The Path

We had been going to the Farmer’s Market every Friday morning, but EJ has been very busy and working very hard at his job this week, and he was very tired, so we didn’t go this morning. We need honey, but we have enough eggs.

Yesterday after EJ and then JJ left for work, I mowed the lawn. It is usually JJ’s job, but this week has been busy and I knew he wouldn’t get to it, so I just went ahead and did it. Radar showed storms moving in quickly, but I figured that it wasn’t raining until it was raining, so I went ahead anyway. It ended up not raining until about an hour after I finished.

I actually enjoy mowing the lawn. When I was a child, I somehow figured out that if I had to do something, I might as well do it with a good attitude and find something about it that I enjoyed. So although there are tasks that I can’t exactly say I LOVE like I love reading or walking Danny, there are many tasks that I very much enjoy. Mowing the lawn is one of those tasks. I really like the way the lawn looks after it’s mowed, and I like the smell of freshly mowed grass.

Stacked bricks
Stacked bricks

Sunday I had finished digging up all the bricks in the path through my garden. I am digging up the bricks because I would now prefer to just mow the path instead of having to weed it. Today after my guys left for work (and after I had taken Danny for a walk, of course), I lined the edges of the path with bricks and hauled the excess bricks to the new place where I am stacking them. (I ran out of room in the other place.) I used the wheelbarrow so I didn’t have to take lots and lots of trips.

Half of the path I removed bricks from.
Part of the garden path

The path winds along one side of the house and most of another so I was only going to do a little bit, but I ended up throwing the shoe and doing it all. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop. I just keep doing a little bit more and a little bit more of a project until it is done. After I dug up the bricks Sunday, my back hurt for several days. I am sure my back is going to hurt some more from today’s work.  When my back hurts, I always wonder how EJ can endure the pain he lives with every day.

Danny nicely refusing to move from the hole he dug in my path.
Danny nicely refusing to move from the hole he dug in my garden path.

Danny came out with me. When I returned after taking a load of bricks to the stacking place, I saw he had dug a hole in the middle of the path and was lying in it. You can’t really see it from the picture, but it was quite deep. I tried to call him into the back yard where he had dug a hole to lie in a few weeks ago, but he just nicely refused to move. Danny has become an expert at non-violent civil disobedience. Whenever he doesn’t want to do something, he just wags his tail and smiles and stays where he is. I think I should change his name to Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.

I ended up letting Danny enjoy his hole. I can fill it in later.

After I finished the path, Danny and I went inside. Danny actually obeyed me this time when I called. I finished my inside chores. I will spend the rest of the evening relaxing with a cat on my lap.

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There And Back Again

JJ starts college this coming Monday. We have been teaching him the route to the college by having him drive us there and back again several times over the last couple months. The last time he drove us to the college, I wrote down each road and turn he needed to take. We had him drive us to the school for the last time today following the written directions to verify that I had written the directions down correctly and to ensure that he could follow them. He was able to get there and back again ok.

EJ very rarely gets lost. If he drives somewhere just once, he can remember the way–even years later. I am the complete opposite. I have a horrible sense of direction and I can get lost anywhere. Even if I say to myself, “I think I should turn right but I am always wrong so I will turn left,” I am STILL wrong. I even took a wrong turn in the theater the last time I went to see a movie with a friend, and almost took the exit out of the building instead of into the hallway to go to the bathroom. My lostness even affects seasoned travelers and a GPS. My sister-in-law offered to drive me to Parents’ Day at my son’s Summer Camp a few years ago. She has traveled alone all over the country, but we got lost and what should have been a one hour trip took three hours. The GPS got all messed up and directed us into a cemetery.  It was crazy. So, anyway, if I have to go to an unfamiliar place, EJ has me drive the route with him the day before to learn the way.

I often laugh that I have a super power. My super power is that I can find lost items. I am always finding things that EJ and JJ misplace. Often I immediately find what they looked everywhere for. If I can’t find an item, I sit and think a bit and then I suddenly know where the item is and I retrieve it. I guess every superhero has a super power and also a super weakness. I can find lost items, but I cannot find myself. That’s the way it works.

JJ has not really had to drive alone to unfamiliar places, so I do not know whether he will be more like his Dad or more like me. I do not think he is as adept at finding his way as his Dad or he would have been able to drive to the college after being shown once. I just hope he isn’t as directionally challenged as me. I will be concerned about him driving to the college until I know he can make it there and back again by himself.

I spent my afternoon getting stool samples, cleaning out the kitty litter boxes on the back porch, and cleaning the back porch.

I think the medicine is helping Yafah with her diarrhea, but now Luke has diarrhea. I have been concerned that it is some contagious disease and all our cats will get sick with it. That would an absolutely awful thing. I kept Yafah on the back porch and put Luke in the bathroom so he could go in the special kitty litter and we could get a urine sample. Several times I found Luke out of the bathroom and the bathroom door open. I thought someone in the family was just forgetting to latch the door and I was going to remind them that they MUST make sure they keep him isolated. Then I remembered that Luke has always been skilled at opening doors and, yup, I saw him open the bathroom door and walk out. He didn’t urinate before EJ had to leave for work, but he did have diarrhea, so I scooped it up into a sandwich bag and EJ dropped it off at the vet on his way to work. Our vet’s associate called me later to tell me that she didn’t find any parasites. That’s good. She said we can pick up some medicine for Luke on Wednesday. It’s probably the same meds Yafah is taking. I hope it works, and none of the other cats get diarrhea. I’m getting a bit tired of dealing with it, and I worry about the pets.

Wooly Aphid Photo: bugguide.net
Wooly Aphid
Photo: bugguide.net

Early this evening I was outside and saw a small little bit of fleathery fluff flying with purpose. I remember seeing this beautiful tiny insect a few years ago, but I haven’t seen it again until tonight. I took pictures of it, but my pictures didn’t turn out so well, so I will share a picture from the Internet. I researched what it was, and learned that it is a wooly aphid. Their common name is “fairy fly,” which I think suits them. The Journal News website said that “Wooly aphids have special glands that produce wax in very long, thin streams. The wax covers the insect’s body and gives it the fluffy appearance. If you could wash a woolly aphid in something that dissolves wax, you would see an ordinary-looking aphid underneath. Wax protects the delicate aphids from predators while they feed.” I know that aphids aren’t really good for plants, but I still think these are very pretty.

A Crappy Life

Lately I have had a rather crappy life. I mean, really.

One of our cats has had diarrhea. Badly. I was constantly discovering it and cleaning it up and mopping the floors. I’ve also dumped out and washed the litter boxes because the cat messed on the sides. We suspected Yafah, but weren’t quite sure. About the time I was certain it was Yafah, I’d find diarrhea when I thought she wasn’t in the room, so then I was not sure again that it was her. With eight cats, it’s not always easy to pin down which one has the problem. We couldn’t afford to take all eight cats to the vet, so I wanted to make sure I took the right cat. Over the last few days, I have isolated cats in various groupings until I had eliminated all the cats except one, and was certain that, yes, it was Yafah. (I felt very scientific in the way I isolated the cats to discover which one had diarrhea.)

Another problem is that Luke has been peeing in “unauthorized” places. He has been peeing under the desk and also in the dog and cat food dishes. He used to not do this so either he has an urinary infection or he is stressed. If it’s stress, it’s probably due to the fact that Yafah has diarrhea and messes in and on the litter boxes.

We isolated both Yafah and Luke on the unheated back porch. I’m tired of cleaning up diarrhea and urine in the house. Plus, we didn’t know if they were infectious and all we need is to have all nine pets be sick at the same time. (We’ve never had more than one pet with a health problem at a time until now.)

Another problem is that Danny has been scratching, scratching, scratching. I was sure it was not fleas, but suspected it was an allergy. He has been nibbling his front legs and causing little sores.

We decided to take a pet to the vet this morning, but we could only afford to take one. I decided to take Danny, since he seemed to be the most distressed. Yafah has diarrhea, but she is quite cheerful otherwise. We decided we would take the cats in a couple days when EJ got paid.

My choice of pet was actually the best choice, I think, because we were able to deal with all three problems. Danny does have an allergy. The vet reminded us that he had this same problem last year at this very same time of year, so it’s a seasonal thing. (I had totally forgotten that we deal with this every year.) He gave Danny an injection, which should stop the itching and help clear up his problems.

We also mentioned Yafah and Luke in passing because we were afraid their and Danny’s problems might be related–if they were all reacting to the new flea medication I gave them a few weeks ago. The vet very nicely sent us home with an Imodium to stop Yafah’s diarrhea and also an antibiotic for her. He gave us a jar of a special kitty litter just for Luke so we can get a urine sample. A urine sample will reveal if his problem is an infection or stress.

When EJ and I got home, we went out to the back porch. I wrapped Yafah in a towel and held her while EJ gave her the meds. She fought hard and squirmed out of the towel, scratched me up, and got away. I recaptured her and held her again. She actually liked the liquid Imodium once she got a taste of it. She hated the antibiotic pill. After we got the medicine into her, I looked down and saw that she had diarrhea-ed all down my pant leg. Sigh. We only have to give Yafah the meds for several more days. I hope she doesn’t mess down my leg every day because I don’t have enough jeans to last until our next laundry day.

As I said, it’s been a crappy life lately. However, I am glad that we were able to make progress with all three animals, and hopefully these issues will all be resolved soon.

EJ giving lovings to the kittens in the "free to good home" cage at the Vet's office.
EJ giving lovings to the kittens in the “free to good home” cage at the Vet’s office.

I should mention that going to the vet is very risky for us. Our vet has a cage set up in the waiting area in which he puts kittens that need homes. They are free. Numerous times we have taken one pet to the vet and come home with one or two adorable kittens. Today as we were waiting to be taken back to the exam room, EJ gave lovings to the two adorable kittens needing (free) homes. We thought they looked like tiny copies of Timmy and Luke. The receptionist said that one of the kittens always scoops up cat food with her paw to eat it. Awwww. However, I have already told EJ that as much as we love kittens, we MUST NOT have any more. So we were able to resist temptation and come home with ONLY Danny.  You should all be proud of us.

My Honey

Today was Friday, the day I make Challah Bread and we have a nice meal. Today was also the day of the Farmer’s Market.

EJ and I needed to get to the Farmer’s Market because we are almost out of honey. If we didn’t get it today then we won’t have enough honey for next Friday’s Challah Bread. I can always substitute sugar, but honey makes it more delicious AND is better for us.

The morning somehow got away from us, and suddenly I was pressed for time to finish baking the bread and making the meal. I was trying to calculate how I could get to the market and get everything done before EJ had to leave for work, but then we decided that EJ and JJ would go to the Farmer’s Market without me. JJ went along because he needed to buy laundry detergent at the store. A few months ago, in a fit of anger, he told me that I never do anything so I stopped doing his laundry for him. I suggested that it would be very wise not to tell me again that I don’t do anything. Anyway, I figure that someday, in the not-too-distant future, he will move away and it will be good for him to know how to do laundry. After the initial shock, and a few questions, he now does his laundry without complaint. He has gained a new skill! Perhaps I am not as merciless as he sometimes thinks.

I love the Farmer’s Market, but removing that from today really reduced the stressful busyness of the morning. I was able to get the Challah Bread baked, the meatloaf made, the kitchen cleaned, as well as the house cleaned without having to rush.

EJ returned without the honey.

He said that the farmer had only been able to bring two pints of honey to the Market, and those were snatched up first thing before he got there. Bummer. Oh, well. Next week’s Challah Bread will have sugar in it unless we can get to a store that has raw honey.

Photo: missbeehavenlavender.com/
Photo: missbeehavenlavender.com/

Way back in the past, I used to come home from high school and fix myself toast with honey on it as an after school snack. I LOVED honey. But then–I can’t remember just when–I stopped liking honey. The honey would sit in the cupboard for months. I thought my tastes had changed. Then, just a few years ago, EJ and I read that the honey in the stores isn’t really honey. I mean, they do something to it that removes all the good beneficial stuff from it. So we found raw honey and, oh, wow, what a difference! It was dripping with deliciousness and I couldn’t get enough of it. We went through several jars very quickly until my craving was satisfied and settled down. After tasting real honey, we searched our cupboards for the fake honey and threw it all out. As we did, we saw in one bottle an evil black mass…a mold or something. Real honey doesn’t ever go bad. Just more evidence that what we had been eating before wasn’t real honey.

We have searched for sources of real honey in our area. So far, we have found honey at the Farmer’s Market (except for today) and at a store about an hour away.  I do not think we will have time to make it to that store next week.

“Please Wait For Assistance”

We ran out of the delicious grape juice we always drink on Friday, so EJ and I went to the store 30 minutes away where we usually buy it. When we opened our front door to leave the house, Danny shoved himself past us. He has been doing that a lot lately. We let him go with us.

At the store, we bought the delicious grape juice. We also bought paper towels and four gallons of water. We don’t like the water in our village, so we usually buy it. We would like to get a water purifier so we don’t have to buy water, but our To Do List is long, and the purifier isn’t at the top of the list.

Checkout Machine Photo: Big Dave and Company.com
Checkout Machine
Photo: Big Dave and Company.com

Since we were buying so few items, EJ decided to risk the self-checkout lane. You know, those lanes where you scan and bag your own groceries? I hate them. There is only one time (or maybe two) when we actually were able to get through the process without the computer indicating that we needed to wait for assistance. If we pay by check, we have to wait for it to be approved. Other times, if we move the bags even just a little, the computer thinks we have removed an item from the bag so we have to wait for the cashier to push a few buttons so we can continue. I don’t understand how I am supposed to bag a lot of groceries if I can’t move the full bags out of the way. Whatever the reason, we almost always have to wait for the cashier. I never use those stupid lanes, preferring to go through a lane with a human cashier, but apparently EJ is an optimist. He keeps trying.

So today, since we had just a few groceries, EJ said, “C’mon, let’s try the self-checkout lane.” So we did. I tried to slide the full bags out of the way so I could bag the others. The computer locked up, telling us we needed to wait for assistance. Meanwhile, the cashier was dealing with some situation at another lane. She could have pushed a couple of buttons and let us go on our way within seconds, but she talked on the phone to her manager and talked to the people and we waited and waited and waited. And waited some more.

I was totally annoyed by the robotic computer voice that kept saying every 30 seconds, “Please wait for assistance…Please wait for assistance…Please wait for assistance.” I muttered softly in a robotic voice, “Please shut up….Please stop repeating yourself” EJ told me that I really shouldn’t talk to the computer because it couldn’t understand me. I muttered that we should cancel the order and go to a checkout lane with A REAL PERSON. EJ said he’d wait if I wanted to go to the car. I decided to go because the computer voice was very, very annoying. I went to the car and waited with Danny, and EJ was out in about 10 minutes. On the way home, we talked. Although the cashier could have hit a few buttons and sent us on our way quickly, she was in her 60s and was no doubt handling a situation the best she could. I was glad I hadn’t let my irritation spill out. Both EJ and I feel that most people are just trying to earn a living for their family, and life can be hard. Who knows what they are struggling with in their personal lives?

But, I told EJ, PLEASE do NOT go to a self-checkout lane again when I am with him. I hate them. They take longer than the longest real cashier lanes, and those don’t have annoying computer voices.

Beautiful September August Day
Beautiful September August Day

After we got home, we unloaded our groceries and then went to get a pickup load of firewood. We usually buy from individuals who are selling it from their homes. We have three individuals we usually buy wood from. However, the first didn’t have any wood out yet, the second wasn’t home, and we didn’t have time to go to the third. We will have to wait for another day.

After EJ went to work, I went out to the garden. I have decided to remove the bricks from all the paths because I can’t keep up with weeding them. It will be less time-consuming to just mow them. I enjoyed the physical labor of digging up the bricks and carrying them to where I am stacking them. I enjoyed the coolness of the day and the slight breeze. I enjoyed the sun and blue sky and the leaves beginning to change color. It was an absolutely beautiful September day…in August.

Oh, Crap!

Camping
Camping

This morning EJ and I again worked at getting the RV ready to sell. I cleaned out the inside, sweeping and vacuuming, while EJ mostly emptied the outside compartments. The possibility of selling  the RV is bittersweet. When we bought it, it represented fun, freedom, and adventure. It meant spending time as a family, talking around a campfire as we roasted marshmallows and hotdogs, and enjoying the beauty of nature. We’ve had a few really neat vacations, but now we have no one to watch our cats while we are gone, EJ doesn’t get all that much time off, we haven’t used it in a couple of years, and the RV isn’t all that comfy for his back. It makes sense to sell the RV, especially since we are really scrimping to get debt-free. We have only two years before we are completely debt-free–less if we can sell the RV. However, it’s difficult to give up the allure of the RV experience. Until the RV is sold, we can always change our minds…

Danny's bath
Danny’s bath

I gave Danny a bath today. He was pretty calm and patient about it, considering that he doesn’t really like baths. After his bath, I fastened his leash to the front porch and brushed him. Then I cut the hair off his rump. When he was younger, he used to escape whenever he could and go on an adventure through the neighborhood. One day he escaped (I think the other dog we had at the time let him out of their pen) and ran into the street and a van hit him. It didn’t hit him directly. It ran over his beautiful tail and stretched out his spine. His tail was broken so it had to be removed. Now, every now and then, I have to cut the hair off his rump so that poop does not stick to it. He hates this, and maneuvers himself around or sits down so I can’t reach him. I used to have JJ help me by holding the leash taut so Danny couldn’t move away, but JJ always let Danny pull him and we all constantly moved around the yard while I tried to cut his hair. Tying the leash on the porch worked better.

The whole thing is a crappy job, but somebody has to do it, and that somebody is me.

My Best Friend

This morning, after only a sip or two of coffee, I went outside and took all of last year’s wood out of the woodshed. I thought it would save time–and EJ’s back–if I could get it done. I had to wear a sweatshirt because the temperature last night was only 44 degrees; the high temp today was 69. Today’s weather has been beautiful, and perfect for working. Only when I got the wood out of the woodshed did I come back inside and drink coffee and read.

After EJ woke up and had eaten breakfast, we left for the meat market. We’ve only been going to the meat market for a year or so. We started going when we heard that some grocery stores sell meat that has pink slime in it. Bleagh! The thought of that turned our stomachs, so we went looking for a better meat source. At first we went to the meat market where EJ took his deer to be processed. However, one day we saw an employee hug steaks to his dirty, bloody apron as he carried them up front. That was the last time we went there. I came home and searched the Internet for a high quality meat market in our area. We found the one that we now go to every month or so. It is very clean, the prices are reasonable, it didn’t have any bad reviews, there is no pink slime, and no one hugs the meat.

One of EJ and my favorite things to do is drive together. It doesn’t matter if our destination is the grocery store, a home improvement store, or the landfill–the joy is in the journey, not the destination. Although, we also often enjoy the destination. We enjoy beautiful countryside, we enjoy occasionally spotting deer or interesting people. Most of all, we enjoy our conversations.

We are a family who loves to observe, learn, wonder, ponder, and discuss. EJ and I–and JJ as well–constantly discuss what we see, what we read, and what we think. We talk, discuss, debate, and even argue. We talk about history and how events affected people, and also how one event influenced a later event. We talk about current news, politics, and society. We observe and talk about the stars, beautiful spiderwebs, or geese flying overhead. We talk about books and movies: whether the story is plausible or not, how the author/director skillfully wrote or filmed a scene, and the message the book or movie conveys to us. We all love clever writing; we all love to write. We all season our talk with clever movie quotes. We talk about psychology and why people do what they do. We talk about archaeology and physics. We talk about faith and religious issues. We talk about music and art. We aren’t experts about most of these things, we just enjoy learning. We talk about what we like and dislike, what makes us happy or hurts us. As we browse the Internet, each on our own laptop, we often say, “Look what I learned! Did you ever hear this? Did you know that…?” Our conversations happen everywhere, at all times of day: while drinking coffee in the morning, while working, while walking, while watching TV, and while driving.

When EJ and I first got married, we were good friends who enjoyed each other’s company. However, we have had our ups and downs. There were a few years when we struggled in our marriage. We had to deal with a variety of difficulties, pain, health problems, and heartbreak. We grew tired, stressed, and irritable. Then I didn’t feel cherished and EJ didn’t feel respected. We began to focus on the other’s weaknesses. Communication broke down. We were beginning to wonder if our marriage would survive. However, we had promised when we decided to marry that we would never consider divorce. We also had strong faith and we were aware that underneath the problems we had a deep love for each other.

We refused to give up, and tortuously we began to give to the other what the other needed, and eventually we began to notice the love we were each receiving from the other. We became, again, best friends–and even stronger best friends than we had been before. We aren’t perfect, we sometimes get irritated with each other after a stressful day, and we have annoying habits. However, we have learned to appreciate each other’s strengths, help each other through our weaknesses, encourage each other, laugh at the annoying habits, and just enjoy being with each other. We see each other as equals, but appreciate our differences. After a time of “painful blisters” in our marriage, we have become as comfortable with each other as a pair of old shoes.

I love my husband. I love his intelligence, sense of humor, kindness, and willingness to help others. I love his “realness.” He’s my hero. He’s my best friend.

Our woodshed
Our woodshed

Anyway, after lunch, EJ placed the large pallet on the “floor” of the woodshed and hammered some fence pieces onto the woodshed. I handed him the nails and held the fence pieces as needed and directed. We decided we will just get sturdy plywood for the back of the woodshed, since the back isn’t seen from the street and it’s protected from the weather by the fence at the back of the yard, which is just a couple of feet behind the woodshed. We will use the fence pieces we don’t use for other projects. After EJ left for work (and I got back from walking Danny), I restacked last year’s firewood into the woodshed. Now we can start getting more wood for the cold months.

When I finished stacking the wood, I did some weeding. When it was time for JJ to leave for work, I saw him off, and then I finished my day doing tasks in the house.

I Blinked in May

Yesterday was a beautiful day with sunny skies and just-right temperatures. We have the sense that summer is slipping away, and there are things we still must get done before it. Every year, it feels as if I blinked in May and it’s suddenly August.

JJ had to work all day yesterday—from 11 a.m  to 7 p.m. After he left, EJ and I went to the laundromat and then I hung the clothes on the line while EJ measured and calculated how many pieces of fencing we needed to buy to further our fencing projects. Then we drove to one of several home improvement stores in our area. This one has the fence pieces EJ needs–six feet high and quite thick and sturdy. They are heavy. I was hoping that there would be staff to help load the two pieces we needed into the truck, but we had to do it ourselves. I tried to help, but I was more of a hindrance because the pieces were heavy and unwieldy so EJ waved me away and did it himself.

EJ is very strong but years ago, before we met, he didn’t realize the floors had just been mopped at the factory he was working at, and he slipped and fell down two flights of stairs on his back. At the time he shook it off because he was young and tough and even stronger, but he injured his back and has struggled with back problems since. He lives his life to a melody of pain. Sometimes the pain is less and bearable, but often it crescendos into agony. At some point, he might have to have back surgery, but most people he’s talked to regret having the surgery so he doesn’t want it until there is no other option. Meanwhile, he wants to do as much as he can, so we plan activities and chores around his level of pain. Sometimes tasks go slow, but we have learned patience.

Taking down the old shed.
Taking down the old shed.

In May EJ and I took down the old dilapidated shed. He tore apart the shed and I helped put the pieces into the truck. We carted the debris to the landfill. 

It was amazing how much more space we have with the shed gone. EJ put in raised beds there for his veggie garden.

We also put up a taller fence–six feet instead of four feet–dividing the front yard from the back yard. We did not get the gate in, so part of the new fencing will be used to make a gate. 

 

EJ putting in raised beds where the shed was. The woodshed is to the right.
EJ putting in raised beds where the shed was. The woodshed is to the right.

We also need to finish the woodshed. Our woodshed has had several lives. When we moved here, it was a grape arbor. We changed it into a gazebo, but found that it didn’t really get used that much. Plus, we needed a place to put the firewood for our woodstove. So we moved our round picnic table on the front porch, where we use it more, and we are putting sides on the grape arbor so it will look like a nice woodshed. We got some of the sides up in May, but have to finish putting the rest up. 

EJ and I carried the fence pieces off the truck and into the back yard. EJ used a hand saw to cut the fence pieces into the sizes we needed. It was getting dark toward the end, so I held a flashlight so EJ could see.

EJ had hoped to be able to nail the fences pieces into place today, and we had hoped that we could carry out last year’s leftover firewood that is inside the woodshed so EJ could lay a pallet down so we could keep the firewood up off the ground, and we had hoped that we could then carry the firewood back into the woodshed. However, today was a rainy day.

We discussed what task we could do together since we couldn’t work outside. We finally decided to empty the RV. Last night EJ’s friend he has a friend who might be interested in buying our RV if we were interested in selling it. We have discussed whether to sell or keep it for a while now. We enjoy the RV we bought several years ago and really love the whole camping experience. However, with EJ’s work schedule, back pain, and all the things we have to do at home, we haven’t used it in two or three years. If we sold the RV, we could pay off some bills and we’d be almost entirely debt-free, which is one of our major goals. There is great appeal in that, so we emptied the RV today and I spent the afternoon finding places for stuff we brought into the house. Tomorrow is supposed to rain again, so maybe we can empty the outside compartment and give the inside of the RV a thorough cleaning. Just in case anyone wants to look at it.

When the sun comes out again, we can finish the woodshed. Then we can start getting firewood in. I wanted to spend all summer getting firewood, but I blinked in May and now it’s mid-August.

 

Waking Up Slowly

This morning, I woke up slowly and saw a delightful thing.

I like waking up slowly. I always wake up, get out of bed, make a pot of coffee, and then savor each cup as I settle on the couch with cats on and/or near me while I read and study and catch up with the world.

Today I woke up more slowly. I lay in bed, drowsily looking out the window at the beautiful morning.

Then I saw it. A little hummingbird landed on a small horizontal trumpet vine branch. He stayed there for a minute or two–a long time for a hummingbird. He flew away, but returned a few minutes later. I watched him flutter his wings and stretch. He was gone, but returned. I am quite sure I saw his impossibly long tongue stretch out and retract a couple of times.

I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I couldn’t stay there all day. When the hummingbird did not return after after several minutes, I finally got up to begin a busy day.

I like waking up slowly.

 

Changing Seasons

The day has been one of those perfect days that occasionally arrive to refresh the spirit. The weather was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining and the sky was blue with only a few white clouds. The temperature was warmish, but with a coolish breeze. Although the day appears summery, there is a feeling in the air that autumn is coming. I love autumn.

I think I was so pushed to exhaustion and beyond yesterday that even Prednisone could not keep me awake. I actually slept hours without waking, and feel so much better.

The challah bread I made today.
The challah bread I made today.

Today was the day to make challah bread. I always start challah bread as soon as I get up in the morning, even before I make coffee. Challah bread is my favorite bread to make. Somehow, it always turns out beautiful, even on the days when it doesn’t rise as it should, or I don’t have the right sort of flour, or I have to use sugar because I ran out of honey. I’m always amazed that I can make such a beautiful bread. I never would have imagined that I could make such a work of art. Every week I say breathlessly: “Oh, this is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and I MADE IT.” And every week EJ says, “That is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BREAD EVER.” JJ says, “HMMMMMM!”

Today’s bread turned out exceptionally beautiful: the perfect golden color, the perfect texture, the most delicious taste. The picture is of my challah bread–after we had eaten some.

After I had prepared the challah bread, let it rise, punched it, let it rise, braided it, and was letting it rise again, EJ and I left to take a few items into the consignment shop we have recently discovered in the next town. We are really trying to unclutter our lives, and thought we could start selling some items that we no longer use.

Usually my dog Danny takes no notice when I put on my shoes in the morning–he reacts only when EJ leaves for work because he recognizes THAT is the time he gets his walk. However, today, he shoved his way past us through the front door, so we decided to let him go with us. The woman at the consignment shop saw him and gave him two doggy treats.

The Farmers' Market.
The Farmers’ Market. I took this picture with my phone as we were driving away because I forgot my camera again.

The next stop after the consignment shop was the Farmers’ Market, which is set up each Friday in the hospital parking lot. My only regret about the Farmers’ Market is that we didn’t start going to it at the beginning of the summer or in previous years. We were aware of it, sort of, but we always forgot what day it was or were too busy to go. However, now that we have experienced it, it’s become part of our Friday morning routine. It’s so very fun. We love interacting with the farmers. We bought two dozen eggs from the farmer we usually buy eggs from…and also bought blackberries, blueberries, yellow plums, a couple of cucumbers, and a pint of buttermilk. We grow blackberries ourselves, but these were HUGE and EJ couldn’t resist buying some. We also are trying to grow blueberries, but they didn’t do so well this year, and I couldn’t resist buying some.

I looked at lavender plants at another booth at the Farmers’ Market, thinking I’d like one for a house plant. The woman at that booth suggested a French Lavender plant that was specifically developed to be an indoor plant, although any lavender can be grown inside, she said. I bought it.

We got home, I finished the challah bread, and made steak, yellow beans, salad, and cucumber slices for our very wonderful Shabbat meal, which we eat before EJ and JJ have to leave for work. The beans and salad greens were given to us by Frank, one of our sweet elderly neighbors. He likes to occasionally share his garden produce with neighbors. He is retired, and frail, and I think it gives him an excuse to visit with people.

EJ left for work at 2:30 p.m. and JJ left an hour later.

I had a friend ask me a few weeks ago how I would fill my time now that JJ has graduated and I no longer am homeschooling him. When JJ was a tiny baby a different friend said that every age that her children were currently at was always her favorite age for them to be. I have found that to be true as well. I loved JJ as a baby when I could rock him and nurse him. He was delightful (although exhausting) as an energetic toddler. I enjoyed (despite occasional battles) homeschooling him and watching him learn. But I am also enjoying his emergence into adulthood. I am sure there will come a time when he moves out and I will struggle with Empty Nest Syndrome. However, right now I am utterly enjoying this changing season we are in. JJ is maturing and I don’t have to say so much “do this…don’t do that.” There have been times when I wondered if our strong-willed child would ever learn the things we were trying to teach him but I am seeing now the fruit of our efforts. JJ is turning out to be a fine young man–a man who works hard, has integrity, is tenderhearted, and yet knows how to stand up for himself. I am proud of him.

Also, in this season, EJ and I have a newfound freedom to spend the mornings together (JJ is a night owl and sleeps in). My mornings are not filled with school assignments, and then rushing to fix lunch, seeing EJ off to work, and then getting my chores done and trying to fit in extra tasks. We get to enjoy quiet mornings together, or browse through Farmers’ Markets or thrift stores…or whatever. We love hanging out together. 

My Front Porch Garden
My Front Porch Garden

And although I enjoy them when they are home, when my guys go off to work, I have peaceful afternoons/evenings to do whatever I want. Many times I study Hebrew with my friend for a couple of hours via video-chat–although sometimes we just sit and chat, she in her state and I in mine. Today we couldn’t meet so, after I walked Danny, I transplanted my French Lavender into a better pot and added the pot to my Front Porch Garden of horse-radish, ginger, bay, rosemary, and cactus plants. Then I carried all the bricks that I had dug up from the path the other day to the place where I am stacking them. I “threw the shoe,” telling myself that I would carry and stack only so many bricks, and then only another additional segment, knowing all the time that I was planning to carry and stack them all. It’s just easier to imagine only doing a few at a time.

June 2013 030Danny came outside with me. He settled in the shade and quietly watched me as I worked. He is a quiet dog and his greatest pleasure is to be near me. I think he is an introvert, like me. My cat, Rikki-Tikki-Tabby, also joined me. He loves to be with me when I am working outside, and he followed me back and forth as I carried bricks.

The morning was so enjoyable with my family, and the weather so beautiful, and I was so enjoying my quiet afternoon tasks, that I felt joy filling me.  I wanted to take a picture of the day, but a picture would not have captured it. Sometimes only words will do.

The Nothings of Life

I was awake until after 4 a.m. this morning. I slept until 7 a.m. and then I slept fitfully with many wakings for another hour before getting up.

I have been utterly exhausted today, moving through the day in a thick fog. There were so many things I wanted to get done, but I am pushing them off until tomorrow. EJ and I walked to the bank this morning and then on to the post office for the mail. Our town is so small that there is no home delivery for residents. We all have post office boxes. When we first moved here, I couldn’t believe our mail wouldn’t be delivered, but I quickly grew to enjoy the daily walks to the post office and the occasional interactions with the people we meet along the way.

I am glad that I made pizza and potato salad yesterday. I let EJ and JJ have the leftover pizza for lunch today, and I chose to have potato salad. An easy meal.

JJ had to leave for work at 1:30 p.m. today, and EJ left at 2:30. To be honest, I spent the whole morning looking at the clock and thinking, “When they leave for work, I am going to lie down and take a nap!” When I was finally alone, I took Danny for his walk. I debated whether to walk him or forget it for the day, but he looks forward to it so much that I just couldn’t disappoint him. I certainly could manage a 30 minute walk. When we got home, I changed into my pjs, settled on the couch. Ahhhhh. Sleep!

But as tired as I am, I can’t sleep. Maybe I will sleep tonight. Only hours to go before bed time. Stupid Prednisone. 

Here are some rambling thoughts from a sleep-deprived mind that are sort of a continuation of the thoughts of my previous post.

My Dad loved gadgets. He had some interesting gadgets. For example, he hooked our living room lamps to a small control box in the dining room. It was fun telling my nephew that there were leprechauns in the house, and then remotely turning on and off the lights when only he was in the living room. However, after awhile it got tiresome to have to go into the dining room whenever we wanted to turn on/off the living room lights. “Go turn on this light,” my Dad would say, and off we’d go to the dining room to push a button to turn on the lamp sitting on the table next to him.

Early computer modem Photo: NPR.Org.
Early computer modem
Photo: NPR.Org.

When I was in high school, my Dad got a computer. He had the first personal computer among our family, friends, and acquaintances. Home computers were so new that when he wanted a new program, he had to input pages and pages of small print coding from a magazine. One little mistake could cause the program to not work right and then we’d have to go character by character, line by line, page by page to find the one semicolon that should have been a comma. My Dad also had the predecessor to a website. It was called a “computer bulletin board.” He put the handset of the phone into a modem cradle and those who knew the phone number could dial it up and access the information on his computer.  It sounds archaic now, but it was high tech then. It makes me sound ancient, but I’m not really. Technology really changed very quickly.

Back in those days, there wasn’t email. People had to write letters. Once in a while, a friend shared big and exciting news–acceptance to college, marriage, or the birth of a child–but most of the time their letters went something like this:

Hi.

How are you? I am fine. Nothing much is happening here. I hope you are well. Well, I’ve got to go.

Love [Friend]

I always was dissatisfied with such letters because they said nothing. I always wrote letters filled with small details–the “boring” little details of what I did or what I thought.  My friends seemed to like my letters–maybe because I brought them into my day, letting them share my life with me.

A few years ago, I encountered a woman who I hadn’t seen since we were young children. She was the cashier at Walmart ringing up my groceries. I recognized her mostly because of her name tag. Her name was so unusual that I knew it had to be her. When I introduced myself, she remembered me, and asked, “So, what’s been happening…?” as if we had last seen each other a week ago instead of a lifetime ago. At her question, my whole life from the time I last saw her until that point fast forwarded through my mind. So much had happened! However, I simply replied, “Nothing much” and summed up the major highlights (“I went to college, got married, had a child…”) because it was impossible to describe a lifetime of details in the few minutes it took her to ring up my groceries.

Sometimes I laugh that I really just write about nothing, and always have, and I wonder why anyone would bother reading it. However, I actually see value in the nothings of life that are sandwiched between the major highlights. I often ponder that Laura Ingalls Wilder simply wrote about the everyday nothings of her life, but people love her books because what was everyday routine for her–milking the cow or making butter–became fascinating glimpses into another life for those who read her books later. I think of a time years ago when EJ and I sat on the porch of an older couple from church and listened avidly to stores of their early life, of having to patch blown tires every few miles when they went to town because tires on the early cars weren’t as strong as today’s tires. Can you imagine?

Some day, all our descriptions of nothing will be glimpses into different eras.

Even back when I was writing letters to friends, I realized that life isn’t about the big events; it’s about the small details. It’s the small day-to-day struggles and victories, joys and sorrows, failures and victories that affect us most, changing us imperceptibly until we suddenly realize that we have been changed completely without noticing. Those who can’t be there to share the details with us, who only get the highlights, don’t really share life with each other. They grow apart.

In a similar way, I think those who share only their strengths with others are missing something deep and powerful. They are often very nice people and I believe they are trying to be strong, inspiring, and encouraging, which is admirable. However, I find it difficult to really connect with them at more than superficial levels because for me trust isn’t built in only the strong, happy times, just as life isn’t really shared only in the highlights. I know that everyone is touched by weakness, failure, heartache at one point or another in their lives, but when a person only shares the happy, strong times…I find no real point of connection. I always wonder: Are they being honest about where they are? Can they not trust others with their lives? Can they understand or have compassion for others’ sufferings? If they can’t share the suffering, how can they understand what others have overcome or really share in their joy?

Of course, I understand that you can’t share at deep levels all the time or with everyone. But I forge connections with those who share themselves. I love friends who share both their laughter and tears with me, who let me into the details of their lives. I think one of the most powerful things a friend has said to me was, after I went through suffering similar to hers, “I always knew you cared…but now I know you understand.” I have experienced rejection, a miscarriage, infertility, chronic illness, and more. I can’t remember how many times someone has said to me, “I share this deep heartache with you because I know you have been there [because I told them], and I know you will understand…”

Just as life is shared through the shared details of life, I think connections are forged in the realness of life.

On a sort of connected thought: Occasionally I hear people complain that the Internet is destroying connections between people–because people no longer write letters or communicate face to face. Others complain that people share silly trivial stuff on social media like Facebook.  “Who cares what someone had for lunch?” they mock. I think these people connect best face-to-face, and that is fine. But I think they need to understand that people are all different and have different ways of relating and connecting. It’s not “one size fits all.” 

I find the Internet and social media has increased my ability to connect. I love hearing of the little nothings of a friend’s day–even what she had for lunch. I love sharing family pictures, swapping recipes, exchanging advice, trading jokes, sharing another funny cat picture, studying with others with similar interests, and participating in discussions of interesting topics with an expanding circle of friends from all around the world. I love getting glimpses of daily lives that are different from mine, whether from friends in Iowa, Texas, Oregon…or Africa, Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, or a small island across the Atlantic. I ask questions of what life is like for them, and I learn about places of the world that I barely knew existed. I hear about problems like sheep getting buried in an unexpected snowstorm in the U.K. or a woman trying to get her garden to grow during a drought in Austria. I try to wrap my mind around the fact that the very hot summer months of June, July, and August are cold winter months for friends in Australia. I hear about holidays, traditions, or social issues that I was ignorant about from people experiencing them. If I say in the middle of the night “I am awake,” voices immediately respond from around the world: “Why?” I am entrusted with stories of private pain that breaks my heart or joys that delight me. I listen to the stories, and reach out in the night to encourage, or sometimes share silly stuff just to help people laugh.  I care, really care, and the caring ripples out to beyond my little family and local surroundings to reach the friends around the world.

Photo: mariamedia.net
Photo: mariamedia.net

I love the connection to the world I have through the Internet.

I am more than a quiet woman shopping at the grocery store trying to choose between one bunch of carrots and another. The world touches me and I touch the world.

But now I have to go wash dishes.

And maybe I will take a nap.

Waiting Up

My husband works second shift at work, which is nice,  because we get to spend the mornings together when he first wakes up and before a long day at work tires him.

When our son was young and throughout our years of homeschooling, I’d get up early  and go to bed early. I had to have a clear head to teach school all morning and the energy to care for an energetic little boy. Most of the time I was too tired by night-time to stay up to welcome EJ home. However, now that JJ has graduated from high school, I have been trying to wait up for EJ to get home. We talk a little and then I go to bed.

JJ started his first job at McDonald’s in May. McDonald’s is a good first job, and he’s doing well at it. He’s working hard, cheerfully, and with integrity. I am proud of him. JJ’s hours are constantly changing. Tonight he was supposed to work a four-hour shift and get out at 8 p.m., but he texted me that they asked him to close the store, so he’d be working until at least midnight, although it could be longer. Apparently, closers have to stay until the job is done.

I waited up for EJ to get home. Now I am waiting up to make sure JJ gets home ok. JJ is a good safe driver, but he isn’t really all that experienced, so I want to make sure he gets home safely. It’s ok. I can’t sleep anyway. Besides, with Prednisone or without it, waiting up is a Mom-thing. Many times it’s also a Dad-thing but tonight, EJ fell asleep in his chair with his computer on his lap, so I gently removed the computer and am letting him sleep.

Yay! JJ just came through the door. Now I can sleep. Well, maybe.

Last night I was so tired that I slept more than I have in days–in spite of the sleepless effects of the Prednisone I am taking for the rash on my leg. The rash is diminishing, I am glad to say. I am tired during the days, but I am doing well.

Yesterday I didn’t do all that much. I think I had worked too much the day before, weeding my herb garden and EJ’s veggie garden and digging up bricks from the path through the back yard. My body felt a bit battered. I couldn’t make it pull any more weeds or lift any more bricks.

Today was a beautiful day with periods of rain and sunshine, and even a thunderstorm or two. I like sunny days and I like rainy days and I like thunderstorms. On sunny days I can work outside and enjoy the day. On rainy days I can work inside or cuddle with a cat, a book (or computer), and a cup of coffee or tea. Stormy days are wild and exciting as long as they aren’t destructive. JJ and I like to drive in the car sometimes and pretend we are storm-chasers. These days he drives and I take pictures of dark clouds.

This morning I made homemade pizza. For some reason, the dough didn’t rise well. I don’t know if I missed an ingredient, or the rainy day prohibited the dough rising, or what. Oh, well. I made the pizza anyway. The crust was more like flatbread, but it still tasted pretty well. My husband grew up with six sisters (with a couple of brothers sprinkled in) and he ate plenty of their cooking mistakes so he doesn’t mind a few less- than-perfect results. As an only child, JJ is a bit less brave but, as I said, the flatbread pizza tasted pretty good.

After EJ left for work, I walked my dog Danny, as I usually do. Danny knows that when EJ goes to work it’s time for a walk, so he gets excited. Fortunately, it was during a time of sunshine and not rain so we had a very pleasant walk. It was very humid though.

After JJ left for work, about an hour later, I vacuumed rugs, swept and mopped the downstairs floors, and decided to make potato salad. EJ usually texts me on his breaks to make sure all is well, and I texted him back that I was making potato salad. Only I abbreviated my message and actually wrote that I was making “pot salad.” I figured he’d know that “pot” meant “potato.” Duh. He thought “pot salad” was pretty funny and was still laughing when he got home from work.

A few years ago, I started teaching myself (and then JJ) Hebrew. Then I started to study Hebrew with my friend. She lives several states away, but we study together through video-chat. Then she and I started to teach a few friends. We aren’t experts at Hebrew or anything, but we teach them what we have already learned and we have fun doing it.  If we get stuck, we ask friends who know the language better for help. It’s very rewarding to me when one of our “students” is able to read Hebrew. It is the same sort of fulfilling satisfaction I got when I was able to teach my son to read.

For two hours this evening I met with a small group of friends via video-chat to study with a Hebrew scholar/author, who is also a friend.

I love Hebrew because it is unlike any other language. I don’t want to get into a detailed discussion about the language because that is not the purpose of this blog, but Hebrew is very profound and teaches a lot about faith and life. Hebrew started out as a picture language and is very action based. Every word can be reduced to a three-letter root, and every similar three-letter root is connected even though at first glance you can’t imagine such dissimilar words could possibly be connected.

Photo: blog.fabflour.co.uk/
Photo: blog.fabflour.co.uk/

For example, the word for “bread” is connected to the word for fighting and struggling and wrestling. This doesn’t make sense until you think about the way you knead bread dough–pushing it around, pressing it down, and then punching it after it has risen. The process is very much like wrestling and fighting. Making bread is very physical. And, connected to this, when you think of it, life is like making bread: wrestling and struggling to provide “daily bread” for your family, hopes or dreams rising only to be punched down by disappointment or heartbreak, and yet, even though it doesn’t always turn out the way you wanted, it still somehow turns out good. Whenever I make bread dough of any sort, I now think of this concept. I like making bread, even when it doesn’t turn out perfectly.

Anyway, once a month, a small group of women and I study together with a Hebraic scholar/author. Most of us in the group are from around the USA. One is from Australia. We’ve never met in person, but we are connected through our desire to learn Hebrew and Hebraic insights. Our time together is very, very enjoyable and I always learn a lot. I have so much fun. I love the Internet because it opens the world up to me, and I can meet and study with so many interesting people and learn so many interesting things.

EJ told me that he once watched a television series in which the host would randomly choose a person from a telephone book in whatever city he was in and he’d interview that person. The only rule he had was that he had to interview that random person no matter how average or boring he or she first appeared to be. What the host discovered is that even the most average person had an interesting story to tell–some interesting trait or experience that made him unique. Sometimes I think about that. I think that if someone met me–or probably anyone in the group–at the grocery store, he might think I was a boring stay-at-home Mom. He wouldn’t know that I was learning and teaching Hebrew and studying with world-famous scholars. It almost seems like there are superheroes with secret identities out there, everywhere. This thought changes how I view people. Who are they? What stories do they have to tell? What hidden talents do they have?

I really like the Internet because many people are able to write blogs, and most of these are probably people who, if it weren’t for the Internet, wouldn’t write, or couldn’t share what they wrote, so you wouldn’t know they could write, and you wouldn’t know their stories. But because they can write blogs and share them, their stories get told, and the stories are fascinating.

EJ and JJ have been asleep for a very long time. The need for waiting up is long past. I suppose I should go to bed too.

Throwing the Shoe

This morning EJ and I stopped at the bank before heading to the store in a nearby town to pick up a few items. We had a nice chat with the tellers at the bank. The husband of one teller works with my husband, and the husband and son of the other were involved in JJ’s Boy Scout Troop. As we finished our business, EJ commented that every day “We just keep throwing the shoe.” I said to him, “You realize that no one but us knows what ‘throwing the shoe’ means.”

Contrary to what you might think if you read yesterday’s post about the sleep-depriving, emotion-intensifying effects I suffer from Prednisone, “throwing the shoe” does not mean throwing shoes at each other in anger. It is a phrase that came about from an experience in my life.

There are very beautiful sand dunes along Michigan’s west coast called “Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.” They are so beautiful that viewers of the Good Morning America TV program voted it the most beautiful place in America in 2011. Here is a video of the dunes if you’d like to see them:

I have gone to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes several times in my life, but this particular experience happened when my family went camping at the dunes when I was 19 years old. At the time, only my younger sister and I were still living at home. My older siblings had moved away. I learned that it was only a three mile walk across the dunes from the campground to Lake Michigan. I suggested to my sister that it would be very fun to walk to the Lake and jump in and swim a while. She thought it sounded fun, so off we went.

sand3
Photo: Sleeping Bear Dunes – Pure Michigan

The dunes were high mountains of sand, and the sand was hot. We were wearing sandals and for every step we took, we slid back a couple inches. One step forward, half a step back. We kept expecting to see Lake Michigan glimmering from the summit of each dune, but all we saw when we made it to the top was another mountain of sand. And another. And another.

Hot and tired, it wasn’t long before my sister began grumbling and talking about turning back. I kept talking her into climbing another mountain. I didn’t want to quit. I told her that if we turned back, we’d be turning back in defeat, all our effort would have been wasted, and we’d never experience the refreshing joy of jumping into Lake Michigan. I encouraged her that we would probably see the Lake from the top of THIS dune. However, all we saw was yet another dune.

Finally, my sister said, “I am turning back NOW.” I suddenly had an inspiring idea. I asked her to take off one of her sandals and hand it to me. “Why?” she asked. “Just do it,” I said as I took off one of my sandals. She handed me her sandal and I threw her shoe and mine up the dune, just a few feet out of reach. “Why did you do that?!!” she yelled. I replied, “We now have a choice. We can climb up the dune and retrieve our shoes or we can turn back to the campground without them.” We climbed up the short distance to our shoes. “Let’s throw our shoes again and climb up and get them,” I suggested and we did. My sister caught on to the idea. The distance to Lake Michigan had seemed much too far away, but it was not too far to climb up and retrieve our shoes. We kept throwing our shoes and climbing up to retrieve them and throwing them again. We quickly made it to Lake Michigan, jumped in the oh, so, refreshing water, splashed around a bit, and returned to our campground in victory and having had a great time.

Photo: Ashcreekimages.com
Photo: Ashcreekimages.com

When I met EJ, I told him that story, and “throwing the shoe” has become something we quote to remind ourselves that when a goal seems unattainable, if we take it in little steps, it seems more possible and becomes reachable.

I throw the shoe when I have a difficult job to do. For example, yesterday when I was removing the bricks from the garden path in the back yard, I told myself that I would just remove the bricks up to the next post. When I reached it, I told myself I would do a couple more feet. Then I told myself that, well, I’ll just do a bit more. Suddenly, I had finished the whole path. No problem.

Sometimes when life has seemed very difficult, I have told myself that I would just be strong and have faith for today. Or for the next hour. Or for the next five minutes. Or even for the next 60 seconds. Life is just made up of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks…and if I am strong for this minute…and this minute…and this minute…I will find that I am strong for the hours and days and weeks and years of my life.

Photo: greatlakesgazette.wordpress.com/
Photo: greatlakesgazette.wordpress.com/

Yup. Throwing the shoe works.

I am throwing the shoe with Prednisone. Eight (or is it nine?) days to go before I am finished with it. That’s a long time to not sleep well and to struggle to control emotions, but I can make it through TODAY. No problem. When I am done with the medication, it’s likely that the rash will be completely gone too. THAT will be like a refreshing leap into Lake Michigan.

Gardening on Steroids

I am currently taking a  corticosteroid medication called Prednisone,  a fact that makes my husband and son cower in fear.

The first time I took Prednisone was three or four years ago. It was, no doubt, for a rash or something. The first prescription didn’t clear the problem up completely, so I was given another prescription for it. A friend told me that to be on Prednisone, then off, then on again causes it’s effects to intensify. Prednisone seems to affect me like PMS, intensifying whatever emotion I am feeling. If I am a little bit anxious or irritated or sad then Prednisone makes me feel REALLY anxious or irritated or sad. I wasn’t prepared for how the medication would affect me that first time, and we were going through a stressful time (trying to buy a car in time to drive to another state for a wedding) so I was….um…easily upset and not pleasant.

Since then I am very reluctant to take Prednisone. The second time I had to take Prednisone, my husband and son began wondering if they should move out to the RV for a couple of weeks (or maybe, they said, I should) or perhaps they should go off on vacation…and leave me home. EJ said that if I celebrated Halloween, I could go as a witch–I wouldn’t even have to get a costume, I could just take Prednisone. Ha, ha, good thing I wasn’t on Prednisone when they said those things. I think they were a bit overly dramatic, but the truth is that I am not my normal self when on Prednisone. EJ says normally I am like Sandra Dee or Doris Day, actresses from the 1950-60s who played wholesome, sweet “girl next door” type of roles, but on Prednisone I am like the Hulk or something.

When I got this current rash on my leg, I tried everything I could think of to clear it up on my own but I have trouble getting rid of rashes so when this one spread…and spread…I finally went to the doctor and she prescribed the dreaded medicine for the third time. Actually, my doctor was busy so I went to her Physician Assistant, and she gave me three days of the drug. I didn’t really think it would be enough, and it wasn’t. It diminished the rash but didn’t have time to totally clear it up so my doctor prescribed another and longer dose. I am on day four of thirteen days. On, off, on again. Not a good scenario. I warned my family, as I always do when I am on Prednisone so they will know that I might be easily irritated or upset.  Warning allows them to be extra understanding…or keep out of my way. I am trying to be very careful to remember that any anxiety or irritation is probably magnified. Mostly I am doing very well, although I did yell at poor EJ a little bit yesterday about relatively minor things that suddenly felt major. He was patient and I apologized.

Prednisone also makes me not sleep well so I am very tired. I am operating on three or four hours of poor sleep a night.

I find that working in my garden helps me keep awake and also gives somewhere for me to drain off my extra emotion. I’d rather battle weeds than my family. There is something satisfying about pulling out weeds. I have gotten a lot done.

Yesterday I did laundry, cleaned the house, and weeded most of my herb garden.

My cat Rikki-Tikki-Tabby walking on the bricks I pulled up from the path today.
My cat Rikki-Tikki-Tabby walking on the bricks I pulled up from the path today.

This morning I finished weeding my herb garden, and went on to weed all of EJ’s veggie garden. Then I pulled up all the bricks on another segment of path in the back yard. I only have one more path to do–from the house to the garage. I am tempted to also pull up all the bricks in the path running through my garden so I can just quickly mow it rather than painstakingly weed it, but EJ is not sure I should and neither am I so I probably won’t do it…at least, not this year and not without more thought.

After EJ left for work, I did my regular tasks such as dishes and walking the dog. I video-chatted with my friend a bit. Then I made homemade bread–just regular bread, not challah bread. There was something satisfying about kneading and punching the bread. While it was raising, I went outside and weeded some of my garden until I didn’t have any physical strength left.

I sure get a lot done when I’m on Prednisone. Of course, the weather really helps. For the last couple of weeks or so we’ve had very autumn-ish weather. I love it. The cooler temperatures (high of 72 degrees today) make me feel like working.

Whatcha Got Stew

Challah Bread
Challah Bread

I make beautiful braided challah bread every Friday. It takes all morning to make because it requires several risings, so I begin making it as soon as I wake up in the morning. It did not rise as well this morning as it usually does, but I have discovered that challah bread is almost impossible to mess up. When it doesn’t rise well, it is very delicious. When it rises as it is supposed to, it is beyond delicious.

While the bread was rising, EJ and I went to a nearby town to pick up a few groceries. EJ found some steak on sale, so we put that in the shopping cart along with the other things.

After we left the store, we stopped at the Farmer’s Market, which is set up every Friday in the hospital parking lot. We arrived as the vendors were setting up. Since we just started visiting this Farmer’s Market, we are not sure what time they are set up and ready business. We arrived just before 10:30 a.m., so maybe they are open at 10:30? or 11? We came for some eggs, which we can get at half the price we can get at the grocery store. We bought two dozen and then left for home. I had to braid the challah bread and get it rising again.

EJ insisted on cooking the steak, so I worked on the other parts of our meal: potatoes, peas, and cucumber slices. I put the cucumber slices in vinegar water with onion slices, something my Mom used to make when I was a kid, and which both EJ and I really like.

I love that EJ likes to cook. When I am sick or tired or get in a rut with cooking, it’s nice to have a husband who can cook. EJ says I am a good cook, but I see myself as merely adequate. EJ is actually a better cook than I am. I see food as necessary fuel to live. He sees it as an art form. I follow recipes, he invents them. If I were rich, I’d have a chef so I could do what I most love to do: study and learn, walk my dog, look at the stars, work in my garden. If he were rich, EJ would garden, invent things, and cook. He says he can totally relate to this scene from the movie Ratatouille. He says that is how he sees food:

One thing EJ really enjoys making is “Whatcha Got Stew.” He pulls all the leftovers out of the fridge–no matter what it is–and combines them in a stew. If I tried it, it would be an awful mess, but EJ has a sort of magical touch and his stews usually turn out to be surprisingly delicious. 

I will never forget EJ’s most delicious “Whatcha Got Stew.” I like to brag about it because I like to watch people’s funny reactions. When I describe what EJ put into it, people always say, “Oh, YUCK!” I, myself, thought it would be a horrid mess as EJ was making it. I cannot convince anyone to believe how really wonderful, terrific, unbelievably delicious it really was. Are you curious about it yet?

01_ratatouille_blurayThat day, EJ put leftover spaghetti and leftover stir-fry in a pot. He added a piece of strawberry shortcake. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE???? You’ve got to be kidding! As he pulled leftovers out of the fridge, I started getting silly. I said, “Here’s a half a Burger King Whopper. Are you going to use that?” Into the pot went the Whopper. “How about this piece of mincemeat pie….” That went in too. Yuck! But using his incredible cooking magic, EJ made the most wonderful stew I have ever eaten. Go back and watch the Ratatouille video above. THAT is how that “Whatcha Got Stew” tasted. Hmmmm.

Because of that stew, I will always try anything EJ makes, no matter how weird the ingredients. Always.

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