Sunday, May 24, 2020

Another year married.

But in the age of COVID, we are not going to restaurants. No matter how much they claim they are following safety guidelines. Because, given that risks increase with time of exposure. those guidelines aren't nearly safe enough. So we stayed in for our fourth anniversary and I made my signature dish - shrimp and crab risotto. The dish included Argentine red shrimp and Irish Whiskey, and we had a bottle of the Amarone we brought back from our honeymoon in Italy.
For dessert Icelandic skyr cheesecakes with maple bourbon strawberries, and Cuban music playing in the background. We managed to include elements of most of our travels together. We'll have another today with Jamaican banana fritters.
I think one of the reasons we're together is that we both have a ridiculous sense of humor. Take this frightening Moses statue my husband brought home from his mother's house after she died, for instance.
This week we snuck it into the neighborhood garden where the Little Free Libraries are. Now we wait to see if anyone notices...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Losing my locks.

After chemo, I was thrilled to get my hair back. Even when it was just the barest Sinead O'Connoresque suggestion of hair. And when it got just a little longer, I loved the ease of the super short style. But by then it was starting to curl and I decided I would ride the chemo curl train wherever it took me. Over time, however, the curls have loosened and I had reached a point where my hair was its original straightness except for curls right at the ends. It was unmanageable without a headband and I stopped enjoying it. So this morning, my husband agreed to give me the same cut he did right before I started chemo, in advance of losing my hair. It was odd to see the mass of hair, which is surprisingly dark for someone pushing 60. (Okay, I'm 57. I'm just getting myself used to the idea of being in my 60's.)
After the haircut, we headed out for a short hike to take advantage of the glorious weather we've been having lately. No regrets - I can now step out of the shower and dry my hair almost instantly with a towel. I may never go back to long hair.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Just an odd few days.

I know this isn't news to the more technologically savvy amongst you, but I downloaded a scanning app and have been using it  to digitize virtually all my files to store them paper-free. Stacks of old tax returns, medical records, insurance information, and so on. I've been working on it for days, including Mother's Day - which also happened to be the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. Cancerversary, some people call it, although that makes it sound celebratory. I don't celebrate it, but I sure am aware of it.
It happened that I was scanning medical records on that day, and it was a little bit of a gut-punch to re-read the pathology report from my surgery. Whole body parts should NOT be specimens sent to a lab. I also scanned the office visit note where my surgeon wrote, "I reassured her that the odds were overwhelmingly in her favor that she would not require adjuvant chemotherapy." Yeah, well, I defied the odds.
I didn't mind dumping those into the shredder once scanned. I created a new email account, with labels for different subjects, and sent things directly from the app to it. Free storage, accessible from anywhere and not subject to computer crashes. (And yes, the most important things I also have saved to a hard drive.) I feel lighter off-loading all that paper into the recycling bin.
Since it was Mother's Day, I got a call from my older son who is preparing to head off for his first optometry internship placement. He told me he was also in the process of scanning many of his childhood drawings to save, and will ditch the originals. I thought it was funny we were working on the same thing. We talked for more than an hour about his plans and mine. And later that day, my younger son stopped by with this succulent planter he had made for me. The roseate succulent in the middle has a pink tinge and he told me he'd gone through all of them at Lowes to find the nicest one to put in the arrangement.
Which brings me to today, another sad anniversary - 19 years ago today my baby brother drowned. This weekend I also scanned and shredded the police report and autopsy report from his death. He was 23, the same age my younger son is now. I helped raise him and have grieved hard for him, but having my own sons reach that age has brought home to me what a loss it is for our mother. Years ago, I let Mom know I had the reports but encouraged her not to ask for them, and she didn't. She doesn't need to read the description of how he was found or see the sketches of his injuries. Although I want those records, I don't think I ever want to look at them again myself. Life is capricious and risky and sometimes exceedingly sad. And so I am reminding myself on these anniversaries to treasure the people I love while I can.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Around the yard.

In between telemedicine visits, I took my phone out to snap a few shots of what's blooming in our yard these days. Like this dwarf mock orange which is taking off this year and is covered in fragrant flowers.
The roses are doing well, also, although the trellis we put up to support them turned out to be no match for their weight.
Last year I got about four little crabapples off this tree but this year it is loaded down with little baby fruit. I'm hoping to make crabapple sauce out of them.
I transplanted this peony from my old house and it has resisted blooming year after year. I was surprised, then, when I walked by and saw the first flower on it in 5 years.
Out back some little strawberries are starting to develop.
And I put in three tomato plants. Those and herbs are the only food plants I put in this summer.
Things are coming along in the bed under the hemlock trees, which was completely covered in English ivy when I moved in. It's a little hard to see, but I stuck bamboo skewers by each plant that I want to dig up in the fall and divide. Heuchera, ferns, hostas, trillium and so on.
This year the crossvine, a plant native to this area, has also been covered in blooms. I've even seen a hummingbird feeding in the blossoms. Höðr doesn't seem to like the vine and will carefully step over it when she's walking along the deck railing. Nevertheless, I'm going to try to take cuttings and see if I can propagate more plants.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Socially distanced hiking.

On Saturday, we drove out through the countryside north of town. It was a gorgeous day.
We had gotten permission to hike on some privately-owned undeveloped land, and set out along this old logging road.
The logging road leads up the hillside along a little creek.
My husband had studied the topographical maps for the area and would stop periodically to make sure we were on course and within the 32 acres of the property's boundaries.
I am directionally impaired, but I could spot the orange blazes that his color-blind eyes could not. And I am getting better about identifying native plants. Like this tiny blue flag iris.
There was, unfortunately, no way to avoid all the  poison ivy, but we both hiked in long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
We climbed up to the northern ridge, a very steep hike.
But once we got to the top, the path leveled out.
While we were up there, I found this red-eyed box turtle. It seemed to be eating some sort of fungus.
The view was obscured by undergrowth, but once in a while we could see through to the mountains beyond.
It was beautiful and cool in the shade of the trees.
We kept hiking back along the eastern ridge and then down to the logging road again.
We had a picnic next to the creek before we headed back home.
But I could have stayed listening to the water all day.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Never a straight answer from this one.

This little teddy bear is currently in the front window. Around this and many other neighborhood, friendly bears watch the streets. I texted this photo to older my son because it's his bear, Hamden. He wrote back:

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sheltering in place.

I'm so grateful I have a place to be during this pandemic that is warm and safe. You will not hear me complaining about being a "prisoner in my own home" or whining about the little inconveniences. Some mornings I sit in bed drinking coffee and watching the sun light up my back yard and I am humbled by my undeserved good fortune.
And this introvert doesn't mind having a lot of time at home. The day before the library closed, they sent me a message saying I had a reserved book to be picked up. I stopped on the way home from work and found my fellow bibliophiles stocking up, so I did likewise. I've read six of them so far, and when I'm done with this stack I'll start on books I own that I've been meaning to read.
I'm seeing a handful of patients each week through telemedicine - phone, facetime and FB video chat. I sit out on the sunporch with my phone propped on the back of the couch and try to ignore the neighbor cat who stares at me through the window. She's been hanging around a lot and seems to have a reasonably amicable relationship with our cat. There is also a big fluffy orange cat who comes around but is a little more skittish.
Our cat Hodr also stares in, hoping to be allowed inside. It is very distracting. My husband is working two of his days a week from home, making phone calls to patients and arranging tests and lab work. He sits in the back bedroom at a desk by the window and is easily distracted, too. One day he came sprinting onto the sunporch, pointing up at the oak tree and shouting, "Squirrel sex! Squirrel sex!"
I'm also taking advantage of the forced time off to do continuing education. I need 40 hours every two years, half of which must be live. They expanded the definition of "live" to include interactive webinars and I have jumped on the free ones offered. One of them was on long-distance therapy during the pandemic and was about the most depressing, anxiety-provoking thing I've heard yet ("Millions may die! No one will be untouched by death and grief! You have no control! You will not be able to be with people when they die and you, too, will die alone! There is no hope of redemption here! Now get out there and be a helpful therapist during this dark period in our world's history!"). Midway through I hopped up and started piling all the spices on the island to sort through them and distract myself.
I got rid of older duplicates, labeled the ones we use frequently and put them in the spice rack, and stashed the rest in the cabinet. It was a good diversion from all the doom and a little project I've been putting off for at least a couple of years.
I've been cooking a LOT, of course, and mostly regular, healthy meals. But comfort food calls to me and some days we eat like this. I call these tachos, because I added taco ingredients (sautéed onions, black beans, and peppers) to the nachos.
I'm working a little in the yard and have eased up on my battle with weeds. The dandelions are allowed to grow as they will and I harvest their leaves for salads and dishes using greens. I did pull out a bunch of daisy fleabane that was threatening to over-run one bed and brought them inside as cut flowers. I may be less sanguine about staying home if the next round of this virus hits in winter, but for now I really can't complain.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Springtime during a pandemic is just weird.

I mean, it's beautiful. This is an absolutely lush time in my neck of the woods. But I have been knocked back on my heels by the pandemic. I don't know what my personal risk is like, although I do think I had a little lung damage from the chemo and I had asthma when I was younger, but it's more that I can't help but brood about the possibility of having gone through all those surgeries and chemo only to be taken out by a stupid virus. It has utterly sapped my motivation to do much of anything.
So I am sheltering in place, as requested, and trying hard to focus on the beauty in my own yard. Every time I walk out the front door, I am bowled over by the scent of the lilac bushes.
I've been furloughed from my new job, as all disability evaluations have been temporarily halted. And I'm seeing the handful of patients I have left via telemedicine from my home. My husband's hours have been cut and he's doing a day and a half of his work from home as well. I'm thankful that we at least have some work available to us.
And all this time at home makes you more keenly aware of the little signs of new life. Like this itty bitty praying mantis that found it's way into the study where my husband was working. We relocated it outside.
The only other person I'm having any live contact with at all is my younger son who spends part of each weekend with us. He's lonely and I love having him here. But he's following our household rule - clothes straight into the washing machine and a shower the moment he gets to our house.
When we aren't working, we walk around the neighborhood and wave to people from a distance or putter around in the yard.
I am, of course, deeply grateful to have a yard to be in. There's only so much time you can spend watching Tiger King, after all.
So, I'm going to try to get around to blogs I've been missing and post a little more frequently. A very Happy Easter to you all.