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November 29--Failing to hold Christmas at bay

We had a nice Thanksgiving weekend. It was mostly quiet, and I had no homework assignments due. Malida and I feasted on seafood Thursday, had some traditional turkey and stuff Friday, went to a party at some Laotian friends on Saturday, and had lunch with my dad and step-sibling on Sunday. Within that time, I made cranberry bread three separate times. Each time it was yummy.

I have lots of step-siblings. My mom married a guy who had two children, and so have a step-brother and sister on that side. I am probably closest to them, as we all lived together for a number of years. My dad married a woman who had 6 children, all but one girls. Two of them have passed on, so I had (up until recently), 3 step-sisters and one step brother. I am not as close to them, but do see them a number of times a year. They are very close with my dad.

Last summer, one of my step-sisters got a letter from a guy who indicated that he might be their brother. As it turns out, my step-mother had a child when she was in high school in the early 1950s, and gave him up for adoption. She died almost 20 years ago, and took this secret to the grave with her, so it was quite a surprise for everyone. So now my step-siblings have a new half-brother and I have another step-brother.

It is interesting--although he is older than my other step-brother, they are so much alike that you would think they grew up together. One of my step-sisters is named Robbin, and his daughter is named Robin. Anyway we all had a nice lunch, and my new step-brother passed around chocolate snowmen for everyone.

snowmen

Tomorrow is big trash day in our neighborhood. It is the day we can put out anything that is too big for normal trash. We can put out the equivalent of a pickup truck bed's worth of stuff. My neighbor said hi to me as I was putting out stuff. We first met the day after big trash day many years ago when he came to my door to ask if I had added some paint cans to his big trash (which are prohibited). I remember making an LJ entry about it.

I had a homework assignment due this evening, and I set a goal to submit it by 7:30 pm so I would have time to put out my big trash. I met the deadline. Big trash is out, and assignment is submitted.

School is almost done for the semester. I have two assignments left in my class, and two weeks left before my students graduate. I will welcome the break, but have lots of stuff to get done while I am off. We aren't going anywhere much, other than a few days on the coast, so I should have time to do everything I need. I expect I will have plenty of time for afternoon naps, which are now one of my favorite things, especially since the weather is now cool.

took nap

Mook likes naps too. We are nap buddies.
  • Current Music
    Snow Patrol--chasing Cars
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November 24--Happy US Thanksgiving!

Someone left a comment the other day noting that I hadn't made a post in a while, and they were right. I thought it had been a few weeks, but the last time was October 8. Time just slips by. I've been pretty busy in the interval, but things are winding down for the semester and I spy winter break on the horizon, which makes me happy.

5 years later

We had a quiet thanksgiving--just the two of us and the cats. We got invited to a party, but didn't feel like it. We went out for a walk along the creek this morning. It was a lovely day. Malida showed me a pic I took 5 years ago that popped up on her Facebook memories, and we recreated it 5 years later.

During my absence from here, Malida was in Thailand for 3 weeks visiting her family and friends. I sure missed her, but I had so much school work due that I welcomed the quiet and the time. I'm glad she's back, though!

pot stickers

One of the things I have taken up again, amidst all the stress, is cooking from scratch. I find it relaxing, and it is great to get away from processed foods. I joined one of those clubs where they send you a box of ingredients every week. I didn't like it at first, but now I love it. It forces me out of my food comfort zone. I don't get a box every week, but I do cook everything fresh now.

I had a really stressful couple of weeks at the end of October where work was crazy and I had all sorts of big assignments due in school. I was driving home from work one afternoon and felt some chest pain and my heart fluttering in my chest. My heart rate was about 170. I was two blocks from the hospital, and thought I ought to go, but my phone was almost dead and I didn't have a charger, Malida was 8000 miles away, and I had too much homework to do. So I pulled over and waited it out.

I ended up going to see the doctor when it happened again a few days later. My heart was fine, but my potassium was critically low. So I include a lot of green leafy vegetables in what I cook.

I voted

Yeah. Unbelievable.

school

I remember that over the summer my advisor told me to be prepared, because this semester was going to kick my ass. She was right. This is the only semester in the program where we have three courses. Two of them are fine, but statistical analysis is just such a mystery to me. We are creating our data analysis for our projects. I still have no clue. I wrote the instructor the other day and told her that I was completely lost, and even though my papers were coherent, it was pretty much bullshit. She wrote back and told me to take some time away from it and we could talk next week and sort it all out. As hard as it is, I love this program.

me

I am going to turn 60 in about 2 weeks. In spite of everything, I feel great, and am happy to have made it to this point in my life. I don't think I ever imagined getting here. I am thankful for every moment.
  • Current Music
    Mary Gauthier--Thanksgiving
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October 8--the miracle of social media

Malida calls her mom a few times a week using a VOIP service that costs us about 2 cents a minute. It is a great service, and is cool that they can keep in contact. She calls a lot of her friends too. A couple of months ago she accidentally called a few times on the Verizon network, which is somewhat more than 2 cents a minute, and we ended up with a $400 phone bill. I'm not sure why there is such a disparity.

Anyway, this week her high-school-age niece was staying at her mom's house for a few days, and they discovered that they could use Facebook to video chat on the niece's phone. It was the first time we had seen her mom since the last time we were there. Her mom was very happy to see her (and me). We showed her the cats, and the house, both of which she had never been able to see before. The niece is going back to the village tomorrow, so they are video chatting again now. Pretty amazing!

mama

They both look pretty happy. We talked about getting her mom a smart phone and a Facebook account, but we don't think she would be able to figure it out, so we will help the niece maintain her account so we can all chat when she visits.

Next week will be the halfway point in the semester. It feels like halfway. I will have to write midpoint evals on my students this coming week. They are all doing ok, so it won't be too hard. I also have all sorts of stuff due form my doctoral program next week, so it will be a challenging week. This past week was kind of a breather, so I feel fairly rested and ready to go.

labeler

I found a labeler on the oncology unit the other day. It didn't have an identifying label, so I made one and labeled it. I felt good about my contribution to clarity in the world. I love labelers.
  • Current Music
    Jason Molina--Hold on Magnolia
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October 5--the cold old guy

I haven't written anything here for a few weeks. Work and school keeps me in a state of perpetual exhaustion. If I am not doing something, I am thinking about it. It's not really overwhelming, but it is a lot of work. I don't have much thought left over, but I do think about this place and the people I know here.

The weather turned cold this week, which is nice. I love the fall weather. The downside is that the air conditioning is still running full blast in my office, and it has been about 55 degrees in there. My hands were turning numb. Apparently when they brought in the portable AC, they had to disassemble the boiler to get it in, so now they have to reassemble it so we can have some heat. Anyway, I took a picture of myself sitting at my desk, wrapped in my Mexican blanket.

selfie/>

That blanket is about 26 years old. I bought it in Juarez when I went to visit relatives in El Paso. I keep it in my car for times when a blanket is called for.

The other interesting thing about this picture is that it captures me a few months before I turn 60. This is not how I thought I would look at this age. I thought I would look like an old man. Haha, maybe I do.

Even though I am almost 60, I still have a subversive streak:

zippers
  • Current Music
    Hiss Golden Messenger--Cracked Windshield
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September 20--How Marconi, Edison, Tesla, Carver and I discovered natural light

I had a nice talk with the student today. Turns out it wasn't specifically me giving her the side-eye of disapproval--she perceives it coming at her from all directions. She's pretty young, and I think she hasn't figured out yet how to own her learning experience, so we will work on that.

One of my other students asked if I let other people read the journals they send me. I don't and told her so. She said she had things she wanted to write, but wanted to be sure. I think this semester is going to be somewhat intense, journal-wise.

I mentioned yesterday that I had been looking for some photos in my archives and came across all sorts of interesting things from 10 years ago. One of those things was when I first started to understand the beauty of natural light. Up until that point I had either used flash or lamps to light things.

One day I was at my friend's house hanging out. She lived in an old house in an older area of town, and the windows were old glass--somewhat irregular in texture. She had a glass table near one, on which sat a glass chess set. I remember sitting there looking at it, and thinking, that would make a good picture. I always had my camera with me, so I made the shot.

chess set

I loved how it ultimately turned out, and when I look at it now, I still like it. It was one of those accidental shots where I had no idea what I was doing. I could probably duplicate it today (she still lives there), but it wouldn't be as good, because it wouldn't be spontaneous.

After that I used natural light a lot.

bluebird

Another one, on a rainy day. This time it was my house and my glass table. The bird figurine had been given to my first wife by Sr. Paulina, the sister who ran the diaconate program. It sat on that table until I got cats who kept knocking it off. Now it is on a shelf in Malida's office with all the little figurines she has collected over the years.

I remember having all this time to take pictures--entire days where that's all I would do. That time is spent elsewhere now.
  • Current Music
    Amanda Shires--You Are My Home
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September 19--The side-eye of disapproval

At the end of each week my students make a journal entry and email it to me. They are generally about two pages long, typed. I encourage them to avoid describing what they did, and focus more on how they are feeling about what they are doing. Most of the time they just write about what they did, but every once in a while I am presented with the most honest and remarkable insights.

Years ago, when I first started teaching, the journals were in the form of a notebook. The students would turn it in to me and I would make comments and return it. I had one student who would write pages and pages of whatever came into her head. She would put illustrations in the margins. She would occasionally comment on my teaching style. "When you walk onto the floor, you just start asking questions, you don't even say hi. It's intimidating."

I learned a lot about being a teacher from her. I always gave the journals back at the end of the semester, but I wish I had hung onto hers. I would love to go back and re-read it.

pig journal

I was looking for some pictures from 2006 for my nephew and came across one of the illustrations from her journal. That was the year when I really got into photography, and I took pictures of everything. It is such a treasure trove to dive into those archives.

That was what this post was going to be about--some pictures I found, then I was reminded of Hau Ting's journal, and it resonated because of a student journal I read today from a current student. It was 6 pages long, and really dove deep into how she was feeling about the semester. She described the "side-eye of disapproval" from me whenever she has to perform under my supervision.

And I can see myself in everything she describes. I know what she means. It was one of those rare moments where you get to see something clearly for second or two, like looking in a mirror and really paying attention.

I don't want to be one of those teachers, but sometimes I think it just happens without my paying attention. That's why I encourage my students to be honest in their journals. I need to know, and it is how I grow as an instructor and as a person.

Maybe tomorrow I will write about how I discovered natural light.
  • Current Music
    Robert Plant--All The King's Horses
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September 18--Grandpa and the archives

We heard the other day that Malida's grandpa was sick and in the ICU in Thailand. He has had bad breathing problems after a lifetime of smoking. Today we heard that he passed away. I liked him. He lived next door to Malida's mom, and whenever I was there he would come over and sit with me for a bit. He would always ask me, in Thai, if I could speak Thai yet, because he had stories he wanted to tell me. He would tell the stories anyway, even though I couldn't understand. When I would ask Malida what he was saying, she would generally respond with something like, "oh he's just talking".

Malida asked me to find one of the pictures I took of him over the years so she could send it back to Thailand. I found a few and she emailed them off. I guess the only pictures that exist of him are the ones I took.

grandpa
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September 15-People who bring babies to the hospital

It probably comes as a surprise to some, but hospitals aren't clean white buildings where people get well. They are disease repositories, where every bacteria you could ever imagine thrives and multiplies. I'd like to say we do our best to keep it controlled but we don't.

I enforce strict isolation procedures with my students. They have to follow the rules, without deviation. You forgot to get something out of your pocket before you put on an isolation gown? Well, then you have to start over.

Meanwhile, while I am telling students that they have to do all these things, the respiratory therapist comes in, ignores the contact precaution sign other than putting gloves on (without washing her hands), and proceeds to contaminate everything she is carrying with her. In a futile gesture, she wipes the diaphragm of her stethoscope with an alcohol pad. She moves on to the next room, bringing whatever was growing in this room with her. As my student watches, and wonders why he has to gown up every time.

Meanwhile the doctor comes in, with a gown on, but reaches into her pocket to pull out her stethoscope to listen to the patient's lungs, then puts it back in her lab coat pocket, ensuring a gift of antibiotic-resistant bacteria for the next patient whose lungs she listens to. Hopefully that patient has a strong immune system.

I had a friend once who became seriously ill and ended up in the ICU. One of the last things she said as the physician was getting ready to intubate her, was "Did you wash your hands?" She knew.

As I was walking out of the hospital today, I saw a woman walking in with a two-month old baby. A baby with an immune system that is no match for the environment. Don't bring babies to the hospital.

After I saw that woman and her baby, I walked out and saw that there was a big fire on the American River Parkway, just north of the hospital.

fire
  • Current Music
    Wilco--Shrug and Destroy
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September 12--Going mobile

First a couple of thoughts from yesterday. I woke up on Sept 11 2001 and turned on the internet, and that's where I first saw the news about the first WTC tower being hit--on my AOL news feed. I then turned on the tv and watched the rest of it unfold. Fifteen years later, I still look at my news feed right after I wake up, to see if anything bad happened while I was sleeping. Also, I don't watch tv news anymore. I see nothing to be gained by watching the same thing replayed over and over.

The other thing is that I always think of my friends Jim and Catherine. While I was processing the whole WTC thing that day, I got a call, and the news, that their son had died in LA of a drug overdose at the age of (I think) 24. He was named Teilhard, after their favorite philosopher-priest. That's what made me cry that day, and it is one of the things I always think about on September 11.

***************

The other day I got a Facebook message from a young woman I know in the Philippines. I had sponsored her through some relief organization while she was in grade school and high school. The sponsorship ended when she graduated High School. She is in college now, and found me on Facebook a couple of years ago. We have corresponded a bit. She asked if she could borrow some money for her tuition.

I thought about it for a while. She asked somewhat abruptly and out of the blue. I thought about how I don't really know her, but remembered that she sent me letters 4 times a year for about 7 years, with pictures of her growing up. I send letters sporadically, and she still has them, along with a picture of Malida and me.

The amount she asked for covers a semester of tuition and books. For us it is about 4 visits to the Korea BBQ. I talked with Malida about it and we decided we would help her. I asked the woman, Jecell, how I should send the money to her. "Western Union", she replied. I was kind of surprised, because I didn't know Western Union did that.

They do, and at a fraction of the cost and hassle of sending an international wire transfer, which is what I do every other month when I send money to my mother-in-law. To do the wire transfer, I have to go down to the bank, endure about 30 minutes of paperwork, and pay a $60 fee, every time. When I sent Jecell her tuition money, I did it online, it took 5 minutes, and the fee was only $7!

Can you send money to Thailand via Western Union? Yes, you can! For $7 instead of $60? Yes! But, but....

Turns out there is a Western Union office in a Thai bank, just a few blocks from where Malida's mom lives. We decided to do a test run and see how it worked. I sent some money this evening, and we called her mom to explain it to her. Her mom likes routine, so it was a bit disconcerting for her, and took a while to explain.

We gave her the phone number of the place. She called them and called back to report that she knew exactly where it was, just across from the temple, and down the street from the noodle place. That was really the biggest hurdle--having her figure out where it was. She said it was raining at the moment, but would go when the rain let up.

She just called from outside the building. She found it, but hadn't gone inside yet. Malida and I busted up laughing about this. "Call when you get the money!", Malida told her.

She will use the money we sent to open an account in the bank, at their suggestion. This way we can send the money directly to her account there every month. So simple. Figuring this out was worth the money we sent to Jecell, although I think helping someone with their education, in whatever way, always pays dividends that are more than we will ever know.

random bee

A random shot of a bee painted on a newspaper rack in Woodland. It's a portal.
  • Current Music
    Aimee Mann--Save Me
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September 10--dinner roll on a standpipe, and other tales of mystery

Even though the work week was only 4 days long, it was a busy week for me. It was the week I really started to feel the pressure of both work and school. That pressure will likely last until winter break, but I'll get used to it.

I had to write a paper this week. It was just an academic paper, on some bullshit topic, but I found it difficult. I agonized over every sentence and it took hours. I was relieved when it was done and I submitted it at 11 pm.

I had to get up early at 5 the next day and was tired, but couldn't come home and take a nap after work because one of our friends from Thailand was visiting and we wanted to take him out. He's the guy who took us all over Chiang Mai when we were there last year, so I was happy to do it. I missed my nap, though, and then got to bed late again and had to get up early again the next day and go to the hospital with my students.

I tried not to be cranky, but they were testing my patience. The second week is always hard because they kind of get it, but they start screwing up simple things that they should know. It will get better next week. Always does.

One student called and said he needed to tell me something. It's never good when they say that. I went up and he started telling me this story about how he had a vitamin pill, but had to send it to the pharmacy to get it cut, then had to crush it so he could put it in applesauce, and how he went looking for a spoon to feed the patient the vitamin in applesauce, but how there were only forks, so he went to the other unit to find a spoon, but there were only forks there too, so he decided to try a fork, but when he got to the patient's room, he had lost the little bag with the crushed pill in it. So he went back to the other unit looking for the crushed pill and couldn't find it, and so on. I wanted to be serious about it but I busted out laughing.

I am working on a group paper in school. There are three other people in the group. Two are easy to work with and one is a real asshole. She didn't like how we figured out the assignment so she sent a very passive aggressive email to the instructor, rather than tell us she was dissatisfied. I hate that crap. It is an academic exercise, and we just want do do it. We don't need any extra drama.

On the upside, there is a new Wilco album, and I am listening to it now.

standpipe and dinner roll
  • Current Music
    Wilco--Happiness