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Rumilluminations Nov. 2009
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, November 01 2009 - 12:13 pm

Rumilluminations November 2009

November 30, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

A week ago my mom started with Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy in the Rehabilitation Unit.

When she did the cycling machine, it reported at the end of 20 minutes that she had contributed 0% of the exercise (this particular machine does some work even if you don't.)  I was surprised.  I thought she had given at least a few percent!

Two days later she was up to 26%.

Well, that was progress.

On Friday she scored a 99%.  Unbelievable!

Yes.  It turns out that on Friday a technician had been in to recalibrate the machine and found out it was very, very wacko.  The machine hadn't been giving credit where credit was due.

Today, a week after her original "run", Mom approached the machine with much more energy and confidence than she did a week ago.  She scored 96% on output.  Not bad at all after a two-day weekend!

Moral of the story?  Don't unquestioningly believe machines just because they say so.

Celebration of the story?  Your performance can really improve sometimes just with a machine or tool or instrument upgrade.

Great for the November morale!   

November 29, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

I'm still eating leftovers, and I'm still stuffed.  I've had to make a salad since Thanksgiving, but that's all.  We'll start cooking vegetables again tomorrow, but there are still chutney, main dishes, and desserts.

It's beginning to look as if we won't have to do a major food shopping this week.  Ah, after-Thanksgiving leisure!

Lamb chops, I am discovering, are more heartburn-inducing than turkey.  No more lamb for me for another five years (probably the last time I had lamb.)

We went on a walk yesterday to Ogden Gardens.  The sun was shining, but the gardens themselves are pretty well spent.  The sensory pleasure of this time of year is definitely taste.

Ah, yes!  The pleasures of the banquet have just about blinded me to the fact that the outdoors has grown quite definitely brown.

It's a good thing our enclosed porches still have blooming geraniums, impatiens and begonias, and our refrigerators still have fresh vegetables, apples and apricot preserves!

November 28, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

I was alternately walking and running home from the rehab center this morning, and I was thinking about my experience on the elliptical machines at the Health Club in Corvallis, OR.

I was trying to listen to Jethro Tull, and the tempo changes in the music worked against the feedback on the machine at the center.  When the music went fast, my heartbeat was too high and I had to slow down to keep my heartbeat right, even though the music was proceeding apace.

Last night I saw mention on the Chicago news about a medical student who was combining music with mnenomics.  Doctors got him to write music that would help kids with hearing problems in some way.  Diagnosis only?  I don't remember.

It occurred to me, though, that a band could write songs that would put people through their paces, so to speak, in a cardiological sort of way.  Sure, everyone is different, but the average person could benefit from a recording they could listen to while they are running outside with no machine to give them feedback.

Each song could have its ups and downs, and the walking, jogging, and running while listening to the whole album could constitute a work-out.  Songs about a lovin' heart and songs for a healthy heart all in one!

And good art to boot!  Anyone up for the challenge? 

November 27, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

Walking home from the library today, we heard a teeny little bird tweet.  Not even a tweet, really.  A sweet skinny little tone that sounded maybe like a bushtit.

Or a junco, maybe.  Some really little flitty bird.

There it was!  I'm sure I saw a little black blip up in the tree above us.  Then nothing for a second.

Then... bright red?  Almost robin-sized?  It flashed across the street and out of sight.

I think it must have been a scarlet tanager.  It was the wrong size and shade of red for a cardinal.

Tomorrow I will look in our bird books and see the likelihood of that sighting.

But does likelihood really matter?  Maybe this scarlet tanager is a special scout for Santa Claus!  Maybe he rides on Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer's delicate snout and gives poor Rudolf the reputation for having a bright red nose!

Pumpkin orange is out, and bright red holly berries are adventitious!

November 26, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

I've had good Thanksgiving dinners, I've had bad Thanksgiving dinners.

I've had them at home, I've had them at work, I've had them potluck style at the Quaker Meeting House in Santa Fe, NM, I've had them at other people's houses, and I've had them at restaurants.

I kind of wish I'd kept a list of where I have had Thanksgiving dinners.

But I may have had the best Thanksgiving dinner yet today.

We had a fancy lamb dish.  We had turkey and corn dressing.  We had snow peas with peas and chutney with cranberries and carrots and cauliflower.  Almost all the dishes were complicated and they were all good.

To top it all off, we had four desserts:  deep dish pear and cream cheese pie, pumpkin brownies (topped with dulce de leche if you wished) apple crisp with cheddar cheese in the crust, Belgian chocolates.  For once we are going to have leftover desserts that outlast our main dishes!  (I think.)

All this food made by one chef over the last three days was exceptionally good.

A couple of my children are having Thanksgiving dinner at the Abiquiu Inn in New Mexico.  They had it there last year and it was one of their best dinners ever!

When was the favorite Thanksgiving dinner you have had?  Was it the food?  Was it the people?

Was it a felicitous combination of both?

Happy Thanksgiving to you, and Happy Thanksgiving memories, too!


November 25, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

I used to use the car about once a week - when I took my mom grocery shopping.  An occasional trip to a doctor - and lately, drives around the countryside for an outing.

Lately I've been going to Mom's rehab center three times a day.  I'm determined to take one of those trips by foot or local bus - a 2.5 mile trip each way.

When I can I will enjoy the walk, even though it goes up a busy street or two.

I told the man behind the desk at the rehab center I was trying to walk once a day, he said that was nice, but shrugged.

"It won't make much difference, though," he said.

Multiply me by 300 million, and oh, yes it would make a difference!

Even people using alternative transportation one day a week would make a huge difference in our energy use!

And as for walking?  Visit a local rehab center and you will count your blessings - step by step!

November 24, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

Early this morning I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, so I went into the room with the birds and read a book.

I fell asleep again, until the zebra thing (finch, I mean) squeegeed.

"Oh, for God's sake."  I got up and stumbled back to bed.

Now I think, oh no.  That zebra finch is going to be bragging all day about how all he did was squawk at me once and I scrambled out of the room, cowering.

He is going to be absolutely unbearable for a week, I bet.

November 23, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

Boxes are kind of cool things.  They are a handy shape, usually.  They stack well.

So why do we value the ability of people to "think outside the box?"

We create our own boxes trying to increase efficiency, then trap ourselves in them.  Just by habit!

So, if life isn't working, try something different.  "That isn't my bag," you say.  But maybe some bag would be better than a box!

The bigger the expert, the more tightly constructed his box.  Watch out!  It might turn out to be empty!

November 22, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

Hanging around hospitals and rehab centers and such-like, you pick up some tips from experience and aides.

If you are going to have a colonoscopy, schedule it early in the day, because going all day without water is torture.  (Source: aide.)

If your elderly parent who had surgery a week ago is getting physical therapy make sure they have a pain killer that will keep moving from being hugely undesireable.  What is comfort when you are lying still is not comfort when you are moving around.  (Source: me.)

Frequent visits just for oversight are a good idea.  With the best intentions in the world, overworked employees may overlook something.  (Like a bedpan the patient was sitting on during a shift change!)  The visits don't have to be long, but try to encourage others to come also.  (Source:  my partner and I.)

Elderly people entering rehab may want to just give up and die.  It really helps to have people send them cards and little gifts to make them realize other people care and give them a reason to keep going.  (Source:  my friend Marti.)

The healing experience is a roller coaster.  Lots of ups, lots of downs.  Try not to take any one stage too seriously.  (Source:  the experience of me, and I haven't really learned it yet!)

November 21, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

Honestly, what is this world coming to?  I have never known November not to be November, at least not in Valparaiso, Indiana!  There are roses (lots of blossoms!) blooming outside my mother's rehab center.

When I pulled out of the driveway I saw a teeny cluster of white phlox peeping out from the green and yellow leaves.  (Did I already mention the eight-foot high hollyhocks still blooming up the street?)

Chrysanthemums galore!  It's as if November doesn't know it's November anymore!

November 20, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

I know I've talked before about different kinds of intelligence that are capable of complementing each other incredibly well.

I know that I've talked about respect.

But I'm not sure I have combined those two subjects specifically, and so I am going to risk repeating myself.

There are times when other seemingly normal people may seem incredibly stupid to you.  And there are, unlikely as it may seem to you, times when other people see you as impossibly dense.

The only way we can all keep working well together is if we maintain mutual respect.  With it, we solve all kinds of problems.  Without it our chances go way down because we cut off some of our good solutions.

Unfortunately respect, like the tango, takes two.

And if someone is constantly stepping on my toes, my desire to dance is greatly diminished.

I'm not at all good at respecting people who don't respect me.  How can I, and have any self-respect at all?

I wonder if there is such a thing as classes in respect?

November 19, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

I've seen a couple of interesting trucks lately.

One was in a convenience store parking lot half a block from the hospital.  It was labeled WILD THING (or "wild" something) with the additional wording "uniforms...sales and rental" as I recall.

Now I ask you, what is less wild than a uniform?  Is irony the new attention-grabber these days, replacing puns?

You make your name as improbable as possible to make it memorable.

The other truck I saw was a big black one (not semi-big, macho-big) emblazoned with the words American Animal Control all over it.  It looked formidable if not evil.

At first I thought, oh-uh.  Is there a dog running wild where I'm heading?  Then I thought, good Lord, that was no governmental vehicle!  That was private enterprise!

I looked up both these businesses in the "Yellow Book" phone book.  Nada.  I looked them up on the Internet and found some uniforms under "wild thing" but no business per se.  American Animal Control had a home page that refused to make itself available when I tried to access it.

The entry I clicked on said something about wild animals, so maybe it doesn't pick up local strays.

I am curious about this, though.  What is to stop them from doing that?  And could I call them to protect us from pit bulls and the like if the public folks aren't responding quickly enough?

I heard about the moving company "Two Men and a Truck" from walking around Valparaiso.

I wonder what provides the best advertising for certain kinds of businesses these days?

In Santa Fe years ago, Rick Darcy told me that brochures were often the best way for small businesses to go.  I wonder whether splashy moving vehicles are even better advertising?

November 18, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

We were visiting my mom in the hospital, and tonight she was in a bad mood.  She was hungry and couldn't reach her food before we came (suffering the tortures of Tantalus), and after we came she was too exhausted with frustration to eat.

She had taken to sticking her tongue out at us (which she never does, I might add, to hospital employees.)

Her behavior inspired in us a run of humor at her expense in the form of story titles:

The Case of the Cantankerous Quaker (in which a supposedly meek and sweet Quaker lady runs around sticking her tongue out at innocent people.)

The Place of Pinned-Down Pin-ups (in which - well, go ahead and imagine what you want.  I didn't get far enough to invent a plot for that one.)

Have to leave something to the imagination of the reader!

Besides, it's time to go laugh at Leno!


November 17, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

Well, what do you know.  A friend of mine just read aloud to me about two twins reared separately, both of whom would push upward on their nose with their palm and call it "squidging."

Wiktionary also lists squidge as having two meanings:  a verb that means to squash, most often between the fingers (sounds too much like squish to me) and a noun meaning a narrow space.

Not really interested in the "word", myself.  It was just a random group of letters concocted at 2AM to make a point.  A completely original one might have served my purpose better, but then I thought it was!

No more about squidges or squidging, please!

But I have had a couple follow-up thoughts designed to shock and/or displease and/or amuse.

Is a fundamentalist Christian a fuchr?  Are the fine arts farts?  Is kiddie lit klit?

Are those examples of squidging?

If so, I'll pack up my portmanteau and go!

November 16, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

Why does English have so many long words in it, like "anthropomorphism" and "antidisestablishmentarianism?"

There are still lots of unused short letter combos, like, say, "squidge."

Of course, you could say such a short word should possess a meaning related to its make-up.  In that case you might say that "squidge" should mean "a smidgeon of squid."

This could theoretically be very useful to my partner.

He would love to be able to say, "Have a squidge," any day of the week, because that would mean he could have squid every day.  And he wouldn't mind that at all!

But why couldn't "squidge" mean something else entirely?

Don't we have lots of short sounds that are part of longer words that are completely unrelated in meaning?  (So what if I can't think of any off-hand - don't we?)

So why shouldn't "squidge" be used to describe, say, "a person outraged by squirrels?"

Oh.  That sounds kind of like, too, doesn't it?  And how many people could be described by that meaning?

(Well, lots of people, actually, but somehow that thought isn't taking me to where I want to go...)

(Where did I want to go, anyway?)

I think I want to go back to bed!

Hope there aren't too many squidges in it.

(Squishy witches?  widgets?)

Thingsthatgobumpinthenight?  Insomniagenicommiserabilities?

November 15, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

At the hospital this morning my mom stuck her tongue out at me.  That was good - her wheezing today is scaring me a little.

She's getting feisty - that's a good sign.  All of a sudden it occurred to me:  is feisty related to fist?

That got a chuckle from everyone (except perhaps my mother, who is right now in a condition to laugh only at her own jokes.)

So when I got home I looked up feisty in the OED.  Well, that is a joke in itself!  Read it - the travel of language goes up the chimney like Santa Claus comes down!

I'll go ahead and tell you the funniest part, though.  According to an old slang dictionary, it is a puff of air from behind ("more noticeable perhaps for odor than for sound") that old ladies could blame on their lapdogs!

Is that a hoot, or what?  But really, the travel of the meaning of the word from ON  (Old Norse?) to now is really amusing.

And the answer to my question whether feisty and fist are related?  No.

Fist comes from the word five.

So someone who is feisty is historically not putting up his fists!

But isn't it fun to speculate!

(Now, is that related to spectacles......?)

November 14, 2009                                        Valparaiso, IN

My sister said today that years ago we took a trip to Rochester, MN to see a friend of mine who had moved away. Supposedly we took a tour of some factory or other because her father worked for IBM.

I have no recollection of this at all.

Quite frankly, I think she is mistaken and she went on that trip with someone else.

The only time I remember being in Minnesota besides visiting my sister at her school, Carleton, was taking a family camping trip around the Great Lakes.

Lake Superior was so clean water from the lake was piped directly into the campgrounds.

I remember Duluth, Minnesota, where there was a big factory outlet.  I bought a white angora sweater and a red and black quilted reversible jacket there.  Burlington Coat factory outlet, it was called.  I did not hear the name again for decades, possibly, but now they advertise and ship, ship ship!

(Maybe they did that before, but I couldn't say.)

I read an article lately that 12% of our product transportation in the U.S.A. (including gas and oil through pipelines) is still conducted on water.

Nice to know that at least once in a while, the word "ship" still means "ship".

Did I remember buying two articles of clothing and forget visiting a friend in a town two states away?

I don't think so.  I will wait for my sister to say, "Oh, right, come to think of it, that was so-and-so."

Hmm.  I don't think so.

Yet another experience (whose?) lost to the sands of time.

November 13, 2009                                        Valparaiso, IN

I'm a little worried about the little red squirrel that hangs out in our yard.

Sure, he's quick and sassy.  But those gray squirrels are so much bigger!

I'm wondering if we should put out those slightly stale sunflower seeds out there for the little guy, but maybe the others will just come and grab them and get even stronger.

The squirrels used to sit on this old rotting collapsing wooden side table under the walnut trees to eat.

I took it away, finally.  It was so decrepit.

Now the squirrels eat on the back steps.  The two bottom back steps, which have been pristine (?) gray cement for fifty years, are stained halfway across with brown walnut.

I wonder how long it will take for the stain to weather out?

Now I'm casting about for another little old wooden table to rot under the walnut tree!

November 12, 2009                                        Valparaiso, IN

I remember learning about the short story being all about mood.  One mood is sustained throughout the story.

It just occurred to me today that the short story is also about being present in the moment.  A novel can collapse years and speak of intent over the course of a lifetime.

A short story is all about being honest about feelings and reality moment by moment.

Maybe short stories should be more highly regarded than they are.

Are they becoming more popular now because we have less leisure?

I noticed a whole shelf of brand-new short-story books recently at the library.

November 11, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

My mom is in the hospital, scheduled for surgery tomorrow, and the physical therapist wants her to walk.

Why?  She wonders.  Why do I have to exercise?  Why do I have to work?  Because it is good for your heart and your circulation, I say.  You have to keep that stuff in good shape so it will work and you can exercise.

"Sounds like a wicious workle to me," says my mom.

November 10, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

A friend of mine who used to be a fundamentalist Christian and is now an atheist as the result of an attempt to prove the existence of God, once asked me, "If there is no God, what is the motivation to be good?"

My response was of the usual "common good" order.  Empathy, compassion, justice, the internalization of values we were taught in our childhoods - those things are what keep us "good" whether or not we believe in God.

This morning my partner added another motive:  "To avoid an ass-kickin' by his fellow unbelievers!"

Amen to that!

November 9, 2009                                        Valparaiso, IN

Public Health Option - I wonder how many things it could affect that people haven't thought of.

If people are well instead of sick, they are more productive.  Work is more likely to yield income than sickness and incapacity, therefore an individual is more likely to pay taxes if she is healthy.  This increase in productivity could more than pay for the cost of the health care that cured her.

Everybody would pay for health care the way everyone pays now for Medicaid and Medicare.  That spreads the cost around and makes the average cost low - probably like what I spend on chocolate!

(Come to think of it, I think I used to have an insurance policy that cost (then) what I pay for chocolate now.)

Oh, come on, don't get all self-righteous on me - it's dark chocolate!  And I've made a commitment to give an equal amount of money to worthy causes!

(I haven't completely honored that commitment yet, but I'm working on it!)

Really, the public health option is a must.  The government owes it to its law-abiding citizens to give us health care as good as it gives criminals in prisons.

Otherwise, that's cruel and unusual punishment for not breaking the law!

How twisted is that!

November 8, 2009                                        Valparaiso, IN

I saw a hook for an article about dogs that suggested that dogs might not be thinking what we think they are thinking.

I read the article, but not before I had a few thoughts of my own.  Maybe dogs don't really love us. (Well, of course they don't, but do humans either?  (A topic for another day!))

They say dogs lick us on the face in the same way wolf pups lick their moms.  Licking stimulates mom to regurgitate food for them.

So, mostly, it would seem, to dogs we=mommy=food source.  That is okay, but what happens if we stop bringing home the bacon?  Do dogs consider us to be food-storing silos?  If we stop bringing home food, dogs might reason, that's okay.  We are food!

...or am I thinking like a cat?

November 7, 2009                                        Valparaiso, IN

When Mom and I sat in the emergency room at Porter Hospital for eight hours, at one point we heard Brahm's Lullabye broadcast over the sound system.

Later I read a notice in the elevator that every time a baby is born at the hospital, they play the lullabye over the whole place to let everyone know that a joyous event has occurred there.

My immediate reaction - quickly squelched - was:  what do they play when somebody dies?  Chopin's funeral march?

Of course they don't play something everytime someone dies.  That would be depressing.

But I'm kind of surprised that in all my visits since Tuesday I haven't heard Brahm's Lullabye again.  Where are all the babies?  Is the birth rate down?  Or are most of them born, like my children, during the night?

But playing Brahm's Lullaby after the birth is a very cool idea, don't you think?

Maybe different hospitals could choose different lullabies.  I can fancy that as part of the tracking down of someone's birthplace.  They get hypnotized - and sing a lullabye!

November 6, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

It is not hard for me to fathom why a military psychiatrist would go off the deep end and shoot up a bunch of soldiers.

Everybody has a breaking point, and only those who are lucky enough to have the space (including, admittedly, mental space) and options to escape the pressures building up to the danger point don't go berserk.  Thank goodness, most of us never reach the point of no return in our anger.

The killer at Fort Hood had reportedly been harassed for his religion and was refused a discharge from the military, which he had patiently sought for years.  Now he was facing deployment to the Mideast!  How heartless can an institution get?

Land of the free, indeed. 

November 5, 2009                                       Valparaiso, IN

Are vices bad habits?  If so, are virtues just good habits?

Can a virtue descend to the level of a habit?

I think we expect more of our virtues than that they be merely habits, but then what makes a vice that is more than a bad habit?

Would a thing bad for you or others that isn't a habit somehow be considered more sinful than a compulsive habit could possibly be?

Why?  Don't we have to take responsibility for all of it?

Doesn't any habit have an aspect of, well, laziness about it?  And how would that be so virtuous?

Just wondering.

November 4, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

If it is good for your mind to learn how to do new things with your hands, is it good to learn to do new things with your elbows?

If I learn to elbow my way through a crowd, would that be a good thing - for my mind?

What about learning to pediculate things - would learning to paint with a brush gripped between my toes expand my mind, too?  Has anyone studied this stuff?

When I was in high school I thought I would like to learn bassoon, and I played bassoon in the reserve band.  (I usually played oboe.)

Maybe it made me smarter, but I soon dropped the bassoon because I felt as if I was going back to "kidneygarden" with the lower instrument.  On the oboe I was in high school!

The same thing happened when I tried to learn violin with my daughter.  I thought it might be a good instrument to play in my old age (the oboe takes wind and a lot of pressure - not good for the lungs.)  Older age, perhaps, took away my desire to go back to kindergarten via the violin.

So what might be the best course?  Learning something new or doing something old well?

I dunno.  But I do know about boredom, and learning something new can be fun.

What's better for you?  Have any ideas to share?

I'm partial to new fun.  Is that old and/or wise?

How about a kidneygarden?  Would that be a organ-growing petri dish?  Or a steak and kidney pie?

This is my brain on fatigue!

November 3, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

Well, give fate an opportunity to stomp on you and it will.  Today was glorious, gorgeous.  While my daughter and I were raking leaves this morning, we were accompanied by a leaf-blower across the street.  So much for the quiet small-town experience.

Then late in the morning, I accompanied my mom to the ER.  She will be okay, but neither of us enjoyed the glorious day for the eight hours we spent in a windowless ER room!

Don't complain about the weather, folks!

Weatherless may be worse.

November 2, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

After traveling across country, getting into even more debt having an absolutely wonderful time, I'm wondering.  Is the economy better yet?  I've stimulated just about as much as I can afford!

In Las Cruces we heard that the bad economy hasn't affected folks much.  I can't say the same for Valparaiso.  There are quite a few houses in the neighborhood for sale (great neighborhood!  Come on by and buy one!)

I hear there are jobs in Indianapolis.

Me, I'm out of the labor force.  That doesn't mean I have no work.  I'm an (unpaid) employee of the city.

Today I combed and cut my lawn's hair, a good deal of it on city property.

I have very negative feelings about the date November 3, which I associate with a sudden plunge in temperature accompanied by gray skies and the first snow flurries of Fall.  Therefore I took advantage of the fabulous weather today to get ready for winter.

There's more work to do tomorrow, so wish me luck!  It is supposed to be sunny, so the rest of the lawn will be groomed in the morning.

My imaginary November 3rd weather can procrastinate its arrival as long as it wants.

There's a fantasy I don't want fulfilled!

November 1, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

Whew!  Maybe now life can get back to normal.

Yesterday morning we went to a play reading of a play adapted by a neighbor from a story by Tolstoy.  It was a full two acts, including stage directions.  I loved it and am looking forward to the production!

Then in the afternoon we went grocery shopping, I took a walk downtown to buy more candy and borrow a couple of movies from the library.

And the evening, of course, was Halloween!  We just hung out downstairs and gave treats to trick-or-treaters.  I especially loved some teenagers with glittery mascara, and a ghost with "blood" gushing through his translucent mask.

A little after eight o'clock I left my daughter with the treat duty and went upstairs to watch Appaloosa.  Dang!  She got to witness the first Halloween trick-or-treat street theater I have ever heard of!

A college student slit his girlfriend's throat with a fake knife and she fell down dead.  My daughter commented to him, "I don't know if I should give candy to a murderer!" but of course she did.  The young woman wouldn't get up until my daughter closed the door and went back inside.  (Don't worry - the "victim" is not still there.  We checked!)

What a wonderful new innovation for Halloween!

(And perfect inspiration for a murder mystery!)

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