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DSCF6652My mother died on May 5.  I took this picture of her on her front deck on April 24.  I had gone out to visit her because she had sent out an email letting us know that the arterial bypass in her lower leg that was done back in early February had failed.  She opted not to have her leg amputated, and since there was no circulation in that foot the tissue died and the necrosis killed her.

She was a remarkable woman, who hiked 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail when she was 60.  She was awarded a Hometown Heroes award by Laclede County for her work with the Literacy Council.   Who knows how many people can read now because of her tutoring?  Numerous pupils of hers went on to get their GEDs as well.

 

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This weekend we had a belated 90th birthday celebration for my mother.  One of my cousins from Delaware and his wife made the trek, so we had a mini-reunion.  The obligatory “x # generations” picture was taken, in this case four.  My mother, myself, my son and his two children.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe opportunity presented itself for some play…  I really don’t think the following pictures require much explanation.   The audience was my cousin and his wife, my brother was the photographer.

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The following is probably my favorite shot…

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“Whipsaw:  n 1. A narrow two person crosscut saw. v 1. To cut with a whipsaw, 2. To defeat in two ways at once” 

It was a lovely day today at The Havens.  Last week, after several days of pretty cold temperatures (sub zero at night), it snowed.  Then it warmed up enough to melt the thin layer of snow on the ground.  This was followed by some days around freezing accompanied by gusty winds.  Finally it warmed up and the wind blew like a wind tunnel testing a jet airplane.

This morning it dawned clear and cool and totally calm.  It would have been ideal to burn off the labyrinth right then, but we had a date at the kid’s house for home made waffles.   So we went over there (a matter of walking half a block) at the appointed time and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast with the family.  It is really lovely to have our grandkids so close.  AND their parents…  I must not leave them out!

After our repast, we came home, got busy, and burned off the tall grass that had accumulated in the labyrinth over the last summer.  It was a perfect day for burning, and still hadn’t gotten so warm that tending the fire was onerous.  There have been times when it was sort of like an introduction to Hades, what with a warm day and a brisk breeze.  Today it was just damp enough that the grass burned well but not like an inferno.  No wind to speak of, so the flames crept their way through the paths and rocks desultorily.  We had to use the flame thrower a few times to encourage them to do a complete job.

There are lots of rags and tags of grass tops, as well as things like the stems of goldenrod, little white asters, and primroses spread in the paths.   They really need to be raked up but I decided to do something else instead.  If I leave them long enough they will blow away or compost in place, maybe.

After unhooking and draining the hoses we had deployed for fire safety reasons, we rolled them and coiled them back up on their supports.  Winter is not over yet and we have had enough of frozen pipes.

Speaking of frozen pipes, the contractor man has been here since Wednesday repairing the utility bathroom.  We picked out new floor tile for it, auditioning a style that we are considering using for the Great Bathroom Remodel, which is scheduled for a future date yet to be determined.   We LOVE the tile and lucky for us it was on sale so we bought the necessary quantity and have stashed it in the sauna dressing room.  The bathroom should become functional early next week.

Of course, there has been a daily (except for Thursday) pilgrimage to Springfield to visit the Ailing Mother.  She came through her popliteal bypass alive (barely).  There were a few rough days, and once the hospital figured out that she really needed a blood transfusion, she rallied enough to be moved to a rehabilitation hospital.  Since then she has walked as much as 70 feet during physical therapy and can get up out of her wheel chair and move to the bed “unassisted” (meaning two people stand nearby at the ready to make sure that she does not lose her balance and fall during the painstaking process).  But her appetite has returned, and her mind is once again active.  She has been working on her tatting project.  Aside from the open incision around the bypass site, she is looking fairly good.  There is still a lot of ground to cover, but we are no longer in fear of her life.

And my sister was released from the hospital today, after fighting infection from the cat bite she got while she was neutropenic from her latest chemotherapy for her leukemia.  Thank God for small favors.

With both people that were in so much danger moving towards safety, maybe I can actually get some sleep tonight.

Anyway, back to today.   Instead of raking the labyrinth, I cleared the old dry tops out of the asparagus bed.   While I was engaged in that chore, I noticed that the bees were out foraging.   Then I started wondering if they still had enough honey to keep them going through the rest of the winter.  (Despite the lovely day today, winter is FAR from over.) Presently my curiosity grew so much that I went into the house and prevailed on Jim to make a wellness check on the colony.  He suited up and opened the hive and we determined that they have LOTS of honey to eat, they seem very healthy and active.   Without disturbing them much more than that, he put the hive back together and we watched them continue about their bee business.

This activity made me wonder what on earth they could be finding to forage this time of year?  It didn’t take me long to remember that yesterday while I was walking Ruby I noticed that the witch hazel out at Bennet Spring was blooming.  I have a few witch hazel trees here at the Havens, so it wasn’t much of a leap to wonder if perhaps our bees had found them.

I went to look, and lo and behold!

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The bees have indeed discovered that there is a source of pollen out there for them.  While I was playing bee paparazzi, I saw a couple of tachnid wasps out there too. They declined to be photographed, so I can’t prove it.

Then I went out and weeded the strawberry, blueberry and raspberry cage.   It was very healing to dig out all that henbit and chickweed.  The whole cage looks great!  While I was working, I could hear the hum of the hive on the other side of the fence.

Maybe I will have some time to work on my art journal this evening.  That would be very good.

 

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I have spent a lot of time on Facebook.  I would say it even became an addiction.  One of the things that enabled my addiction was my iPad.  Not only did I spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling through crap on that social media platform, I also discovered  that it was possible to spend  literally hours playing inane games.  In the process I also managed to gain 20 pounds, probably because I became so sedentary in the pursuit of these activities.

I have been flamed far too many times, and been sucked into being not very nice myself. I am tired of that game.  I have enough to deal with without people telling me how awful I am, especially when I am NOT.  I don’t have to participate, although it seems like Facebook has become ubiquitous and it is almost impossible to communicate and connect without it.   It is so damned EASY.  But I deactivated that account, and hopefully some of my friends will find me here.  If not, I suppose they weren’t really friends at all.  It isn’t like I didn’t tell them I was moving to my blog.

I am still working on the game addiction.  It helps that I have removed them all from my iPad, but of course it is quite easy to reload the ones I am most addicted to.   Or just play them on Jim’s iPad.  However, slowly but surely the need for that dopamine fix is getting dealt with.  And right now I have no games loaded, and don’t feel a real need to put them back on.  So.

So, now I will give a short update on the major events of my/our lives.

For me, the most salient one was the loss of all the cartilage in my right hip.  The resulting pain was crippling, to the point I could not even maintain my garden and could barely manage to do massage.   I had a total hip replacement on June 8 this year, and the result is miraculous.  I have scar tissue, of course, but it doesn’t bother me particularly.  The change in state was amazing.  I can garden, walk, do massage again.  Hallelujah.  It occupied my life totally for about two months, though.  The loss of massage income during that time was sobering.  We made it through, though.

Another very important event which I talked about on Facebook but not here was the discovery that Jim had a very active and invasive prostate cancer.  A complete removal of the prostate was indicated and performed in July of 2016.   Several lymph nodes were taken as well, and were found to have cancerous cells.   Following recovery from the surgery, the indicators showed that not all the cancer had been removed.  So he underwent 5 weeks of radiation this last March.   The indicators went to zero for a few months, but have now started to rise again.  We are waiting for them to be high enough that it might be possible to image the tumors and find where they are.  Until then, we just wait for the cancer to grow.

The surgery for Jim had pretty horrific side effects.   The removal of the prostate was done carelessly enough to destroy nerve function in the area.   The surgeon pointed out that he was more interested in getting all the cancer than preserving nerves, but the resulting complete lack of sexual function has changed our lives forever.   He is also incontinent while his pelvic floor becomes strong.  The radiation really set that healing back, plus he got radiation colitis for a while and had really bad diarrhea.  Fortunately that has abated, and the incontinence is slowly getting better.

Let’s pass over the treatment with Lupron, which shut down all his testosterone for about a year.   I’ll just say he discovered just exactly why I was such a bitch while I was going through menopause and having all those hot flashes.   Fortunately, both of us seem to have finished up with that activity, thank God.

No wonder I was depressed and needed dopamine from an external source.

Meanwhile, our son developed severe pain in his back, injured by wearing body armor while he was stationed in Iraq for two tours and Afghanistan for one.   He came home with PTSD too, which has improved significantly.  He did get a medical discharge from the Army because of his back.  And his feet.  I guess carrying 80 to 100 pounds of gear constantly is bad for them.

He and his wife are presently working on their educations.   She is one semester away from a masters in Library Science, and he is pursuing a Business Administration degree.  We bought a house in 2016 that is on the next street over.   They moved there and rent it from us while their town house in Georgia is being rented out.  It is very convenient to have that beautiful little family so close by.   Not only do we get to see our grandchildren on a regular basis, we exchange care with them.  For example, when we travel they look after our house and pets.  And when they want to go to a convention or have a date, we look after their house and our grandkids.

Life is pretty good despite the travails.   We have been traveling.   We went to Europe again, spent a week in Lisbon and made an Atlantic crossing to come home.  We also did a couple of short Caribbean cruises, one took us partway through the Panama Canal.  In September of 2016 we took a two week raft trip from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other.   Later on I will do a post that includes some photos from that.  It was AMAZING.

So that is it in a nutshell.   We are looking forward to the next year, hoping that all will be well.  I am thinking of retiring from massage in the next few years, much to the dismay of my clients.   We’ll see.

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It is hard to believe that the last time I posted here was before Thanksgiving.  I have been on line, too.  But somehow I have been sucked into Facebook and have found myself putting up little blips here and there rather than making a blog post.   I wonder how many other bloggers have been seduced by social media?

Since I posted, it has snowed and thawed several times.   I did get some pretty nifty snow shots during all those events.

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We had a real cold snap before Thanksgiving, and the little pond froze with beautiful hoarfrost crystals.

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We also had a small ice storm, no big damage although we did have a couple of elm trees that dropped a lot of branches.   The day after the ice covered stuff it was a lovely day and things were already starting to melt.   I took Ruby for a walk and the ice was positively magical.   Everywhere I looked the woods sparkled in rainbow colors.   This phenomenon proved to be shockingly difficult to photograph, but I did get one image that almost conveys how amazing it was out there.

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During all this harsh weather, my neighborhood has been living up to its name.   All kinds of little birds, and big birds too, have been enjoying the shelter, food and water The Havens provides.  Actually, there are plenty of mammals also enjoying The Havens along with the avian population.

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We had a sumptuous Thanksgiving repast.

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At Christmas, Jesse and Lynette were able to get away from their Army duties and bring James to visit us.   They were here for far too short a time, and we loved every minute of it.

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I saved The Quilt for a Christmas presentation, even though the kids knew I had made it and had enjoyed hots of it during all stages of creation.   They did not know about the pillow cases or the matching throw pillow, though.   Honestly, I think it makes a pretty impressive bed.

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James approved, I believe.

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One of my dear friends gave me an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift.   This week it started to open.

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Today it looks like this:

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So now you are somewhat up to date.

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A little while ago Jim and I made the trek out to the East Coast for two purposes.  One was to return a large cast iron cauldron that we had ordered which arrived cracked.   We took it back to the foundry to have it replaced with one that was not cracked.  The guy who packed it at the foundry just couldn’t imagine how it could have been cracked…   Personally, I suspect that it left the foundry that way and they were hoping that we wouldn’t notice until it was too late for us to make them do anything about it.   But UPS could have dropped it during shipping, which would not be surprising since it was in a box that was labelled “HEAVY” but even a person who was expecting “heavy” might have been surprised by the 87 lbs…

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It isn’t the largest cauldron ever, either.   It is only a 12 gallon sized, and they come all the way up to 60 gallons and more, some large enough to scald a whole pig.   I don’t know how you carry around a 60 gallon cast iron cauldron, actually.

The other reason for the trip was to visit the grandchild, who really represents a huge fork in our road.  He is developing in a most satisfactory way, thanks to the excellent parenting he is receiving.   I surely do wish we lived closer to that beautiful little family, but Skype helps.  One of the things that made the odyssey totally worth it?  Getting to see this:

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Another vision that really “made” the trip was this sign:

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This road has a serious identity crisis.  Not only does it not know what it’s number is, it doesn’t really know what direction it is going either.   Or possibly, it is all things to all people and going every direction at once.

Sometimes, I feel like that road sign could be the icon for my life.   Like most people, I struggle with the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”   “What is my purpose?”  “What is really important in my life?”   “Where is my place in the world?”

I do know my purpose, what I was put here on Earth to do, and that is to touch people and help them find the path to healing.   My work as a massage therapist has been doing that for well over 20 years now, and it has brought me peace and prosperity.   It has led me to connections with people that are deep and meaningful.  Recently I attended a class in California featuring Neuro-Muscular Reprogramming.   That re-connected me to Jocelyn Olivier and the Alive and Well School of Massage, the place where my training began.  Watch this space, you will hear more about NMR, which is a profound healing technique that I am anxious to master.  I see clearly that it is a fork in my massage road I am going to walk down, far down, and ultimately it will add longevity and depth to my massage career.

So that is one thing I am.   I am also a gardener…

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I like to create things, notably I am working on a quilt right now.  It is a bargello design called “Supernova.”   (This is a pattern I found in a book by Eileen Wright, which I have been thoroughly enjoying.)  I’m 75% done with the piecing.

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I am also a labyrinth tender:

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That “identity” has led me to connections as well.   My labyrinth is listed on the World Wide Labyrinth Locator, which brings strangers into my life from far away and turns them into friends.  Just a couple of days ago I was visited and interviewed by a woman who is visiting and writing about labyrinths in all 50 states.   I may or may not show up in her book.   After all, she may meet a better candidate than I am for her writing about this state.   Anyway, she had lived in Alaska for ten years and brought me a beautiful rock from the Mendenhall Glacier area of Juneau.   We had a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

There are no forks in a labyrinth, there is simply one path.   You begin at the beginning, follow the path through its twists and turns, and eventually you reach the center.

Sort of like life, actually.

 

 

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Georgia…. Georgia on my mind…  It is beautiful there.

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Continuing the peripatetic way that was outlined for me at the beginning of the summer, I made a solo trip to Georgia to visit my son, his wife and the new grandbaby, James.  You will pardon me if I do the typical Grandma thing and immediately post a picture of the paragon.

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I have a feeling that he is going to grow from being extremely cute to being Way Handsome.

It was a lot of fun, really.    The town home community they live in hosts Mississippi kites, kingfishers, numerous other birds and at least one alligator.  There were tree frogs and geckos hunting on their porch.

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There was an egret rookery on Ft. Stewart to admire.

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I visited the Atlantic coast at  Jekyll Island, a barrier island that shows exactly how the river of sand flows in slow motion.

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On Ft. Stewart, near the rookery, is a very beautiful pond that is a recreation area for the soldiers there.

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The “kids” took me to nearby Savannah, and we enjoyed eating at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.   Wonderful hamburgers.   We walked along the river in the old part of a very lovely city.

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I got to bond with James.

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Gratifying is the word that comes to mind.   What was so extremely gratifying was not just the wonderful child that the two of them created, although that was pretty gratifying.   The really great thing was seeing how our son has grown into a tender father and supportive husband.   I got to see first hand the wisdom of his choice of wife; for not only is she very pretty, she is also extremely intelligent, focused on her desire to be a good mother, wise beyond her years, and a fiercely loyal mate.

I also witnessed this very manly man completely involved in the nitty gritty details of housekeeping, sharing the chores of housekeeping.   Even more, he agreed wholeheartedly that since his wife was the main food source for the baby, his main part of the job was going to be the clean-up brigade.   He did that chore with no sign of disgust; but rather with relish, delighted to help make his baby clean and comfortable.   He cooked us dinners, too, following the example his father set.

Who says that only women can be nurturing?

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Oh, it was wonderful in the extreme to witness the only major disagreement they had while I was here.   Someone  (I’m not sure whether it was me or Jesse) congratulated her on the excellent job she did of producing this baby.   She objected.   Her position was that Jesse had a lot to do with creating the baby, too.   He disagreed.   I loved the way he put it:  “Babe, all I did was contribute the leavening agent.   You did all the rest.”   Truly, that was the closest I saw them getting into an argument in the almost two weeks I was there.

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They are not only parents, they are soldiers.   Both of them.   I found the uniforms and boots by the door to be touching and sweet.    His and hers, together.

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I am so proud.  And so blessed.

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