not the 30+ or 40+ of many my age. I followed my bliss for quite a while and still managed to luck out with a real job that set me on the road to real retirement. The economy makes me realize that I may need to cut back. But I don’t have the fantasies I did about old ladies and cat food that I had 10+ years back.

I had a story for my life that was given to me growing up. I followed that story faithfully for some 30+ years of my life. And then I couldn’t quite live that story any longer. And that was very difficult for those around me. I’m sad that I caused pain to people I loved. But I continue to be glad that I began searching for a different story that I could live. I’m still a seeker. Never have settled into one thing. And I feel that sense these days that I should move on. I guess that the economy isn’t quite cooperating.

Looking at these pictures and calling up in my memories these old stories, what always strikes me is that the soul, the heart, it doesn’t really age. For me at least, it still seems young, forward looking, optimisitic. But that heart doesn’t quite match the face in the mirror. The facts of life.

I still think life is good. I’m glad to revisit these memories of a former life. I feel good will and some nostalgia. Even affection and love for so many of the folks I see in these pictures. I also still feel that wasn’t quite my story. I’m glad for the adventure that life has been--and continues to be.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The poetry of code

For my job I am more and more involved with the developer side of the house. For most of my career at Adobe, I’ve focused on IA (info architecture), style for end user stuff. Now I’m broadening my view, my touch, for better or worse.

So tonight I was reading a tutorial on ActionScript (trust me this is important to Adobe). What struck me is how concise and charming this language is.

If, then.
Yes, no.

That’s what it takes to create the amazing interactive online world we swim in. And today I was charmed by the language rules that enable this world. Something very like the disciplined structure of poetry. You can create this most amazing of worlds in the simplest of software--notepad, simple text. This is a world of simple, logical, concise, disciplined language.

In the first 10 or 15 pages I read some very good advice on writing. . . . . . .

  • Language matters.
  • We will create container to keep track of important data (details, facts, info. . . . . .)
  • We need to attend to the syntax we use.
  • Be careful about names.
  • Some language is dynamic and some static or literal. Dynamic language depends for meaning on its context.
  • Conditional statements enable different responses for different contexts.
  • And now I am learning that code “listens” and “responds” to an “event.”
I’m trying to remember now why I went to English lit graduate school. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Random thoughts

A week ago
Organizing content from the ground up, using my editing software to get content ready for a machine to translate, order in US and India, how this impacts my (work) life, emotions--especially sadness, anger, fear, happiness; agon & politics still; charisma, what is a messiah complex--who has to have one?; search, walking, a garden, retirement, on the risks of assuming continuity, is language important, Obama and language, do I still care about Joseph Smith, feeding oneself, visiting hte legislature, multiculturalism, free speech, what should we spend money on, buying houses, fixing houses, the flag, my yard, telephones, aging, senility, memory, fears, frustrations, love, fish, food, gambling, saving, bowling, exercise, shopping, walking, food for one, war, what annoys me, terror, depression. . . . , rain, spring, earthquakes, dreams, delight, shoes, what the face says, hands, vests, pens, nuts.

A year ago (4.20.08)
Work, elections, agon, feminism and somen, food, garden, beauty, books, writing, Bevin, EBT, Sarah, Nathan, Don, grandchildren, spring, weaher, driving, walking, search, technology, wood floors, color, drinking, wine, beer, farmers markets, goats, soup, clothing, cooking, ocean, rain, kitchens, colors, clothes, shoes, cheese, friends, solitude, listening, seeing, sun, forest, desert, history, Mormon, marriage, education, aging, appearance, communication.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Miss Bevin goes to Washington--Olympia, Washington

Today Sarah, Bevin, and I went to Olympia to lobby our legislators. (My two daughters and me.) Washington state is facing at least 8 billion dollars in debt over the next couple of years. In response, Governor Gregoire, recently re-elected Democratic governor, published a budget proposal for the next 2 years. Not pretty. Cut that go deep into the bone. The state constitution mandates a balanced budget. I don’t envy the governor or the legislature.

One proposed cut I suspect few folks noticed. Beginning May 2008, total wipeout of Adult Day Health Services. This hits me personally because my daughter Bevin attends an adult day program 5 days a week. Though we’ll be impacted by these cuts in a profound way, we won’t be left with the absolute horror that will confront many families and many of those receiving adult day health services. We met many of these people today. And I’m even more convinced these cuts are a horror. If you live in Washington, please read this and lobby your legislators SOON.

Adult day health services are funded largely through medicade (that means the state must mostly pay). Folks who attend are elders and handicapped adults who can’t care for themselves. These day programs provide a few hours of respite for care givers. And they provide nursing oversite for some very fragile adults--seniors with Alzheimers, adults with brain injuries, physically and developmentally disabled adults.

I went with my daughter Sarah, who lives with her husband and four children in Bellevue, and with Bevin, my handicapped adult daughter. Bevin is physically 29 years old--developmentally (think IQ) at about 18 months. Think of Bevin as a very experienced but still profoundly clueless 2 year old (sort of). We visited the offices of two senators and three legislators.

Here are the people we met today:

Chris. A developmentally disabled and handicapped adult man. He is the only child of a father and mother who have cared for him at home all of his life. His parents are at retirement age, worrying about what will happen to their only son when they die. Chris has been at an adult day health service program for about two years. In that time, he has expanded his world. Learned what it means to have a world that doesn’t revolve around him but is much bigger. He was so excited to be there today to tell people how much he loves his program. For the first time, his parents can see a successful path for him to move into the larger world and to survive--successfully--once they are gone.

Christy. A developmentally disabled and handicapped adult woman. She lives at home with her mother. She is blind, profoundly developmentally disabled, and recently had a kidney transplant. Her program allows her mother to keep her daughter at home. Christy was excited to be there as well.

Jane. A an adult woman with downs syndrome. She was a crazy lady. Excited about being there. Full of stories about what would be happening next week at her program--at the top of the list painted fingernails. She is the only child of retirement age parents. She lives at home with them. This gives them a way of looking forward as well.

Mildred. She was there alone--another woman nearing retirement. She has a profoundly disabled adult daughter who lives in a group home and visits every other weekend--her only child. She has a husband who suffered cardiac arrest two years around with profound brain damage. Now her husband has no short term or long term memory. He needs constant care. The day program allows her to have some time to herself during a week. Makes it possible to keep her husband at home rather than putting him in a rest home.

We gathered in the cafeteria at the capitol. Folks in wheel chairs. Seniors with severe health programs and with dementia. All of these people attend these day programs.

Without these programs, these people will be forced into rest homes, families will be forced to quit work. Lives will change in sad ways--ways that shouldn’t be acceptable.

My daughter Bevin has no skills. She loves to hang out. Loves to ride the bus. She goes to day programs. This keeps her engaged in the world, happy. If she is left hanging about the house she either goes under a blanket and sleeps, becomes in essense an infant. Or she becomes angry and resistant. With a place in the world, she is able to live in a lovely group home during the week. With girls who talk and laugh--some even have jobs. These girls are much higher functioning than Bev and provide a wonderful environment for her. Without the day programs, she will probably end up living in a much more institutional kind of place. Or I will be forced to give up my work and my life to take care of her. Now we both have good lives. But after today, I don’t think my story is what folks should think about.

Folks should think about Chris and Christy and Jane and Mildred. These people are at the edge. If things fail for them, our society will still pay. And more. For emergency services. For nursing homes. But everyone will lose.

For pictures of the day on Facebook: Miss Bevin Goes to Olympia

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama as Reagan

I thought that this opinion piece from the New York Times today provided an interesting perspective on the way that Obama might take some lessons from Ronald Reagan. I was never a fan of Ronald Reagan at the time he was president. And I still have serious disagreements with pretty much most of his ideas. But over time I have come to respect more things about Reagan. One thing I did learn is that he was a man who cared about words and wrote many of his own. I also believe that words matter.

Some of the points that struck me reading this piece.
  • Reagan also became president at a time of economic crisis.
  • He understood that getting the economy on a good footing was the necessary foundation for transformational changes he wanted to make in what government was about.
  • He had to build coalitions with Democrats and keep some of his conservative supporters at bay in order to pass legislation that was important to him.
  • When he made some key deals, he kept his word.
Obama about Reagan from his autobiography: ““Reagan spoke to America’s longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies, so long as we rediscover the traditional virtues of hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism and faith.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's the point? Why not phone?

That was the question from my sister JoAnn, older than me and in her seventies, when I engaged her in her first “chat” on Facebook. We had chatted back and forth about how she came to be on Facebook: her daughter made her join. But then she to to her point : What’s the point of this chat thing? Why not just phone?

That’s not a bad question. I’m new to Facebook myself. I was instructed on how and why to join over Thanksgiving when I was visiting my son Nathan and his family in Williamsburg. Jacob, a first grader, was the one who insisted I join and stepped me through theprocess. His most immediate wish--to have another account to use to play games. He taught me how to bowl and we created a pet for me--Sadsack. He also instructed me in how to care for Sadsack. Also showed me how to create, send, and receive “flair.”

I discovered my husbands children already online and a goodly number my mom and dad’s descendants. I had three older siblings--10 to 14 years older than me. One younger sibling. A goodly number of their children and grandchildren are actively on Facebook. What fun. Even found my husband there--with no friends. So I’ve been adding friends--family and then friends via my old life in Utah and friends via my current life at Adobe.

I wasn’t surprised than my son and his family--Nathan, Heather, and Jacob--were on Facebook (Beth, not quite two, hasn’t yet developed her mouse and keyboard skills). Facebook did teach me something about Heather’s family (and now about Nate’s and Heather’s nuclear crowd) that I hadn’t quite understood: the extent to which games can organize family dynamics. I’ve never had the game gene myself: find it nigh impossible to make it through scrabble game, monopoly, a puzzle, a crossword, solitaire. Nate is has the game gene. (Don and his family mostly do.) Heather comes from a family that is nigh onto game obsessed. And Jacob is learning. He could definitely beat me in a game of Scrabble (with a few winks from his mom).

I’ve been following what happens with Nate, Heather, et al for years via the internet. Both are good writers and energetic bloggers: Nate's new blog Akrasia , Nate on Times and Seasons , Nate on Concurring Opinions , Heather on Mormon Mommy Wars and Segullah . Sometimes I stand back and realize that I haven’t talked to them on the phone for weeks and weeks. Yet I feel like I know what’s going on. I’ve been reading these wonderful blogs and commenting. Thinking about them.

Prety much every day, I read the wonderful blog of a friend of mine from graduate school (Lisa's Hightouchmegastore ).

I don’t much like the telephone. No longer even have a land line--only a cell phone. And I never use my minutes.

I’m having fun on Facebook. Something very satisfying about being a silent voyeur, a watcher on others lives. Sending out my feelers to find others. There is something very satisfying about this.

Where to begin. . . . Why not the phone indeed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Serial Killer Redux

Much to my surprise (really), the audiobook I listened to post Heartsick turned out to be another:
  • Book by a first time author
  • Book with a sequel
  • Book about a serial killer
The details of this book were unknown to me as I began my listen. I purchased the book because of the number of times it appeared on the best of 2008 lists. But I remembered no details. And this somewhat accidental book has confirmed (alas) my reluctant disappointment with Heartsick (Reader as Goat ).

The book I just finished: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a book translated from Swedish. (Literally translated from Swedish the book would be called Men Who Hate Women. This is a first of a triology called in English the Millennium triology. All of this I’ve learned since finishing the book (Stieg Larsson bio).

Larsson died at age 50 of a massive heart attack. He was a well known journalist, whose own bio shares plots with those of his hero Mikael Blomqvist, also a journalist. At Larsson’s death three books were completed, another almost, and ten addition books sketched out in some form. He wrote in his evenings, only worked to get the books published shortly before his unexpected death. So the three completed books were published in Swedish after his death. The book I listened to was publishd last summer in English. The second in the triology was just published in UK, scheduled in US for the summer.

Here are some of the things that this Goat liked about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
  • Set up as a pretty traditional mystery. A girl went missing long ago. On a small island cut off because of an accident. That means the cast of suspects is very small and finite. And the ground has been gone over again and again for 40 years. Yet something new does eventually turn up in a surprising but believable (at least I was willing to suspend disbelief) way.
  • Our hero is new to the country side. So you learn lots about the Swedish country side as well as the city as he goes back and forth and contemplates his surroundings.
  • There is a somewhat strange second character set loose in the narrative, the girl with the tatoo. Odd girl. Almost autistic. Perfect memory. A hacker. Maybe a stereotypical character. But what is she doing in this narrative. We know that eventually we’ll find out.
  • Okay (now I’m being a little bit of the spoiler) about half way through this turns out to be about a serial killer. But that’s over pretty soon.
  • And then we still have to solve the original mystery of the missing girl.
  • And finally we move on to the story we started with--a big bad industrialist and how we’ll bring him down.
  • And before we’re done we have to set up some loose ends to make us want to find the sequel. For both journalist and odd girl.
  • And by the way the odd girl manages two extra plots about abuse and sadism as well as high financial intrigue in offshore accounts that are a bit ancillary to the main plot. Besides figuring out who she is is almost a book.
  • Not to mention figuring out who Mikael Blomqvist is.
Why did I like the book? A certain resistance to the ending. Blithe overplotting. Too much story at an almost leisurely pace. And to give me all this in the outback of Sweden--not quite the Orient Express or the Library.

Who can resist? Not me. I just ordered (from Amazon.UK since I can’t wait until July): The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Not sure if this is another serial killer. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reader as goat: A minor crisis

I recently noted on my blog (Read and Drive) that my reading tastes are a tad eclectic--that I’m something of an omnivore. My son replied no, Mom, you’re a goat.

He has some evidence for this view. I have licensed his computer to access my Audible account--my secret audiobook list. He knows the full scope of my reading (listening) shame. I’m sure that it seems, looking at that list, that I might read anything, that I have no scruples.

My latest audiobook listen has left me contemplating that possibility: Heartsick by Chelsea Cain.

I do have reasons for choosing books. I think the reasons for purchasing Heartsick were something like this:
  • I do have a certain interest in serial killer novels. Recently I’ve been interested both in the books and the series Dexter. Horrifying, you both think and laugh about serial killing.
  • Cain is a Northwest writer. The book is set in Portland. I was living in Seattle in the 70s when Ted Bundy was killing here and in Utah when he was killing there. And recently we had the Green River killer. The Northwest should have a good serial killer character in fiction. And I support Northwest writers when I can.
  • The book was fairly well reviewed as a first novel.
  • The serial killer is a woman. Compared to Hannibal. Okay, I’m hooked.
So why the crisis? I was pretty annoyed by the writing and by the narrative plotting. I was prepared to review this with an enthusiastic thumbs down (okay, so I’m reviewing on LibraryThing and Facebook and I do realize no one cares). And yet today I did some google reading about Cain and purchased her sequel. Have I no principles? Am I easy?

The goat annoyed:
  • The writing was too clunky, overwrought and explained. I’m annoyed when I find myself thinking about the writing. With a really good book, I rarely even think about writing the first time through. I was often thinking about the writing, the plot--and not the characters and the story.
  • I am a willing suspender of disbelief. I understand this is the basic release that makes pleasure in reading possible. But this book pushed me way beyond my endurance. A scary book is scariest when the steps that lead there have been dipped in a dose of reality. This book continually tested (and trashed) my patience.
  • Way too much gore. Now I understand that I read this book partly because of the comparison to Hannibal. But there is a point at which the imagination rules and the explicit, relentless explainer diminishes the narrative. I’m a forgiving reader, but often I was horrified and not enough intrigued.
  • Byronic hero. This must convince me. I am a fan of Byron himself after all. What I like about Dexter is the humor. Laughing at death and gore makes me think, implicates me. This hero is just way too romantic and serious and tortured. I want to love him and to sympathize. But often I just groaned and checked how many minutes to the end. Maybe it’s harder to sympathize with love story and serial killer than I imagined. And give me a break with that pill box!
And why, goat, did you finish the book and buy the sequel?
  • Okay. The relationship with victim and victimizer did engage me. Though please, the little side bar about the Stockholm Syndrome--Patty hearst, etc. Who hasn’t heard about this who would conceivably read a book.
  • Northwest. I’m still trying to be a fan. That’s a big part of this.
  • And again, I read the reviews. They tell me she’s getting better.
  • And, as Nathan says, I’m a goat.
And so, today, I bought Sweetheart, the sequel. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Curl Envy

I have a serious case.

During the 80s I pretended with perms. Tried to impersonate someone carefree, wild, curled. Can’t say it exactly worked.

So in recent years I’ve submitted to the hair dryer. Time spent styling every morning. And that morning routine came to seem ever more looming--a daunting barrier to run each morning.

Finally I said no more. Told my hair lady to layer away. Assume I’ll just stir it up in the morning. Give my pathetic curl and resistance a chance. It’s been several months now with the let it go hair. No dryers, no brushes, really no combs. Just fingers. I can’t say that I look or feel glamorous. But I’ve decided I’m beyond that. (Anyone want a hairdryer?)

What I have is a whiff of simplicity. A small sloping knoll to walk in the morning, not a mountain to climb.

Is this old age?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Endings, Take 2

I finished the book, alas.

I find evidence that the book itself contemplates this may be the final P. D. James novel (I still hope not). Don’t read on if you don’t like folks spoiling endings. . . .

Adam Dagliesh does marry Emma. Kate gets back with her ex. Dagliesh contemplates whether this might be his last case. And one of the final scenes is that of an elderly lawyer, living in an upscale senior care facility who medidates on the end of life, age, and what it’s like.

Perhaps the pressure of this ending captures my imagination because I am at that point in life where I more and more find myself thinking about age, growing old. . . . . Clearly I am very much nearer the end of my life than the beginning. The pressure of the ending.

I can only hope for another Adam Dagliesh novel. In the meantime, I discovered that I missed a number of the earlier novels. So now I plan to begin again, keep the ending at bay in that way. . .

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I’m about 3/4 of the way through P. D. James most recent Adam Dagleish story, The Private Patient. I’m a fan of Adam Dagleish and a fan of P. D. James. Who can resist the writer or the detective. Not me.

I always have mixed feelings when I’m immersed in a good book. Enjoying myself. Driving toward the ending--wondering what will happen. But resisting. Knowing that the sadness associated with being done will be as strong as the pleasure of finishing.

This time I find myself thinking incessantly about the fact that P. D. James is 88 going on 89. How much more can I expect. Could this be the last one? No not that ending.

Adam is musing on retirement, and planning marriage to Emma--looking forward. I’m thinking that those events won’t happen in this novel. Which gives me hope. There may well be more in the wings. . . . . . .

If only. . .

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Trying this out

Posting from my iGoogle page. How easy is that.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

And Drive

I love to read and drive.

A habit I acquired when I drove each Friday night from San Jose to Sacramento. I found that music, which I love, put me to sleep. Listening to audiobooks engaged my mind enough to keep me awake. And so the practice came into my life.

I don’t remember my parents reading to me. I doubt that they did. Though we had books (and my mom was an English teacher). So audiobooks introduced me to that pleasure. Having a book read to me. I grew to young adulthood in a time when “speed reading” was seen as positive. Graduate school taught me that “slow reading” was better. But listening to a book read with relish and talent really taught me about slowing down with a book, sinking into the world, enjoying the slow, delicious sound of each word spoken a relished.

And there is definitely a practical side to being read to (AKA listening to audiobooks). I still read in bed, at tables, over coffee, sitting on the couch, in restaurants and libraries. But now I can read in times and places never before possible. A truly blissful discovery for the girl always called a bookworm. I can read while I’m doing dishes and cleaning the house. I can read while walking, running, exercising. I can read when I wake up at night--I don’t need to sit up, turn on the light, wake myself up. I can almost look forward to my insomnia.

And I can read while I drive. This brings together two blissful experiences from my childhood. A good book. A drive (with my folks that generally meant towards the Tetons or Yellowstone, a picknick, a move in the direction of mountains and streams and creaks) on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Now I drive as a hobby? An obsession. And a good part of the pleasure is the pleasure of the sounds of books--trash, classics, histories, thrillers. I’m an omnivore on the reading front I’m afraid.

And so the the real sub-text of my story about fear on the roads in the snow. I was a afraid. But I was also enjoying myself. In the middle of a good book. Which kept me from worrying too much on the other front. And with my perfect driving/ reading companion--Bevin. She never complains about what I am listening to. All she needs is an occasional poppy and a stop from time to time to relieve herself. And food (though she, my daughter, will eat most anything).

A good part of my recent two-week plus holiday was spent in the car (a hybrid, my nod to responsibility on driving as a hobby/compulsion), reading. (A couple of books may have been part of my Thanksgiving driving in Virginia. . . . . .)

Here are some of the books (what pleasure)--I have included brief reviews of most of these on my Facebook account (Susan Staker) and on Library Thing linked here on my blog:

Netherland: A Novel by Joseph O’Neill
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
The Comfrots of a Muddy Saturday (Isabel Dalhousie) by Alexander McCall Smith
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
Fleshmarket Alley (Inspector Rebus) by Ian Rankin
The Interpretation of Murder: A Novel by Jed Rubenfeld
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Careful Use of Compliments (Isabel Dalhousei) by Alexander McCall Smith
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (this one may have been before the trip)
Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
The Girl of His Dreams (Commissario Brunettie) by Donna Leon

What grand fun!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Whence the moment?

In a famous passage in William Wordsworth’s autobiographical poem “The Prelude,” he is on a walking tour in the Alps. He imagines the moment when he will come to the highest point in the walk and begin the downward trek into Italy. Looking forward he has grand plans and expectations for the moment. But at some point he realizes that he has already passed the summit and has been heading down for some time.

For some reason, this moment in the poem popped into my head as I thought about my experience the weekend before Christmas driving in the snow toward California. It may seem a stretch, but who can second guess the free association of the mind (I think I was driving back to Seattle when this came to me).

I spent the Saturday before Christmas looking for chains that would fit my car. With all of the snow in Seattle of the previous few days, finding chains was not an easy task. I was not the only person in Seattle to decide that buying chains was a good idea. After several stores and many hours, I finally found a pair that would fit my car.

Sunday morning was a horror. Snow everywhere and still falling. Forecasts for more snow and freezing rain all along the I-5 corridor into California. But Bevin and I set off in the morning for Sacramento. I finally decided that I would be better off cutting to the coast (I love to drive the coast but I do think there was basic sense in my decision).

We did fine until Aberdeen. But the drive between Aberdeen and Astoria was some of the worst snow driving I’ve encountered. First I took a wrong turn that added 40-50 miles extra to the drive. And then I headed up into the coastal mountains. Hardly anyone on the roads. Nothing plowed, just tracks of previous cars and those filling fast. For nearly three hours plus I drove at about 20 miles an hour, encountered one highway that had been closed and had to retrace my tracks.

I kept wondering when I should stop and put on the chains. No signs that said do it now or you can drive no further. Encountered no one else putting on chains--or using chains. (Actually few other vehicles and most, in retrospect, were pickups.) So I kept wondering and thinking about the chains and finally I was on the road along the coast, leading across the bridge and into a very snowy Astoria.

I’m relieved we made it. And left remembering that it’s hard to tell when the moment is passing, when it’s downhill from here for better or worse.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 Resolutions

        ❑        Finish an article on 1830 and send for publication.
        ❑        Write at least weekly on blog. I need to develop a habit of writing.
        ❑        Less meat, more vegetables.
        ❑        Go to the dentist and the doctor.
        ❑        Take Bevin to the dentist and the doctor.
        ❑        Lose 10 pounds.
        ❑        Walk. At least 2 days a week. Can it be more. How do I add more exercise to my life? Figure this out.