31 October 2016

perfect day

lazy Sunday cycle along the river, clear air, a bit chilly, almost no wind, this is our life of luxury

29 October 2016

picture credit here

There are 27 bones in each hand and about 123 ligaments and there are times in the day when they all seem to shout at me for attention like one load roar. Also, morning stiffness, what a silly name.  Quite some morning, I tell you, it goes on and on.
At the back of my head I have stored the information from my last medical appointment, namely that I could either increase drug A or change drug B to drug C or maybe it was the other way around. I politely suggested to wait a bit longer explaining that I would like to pretend I could have a life without so much medication, at least until after xmas and the new doctor smiled from behind her desk and said, sure. For a while.
It's that easy. At least in my mind.
Now that I have officially switched experts, I wrote a long thank you letter to my lovely immunologist and sent it with a box of the best Italian dark chocolate covered torrone, wrapped in brown paper. Doctors are not allowed to accept gifts from patients, officially. But she will. I hope so. I will miss her, we had some good laughs.

Anyway, most mornings I wake and while I carefully move my hands and feet into flexibility, for a while it makes - surprisingly - a lot of sense, all this, life, death, being and stuff. Here in my bed, in my warm relaxing ocean of positive thinking, my mind humming with "Hell yes, I know how it works" and "I get it, I can handle it" until  eventually this huge wave rolls along which takes me away screaming "I will never understand!".
Maybe it's a winter thing. Clocks change on Sunday.

25 October 2016

I asked, acceptance, why is it so hard, tell me what to do.
And I was told to sit still, relax, breathe and repeat to myself quietly for the next 20 mins: who and what am I rejecting in my life right now?
Just this, don't search for an answer.
Try it. You may find a vast open space full of blue sky. Maybe.

21 October 2016

it is time for this

History will record that this was the decade when women owned funny. Or anyway drink this:
They lean in with the ingredients that they have been gathering for days, for years, to make the potion potent.
Eye of newt. Wool of bat. Woman cards, both tarot and credit. Binders. Lemons. Lemonade. Letters to the editor saying that a woman could not govern at that time of month — when in fact she would be at the height of her power and capable of unleashing the maximum number of moon-sicknesses against our enemies, but the nasty women do not stoop to correct this.
They drop in paradoxes: powerful rings that give you everything and keep you from getting the job, heels that only move forward by moving backward, skirts that are too long and too short at the same time, comic-book drawings whose anatomy defies gravity, suits that become pantsuits when a woman slips them on, enchanted shirts and skirts and sweaters that can ask for it, whatever it is, on their own. They take the essence of a million locker rooms wrung out of towels and drop it in, one drip at a time. Then stir.
They sprinkle it with the brains of the people who did not recognize that they were doctors, pepper it with ground-up essays by respected men asking why women aren’t funny, whip in six pounds of pressure and demands for perfection. They drizzle it with the laughter of women in commercials holding salads and the rueful smiles of women in commercials peddling digestive yogurts. They toss in some armpit hair and a wizened old bat, just to be safe. And wine. Plenty of wine. And cold bathwater. Then they leave it to simmer.
And they whisper incantations into it, too. They whisper to it years of shame and blame and what-were-you-wearing and boys-will-be-boys. They tell the formless mass in the cauldron tales of the too many times that they were told they were too much. Too loud. Too emotional. Too bossy. Insufficiently smiling. The words shouted at them as they walked down the streets. The words typed at them when their minds traveled through the Internet. Every concession they were told to make so that they took up less space. Every time they were too mean or too nice or shaped wrong. Every time they were told they were different, other, objects, the princess at the end of the quest, the grab-bag prize for the end of the party.
They pour them all into a terrible and bitter brew and stir to taste.
It tastes nasty. It is the taste of why we cannot have nice things, and they are used to that.

Perhaps if the potion works, they will not have to be.
The nasty women have a great deal to do before the moon sinks back beneath the horizon.
But that is all right. They know how to get things done.

Alexandra Petri 

20 October 2016

my homes, part II

This has been unexpectedly difficult. I don't know how many times I have started writing this post. Mostly,  I got lost in much too detailed descriptions of quite boring episodes from happy/unhappy childhood, seasons 1-15, in long and unwanted contemplation of my mother's life, which always ends poorly for both of us. Some days, I found myself considering motherhood in general and how so many adult children I know have this amazing capacity to keep a pragmatic distance, storing their mothers somewhere in a drawer marked 'slightly doddery and definitely tedious' until emergency strikes (this after watching season 2 of Transparent, esp. the last episode). My own daughter is a case in point. She can be adoringly ruthless and dismissive.
If only I could have had some of her confidence at the time.

Anyway, none of which gets me where I want this to go.

Throughout my childhood and my teenage years in southern and northern Bavaria, i.e. Franconia - and later as a university student in Heidelberg - the US army was all over the place. In Freising, where I was born, my parents lived next door to young GI families, sharing playgrounds and childcare and baby gear. Shortly before we moved, my father was offered a research fellowship in Alaska for three years and decided against it based on the recommendations of these GI friends (too cold, too boring). So I have been told but I suspect there were other reasons.
My point is that during the late 1950s, the US army families provided a much needed breath of fresh air, careless fun and pragmatic innocence, new references so to speak, to my parent's generation who had barely if at all begun to recover from the war and all that unmentionable shame.

By the time we moved to our brand new home in this Franconian city, my father, who was in his early 30s, had climbed to a surprising height on his career ladder and that allowed my parents to become somewhat haughty again, which means that our sitting room had walls of books, the music was ever only classical, the table cloth on Sundays old family linen etc. And most certainly no tv, not for ages, the world was always neatly separated into us and them (imagine a pyramid shape).
The house was a 1960s dream come true with central heating, a large open space sitting room with French windows complete with fringed striped canopy, jazzy ironwork banisters, crazy paving in pastels from the garage all through the garden and to the back door. Two (!) bathrooms, a fully equipped laundry in the basement and so on.
my mother knitted our matching blue coats with the white buttons

The area was about to be developed from a sleepy farming village, surrounded by oak forests and a disused historic canal perfect for ice skating, into a neat middle class hub of family life with access to the city. It all looked a bit like this watercolour by Albrecht Dürer. Actually, it didn't just look like it, this is the actual village, only he lived there for a while long before we moved in.

 It was a fabulous place with amazing freedom.

Lots of kids, on scooters, bicycles, roller skates, roaming the forest, climbing trees, building dens, gang warfare with snowballs in winter, collecting mushrooms on the way home from school, flying kites and crossing forbidden main roads, exploring the building sites of this growing suburb, coming home in the evenings covered in muck and dust, no questions asked.

And in between the proper German family homes with their pianos and cultivated gardens, the boring Sunday afternoons with Kaffee und Kuchen using the best family china, there lived many US army families, who had barbecues on the front steps. Imagine: a grilled hamburger between two slices of white toast (we only got white toast when we had a tummy upset). We stood there in our Sunday's best and stared at these lively people wearing shorts and playing loud music from a transistor radio  (music as in AFN). The gates stood open and that's all we needed, never mind the language. I spent wonderful afternoons exploring the mysterious world of Barbie dolls and Superman comics (we were allowed one comic only when we had to stay in bed with a fever and my mother would choose it personally), chewing bubble gum and eating peanut butter - with a spoon. Soon we were friends waving to each other in the mornings on our way to school, the US kids in their strange yellow bus, the German kids on their bicycles.
It was a wild time, believe me.

But with the cold war getting hotter, the army moved their families into compounds and our neighbourhood was once again ruled by Mittagsruhe and white knee socks on Sundays. Still, we had the great outdoors all to ourselves and for a while longer at least, no adult interference.
It ended when I started secondary school - at age 10 - and had to spend hours commuting back and forth, plus piano lessons and horse riding lessons and tennis lessons and whatever else my parents considered essential in molding us into proper representatives of their make believe world of academia.

18 October 2016

We are on autumn midterm break and move around the house and garden in very slow motion. Wait, that's me, R has been digging and relaying a path at the bottom of the garden most of the day. After which he wolfed down the delicious dinner I prepared (pasta with pears, wild mushrooms and gorgonzola, a very small bowl of the first tiny tender Brussel sprouts and a salad of baby spinach with Moroccan olives, beetroot (boiled and sliced) and sour cream dressing) and now he is sitting at his desk marking exam papers listening to African jazz or something equally lively and invigorating. Whereas I have almost exhausted my daily dose of energy and typing is all that stops me from falling asleep.
I am exaggerating. I am merely lazy as hell. In fact, I cleaned the downstairs windows this morning and I finished editing a long and rather repetitive paper on genetic predispositions for lipid diseases. Seriously, I am hopeless with genetics (and science, I admit it, I admit it), all that stuff about heterozygosity or homozygosity, I haven't a clue. Well, we all have to earn a living somehow. Just don't ask how I got stuck with this line of work. Maybe I'll write it down one day.
Last night I had the weirdest, most vivid dream and this morning, I read several blog posts about people's weird dreams. The moon, never underestimate the moon. But don't tell my father I said so.
Anyway, in my dream, an old friend from long ago brought me to a party with lots of drugs and mountains of food and everyone was dressed as a character from Alice in Wonderland. It went on from there. I was glad to wake up eventually. But I remember that one of the guys wore gold trousers.

13 October 2016

These are almost the last grapes. There is one chock full vine still out there waiting for even colder nights and a few more sunny days to give the grapes that extra thrill and sweetness. This lot here has a sugar content of 16% and a potential alcohol content of 8% but we have already devoured them. Rapidly. The plumeria, now indoors, continues to produce buds. So there is hope. Every morning, I whisper my encouraging thoughts while I dust it with distilled water.

What an exciting week so far! I made new friends and no enemies. When I walked out of the surgery yesterday, pressing onto the small bandage in the crook of my right arm, it all made sudden sense. But only for a second.
The good news is that while both my kidneys are odd, they are well. So after he explained all that business about floating kidney and stuff, we parted for good, the nephrologist and I, both hoping we may never meet again.
Whereas the moody rheumatologist and the jolly radiologist are now in my inner circle of close buddies after we spent a fair amount of time together, mostly considering the state and fate of my hands and feet, of which all four have started to display signs of 'involvement'. 
Strictly speaking, my hands have always been involved hands, I tend to wave them around a lot and as my disgusted father remarks - unsuccessfully in my case - one does not point with a naked finger at dressed people and so on. But recently when I make a fist with my right hand it shifts sideways reminding me of Kermit's face when he gets aggravated. My two new friends agreed and provided the proper  terms like cysts and ulnar drifts. 
It seems, that all my secret dreams of becoming a world famous pianist are now shattered but I can, so far, do all the necessary stuff excl. opening a new jam jar in the morning which is where R comes in. Handy  (sic).
As for my feet, any hill walking expeditions scheduled for this winter may have to be curtailed. Obviously I shall cross the Alps by bicycle instead. 
I'll have to anyway.
Last December, I successfully avoided the big boss's Xmas dinner but only after I had submitted the dreaded list-of-three-goals for the coming year: one academic, one business, one personal (while he is a brilliant scientist, he is a lousy business manager). In a fit of madness and giggles, I wrote "crossing the Alps by by bicycle" as my personal goal for 2016. Deep down I thought he would get the joke but as it turns out, he used my email as part of his pep talk at the dinner. Which explains why from time to time people come up to me and ask for cycle routes from Oberstdorf or Mittenwald or whether the Inn valley is a better choice.
So, maybe next year. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, here is something I whipped up in the last couple of weeks, just to show them, rheumatologists and all the other busybodies .  

09 October 2016

Of course some women will continue to collude with these scumbags, they will vote for Trump, they will excuse him. Women are good at excusing men. If we weren’t, the human race would die out. Some women will look away, believing men can’t help it and carry on humouring the “banter”. You drop something in a restaurant and a guy says: “While you are down there love…” and you laugh because if you didn’t you might stick a fork in his eye. And you remember being 14 and being bruised from mere “groping” but thinking yourself lucky because the worst didn’t happen. You think about how you knew the practice of misogyny long before you heard the theory, so wonder how the good guys are slightly baffled by it.
For misogyny is not some secret society, a form of freemasonry. It is mainstream. It is endorsed by Trump. It is not simply unacceptable, it is murderous.
Kill it dead.

Suzanne Moore - to the point

08 October 2016

I want to write down a good few things about all sorts but we just got an orange alert on our phones for night frost and although we doubt it will be happening - much too early, but you never know - the task at hand now is moving all of the delicate plants incl. the massive plumeria indoors.
So briefly, I was the only person cycling through the rainy forest yesterday after work.
Plenty of birds all around me though. It was gorgeous - and cold.

06 October 2016

Suddenly we are looking for mittens and scarves and keep the windows shut!! Not quite but almost frost this morning. I had forgotten how cold air stings the face and ears when cycling downhill. Last night after I had taken this picture on my way home, I was just so miserably cold that I had to moan for a while about five months of this etc. until I found some decent cat movies on the internet. As usual, R just ignored my complaints.
One month since the 3rd monoclonal antibody treatment and I am slowly beginning to feel more alive, trusting the level of energy to not drop suddenly and in the middle of things - it still happens but not as dramatically as during the summer. I'll go with the flow for the time being, some days are best forgotten, others are brilliant. Four more medical appointments this month, I am losing the plot here. Anyway, thank heavens for this country's socialist health insurance. This month started expensive, I paid 10 Euros for 12 weeks medication.