Monday, June 29, 2009

R.I.P.-- Again

As I skimmed the local paper this morning, there was a brief article that Gale Storm has also died this weekend. A "B" movie actress, she was one of the first to star in her own sitcoms, notably, "My Little Margie" and "The Gale Storm Show." Her characters got themselves into a pickle every week, usually from the best impulses of their heart.

Was the dialogue snappy? Were the situations believable? About as much as "I Love Lucy." It was a different era. These were shows my parents watched; they were not geared towards those of us in the "peanut gallery." (We were expected to either remain in the room quietly or be doing something appropriate--like homework--somewhere else.)

According to the paper, Ms. Storm met her first husband during a talent contest. They had four children and remained married until his death. Ms. Storm re-married and remained so until her second husband also passed away. Wow--a simple life!

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen

Sunday, June 28, 2009


First there was Ed McMahon. Second banana to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, Ed introduced Johnny, played the straight man, laughed at the punch lines, and moved down the couch when it was time.

Would "Here's Johhhhneee!" as uttered by Jack Nicholson been as scary if we hadn't heard it first from the completely non-threatening Ed?

Then there was Farah Fawcett. Unfortunately, the last performance I saw of hers was a roast of William Shatner. She looked drugged or drunk, her slip strap falling down her shoulder. She was incoherent and didn't seem sure why she was there. Frankly, I wasn't sure, either.

Sis#2 had the feathered Farah 'do in junior high. I was impressed by Farah's athletic ability: she did her own skateboarding stunts, back in the day when skateboards were little more than a board on wheels. They were also much smaller than today's high-tech version.

Farah was upstaged by Michael Jackson. The summer I turned 19, I was a counselor at Girl Scout camp and pictures of The Jackson 5 and The Osmond Brothers were lovingly plastered on tree trunks in the units of the 'tween girls. Arguments about the relative musical merits and "dreaminess" of each group, and specifically between Michael and Donny, were frequent and often heated. As the adult, I was called on to arbitrate.

My answer: I preferred Simon & Garfunkel.

Who? That usually was enough to stop any further arguments.

And now Billy Mays. Who would have thought a TV pitchman would have become a celebrity, including his own show? His death seems the oddest, most arbitrary of all. He seemed so ordinary. Wife, family, just making a living pitching products. No drama. No outrageous behavior.

Death comes for us all.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen

Monday, June 22, 2009

And How Did You Spend Your Father's Day?

My philosophy on Father's Day is the same as my philosophy on Mother's Day: although it's a made up holiday, it's importance is in the heart of the recipient. So while I'm not keen on Mother's Day and I absolutely do not want any gifts from Hubs because I am not his mother, he is more into Father's Day.

I had a terrific idea. The Red Oak Victory, a Liberty ship turned into a floating museum, anchored near the Kaiser shipyard where it was built, was having a Father's Day pancake breakfast on board. Hubs loves the Red Oak Victory and has been to several Scouting events held there. I like history and ships. I could guilt the kids into going without too much trouble.

Instead, we ended up at the ER11:00 p.m. Saturday night. A cramp that started in my neck ended up causing me to not be able to breathe. At 2:00 a.m. on Father's Day, the doctor sent Hubs home because they were going to keep me until the morning.

Because I'm a chemo patient, I got my own room. And it was a fairly quiet Saturday night. But still there were the tests: EKG, blood work, X-ray, CT scan, more blood work, IV antibiotics "just in case," more blood work, and finally a stress test. Because of shift changes, I saw three different ER docs who each had a different idea of what might be wrong, mostly because the test results kept eliminating options. And then there was the cardiologist who did the stress test. She was impressed that I could walk for six minutes at a fairly decent clip, especially since I hadn't eaten (I did have water).

The conclusions were mostly positive in a negative sort of way: I didn't have a heart attack, I didn't have a pulmonary embolism (apparently common in cancer patients), I might have pneumonia, but I wasn't coughing. The final ER doctor came up with shingles, also common in cancer patients, which causes severe pain along the nerve endings. He sent me off with prescription to be filled "if and when" I get a rash or a recurrence.

Oh, and I'm anemic--probably more now than when I first arrived!

As for my breathing, it got better as the night wore on. I slept most of Sunday when we finally got home (sleeping is not compatible with hospitals, especially ERs). I decided to work from home today because it still was a bit painful to breathe. That is also resolving itself.

Go figure.

One thing that I love about our HMO is that all my medical records are on their internal computer system. All my prescriptions, appointments, test results, x-rays, scans--even those that have been done at other facilities in the system. The triage nurse still asked a lot off questions and I had to explain a couple of times that I hadn't taken one of my meds that I usually take at night because I was at the ER. But I didn't have to remember all of them.

Still, it's an experience I'm not ready to repeat.

One political comment: I hope I'm finished with my course of treatment before President Obama nationalizes health care.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Movie Review: Up

But first, the short....

Partly Cloudy starts off with an homage to the opening scene from Dumbo: the air is filled with storks carefully carrying bundles and depositing them on windowsills and doorsteps. Inside the bundles are babies: human, kittens, puppies... After they are taken in by their parents, the storks fly away, back to their clouds where, we discover, the babies are made.

The system works pretty smoothly, except for one poor stork whose cloud specializes in more aggressive baby animals like alligators and sharks. The stork is worse for wear and finally takes off for another, sympathetic cloud.

The first cloud becomes angry, causing a storm. But surely the stork wouldn't just abandon his cloud! Would he?

Like all Pixar shorts, there is no dialogue. But the visual expressions are very well done. Although I wondered if today's kids know the storks-bringing-babies story.

Now to the featured presentation...

Up starts with a Movietone Newsreel detailing the exploits of Explorer and Adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). A young boy, complete with a leather aviator cap and goggles, watches wide-eyed and breathless. On his way home, dreaming of adventure, he hears a voice coming from an abandoned house, shouting directions to an unseen crew. Cautiously he steps in and meets a young girl, also wearing an aviator cap and goggles, who introduces herself as Ellie (Elie Docter, the daughter of director Pete Docter, who was 7 at the time). Ellie is an irresistible force and the young boy finds himself swept along in her fantasy. When he finally does find his voice, he can only say his name, Carl, and not much else. She dares him to retrieve his balloon; in doing so, he breaks his arm. She climbs up to his window later that day and makes him a member of her Adventurers Club, whose membership pin is a grape soda bottle cap on a pin.

The next several minutes goes through their life from young adults, with all the possibilities of life, to newlyweds, through the tragedy of miscarriage, to Ellie's death. And Carl (Ed Asner) is now sitting in his living room with Ellie's empty chair next to him. His big adventure is walking to the mailbox every day.

And when he does, we see that his house is surrounded by the construction of modern office buildings. Carl isn't about to sell his house, leaving all memories of Ellie behind. The Construction Foreman (John Ratzenberger) is sympathetic, but there's not much he can do. There's a confrontation and (shades of Miracle on 34th Street), Carl ends up bopping someone on the head. The Man in Charge seizes the opportunity to get Carl committed to an old folks' home.

But while Carl is old, he's not witless. He hatches a plot to float his entire home off to South America--specifically to Paradise Valley, where he promised to take Ellie.

And it works. There's only one small hitch: a Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai), who only has to assist an elderly person to get his "Helping the Elderly" badge. Russell is on Carl's front porch and Carl has no choice but to take him inside.

Russell is bright and eager and annoying. Carl wants to be left alone with his memories. Russell wants to help and, of course, makes the situation worse. But they do make it to Paradise Valley, just not in the spot where Carl wants to be. So they start walking, "towing" the house behind them.

Along the way they meet a strange and exotic bird that Russell decides to name "Kevin." Carl tells Russell Kevin can't join them--but he does. And then they meet a dog, Dug (Bob Peterson) who is wearing a collar that allows him to talk. Despite Carl's protests, Dug joins the group.

Dug is not the only talking dog. One is a particularly nasty Doberman named Alpha (also Bob Peterson) who is leading the search for Kevin.

Will Carl get the house to its ideal spot? Will he warm up to Russell, Kevin, and Dug? And whatever happened to Charles Muntz anyway?

Hubs and I saw this movie in 3D, which brings a nice, realistic feel to the movie. There isn't anything jumping out from the screen at you, so the movie doesn't scream "3D!" The characters are well-developed, especially Carl and Randall, once again proving to me that it's the story, not the effects, that make a movie great. I was teary-eyed at the end.

Fenton's is mentioned and is a real ice cream parlor in Oakland, apparently one of the hang outs of the gang at Pixar. Besides ice cream, Fenton's also has excellent crab salad sandwiches on toasted sourdough, served only on Fridays.

Like Wall*E, stay for the credits.

This movie is rated PG and there are a couple of scenes involving growling dogs, which might be too intense for young or sensitive children, especially in 3D. One little girl behind us started crying.

Overall, positive messages, although Russell's dad is an absentee father. And our family now has several new phrases in our family vocabulary, including "Squirrel!" and the Wilderness Explorer call.

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets. Basically, I went to work Monday morning and told everyone they had to see it.

crossposted at Catholic Media Review

Status Update...

Okay, so I've been just a little bit busy since the end of May.

DS#2 graduated from high school on June 12 but, because this is the way things work in my family, the most convenient time to have a family party was June 6. My cousin's daughter also graduated (on May 31) and since half of her guest list is the same as half of mine, we had a combined party. And, since my cousin conveniently (for me!) was laid off right about the same time, she offered her house and to do the running around. All I had to do was write a check for my share of the expenses. Worked for me!

There are some who wonder why we make a big deal over graduating from high school. Really, it's an excuse for the family to come together and celebrate. And this event featured a long-lost cousin, my mother's 94-year-young first cousin (we all want his genes!), and my aunt who recently moved back to the area. She's in poor health, which makes celebrating with her more special. The menu was simple: barbecued chicken, beans, salads, olives (very important!), soda, beer, and cake.

The next day was DS#2's Baccalaureate featuring members of the Class of 2009 reflecting on What This All Means. DS#2 wasn't excited about going, but I had heard good things about it, so we went. He conceded it was better than he thought it would be.

But there was still the dreaded Week of Finals left.

Friday afternoon, the last final (physics) finished, the Class of 2009 rehearsed. That evening, they graduated from the football field. And it started to rain. In California. In June. Fortunately, the rain stopped almost as quickly as it started.

DS#2 received his official diploma, so I guess that means he passed. We had time to take a couple of pictures and then he was off to Grad Night, locked on campus with his fellow graduates to eat, drink, party, and celebrate their last night as classmates. He came home around 8:00 a.m.

A side note... looking through the few pictures he took, I noticed that A. was there. He missed most of junior year while fighting cancer, so had to repeat. Still, he went to Senior Ball and participated in a couple of other Senior activities. Still, Grad Night is a closed event.

"A. went to Grad Night?"


"He was invited?" I was thinking of all the release forms and permission slips I had to sign.


"How did he get in?"

"We kind of snuck him in." And DS#2 told me how they unlocked a door to the girls' bathroom and spirited A. into Grad Night. Part of me is glad they did it. Part of me is very glad nothing happened, like A. getting hurt.

Amongst all this graduation madness, I started my second round of chemo. The side effects of this new cocktail aren't quite as bad as the first round, but I have to go weekly for 12 weeks. (I've done two.) One of the drugs I get to counteract the side effects is benadryl, through my chemo port--or, as I like to describe it, I mainline benadryl. I can tell when it enters because the room goes fuzzy and I check out. After chemo is done, Hubs drives me home and I go back to bed for a couple of hours. And then I'm okay. In fact, the graduation was a couple of hours after my session and I was fine.

Another side effect is muscle aches, which my oncologist described as "the kind you get after you over-exercise." Unfortunately, because I'm feeling good, I'm back at the gym taking water aerobics and aqua jogging classes. And I tend to jump into the program like I've never been out. So I can't tell if my muscles are sore because of the chemo or because I'm over-exercising. :)

Now, if only my hair would grow back sooner rather than later...

Summer Reading List--2009

Sometimes I pick the book; sometimes the book picks me...

When I was 49, I decided that I wanted to read Tolstoy's War and Peace before I was 50. I knew it would be a challenge, but I also knew that having read five books of the Harry Potter series by that point, my goal was doable. I wish I had known more about Russia's war with Napoleon and I also could have used the map from Risk! to move the pieces around. Few of the modern countries have the same borders as they did during the war; even some of the city names have changed. Since I was familiar with Russian naming conventions (each character has a French name, a formal Russian name which includes the name of their father, and one or more nicknames), I was able to keep the characters apart.

Another summer, I decided to read (or re-read) all of Jane Austen's novels, in order of publication. Re-reading Pride & Prejudice was delightful, but I discovered Persuasion, a more mature novel. After watching Jim Caviezel as Edmond Dantes in the movie version of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, I had to read it. (Major differences between the two, especially the ending. The novel is much more realistic, if anyone finding untold treasure on an undiscovered island can be considered realistic.)

So a couple of weeks ago, Hubs and I were in the hamlet of Port Costa, now known mostly for The Warehouse, a local bar, when I wandered into a store called "Joe's Oddities." What initially caught my eye was a sleeveless sequined shift in bright blocks of color, separated by black lines. Think 1960's. There was a collection of estate jewelery and some LP's of Frank Sinatra and Patti Page. Along the back wall were shelves of books. An eclectic collection, to say the least, nothing that couldn't have come from my parents' home, along with a few Oprah selections.

One book, though, caught my eye and I kept returning to it. It's a faux leather "International Collectors Library" edition of John Milton's Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. Inside the flyleaf was a piece of paper explaining why this book is important and, on the other side, stating "This volume comes to you in The Marie Antoinette binging."

This edition has never been read. The attached ribbon bookmark marks a page that hasn't been cracked open. The edge of the bookmark is neatly tucked inside.

Once I picked the book up, I couldn't put it down. I asked "Joe" how much (because no price sticker sullied its elegant binding).

"A dollar."


"Including tax."

Since I happened to have a dollar, cash, on me I bought it. And now that the kids are out of school, summer has officially started and I can get with my reading program.

Nothing like a little light reading, eh?