Earlier this week, Facebook reminded me that I lost Jareth a year ago (FB suggested I might want to repost the announcement of the loss).
This week, something is wrong with Osiris.
Osiris is an old man now–15 years–and he’s definitely showing it. He’s skinny in the same way my great-grandfather was at the end (though he still has an appetite, especially for human food).
He’s beginning to become a bit unhinged–he tried to pee by the front door two days ago, isn’t coming upstairs to bed with me, etc.
Years ago, Isis had something similar happen. She lost her mind in a similar way (and similar symptoms) to my great-grandmother. Eventually, she wandered off, and we never saw her again.
I fear we’re entering the start of the great decline with Osiris.
Osiris and Jareth, 2013
Earlier, I posted news about my denied raise. Because I know how to process that. But it’s not at all the worst news of the day.
(And there have been five contenders for that title.)
My Daddy–my grandfather who raised me for several years when my mother couldn’t–has been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
And he doesn’t know yet because my mom doesn’t want to tell him yet even though she told me I’d better tell her if it happens . . .
Anyway, I just can’t really write about this yet.
I can cry in my chiropractor’s office, but that’s different.
While I’m processing a bit, here’s a poem about him. I wrote it many years ago when he went in for heart surgery.
Atlas Has Surgery
They do tests
which we joke about.
They schedule the time
and so you move
away from the burden
taking no relief
in the respite
of a short forced sleep.
This too is a burden
if you don’t do it,
you can’t get back to work.
You leave the earth to hold itself.
I don’t know if you trust it to stay
if you’ve read the physics;
even if you have
there may be little comfort;
Newton and Einstein are at odds;
better to do it yourself
so it’s done right.
Newton says we fall because of
weight and mass;
Einstein says we fall because of
the curve of time and space.
Either way, we start to shift
The issue is not the fall
but the landing.
In a picture of our fried egg shaped universe,
we do not think of above and below
we fall off the edge of the page;
in a diorama—the bottom of the box;
in a middle school science fair project—
we simply land on the table.
This is where most end up—
on a table
our gravity sinking hard
onto a surface
that does not yield
as your shoulders
I haven’t been in the kind of contact that I want to be with most of you. Part of it is that I’m busy. Part of it is that I don’t necessarily want to talk about how I am.
I was really hoping that this year would be better than last. Last year was busy (no surprise), but also difficult due to my gall bladder, an amazing cervical spine headache that started in summer, and a car accident, which resulted in hours of physical therapy each week (it’s only ended last week).
This year hasn’t been easier so far. I’ve already written about my grandmother dying last month. What I haven’t said yet is that, while she was sick, this particular time of death didn’t have to be. What I haven’t said yet is that I’m angry about some of my mother’s decisions and angrier about her refusal to acknowledge them.
Next month, I will return home during Spring Break. My family is waiting to put the ashes in the ground until I get back. I need to try to have a calm conversation in which I explain to my mother that she can’t change my grandfather’s medicines, etc. without notifying the doctor. But she’s going to get defensive, and we’re going to have a fight, and I’m stressing about it.
The other thing I haven’t said is that it really sucks to be the only woman in the world with the middle name Jewreen. Before, there were two of us.
As for myself, three things are going on physically. Today I have a tube going from my stomach, out of my nose, and to a recorder. It’s testing the ph of my acid reflux and also checking to see if some of the reflux ix actually bile, now that we know I have some bile in my stomach. I am very uncomfortable, doubting I’ll be able to sleep tonight, and looking forward to getting it out after my classes tomorrow. Some of what we’ll learn will determine if the doctor thinks I need surgery for the hernia in my esophagus.
My inclination is not to have surgery; however, the drugs I’m on haven’t been controlling my reflux symptoms like they used to. And I’m on the highest dose of things.
I was finally able to see someone at the pain clinic for this cervical spine headache in December. We are looking at doing a nerve burn in my neck–pain medication isn’t doing anything, nor are the non-invasive things like massage, etc. Friday, I had a nerve block, a sort of test to see if the nerve burn would work. The very temporary block had wonderful effects, although I’m sore and swollen from the procedure. My insurance company wants me to have another test block done before they approve the burn, which would be longer lasting.
Lastly, one of the drugs I need, xolair, is expensive and weird. When my insurance changed at the start of the year, I had to try to get reauthorized for it. It’s now almost the end of Feb–I’ve been off my drug for almost two months. Both my nurse and I have spent hours on the phone with insurance and hours on the phone with the specialty pharmacy. It looks like I might finally be able to get back on the drug next week, though my copay will be lots higher. And then the insurance company wants to reevaluate in June. Every dose they can prevent me from having saves them thousands of dollars.
The other big news is that my aunt Mindy is not doing well. She is now basically too disabled to work. She has been living with my cousin for the past few months. My cousin’s husband, however, is getting transferred to Guam. My aunt has been unsuccessful so far in getting insurance, etc. (The Southern States have not expanded medicaid to poor adults.)
The short version of this is that Mindy will be coming to live with me at the end of Spring. It will be a bit tight–I don’t have the money right now to move us to a three bedroom. But I at least should be able to get her the care she so desperately needs.
Work is fine. The students are understanding about papers coming back two days late the week Gma died. They are understanding and sympathetic about the awkwardness of a tube coming out of my face today. My stand-up class is a joy.
I gave a smart and amazingly attended presentation at a Writing Teacher’s Conference in January. Had a good MLA. I’ve applied to be the coordinator for the Upper Division Comp exam. I’ve got a paper coming out on (a)sexuality in Sherlock. The Prized Writing Ceremony went swimmingly–the Chancellor was there for the first time, and she enjoyed it so much that we’ve already scheduled next year’s so she can be there. I’ll present at pca/aca in April (no more conferences for the year, though–too broke). The Margaret Atwood journal is going online. I’ve been contracted by Cambridge for an Atwood collection. The authors are writing now. Denise and I are putting together a Simpsons collection. Melissa and I are putting together a collection of best comp paper assignments. There are and will be plays and movies and, in April, Willie Nelson. Book group still gathers here for food, wine, and cats. When HBO or BBC is doing something good, there are weekly movie nights too. The boyfriend cooks for me and distracts me and pleases me. Alexander is generally in good spirits. He doesn’t love all of his classes. (His classes are part of me being broke.) But we get along well.
Just today, he reminded me that I wasn’t allowed to use the microwave (due to the weird machine I’m wearing). Then, when I thoughtlessly went to the microwave half an hour later, I got the same tone from him that the cats do when they jump on the counter.
My friends are lovely. I miss you and love you all.
I’m about to write a eulogy for my grandmother. First, I need to write this. (I wrote about the renewal of her marriage vows here.)
My 85 year old grandmother (Winca Jewreen Graves Waltonen, who always went by Jewreen) died on Tuesday. She was married for 63 years, has 4 children, 9 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.
Growing up, I only had one grandmother–her–though I had two great-grandmothers. My grandmother was more like a mother in my childhood, however, as she raised me for three years when my mother couldn’t and had me for every summer and school break thereafter. Granddaddy (whom I call “Daddy” since that’s what he’s always been to me) had just retired from the military when I went to live with them. They were building a house–all by themselves–on the land my grandmother’s ancestors had claimed in Bay County, Florida, before Florida was even a state. (She has certificates for being both a descendent of Florida pioneers and of the confederacy.) Although she had moved with her Air Force husband to various points in the US and Europe, now it was time to go back home. I was the first extra child to move in with them in a small, round, two-bedroom house in a Florida forest, but not the last. They have only rarely lived together without a child or grandchild who needed a soft space to fall. When I had nowhere else to go after Alexander was born, Daddy picked us up from the hospital and took us home.
My grandmother was a unique and strong-willed person. Granddaddy often teased her about being a savage, based on a homestead without paved roads, childhood pets that included a deer who was allowed in the house (and even to eat off the dining table), and a strong desire to never wear shoes (this is where I get it, people!). She met my grandfather on a blind date and married him the same year. When her first daughter was 2, she gave birth to triplets. She often had to raise them alone for long stretches, as my grandfather served in both Korea and Vietnam. Grandma is still angry about Vietnam protestors (she has no pity for the Kent State students)–she won’t watch movies with Jane Fonda or anything by The Smothers Brothers. (It was my grandfather, though, who introduced me to The Smothers Brothers via audio cassettes he was hiding on the porch.) Although she’s traveled, she never lost even a bit of her Southern accent, but would get mad at waiters who would bring her ranch instead of french dressing, even though what she said was invariably “franch.”
She was a great cook, a solid disciplinarian to her children, a sewer of matching clothing. By the time I lived with her, though, she didn’t do much sewing. She seemed to retire a bit when Daddy did, so she would mend, but not sew. She stopped canning and baking. When I was very little, she and Daddy would visit friends and go square-dancing, but, fairly quickly, they retreated deeper into the forest. The few friends who hung on had to visit them, as they only left the homestead for groceries and doctors’ appointments. Grandma, who was a great lover of nature, spent more and more time indoors. Daddy continued to work outside, to farm, to master computers so he could do extensive genealogical research, to read a variety of texts. Grandma read romance novels contentedly.
Her family became her whole life (instead of the maybe 85% they were before). She worried about us, prayed for us, praised and chided us to each other.
She was not as hands-on as Daddy with the grandchildren. He would read to us and play with us. She wanted us in her lap. I became a Daddy’s girl, following him around the property, having him teach me rhyming games, teasing and being teased lovingly. Grandma nurtured me with food. When I was very young, I was under weight, so I was plied with small amounts of beer to increase my appetite. When it was discovered that I would eat almost any part of a pig and any fish that was fried, they were produced in abundance. We shared a belief that the best thing about a fried chop was gnawing on the bones (Daddy didn’t do that with us). My trips back home always included fried fish–both from her kitchen and from my favorite fast food fish place–and lots of fried okra.
When I was a teenager and started becoming interested in cooking, Grandma and I were really able to bond. Her recipes were not written down, nor did she ever use a measuring cup. I followed her in the too-tight kitchen, writing down what she did with the most loved recipes. A few I adapted later, but most remain the same in my kitchen. Measuring cups are still unused.
She has not been happy with my life choices–I shouldn’t live in California, I should be married with more children, I should be a housewife, I shouldn’t like The Simpsons because it’s an immoral show since Bart talks back–but she has always been very proud of me because I can cook. It is what she brags about with me and what the men in my life who’ve met her always brag about to her.
I have to admit that it hurts to know how unalike we are. Our tastes differ in entertainment (except TCM), in politics, in social policy, in intellectual pursuits, in beliefs about equality/race relations, etc. There’s no way she would have liked me if we hadn’t been family.
It hurt her very much when I moved to California to pursue my PhD and, more importantly, my place in the world, which, frankly, was just not in Northern Florida. She wanted me to give up Alexander, so he would be raised apart from California values and in the bosom of the family. She said, when it was clear that I was leaving, that she might as well die. It was only a little easier when some of the younger grandchildren followed my example to be beyond a few hours’ drive away.
Even though I was out of her physical orbit, however, I was never out of her heart. And even though we were so fundamentally different, there were some very important things that link us: We both believe the moment when Yul Brynner puts his hand on Gertrude Lawrence’s waist in The King and I is one of the sexiest moments in movie history. We both know about the pleasure of a pork chop bone. We both laugh more than most people, especially when we’re in pain. We both know that the first thing you should do when coming home is removing your shoes. We both know that she is lovable–when she turned 80, I gave her a list of the 80 reasons why. We both know that my last meal will include fried okra if I have any say in the matter. We both give people recipes with vague measurements because we just “know” how much of everything there should be. We both believe her husband is the best man in the whole world.
I’ll put up some recipes of hers over the next few weeks. First, want to share her BBQ Meatloaf. It is the only meatloaf I’ve ever had. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why people spoke of meatloaf with derision, as it was one of my favorite things. What it was, of course, is that they hadn’t had my grandmother’s, which was never dry, never flavorless. When I first saw someone else’s meatloaf, I decided to stick with what was great. Here it is; measurements are approximate.
Grandma J’s BBQ Meatloaf
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp onion salt
salt to taste
1/2-1 c. bread crumbs
1 8 oz can tomato sauce (my change in the recipe is to use a 16 oz can so I can have more sauce)
2 TBS brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried mustard (Coleman’s)
2 TBS vinegar (I use a bit less)
a few ounces of water
Mix the ground beef, onion salt, salt, egg, and 4 oz of the tomato sauce. Form a loaf. Place the loaf in an 8 oz greased baking pan.
Mix the remaining tomato sauce (in the can) with the sugar, mustard, and vinegar. Add enough water to reach the top of the can. Pour over the meatloaf. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. (No need for ketchup on your leftover meatloaf sandwiches–the sauce will be even better!)
PS–I tried for over an hour to insert a couple of pictures into this post. It’s just not working. However, you can see pictures of my grandmother at the link in the very first line.
Most women my age probably can’t say that they’ve been a bride more often than a bridesmaid. On the 22nd of June, I’ll break even, as I stand beside two of the most important people in the whole world to me.
Our story is a bit uncommon, however. I knew the groom, Chaz, first. In fact, Chaz and I dated when I lived in London for the summer of 2006.
Carmen was the woman who came after me. I used to tease Chaz that he’d replaced me with the Spanish me, especially since he kept telling me how alike we are. We’re both pale skinned, dark-haired, strong, intelligent, geeky, museum loving women. How could he resist us?
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually got to meet Carmen, though. I was in London for a conference, and they offered me a place to stay. Chaz was right when he said Carmen and I would love each other. We became instant friends, spending many a late night drinking and talking (often about a problem she diagnosed–that I needed a man who would make me tea [and now I have one!]). Poor Chaz would come home to find us up and have to decide which of his girls to give a hello peck to first.
Carmen and I talk more often than Chaz and I do now. She is a great treasure in my life, and I’m so thankful to Chaz for bringing us together.
Part of the reason we’ve been able to bond so well is that Carmen was never threatened by the fact that Chaz had been with me. Early in their relationship, he’d explained that he wouldn’t be able to be with her if he hadn’t been with me. Our relationship was healing for and important to us both. And Carmen thus appreciated me before she even met me.
Some people still find this odd. For example, the day we went bridesmaid dress shopping, we ended up having a discussion about how we wouldn’t want to marry virgins.
“What if the guy is terrible?” Carmen wondered.
“Of course he’ll be terrible,” I said. “A man needs women to say,
Carmen drinks out of a Karma’s Bitch mug!
‘hey, stop doing that!’ How else can he learn?”
Carmen leaned over, kissed me on the cheek, and said thank you.
The other bridesmaid then said, “And that’s why you two and your relationship are weird.”
(For the record, the women before me had Chaz all ready–I never had to tell him to stop it.)
Yes–we are weird. And that’s why we love each other so much & why I’m so honored to be a part of this wedding.
Here’s to the happy couple!
Earlier this month,Tiffany gave birth to our little Jack. “Our”? you might ask. Yes, as proven by the annunciation dream I had at exactly the moment of his birth, I am his fairy godmother. Well, maybe not fairy. Lecturer? Simpsonologist godmother?
A few weeks before his birth, book group and the book group hangers-on gathered at my house to decorate onesies for the baby. (Mindy later airbrushed two more.) Here are the results:
Earlier this year, my cousin told me that I would be going down to Florida this Christmas. She told me several times, in fact. It was important because my grandparents are in ill health. With few exceptions, we all headed down. Descending on a house made for two is never a good idea for a septic tank, but my grandparents were still happy to have every available surface covered in children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
On Christmas Eve, my cousin Kelly and her family decided we would do our first ever bonfire. This Christmas in Northern Florida was mild enough for it, and we live way out in the woods. How far out? We live in an unincorporated area without any official buildings (post office etc) right next to the Pine Log State Forest. That’s why home is called Pine Log.
Once we got the fire up, we got out the smore materials (I’d never had a smore!) and got the grandparents (although I was worried about grandma’s oxygen unit being at all near flame).
My brother, Granddaddy, and GrandmaMost of the Gang
Although the bonfire was very much enjoyed, it was only a precursor for what was to happen the next day.
In my family, the adults draw names. My cousin Tessa had gotten Grandma’s name. She decided to give Grandma something unique–a wedding.
You see, my grandparents had their sixtieth wedding anniversary this year. However, they did not get to spend the day together because Grandma tried to bleed out in a hospital instead. (Granddaddy got her back by having to go the ER on his birthday.)
Tessa got ordained online and then “Operation Cobra” went into action, as we warned Granddaddy, got flowers, a cake, a veil, etc.
After all the rest of the presents were opened, Tessa took Grandma into her room and told her what was about to happen. As Grandma got dressed in her veil and garter, Granddaddy snuck into the suit he had hidden in his office. Then he went to await his beautiful bride.
Uncle Marty walking his mother down the aisle
Most of the family was convinced that they wouldn’t be able to make it through the ceremony with dry eyes (I somehow thought I would be an exception). Tessa decided to break the tension by turning around like this:
She only kept it on for a moment. Quickly into the ceremony, I found myself able to see my grandfather’s face. Here was the man who raised me renewing his vows. I would not be able to contain my tears for long.
After a few words, Tessa asked them if they wanted to say anything. My grandfather, usually a man of few words, launched into a long speech that started with “Let me tell you about this girl I met 62 years ago.” He then spoke of the early days, of how Grandma gave him a daughter and then doubled their household to six with the next birth. He talked of how they built their retirement home for two, but how they’d never been left alone in it since they always had at least one descendant in it (I was the first, moving in as they were building the house!). He spoke of having to leave her on her own to fight in Korea and Vietnam and how so many soldiers didn’t get to come home to their wives.
How was I not supposed to cry, as I watched my strong and wonderful Granddaddy break down, while Grandma couldn’t stop smiling out of pure joy?
When given her chance, she said simply that she would do it all again.
Everyone had a tissue. I thought about how I would never end up doing what they were doing. I thought about Margaret Atwood’s poem, “Habitation.” I thought about how lucky I was to have been raised by these people.
Then there was cake, and removing the garter, and champagne. Kativa, my aunt, explained where the champagne came from. She and her husband had bought it to have for their 25th anniversary, but his brain tumor many years ago kept them from being able to make it to that anniversary.
If I hadn’t been crying before . . .
17 classes taught
1 rear-ending while in Vanessa’s car by Vanessa’s student, who later became my student (Davis is small)
2 trips to LA with Denise to visit the wonderful people at The Simpsons, where we got to tour the animation building, watch them record the music, and watch them record the voices.
1 amazing day watching Alexander’s robotics team (of which he was President) win the regionals, so they could go on to the International FIRST competition
1 conference in London, where I got to see Liam and Courtney and Chaz, to meet Carmen, who has offered to marry me when I get serious about moving to England, and to present on Octavia Butler
1 magical conference in Alcala, Spain, the birthplace of Catherine of Aragon and Cervantes, where the University was founded in 1499, and where I spoke on Buffy comics and found Duff Beer!
1 endoscopy, 1 MRI, 2 neurologists, 2 ER visits, 5 allergy shots every other week
1 summer of dead electronics: 2 computers, 1 DVD player, 1 phone, 1 car, 1 watch
1 day at WonderCon with April and Alexander (with 1 meeting of Berkeley Breathed)
2 students who said I kept them from dropping out; 3 students who said I saved their lives
2 plays at The California Shakespeare Festival
1 viewing of John Leguizamo’s amazing new show
2 cats (Osiris and Mahahes) after Isis ran away
1 wine-tasting afternoon with Rae
1 taking over the editorship of Prized Writing
1 Tim Burton exhibit
1 trip to Ashland to see 4 amazing plays with Dan
1 getting to hug Scott Thompson after seeing him with Kevin McDonald
2 trips into San Francisco, to see Stuffed and Unstrung and Richard III with Kevin Spacey
1 Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones
2 Grandparents who renewed their vows
1 giant (several pounds) application for a three-year contract at Davis
2 visits to Davis by Zach Weiner, author of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
1 replacing Mindy (temporarily) as friend to Vickie (due to computer literacy)
3 websites that regularly feature my writing, though I’ve just quit one: www.dr-karma.com; www.matchflick.com; www.examiner.com
2 Christmas trees (one taken down in time for Martin Luther King Jr Day; one put up the Saturday after Thanksgiving)
1 month of time travel dreams induced by the writing of a soon to be published paper on Time Travel in Star Trek
1 surprise party thrown for me on Father’s Day by my friends who wanted to celebrate the successful parenting of my beloved child (and yes, I was surprised)
40-something weeks of book group (which has been running about 8 years)
4 movies at the French Film Festival
1 Doctor Who Experience!
4 university committees & 3 journals served on
1 Christmas in Florida
12 months of teaching, with nary a break
52 weeks of great friends, new and old recipes, and wonderful reads
1 completed child, turned 18 and sent to college
1 2011 list completed, to be sent to you with my love, Karma
Let’s get the morbid ones out of the way–Alexander is now the age I was when I had him. I am now the age my father was when he died. Neither of us will be replicating those behaviors, but it’s on my mind.
Had a wonderful birthday–got to see many friends, the btp made me dinner, and even the boy said happy birthday (from a different room than the one I was in . . .). It was especially nice because I’d finished grading the day before and that means that I have a few weeks off now. I get to finish the very last of the unpacking, get that to-do list pared down, and get organized (my desk still has that “end of the quarter” look). Am also going to watch a lot of movies because I simply can.
I’m also going to try to get out and see some shows–I’ve already seen Paula Poundstone (who was very funny–I’ve always admired her ability to work a room and to do the audience engagement stuff that most comics can’t do); I’ve done my own stand-up set at Luna’s; I will see MACHOMER at CalShakes tomorrow; I saw Al on Sunday.
Al was amazing, by the way. He performed for two and a half hours. There were props and costume changes, and he did six songs that I’ve never seen him do live before. I got a starter pack of Al trading cards and now I want more (that’s the whole point, right?). I wish it hadn’t been at the fair, though, because I don’t like fairs (unless they’re Renaissance, cause I’m white & nerdy), and I wish the lady beside me hadn’t taken up half my seat in addition to hers–it meant I left with a neck crick.
In other news, Proposition 8 has been declared unconstitutional because it, um, is. The whole reason we have a bill of rights is so that a biased/prejudiced majority can’t deny rights to a minority. Jefferson wouldn’t sign without that bill because he knew what we were like–he knew what we would do. For example, I would like to deny bigots the right to procreate. They tend to raise children who are accepting of a “bigoted lifestyle.”
The hysterical right keeps bringing up the same old points. That these are special, not equal rights. That this is a threat to marriage. Well, I have to say that I managed to have two failed marriages before I was thirty. That’s because I made bad choices; it’s not because my homosexual friends were having more successful relationships than I’ve ever managed to. And my current desire to not marry nor to cohabitate has nothing to do with gay people, except for the knowledge that if I could turn gay (like the hysterical right thinks I can), I maybe could cohabitate successful with a woman, as Courtney’s presence seems to indicate that it’s the heterosexual roommate pairing that doesn’t work for me (unless the other person is my son, who theoretically has to do what I say).
It’s also nice that California is now once again keeping up with places like Iowa and Argentina–because it was embarrassing when we weren’t.
Well, Tiffany’s birthday was celebrated last night by a white trash party. I was all decked out. Panties and bras were on the clothes line in the car hole bar (complete with weeks worth of beer bottles on not-quite-patio furniture.
Some other touches: had sports on the tv on mute. Sports Illustrated on the table. Tums out with the food. A framed poster of young anakin in place of the monet.
Ken objected to the latter. He said that since the poster could be a sign of geek-dom, it can’t be considered white trash. Well, my outfit could have been a sign of me being a hooker, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also connote white trash.
Methinks Ken protests too much. (I acknowledge that many of my day-to-day decorations are signify white trash. I can defend their kitsch value or their nerd value (in case of The Simpsons), but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t signify trash to people who didn’t love me.)
We found out that we shouldn’t have the tv on, after we turned it to cops.
We also found out how strange it is to have this party (with us decked out as trash) was perhaps not the best time for the neighbor to come over to let us know that the sound machine used at night (to try to keep me from killing Ken since he’s in the bedroom playing video games while I’m trying to sleep) is too loud.
All in all, there was much cheese, beer, and chocolate. Hooray!