Thursday, December 31, 2015


Studies have shown the important role that imagination has in the development of children’s cognitive abilities.

I am not sure where my cognitive abilities are on the scale these days, but I am part of the generation that was raised before computer games and interactive electronic devices. There were plenty of opportunities for our imaginations to be developed. We had toys that we manipulated with our hands and we did things with them that required some imagination and creativity – Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets. Grandpa kept a big cardboard box filled with wooden blocks in the spare room and we spent hours happily creating all sorts of amazing things with the blocks and not bothering the grown-ups.

And we made regular trips to the library. Books… books… and more books. We had to imagine what the things looked like that we were reading about, there weren’t always pictures. We played role-playing games that required imagination, “Cowboys and Indians,” “Army,” and other fantasy games. I can remember lying on my back in the grass when I was a little kid and looking up and imagining I was a mackerel (my dad went ocean fishing a lot) and the sky was the “top of the water” and what would it be like to be a fish?

What I’m saying is that I’ve got very active imagination. It doesn’t take much to get me going.

Naturally, one of my favorite things to do is watch the amazing shapes form in the big white puffy clouds that sail along before the wind across a bright blue sky. Whales, pigs, elephants, bears, profiles of crones with hooked noses and jutting chins… all sorts of things and creatures that appear and then disappear as the wind shapes the clouds.

I have to be careful though doing this because I tend to fall easily if I don’t watch where my feet are going, so I have to stop walking. Of course, if I don’t keep an eye on the MollyWog, then she can get into trouble too. Usually, she'll just start trying to dig out of its hole some small furry mammal, but the last time we were out walking and I started cloud gazing and stopped paying attention to her, she managed to hop over the bottom strand of the barbed-wire fence and then left part of her hair behind when she hopped back.

So I am beginning to wonder whether I have an overactive imagination. Richard recently came home with a package of stevia sweetener. It sat on the counter for a while with some other stuff he bought. Part of the photograph on the front of the package was blocked on the right by something else, and before it was finally put way, I had plenty of time to look at it…  and pretty soon I started seeing a smiling face – somewhat distorted, but a face with a bow at the top of its head.
I finally asked Richard, “Do you see a smiling face?”No. I see cookies, a cupcake with frosting, and a cinnamon roll.”

One of my dad’s favorite sayings, was “He (or she) is nuttier than a fruitcake.”

And I’m thinking I just may be getting nuttier by the day.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Exercise and applesauce

Our Dad had lots of little sayings that we heard constantly throughout our growing-up years at home. One of the games we played last year at his big 90th birthday celebration was seeing how many of theses saying his long-time friends could remember.
Well I’ll be a suck-egg mule.
Its colder than a well-digger’s foot.

I’m busier than a one-armed paperhanger
Are just a few that we heard very frequently, but the one that sprang to mind on Christmas morning was one I knew he said all the time but I couldn't remember any of it. finally called my sister, and she talked to our Dad at the facility where he is being cared for, and he remembered it:
Exercise and applesauce helps to get the deal across.

I think is rather amazing because the fog of dementia is starting to cloud his mind and he doesn’t remember things very well now.

I’m not sure what “the deal” was but we heard “Exercise and applesauce….” a lot because when Mom served pork chops or a pork roast, we always had applesauce to go with it.

We had dinner on Christmas day with our friends from Massachusetts. She was planning lamb and she asked us to bring a vegetable and applesauce.

Why I didn’t just go to the store and buy jar of applesauce escapes me, but I did not. I bought 8 large apples (4 Jonagold and 4 Granny Smith) and I made it from scratch (cinnamon stick, lemon zest and lemon juice, brown sugar) and mashed it with a potato masher so it had little chunks of apples instead of being totally smooth. It was very good. Even though the apples cook down quite a bit, I still ended up with quite a bit more applesauce than was needed for the dinner. A lot more.

The food was delicious and even better, the fellowship was wonderful.
We are Meant to Eat Together
Eat with people whom you love and respect, who love and respect you, and who love and respect food.
Eat with people who are learning to cook, with sincerity of heart; children are a great example of this.
Eat with all your senses, masticating textures, smelling sensuous aromas, tasting luscious flavours.
Eat with people who aren’t afraid to make noises like ummm, ahhh, and oohh.
Eat with people who aren’t afraid to make a mess, lick their fingers, clean out the bowl, and eat with their hands.
Eat after the perspiration of a rigorous jog, invigorating walk, in the lusty afterglow from a roll in the hay; it’s much healthier than smoking a cigarette.
Eat with people who laugh and smile a lot, people who tell stories and spin yarns. Eat with people who are generous and share. Full stop.
Eat with all your fondest memories, triumphs through tragedy, and memories of love. Eat with people who love to cook and eat.
Eat with people who are gracious and grateful.
Eat with people who are nonjudgmental and forgiving, who can see both sides of the story and still have an opinion.
Eat with love, passion, compassion in your heart, and while searching your soul. Eat with people who love life and are genuinely interested in you and the world.
And finally, if you eat like this and with people who do and are all these things, pleeease ... invite me for dinner.
From the Return to Food book by Sherry Strong

So. What to do with all of the extra applesauce since my dearly beloved doesn’t particularly care for applesauce (he would rather eat the whole apple, and so would I, actually)? Well, every morning I eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 2 tablespoons of ground chia seed.

I normally mix the flax and chia in about 6 ounces of lemon-lime soda and drink it down as fast as I can. A delay of more than about 30 seconds means one is left with mucilaginous (gelatinous substance that is sticky and viscous) glop that is almost guaranteed to trigger the gag reflex. So, for the past few days I have instead been mixing it into the applesauce and adding a bit soda to make a little more liquid and down the hatch as fast as possible. Makes a nice change.

And before it is all gone some of it is going into the freezer so I have it on hand the next time we have pork.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Days go by like boxcars in the night…
Hobo’s Last Letter by Crazer, Hicks, Watson, and Newberry
The main Burlington Northern-Santa Fe rail line heading south/north and east/west through the state passes by our little town. Sometimes the trains come barreling through town at breakneck speeds, often with two or three engines pulling and two or three engines pushing (especially if the engines are heading west pulling hopper cars full of coal from West Virginia or Kentucky or wherever it has come from). The wheels making a cheerful clickety-clack as they roll along.

Sometimes the train creeps through the town, agonizingly slow, groaning and moaning and clanking and banging as it is shunted off on the siding to wait for a train coming in the opposite direction or a faster moving train coming up behind. This is especially a patience-builder if one has made the mistake of thinking “the train will pass before I get there” and instead of going over the viaduct turns left and right and left again to take the shortcut to the YMCA and then finds herself instead sitting at the north junction crossing gate waiting for that last car to pass (and on one horrible morning the train completely stopped on the siding with two cars left across the road and sat there for about 30 minutes).

And because we are about a mile from the train tracks, one can hear them throughout the day and during the wee hours of the morning (if one happens not to be asleep), and in those quiet early morning hours the sound of the cars moving down the tracks is very plain.

So too do the days pass—sometimes swiftly and sometimes they drag along—and suddenly one realizes certain people have been “sitting at the crossing” for 3 months waiting for something to be written here.

What in the world happened? I dunno exactly.
  • A paralyzing case of writer’s block.
  • One disaster after another happening to my best friend: her husband of 47 years died of cancer on August 21, almost exactly a month later she fell off a step ladder at her home and badly fractured her leg, spent a couple of weeks with an erector set on her leg to keep it stable and then went through 9 hours of surgery to finally fix it, and has been in the nursing home, unable to walk on it for yet another 4 weeks, although she finally gets to leave the nursing home tomorrow to be cared for by friends in their home. Even though all this happened to her and not me, trying to being a good friend and spend time with her in the nursing home and going to house (5 miles out in the country to water plants etc) has taken a lot of time and emotional energy -- which I was happy to do
  • Trying to spend more time reading books, which means I am off the computer earlier in the evening and also means I have less time while I am on the computer to write.
  • Maybe a little depressed. Moving into the fall of the year is always going to be hard for me and I expect it always will be.
Give me 5 minutes and I will think up a few more good reasons, but you get the idea.

A friend who I almost never see in person, but who keeps up with me by reading the blog, notices I haven’t written anything for a long time and sends me an e-mail wants to know if I am okay?

Yes Nancy, I think so. I happen to have a very expensive computer keyboard that sounds and feels just like an old-fashioned typewriter, and I am once again feeling the urge to do a bit of clickety-clacking myself here now and again.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Channelling Helen Mirren

Almost every beautician who has cut my hair has been frustrated with me I think because I am not very capable of doing much to style it myself.  So I get a "great hair style" and leave the beauty shop and when I next wash it... well, my hair still looks good but not like the beautician had it fixed. 

Several have told me that I have great hair. It is fairly thick, has lots of body, and if it is cut correctly, it looks pretty good without me having to fuss with it too much, and it continues to look good as it grows out. I almost never return in 2 months or 3 months or 4 months -- like I have been told to do -- to keep it looking like it did when it was first cut.

I often wait way too long between haircuts until I reach the point were it no longer looks good, and so by the time I finally can’t stand it any more, I look pretty ragged.

And last Monday I had reached that point. Now, it happened to be my good fortune that someone cancelled an appointment, so I did not have to wait an additional 2 or 3 weeks for a slot at the beauty shop.

I realize that there is no mandate that women have to have an “age-appropriate” hairstyle – whatever that means – but I do want to have hair that looks like it somewhat fits that age that is showing on my face. At any rate, I printed a picture of the lovely and elegant Helen Mirren

who is 4 years older than I am and who has a wonderful hairstyle, and I showed the picture to my dearly beloved and said...

I’m going to ask her to turn me into Helen Mirren…”
And when I got to the beauty shop, I thrust it at Amy, the woman who cuts my hair, and said “Turn me into her.”

There have been times when I have returned home from having my hair cut and cried because I didn’t like the way it was cut, but this was not one of them. She didn’t cut my hair to look exactly like Helen Mirren’s but it is close enough, and I am delighted with it.

Richard was too. When I walked in he said,

“My goodness, Helen, you look great!”
He made me feel like a million bucks and he me laugh to boot.

And the giggles continue because he has been teasing me about being Helen for the last couple of days.

I do not pay as much attention to my appearance as I could, but I definitely do feel better when I think I “look good” (or as good as it is possible for me to look) given my nose and my permanently red cheeks and chin, and...

I expect, in my own way, I am as fixated on how I look as the next person.

Anne Bernays wants to know:
“Is this fixation with our appearance wired into the human female? If so, then we don't have to feel guilty about it. If not, then why do we behave as if our appearance trumps kindness, intelligence, imagination, enthusiasm, and humor?
I don't think I behave that way, at least I hope not?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Sting!

No, I’m not talking about the delightful 1973 movie with the complicated plot in which Robert Redford and Paul Newman set out to con (sting) Robert Shaw (the bad guy). No indeed

In this feature, The Crazy Dog Lady (me) and the Mollywog (the dog)

 go out walking on a Saturday afternoon and blunder into a swarm of yellow jackets (the bad guys).

About halfway through the mile walk, there is an abandoned house. The house has sort of a converted carport at the side, with a ceiling fan and a wooden porch swing on two chains anchored to the beams. The old woman who lived in the house before she died sat out under the fan in the afternoons and watched the world go by while she crocheted – she made afghans and those very handy towels with the crochet tops that you can attach to a stove or refrigerator handle, and all sorts of other things. I exchanged “waves” with her many times as I walked by. As the holidays approached she would have a yard sale and I usually bought some of her crocheted items for presents. I know there is an extended family with adult children, and one of them lived in the house briefly, but it has sat empty for several years now.

Often when I am walking the dog, I will stop and sit on the swing for a few minutes to rest if my back has started to hurt and to catch my breath – there is a very steep hill just before the house. I sit and swing for a bit, and the dog sniffs around the stuff that has been left there. I realize I have no business going onto the property and sitting on the swing, and I was punished for my indiscretion.

This time there was swarm of yellow jackets near the swing, low to the ground, that I did not see. Molly walked right in the middle of them. She got stung at least once on the leg—probably twice—and shot off like a rocket, and I, not able to move quite as fast, got stung 3 times: once on each hand, and then, thrill of thrills, one of them flew down the sleeve of my t-shirt and got me near the armpit.

I tried putting meat tenderizer on the stings when I got back to the house, but I guess my meat tenderizer is too old or is missing ingredient that is supposed to help neutralize the toxin in the sting. It stopped hurting after a while. I felt very sorry for poor Molly. She curled up in her bed and acted very depressed, and didn’t move – not even to eat – until I took her out at 9:30 for her evening squirt.

Within a day or so after that, I discovered we have two nests of a nest of these unpleasant insects on either side of the front door – one nest is in a gap between the old foundation of the house and the concrete blocks of the new addition Richard built, and the other is about 5 feet from our front door, in between the wood border of a flower bed. A steady stream of them go in and out of this small hole all day long.

I understand that yellow jackets here do not survive the winter because it is too cold, but I am not sure I want to wait around for the cold to kill them. We are investigating how to get rid of them safely. Once upon a time we found a nest of them farther away from the house in an abandoned chipmunk burrow, and we poured kerosene down the hole at night and lit it on fire. We can’t do that with either of these nests.

With two nests this close to the house, it seems inevitable that we will get stung again.

And I am not interested in a sequel of this adventure.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Fitting in

I saw a gaggle of 16 girls at the park training for softball the other day. It brought back memories of the women’s softball team in Orange, where we lived in the mid-70s. They were called the Lionettes, and they were very exciting to watch, and they were very good – they were the runner-up team in several world championship games.

But back to here and now, the young women jogged around the baseline. They lined up opposite each other and tossed grapefruit-sized fluorescent green balls back and forth. One girl was pitching to another girl, underhand. She was very fast. The ball zipped along only a few feet from the ground, smacking hard in the glove of the catcher. They were lovely to watch.

They were dressed in different sorts of athletic clothes, but they all had hair long enough to wear in a ponytail. Not one girl had short hair. Brought back memories of how important it was during the years I was high school, in the mid-1960s, to fit in.

There were about 556 graduating seniors in the summer class of 1967, so there was quite a bit more variety in the different types of hairstyles that the girls wore than

there is in the small high school here, which has a total student body of 363 students.

Much has changed and much has stayed exactly the same.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Following the rules

My dearly beloved husband had an outpatient operation yesterday to repair the umbilical hernia that he has had for a very long time. It had always bulged out some and it would go back in when he pushed on it. One morning about a month ago, when it bulged out and he pushed on it, it did not go back in right away. That scared him, and so he decided he had better get the thing repaired.

Finally. Hernias like that can be very dangerous if the intestine gets caught in it. so I was very pleased he was moving ahead with this.

He scheduled an appointment with a woman surgeon who turns out to be a really interesting person (she is also an Episcopal minister), and who told him that if that happened again, he should lay on his back, put ice on it, and think happy thoughts.

The surgery went well. After he woke up, we moved to a room on the patient floor. We were told he had three goals to meet before he could leave the hospital: he had to be able to walk, he had to be able to pee, and he had to be able to drink liquids without vomiting.

After he was settled in the room I went to the cafeteria to get something to eat and when I was finding my way back to the room, I happened to meet a woman in the hall (a friend of a friend), whose husband died about 2 months ago. I told her to come back to the room. She talked and talked and talked about her husband and his death. Having had the experience of not being able to get people to engage when we tried to talk about our son’s death, we were happy to listen to her and encourage her to talk some more. Richard has this knack for continuing to ask questions to keep people talking and that's what he did to her. She tried to leave the room several times but he would ask yet another question and so she kept talking. I think it was good for her to do that.

He managed to walk, pee, and not vomit so we were able to leave the hospital. The doctor’s orders for his discharge were very extensive. He is not supposed to do the dishes, the laundry (or even lift heavy clothes), cook, shop for groceries, take the trash out, lift anything heavier than about 6 pounds, or drive, among other things.

The nurse who took care of him told him a cautionary tale about her husband who did not listen or follow the instructions after his umbilical hernia was repaired and he tore it open and is in terrible pain, and he can’t get it fixed because he can’t afford to be off work for another 6 weeks.

I suspect Richard will mostly behave himself, except this afternoon, I caught him at the counter chopping lettuce for his salad.

??? I said

“It doesn’t say anything about chopping lettuce,” he says. “What that about is they don’t want me lifting heavy pans (like your cast iron skillet).” He may be on a slippery slope here, and I may have to remind him of the rules.

In the meantime, I will have to be the housewife again for a while. He is a much better househusband than I am a housewife, and he is a bit obsessive about the right way to do certain things (like stacking the dishes in the drainer), so I expect he will be a little crazed by the time the restrictions are lifted.

This morning we struggled with the wide elastic binder that they put around him at the hospital. He had to take it off and put on again over his t-shirt because it was irritating his bare skin and he couldn’t seem to get it to back on the way it was. and me trying to help him wasn’t working too well. He has been wearing it all day like he is supposed to, but it is not quite right. I found some instructions on the Internet, so we will have to try again tomorrow to get it on the right way.

Friday, July 31, 2015

No tears were shed

We are gathered here today to celebrate the death of one of the Neotama floridana clan, who was feeling lucky, but instead, it was our lucky day. In the past week, she chewed a hole in an electric blanket that we had stored in plastic tub, most likely to line a nest she was preparing for her most recent litter, shredded some tax records, also stored in a tub, and chewed through our telephone line twice in three days. There was great rejoicing in the camp at her demise.

I suppose it is not fair to blame all of these events on this particular pack rat, because we have killed two others in as many days -- after about 2 weeks of setting traps -- both the old-fashioned spring variety and a live trap. 

We have since spotted a fourth rat in the basement...
and Molly informed us there is a rat lurking in the engine block of my car, which is temporarily disabled due to a transmission problem but will become permanently disabled if the rat is not caught before it destroys the wiring, hoses, connections, etc.

This seems to be a particularly bad year for them. Peacefully coexisting with these animals is not possible. Their predilection for chewing through electrical wiring makes them very dangerous. Trapping them live and then releasing them is not an option. One man who made a study of this discovered they must be moved at least 5 miles away or they will find their way back.

So it is war: us against them. I would like to think that we will ultimately win, but I’m not so sure.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Luxuriating in the dust

In her book A Window Over the Sink Peg Bracken writes of when she first looked through the window she had installed in her kitchen…
I was astonished at the way my mind took off in seven-league boots . . . . I was traveling eastward ho, across the ocean, past the Rockies and the small Idaho town where I was born, to the small Missouri town where I grew up, and to some other places where I may have grown up some more, though I'm not entirely sure about that
I sometimes wool-gather when I look through my kitchen window, but usually there are enough interesting things going on in the front yard to keep my attention firmly in the present...

A chipmunk full of nervous energy searches for sunflower seeds caught in the cracks of the wooden platform I feed birds on.

A turtle makes its way across the driveway, moving surprisingly fast for an animal that has a reputation for moving slowly.

Rabbits have created a dust bath in a sandy spot on the driveway. Two rabbits meet face to face near the public bath and creep cautiously toward each other. 

They touch noses and one sort of leaps away and they chase each other down the driveway.

A Brown Thrasher lands on the driveway and scurries over to the dust wallow and, as its name implies, begins to thrash around in the dusty place.

It behaves exactly like the birds that take a bath in the water I have provided in the birdbath a few feet away on the grass. It flaps its wings and spreads its tail and splashes in the fine dust. It lays down writhing and flinging the sand around with its beak, attempting to get the particles into its feathers.

The bird acts like it is in ecstasy.

It gets up, shakes itself, and runs across the driveway into the brush, and then a half-a-minute later it comes running back and does it again, and then finally flies off.

We’re often shown scenes in movies of beautiful women preparing to luxuriate in the perfect bath. They light candles, pour fragrant oil or bubble bath tub as it fills, and then lay back in the steaming water. I have to say that bird was enjoying its bath every bit as much, without all the extras.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The benefits of careful pruning

The tulip poplar we donated in our son’s memory was planted in the park in March 2012.

It was less than 3 feet tall and was basically a bare stick.

Within a week, another tulip poplar was planted next to our tree. It was the same size and also a bare stick. Both trees soon begin to put out leaves. Our tree had a small setback when the tip got broken shortly after it was planted, but it recovered nicely.

We watered both trees that summer, the next summer, and the summer after that to make sure they would survive through July and August, when is very hot and little rain normally falls.

In 2013, our tree was very healthy and growing well.
So was the tree next to it, and they were about the same size.

And then I began to carefully prune our tree. Richard did not want me to, but I explained that it really was OK, that I wasn’t going to do a hack job on it, and that the tree would benefit from it. As we walked around the park one day before he finally agreed, I pointed out that none of the big trees in the park have limbs below about 5 feet. Eventually, all of the lower limbs on the small trees would be cut off anyway, so there was no point in the tree putting its energy into these lower limbs.

Don’t worry, I said, the tree will be fine.

The family that donated the tree next to ours has not done anything to their tree since it was planted. Both trees are healthy and are growing well, but now, 2 years after I began pruning our tree...
 the difference in the two trees (ours is on the right) is quite obvious.

It’s hard not to miss the object lesson -- sometimes we need to prune things out of our life that can stunt our growth or divert our energy away from things that are more important. Taking secateurs to a thumb-sized tree limb is one thing, and applying them to our own lives is quite another. And not always very easy. Jesus certainly talked about the importance of pruning when He compared the need to prune grape vines so they bear better fruit with the pruning God does in us so that we produce better fruit in our own lives.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Learning Some Life Lessons: Have I Finally Got It?

As long as we are alive, life presents us with opportunities to learn life lessons. Sometimes these are huge and come at a great personal and emotional cost, and times they are rather inconsequential in the whole scheme of things, but just like the little foxes that ruin the grapes, even an in inconsequential event can have a big effect on how we feel about ourselves.

I have had some experiences recently of the more inconsequential variety that have taught me a couple of lessons:

Three times a week I eat for breakfast, along with the homemade yogurt I regularly eat, a serving of frozen mixed fruit with berries (raspberries, blackberries, and sometimes blueberries) that has been thawed. The thawed berries produce quite a bit of juice at the bottom of the bowl.

Twice last month I went to town to pick up the mail after eating my breakfast and came home to find that I had dribbled purple berry juice on my chin. Both times I met people at the post office and visited with them, so they had plenty of opportunity to observe that my face was dirty.

After the second embarrassing episode I learned life lesson 1:

Always check my face after I eat the fruit and before I leave the house. Always. No exceptions

And I have done so, and that hasn’t happened again.

On Saturday we had chopped spinach as one of the vegetables for our evening meal. I play the piano for a contemporary service at a local church, and so about 45 minutes after we finished eating, I changed my clothes, went into the bathroom, looked at my face in the mirror, and combed my hair, and left.

When I got home, my dearly beloved greeted me as I walked in and said something funny that made me smile, and then he started laughing and wanted to know did I realize I had spinach in my teeth? Had I done much smiling or laughing at the meeting?

No I didn’t know…. and yes I did. Of course I did—well, perhaps not laughing but certainly talking and smiling.

And then we had an interesting discussion about how people will not tell you when something like that is wrong.

To say I felt embarrassed about the spinach in my teeth doesn’t quite cover it. 

So life lesson 2:

Always brush my teeth before I leave the house. Always. No exceptions.

Today it was once again a day for a frozen fruit with berries for breakfast This morning before I left the house I did not forget to inspect my face in the mirror (it was clean), and I remembered to brush my teeth, and when I did, I observed blackberry seeds stuck in my front teeth.


To quote Professor Henry Higgins: By George, she's got it! By George she's got it!

Friday, June 26, 2015

A little change of plan.

Today is our anniversary and we had big plans. We were going to go to the Big City, do a bit of bulk buying at the big box store, go to the art museum, have a late lunch at a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant that serves good Italian and Greek food (spinach spanakopita to die for), and then go see a movie.

And then early in the week my dearly beloved went on a hunting-and-gathering expedition and severely twisted his knee when part of him turned and the other didn’t, and so we thought we had better change the plan.

I am very thankful that his knee is much better and not all that disappointed that we stayed home. As much as I enjoy the art museum, which is really quite a good one for a smaller big city, we are usually thoroughly exhausted by the time we arrived back home. 

We went to the movie last night at a local theater and saw the Pixar film Inside Out, which is a wonderful cartoon for adults. It has gotten amazing reviews, and rightly so. Some of the funniest parts of the movie occur during the closing credits. There is a scene involving cats that is hilarious.

And today, instead of driving 2 hours for Mediterranean food, we will drive 15 minutes down the road for good Mexican food.

I married him 44 years ago...

and I am very happy that I did.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Flying Purple Berry Eaters

Mulberry trees grow here with abandon, and indeed, some consider them a “weed tree.” The fruit comes in various colors – we have trees on our property that produce white fruit and those that produce purple fruit. There is a tree with white fruit near the fork of our driveway and there is a purple one not too far from the back door.

The fruit is just starting to ripen.

 The mulberries do indeed resemble berries–blackberries in particularand they have a mild, pleasant taste. For a few years after we first moved here, I attempted to make jam out of them. I even got instructions from the Agricultural Extension Service on how to do it, but what I ended up with was mulberry syrup. Which tasted fine on pancakes, but I eventually decided that standing out there and picking the fruit and then processing it was not worth the time and effort.

The big birds—Jays, Robins, and Brown Thrashers—and the small birds—Cedar Waxwings and Wrens—and all the others in between love the mulberries and they flock to the trees to gobble them up and carry them off to feed their babies

What goes in eventually comes back out, and a lot of it ends up on the cars.

Purple bird poop…and it is not a pretty sight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Speak! Speak!

 At my last visit to the clinic I had an ultrasound examination of my leg, and after it was over, I sat up on the examination table and finished wiped off the gel and cried, and the ultrasound guy patted me on the shoulder and said It is going to be OK. Don't worry. Not a Doctor Bob came in and gave me a hug and said You are going to be fine. Don't worry....

And then he proceeded to give Richard a series of specific instructions on what the signs of stroke are so that he could get me to the hospital if I showed any of them.

Not a Doctor Bob told him to "get her to the hospital" if
  • she sticks her tongue out at you in the morning when she gets up and it is off to one side...
  • if one side of her face looks droopy...
  • if she has trouble talking....
  • if she has trouble moving one side of her body...

So far none of those things have happened, except the part about having trouble talking.

I often have difficulty speaking, especially when I am trying to say three things at once and it comes out garbled. I was trying to tell him something the other morning and wasn't getting very far, and he began waving his arms and with a foreign accent he said...

"Speakl! Speak! Words come out mouth"

And then he stuck his tongue out at me, and of course it was off to one side.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A surprise for Mother’s Day

I am not expecting flowers for Mother’s Day, and that’s OK, because I have some spectacular flowers that have appeared just in time for the occasion.

In November 2012 my dearly beloved bought me an orchid. I don’t remember now what the occasion was. It could have been a belated birthday present or it could have been simply because he loves me and knew I wanted an orchid.

The blooms lasted a long time, but eventually they died and dropped off the stalk. I trimmed the stalk back, and began taking care of the plant as best I could by trying to follow the information I found on the Internet.

And the plant just mostly sat there for 2-1/2 years. A new leaf would appear occasionally, and an older leaf would shrivel and drop off, but that’s about it. Richard said if it were him, he would have given up a long time ago and tossed the plant.

I am very glad that I persevered and did not give up. About a month ago I noticed that the plant was starting to send out something that did not look like the air roots (or whatever they are) that stick up out of the potting mix.
Could this be a bud stalk? I began to get rather excited.

And then I noticed little buds were forming on the stock, and then and got really excited…. and then…. and then… within the last week…
We aren't going out for dinner tomorrow. Instead, I am making one of my favorite meals, which  I cook in the crock pot. It starts with a layer of potatoes cut in quarters, on top of that goes an onion cut in quarters, and on top of that a bell pepper cut in quarters. Italian sausage is placed on top of the vegetables, and tomato sauce is poured over with Italian spices and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Mother's Day can be a minefield for someone whose mother has died and whose child has died. But enough time has passed that I can enjoy the day without falling apart. So tomorrow I will celebrate the life of my wonderful Mother, who was a wonderful example of how to be a mother, and will reflect on the years that I had the privilege of being a mother myself, and most of all, will celebrate my husband who was kind to give me a gift that has kept on giving.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Will anybody feed the kitty?

We are reasonably sure our little Squeaker has developed a megaesophagus, which means if she eats too much to quickly it all comes back up before it ever reaches her stomach. She was already small to begin with, and she has lost weight. Our first cat developed a megaesophagus and we ended up having to put her to sleep because she was starving to death and we couldn’t stand it.

Actually, we don’t know for sure whether Squeaker has a megaesophagus because that involves a barium study, and we are not in the mood right now to spend the money on the cat (hint: our co-pay for 4 months for the osteoporosis drug I have been prescribed was $2500.)

So in the meantime, we remembered what the vet told us to do to try to keep our first cat alive and so first we made her a platform to eat off of...

but that was too much of a temptation for the dog, so we have rigged up a “feeding platform” for the Squeaker...

and we have bought canned cat food which she doesn’t have to chew--she tends not to chew the dry cat food which makes the vomiting even more frequent. With this system we have rigged up she seems to be getting enough down and is holding her own, at least for now.

The canned cat food has a powerful odor and neither one of us neither one of us particularly likes smelling it, and neither of us leaps up with alacrity to feed the kitty.

So one of us will ask: “Will anybody feed the kitty?

And the other one responds, “No, I won’t feed the kitty.”
But we do, of course, feed the kitty.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The tea tree

The blog goes strangely silent while I work through yet another health problem.

So much has gone wrong with me since January that I have reached and passed the point that I just do not want to write about it any more. I can see myself turning into this person that other people take one look at and run in the opposite direction so they don't have to hear the latest medical problem. I used to know a woman like that -- you said "Hi, how are you" and she told you exactly how she was and how her children were, and...once I did cross the street and go into a store when I saw her at the other end of the block heading toward me so I would not have to talk to her and hear the latest. 

So when a person really is "not OK", the standard greeting that people give each other…

Hi. How are you?

...becomes a loaded question.

Do they really want to know how I am? Well, if they are close friends or family then yes, probably they do, but not the stranger that I passed on my walk in the park the other day who said  “How are you?” and I said “I’m great,” or even the casual acquaintance that I see at the post office or in the check-out line at the store.

So, “I am fine” is good enough for now. And in a very real sense I am “fine.”

In the meantime, with a perfectly straight face, he says, “Did you know our tea tree is blooming?”

Tea tree?

If we have a tea tree it is news to me. “Come on, he says, “I’ll show you.”

So I trail after him as he heads toward the compost heap.

 “Look,” he says, “the tree is just about ready to harvest.”

And then he bursts into laughter.

We drink a lot of green tea, and the used bags go into the compost bucket, which in turn is thrown on the compost heap. And there is a bush right next to the spot, and the inevitable happens.

A tea tree indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Odds-and-Ends on an Orangish Afternoon

What would otherwise be a bright blue sky on a beautiful Spring day has instead turned to a rather peculiar orange-colored sky because the smoke from a 100-plus acre controlled burn started by the Conservation Department southwest of town is billowing into the air and is obscuring the sun, which is headed in that direction.

A friend who reads this mentioned when I spoke with her last night that all she sees is the “I am not a robot post.”

Well, that is because since Monday last I have been operating on a back-up Windows 7 computer because the motherboard on my XP workhorse died. True, I should really not be using the XP for a variety of reasons, but I prefer the way Word is configured on that operating system. In any event, the Windows 7 computer was not quite set up for blogging or Face Booking, and I was too preoccupied trying to get up to speed on Word 2007 that I did not feel like tackling social media too.

Over the weekend I just about finished Friday...

the 1982 novel by Robert Heinlein. This novel happens to be about a woman who is also not a robot but is instead is what is referred to as an artificial person, she is human and even has the capability of reproducing in the normal way, but did not come herself into the world in the usual way, and so faces certain discrimination because of her status.

What continues to amaze me about the science fiction writers is that they had such good imaginations that the things they invented in their novels often came to pass in real life.When Heinlein wrote this novel, the Internet existed but not in the format it is today and not with the graphic interfaces and speed that we currently enjoy. Nevertheless, his character is able to access libraries and watch concerts and videos of events that happened “10 years earlier ” (her time, which is appears to be rather far in the future).

Which leads me to the real reason for this post. When I began having trouble with my back in January and it gradually became apparent what was wrong and what might be done about it, my sweet sister-in-law Donna, wife of my youngest brother,  who has had some trouble with her back...
warned me not to go on the Internet and look up stuff about it. I did not exactly follow her advice at first, and then realized she was "spot on."

Well, most recently, last Tuesday in fact, I started having a problem with my lower leg. Unfortunately, I have spent years (years, I tell you) editing medical manuscripts for a vascular surgery journal and for a group of vascular surgeons at a teaching hospital in The Netherlands. How many manuscripts have I worked on outlining problems with deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, peripheral arterial disease, critical limb ischemia, claudication, and aneurysms of arteries in the lower leg? More than I can count. Does one have a tendency to become a hypochondriac in those circumstances? You betcha.

To back-track a bit, some years ago a bulgy lumpy thing formed at the back of my knee. It did not hurt and it did not bother me in any way, it was just there. By this time I had developed a very cordial relationship with the supervising vascular surgeon in The Netherlands, and so I sent him an e-mail in which I described the lumpy thing and asked his opinion. He said it sounded to him like it was a Baker’s cyst and did not suggest that it needed treatment. And I promptly forgot that exchange, until today.

Between Tuesday night, when I discovered my lower leg just didn’t hurt (I thought it was a strained muscle from overdoing the chair exercises at aerobics on Monday) was also swollen and yesterday, I was fairly convinced I had a blood clot or an aneurysm and was going to end up in the hospital undergoing some sort of bypass operation or and perhaps I'd even be dead from a pulmonary embolism, except I wasn’t convinced enough to go to the emergency department. And of course, none of the possible explanations for the symptoms I was having mentioned what I no doubt probably have.

I did, however, present to Not-a-Doctor Bob this morning and I described the bulgy thing that used to be in the back of my leg and he felt my leg carefully and said, “I think you have a ruptured Baker’s cyst.” The only way to tell for sure is to do an ultrasound. We have a guy that comes here or you can go to the hospital.”

I decided I would see the ultrasound guy at the clinic and forgo going to the hospital for the scan. So, I am going to assume that Not-a-Doctor Bob is correct and that I am not going to drop dead between now and next Monday from a pulmonary embolism.

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 20, 2015

I am not a robot

Suddenly appearing on the "Comments" window is the "I am not a robot" widget.

I didn't think anything about it until I was visiting another blog which has the "I am not a robot" widget and I wanted to leave a comment but before I could, I was made to try to type the words, one of which is so distorted it can scarcely be read.

I hate that.

So just out of curiosity, I tried leaving a comment on this blog and sure enough, I was made to type the distorted words.

I really hate that.

I didn't ask to have "I am not a robot" and I am not sure if I can make it go away.

I'll try.

I get so few comments as it is, I hate the idea that someone who just might want to leave a comment is discouraged from doing so by being made to jump through the "I am not a robot" hoop..

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Eye of the beholder?

This morning when I took Mollywog for a walk in the park, a freight train pulling mostly boxcars came down the tracks next to the park and gradually slowed until it was stopped on the siding to wait for another train coming in the opposite direction.

I noticed that with perhaps one exception, every boxcar that I could see on this long train had become the canvas for graffiti artists. I stood mesmerized while Mollywog snuffled and sorted at a ridge made by mole. I was stunned at how beautiful some of these freehand drawings were/

Art? Yes, I think so. Vandalism? Yeah, that too.

But definitely food for thought: Who decides what is art?

When I was a child, we spent a lot of time at the LA County Museums that were part of the Coliseum complex in downtown Los Angeles. It was only perhaps a 10-minute drive down the freeway from our house and admission was free back then. My folks were very clever at finding free things to do to amuse their four children and we went there often. Back in the day, before the LA County Art Museum had been built some miles away down on Wilshire Blvd by the La Brea Tar Pits, all of the art in the collection was housed in the Natural History Museum. I loved looking at the beautiful paintings.

One incident I have never forgotten took place after Dad and I climbed the stairs and came into a gallery with a number of sculptures, including one that was a large collection of scrap metal that had been welded together. There were lots of large and small car parts in the creation--tail pipes, mufflers, engine parts, transmission parts, that sort of thing.

Now my Dad, who was an automobile mechanic, had a finely tuned sense of what was “art” was and what was “not art,” and like Justice Potter would say not too many years later in the landmark Supreme Court case on obscenity “"I know it when I see it.” Well, Dad had handled many of the objects in this sculpture day in and day out, and he knew art when he saw it, and he had an opinion about this particular piece of art.

What a piece of junk!

 And he wasn’t exactly whispering when he said it, either. But as the cliche goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. 

Now, this is a perfect point to insert a video essay by the late great Molly Ivins about fine art in the great state of Texas. Do take a few minutes and watch it. 

It is just too bad that the skills of these extremely talented young people who are vandalizing the boxcars can’t be channeled into something that isn’t against the law.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pushing too hard?

Last Friday I spent 3+ rather miserable hours at a consult with an interventional radiologist about my back. How miserable? Oh have mercy. Let me count the ways (no, on second thought, I won’t).

I realize that the competence of a physician and his or her skill at diagnosing and treating disease has nothing to do with the person’s personality. But it is a bit easier to warm to a physician—or a Physicians Assistant, such as Not a Doctor Bob, who takes care of my basic medical needs, who is loving and pleasant and kind, even when I am a “bad patient”—than it is to one who is the archetype of “I am the physician, I am God. You are the patient, and this is what you will do.”

Unfortunately, the physician who I was consulting about my back was something of an arrogant bully.

However, as much as I did not like him very much, I acknowledge that he does seem to know his business. Because the level of pain in my back has subsided a great deal—I have not had to take a heavy-duty pain pill for almost 2 weeks—he believes that I do not need the vertebroplasty that was being proposed, at least not for the time being.

Vertebroplasty is a procedure in which the interventional radiologist sticks a needle into the bone and injects a plastic cement to shore up the bone.

Instead, he is more concerned about stopping the progression of the osteoporosis in my spine, which is fairly advanced, and maybe even rebuilding the bone.

Now a few days before this appointment, Not a Doctor Bob gave me a list of all the available treatments for osteoporosis so I could research it out and decide which one I wanted to do. The very last one he listed was a particular drug that must be injected every day. I immediately decided I did not want to use that medication. 

Dr Bully happens to believe that that very drug is the best one to stop the process, and so he sent me home with a 28-day supply of it and I received instructions on how to do the injection.

"Now don't press the needle in too hard," the nurse says, "you don't want to cause a bruise."

I have been injecting myself for a week, and it is not a big deal after all. The needle is tiny—about as thick as a sewing thread and maybe a quarter-inch long—but nevertheless, I have a some spectacular bruises decorating my belly. I can barely feel the needle going in and I guess I am pressing too hard.

Good thing my belly is not on public display.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!
 Terry Pratchett, The Truth

Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors—dare I say my very favorite author—died today of complications of Alzheimer disease. I have written here about him and his books before.
One or more of his books has always accompanied me on the many trips I have taken on airplanes to see my family in Southern California, and will continue to do so.

Except there won’t be any more new ones.

It is hard to imagine what it will like not having any more stories about Commander Vimes, or Moist von Lipwig, or Rincewind and the Luggage, or Death and his granddaughter Susan, or the characters I think I will miss most of all, Tiffany Aching and the band of Nac Mac Feegles.

The notice of his death was posted in true Terry Pratchett fashion on his Twitter account -- perhaps he arranged for this himself, before he died:

"AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER." Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night. The End.

Crivens, indeed!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A thrill a minute...

It was 7°F this morning when I arrived at the park with Molly for our walk. But it really wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and only a slight breeze was rippling the flag on the pole.

I could tell by the footprints left in the snow that I am the only person who has walked all the way around the park in the past few days. Other people have been there though, and other dogs as well. At one point she was stopping every few feet to sniff the footprints left in the snow by a very large dog.

The real fun part of coming and going is the trip down our driveway. Even though our neighbor was kind enough to clear enough snow from our driveway so that we could get out, there was still enough on the ground—and more snow fell along with freezing rain—after his kind gesture so that the first car to drive out made two noticeable grooves down the driveway, which grew deeper with each successive trip in and out. And then with the daily thaw-and-freeze the ridges turned to ice.

Now when we get the car going down the driveway, we can take our hands off the wheel – if we are wanting a bit of excitement – and bump and slither our way up to the asphalt without going over the edge. We do not need to pay $100+ a person (!) to experience thrill rides at a certain amusement park. No indeed. We have our very own thrill ride.

And just by way documenting the human spirit, which sometimes is able to find something humorous in very inconvenient circumstances… 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Merriam-Webster to the rescue

Yesterday afternoon I carefully positioned myself on the couch with a paperback mystery by the prolific writer Michael Innes

Almost immediately I saw that Innes was the sort of writer who I really enjoy reading. I like the words he chooses and the descriptive way he constructs his phrases and sentences.
Something long, pale and flattened had appeared against the window, like the under-belly of a sea-slug sucked hard against the side of an aquarium. Slightly above and to either side of this were what might have been two writhing caterpillars of the furry sort, and below each of these was a faint but baleful gleam of fire. The whole, in fact, was a human face engaged in some act of reconnaissance, and a moment later the door was thrown open and its owner heaved himself violently into the compartment….
But before I was a very few pages into the book, I started coming across words that were a puzzlement -- I had no idea what they meant or only a vague idea…
  • assize
  • hebdomadal
  • catholic (little “c” not Catholic)
  • Ruritania
  • breviary
  • otiose
Sometimes when that happens, I assign a meaning that seems to fit the context of the sentence and plow on. I do it all the time with words and phrases I see in the medical manuscripts I edit, but in that case I really don’t need to understand what I am reading, just that it makes grammatical sense.

And to chase a bit of a rabbit here, one of the few classes I remember from junior high (some 50+ years ago now!!) was an English class taught by Mrs Brewster. Oh my. She was an elegant, immaculately groomed woman who wore a subtle but wonderful perfume. I think now she was a great role model for impressionable and squirrley junior high school girls. We were learning the parts of speech, and she was teaching us how to diagram sentences (using the Reed-Kellogg system in case you have no clue and just have to look this up). She then handed us Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, which starts off…

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 

And told us to have at it. We had no idea what most of the words meant, but discovered it was quite possible to diagram the sentence and do it correctly.

Where was I. Oh yeah.

Having decided that I really wanted to know what these strange words actually meant rather than just guess, and because the computer stays off on Sunday, I grabbed my trusty Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Edition, which has seen better days and is held together by duct tape. All the words were there, and knowing what they actually meant made much more sense than what I was guessing they meant.

I only have the one Michael Innes mystery, which I believe I swept off the shelf as part of a “$1 a bag sale” at the thrift store. I am not likely to find any more at the thrift store (this one was written in 1945), so I have a feeling I may be visiting the library before too long to see if they have any of his available for checking out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A "little bit of snow...

Saturday afternoon after I left off looking at the lovely primroses my husband bought for me to plant in pots and enjoy (hopefully) for years to come, I took a look at the weather forecast that I have on my Internet toolbar to see what might be happening on Sunday. I wish now I had saved a screen shot of the projected forecast for Sunday…

“a little bit of snow Sunday afternoon” 

is what it said.

Sunday morning dawned cold and windy (about 19 not counting wind chill) but with a clear blue sky; however, things sounded a bit more ominous when I got in the car to drive to the spot where I was going to take the dog for her morning walk: the news warned there could be up to 8 inches of snow in our area of the state.

Nah… they’re usually wrong. Right?

Yes, they usually are wrong but not this time.

The ice pellets started hitting shortly after the sun went down Sunday, and then the snow started, and we woke up Monday morning to at least a foot of snow. Compared with what has happened in the Northeast and New England in recent weeks, a foot of snow is not such a big deal. I get that, and I am not complaining.

What this is really about is the wonderful young couple that moved into the church next door a few years ago and turned it into their house. We had never before had next-door neighbors and suddenly we did, and they are indeed truly lovely neighbors.

We are blessed.

Monday afternoon the husband took it upon himself to come down our driveway with his little Bobcat machine and cleared the snow up to the concrete pad in front of the garage where we park two of the vehicles. Had he not done that, I am not sure we could have gotten out today even in our small pick-up. I needed to mail my cousin’s birthday present, and most important: Tuesday is “banana Tuesday” at the local market. The price per pound for bananas is just about half the regular price. We both eat a banana a day, so we don’t miss banana Tuesday if we can help it.

My car, which is parked by the back porch is buried and is certainly going nowhere anytime soon.

I am very thankful for having such a good neighbor. Some folks are not so fortunate.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Finding the hard way

Sometimes the mind, for reasons we don't necessarily understand,just decides to go to the store for a quart of milk.
Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider
Northern Exposure, "Three Doctors," 1993

If there is a choice between an easy way to do something and a hard way to do something, I almost always—and I do mean almost always—find the hard way to do it.

I have a pair of sweatpants that are very warm, but the elastic in the waist is totally shot and they will not stay up at all. To fix this, my dearly beloved bought me a plastic-encased package of 1-inch elastic. Remember when once upon a time you could go to the yardage counter and buy exactly the amount of elastic you wanted? Apparently not any more. At any rate, I have not gotten around to sewing the new elastic in the waist of these sweatpants and so have been using some suspenders to hold them up.

Was I able to figure out the simple way to undo the suspenders so that I could sit down to use the facility? No I did not. Each time nature called I undid all four clips and then had to fumble around and reattach them.

I was explaining this to Richard about why I thought the suspenders were somewhat inconvenient and he gave me a puzzled look and said…

Why not just slip the suspenders over your shoulders. The sweats will fall down and then you don’t have to unclip anything. Just pull the sweats back up and put your arms through the suspenders

I am not a stupid person, but sometimes my mind really does seem to go to the store for a quart of milk.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Mistaken identity and no lumberjacking for me…

Since the weekend after Christmas, when I started experiencing pain that I thought was around my lungs, I have had an electrocardiogram, two chest X-rays, and an MRI, all in an attempt to get to the bottom of what is causing the pain.

At first all of the symptoms pointed to pleurisy, but then as the days passed and the pain did not resolve, it appeared that something else was going on. When not-a-doctor Bob looked at the second chest X-ray last Monday, he said it looked to him like there was problem in the spacing between some of the vertebrae in my upper back, which has developed the unmistakable curve or a dowager’s hump.

And so the next day, I had the MRI, and was quite impressed at the array of banging, buzzing, and knocking sounds that accompanied the scan.

Today the hospital faxed me the results of the MRI, and I had a follow-up appointment with not-a-doctor Bob. But before I got to the examination room, I got to wait a while in the waiting room, and something truly hilarious happened. I wanted my dearly beloved to be there for the appointment, but since there were a few errands to run in town. we arrived in separate cars. I got there first and had settled down with a Stanley Kaminski paperback about Lieberman, the Jewish police detective in Chicago.

I was sitting against the wall a few feet from the door. I looked up as he walked in and was quite puzzled when instead of turning right and sitting next to me, he headed off with great purpose across the room toward an elderly woman who was looking down at a magazine. I was very surprised to see him stop in front of her and pat her on the head. She certainly was surprised, and so was he, I believe, when she looked up at him and he realized he was patting the wrong woman on the head. He laughed and apologized. She laughed. Everyone else in the waiting room laughed as well. She was a good sport about it.
But that was about the only funny thing that happened today. Fact is, the news from the MRI is not good. A short version of the report says:
  • Burst fracture of T8 that impinges on the spinal cord.
  • A compression fracture of T7.
  • Disc bulge lateralizing to the left of T5-6 and impinging on the spinal cord.
Cutting through the medical terms: my upper back is a mess, and I could be in for some trouble, potentially serious trouble, if my spinal cord becomes damaged from the impingements by these vertebrae that are fracturing.This is almost certainly the result of osteoporosis in my spine—there is no other injury to explain them—so I will have to have a DEXA scan and start treatment to see if the osteoporotic process can be stopped or reversed.

I will need to have a procedure done by an interventional radiologist where a type of cement is injected into the vertebrae to lift them up off the spinal cord. Not-a-doctor Bob says it is very effective.

He warned me that until this is fixed, I needed to be very careful. No heavy lifting. No mountain climbing. No lumberjacking. I can walk the dog.

For years I have gone to the Y and done weight-bearing exercise and lifted weights to try to help my bones be strong. Was all of that a waste of time? Bob says just think where you might be if you had not done any of that. He has a point.

Richard says, “Don’t worry. We can fix this. Be thankful it isn’t your heart and it isn’t cancer.”

I am thankful…. But still…

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bringing in the sleeves…

I suppose everyone has their own reasons for why they don’t like going to the dentist. Perhaps it was an unfortunate experience in which the tooth to be worked on was not quite numb when the drilling started, or perhaps it is just the feeling of helplessness with you lying almost prone unable to talk and the dentist and the assistant hovering over you, as so aptly portrayed by the master cartoonist Gary Larson…

I have already written in an earlier post about my fear of loosing my teeth, so I don’t have to rehash that, but I do take very good care of my teeth and am faithful about having them cleaned and checked for problems. And the last time I went, I did indeed have two small areas that were being “watched” and that had progressed to cavities that needed to be filled. This was not really bad news because I have extremely weak teeth and these are the first fillings I have needed for perhaps 5 years or more.

So I returned from an hour or so of being worked on, with part of my face numb and drool threatening to leak from the corners of my mouth, and Richard meets me at the door to the bedroom.

Can you please explain to me what that hymn Bringing in the Sleeves is about? What does it mean “We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sleeves?” I gave him what I imagine was a lopsided smile and started to explain….

The word isn’t “sleeves” sweetie… it is sheaves. It comes from a verse….”

But then I saw the expression on his face and I realized he was teasing me.

I think living with someone who fancied himself a comedian and was always “on” would become very tiring very quickly. And fortunately, he is not a comedian in that sense. But he has enough of a sense of humor to liven up the grayest day and to balance out other aspects of his personality that sometimes make me a little crazed, and that is the one thing about him that I truly cherish.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Trying to convey in writing how hilarious this exchange was is really not going to work. I get that. But, I am still dealing with pain around my lungs that limits my ability to laugh as I would like too (and yes, I expect I will need to Take Further Steps). I need to get this down here so that when I have forgotten the conversation and come back in a month to see what I have written, I will be able to remember and laugh properly.

As way of background, cats are intensely attracted to my husband. A friend, who believes in this sort of thing, says it is because he is a Leo. I don’t think so; but nevertheless, cats generally love him. When we visit friends who have indoor cats that are not automatically terrified of strangers, they are right there where he is. The veterinary clinic where we take the dog has a free-roaming office cat. When Richard went to retrieve the dog after her teeth were cleaned and sat down to wait, the office cat, which sees a steady stream of people all day long and totally ignored me when I dropped the dog off, immediately got in his lap.

We will have lived here 34 years in May, and we have had cats for about 32 of those years. Actually just 2 cats (both rather long-lived, obviously) Richard was the go-to person for the head and under-the-chin scratches for our first cat, and Richard again became the go-to person for head scratching when Squeaker came along--actually, there was another car who lived here briefly who hated both of us (even Richard) but loved our son, and he took her and gave us Squeaker. When Squeaker goes to Richard for her head scratches, he sends her into such fits of ecstasy that she slobbers on him.

On the very very rare occasions when she comes to me to be scratched, Richard will want to know:

Is this alienation of kitty affection?

Now the dog is my dog. My dog. Mine. She pays attention to Richard when she thinks he is going to give her one of her special treats (a chew stick to help keep her gums healthy), but otherwise she has eyes only for me. My dog.

Mine, I tell you.

Which brings us to yesterday. We came back from the surgery center, and I sat down on the couch to rest. It is a puzzlement how riding in car for 2 hours makes one so exhausted that one needs to sit on the couch to recuperate, but there we were. Molly came in and hopped up on the recliner, and then Richard wandered in and sat down on the recliner next to her. She promptly put her head on his knee and looked at him with adoring eyes while he stroked her head and scratched her behind the ears.

Is this alienation of doggy affection? I wanted to know.


 YES! He says.


I will have the cat…”


“I will have the dog….” 

“And you will have... nothing.”


The inflection in his voice when he said “nothing,” was so funny, I grinned at him, and then he burst into laughter. I would have liked to burst into laughter myself, but that wasn't quite possible, so I laughed along as best I could.

I expect to be laughing full bore before too long (I hope).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Here a drop, there a drop, everywhere a drop…

Today my dearly beloved had an operation to remove the cataract in his left eye that developed rapidly after the procedure he had in March 2012 to repair a “tent” in the macula. In this procedure, a gas was injected that was supposed to push the tent back level with the rest of the macula. Cataract is a adverse effect of this treatment, and sure enough, a large one developed in that eye. Unfortunately, the treatment was only partially successful, so his vision was already not quite right in that eye before the cataract began to grow.
The procedure he had 3 years ago involved intensive eye-drop therapy with extremely expensive eye drops – $194 for a teeny tiny bottle – and we were not very successful in getting the drops in the eye. I say “we’ but actually, I was not very successful. Richard could not administer the drops himself, so I had do it. But I also had to try to keep his eye open, or make a “pouch” with the lower lid and put the drop in there, and inevitably I either missed his eye entirely or the drop seemed to run out the side. It was very frustrating.

And so I was not entirely enthusiastic at once again being recruited to administer antibiotic drops, which began yesterday every 2 hours. The expensive drop (now $220 a bottle) only had to go in once. However, the main difference this time was that he held his eye open so I could put the drop right on top of his eye without it running out. It worked beautifully.

Today I got to watch the procedure on a monitor that showed what the doctor was seeing through his operating microscope. And even better, the surgery center provided a person to sit next to me who explained everything that was being done. There were “jackhammer” tools and “vacuum tools” and I watched them pulverize the cataract and then suck the bits out and put the new lens in.

The slight gap in the tape that holds the patch over his eye has allowed him to see out the sides, and already he has noticed that that the whites are whiter. He may be seeing things in a whole new light tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Day Is Done...

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.

Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.
The sun has made its way across the clear, blue winter sky. The trees across the highway are lit up but are starting to fade a little; and our yard lies in shadow as dusk approaches. Day is, indeed, done.

I have thought a lot during this day about what to write here, and I cried some as I composed and then discarded various posts in my head, and then took a deep breath and plowed on with work and other household activities, and then thought some more.

Our son’s favorite place to eat in town was (is!) an independent pizza restaurant called Pizza Americana.
I have had pizza in any number of franchise restaurants, and it has all been good, but the pizza served here is the best I have ever eaten.

We had  lunch here today to celebrate his memory and reflect a little on the past 4 years. He loved jalapeno peppers, and so I added those to the topping on my pizza. The pizza was wonderful, as usual. My nose was dripping by the time I finished the last bite.

Has it really been 4 years? On one hand it seems like yesterday—certainly the memories of what happened on January 13, 2011, are as vivid now as they were then—and on the other hand it seems like an eternity has gone by.

For him, of course, eternity has already begun.

Monday, January 12, 2015

To sleep, perchance to dream…

Upon waking up in the morning, I can usually remember what I have dreamed about for a little while, but gradually the details fade and eventually I forget.

There are exceptions of course. I have a recurring dream that is frightening enough that I remember the general details long after but not all of specifics—it’s your garden-variety “I’m lost” dream…
I’m driving in the car in a city, often it is in my home town, where I thought I knew my way, but suddenly I am lost and I can’t find my way home…

I’ve headed off on foot in an area where I am familiar, but suddenly find myself lost and I can’t get back…

I have parked the car and now I can’t find it….
 The other frequent dream is that my teeth are falling out. I know this dream is supposed to be symbolic of something else, but in my case, I think it really is about teeth falling out. When we were children, our parents made sure our teeth were taken care of. My mom, especially, reminded us—over and over—that it was a disgrace to loose a tooth because the teeth were not taken care of.  I had weak teeth. I spent a lot of time at the dentist.

When I was about 45, a carefully tended and much mended tooth finally had "enough" and shattered, and could not be saved. I fell apart after it was pulled, and my dearly beloved had to come and drive me home because I was so distraught.

Which brings me to the dream I had last night. Already the details are fading, but I do remember this much: 

I was in a hatchback car parked along the highway, and I had a 7-foot-tall llama with me that was wearing a halter to which was tied a long tether. The dog was with me too. She could talk. My intention, and I am not sure why I thought this would work, was to tie the llama to the back of the car and drive slowly home with the llama following behind. I told the dog to get in the car and she started to grumble about it, but did get in.

Then I turned and noticed our old family car was there too a little further down the highway (not sure where it came from or how it go there). It was sitting slightly off the road but at an angle and the hood was slightly over the white line. I thought I better move it so it wouldn’t get hit. While I was moving away, the car with the llama started up and drove itself over to a clump of trees so it would be out of the sun. I guess the dog was driving. And then I woke up.

A 7-foot-tall llama? What was that about?

Very helpfully, I found a Web site that explains (or believes that it explains) all about these things that appear in our dreams and what they mean.

“To see a llama in your dream represents deep trust, strength and endurance.”

OK. That might work. I believe I do have all of those things, although not always all at the same time.

“It may also mean that you are worrying too much and carrying too many problems.”

Oh yes, indeed… that works too. Perfect. I am worried about a few things that are rather important but are in the hands of my husband (who has very bad ADD) and which I can do nothing about.