H-Mart

Winter                                                                       Stent Moon

20181227_122644SeoAh and I went to H-Mart yesterday. Not sure if I’ve written about it before or not. H-Mart is a New Jersey based, Korean owned Asian grocery chain. It has two stores in the Denver metro. An obligatory part of a SeoAh visit is at least one visit to H-Mart. These are huge stores, set up like a cross between a grocery store and a suk with many small shops set inside a standard mall large box. On any visit there are folks from India, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam scrutinizing the produce, buying live lobster or clams or fish, Asian cookware and dishes, choosing from so many brands of soy sauce. There are, too, the occasional Caucasians, some in families with Asian kids, presumably adopted, a few just shopping for themselves.

I asked SeoAh if seeing all the Asian people made her feel at home. She shook her head, then picked up a package of rice cakes, “But the food? That makes me feel at home.”

2018 주간포커스My goal in going with her was to learn how she shops, what she looks for. I want to learn at least a few Korean dishes; but, I really want to learn how a Korean cook thinks. That way I can make my own Korean meals. Kate likes the food and so do I.

A problem quickly arose however. SeoAh bought items with Korean language labels. Well, just look at it, I thought. What’s that? I asked. You know ginseng? Yes. Dried. Ah. So many kinds of seaweed, including some small packets, lunch box sized. I like them, remembered she bought them last time, but I’d never recognize them again. Guess I’ll have to take photographs.

Another issue is that both H-Marts are far from here. At least an hour. No good for weekly shopping. I love their ambiance though and even more the wide selection of fresh food. I might try to get there a bit more often that during SeoAh’s visits.

 

The Duke

Samain                                                                          Stent Moon

Marijuana prerolledJon, Ruth, and Gabe came up Saturday evening. The Instapot proved capable of turning a rump roast into a more tender cut of meat. Using a pressure cooker at elevation makes a lot of sense. Almost of all the roast plus potatoes, carrots and parsnip disappeared down mostly functional gastro-intestinal tracts. The gi tract with difficulty got help from Maryjane. (Grandma took 3 hits on a prerolled joint.) That went well.

We passed out Hanukkah gifts, lit the candles, said the prayers, then Ruth, Kate, and I sat around the table and talked while the candles burned down. Ruth has a piercing plan. When she’s 13, she’s adding a third stud to both ears, then, when she’s 14, a nose stud. After that? Lots of body parts available. Why? I don’t really know. I’m going to ask her next time she’s up.

Jon and Ruth took off early Sunday morning for A-basin. Good powder there. Snow in the mountains has been good, but across the divide to the east, where we are, much less so. So much less so that Denver is about to have its 12th year of under 30 inches. 2 of those 12 will be last year and this one unless a big storm arrives before Jan. 1. Not in the forecasts right now. 1/6 of the driest snow years in all weather records for Denver in the last two years!

Gabe made pinch hitter pizzas for lunch. This from a recipe in a Hanukkah gift, Boys Can Cook! The pizzas were on English muffin slices with red sauce, soppressata slices, and cheese. Not bad.

Alan, third from the right

Alan, third from the right

After a nap we drove over to Evergreen High School for a Jazzy Yule holiday concert by the Evergreen Chorale. My friend Alan Rubin sings in the chorale and is on the board of Ovation West, the company that includes the Evergreen Chorale and Ovation West Musical Theater. The quality of both the chorale and the theater are good, high for amateur performing arts with skilled musicians and talented actors.

The first half of the concert took me by surprise. Alan had told me that the first half was music from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts songbook, but I had expected something more beboppy, more holiday jingly. Uh-huh. This was serious music, jazzy with a little bebop in there, but music with an edge, especially the last piece, “Freedom.” I’ve included a full you-tube video of a performance of it below. If you have time, and like complex choral pieces, you may find it interesting. I found it compelling, a work of art that challenges what that word means in the American context, today in particular.

In Kate news we’re going to press for a date for Kate’s procedure. Wanting to get on with it for obvious reasons.

 

Not Your Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. But, a good one anyhow.

Samain                                                                                  (full) Thanksgiving Moon

(N.B. I love vintage images on the web. I’m including here some of the weird ones I found while checking out Thanksgiving.)

Thanksgiving weirdWe put out our best aluminum tins from Tony’s. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sage stuffing, green beans almondine. I plunged the plastic bag of turkey gravy in boiling water. The turkey breast went in a shallow pan with a 1/2 cup of water. We have two ovens and the top one, the smaller of the two, did its job well for the potatoes and the stuffing.

The larger, lower oven not so much. After almost an hour in an oven reputed to be at 350 degrees the turkey hardly moved the dial on the meat thermometer. Well. Perfect. No Thanksgiving is complete without some culinary malfunction. Kate suggested I slice the breast and warm the pieces in the microwave. How did we ever survive without microwaves? Many of you remember the primitive past. Today’s kids don’t know how lucky they are.

Thanksgiving camelsOn the table sat our finest paper plates, a big turkey printed on them saying gobble, gobble, gobble. The napkins had pumpkins and vines and stuff. The meal was very good and aside from the now suspect ovens (I won’t mention that the other one went wonky, too.) exceeded my hopes.

We talked about the usual Thanksgiving topics.That dumb#$! in the Whitehouse. The ruination of American culture by technology. No, wait a minute. That was somebody else’s house.

We talked about Annie’s retirement from the Scott County jail after 30 years of public service. Learning how to be retired is not something we anticipate, but it can be a real challenge. She’s working on it. And getting there, I think.

Jon’s car came up. Always a fruitful topic. He’s putting on a new axle today, getting ready to refit several bushings. His hearing next Tuesday for the misdemeanor. Ruth and Gabe. “They eat whole baguettes. I have to hide them.”

Thanskgiving pabstKate’s two months from hell. A modest amount of this excellent meal sent her straight to bed. Not sure where we go from here. Smoothies and Korean food, maybe.

Jon and I talked for awhile after Kate went to bed and Annie went up for a nap. He took home a large chunk of turkey breast, sweet potatoes, sage stuffing and green beans. “Next year my kitchen should be done. We can have Thanksgiving there.” Sounds good to me.

In between all this I’m still learning about planets and glyphs, natal charts, signs, houses. The big task though is not directly astrology related. I’m going to figure out the notion of the archetype once and for all. After reading Tarnas, I’m convinced archetypes are a big clue to the efficacy of astrology, but how does that work? And, just what is an archetype anyhow?

Thanksgiving 2Woke up this morning and did my gratitude practice. At night I consider all the gifts I got during that day, all the gifts I gave, and any trouble I caused. In the morning I start out with what I’m grateful for right now. Both practices seem to soothe me, put me in a place to receive and accept blessings. Life’s a hell of a lot better when I’m in that sorta space.

So. If you’re reading this, I’m grateful you took the time. Thanks.

Thanksgiving

Samain                                                                          Thanksgiving Moon

The waxing Thanksgiving Moon has been on daytime display. It stood directly east of us yesterday, splitting the lanes of Highway 6 going into Denver. In the clear blue, baby blue sky it looked like one of those establishing shots in a movie where there are two moons visible in the day to signal, alien planet! I find the daytime moon strangely soothing, a gentle reminder of both our isolation, even in the solar system, and our closest neighbor.

Yesterday was a much better day for Kate. She ate, slept, smiled. No nausea, no abdominal pain. A peek at what used to be. I liked it.

At 2 pm I drive over to Littleton to Tony’s Market to pick up our Thanksgiving meal, a turkey breast and several sides. We decided putting out a big meal this year was beyond us. It feels great to me. I really like cooking Thanksgiving meals, but this year it felt burdensome. So we solved it.

Annie comes in today and Jon will be up tomorrow after he drops Ruth and Gabe off at Jen’s. A small meal, then, but with family. I plan to read a list of folks who’ve helped us out in any way over the last couple of months. We’ll say gratitude or thank you after each one.

 

Mostly Musical

Fall                                                                         Harvest Moon

Wow. Had a lot on my mind yesterday. Sorry about the length. More yet, too.

Alan, Jamie, Tara

Alan, Jamie, Tara

Anyhow. Met with Tara yesterday. Director of Education at Beth Evergreen. I said, Help. She gave me lots of ideas on classroom management, help. She’s delightful. Bright. Straightforward. Open. An example. How you arrange the classroom is very important. Oh yeah? Where the kids sit, what’s on the table when they come in. Having a separate table for attendance. A close by table for snacks. OK. Would never have occurred to me.

Later in the day Kate and I went to see Funny Girl. It was interesting, very, comparing the tech rehearsal we saw a week ago Wednesday with the full production. The show yesterday had none of the rough edges we saw then. Props ended up in their places. And there were a lot of prop changes. Lines were crisp and the dancing, singing were good, too. It went on about an hour too long for me, but I’m not a fan of musicals. The first act had energy, pop. The second act had some, but to my tired butt, not as much.

Stage ready for act II

Stage ready for act II

Musicals are the cotton candy of the theater world, at least most of them. Lots of sugar, easy to consume, then all that’s left is sticky fingers. I came out humming People Who Need People, so there’s that. I guess I’m more of a drama guy. Beckett. Friel. O’Neill. Wilson. Kushner. Still, it was a nice change up.

Also, it was community theater. Not the high production values of the Guthrie, for example, but pretty good. And the casting depends on a limited pool of volunteers though in spite of that the voices and acting abilities were even better than pretty good.

Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice

The director had some great ideas about staging, including opening and closing scenes that showed the cast playing to backstage on which was painted a theater. We were back stage ourselves, watching them perform. That meant the entire story took place between opening and closing of one of Fanny’s shows. A show between shows about show business. A bit of a fun house mirror effect.

One especially nice piece of staging was a solo by Fanny, leaning on the piano. Behind Fanny and the piano, in half light, a couple danced. It was a view (at least I saw it this way.) inside her mind as she sang. The effect was wonderful.

FannyBrice1c.jpg2We knew people in the cast, saw folks we knew in the lobby, and were greeted by the costumer as we left. He remembered us from our visit to the tech rehearsal. In other words this was also a moment of immersion in community, our community. That’s not the same as a visit to the Guthrie or to Broadway, but has lots of other, ancillary benefits.

Back home at 6:30 (it started at 3:00!) I made Kate a fatty meal for her gall bladder ultrasound today. Oh, boy, another procedure.

Finished the Netflix limited series Maniac last night. You have to have a quirky aesthetic to like it, but I did. It may bear watching a second time. Lots in it and a great cast: Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Gabriel Byrne, Sally Field, for example.

Alan, demyelination, days with no nausea

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

Alan

Alan

Alan came over for work on the religious school lesson plans. Kate made her oven pancakes (always delicious) and Alan told us stories about early Jewish Denver. West Colfax (think Lake Street) between Federal and Sheridan was an orthodox Jewish community when he grew up. He said on Friday afternoons with folks scurrying from the deli to the bakery to the kosher butcher it looked like, well I can’t recall exactly, but any typical European Jewish community.

His dad was going to be a University professor before the Holocaust. Instead he came here and ended up in the dry cleaning business. In those day Alan’s friends and neighbors were either children of Holocaust survivors or survivors themselves. That old neighborhood, like north Minneapolis, has completely changed. The first synagogue in Denver is now an art museum on the Auraria campus of the University of Colorado. The Jewish community concentrated itself in south Denver, more to the east.

We worked for a couple of hours, putting specific lesson plans on the calendar, deciding which days to do the Moving Traditions curriculum, which days for middah, which days for Jewish holidays, which days for our own lesson plans. I’m experiencing some anxiety about this since we start next Wednesday with the first family session of the Moving Traditions curriculum. This approach to the student preparing for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah will, apparently, be controversial because it doesn’t focus on the ritual of the morning service, but on the students’ social, emotional, and developmental needs. Alan, Jamie, and Tara will deal with that. Not me.

20180408_182236Kate’s had several days in a row with no nausea. Yeah! That means she feels better and can get some things done. In doing so, however, the extent of her loss of stamina, weight loss and Sjogren’s Syndrome, has become apparent. She still needs to rest frequently. If she can modulate the nausea, either through careful eating or an eventual diagnosis or using medical marijuana, the next step is to get some weight gain, some stamina improvement. If possible. Or, we may have to adjust to a new normal.

I’ve been absorbed in lesson planning, training for the school year, climbing my steep learning curve about matters Jewish and matters middle school. That’s my way. Dive into something new, leave most other things behind until I’ve gotten where I feel like I need to be. Not there yet, though I imagine after a few class sessions, I will be. Sort of a head down, blinkers on time. My writing has dwindled and so have submissions.

Over the last couple of weeks, while I work out, I’ve been watching a Teaching Company course on the aging brain. I recommend it. Highly. It’s helped me understand why this approach, head down blinkers on, is developmentally appropriate for me. For example, the aging brain, on average, loses some processing speed, executive functions, and crispness of episodic memory (memory tied to a person or place and seen from a first person perspective.) over each decade, beginning in the twenties.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

The underlying issue seems to be gradual demyelination of the axons which constitute the white matter in our brain. With myelin sheathing over their length axons can carry information very fast, without it somewhere around 2 meters per second, or human walking speed. As our processing speed declines, so do brain functions like the executive management of brain activity by the prefrontal cortex. It’s this one, the decline in executive function, that requires the head down, blinkers on approach to new activity or to tasks we need to complete. As we age, we no longer handle distractions as well, getting pulled away from this to focus on the shiny that.

I like knowing this because it helps me understand my daily third phase life better. The thinking process itself is not impaired, just the speed and our ability to stay with a task. It helped explain a very uncomfortable moment for me at the Genesee Ropes Course on Sunday. Jamie and I were with the 6th and 7th graders. Adrienne, a ropes course employee had just explained the rules of a warmup game. One of the rules was that we had we could not throw a soft toy to someone who’d already gotten one on that round.

geneseeI got the stuffed unicorn on the third or fourth toss. When I tossed it to Alex, Adrienne asked, “Did he break a rule?” All the kids and Jamie nodded. Yes, he had. Why? Alex had already gotten the unicorn. Oh, shit. This was the first interaction between me and these kids as a group and I looked like a doofus. I didn’t remember the rule at all. There were plenty of things to distract me. The continental divide in the distance. A wind blowing through the trees. Trying to concentrate on learning kid’s names. General anxiety about not knowing the kids at all. Whatever it was, my executive function let me go, Oh, fish on bicycle, instead of hearing, no throwing to someone who’s already received it.

It still looks the same to the outsider. I missed the rule, and as a result, screwed up in its execution. But now I understand that this is not a sign of dementia or other deep seating problem, but rather a normal, though irritating, side effect of demyelination.

 

 

The Queen of Shadow Mountain, Spliffs, Spring Rolls

Lughnasa                                                                     Waning Summer Moon

20180828_185716Kate’s birthday present came yesterday. It has excellent lumbar and neck support, plus it inclines with the press of a small lever. She’s the queen of Shadow Mountain.

Went down the hill yesterday to the Native Roots dispensary. I wanted something Kate could use to quickly attack nausea, perhaps eliminate it. Research suggested Durban Poison, Northern Lights, Lemon Haze, or a strain like those.

Native Roots is a franchise operation, very slick and a little cold in their approach. Like all the dispensaries they check i.d. Here they made me take off my hat and glasses so the camera could get a shot of me. Inside I made a mistake when the budtender (silly, silly name) called me forward. I told her my wife had nausea and I wanted something that might help. “Never tell a budtender you’re buying for someone else. That’s illegal.” Oh, ok. “Well, I have nausea, then.” “OK. We’re good there.”

They didn’t have any of the particular strains I wanted, but she recommended a strain called Jilly Bean, one they grow themselves. I wanted a bong, but they “…don’t sell glass.” She offered me pre-rolled joints. Oh, the distance from the late sixties and its furtive culture, wrapping papers, sorting seeds and stems out on the kitchen table. These joints, spliffs, blunts have a spiral filter on the end to cool the smoke and neatly wrapped wrapped paper twisted off at the end. Very producty looking. And, not cheap. $7 each.

I bought two. She’ll try them when the nausea hits next time. If it works, we’ll get her a bong and some flower rather than pre-rolled joints. Can you believe I just wrote that sentence? This is truly the new millennium.

native roots

Kate wanted spring rolls for supper using some of the mushrooms she grew. (I know. This sounds like a back to the sixties day for us.) I sauteed the mushroom at noon. Kate got some shrimp out to defrost. After her throne arrived, I got busy. Cut up cucumber into matchstick sized pieces. Mix chopped nuts and carrots, shredded. Add fish sauce, juice of two limes and sugar. Mix. Heat water to boiling, pour over rice noodles. Mint leaves. Cilantro leaves. Lettuce leaves. Run the rice paper under the tap. Put on plate, assemble.

These were our first spring rolls, so they weren’t as elegant as, say, the Jilly Bean prerolls, but they tasted great. A successful beginning from the new Asian cookbook.

Alan is coming today and we’ll work on a calendar for our lesson plans. Classes start a week from today. Oh, my. Lots more to say about that, but not now.

 

Police Treating Blacks Awfully

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe opened up his large notebook yesterday and showed me a page empty except for a sort of title: Police treating blacks awfully. This is his project. Jon wanted me to help him with some research so we went up to the loft. I suggested to him that we put his title into google. We did that. He chose several articles ranging from an essay on prison brutality to a Gallup poll on how blacks perceive their treatment by the police.

To put a generational spin on it, he said, “We could just add these to Googledocs.” Oh. Well, ok. Do you know your Google account information? He got up and typed it in, commenting, as Ruth always does, that he doesn’t like my track ball mouse. We then added links to all the articles he chose to a blank Google doc that will show up wherever he has access to a computer. No library involved, at least so far. He will also interview black friends and adults. This is all interesting not least because this project isn’t due until May/June, 2019. Pretty long range thinking for a 10 year old.

Love

Love

Meanwhile corned beef simmered on the stove, awaiting the addition of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Sounded good to Kate and these days I try to cook whatever sounds good to her. I still can’t get it moist like Frank does. Gotta ask him his secret. Tasted ok. Today. Corned beef hash. A real favorite for my palate.

Kate had a consult with a gastroenterologist, a Korean/American, Dr. Rhee. He’s going to look at her gall bladder and do another upper GI endoscopy to look for a possible stricture below her stomach. She sounded hopeful, but weary. Easy to understand. This is like torture. Her nausea is episodic, but always looming.

She was tired last night and so was I. She asked me to clean up after the meal and I said,”No.” Felt bad immediately. I was tired, too, but I don’t have her inner fatigue. So, I cleaned up. This is tough stuff because it creates tension where tension only exacerbates.

I’m lucky to be in relationship with such an intelligent and confident woman. Have been. Am. Will be. I see that woman every day; she often doesn’t. Painful.

Muddy BuckThere’s a sort of sneaky self-satisfaction that comes from holding a business meeting on the boardwalk in Evergreen. Alan Rubin and I met at the Muddy Buck in the morning, sitting outside on its veranda, really a wide spot on the couple of blocks long board walk that I mentioned a few posts ago. On a Monday morning discussing the religious school class we start teaching on September 5th, we saw the usual flow of cars on Hwy 74, the main street of this tourist destination portion of Evergreen. This is a place people come to visit for an afternoon or a weekend or a week. And we live here.

 

 

Kate, mussar

Lughnasa                                                                        Monsoon Moon

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

Forward and backwards for Kate these days, but yesterday was a forward day. Her spirit was as good as it’s been for quite some time. She’s recovering a sense of her self as an agent, a confident person and it’s a delight.

We have a routine on Thursdays. Go to mussar, get a new character trait to practice or continue work on one. Yesterday we discussed the chesed of chesed, or the loving kindness of loving kindness. It’s an odd idea, but Rami Shapiro, author of the book we’re using right now, compared it to a brush stroke and a painting. An act of chesed gives shape to the whole picture of chesed, one only created over time, by brush stroke after brush stroke.

In a typically Jewish and mussar move intent is not key. It is better to perform an act of loving kindness for a base or less charitable reason than not to perform one at all. Why? Because in doing so, the one who performs the act will discover the personal reward that comes from acting on another’s behalf. That opens the way to look for opportunities for choosing chesed.

20180504_160826After mussar, we take the back way through Hiwan Hills and enter the commercial district of Evergreen, the part for tourists, from the east and drive up to the Vienna Beef shop. It’s on a board walk that extends maybe two blocks and has art galleries, coffee shops, clothing stores and Mountain Man fruits and nuts. I buy two Vienna Beef sandwiches, equivalent to the ones you can purchase in Chicago, and we have them for supper. Up till yesterday afternoon it was a bland, but tasty source of protein for Kate. There was something a bit spicier on either the bun or the the beef yesterday and it made her mouth hurt. We’ll try again, just to see.

 

 

The Week Ahead

Summer                                                                                Monsoon Moon

20180711_065526Finished entering the edits for Superior Wolf, 3.0. I have three plot points to resolve, none of them major. Next step is to craft a query letter, then submit it to an agent. I have a local, Denver-based agent that I think might be interested in my work, but she doesn’t open up for submissions again until July 28th. That’s why I pushed to get this revision done, so I’ll be ready.

Got out the garden tools yesterday and began splitting hosta. Kate wanted some in the front rock garden and she wanted the bed along the north facing side of the house filled in. Got about half way done, then the heat took over. Will finish this morning. If it dries out today (nice rain yesterday and last night), I’m going to mow the fines.

The recipe

The recipe

Back is slowly resolving. Not near as ouchy as it was two weeks ago, even a week ago. Keep moving. Get good sleep. The tramadol helps. One at night before bed.

We bought a quarter beef last year, still have a good deal of meat in the freezer.  Took a porterhouse out last night, pan seared, then broiled. Boiled potatoes. Watermelon gazpacho of my own design, including a whole pomegranate. I enjoy cooking except when the house is hot. Then, not so much.

Ruth is off on a 5 day back packing adventure at Camp Calwood this week. Both she and Jon head back to school in early August, Gabe not till later. Different schools and school districts.

Kate had a better week in regard to her nausea, but she still had a couple of bad days. Like yesterday. Tough to keep emotional equilibrium for her. She does an amazing job of it, difficult with regular insults.

A pondersoa pine at Beth Evergreen

A pondersoa pine at Beth Evergreen

Tomorrow I have a full day training on the B’nai Mitzvah program at a synagogue in Denver. It’s put on by Moving Traditions, a religious school support organization for Jewish education. Jews take their religious school seriously, so this is way beyond Bible School or Sunday School. It’s real school.

A week from tomorrow I leave for Minnesota. Groveland UU celebrates achieving Covenanting Community status with the UUA on Saturday. I’ve been asked to say something, along with three other speakings. Probably I’ll do something about covenant  from a reconstructionist perspective. Not sure yet.