Sunday, January 26, 2020

SAD BUT IMPROVING

A friend of mine recently commented on how many months it is until Daylight Savings Time begins again and I was struck by how much I look forward to it, but had never thought to count the days until it returns.  And since there have been so many legislative changes in when it actually begins, I'm not sure I can actually tell you when it starts this year.  I think it's the end of March, but I could be wrong.  The fact that I didn't immediately consult my research assistant, Dr. Google (as my husband used to say), indicates the seriousness of the problem I have discovered when we are in Pacific Standard Time.  
I can remember being intrigued when I first learned about Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). As I understand it, SAD affects people who need more sunlight and therefore in the winter they are more likely to feel depressed or "SAD."  I know that on my husband's birthday, which is December 21, I can feel a lessening of the discouragement that I get as the days grow shorter and shorter, until on the Winter Solstice, minute by minute we get a little more light each day.  I can remember that when I worked in Manhattan, in the Empire State Building, after our Christmas to New Year's vacation, each evening when I came out of the office and noticed that it was getting lighter, my heart would lift and I would feel as if I had made it past the enemy forces once again.  
I have read that certain lights can help with SAD, and I actually bought a light that supposedly mimics daylight.  At first I had it in my bedroom so it would cheer me up as I was getting dressed in the morning.  Then I moved it to the kitchen so I could have it lift my spirits while I ate my breakfast and did my morning reflection.  Now it resides in my practice area where I put my French horn through its paces.  I'm not sure it actually makes a difference but maybe it's not really the right kind of light, not the therapeutic kind but just one that supposedly gives you some semblance of sunshine even on a cloudy day.
But I have noticed that if on one of these gray, damp January mornings that leaves me feeling as if I have no energy and no enthusiasm for anything, if the sun comes out, as it frequently does, and stripes the grass with light and cheer, I suddenly begin to make plans for the rest of the day and usually follow through.  My spirits improve, I'm no longer SAD, and I might even find the vim and vigor to find out when Daylight Savings Time will at last come to save me!  What a great surprise:  DST begins on March 8, much sooner than I expected.  Cue the fireworks!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

COMPLIMENTS, PROGRESS, AND BALANCE

There are spotlights on certain moments as I look back over the last couple of years, highlights on accomplishments and lessons underlined.  
The area where I have the steepest learning curve is playing the French horn.  It requires a strong embouchure (and even one day of missing practice shows up here), deep and focused breathing, coordinating embouchure, breath and fingering, as well as a constantly expanding familiarity with complex rhythm and note combinations and above all, an emphasis on producing those golden tones for which the horn is celebrated.  Barry Tuckwell, who was the premier horn soloist in the world for most of my adult life, began as an organist, and at 19 was challenged to take up the horn by another horn player, famously said, "One note at a time, piece of cake!" But anyone who has heard him play Giovanni Punto's Horn Concerto #11, particularly the third movement, the Menuetto, where he is undoubtedly triple tonguing for long passages, might debate that!
Two years ago, I was trying to master a particularly difficult solo written for soprano saxophone, which I had transposed originally so I could play it for the choir when we were rehearsing it for a concert, since the professional musician who had been hired would only be there for the dress rehearsal and the concert itself. The timing was extremely challenging, with grace notes into 32nd note runs, but it was a good exercise both mentally and physically for me.  One night when we were rehearsing, I played the final slur from middle C to high C and the director had me sustain it much longer than even the hold mark would seem to have indicated.  When he finally signaled the release, he told me my tone was so beautiful he didn't want it to end! As Mark Twain would have said, "I can last two months on a good compliment!"
There are days when I can see the progress I'm making on the horn, in my writing, and even in getting my desk cleared off.  There are other days when I've left a poem I'm working on in the middle of my desk and the next morning realize it has just added to the piles I have to sort through.  When I take the piles off my desk so I have a clear space to work, I am still very conscious of them, as if they were lurking behind me, ready to pounce, the minute I take my mind off them.  And trying to juggle all the different projects I'm working on leaves me off balance much of the time. 
As I set timers and work on my different projects on different days or calendar blocks, I remind myself of what Janie, one of my dear companions in my coaching group, said, "I'm staying balanced by reminding myself that I chose this, it's fun and I like the work."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

LIKE A LIGHTNING BOLT

Life changes in an instant.
I went from cleaning and laundry to a leadership conference which was extremely intense. In the middle of our dinner break, I got a text from my daughter Mary asking me to call her.  I told her that I could only text her at that point and she texted me back that Catherine's husband had cancer. I immediately called back.
Ray had had some symptoms of gall bladder attacks while he was here for Christmas, and we assumed he'd go home and get scheduled to have his gall bladder out. Instead, when he went to the emergency room with severe pain, they decided to put in a stent and did a biopsy at the same time, and the results of the biopsy showed adenocarcinoma of the bile duct. This is an extremely rare cancer that almost always presents in people who are 70 or older, and the prognosis is not good.  There seem to be no statistics at all on younger people like Ray, who is only 35. He developed pancreatitis from the procedure, and the first stent didn't work, so they did another stent which has given him some relief.  The lung scan was clear, which is some good news, since that is apparently the first place it would metastasize.  Tomorrow they will be meeting with the oncologist and surgeons to discuss their plans.  
This has all seemed surreal. Ray and Catherine have three small children, 10, 8, and 5. His parents are helping with the children, and taking turns with Catherine with hospital visits, but they have 12 of their own, and not all of them are grown; in fact their youngest is younger than Ray and Catherine's oldest.
I am enrolling as many people as possible to pray for Ray and his family. Yesterday, I asked my Beginning Experience group, and I asked the choir today, and my small group from the leadership conference; I chose to withdraw from the program, because I need to be able to be in contact with my family and stay updated on Ray. And I'm glad I only sent out two Christmas cards so far, because I can enlist all my friends and relatives as I send them my cards. I feel grateful to be uplifted by so many praying hands.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

TWELVE DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS

Twelve days after Christmas and all through the house
the only one scurrying is not a small mouse.
Our son took the last batch of family to the airport for their flight back to Minnesota this morning, and then he, his girlfriend and another friend took off for Mass and brunch and hasn't been seen since.  But to give a glimpse of what has been happening here in the last two weeks, I will attempt a room-by-room account of the leftovers from the festivities.  
The garage has a Suburban that has developed an inability to fully close one of its windows.  The smaller car needs a smog job and its 115,000 mile treatment at the dealer's. The sink is soaking with boiling water and vinegar to remove the remains of all that was washed in there over the past two weeks.  Then I need to do my weekly soak of all the orchids in my kitchen window.  The speckled one started blooming on December 21, which was my husband's birthday, and the white one opened its first bloom on New Year's Day.  I can see more flower spikes emerging from several of the other plants; they are starting early this year.
In my bedroom, which was turned over to my daughter Teresa and her husband and their three youngest, including the 8 month old baby who showed great precocity in imitating the way I buzz with my mouth as a French horn warm up, I've stripped the bed, and the sheets have made their way to the dryer so I can return to my own corner of the house tonight. I've removed the mattress the 5-year-old slept on, but still have to move the other one for the 2-year-old and the pack and play for the baby, as well as a Princess Balloon from Disneyland which they elected not to take on the plane. The towels are being washed, but I'm not sure I'll get to the dusting and vacuuming today.
Oh, did I mention that almost all of us got some cold/virus with a horrendous cough over the course of the two weeks? This means there are tissue boxes, full trash cans, and I am washing all the sheets and towels on heavy duty in hopes that the germs will be vanquished.  It changed many of our plans, but despite that we all enjoyed time talking, cooking, and cleaning together, and the cousins (20 of them) appeared to have a ball playing games, exploring the Playmobil room (where I slept the greater part of the time) and enjoying the sunny Southern California weather after the two days of rain on Christmas and the day after. This was especially appreciated by the grandchildren from Canada and Minnesota.
Now I have moved all the extra bedding out of my room, made my bed, cleaned the bathroom, dusted and vacuumed. I'm on the fourth load of laundry, with many more to come, and the second dishwasher load. When my son came home briefly, he commented astringently on the mess, allowed as how he sometimes contributes to it, but then replaced the lightbulbs that were defunct, folded up the two folding chairs that had eluded me so far, divided up some of the many leftovers with me, and took the Costco table upstairs.
I made it into the dining room with the vacuum cleaner and was finally able to vacuum up the millions of crumbs that decorated the 14" burgundy carpet strip that edges the room. I found the button that had fallen off one of the dining room chairs so it can now be sewed back on, and decided that since I could only squeak out a few words when my daughter called to say she would be over tomorrow to help with the clean up, it is time to call it a day, eat a belated dinner, and get a good night's sleep in the hope that I will be feeling more like tackling the rest of the house tomorrow. And maybe avoid the spicy Korean soup that I thought would clear my sinuses but instead made me realize that my digestive system is a bit out of whack as well as my head!