Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Year with a Blue Moon

Tonight is a Blue Moon. There actually are several different definitions of a blue moon, but the one that is most often used, is that a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. So, this month there was a full moon on December 2, and then again tonight on the 31st, New Year's Eve. The next time there is a full moon again in December is in 2028--wow!--nineteen years from now! The next blue moon in any month, will be August of 2012.

There is a certain mysticism around a full and a blue moon, I think. I read a quote in the newspaper from an astrologer--she said that full moons call us to release what is no longer serving our growth. I thought that was especially apropos for tonight and the end of 2009.

I have a memory of a blue moon in June one year. Dave and I were in Boulder with our friends, Warren and Jelene. It was evening and we must have gone out to eat. We were walking along the creek by the Boulder Public Library and went on the bridge to look over the water, and talked about it was a blue moon. That memory has stayed with me for probably eight or ten years.

Of course, the best place to celebrate a blue moon is in Kentucky, as per Bill Monroe.

Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
It was on one moonlight night
Stars shining bright
Whisper on high
Love said goodbye
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

German Wine

I set up a little Christmas display on the library table in our family room and initially included a couple of bottles of wine on it. David suggested putting some "old" bottles that we received over fifteen years ago when we left Germany. So I went to the basement and searched through the wine rack to find them. I was looking for two specific bottles, and ended up finding a third with sentimental value, so they all went onto the display table.

The first two bottles, pictured above, were given to us when we left Germany by our friends, Anelie and Ernst Probst. Frau and Herr Probst were my good friends when I lived in Germany for six years, and I still speak with them on the phone a couple of times a year. I remember we went for a farewell dinner at their house, and Herr Probst went to their cellar and brought out the two bottles--they were fifteen years old at that time--and eighteen years more have passed since then. The wine, of course, is not drinkable--but they are dear to us. I recognize the towns where each was made--Alsheim and Guntersblum. Guntersblum, especially, is familiar, as there was a major wine fest there every year and David and I attended it a couple of times.

The third bottle I was surprised to find on the wine rack, and reported to David that we still had a bottle of Strubel wine. Herr Strubel was a kind man and a vintner who David got to know. We visited with him, and he showed us his vineyard, and met him one afternoon at his little summer cottage. He had plans to market his wine in the U.S., under the label, "Pink Lion," but things never worked out.

Here is a close-up of the label on the bottle. Herr Strubel passed away while we still lived in Germany, and his wife arranged for someone to write us a letter in English, letting us know. She did not speak a word of English. David still remembers stories that Herr Strubel told him about his time in the army during World War II. He was evidently pretty happy to be taken prisoner and put in a POW camp!

I think these bottles may stay out on the library table even after the Christmas decorations are put away.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Dinner

Dave and I went for the second year in a row to our friends, Lindsay and Brookie, for Christmas dinner. It was a small crew there--Sharon, Jay, Chad, and Ann joined us. We all brought dishes, but Lindsay really outdid himself with a roast and some wonderful potatoes.

After eating, we indulged in some bluegrass picking, which was fun!

Here's a few pictures of the revelers.

Here is the host and chef: Lindsay.

This is Lindsay's wife, Brookie, holding forth at the table with Sharon and Ann!

Dave was having fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Christmas Tree and Decorations

We put up a Christmas tree this year, for the first time in five years. I have really enjoyed having it up. Decorating it was the same trip back in time as always, with memories of many of the ornaments: where I got them or who gave them to me.

We actually have two trees up. Our little tree, which David says is a Charlie Brown tree, is in the front bay window, with a little village of ceramic houses under it.

Our main tree is in the family room; there are presents under it and a train around it. I love the train and have since David first ordered it some years ago.

Molly helped Dave install the train this year.

Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And some nutcrackers are guarding the fireplace. All is in order.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Front Row at a Train Wreck

Dave and I are friends with an older couple whose company Dave has done some contract work for over the past couple of years. They are Gregg and Virginia; they don't have children and are in their late sixties.

At the end of October, Gregg had surgery for cancer of the esophagus. He first had cancer and radiation--and he really wasn't in favor of these traditional treatments--his wife and his doctors told him that he would die if he didn't have them. He then scheduled his surgery for October 30. He and Virginia told everyone that he would be in the hospital for two days, and then back home to finish recuperating. They said over and over that it was not a "serious" surgery.

I was concerned that he wasn't in shape for surgery--both physically and mentally--and I expressed my concern. But the answer was that he would die if he didn't have it.

That day, when they went in to the hospital for the operation, the surgeon met with Gregg and Virginia and they claimed later that that was the first time they were told that the surgery was serious. Gregg was actually in surgery for over ten hours, and Virginia was beside herself as the time went on.

He came out and the doctor appeared pleased. Then, Gregg was in the hospital for ten more days. He was not a good patient, demanding to go home the entire time. Sometimes the hospital staff would call Virginia in the middle of the night and insist that she talk to him and calm him down.

Finally, on the tenth day, the doctor determined that Gregg should go to a rehabilitation center for some time, and Virginia took him over there. Once there, he was in pain, and finally collapsed and they had him transported by ambulance to a different hospital than the one he was in for surgery. He went downhill fast, and was placed in intensive care, in critical condition. The nursing staff who admitted him said later that they didn't think he would survive.

On that first day, Gregg had to be put on a ventilator and subsequently was sedated. He had pneumonia and a collapsed lung. He stayed in a drug-induced coma for a month. Frequently during that time, the medical staff asked Virginia if she knew what Gregg's wishes would be in terms of his long term care. The implications always were that they wanted Virginia to consider removing him from life support. She would not consider it.

Amazingly, during that time, Virginia's elderly aunt fell and had to be admitted to the same hospital as Gregg. The aunt developed pneumonia, and went downhill and ultimately passed away.

Further, the company that Gregg and Virginia owns is in dire financial straits. There was little else that could possibly go wrong.

It was finally discovered that there was a gap from the surgery on the esophagus that allowed the food that was being pumped through tubes into Gregg's body, to then leak into his lungs. A nurse figured that out and tested it by putting green food color into his food bag. Sure enough, that green coloring ended up being pumped out of his lung. They patched that up and it helped things.

Finally, Gregg started to improve--in very small increments. As I am typing this, he is no longer sedated, but cannot really move. His muscles have been inactive for over a month. He will have to go to a rehabilitation center to help in his recovery.

Throughout this saga, Dave and I frequently said and thought that we were so glad it was not us in this situation. It has been shocking and disturbing for us to observe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Assassination of John Lennon

On this day, 29 years ago, John Lennon was shot to death. Who would have expected such a thing to happen? I was visiting a friend in Missouri on that day and living at home after getting my master's degree from Michigan State University.

At Michigan State, I lived in a graduate dormitory, and a strange man lived there. In fact, there were a lot of strange people who lived in that dorm--it seemed to attract the isolated and the obsessive-compulsive--but I stray. The man who I remember was big and burly, and wore a trench coat year round. He had no friends, and walked around talking about John Lennon all the time. I sometimes might see him on campus--wearing his coat in the hot weather. Mostly I saw him in the television room at night, and he might bring up John Lennon to anyone in there. He was bizarre. Looking back, I believe he had Asperger's Syndrome, but at that time I had never heard of it.

Months later, when John Lennon was murdered, I believed that man from my graduate dorm had to be the culprit. I mean, it only made sense. I did some research on Mark David Chapman and he wasn't the man from my school. It still amazes me to this day. Why, if Mark David Chapman hadn't killed John Lennon, then this other guy might have.

And always, there is the question of what if? What if John Lennon had lived? What new art might he have achieved? There is no telling what he and Yoko might have done--one never knew what he was up to. It is such a great tragedy.

Blossoms of Light

Dave and I went to the Blossoms of Light on Saturday evening. We hadn't been for a few years. The is an event at the Denver Botanical Gardens, where they have outfitted a lot of the trees with wonderful lights. There is a path to follow around the grounds to view all the spectacular scenery they have created.

It was really cold and there was a line to get in, but we had dressed warmly. They didn't have the event last year, due to construction at the gardens. And for a couple of years previously, we hadn't attended because the member's night was during the week and it wasn't convenient to our schedules. But this year, members got the whole weekend to go for free, so we made it a date to go to get our Christmas spirits going.

Our favorite tree was a giant one, draped in bright blue lights, with probably six or eight star shapes around the tree, asynchronously. We could see it from outside the gate and knew we liked it really well. When we got up close, we noted that it wasn't a single tree, but two or three trees, with the lights wrapped to make it appear that it was one unit. After we walked through the grounds and examined all the rest of the showy lighting, we were in agreement: the blue tree was still our favorite.

We had a nice evening and really enjoyed the event. We finished things off with dinner nearby at a small restaurant that we like in the area.