Monday, December 07, 2015

Winter-the beginning

what a phenomenal fall, 2014. Really. So much so that it took another fall then straight into Winter to remind me to perhaps blog. Up to this point, it seems as if there's been a little bit of a change in LOGGING IN since I was HERE LAST. (thanks Google. You now force me to join. Curse you!) Just let me say-today's grey, cool, and chilly weather somehow distracted me enough so that it took just an hour to remember the email address AND password (at the same time I might add) in order to freakin access it thus far.

I digress.

this picture is from about a year ago. snow began on Halloween and didn't stop until sometime in May. For this born and bred Texan, the weather was crazy!! but even better were the signs from nocturnal visits from the local critters. These particular ones were from the wee cotton tail rabbit that roamed the gardens that circle the house. He was a very timely fellow, appearing precisely at 7:30pm every evening. Then he wasn't around and while walking underneath the trees I found some chunks of bunny fur and not much else... I was sad but very glad--to me it meant there was a healthy micro-system happening right there... in my back yard... which also meant I need to plant MORE TREES!!!

then this year happens and while we've had a sweet but very short lived 'first snow', we've had very little precipitation of any kind since. if I we're of hardier northern stock, I'd be out there right now cleaning up all of the dead annuals and veggies (so there won't be an explosion next year) and putting out the final layer of mulch for the season. but I'm not. and I won't. but, a girl can dream though. and I do-especially of how beautiful that one corner by the garage is going to look next spring when the red/white and blue/white species tulips bloom, then i-can't-remember-the-color-this-very-seond jonquils, then pink, single-petaled peony with a yellow ball of a center bloom--against our newly painted blue house with white trim---I. Die. My goal is to somehow afford a japanese tree peony (google it).

My cousin, the very awesome Joanne Gotcher, began the very hard and laborious work of taking out shrubbery that had been in the ground for over 20 years... that woman removed ancient carpet junipers and boxwoods!!! All the while helping run the household while I was recovering from surgery this summer. Then, Brent surprised me when he hired a landscaper to help us with the rest of the gardening stuff we'd been talking about for over a year. And it all happened, just like we talked about... in no time. This one guy did so much work, and was so quiet... he truly loved what he did. I invited him to take home orphan whatever he would like and I only asked for a fruiting mulberry seedling in return (fingers crossed!). Oh, and a dwarf (what they call up here) Fire Bush because the regular ones grow into trees--which isn't a bad thing, unless you don't want stand of trees.... which I don't. So I'll wait till spring to see what moves me. Now we have a rather nice sized red-bud in the place of a rather sad dogwood that had outlived it's flowering, a salute to the ones we had in Texas!

sadly I find trying to upload photos to accompany my story so hard and clumsy with this new format...

About a year ago I made a routine 'new patient' appointment with a general care doctor. She helped me make new patient connections with a cardiologist (inherited a kind of tachycardia) and a doctor for a routine colonoscopy since I didn't get one at 50 (I was 52!). You know, getting a firm foundation of my local area.

My heart checked out fine and the colonoscopy was fine--ok, I won't lie--the prep was awful. But so worth it in the end. (oh haha! See what I did there?!)And I say this because--I had a large mass and another suspected mass that was very painful. It was a good thing I was numb and a chatterbox-if I hadn't felt the pain there would have been worse news down the road. A week later I was diagnosed with Cignet Ring Cell carcinoma, stage 4. On my father's birthday. Five years after he died from Squamous Cell Carcinoma, stage 4. ('stage 4' simply means the cancer has 'metastasized', meaning that particular cancer has migrated from it's origin to other parts of your body. it's not a death sentence until it is.) Anyway, I jumped into chemotherapy after researching not only my options, but what centers in the US were the best--we wanted to check out what 'the best' had to offer. Incidentally (?) we were living in the same city as one of three in the country that treat this type of cancer. And leading in technology too.

Chemo was every tuesday morning for about 5 hours and I would leave with a pump connected to me to continue chemo for the following 48 hours. Then I would return thursday, disconnect from the pump, and go home. The next week I was free and the following tuesday I would follow the chemo schedule. for 6 rounds = 12 weeks = 3 months. Had to be off chemo for 6 weeks before surgery to reduce the chemicals in my body. Also a breakthrough technique for reducing reproducing colon cancer cells was performed by filling the affected abdomen with heated chemo have it circulated through for an hour then drained. Before all of that could happen, within an hour of starting the surgery to remove most of my colon, the surgeon found both ovaries and my uterus to be riddled with cancer, so they were removed. 2/3 of my colon was also removed, thereby leaving me with a colostomy. I was horrified and disappointed and even after some really intense chemo, I hoped hoped hoped it would be enough.

I didn't intend to leave the story here, but I am. I need to figure out how to add my photos without having to force-quit the program. So, until next time--

every little bit counts!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spring slowly awakens

This is my most favorite time of day. First thing in my morning, when everyone's left for school and work, and the animals have managed to re-settle.

I admit, I don't often see this early part of the day or at least I haven't in the recent past, but lately I've found myself up before the sun rises above the trees.

This is the time where I make time to reflect over the night. I try to remember each dream with as much detail as I can. I try to figure out the meaning and how it fits into my life. I am like that. I've always believed our truths reside in dreams. It's just that we have to remember them.

But this is not a post on dreams.

Spring has finally arrived here and daily I am awed at her beauty. She's been quite coy to this new resident with her intentions. We've probably had a streak of two days with the same weather here lately. I promise I'm not complaining. I'm truly enjoying the experience. Coming from land that, if you were lucky, had a couple of inches of fertile soil on which to live. Other places, just barely enough topsoil to keep the rocks down.

But this land, this land is different. As you walk on the grass with NO stickers, you kind of feel the give of fertile soil that isn't compacted or dry or just rocks with some native grass grasping frantically for a foothold. It is loamy and soft and giving and… odd. I startle a bit with every first step onto the lawn. My foot sinks just a little, as if the soil is happily welcoming my visit. And the grasses hold much magic within their green arms. Mosses are everywhere and when you're trying not to step on moss, you're tripping over violets or some other wildflower that isn't quite blooming. It's a huge landscape on a very minute level.

And the ants here are FRIENDLY!!!

No surprise attacks! No intensely stinging welts! No scarring pustules! Actually, they run at any shadow, so the old adage of "they're more afraid of you" holds with them.

The trees are only now budded up and leafing out. The dogwoods are coming into full bloom and what at first looks like a tree with twinkle lights at the ends of branches within days looks like a popcorn tree. The dogwood flowers are generally white and humorously look as if someone spent a lot of time putting tissue flowers at the ends of every branch.

It's begun. The earth here is waking up and spring has taken off. I can't wait to see what she brings!

Monday, March 10, 2014

and I thought childbirth was life changing...

yeah, I know.

Unless you've recently relocated from a land of 10 months of warmth with 2 months of chilly thrown in for good measure. A land where you need nothing more in the winter than a really good quality denim jacket or a favorite oversized sweatshirt over a really cool t-shirt. And if you work outside in those two months, you might actually invest in a nice fleece zippered jacket. To go over the cool t-shirt and oversized sweatshirt.

None of which do anything to keep you warm here in Michigan, for long. If you're lucky and you find a parking spot close to your destination, you're good. If it's any further away than the first two spaces, you're screwed. As in, get your ultra insulated coat, which is over you zippered fleece, which is over your sweatshirt and long sleeved cuddle duds thermals. And gloves. DON'T FORGET YOUR GLOVES. And a scarf comes in really handy when you need to cover your mouth and nose because the wind chill can effin FREEZE YOUR NOSTRILS TOGETHER. And that's not cute at all.

Until the pull of spring grabs at your being. And you lie in bed and hear the cardinal male singing his love songs and the crows are cawing and then you sit up and see--4 feet of snow on the ground and a forest of dormant trees. Oh the sun is shining and with that you're blinded with the realization you've awakened in another level of hell--not the 'mid-summer in south texas' hell, just the opposite--the '6 months of winter in Michigan' hell.

As a Texan to the bone, this kind of living is mysterious. Why in the world would anyone want to live in these kinds of conditions for most of the year??!

I wake some days feeling the pull of the coming spring to my core. I am moved to gather seeds I've collected over the past year, organize them and plan… and then I look outside and see 4 feet of snow with a wind chill in negative numbers. My hands long to dig in the ground, to feel top layers warmed by the sun while deeper ones are cool.

To feed that need, I buy bulbs at the store. I buy bulbs already growing and bulbs in bags and in boxes. I buy bags of soil and pots. The smell of the purchased soil has a faint tinge of a chemical smell, so different from the dirt outside, so I pretend I am gardening outside… the warmth of the early spring sun on my shoulders, the last of the cool breezes causing goose bumps in the shade. The buds of the native grape vines swell; the echinacea has awakened and broken ground with deep magenta leaflets;

the comfrey's pointed fingerling leaves have made way through winter dead stems and old winterized leaves,

and borage seedling have sprouted everywhere with their little mickey mouse rounded fuzzy leaves…

By this time I would have gathered chickweed that refused to grow inside the raised garden and instead grew beside it,

filled a jar to the rim with its tiny trailing stems and leaves, then added olive oil to steep for future salve making. I would have also begun harvesting older comfrey leaves to jar and steep for salve.

I would have spent most of my time in the garden listening to the winged ones and their stories of their people. The mockingbird for sure would be patrolling his territory that surrounds the house and gardens and part of the next door neighbor's back yard. Woe to the stray mocker who would unintentionally fly across the invisible border… the war dance of mockingbirds is something incredible to watch. If you ever see two of them, face to face, hopping first one way then another, you are seeing the Dance of Territory. Take a few minutes out to watch it.

So I wait. For spring in Michigan. And wonder what it will hold...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One Fear Conquered

So what's the biggest fear of moving to Michigan from Texas, where there's 4 feet of snow on the ground and you have 3 dogs that need to go outside to do their business?

Or should I say, what's MY biggest fear…

losing this guy?


this one running off into the winter wonderland behind the house?


being attacked by one of these guys?

not consciously. (remember this post?)

My biggest fear--forgetting the dogs are outside.

And it happened; not to Jonesee or Sandy, but to Justin, our big old loving bear of a dog.

Our no-eyed, 98lb husky/shepherd mix.

One evening, just past dark, Niles let him outside while I was doing something else and asked me to let him back in. Yeah, yeah. Then Facebook happened, a conversation via text, and there was some watching the snow fall in the light of the back porch light. So pretty… so sparkly… sigh….

And then I remembered Justin.

I hurriedly grabbed my coat and threw on my snow boots without socks. (I almost ran outside barefoot and in my t-shirt but the vast white reminded me to at least grab a coat.) I ran out the back door into 4 feet of snow, crashing and pushing through, not thinking to follow the paths shoveled for the dogs. I began to track Justin through the snow--he had stumbled through a covered patch of brambles and continued on his journey. So did I. He had crossed two backyards and finally down a driveway to the street. It was at this point I lost his tracks and began to panic.

All of this time I had been calling his name and at this point, I vaguely remembering screaming for him. Suddenly I heard then saw Sandy crashing through the snow where I'd just been. She was so excited about the snow falling and the drifts she could plow through--the smile on her face when she reached me was entirely readable. I'm sure my panicked yelling sent her to scratch open the back door and come find me.

I paced back and forth from the place where I'd lost his tracks. Sandy and I walked to the left towards our street and tracking the snow I could see Justin hadn't been down that way. We turned around and began walking up the hill. Near the top we caught up with Justin's tracks. He'd made a left and snaked his way a little ways and somehow crossed that street and tracked back to the street we had been on. There he'd made a left and as we began walking faster I saw a movement further ahead of us. It was a dark shape, almost like a trash dumpster, but wait, it was moving… was it? Yes, it was… I yelled Justin's name over and over and sure enough, slowly, Justin made his way towards us. I almost cried for joy but my face was frozen.

He didn't seem too terribly upset about wandering around. He was happy to 'see' us and we made our way back to our house.

By this time Jonesee had joined us and I'm sure we looked quite the motley crew walking down the middle of the street, at night, during a snow storm.

I wanted to gauge how long it had taken to find Justin. It felt like hours and I was sure it was probably just an hour. Only 20 minutes had passed since I jumped up from my chair to grab my coat. 20 minutes.

And Justin isn't going to forget any time soon. When he's let out to do his business, he always makes it back to the door and stands patiently until someone sees him and lets him in. And I'm hyper vigilant anytime any dog is let out, day or night.

So I guess with this, I can say I learned a huge lesson early on. Remember the dogs outside.

Also, just another tidbit of info--did you know Michiganders have a very unique winter sport. They put fat nobby tires on their bikes, find the nearest cross-country ski trail, and ride the trails. AT NIGHT. With lights on their baseball caps.

::::shakes head:::::

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014. THE Year of Change

A year ago I was musing on my personal epiphany. Today, I am sitting in my kitchen in Michigan having only relocated from my beloved Texas just 11 days ago. I can still count it in days and I cannot know how long that will continue. Possibly until I return to my homeland. Because I will forever be a transplant, and alien, to Michigan.

I must say that before now, I'd never really known what driving through horrid winter weather was, but, when you're faced with a deadline of having to get to where you need to be in order for the husband to return to work and the kids return to school, one must do what one must do.

And all was great. Three cars-husband with boxes of necessities for living until our stuff arrived, packed in the trunk and back seat. Also known as "eagle'. First in caravan and also first to speed off into the distance. Second in line was the van of middle son and youngest daughter. And our 3 dogs. Aptly named 'varmit van'. Bringing up the end was myself in a rented SUV along with our 3 drugged cats. Always behind and always trying to catch/keep up. Our nick name was 'kitty litter'. Nothing like driving with drugged cats who, as a side effect, are lovey and purrey and just want to be in YOUR FACE to show how much they love you… at 75mph. Nothing. Like. It.

All was well with the trip. It took for-ev-er to get out of Texas but the excitement of a new home waiting for us got us through that. We had to re-rout our progress because of some extreme weather coming down out of Canada. It was the third wave in as many days and had delayed our journey until we just couldn't wait any longer to leave. As we drove northward, I listened to the radio and found that this particular cold front had a name--an 'Arctic Vortex'. If, like me, you are from Texas you really don't have anything in your vocabulary to even come close to defining what that could possibly mean.

But now I do have a definition for what came to be known as the Polar Vortex of 2014. It's hell on wheels, nothing less.

Our trip up to this point was fairly uneventful. Drive 11 or so hours, stop at a hotel and traipse past the front desk no fewer than 6 times herding animals. Separate rooms for the separate species, sleep, then up again backtrack the critters to their vehicles, drive until you just can't drive anymore. A trip that should have taken at the very most 24 hours turned into 4 days. Because of the Polar Vortexxxxxxxxx….

Illinois almost did us in. The photo above was taken 30 miles east of Indianapolis. The highway we began traveling was closed--CLOSED--and we had to exit along with everyone else and continue on a smaller side highway that took us ever westward into the ugly face of the Vortex. Top speed was (gasp) 5mph. Yes. I am not kidding. I swear I wouldn't kid about that. Going so slowly really gives you time to do other things--like love a drugged cat that happens across the dashboard, catch up on email and social media, and take photos. Like this one:

So we slowly inched our way towards Indianapolis. The hours passed and an unlimited supply of patience was needed. The sun relinquished its weak hold on the daylight and we were met with the nastiest black ice ever formed below 32 degrees.

When I watched the 'varmint van' slow drift across both lanes of north bound traffic my already white knuckles clinched the steering wheel harder and I tried to swallow. Watching my children skid into the median covered with 2 feet of snow was not a visual or memory I wanted. I called up to 'eagle' after I came out of my very own traction-less slide and told him I couldn't drive any longer. Not after what I had just experienced and witnessed.

We stayed the night in Ft Wayne, Indiana and woke up refreshed and really ready for all of this to be over. Once we crossed the Michigan state line, the highways were clear and travel was just about the speed limit. Something my over worn self appreciated!

We drove up to our house around 3pm on Wednesday, January 8th. A bit road worn but very happy to be at our new place.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My own little Epiphany

(Jan 6, 2013) 12th night: A star shone in the night sky, signaling a king had been born. Three men traveled and found the king to be a baby, in a manger. It's a pretty big deal in the Catholic faith and I didn't learn about it until later in the evening.

Earlier in the day, I made my way to my garden with the sun on my shoulders and back of my legs. Yes, I was wearing shorts in January as the temp was supposed to be in the 70s for the day.

Before I reached the garden, I heard a Bewick's wren chit chit chitin' in the neighbor's palm trees. Wrens were one of the first birds I identified when we moved here almost 16 years ago. They are talkers and underfoot all of the time. I once read that early settlers would cut a small hole in the upper corner of their front door so that wrens could come and go. The tiny birds were thought to bring luck, and in those days, luck was a hot commodity.

I opened the gate and jerked it out of the clutches of the dormant grape vines. Still singing, the wren flew to the bare vines nearby. I stopped and took a deep breath, closed my eyes and took another deep cleansing breath. My shoulders relaxed all the way down my back to my toes.

It's truly winter--the only scents on the air are decayed leaves and the earth--a rich, warm, brown smell. The remaining leaves on trees chorus on slight breezes while back yard birds call in the distance.

I find my peace here--outside. I am refueled and refilled. My head is cleared and my sense of direction restored. No matter the location, whether in my own back yard, pasture, or beach, my spirit is elevated.

Slowly I opened my eyes. The soil's sleep is apparent in the garden. Brown stalks of perennial plants stand as reminders of past seasons. The only leaves are that of salvias and herbs. Even the iris foliage is slowly going dormant.

The wren was on the arbor, on top of the vines. He sang a few more bars then flew down into the vines and began to preen and stretch. I stood, transfixed, and watched.

While there was no bright shining star in the night sky and there was no newborn king lying in a manger, this epiphany was no less significant in its majesty. It doesn't matter your faith, religion, or belief. It's in the opening of ones heart and truly feeling; in the resulting stillness, truly listening; and in that moment of awareness, truly understanding.