Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happiness 101

I won the Happy Award again! Ann Spollen saw fit to choose me this time. She's an incredible writer, pop over to her blog and pre-order her upcoming novel "Light Beneath Ferns". Her wonderful novel, "The Shape of Water" is available now.

I'm not going to list 10 things that make me happy again, but I will write about my visit yesterday with my grandson Ethan, as promised in a previous post.

Ethan is brain-injured. For the lengthly explanation click on my post of a couple of days ago, titled, Heartache 101.

I am HAPPY to report Ethan's congestion is improving. He is babbling, and when his "other grandma" makes certain sounds he tries to mimic them. He listens intently to Sesame Street, especially Elmo, and when Elmo sings with Nora Jones he gets very quiet and grins. (I'm going to buy him a Nora Jones CD). He knew I was coming and got very excited. If you mention "school" he starts laughing and expects to go "be with the kids". His teacher, Miss Monica, is an angel on earth and Ethan is madly in love with her. She was trained to work with blind kids and the family's happy that he's with her, at least until he has to move on to kindergarten.

I'll share something with you: some find this weird, but they don't get it. Before all this happened to Ethan, when he was learning to talk, he spent quite a bit of time with my niece's children, and they call me Aunt Lizzy. This was right around the time when we were trying to get him to say Grandma, so he started calling me Iz, or Izzy, and then Izzy became Grizzy. So, I will always be Grizzy to Ethan, and consequently, to all my grandchildren. I love the name Grizzy and feel privileged to be the only one that I know of! Thanks to Ethan.

Above is the award, (thanks Anne), a picture of the little guy with his "other grandma", and below is a video of Ethan's Mama giving him a bath! Have a terrific weekend everybody!!!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hey Neighbor!

Join me in my neck of the woods for a spell.
Pretend I’m a Mr. Rogers clone.

The Husband woke up for a “very early” business call, stepped out on the balcony off his office this morning, and immediately spotted a hot air balloon off in the distance. He was too busy trying to sound brilliant while half-awake to bother locating a camera. So the photo above is a publicity shot of one of the many hot air balloons that often fly above Temecula. Judging by the hills and mountains, we live a tad Northwest of where this particular balloon is.

We fully intend to go up in one of these things this Spring. Well, I’m afraid of heights, and I say I want to go up now, when it’s all very abstract and fun sounding, but we’ll see if I ever really do.

The skies around here have been particularly gorgeous lately.

Last night I decided to jazz up some leftover mashed potatoes. I chopped up a mess of four kinds of peppers, garlic, and onions. Lightly wiped a casserole dish with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, slammed the spuds in evenly, sprinkled generously with a five cheese blend, (I used the Mexican variety but any would do), and topped with the pepper mixture. Popped in a preheated, 400 oven and took it out when it was all bubbly and slightly brownish in spots. Lordy mercy, were they good! This is the kind of side dish that can really make a mundane meal sing. My pork chops were very jealous of all the attention the taters got. I roasted some squash as well, coated with a bit of aforementioned ever-versatile olive oil and a little fresh rosemary, pepper, and sea salt.

I've been writing like a maniac. When I’m not working on this project, I’m thinking about this project. I dream up solutions and wake up in the middle of the night and I have to go jot down these brilliant ideas. Thank you muse, but could you whisper in my ear when I’m awake!

Anyhow, that’s all I got for today. Better get back to work.

What’s happening in your neighborhood, anything worth mentioning?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Heartache 101

Meet Ethan Conner, my first grandson. Pictured in his wheelchair (I'm holding his hands), as a baby, and in his Halloween pirate costume.

At two years of age Ethan had a seizure and stopped breathing in his daddy's arms. He was clinically dead for several minutes. They got him breathing again in the ambulance. They lost him once more at Children's Hospital but brought him back. He was in a coma. I was there when they told his parents he would be a vegetable if he ever woke up. The brain damage was too severe.

I am doing my best to make a rather involved and tragic long story short.

Ethan had been misdiagnosed. After making so much progress he had another seizure after he had been home for a few months. He was rushed to a different Children’s Hospital. This time they got it right. Funny, this new group of doctors knew what the problem was straight away. The ventricles of his heart weren’t working, so they installed a defibrillator. Which was akin to closing the barn door after the cows had gotten out. The poor little guy had suffered even more brain damage. All the progress he had made was virtually erased. When it comes to writing about my grandson and what happened to him I am reduced to a puddle of emotion. It’s beyond difficult, trying to express the heartache of watching a child you love go through so much pain and agony. Not to mention the suffering of his mom and dad, and extended family members.

He can’t sit up on his own. He has a permanent feeding tube and has to wear diapers. He’s going to turn five in April. He loves to listen to Curious George and Sesame Street, as his vision is impaired. They really can’t determine just what he can and can’t see. Therapy has been cut off because of the budget cuts in California. He does go to school five days a week.

He has problems with extreme pain in his legs due to atrophy, and mucus is a constant problem.

But he’s here. With us. Now.

I don't suppose it's surprising that I’m fed up with shallow people, people that complain all the time about trivial matters, people that are self-centered and petty. When I'm exposed to such people I can’t help but think about Ethan’s mother and his maternal grandparents. You see, my son, and Ethan’s mother had a fling, they were together a very short while. In fact, she didn’t know she was pregnant. Seemed she was on some sort of experimental birth control and it took the doctor’s several months to figure out why she was so sick, that she was actually growing a human being inside her. My son didn’t find out until she was eight months along. He offered to marry her, but she didn’t want to get married. She didn’t want him to have much to do with the process at all. Later on, after Ethan was born and a few months old, she eventually consented to let him take the baby at regular intervals. I think it dawned on her that it wasn’t going to be so easy to raise a child on her own.

The reason I have come to admire Ethan’s mother and her parents (until all this happened to Ethan I didn’t know them at all) is because I have never met such selfless, wonderful people before. Taking care of Ethan is a twenty-four hour a day job. And the entire family accomplishes this without protest, with love in their hearts. As he gets older it becomes more difficult to manage his needs and they never complain.

I’m driving up to see him this Friday. They live about seventy miles away. I’ll post a new picture and you’ll be able so see how big he is now. Their whole family is made up of super-sized people, on both sides, so he’s getting huge! I can't even pick him up and he doesn't fit on my lap.

Until my late forties, tragedy had never really found me. Then all hell broke loose. I had to take care of my father as he deteriorated from heart disease and Alzheimer’s. My stepmother was a juvenile diabetic with myriads of health problems, and she could no longer drive so I had to take her numerous doctor appointments several times a month. As her illness progressed, her own kids were conveniently MIA, so I had to take care of her, and she eventually died in my guest room of breast cancer. I was holding one of her frail hands and Dad was holding the other, when she went. It was not a pretty death. Then came Ethan’s calamity. Dad died a little over a year ago, and that was not a pretty death either.

I have become intimately acquainted with sorrow and loss—and it’s changed me immensely. For the better. I wake up and I am happy to be here. I strive to see the beauty around me. There is no time for whining. I strive to be like Ethan’s family when I grow up.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Success and Suckiness

I bought some fresh basil and some buffalo mozzarella and some pretty red tomatoes at the Farmer's Market. I thought of making a salad last night, but longed for something warm and substantial. I thought I might find some nice white fish. But they didn't have any suitable fish at the market. So, I settled for chicken. I decided to improvise and make chicken paillards with a garlic lemon sauce. I would serve the paillards over basil infused creamy asiago polenta and top them off with roasted tomatoes, improvising all the way. And what a success the dinner was. I should come up with a name for this dish. (I made The Son put down his knife and fork so I could snap a pic of his plate, so that's the real deal pictured.) The Husband, and my youngest son and daughter were singing my praises. Our lovely meal was worth getting burnt in the eye. I was busy sauteing the chicken in olive oil and a bit of butter when I heard a PoP, but didn't get out of the way quick enough, and got struck in the eye. Ouch! I immediately ran over to the sink and doused my eyeball in cold water.

It's such a good feeling when we put out a lot of effort and see that effort pay off. It's not so good when we work our butt off, and things don't pan out. Ah, the tough get tougher, (or so they say), and if we practice stick-to-it-tiveness we will prevail. I try to teach my kids this. But, once in a while we attempt to accomplish something we really don't excel at. No matter how hard we try. There's a lesson in learning just where our abilities lie.

Everybody knows somebody that thinks they can sing but they can't. This particular delusion seems to be awfully common, after all the tone deaf are just that, tone deaf. And being a terrible singer is no big deal, if all you do is lock yourself in the car and try to keep up with Lady Ga Ga. Who ya gonna hurt? Lady Ga Ga can't hear you, and as long as you pipe down at traffic lights and spare the pedestrians in the crosswalk, you won't offend a soul.

On the other hand, if you behave like Ernesto, you will rupture innocent eardrums. Ernesto Ruiz worked for my father at his appliance store. I was working there too, setting up the kitchen design showroom, and after the store closed Ernesto would fire up one of the many stereos, (he favored Barry Manilow), grab the intercom microphone, and belt out Copa Cobana, or Mandy (God help us) at the top of his lungs. He sounded beyond pathetic. Ernesto truly believed that he had missed his true calling. (Ernesto's a family man now, owns a string of furniture stores. My brother told me this recently. I wonder if he makes his employees listen to him sing. And who's he singing with now, Michael Buble?)

I'm not in the least bit mechanical. And I'm terrible when it comes to understanding electronic anything. I can't program our complicated (they lie and say it's simple) remote for our cable, let alone operate the darn thing. Which my drives techno-savvy family bonkers. They expect that I should be able to record a movie, or fast forward through commercials on my own, and I just can't!

For some reason I can run my Mac just fine. Of course I've been working on Apple computers for twenty plus years, I guess if I couldn't operate one, that would make me quite inept.

We all have our long suits and our short suits. Name one thing you've got going for you, and one thing you wish you could do, but suck at. We'll all get to learn more about each other ;-)

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.