Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Red Wine Happy Hour Cure

One of Rand's former colleagues used to say at the first sign of sickness, go to bed with a bottle of red wine.  He was a pharmacist and oenophile and there was something in the story about the healing properties in red wine.  Maybe that was it, and maybe if you were sick anyway, it just made you feel better about being sick.  I don't know, but I decided to try out the theory last night, given that the marvels of modern medicine have seemed to accomplish little in the past two weeks.

Yes, that ambitious post last Saturday, just one week ago, when I said "on the road to healthy by Tuesday at the latest" just stands up and laughs at me every day since then.  It is bad enough to be sick when you can stay in bed and take care of yourself.  It is worse to be sick when you have deadlines and have to go to work.  It is way worse when it is cold and raining and you have to go to work, with no place to park and you have to walk in that cold and rain, only to arrive in a building that feels like no one paid the electric bill.  I worked for 4 days wearing my coat and scarf and longed for one of those forbidden heaters that some folks bootleg under their desks.

So, on the off chance that it really might work, I stopped at my favorite Star Wines, and spent way too much time studying the selections.  What exactly was the best kind of red wine for a relentless explosion of mucous in one's head and chest and throat?  Which one would pair best with a Hall's mentholyptus cough drop?  Could a very dry tannic red help dry the copious secretions ravaging my upper body, or should I go with something sort of "velvety"--soft and rounded, to sooth the rawness of what once functioned as my throat?

Nothing in the wines I know and formerly loved were at all appealing sounding.  I made the rounds 3 times--down the import aisle, over to the zins, skip the pinot noirs, skip the merlots and cabs, back to the Spanish garnachas, what about a Cotes du Rhone?  I began to think the store employees were following me, although how they thought I might be about to stuff a bottle of wine into the tiny bag I was carrying kept making me smile.  They know me, so I guess they are used to my meanderings, as not one asked, "Can I help you find something?"  Yes, thank you.  I am looking for a red that will be an amazing instant and miraculous cure for this never-ending "head and chest cold" or whatever it is--what can you recommend?

On the third pass, I checked out the red blends and found a new wine not previously noted, the Robert Hall Rhone du Robles.  Perfect from the description:
Aromas of cherry, raspberry, and cranberry with hints of black pepper and spice.  Deep ruby-red color with lush mouth-filling flavors...fruit forward with rich, silky tannins.
At $18, it leapt into my arms and snuggled next to my scarf, begging me to take it home, assuring me of lasting affection.  My eye caught a bottle of Picket Fence Pinot Noir.  While I am not a pinot noir fan, there are some I enjoy, and Picket Fence is one of the few.  Just in case my exploration with Robert Hall was disappointing, I gave the Picket Fence a subtle nod to follow us to checkout.

I needn't have worried, though the Picket Fence is in reserve if needed.  Robert Hall is now my new best friend for a while.  He helped me load the dishwasher--something Rand and J will not do even though we were all sick and we had 0 clean plates, bowls, glasses, cups, or spoons in the cabinet.

I lit a couple of candles, put on some of my favorite blues music, and texted with my sister and dad for a bit (Dad dictates, Sis texts and reads them to him--he loves it).  He had a good day, and they were about to watch a movie.  He really likes his Dallas Cowboy blanket that was part of his Christmas present--it is larger and warmer than a throw, and very soft so it feels good against his thinning skin.  He looked so good it made me smile.

I think I will see if Robert Hall will help me take down the Christmas tree tonight.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On the road to healthy again

I believe that I will be back in fine form shortly, but at least by Tuesday and time to return to the semester's start.  J and I were both sick by the time we got home from Texas Tuesday night, and he wisely went to the doctor on Wednesday.  I thought I did not have time.  Thursday, I was giving a workshop all day, and Wednesday, I was preparing for it all day.  After the most miserable Thursday night I have had in a while, I went to the doctor Friday morning and stayed home from work.  I can count on the fingers of one hand how many days I have missed due to being sick since 2003, and have some fingers left over.  I always start out on these rare occurrences of really getting sick like this thinking "it's just allergies" and that it will pass.  I do what my doctor always tells me to do--fluids, guafenesin, and antihistimine or decongestant, depending on which is the issue, which usually works in a few days.  Not this time--it had already moved into sinus infection, and I had blisters on my throat that would choke Rio, which made it painful, and almost impossible, to swallow.  Coughing was worsening to the point of secondary issues.

Since I had been cleaning out Rio's hay barn and shoveling horsepoop and hay, in a bit of wind, that is what triggered it.  But, after 5 days and worsening, I deemed it time to move the level of care up to the professionals.  They did do a nasal swab (my first--really a lot of fun!) and a blood test to rule out flu and anything else that might be lurking in terms of infection, but that was all fine.  Medicated up, soup, lots of fluids, and all afternoon in bed and I felt much better by nightfall.  Although I did not sleep last night (likely due to being medicated up--note, that is different from medicated--medicated up is the whole package when you have so much going on in your system, everything is haywire) I had a fairly restful night with little episodes of coughing, and feel way better this morning.

The sun is shining and the temperature will be in the low 50s, so I am a bit miffed.  I wanted to go to Mound Bayou to the fundraiser for the Taborian Hospital (Urgent Care Clinic) being held today.  I have not seen the clinic since the restoration of the building, and today is such a beautiful day for taking pictures, and a drive through the Delta in the hope of seeing snow geese in the fields.  I carefully weighed it though, and reminded myself that if I keep putting off taking care of myself, it takes its toll eventually.  The toll basket is full at the moment.
I did not take many photographs on the recent trip, and all of them were just around the house, but I needed to move them to my desktop so I could see what needed to be deleted and what kept.  Rand wants me to make another photo set of Rio to put in Dad's bedroom so on those days he does not feel like getting up, he can see him.  I have another studio mount frame, with 5 slots for pictures in this one, still in the package from some project I started 2 or 3 years ago, so I thought I would work on it a bit while I am "recuperating."

Generally, I look out the kitchen window to see if Rio is at the side gate, next to where his feed and water and shed are.  When it is getting close to feeding time and he is not out there, I walk down and to the other side of the shop to see if he is at the east gate.  Sometimes, he stands at that one, watching to see if we come out the other door or drive in if we have been gone.  His other favorite spot is to stand by the window of the shop and he can see if someone comes in and turns on the light.  When we do, then he heads in his circle around the woodpile and takes up his stance at the gate to wait for his treat or handful of feed, makes the circle again, and goes to the feed bin.

Sometimes, I think I should be more like Rio--with a routine of rising and sleeping, lots of walking, uncompromising affection and loyalty, and more patience.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Last chance for gas, beer, water...or to feed Rio for a few weeks

I am back home in Mississippi, missing feeding Rio today.  J and I left at 4:30 this morning, and arrived a few minutes before 4:30 this afternoon.  We should have been here an hour earlier, but there was a slight mishap with a tire somewhere between Decatur and Mount Pleasant.

Sunday afternoon I had gone out to clean up the soiled hay raked out of Rio's barn.  It was sunny and warm (in the low 50s) when I started.  Rio stood by me, keeping me company and watching.  I would like to think it is his returned affection for me, but I really think it might have been because I had given him a treat and he was hoping for another.  I had been working over an hour when it finally grew warm enough to take off Dad's flannel hoodie jacket I wear for my barn chores.  I hung it on the latch to the hay barn and went to take a bucket of soiled hay and horse poop down to the compost line.  When I got back, Rio was sniffing at the pocket, where the remaining treat was resting.  I told him again how smart he is, and how much I loved him while I gave him the last treat.  I decided it was time to call it a day even if I was not finished.  It was beginning to get windy again, and I was tired and hungry and dirty.

Yesterday, Sis and I went to get feed for Rio--my Christmas present to him was six bags of feed--and yet one more picture frame for our project.  The temperature was dropping, the mist was starting, and the wind was blowing by the time we got back to the house and I went out to feed for the last time this trip.  Tink went out with me--she is the little red line in front of the dog house between the gate and Rio.

There are basically two ways to get to Mississippi from Texas, I-30 Dallas to I-40 just before Memphis and then I-55 South to Oxford (the North route) or I-20 Fort Worth to Jackson and then I-55 North to Oxford (the South route) and we vary on occasion as to which we travel.  J was driving so he decided "let's go north."  Not only that, he and I decided to bypass Dallas and go Decatur/Denton/Greenville (as my brother the trucker does) and pick up I-30 at Greenville.  First off, it has been a long long time since I went from Jacksboro to Dallas, and I forgot where we turned and two blocks from the Square when we hit a dirt road, I knew we had a problem.  J turned around and went back to the paved road, and turned right on my instructions.  As soon as I saw the "Bowie" sign, I said, nope something's wrong, turn around. 

There were a gazillion traffic lights, and construction, though it still took about the same amount of time to get to the same point.  I was frankly amazed at how much traffic was on the road at that wee hour of the morning, but they were all headed into Dallas/Fort Worth for work.  I cannot believe I used to do that, too, leaving home at 6 a.m. to go what should have been a 20 minute drive to get to work by 8.

We made a pit stop at McDonald's in Mt. Vernon and changed drivers and I had not been back on the Interstate a few minutes until the low tire warning came on.  J said he had hit something in the construction zone, so we pulled off the first exit to check.   SSSSSSSSSS--you could hear the air coming out of the tire.  We had just  bought these tires before Christmas from Goodyear, so I looked up the closest Goodyear store, and fortuitously, it was 0.8 miles from us.  They got my car on the rack and in under an hour, we were back on the road--nail in the tire removed and hole patched.  Also fortuitously, they did not charge me for repairing the tire!

A mere 8 hours later, we were home and J said, "Looks like the 12 hour streak holds."  At least, yet again this time, so it did.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's been a hard day's night.

It all started with my bringing Dad the photos of Rio in the studio mount frame.  Over the years, photographs had been added to the wall with no thought or order as to frames or design.  We were thinking of where to put the new picture and I suggested to Sis that we needed to do mats and matching, or at least coordinating, frames and she agreed.  The oil painting was of Dad's quarterhorses that he bought my first year of college, but the frame was falling apart and the canvas coming out.  Sis and I went to Fort Worth Friday and spent the day shopping and among other things, bought the new frames and spent Saturday and Sunday re-framing, laying out the design (which changed once we started putting them on the wall) and putting them up Sunday afternoon.  We finished at 8:35 last night.

It is now the wall of the men, horses, and dogs--clockwise from the clock, Mom's brother, his horse Patsy, and his dog Butch; Dad's father; Dad; Dad's quarterhorses; the hunting dog picture my brother made, Dad and Bro, and Rio in the center. 

J got here this afternoon, the car is packed and he and I will roll out of here early--by 5 AM--to head back to Mississippi.  I have to be at work Wednesday at 8, and squeeze in time to go sign papers for the new truck Rand bought while I was gone.  I told him I can't leave him alone for 5 minutes.  He wanted to know when I was leaving town again so he could trade the house.  I said I could stay gone a few more days if he could swing that.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pasture Philosophy

There is something so heart-warming, so comforting, so soul-filling about being home right now, taking care of family and allowing them to take care of me.  Care-giving is about a lot more than just the physical care--as those who have done it know--so it is a mutual exchange in that I receive care while I am giving care.  Even though it has been a busy week, it has also held a lot of laughter, shared stories, and heart-to-hearts with Sis about where we are and what we need to do.  Amidst the work has been play, and work and play combined.  Something about working side-by-side with someone else, just sharing the load, is also play in the sense that it can refresh and renew you and bring a sense of contentment.

Most mornings here have come pretty early, but Saturday we had the opportunity to sleep in a little while.  When I awoke with a start and saw that it was full daylight, not dawn, I jumped up and pulled on my jeans and sweatshirt and wrapped up and headed to the barn.  Yep, Rio was standing at the gate.
Were you talking pretty ugly about me by now, Rio?  He nodded his head up and down twice and snorted.  Yep, I thought so.
I gave him a few strokes down the side of his face and told him I would be right back.  While he was eating, I busted the ice on his water and refilled his hay manger, cleaned up around it.  Back in the house, I went in to have coffee with Dad and Sis and of course, Dad laughed at my story of Rio telling me yes, he was talking trash about why I had not been out to feed.  I said it was uncanny how he would nod his head twice when I said something that seemed to need a yes answer, and does not do it when what I am saying doesn't need a yes.

Sis and I had a list of errands that included going out to her house to get some items, picking up a vent cover for the hall water heater closet, and Walmart for the big monthly grocery buy.  It was cold and windy, and though not as bad as it has been being, it was still plenty wintry.  We stopped at Beall's to check the sales and I found a couple of blouses I thought Mom would like, and a wallet for me and one for Mom.  Sometimes, even though we do lots of things for Mom (the day before, we had bought new towels for the front and back bathrooms, and 4 new pillows because she needed some, along with picture frames to re-do all the family photo wall, and bought her a new washer and dryer the week before), she kind of feels neglected due to all the personal care and attention Dad has to have.  Those things seem like household necessities to her, not personal things.

This morning after I went out to feed, I noted it is a bit warmer as the ice was not frozen on Rio's water, other than the chunks floating from breaking yesterday.  It has been warmer too as his hay barn didn't have poop in it, which meant he had not been in it as much yesterday.

I decided while it was nice (nice is relative in January in northwest Texas) to walk over and check the fence at the creek, and then up to check the fence at the corner.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but all is well.  It is time to get the rest of the day's chores started, and perhaps the afternoon will bring a bit of down time while Sis and I sit down to watch the Cowboys with Dad.  I have a bit of work to do for my "day job" to get ready for the semester, and that can be done along with the ball game.  I might even work in a nap.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Belated Christmas

J and I arrived Texas last night at 7--12 hours after we left Mississippi.  It was an uneventful trip drive-way, pleasant at the gas pump (my 49 mpg Lexus was filling up for pennies since the most I paid for gas on the 3 fill-ups was $1.89 a gallon), and we actually had some pleasant camaraderie during the times one of us was not napping.

I had saved Mom, Dad, and Sis' presents and we brought them with us, so after dinner, we had a lot of fun as they opened presents.  In a last minute flash of inspiration, I had taken 3 of the photos of the many throughout the past couple of years that I have taken of Rio and put them in a studio mount.  The one to the left in the photo as we look at it was taken during Thanksgiving when we had just buried Jenny--Dad's little donkey and Rio's pal--and to me, Rio was crying. 

Dad was moved, and throughout the evening, I would see him looking at the pictures.  He misses going to see Rio, and it was like having a little piece of Rio here in the house.  I think he was also moved because he knows the affection I have for Rio. 

I went out as soon as it was light enough to see, and Rio was at the gate, waiting.  I think he knows when I am here.  I said hey to him and that I had missed him and was happy to see him.  He nodded his head up and down and nickered, as he does when I have said something with which he agrees.  It is his way of saying he is happy to see me, too.  I petted him for a second, and went into the shop to get his feed.  There was not quite enough in the food bin to fill his feed can, so I had to open and dump a new bag.  Maybe because it was cold (we are talking 26 degrees, and the wind blowing and gusting up to 40), but I could not get the string tape to give.  I couldn't find a knife or scissors (even though I just reorganized the tool bench last summer and know they were there) so I found a screwdriver to finally pry the tape loose and dump feed.  When I went out with his can of food and first handful he always eats from my hand--because dad always did that--I asked him if he was wondering what was taking me so long.  His answer was to head over to his food bin.

I had to break the ice in the water trough and then head to the hay barn.  By then, I realized I had made a mistake when I dressed for the chore, so I stepped back inside the shop and flipped my hood up and tied my scarf around the outside of the hood.  Someone had "cleaned out" the barn where he sleeps and eats his hay, but it was raked out and sort of piled right next to the barn door.  It is supposed to be cold (and windy) all week, so at some point, I just have to suck it up, dress as warmly as I can, and shovel it all down to the compost pile by the back fence.

Meanwhile, now I am listening to the wind blow, whipping around the corners of the house as it can only in Northwest Texas, one foot from the plains--or as the saying went, "nothing between here and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Rio with a blue blaze

I was working on doing a series of photographs of Rio for a studio mount.  I printed the first draft to check the size, and then got out the photo paper and did a best quality.  Turns out, I am low on color ink, and don't have a spare cartridge in the house tonight--at least, not one that I can find anyway!

I think I kind of like Rio with a blue blaze.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Living New Deal in 2014

In January 2013, I made my first submission to the Living New Deal, and by the end of December, the number had grown to 62.  The first submission was the Houston, Mississippi post office and mural.
Used with permission of USPS

The 62nd submission that year was for the Mt. Pleasant Texas Golf Course, designed by golf course architect Perry Maxwell.
Submissions in 2014 more than tripled to 213, and 33 of them involved road trips to take photographs.  Just around the corner from Mt. Pleasant, the first submission of the year for 2014 was the Miller County Courthouse in Texarkana, Arkansas.
I had 79 Mississippi submissions, and 12 road trips for their photographs.  Arkansas was second at 47 submissions, and 7 road trips, followed by Tennessee at 45 submissions, but only 2 road trips.  Louisiana ranked fourth with 24 submissions, and 3 road trips.  Texas brought up the rear at 19 submissions, but 9 road trips, earning it number 2 in road trips to photograph submissions.

My favorite piece of research was the work on the resettlement communities, including Lake Dick and Plum Bayou in Arkansas.  The one I spent the most time on, digging for confirmation that it was a WPA project was the Newcastle gymnasium.  I remembered the old rock gymnasium, and Dad remembered it was built by the WPA, but I could not find confirmation.  I knew the year 1931 on the marker could not be correct.  I finally located the references to its construction in 1937 in newspaper archives, making it almost 2 years that I searched for information.

A few of my favorite photographs of the past year's research for the New Deal work:

former Post Office, Crossett, Arkansa
Wortham Gymnasium, Oak Grove, Arkansas

WPA Amphitheater, Mineral Wells, Texas
Collierville, Tennessee High School
Ruston, Louisiana High School

Hempstead County Courthouse, Hope, Arkansas
Signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Macon, Mississippi Post Office; Image used with permission of USPS