"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of the inorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed." - Albert Einstein

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I aspire to a stubbornly incorrigible nonconformity. The degree to which I have achieved my aspiration I leave in the capable hands of those whose wisdom and humilty exceed my own.

Monday, April 30, 2012

And So It Goes

I attended my first mini-shesshin (Buddhist retreat) this past weekend and it was a transformational experience. I have never sat in meditation position for that long ever before and I am so sore and tired. But I am also inspired to maintain and grow my own meditataion and study practice. I feel more Buddhist than ever.

The teacher told us the first night that our task for the shesshin was to sit, breathe, and listen. That sounds easy, but as a culture we rarely concentrate and focus our energies on the task at hand. When we are cooking we are also thinking of who will do the dishes and what has to be done later on that evening and what we will wear tomorrow. This robs us of the full experience, and joy, of cooking. Sitting in meditation is training for mindful living. As it is on the cushion, so it is in life.

I come home to find several "must do" tasks waiting for me. But I am not bothered. One task at a time, one step at a time. And so it goes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Good Day

I have been feeling better the last few days and my oxygen saturation was up to 95% this morning. We are trying me off of oxygen now and I am maintaining 95%. It is good to be untethered from the long oxygen tubing; I've still got my feeding pump to whcih I am attached.

I have a couple of meetings this weekend but in the interests of not relapsing I think I will stay home. One of the meetings is relocating to my house tomorrow. That means I probably need to do a little cleaning and clearing up today.

Our family is planning a vacation for September. We will be going to Oceanside California where we have a time share reserved. We will get to visit family including my favorite niece and nephew and their new babies. We will also visit some friends.

On the trip down we are going through Las Vegas so that we can stop at Mario Battali's restaurant. Even though I can't eat this is so important to me. Years ago, when I was really sick, my almost a sister good friend Kathy, who was also struggling with cancer, decided that when we were better we would meet up in Las Vegas for dinner at Mario Battali's. Kathy died before we could ever make that trip and I just didn't feel right about making that trip without her.

Recently though, I have decided that this is something I want to do, to honor Kathy's memory. Kathy was a remarkable woman; a strident advocate for what is right, especially when it came to her child.

When Kathy died she left a husband and her son. I have been emailing her husband, Lane, and about them meeting us in Las Vegas to complete this circle, and it looks like it might happen. This  makes me happy.

It is ironic, now that I can't eat or drink anything I'm going to this restaurant. Life is funny that way sometimes. Not ha ha funny, just funny.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What a frustrating week it has been. On Friday April 13, 2012 I was feeling a little short of breath and I had a slight fever. Anticipating the worst I packed a bag and my daughter, Becca, made an appointment with my primary care provider. Just as I had expected I was hospitalized with pneumonia again. Who says that it's superstitious to believe that nasty stuff happens on Friday the 13th?

 was hospitalized until Tuesday April 17, 2012 and they sent me home to recuperate. Unfortunately they sent me home on oxygen and forced bed rest. So I have another tether that limits my mobility around and especially outside the  house. I am getting really tired of this. And what is even worse is that the doctor told me that this is what I can expect for the foreseeable future, chronic pneumonia resulting in my need for oxygen gradually extending to the point that I will need oxygen continuously.

I have made a conscious and deliberate decision to try and be mindful, optimistic, and grateful; but I have to admit that sometimes it is a challenge.

Now I am faced with cancelling several things I was planning on doing during the next two weeks that I was looking forward to, most importantly, a Buddhist retreat, a Sesshin. Attached to an oxygen tank, as well as a feeding  pump is just too much to manage and be able to be in meditation for long periods of time, not to mention walking or working meditation.

I'm not sure that this is good for me, but I am feeling a little angry and sorry for myself today and just felt like I needed to share it with someone.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Life Is Good ... Again

I taught my daughter to make Cresca, my great grandmother's traditional Easter bread, which is more like a quiche, this past Saturday. It was a great success and everyone loved it. I have such fond memories of enjoying this treat every Easter and have not made it for years. Even though I could not eat any, I think I enjoyed passing this on to my daughter almost as much as I would have enjoyed eating it.

I have been trying, for years, to practice the Law of Attraction, what you project is what comes to you. It's really hard to assess the effectiveness of something like that because the universe is a random place and practicing the Law of Attraction doesn't mean that you will never experience any bad things, only that you will be better able to cope with the bad things that you do experience.

I do have some difficulty accepting that the Law of Attraction explains how everything works. I don't think that children are abused or neglected because of their negative attitudes about life or that people who die unexpectedly are somehow responsible for their demise. But I do think that cultivating a positive attitude and practicing a life of mindfulness, being truly and completely present to each moment, does produce tremendous benefits.

I had been dreading the phone call I made yesterday. Last week I submitted a sputum sample for testing. I was mentally preparing myself to have to go back on IV antibiotics, which is yet another tether and might mean I would not be able to attend my three day Buddhist Sesshin later this month. At the same time I was consciously trying to have a positive outlook and thanking the sacred for the gift of the health that I do have.

When I called my doctor yesterday and spoke to his nurse, she gave me some very good news. The sputum sample that I submitted last week grew only "natural flora," and there were no pathogens at all. That means that I am healing well and won't have to be on IV antibiotics. I was so happy and light that it made my afternoon zazen a little challenging but so enjoyable.

It is interesting to me that I was able to hold two contradictory thoughts in my head and heart and soul at the same time - dreading what I anticipated happening and simultaneously feeling, or trying to feel, confident that there would be a good outcome. I find that I do this in life and I think I have seen other people do this too. I have done it so long that it just feels natural to me now, but when I stop and think about it, it seems a little crazy.

I am celebrating my good news with a cup of coffee. My wife, daughter, and I have all agreed that there is a delicate balance between quality of life and quantity of life and that I will not sacrifice the certain quality of life for an uncertain quantity of life. So I get to have an occasional cup of coffee or a cold beer with no regrets or shame or guilt. And I have to say that the coffee is particularly satisfying this morning.

It is intriguing how little thingss like sharing something special from your heritage and experience with your daughter or getting good health news can buoy a person up. Yes, life is good ... again.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Buona Pasqua

I am teaching my daughter Becca to make my great grandmother's traditional Easter bread, the Cresca, which is much more like a quiche, this weekend. In order to make the Cresca we have to make our sausage, which we will do today. It is so much fun for me to teach my daughter how to cook, especially Italian foods.

I have such great memories of waiting each year for Easter so I could have the Cresca, which my grandmother called gavetsone. It was one of my very favorite foods of the year. I loved helping to make it too, especially making the sausage. The Cresca is filled with almost a dozen eggs, a generous helping of ricotta cheese, Parmesean cheese, and pepporoni, all baked into a bread crust.

The soft squares of Cresca, usually served cold with strong coffee on Easter morning, are so full of great Italian flavors; the salty and spicy sausage, the creamy almost bland ricotta, the musky pepporoni, and the Parmesean - the king of cheeses. My mouth waters just remembering, which is almost all that is left for me now. Almost all, but not all. Still left to me is teaching Becca about my Italian heritage and in particular, how to cook.

I think Becca is not nearly as excited about this as I am but I suppose that is a father's perogative.

Happy Easter everyone, or should I say, Buona Pasqua!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Random thoughts

It is now officially official. I am retired. My last day on the books was March 31, 2012 and as of April 1, 2012 I am no longer an employee of the State of Washington Division of Child and Family Services. Friday was my retirement party at a local coffee shop, my favorite, Caffe Mela. Three tables were reserved and people came to the party and said the most generous and thoughtful things. I was particularly touched by my supervisor, Liza Sterbick's, comments. It was so touching that I had to consciously try not to cry. I loved my job but it is clear to everyone that I can no longer continue in that position. The work is too stressful and my health is too fragile. The job requires concentration, an ability to focus, and an ability to organize and remember details. All of these are victims of my health. I am also gradually loosing the ability to speak clearly and forcefull, which is an integral part of what I used to do. What will I do now? I am finding things to fill my days and even fill a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. I have been doing some writing. I am still active in Toastmasters. I am involved in Occupy Wenatchee and I am becoming more active in my church, the Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (CUUF). I am a Pastoral Care Associate and I am on the Social Action Team. Yesterday at church we had a social action workshop, which was so energizing and empowering. I was and remain excited about the energy for a commitment to social action that is building in the fellowship. I left that meeting with really good energy. It reinforced what I have been learning - if I am involved in something energizing, my energy is renewed. If I am involved in something that is energy sapping I get tired more easily. That seems such an obvious thing but apparently I have to learn and re-learn that periodically. Teaching my daughter to cook has also been energizing for me. It is something that is bringing us closer together and that we can share. This weekend we will be making my great-grandmother's traditional Easter bread, which is more like a quiche, with ricotta cheese and sausage and salami ... When I could eat it was one of my very favorite foods. This has been a little rambling of a post but I really feel the need to blog every few days and I hadn't done so for a while, so I disciplined myself to start writing trusting the inspiration to follow. It works most of the time, but I guess not today.