Along for the ride:

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merging Tribes & Bringing Back the Party Spirit


Even though I haven't ridden or been to The Barn in a while, my Tribe of Equestrians have kept me on their chain and we've seen each other once or twice. We were texting in circles, settling on a date, prior to them being sucked into their family obligations and travel for the Holidays and last Sunday, Dec. 19th was a match. I have no such obligations now and I had the unstoppable urge to cook and bring the Party Spirit back to my house. The dust on my serving dishes was a testament to how long it's been.

On my own turf, I was able to add some other long-standing friends, so that everyone could encounter those I've been talking about forever. We were a dozen Festives, all told.


One of my friends, and her adult daughter, have a Christmas Collection Compulsion and were thrilled to be able to haul some Nutcrackers over to display. They also helped drape my covered patio with fabric I'd purchased at a flea-market a decade ago. We had air circulating, for health and safety, but enough drapes to keep in the heat from my two propane heaters.

The menu included Crab that I'd bought live and boiled myself, with salt, pepper, Bay Leaf that I collect locally, Fennel and Pastis. We cooked a 10lb fresh salmon on the charcoal BBQ and had chilled asparagus: with mayonnaise that I made with fresh lemons, free-range eggs and Olive oil that came from family olive trees overlooking the Mediterranean. Hot baked potatoes and Cardoni in Gruyere sauce. (One vegetarian version and one dish with marrow bone jelly in the layers). Cheese plate, Tiramisu and pecan pie; drinks with and without bubbles.

I had warned everyone to bring jackets and had provided blankets on each chair, as we were having a cold spell. We were amazingly cozy, which was a great surprise.
I had set up the fireplace in the living room but forgot to light it, as we were outside. I put a match to it last night as my reward for finally putting away all the plates and glasses that had been washed but left out for almost a week. The big chunks of wood are from a Redwood tree that the electric company cut down in our last home. They burn for hours.

The pictures on the mantel are of our first collie, Diva, and our daughter growing up together. The wooden yoke was used to harness cows to a cart, during The Artistic One's childhood on a farm in France. 

Harnessing memories from the past and embracing new ones, as the days start to lengthen once more. 

To be continued.....

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Two weeks notice, the poem

 If you think of me as a problem and that the problem will go away, if ignored

You will be correct.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Edge of Sunlight

Head bent, spine bowed to the asymmetrical posture of age. He clutched the last post of a picket fence with his outstretched arms, as if resisting a gale of gravity. The same man I had seen the day before; watched in my rear view mirror and wondered about since. Yesterday morning he was immobile, yet filled with building momentum; poised to leave the last puddle of shade at the beginning of a rise where Mom & Pop stores transition into modest, single story residences. He was carrying a sweater and seeking stability from his cane. His wiry limbs and obvious determination a footnote to past youth and vigor.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Le Pere Jordan

It's been a "Journey" since I've felt I had the freedom of time, or the mental bandwidth to write anything. The fact that two years have passed since our last trip to France, that ended in a Medical Evacuation back to the US, is hard to fathom.
I now feel slightly guilty saying that there are some positive aspects to our life, in view of everyone else's  struggles.
My husband will always be "The Artistic One".
When friends ask him what he's up to, he  speaks about painting and possible upcoming art shows. His easel, paints and a fresh canvas are still where they were in our family room/Art Studio, although I have moved things over a bit to facilitate the passage of TAO with his walker frame.
He no longer paints or reads. He sleeps a lot and then sits and watches TV from the kitchen table. When it's not too hot we sit on the covered patio and watch the wind move the tree tops and the dogs run the fence to bark at delivery drivers and people walking by.
As I sit with him, I share videos, from my Facebook feed, of silly cats, redneck creative transportation solutions and familiar regions of France.
The image above is a stained glass window he designed and had made for our French house. The character "Old Mr Jordan" gave TAO hell seventy-plus years ago when he let the cows wander into the wrong field. He also sat in the barn with him in winter and carved wooden clogs, while telling stories about the village. I've heard more stories about him than of TAO's father.
TAO had sketched this image, which we still have,in pencil, long ago. You can see the rolling hills in the distance. The fence line takes your eye where the Artist intended.
When discussing subject matter for this tall bathroom window, I thought this image would honor a World that meant so much to TAO and be relevant to the surroundings.

The house is under offer. It's unlikely we'll ever go there again.
TAO's eldest daughter has been fantastic, shouldering the responsibilities of finding and making arrangements with an Agent, a Notaire and even going to the Department of Construction Permits to have them give the final signature on a project that was completed a decade ago.
She's had all of our paintings moved safely into storage for us. I told her to let her siblings choose any that they might like for themselves and to give away any furniture and household stuff that the potential new owners didn't want.
The one thing I wanted to remove and keep was this window. Unfortunately, the craftsman that came to try to extract it found it was installed in a way that can't be undone.
We now have a small chip of blue glass as a souvenir and these beautiful photos, taken by she who would be my Step-Daughter, if she were younger and I were older.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

No Dogs in the House, he said....

Misty was one of two collies flown in from Seoul, South Korea a handful of months ago.
She was skinny and shy, having been one of only nine survivers after a breeder abandoned her business and all of her dogs. Misty had to be placed on a feeding tube as she was too weak to eat. The overseas rescue group cared for her and another collie until they were well enough to fly to San Francisco. I went to help with receiving and transfering the dogs upon arrival.

Two kind women agreed to add the dogs to their flight arrangements and trusted us to be there to meet them on arrival. Language barriers bridged by smiles and gratitude and we took the dogs to a quiet corner of the parking garage to free them from their crates, give them water and let them stretch their legs.

I have my new Heart-Dog.
She brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. Skinny, smelly, not used to making eye contact with humans but look at her smile and sunny demeanor, after all she’d been through.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Husbandly Crimes and Misdemeanors

I declined to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey and invited no one to celebrate this year. "The Holiday" is not integral to our existence, having not grown up in the U.S. and I've done my share of gatherings for solitary neighbors and foreign flotsam and jetsam over the decades.
This year, self preservation instincts kicked in. I'm working 6 days a week and nurturing my husband along the path to recovery with much attention and daily home cooked repasts. We're very lucky that our Lovely Daughter has moved back home and that she works from home so husband is not alone very often. He's no longer at deaths door, from the multiple life threatening issues that filled our days, nights and thoughts from late May until a few weeks ago.
Now the rub...
Since his retirement (otherwise known as the cessation of participation in our joint business, with nary a warning or a plan) I have been advocating for some management and triage of the hordes of papers that fill one bedroom. Mostly in file cabinets, classified in obscure and long forgotten ways, it was an impossible task for him to locate his passport (I have it now) but photos and prices of antique furniture in a French store which closed ten years ago, after the demise of the owner are floating atop the pile on the desk. That eight foot wide obligation was the beginning of good intentions to diminish the hoard. Unfortunately, he cannot make a decision to dump a whole, ancient and obviously useless file. Every page must be viewed and most set aside as possibly useful in the future. The pile had been left untouched for over a year, as it's dauntingly immense obligation stopped him at the door.
I asked for a couple of hours to be spent together on Thanksgiving afternoon. One of few days of personal time for me. I asked nicely. I was willing to do the work. He just had to sit there and review final decisions.
We found some validly interesting and important stuff; Certificate of U.S. Citizenship: Old Press Articles and photos of his artwork and our Stone Carving accomplishments. I ditched the dead antique dealer file, as well as the incorporation papers of a small import export business we had for a year or two in the early nineties. I filled the office waste basket and cleared the desk top. I removed the "Door over file cabinets" desk top to hinder future spread and was so very thrilled with our accomplishment. Can anyone foresee my glaring mistake?
When I came home at lunchtime yesterday, "Someone" was as mad as a wet hen, demanding to know why I'd discarded so much of his precious archive and ordering me to return his desk-top. Never mind that there's another desk in that room and yet another in his Art Studio, which is what normal folks would use as a living room.
If only I had emptied that waste basket! He'd brought it into the kitchen and taken over that table.
Words were exchanged, my optimism and happiness left the building. I seriously considered the option of setting a fire in our house but decided the insurance would not cover that.

Monday, July 16, 2018

When Cows Wore Shoes and Always Buy Travel Insurance!

The reason we ended up with a, largely unused, house in the countryside of France is that The Artistic One spent a couple of his youthful summers here, living on a farm, herding cows and doing other farm work in return for his keep. The old fashioned way of sending your kids to summer camp. Those were the happiest times of his life to the extent that, when winter came he refused to return to school in the city and spent the full four seasons there. Lozere is still the least populated region in France and there are no great fortunes in the land, as there are in wine or olive growing areas.
Cows were used to pull carts as only the wealthier farmers had oxen and almost none had horses. The photo above is of the community cow shooing shed.

Our house was a decrepit barn when we bought it. The roof was caving in and the lower level was inhabited by a dozen cows. We saved the original beams, installed running water and electricity and turned the original hay loft into a large living area and art studio.

Downstairs became the kitchen

 Due to a mixture of reasons of health, money and time, we hadn't visited our house in five years.The local lady previously tasked with keeping the place dusted occasionally had lapsed and we were warned to expect spider webs, dead flies and rat droppings. Luckily, another local woman took on the task. She was familiar with the place as her cows used to live there. When we first visited our barn, seventeen years ago, her then five year old son tried to chase us off.
We had a couple of relaxing days to appreciate the quiet surroundings before we were sucked into a new travel experience. 
Below is the view from TAO's hospital room window. Mende Cathedral in the town below.
 An understaffed and underfunded country hospital can be a scary place.
TAO went in with symptoms similar to kidney stones. It turned out to be retention of urine which is just as painful. He was first patient in the ER at 6am on a Sunday morning and was seen right away.
unfortunately, the catheter insertion was 'Traumatic" and the subsequent bleeding went on for three weeks. I was lucky to be able to access his medical records online from my phone to detail dosages of anticoagulants and date he had a pulmonary embolism etc. not to mention allergies to antibiotics.
My poor husband lost 30 lbs in three weeks. He was too weak to stand, his oxygen count was low and we were in a hospital where the Doctors went home on weekends. When the doctor ordered an ultrasound it took two days to happen and another twenty-four hours to be read.
The results from the culture taken on the first day were nowhere to be found. I walked up a flight of stairs to the floor where we'd been initially admitted, for lack of space elsewhere, and was able to learn that ER test results don't go into the computer. The piece of paper we needed was under another stack in the office.
When TAO had a red and itchy back from a reaction to antibiotics, I showed the nurses in the early morning. Antihistamines were provided at 8pm that evening, almost twelve hours later, as doctors were too busy to write prescriptions before that.
When we travel, I buy travel insurance. Our return tickets from San Francisco to France were only $400 each so $150 insurance for the two of us might have seemed disproportionate. It was the best investment ever.
We ended up having a Rescue Nurse sent out from Colorado, by the insurance company, to accompany us home. He landed in Marseilles and had a four hour drive to reach us in the middle of nowhere. He came to the hospital late afternoon to meet TAO and make arrangements for discharge at 4am the next morning. The limo drive up and down windy hill roads as the windshield wipers swept away the rain got us to the airport with time to spare. With a stop in London and a rushed connection, we were able to sleep some on the plane as we were booked in business class seats that reclined flat. Our nurse kept checking on TAO and had him on oxygen the whole trip home. another limo awaited us at San Jose airport and, at the end of thirty two hours of travel we went straight to Kaiser Hospital ER.
We love our HMO. Kaiser have saved TAO several times over the years. After a week in hospital TAO was transitioned to a Rehabilitation facility to get his strength back and work with Physical Therapists etc.
Unfortunately, the food there did not tempt the appetite of a sick Frenchman and he was still losing blood and weight. I brought him King Crab legs and set us up out on the sunny patio to make as much mess as he liked. The next day I had a watercress salad and Foie Gras that I'd brought back from the good part of our trip.
One day I broke him out between doctors' appointments and took him to an English Pub for steak and kidney pie. The tide turned.
TAO's been home for a couple of weeks and has visiting therapists and nurses. They've been great. He walks with a walker now to the end of the driveway and back with a short rest on a wall along the way.
The wheelchair we use for longer distances like the Sunday visit to the ocean. There's some surgery ahead. We have a consult next week but Our doctors collaborate and communicate and some even speak a little French.
The greatest loss is TAO's memory but it's my loss, not his. He always did live in the moment, not unlike a puppy. He leaves memories of pain at the threshold of each new day and doesn't worry about the future.
And, like a puppy, as long as meals appear regularly in front of him, all is well.