Sunday, March 27, 2011

Turn of Mind

I need to tell you about this book, Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. I received an advance copy and immediately put aside the other two books I was reading to sink into this one. Let's begin by saying I don't read two books at once. I read one at a time and I'm a slow reader so while I am first and formost, a reader, I'm not one of those book a day people. I wish. The pile of books-to-read is high. To put aside the book I was holding and the one I was Kindling to start yet a third is unprecedented. Why then, did I do it? The first page.
This is the story of Dr. Jennifer White. She is a sixty-four year old surgeon with Alzheimer's. I don't know about the rest of you but there are only two words that strike fear into my heart. Cancer and Alzheimer. And cancer has treatments. So, while this is another book about a person in the throes of this disease, it's the first written in the patchy, disjunctive thought pattern of a patient. We feel, experience, the decline from the inside out.

Dr. White tells this story. She admits on page one she's "not that far gone, not yet." As we wander in and out of conscious reality with her the story unfolds. We learn her best friend, who lives three doors down, has been murdered, and Dr. White is the prime suspect. But in her current state of mind, what does she know? Can she be prosecuted if she doesn't even "know" her friend is dead? Why did she die the way she did?

The most frightening part of the book, for me, was its form. In part one she's pretty cogent yet. She still knew some people occasionally. She could carry on parts of a conversation on her good days. On good days she knew her son and daughter but didn't understand her friend was dead. On good days she knows what's happening to her. On bad days we start to get scared.

As the book progresses into parts 2,3 and 4, so does the disease. We are in her mind, we are in her thoughts. We know what it feels like, what is going to happen as she progressively doesn't. As the story grows and her mind degenerates, I can hardly stand thinking about it. I kept finding myself thinking, "How does the author know this is how it will be? How does medical science know? Please tell me it isn't going to be this way." The law continues to pursue her with questions about the night her friend died and we know from the circumstances it could only have been Dr. White. But there is just a tinge of doubt, just a tinge on our part. And we don't like her friend, Amanda. I couldn't figure out what Jennifer saw in her. Was it like that greeting card that says "you'll always be my friend because you know too much about me?" Amanda was not likeable, if she lived three doors from me I'd have moved.

I know, this is just as disjunctive a 'review' or reaction as Jennifer's thoughts. Maybe because I just finished it last night and it truly scared me.

This is one of those unforgettable books. This one tells you what it's like from the deep inside. One you'll read, you'll tell friends to read and buttonhole people to buy. God love them.

The back of the book places publication date in July of this year. Mark your calendars. There are certain authors who, when there is a new book coming from them, I am at the bookstore first thing in the morning, drumming my fingers on the counter waiting for them to unpack the boxes. This is one of those books.

On a lighter note: Snappyfriends

For this week the challenge was doors. Well, I couldn't resist the front door of this birdhouse outside the door of school. Are those sparrrows moving in or what? Perhaps they shouldn't have downsized? I stuck my finger into the front door and that house is packed to the rafters. I don't know if they'll fit one more twig inside but boy, they are trying hard! Very fun to watch them.

Last week's challenge was hard. It was light. I kept my eyes open but nothing came along till yesterday.

Last evening we got Patient Husband out of the house for some airing out. He had a little knee surgery on Thursday and was feeling like he needed an ice cream from our local dairy. So we drove first down to the beach to see if it was still there (!!!) after the long winter. Well, as we approached the sun was just brilliant and the reflection on the channel actually hurt our eyes. Light! This was one of those God moments of beauty that don't photograph well. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Maybe we're just supposed to stop and enjoy it while it's there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

something new

Last night we were going to take our turn with the neighbors and host 'the gathering' (I don't call them parties anymore.) I called for March last New Year's Eve and ... well, it's March and we're home from our stay in the city and oh, what to fix. Everyone brings something and we just graze and talk all evening. There were 15 of us.
I decided to fix one of the turkeys Patient Husband bought at Thanksgiving, slice it up and have breads and spreads for sandwiches. Definitely something different.
How about brining? This was the perfect chance to do something I've never done to a piece of meat. The neighbors could be my testers.
I was a bit afraid of it so chose a recipe that looked innocent enough and didn't ask for 24 hours of soaking - oops - brining. Salt, I threw in a handful of brown sugar, bottle of white wine, water, oranges, rosemary. All good things.

I know, I know, it's supposed to completely cover the meat. But remember, I was a little afraid of having to run out to the deli at the last minute.
I decided to turn the bird breast side down so the white meat was the part soaking really well. This recipe called for 5 hours of brining. I could do that. Sure smelled good. A really good tip one of the recipes noted was the use of one of those oven turkey bags to put the bird in. That way you didn't have to go to the hardware store and buy a multi-gallon bucket or clean out the meat drawer in the fridge. Put it in the bag, submerge the bird, put the bag in the fridge drawer. I was afraid of leakage so I put it in a pan first. Lots of fears going on here.
When it was time to bake I drained and dried the bird, massaged in a little olive oil and poultry seasoning, as an afterthought I tossed the orange pieces into the stuffing cavity along with the rosemary and put it in the oven.

Beauty on a plate! It sure smelled good. Turkey always smells good. There should be a scented candle called "Turkey in the oven for 3 hours."
You know the best part? The drippings were to die for. I didn't use them last night because I carved this up for sandwiches, but today Patient Husband and I had a turkey dinner and let me tell you those drippings made the most delicious gravy I've ever had. Even more so than Martha's turkey recipe (a bottle of wine and a pound of butter.) Lick the fingers good.
Next time I won't be afraid of brining, will do it the way they say (submerge the bird!) and will vouch for this recipe.
Today I claimed as my "DO NOTHING" day. I told Patient Husband this morning I didn't intend to leave the house, not even as far as the trash can, and I had a whole list of nothing things to do. Quilt. Nap. Read. Watch Social Network. Not necessarily in that order. It's now 5 p.m. and we still have the movie to watch and reading to do. I had so many nothings to do I didn't have time to do them all. But the nap felt good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Snappyfriends wants to see some feathers.
I have feathers.

I live in a display case in a library in a school. One evening I was a little careless and dove to catch a rabbit but was hit by a car. Someone stopped to pick me up but it was too late to save me. I've been stuffed and preserved and I look real enough still. The children in this school love to look at me. They think I'm alive. The woman who works in this room tells the children that I used to be alive but not anymore. And to look both ways before they cross the street.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lace and rust and sap, Oh My!

Isn't this beautiful? My friend, Elke, from Germany sent this to me. We have a personal courier, how special is that? Elke is the friend of the parents of a friend of ours here. This lace is from the town of Plauen in Germany and is specific to that place.
This is gorgeous. It's for a table but I don't know...with the infrequency of my dusting, I should maybe find someplace safer for it! Elke included a quilt pin from the German Patchwork Guild. And that beautiful colorful piece underneath? It's a piece of wrapping paper that will never grace a package. It's so pretty I'll frame it.
Thank you Elke!!
Snappyfriends was asking for something in rust last week. Last week I was completely preoccupied with work and sleep deprivation. But on the way home Saturday I drove by the antique junkyard that's about a mile from the house and there, in full twisted regalia was this...thing. I don't know what it is or who made it but it IS rusty! What would a person do with something like this? Wire it and plop a lamp shade on top? Train a morning glory? Wrap twinkly lights on it?

It's maple syrup time. Warming days and cold nights get the sap moving. This tree is in my daughter's yard and I spent the night there Friday so I could see their operation first hand. That's a five gallon bucket hanging on the tree.....

You can almost just see the drop at the tip of the spigot - it was flowing quite steadily, like an annoying leaky faucet.

First thing in the morning they sloshed out to the soggy, wet, thawing yard to pour the sap (which is loose as water and tastes like it, too) into the cook pot. Notice Colin's bare feet. It was a cold, wet, sloshy ground he was standing on. The bucket was full and heavy so he helped pour because there's a cheese cloth over a strainer catching tree bits.

By the end of the day they had one pint of syrup from that bucket.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Greasy shoes

Last night Patient Husband and I went to see the Broadway Grand Rapids presentation of Grease. I've never seen the movie. I had no idea what to expect. My daughter said I must be the only one in the continental United States that has never seen the movie. I feel really bad about that now that I know this is the 40th anniversary of the movie! Where have I been and why, why have I never chosen it when I saw it in the TV listings? I just don't know! But the play was fun, we had a good time and I'll watch the movie this very week.

Snappyfriends this week is asking for shoes. I thought about this for a bit, looking at the kids' shoes at school, I considered E.'s or A.'s little maryjanes, I looked at my clogs. Nothing grabbed my attention until today. I walked past a shoe repair as I was leaving a bookstore and there they were! All these patients in a shoe hospital waiting to be fixed or taken home.
I went in, stared for awhile, composing the picture in my mind and the owner stepped from behind the "surgery". I told him I was browsing. He gave me a look that clearly said "This is a crazy lady. Browsing in a show repair?" I saw that look, too. He didn't even try to hide it.

So I told him I had a photo assignment that 'required' a photo of shoes and would he mind if I took a picture? He was wearing those glasses that sit on the tip of his nose. He bent his head down, peered over the rims, and gave me a full "she is one nut case" look and said..."sure." I took a couple of shots, said, "I know you think I'm crazy, but thanks!" He shook his head, I smiled and left. Shoes!

I really like these snappy 'assignments.' They make me think about what I'm looking at/for. I notice more. I read the month's list, put it in my brain and keep my eyes open. Thanks, Snappyfriends!