Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The inauguration

I have no tv. I grew up without one until I was fourteen, and have never really liked the damn things. I'd rather read or listen to the radio.

But yesterday I wanted to SEE the Inauguration, and I wanted to see it with people. So I was really happy when MoveOn sent me a notification of a viewing at the Dog and Duck Pub, which was opening early, people, to allow us to watch the End of and Error. The event was supposed to be for about 30 people, but there had to be 75 to 100 folks there, watching on tvs both inside and outside. Some were drinking coffee, and some were starting with the fabulous selection of draft beer that Dog and Duck has. Noisemakers were passed out to those both sitting and standing. I think you could fairly say that most of us were old enough to know who Aretha Franklin is/was and could probably do a fair version of Respect if asked.

And so we watched, cheering occasionally, and yes, booing occasionally too. A little growl of disapproval went up when Roberts fucked up the words to the oath of office. But we were mostly silent for the Address. We cheered and clapped a few times, and went nuts at the end. When Reverend Lowery said "That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen," we all said "Amen!" with him and millions of our fellow Americans, loudly!

And, when the Navy Sea Chanters came up to sing our National Anthem, and Diane Feinstein told the crowd in Washington to rise, we rose too, and sang.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Call to Renew America

Today we here in Austin have the opportunity to participate in's Call to Renew America. I know, because I got my empty grocery bag stuck in my front gate yesterday!

My neighbor, Joel, stuck it there for me. My councilmen, Mike Martinez and Lee Leffingwell had the idea, I think. And, the idea is simple. We take these bags to the grocery store, fill it with things like canned tuna, stew and chili (preferably with pop tops), canned vegetables, pasta and pasta sauce, beans, rice, healthy cereals, peanut butter and baby food. The food will go to the Capital Area Food Bank.

The cool thing is that Joel will actually take the bag to the food bank or the Texans for Obama HQ for me!

The other cool thing is that I read Mark Bittman's NY Times column Fresh Start for A New Year? Let's Begin in the Kitchen and loved it. Most of this stuff I already do. There are NO salad dressings in my fridge that I haven't made myself. I grew up in a family that always used the same oil and vinegar salad dressing. My Mom made it, but my Dad taught her the recipe. It's just oil - when I was young it was vegetable oil, but, of course, now it's olive oil - vinegar, salt, pepper and lots of garlic. Mom slivered her garlic and added it to the bottle, but I chop it up. I do have a couple of cans of beans in my cupboard, just in case I get a last minute invitation to a party and have to throw together either Austin, Texas caviar or black beans layered with guacamole and topped with Mexican fresh cheese. So, I have beans and cans of gold and white corn. I also have a couple of cans of tomatoes and, gasp, a can of Campbells Cream of Chicken soup. All I can say about the latter is that I grew up in the south and there are a LOT of casseroles that require that particular ingredient. But I'm putting those cans into the bag. They don't all have pop tops, but I hope the food bank will forgive me.

Among my New Year's resolutions is to cook at least one pot of beans a week and eat them... Or I guess I could feed them to someone else. Right now there are two pots going on the stove: a pot of black beans, for black bean soup; and a pot of garbanzos for hummus.

New Year's resolutions are kind of a hokey thing, but they are a chance for us to think about the past year, evaluate it and decide what needs to change. We have a sort of artificial 'start date' to begin that change, January 1st, or if you miss that date, the somewhat later Chinese New Years. Of course you could start at any time, too...

This year we have an even greater opportunity. We have a new president after eight years of pure disaster for our nation. He's not just any new president; he's our first black president, which might not mean as much to you if you didn't grow up in the South in the years of segregation... If you don't remember the water fountains with 'WHITE' and 'COLORED' on them (and before you understood what this really meant as a kid, you thot it referred to the color of the water)... If you didn't see the guys with the white hoods marching down the street... If you can't remember the marches against the guys in the hoods... And, he's a president whose slogan is change.

And here's the thing... He can't do that by himself. We have to do it with him. We have to save ourselves. Given that he got 52% of the vote, I'm figuring I'm gonna have to save myself AND someone else. Probably a unrepentant Republican...

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Year's

Well, I didn't have much of a New Year's this year. We were in the hospital with my Dad, of course, and that's just not a place conducive to a New Year's celebration. I loved Roz's post about her New Year's ritual, only, obviously I couldn't do that on January 1st. But I can do it on Chinese New Year's, so that's my plan.

I'm getting really excited about the whole thing.

For Chinese New Year's - as I understand it - there's a lot of preparation involving cleaning your house, paying off debts, cooking ritual foods, a LOT of red and orange, and visiting friends. On top of that, I want to do the things that make me happy and that I love, a list that is not unlike Roz's: art, bookbinding, music, cooking, walking, dancing, exercising, and spending time with cats and friends. Oh, and seeing if I can find a Dragon Dance somewhere in Austin.

It's the year of the Brown Cow, BTW, which is supposedly a sign of stability, and I think many of us will appreciate that! So I'm making my list, balancing my checkbook, organizing my clutter and thinking in red and orange...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

the functional family

If you'd asked me about my family, oh, say twenty years ago, I probably would've said we were a dysfunctional family... My parents divorced, my Dad remarried (but not my Mom), I acquired two step-sisters and a step-brother, whom I had known before they became part of my family... And there were issues, the usual ones that such families have...

So this is the family that I came to visit, to be part of, this Christmas. We are at this point: my Dad and stepmom, Ginger; my brother (it's too tiring to keep typing step) Steve and his wife, Saihan, and their two daughters; my sister Pam (the photographer) and her husband Jed; and my sister Leslie. It's a lot of people in a small apartment. My Dad is permanently in a wheelchair and has been for six years. He has one of those electric ones and can get around their retirement village just fine.

We decided to do our unorthodox Christmas on Tuesday. I'm calling it that because we're not religious people, mostly. I was raised Unitarian, and I'm a lapsed one, at that. My sibs didn't really go to church, but said prayers every now and again... Anyway holding xmas on Tuesday would give us time to cook the turkey and eat it on unorthodox Christmas Eve - which was Monday - which is what is done in this part of my family. (My Mom's family are the ones that do lasagne on xmas Eve, and we're not even Italian...) On unorthodox Christmas, Jed prepares a kringle, which is a delicious pastry slathered with jam and sprinkled with almonds. We eat it while we open our stockings.

Now I, personally, am not very big on presents at xmas. I don't know why, I just don't really like the whole present exchange/stocking thing. A present from one person to another, yes, but several? Wads of wrapping paper? Hours of unwrapping? Uhh, no. But that's what the family does, and it's one of the reasons I don't usually come home for xmas. (The other is that up until last year, or really, since it's a new year, the year before that, they always did xmas on xmas day, and I'd rather be in Texas with my kids and grandkids.) Anyhoo... this year unorthodox xmas was after traditional xmas and I could come so here I am and you get this post...

So there we were opening stockings and eating kringle, except for Dad, who went to his spanish 'tertulia,' which is where a bunch of residents get together and speak spanish to each other. Dad got back in time for opening presents and as that was all winding down, he ate his kringle, and choked.

Since my Dad is in the wheelchair and he's not small, it took two people to Heimlich him, my sisters. Then he vomited, sort of interiorly and aspirated it. Then he started to turn blue. This all happened really, really quickly. And just as quickly, Jed ran into the bathroom to pull the cord to summon the retirement village emergency crew, and I was screaming "Call 911, call 911 NOW!" while trying to keep the bacon I was cooking from catching fire. Steve and Saihan lifted Dad out of his chair - no mean feat as he's 200+ lbs of dead weight - and Pam started CPR.

Jed took the little ones outside, Leslie and I moved furniture so EMS could get in, Steve went down to the parking lot to get ready for the ambulance/fire truck and Pam kept on with the CPR with the folks from the retirement village. EMS got there with suction and suctioned Dad's airway and got him stable and pink again and took him and Ginger to the emergency room. Pam and I followed in a car very sedately.

Leslie followed with food, water and books. You don't want to drink from emergency room fountains, really. You don't want to breathe the air. When your sister tells you to put a mask over your mouth you do so. Yes you look silly, but you're less likely to get sick.

It turned out that in suctioning my Dad (or in the compressing, or really anytime, but prob'ly during suctioning), Dad's stomach had been perforated and air was getting into his abdomen from the GI tract. This is unhealthy and can lead rather quickly to peritonitis. We lucked out in that the ER surgeon was Dr Charles, who is a whiz on GI surgery. Dad appeared to us to be cognizant of the world and us, but not able to talk because they'd taken his teeth and shoved a tube down his throat, so we made the decision to do the surgery...

He came through that and is now in ICU. If he can get rid of the stuff in his lungs he stands a good chance of recovery. But that's not what I wanted to write about...

What I wanted to write about was how functional my family was in an emergency. Without talking or ordering or anything, each of us chose something to do, something useful to do, and did it. The EMS people told all of us as they left that we had done it perfectly. Maybe they do this to everyone. Maybe not. I hope to hell I never have to find out by going through this again.

But it remains. We functioned, as a unit, and we functioned well. Shoot, I can't really write about it without crying.

We didn't really have much of a New Year's Eve, of course. Gone were the plans for the fabulous dinner at the Angus Barn. We were all asleep by midnight last night. But I do have a resolution for 02009 (I'm Y10k compliant and urge you to be too). I'm going to take CPR again... 'Cos what happened is that they've changed the compression to breath ratio since I took it from 5-7 compressions to one breath, to 30 compressions. Now that's a BIG difference.

And if you haven't recertified your CPR - or certified - I urge you to do so this year, too. It can save someone's life. Really.