5/1/07-Tues.-Austin has just joined the list of major cities considered hazardous to its citizens because of air pollution particulates and auto-produced ozone. Such hazards are found to exacerbate or cause major respiratory disease (such as asthma) problems for hundreds of thousands of the berg's residents. As such, living in Austin is now considered a risk likely to shorten the life, or significantly lower the life quality, of its average city dweller.
No doubt in more than one way taking our lives into our hands, Frances and I drove across town late this morning for another delicious brunch at the Alborz Persian restaurant.
5/3/07-Thurs.-Went to the dream group last night, returning in yet another thunderstorm. Then, about 1:30, a new one swept through. Roughly an hour later, still another one noisily blasted by. Our new grass is getting an excellent start, and we are certainly receiving plenty of rain.
Tonight, I'm going to a planning meeting at the library. My sore wrist cannot be asked to do any significant work, volunteer or otherwise, but at least I can participate in this evening's discussion.
It appears, unless someone unexpectedly pulls a rabbit out of a hat, the current type operations, leading to extensive sales of bargain books for the mutual benefit of the community and the library system (the net added to Austin Public Library coffers in 2006 from such operations being "into six figures"), are coming to a halt in the next several weeks. The present location will soon have to be cleared so construction of a new local library building there can begin. We have nowhere (affordable or free) to go after that, and numerous challenges must be overcome before a new operation of this type can begin.
5/4/07-Fri.-I sometimes regret not living at or very near the sea. One of the great things for me about the ocean is the effect there of wild weather. A storm on the coast seems particularly awesome. But a neat aspect of living in central TX I have discovered, and this is of course more in awareness lately, is that here we have among the highest incidence, at least in the U.S., of cloudbursts leading to flashfloods. I've been a witness to some of the latter. They can indeed be quite dramatic!
Am proceeding through my latest new reads: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and Dust to Dust, by Lillian Stewart Carl. The latter I cannot recommend, but it is a book group selection. The Road, however, is superb!
This evening, I took Puff on a long walk through residential and greenbelt areas where I had not gone in several years. She had a couple good voluntary submersions in deep, clear run-off water. We also saw five deer, which the canine found exciting.
Later, I meditated for awhile, before time to get ready for bed.
Fran and I also went to one of the Trés Amigos Tex-Mex restaurants this afternoon. This morning, she had gone to Hornsby Bend, one of her favorite (usually weekly) sites for insect, spider, and reptile photography. Meanwhile, I had a bank run, did grocery shopping, and researched some stocks.
5/5/07-Sat.-Up about 8 AM. Frances promptly left this morning for a sub gig with the San Antonio Symphony (rehearsal today, performance tomorrow) in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I took Puff for a morning walk. It is relatively warm and humid as we commence the weekend. I listened on KMFA to "Film Score Focus." Later, I brought Frances back a sandwich treat for lunch, but, as it turned out, we went to Tien Jin for lunch and saved the sandwiches for supper.
The tendonitis is still, literally, a real pain!
Got a call from my sister-in-law, Mary, confirming a visit next month. We had a nice, long chat.
5/6/07-Sun.-Went to my Sunday afternoon dream group. We had a productive, if not particularly upbeat, session. As usual, the interpretation of my dream came as a surprise. And there was another surprise: a referral to an alternative medicine therapist who may be able to help with my tendonitis, short of cortisone or surgery, either of which I was told can leave permanent damage.
5/7/07-Mon.-Frances is hard on her cars, so that they wear out relatively quickly. At least she tends to run them into the proverbial ground before we get a new one, but they would operate more safely, efficiently, and probably longer if she were more careful about things. The main concern I have is that, when driving alone, she often goes too long without adding any oil, for instance on her all but non-stop drives to and from FL for visits with her Mom. Each of her cars has thus before long had fairly worn out engines and so has burned oil badly. They have also easily had the "check engine" light burning, necessitating still more expense to get the vehicle to comply with pollution requirements, if not good operation.
As mentioned before, on Saturday she had gone to San Antonio for a rehearsal with the San Antonio Symphony. Afterward, the oil level was at the lowest possible level on the dip-stick to still show any bare minimum of oil yet in the car. So, I added more for her and advised her once again, as so often, to check it herself and add more if needed, once she had gone about another 90-100 miles, the maximum safe driving distance without pouring more in, now that the auto burns oil so badly.
This morning, however, when asked she admitted she had driven both to San Antonio, for the Sunday symphony performance, and back and still had not checked or added to the car oil. She indicated that she knew without checking that it would not need any. It is even possible this assessment would have been correct, but why take a chance when so often the car is being driven way beyond the point it needs more oil, given that the consequences of being wrong are severe? In fact, many times when she has made such subjective assessments about the car's lubrication needs, they have been completely wrong.
Since this issue has come up on multiple occasions between us, with evidently no change whatever in her behavior, but instead with her just relying on me to add oil once she is back in Austin (and on the car to bear up indefinitely under such mistreatment), and since I feel rather taken for granted in this situation, I let her know today that, from now on when we are not driving together, she will be responsible for her own oil checks and additions, dealing with it if she breaks down on the highway when she has run out of oil, getting her own oil changes, and once again replacing her long-suffering vehicles when, likely earlier than otherwise, they will have to be traded in on newer models.
This caused some briefly heated exchanges between us, but I did not get the impression she was really surprised by my attitude. She then went out and on her own took care of the Toyota's latest oil needs.
In spite of such transactions (i.e. Games People Play, by Eric Berne), we were soon in bright enough spirits to go together to Jason's Deli for a pleasant brunch.
5/8/07-Tues.-I saw a three-inch-long worm snake last night, while Puff and I were on a long walk.
I heard a health news piece on the radio to the effect that one never really, completely catches up on lost sleep. Of course, one can later get enough rest, but the earlier deficit evidently leaves at least mild residual effects, such as memory disruption, a little extra stress, and slightly lower immune system strength. So, it would behoove us to assure sufficient rest (80% as effective as sleep itself) or sound slumber.
Thinking about a quandary from the last dream journal entry, I wonder if it may become easier to complete a shift from greater awareness to a positive unifying transformation if, in addition to regular meditation and a healthy diet, one is sleeping enough and getting plenty of both aerobic and conditioning exercise.
A weird day in various ways... Got the mower ready for Fran to cut the backyard. She is helping out for awhile with the grass cutting, the first time she's needed to tackle that chore, because my tendonitis is still so severe. Drove up late this afternoon for a Jewish mysticism class in north Austin. Due to a wreck on Mopac, this took 70 minutes of mostly stop-and-go traffic, but I'd left early and so was barely on time.
5/11/07-Fri.-Up a little after 6 AM to write down some dreams. Then back to bed, getting up next about 7:30. We left around 9:20 for our Mother's Day weekend visit in Waco.
Once there and after unloading the car, Fran, Mom, and I went out to lunch. Later, we had about an hour of siesta each, and then were ready for several more hours of activity.
My tendonitis continues to be quite symptomatic, despite avoiding much stress at all on the right wrist, wearing a splint on the joint almost continuously, doing mild physical therapy exercises, and taking lots of Ibuprofen.
I'm having my car serviced early next week, but thereafter, unless the tendon soreness is much improved, will arrange for appointments to see if more can be done about it.
This evening, I took Puff on a 2-3 mile walk, and then Mom and I watched several of our favorite weekly business or current events TV programs.
5/12/07-Sat.-Up about 3 and again about 6 AM with long dreams I wrote down. Then up for good a little after 7:00. Breakfast with Mom while Frances and Puff had gone to the Woodway Arboretum. Got myself ready for the day and did some meditation while Fran and Mom worked on a problem Mother was having with her computer's e-mail system, now that she has a server that is not as convenient from her point of view as AOL.
We went out to eat again for lunch. Ron showed up while we were away.
He, Puff, and I took a long walk this evening and saw several rabbits. Once back and doing the dishes after supper, we saw seven deer in a field behind Mom's place.
5/16/07-Wed.-Have resumed my volunteer work at the library facility, though today I was doing essentially just one-handed tasks there. Mainly, I was hanging out, enjoying others' company. Frances was away for much of the day doing nature photography in one of several wild areas she likes.
Last night and tonight, I attended book discussion groups too. We had quite good sessions on both occasions. Today I also renewed my library card.
The weather has been pleasant over the past day or so. Yesterday, in the early morning, we received over an inch of rain as a thunderstorm and cool front passed through Austin. On a four-mile walk with Puff this evening, after the book meeting, temperatures were cool enough to be quite comfortable, unusual for this area and time of year. I'm of the "enjoy it while I can!" attitude.
5/22/07-Tues.-Again this afternoon, there is that age old question: what to do with both a super hardon and a desperate need to pee, two mutually exclusive functions pending for the same organ, one supposedly created by a God with, evidently, a terrific sense of humor!
I left for my far north Austin class on Jewish mysticism this afternoon about 4:30, well ahead of time, to avoid the worst of commuter traffic. Still ran into some stop-and-go congestion, but it was not nearly as bad as two weeks ago. Of course, as Fran points out, schools are now closed, which makes a difference. I stopped at Trudy's North for supper before going on to the meeting.
Last night, we had a little rain as another thunderstorm passed through. It made for less sleep than usual, particularly as our canine was upset.
Yesterday, I went to a medical appointment about the still symptomatic wrist. My doctor gave me a new referral (the first one for my back, about two years ago) to physical therapy, but he had nothing new to advise about my tendonitis otherwise.
I asked him about occasional "word salad" or "senior moment" episodes. He said even he, much younger than I, once in awhile has little mental slip-ups like this. He added that there is no way for him to tell in an office exam if I were experiencing anything unusual for my age, but that there were a couple ways to go if I felt it is becoming a problem. But I cannot tell if it is problematic or not. If so, the difficulties are still rather mild, but I told him I wondered if diagnostics were appropriate, to head off or limit more serious difficulties later.
He said that, based on my exam today, I don't have any evidence of clogged carotid arteries, so too little blood being supplied to the brain is unlikely. I could get an ultrasound to scope out the carotid arteries better than he could by feel or with a stethoscope, but if early clogging were detected it might not yet be warranted to do surgery. Given my father's history of such clogging, though, it would not be unreasonable to expect to see some of this type difficulty in my arteries as well, and at some point they may need to be cleaned out. (Interestingly, though, Dad did not show any significant mental deterioration till after he'd had some noticeable small and then larger strokes.)
The other way to go would be to investigate some kind of brain damage. Unfortunately, he said, there is no definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer's, if that's what I'm concerned about. If I wished, he would refer me to a neurologist who might, in turn, order or conduct a series of psychometric and central nervous system tests for me, after which I might receive an opinion kind of like a weather forecast, about the probabilities I may have Alzheimer's (or not).
But even if it were determined at some point that I actually have Alzheimer's Disease, there is little to be done about it. There is some medication that sometimes helps, but, "catch 22," it is contraindicated for people with prostate problems and so would not be an option for me.
He added that at my age most mental lapses or memory problems are due to insufficient sleep or to dietary deficiencies.
Bottom line: he's willing to go with my decision if I prefer expensive diagnostics, but his advice, at least for now, would be to emphasize quality nutrition and getting plenty of snooze time instead. The difficulties that are of concern might go away then, but if instead they get worse, more might be done.
As it happens, sleep deficits are now quite common for me, for a variety of reasons, but including both the prostate situation and my wife and I having rather different or unpredictable sleep schedules. When I mentioned this, he said trying to do one's usual activities after too little rest is like trying to operate a car with a nearly dead battery. (I would guess he must have had a lot of experience with this during his residency days.)
5/25/07-Fri.-Have stopped for breakfast in Georgetown, on my way to Waco. Went through a big rainstorm. Traffic conditions were harrowing for awhile, but I encountered no mishaps.
Later. Mom and I had a late lunch, then rested for an hour or so. We left for Virginia's official high school graduation ceremonies in plenty of time to get good parking. We were able to sit with Horace, Leila, Christopher, and Keith. Virginia was honored not only as a graduate but also as a member of the National Honor Society and as the recipient of a scholarship to her chosen university.
Afterward, while Mom got soused, she and I watched a good John Wayne movie.
5/26/07-Sat.-A funny aspect of the drive to the graduation last night: Mom wore her near vision computer glasses while driving us in her van. She would later admit she wondered what had gone wrong with her eyesight, that it was suddenly so much worse, but did not own up to this and had just kept heading on down the roads. She failed to notice the reason for her new optical difficulties till we were well along watching the graduation ceremonies. Of course, when (if ever) I'm her age, I may be making worse mistakes.
Once a number of folks were here for the family's latest acknowledgements of Virginia's achievements, Charley challenged me to a few chess games, amazing himself, he said, because he had always thought it must just be the most boring of games, and surprising me too. We played three matches. I had offered to play without one of my significant pieces, but he wanted to do it "straight." I won, but he's coming along with it.
There was also a lot of pool playing. And much drinking of Mom's beverages and eating of her snacks, etc.
There has been mild flooding and lots of rain around here. Mom's yard is becoming more like a swamp, particularly as the new landscaping in back sends a creek into her yard and driveway whenever it rains. There was no satisfaction at all when she and her neighbors talked with city officials about the problem. Instead, the bureaucracy has evidently already been preparing its legal brief on how and why it did everything right and why Mom and her neighbors are just wrong in thinking that anything the city or the developer have done is now causing them problems.
I had suggested weeks ago a lawyer and a suit as the likely best options. Around here, downstream from the huge new mound of earth the developer left, some of the houses themselves, not just the yards, are now flooding, almost certainly as a consequence of the big build-up of dirt behind. Ernie has told Mom it is illegal to change the landscaping in ways that lower the adjacent property values, which is exactly what has happened. Still, so far, folks are just kind of waiting to see if the city will reconsider the position it has already taken on the matter. All in all, I predict nothing will be done and that the several affected home owners, unwilling to take legal action, will now just be out of luck.
This evening nothing was planned among Mom and her many guests but more visiting, eating, drinking, TV, and pool. Virginia, the guest of honor, got bored and left early to be with her friends. Horace got bored and left to work on projects at his house. I got bored and have resorted to journal writing, reading, etc. I had suggested a movie, at least, but nobody is talking of doing anything really interesting.
Meanwhile, little Seymour and Sharon are being looked after by whomever happens to be close at hand, which often does not include their parents, Allen or Nina. Same old, same old...
5/27/07-Sun.-Got about 7½ hrs. of rest last night. Had a pleasant enough visit today with Ernie and family (minus William, who once again is behaving weirdly, coming on the trip, ostensibly to help Virginia celebrate her graduation, but then not showing up at Mom's place where the festivities were being held), Horace and family (minus Heather and Chris), Allen and family, Abel (Virginia's friend), Mom, and Mary.
The monsoon continues here. Thanks to the developer's poor landscaping, Mom's patio has become a lake, and there is enough water gushing down the driveway and filling the front yard that, for the second morning in a row, the paper is sopping wet, even in its plastic sleeve (open at one end).
Mom is thoroughly loving this weekend, though. As more and more people have not merely shown up but spent vast quantities of their time sitting about or sleeping at her place, you can see her metaphorical extrovert, grandmotherly, or maternal petals opening as to a fresh new sun.
This to the extent that, by last night, though in her cups as usual, she was again and again exclaiming about what a wonderful weekend this is turning out to be. Despite her own inebriation and the kid's being more wired than Puff in play-starved mode, Mom invited Allen and Nina, who were eager to accept, to let three-year-old Sharon sleep in her (Mom's) room last night.
Again and again, as I was finishing up my teeth and pills chores, I heard a patient Mom, though with slurred speech, inviting Sharon to settle down and go to sleep now, and then I would hear either another bang or two, as Sharon would leap onto her pallet pad from one or another higher launching position or Sharon's squeal of delight at some extra narcissistic insight she might have just had, like how nice her post-bath body was in its clean freshness, how pretty her bedclothes, etc.
Mary and I had a good discussion, for close to an hour this morning before several others were up, of our esoteric groups, recent experiences, and philosophies.
Mom and I had also taken Nina to Horace and Leila's church about mid-morning, through the intense showers and semi-flooded roads of another impressive thunderstorm.
All the celebrants were on hand by about 1 PM. We ate a big home-cooked meal, supplemented with take-out fried chicken plus store-bought cake and ice cream. Gifts and cards were given to Virginia. In lieu of my usually long-winded "roast" comments, I just threatened her with making public a (hated by her) photo I'd taken of her in a very unbecoming wig, at the end of one of her lead performances in a high school play, if, when she is nominated for an Academy Award (as she's majoring in theater starting in August) she does not sneak me into those august ceremonies.
The drive to Austin this afternoon included great cloud formations but was otherwise uneventful. It was good to be home.
5/29/07-Tues.-Had my first PT appointment for tendonitis today. There were a few exercises, but this was essentially just an evaluation. My physical therapist confirmed and refined the doctor's diagnosis, indicating I have a particular kind of tendon inflammation extending down (up the arm) from the base of the right thumb. She prescribed some simple home exercises, but said a long-term resolution of the difficulty may involve using my whole body more efficiently, relying less on thumbs or fingers for strong pressure, as when giving Fran a massage, and more on the weight or force of the back, trunk, and/or legs. She wants me to go in for new PT appointments twice a week for awhile. She also said she thought some weakness or pain in my upper back/right shoulder blade area may have caused a less productive use of my muscles in the right upper extremity. She may give me some exercises to strengthen the right shoulder blade and upper back as well the ones for the hand and wrist. She advised still not doing any yard mowing or massages till there is more improvement and to continue to use a wrist splint when driving or doing (reduced exertion) volunteer work at the library. In general, I am also not to exert the right thumb and wrist to the point of pain, as this would exacerbate the condition rather than allowing it to heal.
Chances are slim that my life is over, though it is surely a lot more so than when I was in the first grade. But I've been having a concept of one's existence being like school, for which of course one gets report cards. And it occurs to me that, finally, I have graduated. I don't know what my overall average has been, maybe B-, maybe C+ or something, but the point is I'm an alumnus now. It's too late to repeat any levels or go back and correct a deficiency here or there. For better or worse, the cumulative grade stands. When I was in school, it was almost all about duty, what I had to do or needed to do to graduate eventually with, if fortunate, a good total grade, but... whatever. There was precious little joy in the whole endeavor, though plenty of tears (mostly unshed). School is out now, and I don't have to do much of anything for the balance of my allotted time, be it 15 minutes, 15 years, or perhaps a few more or less. And it could be it is not too late for the joy.
During my class tonight, once more on Jewish history and mysticism, several related or unconnected thoughts or ideas occurred:
5/30/07-Wed.-Did a library shift today. Also packed up my stuff and went over to Janet's to look after her dog, Homer, while she's in a city out East for several days.
I was planning to take the dog for a walk before the dream group meeting tonight, but Christine called and said she was feeling too badly to drive and that none of her usual rides were available. She accepted my offer to get her and gave me directions.
We got back in time to unlock Janet's door for the meeting, but nobody else showed up. Christine and I were both tired and not in the best of moods, but carried on anyway. We discussed a dream of mine and also some clarification of the one I had taken to the meeting last week. Christine had no dream this time, but we talked some of her negative feelings, that in some ways mirror my own, with far more cause. I'm afraid we were kind of bumming each other out. Not a very uplifting time.
She helped me get Homer into the back of my car so I could take him to a good place (I hoped) to walk a sick, old canine, and then, first, I drove Christine home and dropped her off.
Homer is harder to handle than I had anticipated, but I was able to lead him on a slow, short walk behind the Barnes & Noble shopping center in South Austin.
I unpacked and ate a snack after we got back. Janet's house, at an almost permanent 78°F, is uncomfortable, there are palmetto bugs, ants, and mosquitoes, and Homer makes lots of weird movements and sounds that are disturbing, but he seems actually to be doing OK, for an old pooch that may be about to die of cancer.
Tomorrow, Homer and I must make an early start, as I have a physical therapy appointment at 9 AM, so hopefully I can get to sleep before too late.
Based on how I feel after just part of one day in a new accommodation, the prospect of a several weeks road trip alone no longer seems inviting.
The Ibuprofen for my tendonitis causes me to bleed more easily. This morning about a third of my right eye was covered in blood. I assume I accidentally broke a vessel rubbing my eyes while still half asleep just after getting up. So, I've stopped taking the medication till the bleeding stops and my eye clears up.
Christine recommended I find ways to intersperse my "Northwest Passage" trip with people connections at times along the way. She does not think I would be at my best for long alone, particularly in unfamiliar surroundings. I think I'll take this advice with a grain of salt. Of course, since last week's dream group meeting, little seems exciting. If I'm going to be "down" anyway, I can do it at home as well as in WA and at far less cost. I suppose till last week I had the illusion that dream work and/or a lengthy trip to a beautiful area might truly make a difference. Now I'm wondering if anything can.
5/31/07-Thurs.-From the ego's point of view, a day of mixed blessings. The stay at Janet's is feeling more routine. And I enjoyed a brief thunderstorm we experienced this morning, dark and imposing in its approach during an early walk with Homer. The PT appointment went well, and I got new exercises to do for tendonitis improvements. Fran and I went to Indian Palace for a lunch buffet. The food and drink were both excellent. Today, I've been feeling more positive and optimistic about the upcoming Pacific NW trip.
On the other hand, living in and out of two houses is disorienting. It may also increase a bit the stress on Fran's and my relationship. In any case, there was more bickering between us. This was depressing and kept us somewhat on edge.
I think for Fran and myself there is always the issue about which is preferable, living alone or with each other. It is perhaps more the case now that we are retired and potentially spending a lot more time together. We may not wish to acknowledge such a concern, but, though technically we are in each other's company a great deal now, we adjust to a certain tension between us by often doing things in different places, at least in separate rooms, if we do not also go away without the partner, as for visits with relatives, my volunteer work, Fran's part-time rehearsals and performances, separate interest groups, day trips and longer vacations apart, or her many nature photography outings. It is a circumstance I find saddening, but maybe this is only because I still cling to an idealized view of the marriage dyad.
In fact, we do have ways we engage well, from looking after or playing with Puff, putting out a now more than 10-year-old newsletter, sharing anecdotes and other interesting learning about history, literature, science, politics, etc., or going out to eat to many good restaurants. There remains for us too at least an intermittent sex life. And, when my wrist works or has worked better, we exchange long massages, that have been a boon for us both. In our better moods, we also share surprisingly rich senses of humor.
Birds: Fran and I saw four Monk or Parson Parrots the last time we went, a few days ago, to the Tien Jin restaurant in south Austin. Several of them have built another community nest nearby.
And yesterday, while walking Homer I saw a large V of water birds of some type, too long and relatively slender to have been ducks or geese. I would have said they were cranes, but they were heading south. This is hardly the time of year for a migration, certainly not in that direction.
On my walk with Homer this evening, the sunset was quite eye-pleasing to the west, while the orange, almost red, nearly full moon was impressive just above the horizon to the east.
Am currently reading The March, by E.L. Doctorow. It seems to be another superb work. I highly endorse it.
Later. Am experiencing a new ordeal over at Janet's: fleas. Wonderful. No, on second thought, the "bites" must be chiggers, residuals of my walks with Homer. Even better.