Scarborough Tea

I thought today was going to be a difficult day because I stayed up much too late with EJ and I got up much too early with JJ. I like to greet EJ when he comes home from work and I like to fix breakfast for JJ and send him off to college. Last night I think I went to bed at 1 a.m.–it could have been later–and EJ and I got up at 6 a.m. with JJ. After JJ left for the day, both EJ and I took naps. EJ slept in his chair and I curled up with Annie on the couch. I slept a little–until Kee-Kee stepped on my head and then tried to sit on Annie, who growled at him. I pulled Kee-Kee on top of me and wanted to fall back to sleep, but it was useless.

I thought today was going to be a difficult day because I was so tired, but it turned out to be a very good day. Working in the garden yesterday had really relieved my stress. I love to work in the quietness of the garden, and as I work I often ponder or pray and absorb peacefulness into my spirit.

After working in the garden yesterday, I remembered a time years ago when I went to the doctor for a sinus infection and she told me that my lymph nodes were very swollen but “don’t worry yet until we know more because it could be nothing serious.” I wondered what exactly I wasn’t supposed to worry about, so I went to the library and looked up “lymph nodes” in a medical book (we didn’t have a computer at the time), and I found a whole lot of things to worry about. I slammed shut the book and decided that I would not waste time worrying until I was diagnosed with something to worry about, and if I was diagnosed with something to worry about, I’d deal with it one step at a time. I think that the scariest point is when you don’t know if something serious is wrong or not. After a diagnoses, then at least you start developing a plan to deal with it. It turned out that the lymph nodes were swollen only because I had had numerous sinus infections and not because of a scary disease.

So after regaining my perspective yesterday, I decided that exposure to MRSA didn’t mean we would actually get the virus, and I wouldn’t worry until I had something to worry about. That’s pretty much what the doctor told EJ when he called her this morning: Until symptoms develop, there isn’t anything to worry about. If symptoms develop, we can start treating it.

It looks as if the better cat food that is specially formulated for digestive problems might be doing the trick. The cats aren’t completely back to normal, but it looks like they are improving. For the first time since they got diarrhea, I have hope that there is an end in sight.

EJ had recently read that fleas love humidity and that if they will die if the humidity gets below 50 percent. He noticed that the basement had become damp and humid, so after he talked to the doctor, EJ set up two dehumidifers in the basement. Hopefully that will take care of the few fleas that have survived our other measures.

After EJ left for work, I took Danny for our regular walk. Danny is a real mooch–he always follows the food. Sometimes on our walk, he finds food that people have dropped in the grass or road. I always pull him away because I don’t want him to eat something that will make him sick. Today Danny was interested in a spot in the middle of the street, and when I realized he was trying to eat something, I pulled him away. It was a blob of gum that someone had eaten. As I pulled him away, the gum stretched out, one part in his mouth and the other still stuck to the street. It was a funny sight.

I spent the rest of the afternoon–before and after JJ left for work–working in the garden. The day was gorgeous. It was sunny and had an autumn-ish feel to it, with both a warmness and coolness at the same time. I felt a lot of joy as I worked. This is why I garden–not so people will admire it, but because of the perspective it helps me find. 

I made some progress on my path. I didn’t get as far as I wanted because it is hard work pulling up the vines where I want to place the bricks but I am pleased I got as much done as I did. I am maybe halfway done with the path.

Often when I take Danny for a walk, children run up to me and ask if they can pet him. They always ask his name, of course. Whenever new children run up, ones who had met Danny before tell the other children about him: “He has soft thick fur.” “He name is Danny.” “Danny is nice.” While I worked in the garden this afternoon, several small children walked by with an older girl. I heard the children say, “This is where Danny lives.” Then they peeked through the wild rose bush growing on the fence and saw me. “Hi! You have a big garden.” “Your whole yard is a garden.” “You have pretty sunflowers.” Danny rushed up to the fence and they all petted him before they moved on. The kids are adorable.

A few days ago, we found a recipe for an antibiotic tea made up of parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Since I grow all those  herbs in my garden, I made the tea. It is yummy. The ingredients reminded EJ of the lines of a very old ballad called Scarborough Fair. I do not know if the tea already has a name, but because of the ballad, I decided I’d name it Scarborough Tea. The song helps me remember the ingredients. I thought I’d end this post with a beautiful video of Scarborough Fair sung by Celtic Woman.

“Define Interesting”

My family’s conversations are filled with quotes from favorite movies. Star Trek, Star Wars, The Princess Bride, and others are filled with very quotable quotes. If we see a beautiful full moon, one of us will say, “Wow! Look at that moon!” Another will quip “That’s no moon…that’s a spacestation!” (Star Wars) Or if one of us says “This plant is dead.” Another will say, “It’s not dead. It’s only mostly dead. I’ve seen worse.” (Princess Bride). We do this all the time.

One of our very, very favorite TV programs is a science fiction series called Firefly that originally aired in 2002-2003. It was created by Joss Whedon and starred Nathan Fillion. We have the whole series on DVD and we watch it often. Nathan Fillion now stars in the TV series Castle, but he loved Firefly. Castle is filled with Firefly references and occasionally Firefly cast members guest star in Castle. We love it! Anyway, Firefly is filled with wonderful quotable quotes. I’ve been thinking of one quote in particular this week because it pretty much described last week. EJ found a youtube video of the scene for me. It is worth watching.

The week started out quite well. JJ started college last Monday. He’s had a few days of feeling overwhelmed, which I told him to expect, but mostly he is enjoying it.

The vet had given us pills for giardia for all the cats, in case that infection was causing diarrhea. Not all the cats have diarrhea, but he wanted to eliminate that as a cause. We had to give eight cats a quarter of a pill morning and night. EJ and I worked together. As I always do when I have to give the cats medication, I caught and wrapped each cat in a towel so he/she couldn’t get away, scratch, or bite, and held him/her while EJ administered the pill. The cats HATED the taste, and they did all they could to resist. I’ve never seen them fight and squirm so hard to get away. I got pretty good at holding the squirming cats so they couldn’t get away. EJ got pretty good at giving the pills to the cats, but it still was an effort to get them to swallow them. Some of them held the pill in the side of their mouth so they could spit it out later.

The pills did not help the diarrhea.

EJ said a couple of his co-workers said that their cats had a bad case of diarrhea so they switched to a high quality cat food like “Science Diet” and it cured the diarrhea. So we bought some good cat food and we are trying to see if that works. It is distressing to me that the cats have diarrhea. I did see some non-diarrhea poop in the inside litter box not long ago, so maybe the food is helping.

Yafah has worms (we are giving her worm medication) which might be responsible for her diarrhea. However, I also wonder if part of the cats’ problem is stress or environmental. We are still battling fleas. They are not at all as bad as they were several weeks ago, but I occasionally find one or two on me (and that’s one or two too many), and I am trying to get on top of the problem so they don’t get worse. We have to medicate the cats and spray the house in sync so that one does not reinfect the other. In previous years, if I noticed any fleas, I just gave the cats some flea medication, sprayed the house, and then the fleas were gone. This year it hasn’t been like that. I have never, ever, ever had such a problem with fleas. I’ve heard from several sources that this year the fleas have been very, very bad–much worse than normal.  I guess the weather has been perfect for their breeding.

I am getting exhausted dealing with fleas and diarrhea.

Also, the rash I have been struggling with this summer has reappeared.

In addition, EJ came home from work and told us that a woman at work who is addicted to serious drugs kept working after she was diagnosed with a contagious virus called MRSA. Everyone who worked in the same plant with this woman has been exposed to it.

WebMD says that MRSA is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus — or staph — because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics. MRSA is spread by contact. So, you could get MRSA by touching another person who has it on the skin. Or you could get it by touching objects that have the bacteria on them. The symptoms of MRSA depend on where you’re infected. Most often, it causes mild infections on the skin, like sores or boils. But it can also cause more serious skin infections or infect surgical wounds, the bloodstream, the lungs, or the urinary tract. Though most MRSA infections aren’t serious, some can be life-threatening. Many public health experts are alarmed by the spread of tough strains of MRSA. Because it’s hard to treat, MRSA is sometimes called a “superbug.” MRSA infections are common among people who have weak immune systems.

I am concerned for EJ and JJ. EJ is concerned for me because for much of the summer, I was taking Prednisone for my rash. Prednisone weakens the immune system.

Great.

Tomorrow we will call our doctor to begin the process to test to see if we have the virus.

Fleas…cats with diarrhea…rash…MRSA.

I felt so stressed today that I went out to work in the garden. Gardens are good stress-relievers.

First of all, I admired my sunflowers. In late Spring I planted sunflower seeds in various places through the yard. Sunflowers are very cheerful flowers. Some of the sunflowers got knocked down in a storm, but most of them are holding up pretty well.

The stick...and my garden cat.
The stick…and my garden cat.

Then I headed back to worked on my path. As I crossed the back yard, a large spotted frog LEAPED in fear (I probably nearly stepped on him) and landed on my foot. I screamed, and he went one way and I went another. After I got over being startled, I went back and found him again. He was a pretty frog. I wish I could have taken a picture of him, but by the time I had gotten my camera, he had hidden.

After I removed the bricks a few weeks ago, I lined the path with the bricks. However, when I tried to mow the path last week, I discovered that the lawn mower is too wide for the path. So today I found a stick that is just a little wider than the mower, and I used it to help me make the path wide enough. It is primitive but very effective. As you can see, my garden companion, Rikki-Tikki-Tabby, joined me as I worked–as he usually does when I work in the garden.

The part of the path that I finished today.
The part of the path that I finished today.

I have a lot of vines in my garden. I had to yank up the vines that were in the way so that the bricks would set level. This was a very hard job. I used the hoe and clippers to get the vines out of the way. I had a brilliant idea of mowing the vines to then make it easier to use the hoe. The mower nicely did what I wanted, but I was able to mow just a few feet before it died. I couldn’t get it started again–although I tried–so I went back to yanking up, hoeing, and clipping the vines. It was so difficult that I had to stop just before I reached my goal of finishing the path along one side of the house. I will work on it again another day. I hope.

I was exhausted when I quit for the day, but the garden had helped relieve much of my stress and I was in a more cheerful frame of mind. The day was beautiful.

As I said, my week (and summer) sure was interesting.

College–and Cats

Back in my other life, before I was married to EJ and had a son, I was a word processor at a consulting firm. When I mentioned to my supervisor that if I ever got married, I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom, she said, “Oh, you will be totally bored staying at home!”

She was wrong.

About me, anyway. I think she was very bored staying home and preferred to work. Me? I am almost never bored at home. Something is always happening.

JJ trying to avoid my camera.
JJ trying to avoid my camera.

Today was JJ’s FIRST DAY OF COLLEGE. I took several pictures, partly because I wanted to have pictures of this huge milestone, but partly because I was enjoying his insincere protests about me taking pictures. He had fun dodging me and I had fun stalking him with my camera until he got in the car and drove off.

JJ texted me that he had reached the college ok, which was a relief. However, he took a wrong turn on the way home, which filled me with anxiety because I didn’t know how to help him get unlost. He figured out his error and found his way home. Whew! He had a good day.

While JJ was off at college, I painted the second half of the porch again. Maybe I am finished, but I might put another coat on the areas that get high traffic. I’m not sure.

I went to clean the back porch (cat diarrhea) and discovered that Yafah had coughed up a worm. Eew. So I called the vet’s office and was told to bring in the worm so they could see what kind it was. I used a plastic spoon to scoop the worm into a sandwich bag. Then I also scooped some of Luke’s poop into a bag as well, in case they wanted to look at it. Luke’s poop isn’t as runny as Yafah’s, but it’s not the normal well-formed poop either.

Sadly, I am becoming a poop expert.

The worm was still alive and wiggling when I arrived at the vet. YUCK! The vet identified the worm and prescribed the appropriate medication for Yafah. He gave me a syringe of worm medication and told me to give half to her now and another half in two weeks to kill off any new worms that hatch from the larvae. Then he examined Luke’s poop for parasites and a specific kind of germ or bacteria or something. All clear. YAY!

The vet said that there is another germ that can cause diarrhea but which is too small to see with his microscope, so he gave me medication for that. He gave me enough for ALL the cats as a preventative treatment. I have to give EACH of our EIGHT cats, one-fourth of a pill TWO times a day for FOUR days.  Imagine that for a moment. This is going to be interesting. Some cats are relatively easy to give pills to, but other cats keep spitting out pills or they fight tooth and nail. The resistance gets worse as they learn to expect it. EJ said he will help me. We will have an adventure trying to capture each of the cats and shove pills down their throats. The cats are going to hate us. We will give them their first pills tonight when Eric gets home from work. We might end up ripped to shreds and in the hospital.

Pray for us.

Yafah needs the medicine most, but she is going to be particularly hard to medicate. Yesterday she vanished from the back porch where she is isolated. EJ was really worried that she had gotten outside somehow. I told him not to worry because I was sure she had just found a good hiding place. This morning I saw her climb into her hiding place behind a board near the ceiling.

Yafah's hiding place.
Yafah’s hiding place.

Here is Yafah in her hiding place:

Can you see Yafah in her hiding place?
Can you see her?

Here is a closeup:

Yafah in her hiding place near the ceiling.
Yafah in her hiding place near the ceiling.

I know that as soon as Yafah sees me, she is going to run into her hiding place. I have no idea how I am going to get her out so I can give her medicine. I will have to be tricky. Maybe put medicine in her food or something.

After I got back from the vet, I cleaned and disinfected the back porch. Then I took a shower–because handling poop and worms and everything made me shudder and I wanted to feel clean.

This has been a difficult season with the cats.

Paint Memories

Today was laundry day. Usually EJ goes with me to help me, but he had to work six days this last week and I knew he was really tired, so I drank only ONE cup of coffee and then I loaded the dirty clothes in the car and went to the laundromat, leaving EJ home sleeping. When I got back home, I took the baskets of wet clothes to the back yard, and then I went back into the house to fix breakfast. When JJ left for work right after breakfast, I went outside and hung the clothes on the clothesline. I really enjoyed the morning, which was sunny but nicely coolish.

After I finished hanging up the clothes, I paused to think about how to spend the rest of my day. I decided that this would be a very good day to paint the front porch. I have wanted to paint it for a couple of years now and was determined to paint it this year, but was afraid I’d run out of summer before I could get it done.

Everything moved from the porch
Everything moved from the porch

I moved the patio table and chairs and all the plants off the porch and under the lilac bush. Then EJ helped me get the paint supplies together. I started to sweep the porch, but EJ ended up taking over the task while I found some old clothes to paint in. I am not a neat painter and tend to get paint all over myself. I used to have a shirt and shorts that I always painted in. I never washed them so they contained the memories of years of painting projects. I could point to spots of paint that had been used to paint our bedroom when we first moved in, and spots of paint used to paint our living room once or twice, and both times we painted the bathroom, and a LOT of paint from the last time we painted the porch. The last time I painted the porch was maybe ten years ago or so. JJ was 8 or 9 years old and he helped me. We ended up getting into a paint fight. It probably started when one of us accidentally painted the other, and then the other not-so-accidentally painted the first one, and before you know it, we were both deliberately painting each other until we were covered in paint. It was very fun. Sometimes I sort of miss those days. Teens tend to have too much dignity, worrying about what people will think, and being embarrassed by their Mom’s silliness. it’s not until they get older that they remember how to be silly again.

I think I threw the paint shirt and shorts away a few years ago when I was cleaning out closets and drawers. Now I will have to start a new paint shirt and shorts with new paint memories.

Painting our porch.
Painting our porch.

EJ didn’t want me to paint parts of the porch that were in the sun because he felt those areas were too hot. So I painted the half of the porch that was in the shade. Painting is another task that I do not LOVE like I love reading and walking Danny, but which I find great pleasure doing. There is something very soothing and relaxing about painting, especially when it’s outside on a sunny and coolish day.

This is where we bought wood. From one post to another is one face cord.
This is where we bought wood. From one post to another is one face cord.

After I finished painting the porch, EJ and I went to buy a face cord of firewood. A face cord is a stack of wood that is eight feet long, four feet high, and about 16- to 18-inches deep. In previous years, we bought our wood from three people who cut and sold wood in their spare time. This year, two of the three appear to no longer be selling wood. We drove to the third, but the man wasn’t home. EJ called the phone number on the sign and the guy said he’d be home at 5:30 p.m, so EJ said he’d return.

When we got home, I painted the porch again. The whole porch was in the shade by this time, so I put a second coat of paint on the half that I had painted earlier and a first coat on the other half. I also painted the steps.

After I finished, I had just enough time to get cleaned up, do the dishes, and take the clothes off the clothesline, and then it was time for my Hebrew class, which I co-teach with a friend. We teach our class through video-chat. We have students from several different states and even from another country. Pretty cool.

While I was teaching, EJ went to get the firewood. Usually the guys we buy wood from help load it. I was glad EJ had help since I couldn’t help him this time.

After my class, which ended at 7 p.m., I went out and painted the whole porch and steps again. Tomorrow I will paint the second half again, and then I think I will be finished.

We unloaded and stacked this truckload of firewood
We unloaded and stacked this truckload of firewood

When I finished painting, I started stacking the firewood into our woodshed. I didn’t tell EJ that I was stacking it because his back has been hurting, and also his shoulder, and I didn’t want him to hurt them even more. I had unloaded and stacked about a third of the wood when EJ discovered I wasn’t still painting the porch and he came out to help me. JJ helped a bit too, and it went faster so we finished before it got dark. Now we only have nine more face cords of wood to buy to be ready for winter.

After I got cleaned up, I made popcorn and relaxed and wrote this post. Now I must get back to work and fold the clothes.

I have been busy from morning until night. I am tired, but it is a good tired.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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