Friday, October 31, 2014

White Walls and French Hiphop

I wanna be free
I just wanna live
inside my Cadillac
that is my sh*t
and I throw it up (throw it up)
that's what it is (what it is)
in my C A D I L L A C b*tch (b*yaaach)
Can't see me through my tints (nuh uh)
I'm riding real slow (slow motion)
got my paint wet dripping shorty
like my 24's (umbrella)
I don't got 24's (no oh)
that's those big white walls
r-r-round those hundred spokes…

These, it turns out, are the words that our now-4-mo-old will fall asleep to. And even, sometimes (praise be!) take a bottle to. He likes Macklemore, one of the very few rap artists I can listen to. Oh, yes, and he also loves French hip-hop. Diam's "Peter Pan." Amylie's "Mes Oreilles". Youssoupha. Plastic Bertrand from the movie "Ruby Sparks".

We discovered this first in the car, when LL would be driving and marimba (the favorite CD of our 2-yr-old) would fail to put our newborn to sleep. So she put on Macklemore. This had been given to us by her sister, an amazing dancer and choreographer who among other jobs teaches a high school dance team. And guess what? It worked. Not the slower, melodic songs. The hard-hitting, beat-driven numbers like "I just wanna dance with you" and "White Walls".

So who knows. Our first is on track to be a construction worker. Or a Wild Thing. Or a chef. And this little one? A French rapper. We're just thrilled that he sometimes now will eat independent of Mama.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Still working...

…on finishing August's post, and haven't even started on July's promised future post. A lot going on. Maybe October will be less hectic?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wings of Fury (to be continued)

In 7th grade I climbed into the cockpit of an F6F Hellcat and flew out over the Pacific to shoot down enemy planes, island bases and even entire aircraft carriers. I died several times. Each time, though, I sprang back to life and back into the sky, until I eventually was able to destroy the entire enemy fleet start to finish without losing a plane, and was named Admiral of the Fleet.

This of course was Wings of Fury, a few blinking green pixels on the black screen of our old Apple IIe, and I was able to accomplish all this with the up and down arrows, spacebar, and, for missiles and torpedoes, the letter “Z”. At the time it seemed a double triumph: the thrill of victory, yes, but also the success of squirreling away the time needed for this victory in a childhood otherwise largely devoid of electronica.

In retrospect, success has never come more easily. As I struggle with what may be my greatest challenge to date—bottle-feeding our 2-mo-old infant—I long for the simple pleasure of a 4-stroke computer game.

There is simply no equivalent path to guaranteed success. I've tried sitting, standing, walking; cooing, singing, talking; slow-flow, fast-flow, short-nipple, elongated, soft, firm; have tried waiting for full awake-ness and hunger, have tried sleepy and post-feed; I've tried persistence and persuasion and patience. The results are consistent and clear. This baby knows what he wants and a bottle it is not.

A point of clarification: When I, or a grandma, or anyone else besides Mama feeds our baby, it is still Mama's milk, not formula. Thanks goodness for pumping. But this technology has not yet allowed any of the rest of us to successfully get calories in the little bug, nor allowed us to give the Mama a tiny break.

Not that either one of us wants ourselves as parents, either of us, to become too independent too quickly from our baby. The demands of work, however, have already called me back, and there is considerable pressure for LL to return as well. And we are among the very lucky few who can afford to take even a few weeks off.

The U.S. is in the venerable club of only four nations--joined by Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea--that offers no paid maternity leave.

---again to be continued---

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Short entry

This month I had been planning to share, because I've found it hard to find online anymore, my copy of the 1993 Caring People magazine's interview with the real Dr. Patch Adams. I have a paper copy, sent to me by Patch himself along with the first letter response to the first letter I ever sent him. (This fact alone--that he responds personally to all correspondence--is, to me, inspiring.)

I will try to share it next month. In Patch's own words, "Be physically fit. If you're not, your community will have to take care of you. In order to be a passionate worker, if you have a big project, you'd better stay physically fit. It's going to take a long time! (Unless your project is…dinner.) Make fitness part of the ethic of your effort. Rest when you need it. Otherwise spend your time wisely." Right now I need rest…tomorrow I go back to work with a 4-day stretch of hospitalist.

But I will share more of Patch's words next month. If ever I have felt the need for them, it is now! Washington is experiencing the largest wildfire in its history, at 250,000+ acres. The prediction of a continued increase in fires in the coming years, fueled by anthropogenic global warming, is disheartening. Omak right now is hot and smoky and I could use some inspiration. First, rest!


Monday, June 30, 2014

For LL, on the birth of our second child

one day soon
when life is simpler
I will wake up (rested) with the sunrise
put the water on to boil
take a little walk up the side canyon
pick a scattered handful of wildflowers:
larkspur, arrowleaf balsamroot, serviceberry.
return home and pour the water and bring you coffee in bed:
cream, no sugar.
we will have a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs with kale and mushrooms.
maybe you will read a chapter in that book club book you’re tolerating,
do a pilates workout video,
walk to the main street market for some fresh basil.
it's the one herb that has eluded your agronomical efforts.
I will stay home and do all the things a blogger is supposed to do:
write some emails, read some news, read other people’s blogs,
make intelligent and witty comments,
write something of my own.
with appropriate links attached.
maybe, later, you will read it.

that day is a long way away.

until then
knowing you may never read this
I can only try with my actions
—small, inadequate things, maybe a trip to the drug store for more balms—
to say thank you
thank you
thank you thank you thank you
for the interminable seconds
that stretched into minutes
that became hours:
how many we cannot know,
for your eyes were closed,
and mine were fixed on yours:
the hours of labor built on months of hope and years of love,
that you worked
and worked
and worked and worked and worked
to bring into this world the most unspeakable,
the most holy,
the most whole of miracles.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Continuing on the aquatic theme established last month…ok, sure, I'm trying to swim…sometimes, though, it can be nice to stay dry for a little while! This craft, constructed by our 2-yr-old (with a little help from Dad) has all the elements of appropriate 2-yr-old play: rope (requisite for ANY boat), power tools (the drill to put holes in the coconut and popsicle sticks), fire (candle wax for sealant), burning plastic (rope unravel prevention), heavy metal objects applied at the end of a lever arm (hammer to crack open the coconut). And of course, water!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sharks and Waterfalls

At my high school graduation I received a card whose cover ran, “Once, you were a tiny drop of water. Then you became a stream, getting bigger and bigger, and now you are a mighty river, running towards the ocean…” I opened the card and read, “…where all the sharks live.” As fun as it is, of course, the analogy makes as much sense as a gust of wind fearing the birds. For this month’s blog I’m not even going to try to link my two themes, and instead give you two short entries. Waterfalls. Sharks.


In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes eloquently of standing on a bridge over the rushing river below. Looking upstream, she writes, is to look at the future. This is the water that has not yet reached you. Perhaps it carries a fallen branch, a floating leaf, a salmon hatchling. It is always new and different. To look downstream is to look at the water that has already passed. The past.

This works beautifully if you are standing on the bridge or riverbank. But for seven summers I guided whitewater river trips, and these rivers have indelibly etched in my brain that the future lies downstream. With the exception of eddies--and, once, an epic poison-ivy bank scramble pulling a swamped baggage raft back up to catch the eddy at Saddle Creek--there’s no going back. Even when we pull over, to camp for the night or to scout the next rapid, the river’s pull draws my attention to what will come next: the water’s flow becomes my own.

To facing upstream is to risk blindly drifting into Wild Sheep or Granite, class IV rapids.

In retrospect, I have been navigating the last 3 months not as a spectator on a bridge looking upwards to the future, nor as a river guide looking downwards to the future, but as a soaked rat on a piece of flotsam, gazing back at the rapids and—oops!—waterfalls I’ve just come through.

In February we moved houses. Rather than take time off, both LL and I worked more than usual in the last three months. We both took on additional extracurricular activities beyond our paid work. But the current did not slow down for us just because we decided to be crazy. There were still bills to be paid, food to be purchased, meals to be prepared, diapers to be changed. I'm thankful to say that we were mostly able to make our two-year-old our top priority, and I don't think he is much the worse for the wear. But eventually such stress will tear apart even the sturdiest raft. We have at least identified the need to seek calmer waters and back-eddies, to rebuild before we go over any even bigger falls.


A shark need to keep moving in order to breathe. This oft-repeated statement actually turns out to be true, as best as we can tell, for most sharks, most of the time. Those qualifiers might give one pause, yet all science has such qualifiers, whether we articulate them or not. The act of observing changes what is observed. Or, at the least, it is impossible to prove that it does not.

I digress. Sharks, movement, oxygen. I suffer from intermittent sesamoiditis, which sounds like some unbecoming disease contracted south of the border (doubly so), but is actually an inflammation (-itis) of a pair of tiny bones located directly under the ball of the foot. The simple equation is that more pressure causes more inflammation, so one would expect that being on one's feet, on a hard surface, for long hours, would cause inflammation and pain. This is exactly what happened during my residency training. For five non-consecutive months over the three years, I wheeled about the hospital on a "Roll-About"--picture a kid's scooter with the platform padded and raised to knee height--because it was too painful to stand.

The converse, however, is not consistently true: rest has not always healed my foot pain. Similar to the pain of plantar fasciitis (-itis of the plantar fascia running from the heel to the mid-foot), stretching the muscles and tendons that pull on my sesamoids has proved crucial in relief. Stretching requires movement. And whether or not piezoelectricity, the growth-stimulating charge that causes bones to become stronger with weight-bearing, plays a role, I have found that I do much better with daily exercise. It would seem that I need to move to be healthy.


Perhaps as a shark I can better navigate the waters ahead. If life is a constant reframing of perspective, then maybe I was not nearly so avant-garde as I'd pictured myself with my river-guide-rather-than-brigde-dweller viewpoint. Perhaps, then, I need to stop trying to stay dry and start learning to swim.