Ending an era

For decades (since before I was born, definitely, but possibly far longer than that) my mother was known for remembering birthdays and anniversaries with cards.  Her handwriting was gorgeous - despite being a lefty, and there's a long story behind that - and getting a card from her was a highlight for friends and family.

Then her memory started to slip.  No problem, my father was there to help.  What she used to remember effortlessly she now needed a list, and armed with that they'd go out each month, buying a fistful of cards appropriate to the occasion.  She'd still do the addressing and the main message, with Dad signing as necessary.

Then her handwriting went, thanks to the arthritis, and her memory got worse.  They'd still go shopping, but now Dad would do the majority of the work with her just signing.

Last summer, with both of them out of commission, things got worse.  But after missing a major birthday, Dad rallied and things seemed normal.

Yesterday, he admitted that things weren't normal.  It was a lot of work, keeping up with all the shopping and dates (conservatively, I'm guessing about 10 cards a month got chosen and sent).  So, with some overt sadness (but secretly, I suspect, very relieved to be done with this duty) he told me that he was just giving up.  He'd use the list to circle the calendar with immediate family dates, but extended family? Not so lucky.

I've always been the "good" daughter in terms of family, always attending funerals and weddings and dinners and keeping up with everyone.  But I'm not going to take this on.  It was my mother's gift to others, and that's how it's going to stay.

It'll be the end of an era, and yet another reason to miss my mom.


That old adage

For decades I've heard older people saying that they have a doctor for every body part (or that the sign of getting old is when you have a doctor for every body part).  So when I hit 50, I took stock: one primary care doctor (who also did my gyn exams) and an endocrinologist.  That was it.  Whew!  Not old.

Here I am, halfway through my 50s, and, well... I still have one primary care doctor and an endocrinologist.  I also have three doctors for my left eye. 

So, tell me: #winning?  or Sad!


The Flesh Failures

Last night a friend posted on Twitter that NBC's next live musical would be.... Hair.


I'm guessing this is some PG version that takes out all the "problematic" scenes and songs?

Another friend on Twitter suggested the cast would be wearing nude bodysuits.  Great?  I suppose.  But the lyrics?  Sigh.  I know no one's going to change the Shakespeare (What a Piece of Work is Man).  Even those who don't really know the musical know a few of the songs: Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine and Let the Sun Shine In,  But there are others that, well, I don't think will be allowed on air.  If Kendrick Lamar can stop a white woman singing certain lyrics, what about a song that is a string of slurs strung together? Will NBC air songs glorifying men because of their color?  Or a song about sexual acts? What about the one about drugs? You can read the titles here (lyrics you can find on your own).

While I applaud the idea of bringing musicals to tv (although couldn't they be done sans commercials? like they do in an actual theatre?) the idea that what's being shown is a dumbed down, more PC version than what you'd see on Broadway or in a touring show horrifies me.  Let HBO show Hair.  NBC could show The Pajama Game.  Or something like that.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

I know - it's been a long time since I did one of these.  Given the amount of adult books I was reading last year for the award committee, it just didn't make sense.  But this year?  Any book that isn't an adult book published in 2016 or 2017 can be reviewed and talked about.  So yay!  My year end totals will be slightly different because of The Books That Cannot Be Named, but for the most part here's what I've read thus far this year:

Children's/Young Adult Fiction

Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Adult Fiction/Literature
 Adult Speculative Fiction






Dinner rants

For years, one of my annual tv watches has been the White House Correspondents Dinner - if I couldn't watch it live or on replay, I'd tape C-SPAN.  So I've seen several of the more controversial "episodes", like Imus and Colbert and Wilmore and now, Sykes.  I've also seen Al Franken and Aretha Franklin and Rich Little (pro tip: if you have to pre-identify who your impression is of, it's probably either not that relevant or not that good).

For the past couple of days, there's been a lot of commentary about this year's guest.  I think that the WHCA knew she'd be controversial, pointed and make headlines.  Was she funny?  That depends on your definition of funny.  Some of the bits could have used a better delivery (I thought she occasionally rushed her lines), but again, funny is in the ears of the listener.

There was one comment that hasn't gotten enough attention, IMVHO:
There's a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we're covering like three topics. Every hour, it's Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don't go home for Thanksgiving.
That's so incredibly true.  There is a lot going on, both here and abroad, and yet on tv it's Trump Trump Trump.  If covering him during the elections hadn't been so amusing, things might have been different.  I'm not talking about Hilary Clinton, I'm talking about the other Republican contenders.  What happened to equal time, equal coverage?  The only time I heard about or saw many of the other candidates was during the debates.  And now?  He's dominating the news, even when there are other things that could and should be covered.  On the other hand, without Trump, no one would watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other chattering heads.  So maybe it's all for the good, keeping relatively unqualified pundits and academics employed.


Notable Quotes

Before Mr. Bennett could answer, the door opened, and there appeared a male nurse in aqua-colored scrubs, carrying the plastic saw with it's round blade at one end; the entire contraption wasn't much larger than an electric toothbrush. "Fred!" the nurse said, though they had never met. "How are we today?"

Reading the nurse's name tag, Mr. Bennett replied with fake enthusiasm, "Bernard!  We're mourning the death of manners and the rise of overly familiar discourse.  How are you?"

 - Curtis Sittenfeld, Eligible


Just had to laugh

The other day, a friend and I went to the Houghton Library (at Harvard) to see the Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration exhibit - I could name a few maps they should have included, but since everything came from their shelves, perhaps they didn't have copies of Nick Bantock's work, or the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or any of the Discworld Mapps?

After, we went to MEM Tea (because tea).  And then, on our way to lunch, we saw this sign.


My favorite shark

When I was a freshman in college I started to make friends with the theatre crowd, first the unofficial group and then the "mainstage" group.  My first show with the latter was The Threepenny Opera (or 3PO as we called it, given that Star Wars was just being released).

This production decided to use the Manheim/Willett translation, which was done for the New York Shakespeare Festival's production with Raul Julia as Macheath.  And it's got my favorite English version of Mack the Knife:

It captures the ugliness that Brecht and Weill wanted from their creation.

Here's the original German, sung by Camille O'Sullivan:

Don't speak German? (I don't) The menace still comes through.

However, most people know the song better in the Blitzstein translation's jazz version:

(not as big a fan of this version or translation, but just look at the original cast at the Theatre du Lys!)

So tonight I'm heading to see the BLO's production, which is using the Michael Feinstein translation.  Reviews of the original production (with Sting?!) say that it's serviceable.  We'll see.


Physician, Treat Thyself

For the past 8 months I have been taking a number of medications designed to keep my CRION at bay.  These drugs (mostly Prednisone and CellCept) have serious side effects, like trembling hands and bloating and headaches and, well, read about them here and here.

When I tell my doctors about this, their response is usually an acknowledgement that they know, they know, but there's nothing they can do or recommend to help.  Gee, thanks.  While they may be helping with one thing - and yes, it's a serious thing - my quality of life is seriously diminished.

What if all drug makers and doctors had to take these drugs themselves?  Just to experience what we, the patient and consumer, experience?  So they can understand exactly how difficult it is to drive when you're shaking... or walk because your knees are too bloated to bend properly... or to feel incredible weakness when you stand up... or any of the other things we tell them about?

At my last school, in Connecticut, the security people were all armed.  There was a rumor that they also carried tasers.  I asked one if that rumor was true, and the response was that in Connecticut, to be licensed to carry a taser you had to agree to be tased first, to see what it felt like so you knew this wasn't a toy or to be used lightly. 

What if we applied that to some of these drugs?  It might not help mitigate the side effects, but at least the doctors would have a personal understanding of them.  And maybe pressure drug manufacturers into figuring out a way to counteract them while keeping the benefits.


Notable Quotes

Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonable floods or carried off by tornadoes... Adulthood brings limitations like gravity and linear space and the idea that bedtime is a real thing, and not an artificially imposed curfew.
Seanan McGuire, Beneath the Sugar Sky  


Weather (or not)

Yes, we just started back at work after our two week Winter Break.  But we teachers are just as excited about the possibility of a snow day as the students are, so any time there's the possibility of one we begin to plan and hope.  I've heard of students wearing their pj's on backwards, which is apparently a sure way to ensure a snow day (no teachers have admitted to doing the same, but then, I'm not asking them!).

The possibility of a snowstorm on Christmas turned into a pretty much "meh" event, but then I saw that the next time a large amount of snow was predicted was for December 30th.  Just for giggles, at 7am and 7pm each day I took screenshots of what my weather app said would happen:

That doesn't mean I'm not hoping (ok, praying) for a snow day. Even if we will have only been back at work for one day.


New Year's Meme - 2018 edition

As mentioned last year, this is stolen from Philosophy Mom

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
A few things that were simply "old things in new spaces", so those don't really count.  Most of my year was spent on work and family and self-care and reading, sadly.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Here's what I said this time last year:
  • Lose weight / get in shape (well, better shape than I am now)
  • Continue to enjoy my work on the Book Award Committee
  • Get better organized (declutter plus time management)
  • Take a fun trip somewhere 
  • Be better about being connected to family and friends
And.... I did four of the five.  B/B+ for Lazygal!

3. Did anyone close to you get married?
Two cousins (second cousins) did, one in New Jersey and the other in Los Angeles.  And Thing One's niece/goddaughter is getting married later this month.

4. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope.  No one close.  But there are a lot of "work babies" around, and a new great arrived last Janurary.

5. Did anyone close to you die?
Not that close this year, only the husband of one of my mother's cousins. 

6. What countries did you visit?
Ireland (Dublin, to be specific) for three days.  Perfect quick getaway!

7. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
Better health.  Thanks to the CRION, and the medicines I'm taking to control it, this has been the year of side effects.  Sigh.  Luckily, they are subsiding thanks to tapering off one really nasty one.  And when that's done, I should just be "maintaining".  More time with friends and family would be great.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
A side-effect of a side-effect was a 10-day period when I was pretty much on speed (not really, but people tell me that is what it's like when you are).  So much got done even I'm impressed.  If only I could have continued in that vein, but perhaps later.

9. What was your biggest failure?
It's not a failure, per se, just an inability to really do more with friends hanks to needing to focus on helping my parents and self-care when I was home.  Not being able to do more for my parents over the summer, or since school has started, could also be perceived as a failure.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Heh.  Beyond my ongoing battle with CRION, there was a lovely cough that set in two weeks before Winter Break.  And is still here, albeit in a very diminished state. 

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new suitcase and travel tote.  Ok, that's two things.  But for one purpose, so I'm saying it counts.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
First of all, let me quote from last year: "Thing One, duh.  He's been a rock throughout the optic nerve adventure.  Plus giving in to my whims.  What's not to celebrate?" And then my sister, who really did an amazing job dealing with the sudden family crisis over the summer.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Again, quoting last year "Several of Thing One's family who truly support the awful (racist, misogynist, xenophobic) side of our President."  Beyond that, my father, who truly did have a health crisis this summer but managed to pull so much focus that my mother's Alzheimer's got immeasurably worse.  He's better now, she's not.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel: to Dublin, to LA, to Louisville, to Chicago and to Atlanta, as well as several minor conferences and family visit events (not in that order!). And wine. 

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Seeing Hamilton in Chicago.  Going to Dublin.  Starting AY2018 with a team that I know well, that works together well and that is moving forward with our plans.  And - best yet - getting to plan a new library!

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
  • happier or sadder?  Neither.  More worried, though.   
  • thinner or fatter?  Well, calling myself "Princess Puffy Pants" should be a clue to the answer (it's all water retention due to one of the drugs and is actually coming off as I taper off).
  • richer or poorer? Same - I've spent more on some things, but less on far more.  

17. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Well, done any of, to be honest: going to Meeting.  Every time I thought thinks were getting to a point when I could go, my eye or family or work "flared up".  Le sigh. 

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying.  About anything.  I mean, compared to some, my life has been pretty blessed, so getting worried (or, as I prefer to call it, fretting) about things is a bit self-indulgent.  On the other hand, I could go blind and my mother could get worse and... and...

19. How did you spend Christmas?
Oh the weather outside was frightful... at times... We woke up, did presents, then went back to nap.  Woke up to a complete whiteout, which ended quickly but made travel difficult.  So, rather than the Traditional Jewish, we just stayed in and relaxed. 

20. How did you bring in the New Year?
Reading.  Sleeping.  Watching a movie (Casablanca).  Eating a great home-cooked meal and enjoying a nice bottle of Warwick Valley Dirty Red.

21. Did you fall in love?

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Holdovers from last year: 19-2.  People of EarthQ & AYou're the Worst. I have been watching less tv than in previous years, although when I can indulge, I'll binge on something like Brokenwood Mysteries or Crownies/Janet King

23. What was the best book you read?
Still can't talk about the adult books, but of the YA, The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Bang and Dreamland Burning are real standouts.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Christine and the Queens

25. What was your favorite film of this year?
I could answer this with something I've seen before, but this year I saw no new movies (or none I want to talk about favorably).

26. What was your favorite live performance?
Dorrance Dance (a former student is in this group). Hamilton.

27. What did you want and get?
Time (albeit not enough) with extended family.  Finally selling my house.

    28. What did you want and not get?
    Good health.

    29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    On my birthday?  Nothing much.  It was a Saturday, so we just hung out at home and then went to tea.  It was Number 54 for me, which means middle age is starting to appear in my rear view mirror. 

    30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    Better health.  Easy.

    31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
    Comfortable clothes in mostly green and grey.  Clothes I can move in easily, yet look polished enough for any meeting I need to attend.

    32. What kept you sane?
    Sheer willpower.  I've been holding it together... barely.  The ongoing issues with my eye, my parents and the stress over selling my house were pretty much the perfect storm.  If anything kept me even partly sane it was reading and playing backgammon on the computer as an escape.

    33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    None.  Is that elitist of me?

    34. What political issue stirred you the most?
    Again, quoting from last year (because this year seems like a continuation of that):  "watching otherwise intelligent people embrace the really awful things that were bring promoted by the winning candidate.  And watching serious fault lines develop among colleagues and students who weren't on the same side of that issue (I really do understand not wanting to vote for Hillary - I didn't! - but The Donald?  His ideas are so vile.  And those who think he's ok are just beyond my comprehension)."  The divisions and rhetoric haven't gotten any better in the past year, and I despair for our future.

    35. Whom did you miss?
    My mother.

    36. Who was the best new person you met?
    I don't think I met too many new people in 2017 that have become part of my life in any significant way this year.  Except, maybe, my new doctor, who really seems to care (perhaps just because my CRION presents such an interesting change from the usual health issues).

    37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
    Friends are incredibly important as you get older.  My parents are so fortunate to have really kind people in their lives, people who care about them enough to come over at 4:00am to watch my mother while my father goes in for an outpatient procedure.

    38. What was your favorite moment of the year?
    Spending time with friends and family.  Any moment I did that was a favorite moment.  Well... except for those moments I was home, at my parents, taking care of them.

    39. What was your least favorite moment of the year?
    Let's just call the entire time between late June and late August my least favorite. 

    40. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2017 and change something, what would it be?
    Honestly, I can't think of one.  Nothing I could do would change anything that happened for the better.

    41. What are your plans for 2017?
    • Work on my health
    • Finally go to Meeting
    • Continue to declutter
    • Spend time with friends and family and be grateful for their presence in my life