June 29, 2007

Iced Coffee and Beignets

After reading Iced Coffee? No Sweat in the New York Times, I decided to give it a try.

I used a glass tea-pot with a removable infuser into which I put four scoops of coffee.  Then I left it on the back porch for the day.

Result?  Absolutely better.  Delicious with no trace of bitterness.

Speaking of iced coffee, why don't people in the South drink it?  Now I have nothing against iced tea which I drink year round,  but iced coffee in the summer is delicious too and just the thing when you need an extra boost.  Or with beignets.

No Cafe De Monde

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get iced coffee in New Orleans?

You would think they would know, but no, I have to explain to waiters who say they have none to bring me a tall glass of ice and a cup of coffee. 

I expect only the mermaid will convince them.

  Starbucks Logo-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2007

A Beautiful Death

I would have posted more frequently during my mother's last days if only the server which hosts my blogs had not migrated and upgraded to a new server and address causing all sorts of problems getting the blogging software to work and appear.    I did write several posts that never appeared because I hadn't realized that I had such a problem for several days.

I didn't have the wherewithal to take the time to get help and figure out how to fix it.  After all, my mother was dying.     

We hear so much of horrific and painful deaths that it's hard to imagine death can be beautiful.  Yet, such was my experience of my mother's death.    She was in her own house, in her own bed, surrounded by love.    Every one of us believe that it was a great privilege to be with her and with each other,  our bond as a family greatly strengthened.

Ruth Fallon 2005 Facing Front-2

My mother was very independent, used to doing things the way she wanted.  She didn't want chemotherapy, she didn't want to be in a hospital.  Too often, elderly people fall, break a hip and end up in a hospital where they are poked,  prodded and fitted with all sorts of tubes and IVs and other devices to preserve life for a few more days.  But if you have cancer and know that you will die if you do not treat it, hospice is an extraordinary resource because they are skilled in palliative care, meaning they know what drugs should be given to a dying person to relieve pain, yet keep the mind alert and focused on the life still to live.

Even as she grew more frail and weak, my mother's last days were happy ones, spent receiving visitors, sitting at the dinner table with all of us, taking very short walks outside with someone on each side making sure she didn't fall, watching the leaves, paying her bills, doing her crosswords, and playing with her newest grandchild, 5 month old Adia Moxie. Even as she began sleeping most of the day, too tired to go downstairs even in the elevator, we gathered more in her bedroom and from time to time, she would sit bolt upright and beam at all of us, radiant. 

The last five days she was unresponsive, eating nothing, drinking nothing.  The hospice nurse put her on a morphine drip and told us she thought she would die Friday.   My sister Colleen, a nurse, gave her anti-anxiety medication periodically whenever she saw the slightest indication of a furrow on my mother's brow.  She grew tinier in her big bed, her strong heart using every last bit of her substance so she could be with us and us all together in one room just a little bit longer.

Because all of seven children came home to be with her, someone was always with her, reading, saying prayers, playing music or lying down beside her.  Downstairs, meals were made,  dishes cleared and washed, laundry done, bike trips taken, gardens weeded, flowers planted and beer drunk.

Monday, the last day, my brother Robby brought up my mother's favorite wine, Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio and we all - me, Kevin, Billy, Colleen, Robby, Julie and Melinda toasted our mother and put a tiny drop of wine on her lips, the last thing she tasted.

A few hours later she died.  A half hour after that, her mouth relaxed into a smile and we knew she was in heaven.

Over at Legacy Matters, I've posted the eulogy for my mother
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2007

"He remembers everything that was going on around him."

I found the story of the 'Living Corpse' who woke up after a 19-year Coma, an inspiring one, a Rip Van Winkle tale of our time.

Hats off to the wife who cared for him for 19 years at home with great love and devotion, changing his position every hour to prevent bedsores.

"I would fly into a rage every time someone would say that people like him should be euthanized, so they don't suffer," she told the local daily paper. "I believed Janek would recover," she said, using an affectionate version of his name.

"This is my great reward for all the care, faith and love," she told the AP, weeping.

"He remembers everything that was going on around him," she said. "He talks about it and remembers the wedding of our children. He had fever around the time of the weddings, so he knew something big was taking place."

Jan Grzebska fell into a coma following in communist Poland and awoke to find democracy and a market economy.

"The world is prettier now" than it was under communism he told his wife.

Jan spoke to Polish television

When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere. What amazes me today is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning. I've got nothing to complain about.

Apart from the miracle of his reawakening, we should take note that comatose often can hear and remember what's said around them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 PM | Permalink

The Corruption of the Curriculum

An influential, independent think tank in Britain reports that 'political meddling' is ruining learning in schools.  They call it The Corruption of the Curriculum.

"The traditional subject areas have been hijacked to promote fashionable causes such as gender awareness, the environment and anti-racism, while teachers are expected to help to achieve the Government's social goals instead of imparting a body of academic knowledge to their students," it says.
Civitas casts doubt on the value of much of what children are now "taught". History has become so divorced from facts and chronology that pupils might learn the new "skills and perspectives" through a work of fiction, such as Lord of the Rings, it says.

Teenagers studying for GCSEs are being asked to write about the September 11 atrocities using Arab media reports and speeches from Osama bin Laden as sources without balancing material from America, it reveals.

Yuri Bezmenov, a KGB defector tells how 85% of the KGB's efforts were involved in psycholocial warfare, a slow process to change the perception of reality of Americans so that no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the defense of themselves, their communities and their nation

Demoralization is the first stage that takes 15-20 years.  The result, he said, you can see.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2007

ihad Etiquette

Even jihadi-terrorists have rules.

1. You can kill bystanders without feeling a lot of guilt.
2. You can kill children, too, without needing to feel distress.
3. Sometimes, you can single out civilians for killing; bankers are an example.
4. You cannot kill in the country where you reside unless you were born there.
5. You can lie or hide your religion if you do this for jihad.
6. You may need to ask your parents for their consent.

Terrorism - Jihad Etiquette  in the New York Times

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2007

Sleeping on It

The best way to make complex, tough decisions is to sleep on it.  Well, you already knew that, but now scientists are confirming that.

Sleep on it, decision-makers told

Reserve your conscious mind for simple choices.  For complex decisions, get all the information you need, then call in your unconscious by sleeping on it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

Sleeping on It

The best way to make complex, tough decisions is to sleep on it.  Well, you already knew that, but now scientists are confirming that.

Sleep on it, decision-makers told

Reserve your conscious mind for simple choices.  For complex decisions, get all the information you need, then call in your unconscious by sleeping on it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2007

Make Your Own Coffee

Damon Darlin gives More Advice Graduates Don't Want to Hear in the New York Times.

1. Save 10% of your income before anything else
2. Learn to cook
3. Never borrow money to pay for a depreciating asset
4, Cut out the lattes.  Make your own coffee.
5.  Find your mate, marry and stay married.
6. Never pay a real estate agent a 6% commission
7. Buy used things
8. Enroll in a 401(k) at work
9 Resist the lunacy of buying premium products
10 Postpone buying hi-tech products

If you can't used to living on less, you won't need so much for retirement.  If you're a new graduate, and can save $50/week, he says, "You're nearly set for life."

The power of compound interest is magnified the earlier you start saving    If 22-year-old Jack puts $2000 away each year in an IRA for six years and, after six years, never makes another contribution, he'll have as much money for retirement as Jill who saved nothing for the first six  then saves $2000 each year for the next 34.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 AM | Permalink

June 1, 2007

My Mother is Dying

This is a hard post to write because the words themselves have a certain finality that's not here yet.    My 85-year-old mother last fall had abdominal pains that,  after a visit to the emergency room and a CAT scan, turned out to be colon cancer.  Surgery followed a couple of days later and we were encouraged to think that the tumor blocking her colon had been completely excised and her colon stitched back together.

Recovery was slow but seemed complete and while she had lost lots of weight despite my cooking, she was back bopping around in her sports car.  About a month ago, she began having abdominal pains again.  It was the cancer back.  She doesn't want chemotherapy at her age which seems to me to be quite sensible, so the focus has been on reducing her pain.

My sister Colleen is a nurse and immediately took medical leave from her job to come out for the duration which she counts as a privilege and a blessing to be able to do since her two daughters, my nieces Jessica and Chrissy are away from home, in college.  My brother Kevin,  his wife Melinda and two daughters, Taylor and Lucy, live in the same town as my mother as do I just two blocks away.  For Mother's Day, Colly's husband Robin came, brother Billy came from Switzerland and brother Robby and his wife Jennifer with their two baby girls, 21/2 and 4 months, Zoe and Adia from California.

We all had a lovely time, my mother included, playing with the babies and looking at old family and childhood photos,  about 1200 of them that I had digitized so every one could have a copy and telling stories.  Now numbering about 16, we had a delicious Mother's Day lunch at a local restaurant.

In many ways we are very blessed.  Mom - we call her Ruth - is completely herself, if much more frail and more tired.  She laughs, makes jokes, gives orders, goes through her mail, makes calls, gets her hair done, and is forever putting Vinny her beloved Jack Russell terrier  out when he's in and bringing him in when he's out and making sure he gets all three of his dinners.  She carried long term care insurance for in-home care because she hates being in the hospital even though she too is a nurse and never wanted to go into a nursing home.  Now the benefits are apparent because she's home where she wants to be and Colly is even being paid, making up for some of her lost income.  Colly got a new MacBook, put in wireless, got a new bike and is testing some of Ruth's best, baking recipes and I'm going to make a book out if it.

We have an elevator in the house which my parents put in about 15 years ago when my sister Debby, wheel-chair bound with multiple sclerosis, was living at home.  So Mom still uses her bedroom and bath but can come down easily to the kitchen, the living room, office and yard during the day.  Heat gives her the most tactile relief for her abdominal pains so she sits with a heating pad at her back, holding a hot water bottle against her stomach, a heat sandwich.

Two weeks later it's a different story.    Hospice has started and they have been wonderful, delivering my mother's exponentially increasing pain medications, an assigned nurse, Peggy, who visits  several times a week to check on her status and making sure we have everything we need.  Since Ruth was only eating about 300-500 calories a day, she was becoming even thinner although her  pain does seem to be under control.

"Two to four weeks" we were told in one of Colleen's daily emails to all concerned.  In just a few days, Robby was back from the West Coast, Billy from Geneva, and Julie, my youngest sister, due in Tuesday.

Her affairs and finances are all in order so there's nothing to be done there.  My mother is enjoying lots of visitors, family and friends alike, basking in all the love and banter, sometimes glowing.  The weather is beautiful.  My brothers have found projects to do around the house and yard.  Patty, Colleen's dear friend from Florida is visiting for week and cleaning up gardens, planting the window boxes, and impatiens in every corner.    We all eat dinner together that one of us makes or takeout and we have cases of beer in the garage so we'll never run out.  These are wonderful times for the family.  The loss will come soon enough.

This is the way to go, a vigorous old age and a fast decline, at home surrounded by family and people who love you.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink