Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Beginnings of Summer

     Before being cast in Hitchcock's movie, "Vertigo", it was a busy start to the summer. Daughter #1 and her family are moving to Colorado tomorrow. I spent a few days with them in Raleigh where we had a chance to do some fun activities and just be together. A few days later, Claire brought two of the children here for three days and we squeezed in another visit while she also got to spend a little time with two of her sisters.
    Here are a few photos from BV (before vertigo): grandchildren, gardening, hooking. Today is the one week mark from hitting the floor and I am feeling much brighter and more hopeful. I went to the gym yesterday and rode the stationary cycle. I pedaled for thirty minutes, went 5.6 miles through the forests of Saxony, Germany (via the computer screen),  broke a sweat, and burned a whopping 107 calories. Sheesh! That's not even the equivalent of one little ice cream cone. Afterwards, I popped into a class to say hello to Daughter #3 where I saw weights and heard the words,  body pump. Part of me longingly wanted to stay and own that class. Baby steps, I told myself. And stop fearing the word, pump.

Daughters 1, 4, and 3 with three grandchildren and three cousins, plus Henri

The border is planted with lavender and yarrow. The deer won't touch it. (evil laugh)  We still surround the entire garden with electric wire during the growing season. The neighbor's boxer loves to bound through our yard and other dogs roam the neighborhood. I cringe at the thought of dog pee on the herbs, hence the electric fence for all four-legged creatures. We also have a resident rabbit family of six but they haven't damaged the plants yet. I do love to watch them play in the evenings.

The herb bed. Mint is planted in a sunken pot so it won't spread.
This sweet little rug is destined for the guest bedroom. I chose the color scheme particularly for that room. I just have the outer border to complete, then steaming and binding.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Alfred Hitchcock's Got Nothing On This

     So... what does one do with "retirement"? One joins the gym, of course! In my quest to remain physically fit and agile in older age, I decided that stretching would be a good idea. I think "limber" is the word that comes to mind when I imagine how I want to feel as an older person. The day before school let out, I joined the Y. They handed me a calendar of activities which I excitedly perused. I saw several limbering type classes that were just right for me. With names like, "Gentle Yoga" and "Body Flow" I had hit the mark. I steered clear of class titles that contained words such as, "Power and Pump". I was not planning to power or pump anything.
     I bought a pair of yoga pants, dusted off my yoga mat and joined in! The classes were wonderful! After three classes I could already feel my body stretching and strengthening. I modified some of the moves in consideration of my sore hip but even that was feeling better and better. I felt like I was coming back into my younger self and retirement was feeling pretty good! Until one night when I woke up to one of my worst nightmares. Vertigo.
     There's a common form of vertigo called, Benign Positional Proxismal Vertigo" or BPPV. I've had it for twenty years and there are ways to manage episodes of it when it flares up. It's purely a mechanical, vestibular canal problem and it's easily fixed with a head maneuver done by a physical therapist or at home by yourself when you've learned the proper technique. Even mild vertigo is disconcerting and it's difficult to function normally during an episode of it. However, I woke up last Tuesday night with THE worst vertigo I never imagined could exist. All of my senses quit functioning and I was unable to even speak. The room spun so violently that all I could do was land on the floor and be ill in the bathroom until Steve and Tess carried me to the car and off to the E.R. It was a nightmare. At the hospital they quickly rolled me into a cubicle and started an IV with anti-nausea meds and Valium. I knew I was improving when I was able to form sentences again and answer questions. I remember laying my head back on the raised hospital bed and falling into a heavenly rest. The violent spinning lasted for over an hour. It should have lasted only thirty seconds. The memory of that night is difficult to forget.
     A week has gone by now and I have almost all of my balance back. Higher thinking is still difficult along with many little things like typing on the computer, bending over, reaching up, etc. I'm waiting for an appointment with a balance doctor in Charlottesville which is slow coming. I think what troubles me the most is that I have limitations. Limitations make me frustrated and very sad. Many of my friends have limitations of various sorts and I have been thinking of them and empathizing with what their day-to-day lives must be like. These same friends are also an encouragement to me because they are strong, happy, vibrant people in spite of their limitations.
     My vertigo should eventually go away. But, I will not be joining the yoga class anymore. Instead, I will hit the treadmill, the bicycles, and perhaps try the water aerobics. I also saw a class titled, "Zumba Gold". With a word like "gold" in it, it must be for me, right?!



Thursday, May 30, 2019

Shiver Me Timbers

     Earlier this spring I read that there would be a high number of snakes in Virginia this year. Lo and behold, I have already seen many. Typically, I will see one or two on the road throughout the summer but this year I have already seen four in two weeks time. The last one was in the yard.
    On Monday, I was relaxing by the pool (as in kiddie) and I saw two Brown Thrasher birds hopping around the trunk of the plum tree. At first I thought they were fighting with each other. Steve watched from his porch seat and I from the pool as they hopped in circles around the trunk for several minutes. Then Steve said, "There's a snake there!" I stood up and sure enough there was a black snake and the birds were hopping on it and fluttering back and forth as they attacked it with their feet. The snake was languid about the whole thing until Steve went out and shooed it away. Unfortunately, it went straight under the forsythia bushes where there erupted a panic and noise from within. The mockingbirds had set up house in those bushes and when they saw the snake all heck broke loose. It was pure mayhem as birds squawked, branches shook, and three baby birds came hopping out from underneath. We stepped back as the battle raged inside the bushes. We watched as other species of birds swept down to investigate the commotion. Thrashers, mockingbirds, blackbirds, and martins all dove down and swept past. Two blackbirds actually entered the fray and Steve's commentary followed with, "Here come the blackbirds to save the day." We had never seen anything like this and it was more entertaining than any action adventure movie.
     Well, all of this went on for a good twenty minutes until I finally decided to visit Mrs. Cahoon with an apple pie. The birds and snake were fighting it out within the bushes and whatever happened happened. When I returned forty-five minutes later, all was quiet. Steve had continued to watch and he was convinced the birds killed the snake. I was more inclined to think the snake slunk away unnoticed by Steve's eyes. We may never know.
     What I learned, according to this article, is that snakes like brush piles and railroad ties. We have both. We also have a wood pile and I know snakes like those too. What I also learned from this article is that it is generally illegal to kill snakes in Virginia unless they are a hazard. I don't mind having these black snakes around because they keep the mice and rodent population down. However, even though not venomous, they will bite when provoked and I really don't want to come into a close encounter with one. Steve was bitten by a snake years ago when we lived in Alabama. He never saw what bit him, but there were two punch marks on the back of his leg it made him sick and damaged the skin on his leg so badly that he needed to go to the E.R.
     Because of all the snakes I have seen, I am more vigilant when I walk outside these days. I try to scan the ground ahead, walk with a stick, and weed very, very carefully around the railroad ties and rocks that form the hardscape in one of our flower beds. I will also need to give the grandchildren a brief lesson in snake awareness when they come to play on the property. We will learn to coexist with them as best we can and I hope and pray that we only see black snakes and no rattlesnakes or copperheads...please!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Like Good Friends

     Like a faithful friend, here is my journal waiting for me to pick up our relationship right where we left off six months ago. It feels comfy and familiar and I've missed it.

     The Blue Ridge Mountains are looking very blue this evening. It's easy to see why they were named as such. You can see that the fields in the foreground have just been cut and the sound of tractors with their swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of cutters is now heard from neighboring fields. It's a soothing, summer sound. The smell of cut and drying hay mixed with the heady, sweet scent of honeysuckle fills the air. It is a mood altering aroma for certain. 
     I am home alone this afternoon and evening and it's given me a carefree opportunity to wander around the field and garden, catching up on what I've missed of late. Today was the last day of school and the two weeks leading up to this have been intense. My particular job is nothing stressful compared to what the teachers and full time staff endure nevertheless, the stress is palpable. The last day of school is one big release from all of that building up of stress. We have reached the finish line. Remember being a child on those last days of school and what that felt like?
     Today was a big milestone in what feels like a year of milestones. I tendered my resignation last month and today was my last day of work. It is a bittersweet feeling because I worked in a very nice school with superb staff and a perfect work schedule. I regret leaving that behind. However, I also turned the big 6-0 this spring and it caused me to think about how I've been spending my time and made me realize I want to spend more time with my busy family. They are scattering all over the place and no one is getting any younger so the time has come for me to chase after them. I also feel a strong desire to be more creative and these are the things I look forward to doing without being on a tight schedule.

Along my walk, I pause at the swing and see that Mr. Squirrel has been dining on the seat. I can't help but wonder if he had a hard time keeping his balance as he ate. Did the swing move while he dined? He certainly had a table with a view.
     I'm taking in all these pleasant sights and smells and listening to the distant tractors. It is not lost on me what a balm these sights and aromas are. They are the same environment of sixteen years yet they are completely new every season and every year. It is far from me to ever take them for granted. I'm reminded of a book I listened to called "The Three Day Effect" by Florence Williams. She also wrote a book called, "The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative". We don't need a book to tell us what we already know from experience but, it was interesting to listen to the data and hear examples of people's lives touched by spending time in nature.
     I haven't had an unbroken three days to spend in nature however, I do like to be outside as often as I can. We've done one three mile hike this spring, we've run up and down the fields with kites, spent many hours grooming the garden, and Tess and I ventured into the woods a few times to forage Virginia Creeper vines with which to build a wattled compost bin. Tromps into the woods are my favorite! (I do not like finding ticks in my belly button while lying in bed at night nor seeing snakes everywhere! But, that comes with the territory.)

     As I walk up and down our gentle slopes, I am aware of the lack of intense hip pain that had been my companion for the last five years. After a year of doctor visits, x-rays and MRI's, suggested surgery and two rounds of physical therapy, I feel armed with coping mechanisms to reduce the pain and avoid surgery for the time being. The torn cartilage can't be healed but the pain it causes can be managed. Another milestone reached. I've joined the gym, attended my first yoga class and lost three pounds thus far. There are still days of pain but, they are less frequent and I am encouraged by my regained abilities.
     Finally there is time and place for contemplation. I feel like I can really think when I'm outside. For some reason, I seem to need a lot of that. Whether I'm mowing the lawn, pulling weeds or walking up the road, it's the right environment to sort things out. It was a winter of discovering things about myself that I did not know, of long ago secrets that I will never, ever understand, an unearthing of truth that caused me to question the very pores on my skin and the furrow on my brow. I am too old for self discovery. I assumed I had already arrived at myself. Haha! But, not so. Like the damage in my hip, this damage will never heal. It is something I must learn to live with, like a sliver under the skin that can't be removed. Acknowledge it, yes. Accept it, probably no. Subconsciously, one just wants to keep digging at it to make it go away. I'm not sure there's enough walking in the woods or staring at clouds that can sort this one out but, I'll try. I certainly have the time now, don't I?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A January Visit- Entertaining the Children

     This big ol' house is quiet most of the time. Steve and I often have "downsizing" conversations. We usually end up coming around full circle and decide this is where we need to be for the time being. It turns out that we fill this house to capacity with children and grandchildren more often than we expect. When we do, we're appreciative that we have the space to accommodate everyone.
     Over the past two weeks, we've had Claire's two boys come and stay while their mom, dad, and big sister traveled to Hawaii. Simultaneously, Audrey and her daughter Violet came to stay while her husband did renovations on their newly purchased house. (He came to stay a couple of nights, too!) It all worked out marvelously because Audrey was here to watch Claire's boys while Steve and I went to work. All three children were entertained by each others' company and Aunt Audrey was a wonderful guide for fun times. There was never a dull moment and our days were busy and noisy from sun up to sun down. Thinking back on those days, they all felt productive and satisfying, like real work was being done.
     The weather and time of year were a challenge, having children cooped up inside. We got outside as often as possible. Mainly, we made really good use of the play area in the basement. I must say, it's the best use of space we've ever made. We kept the basement wood stove burning so it was always warm enough for play and all the toys we saved from our children's childhood were still enjoyed by this next generation. It's fun to overhear what they say when they're playing, especially to hear Violet's little seventeen month old voice amid the boys' boisterous play. "Go,go,go!" she would shout or, "That, that!".
     Sleepy, morning cuddles were most appreciated along with still moments when the children all leaned in to have a book read. Appetites were ravenous and four-year-old Matthew ate like a starving football player. They had Easter egg hunts (In January), built forts, rode the wagon down the hill, had an outdoor picnic lunch on a balmy forty-four degree day, baths and movies (1966 Batman- hysterical!) in the evenings, chicken legs (Matthew's dinner request), tiny ice cream cones, William's baby lambs, a trip to the Walmart toy aisle (typical grandparents), a visit to the Transportation Museum, and more car, gun, and light saber noises than I've ever heard. I found myself still saying the same things I said to my children twenty and thirty years ago: "Don't talk with food in your mouth.", "Nobody likes a tattletale", "Say, 'Thank you, Nonni'", "Do you want milk, juice, or water?", "Wash your hands." and so on.
     On our last evening together, after a long day of play, Audrey and I decided we would enjoy a little adult drink while I prepared dinner. She was with the children in the living room while I worked in the kitchen. I called in to her and asked if she would like to join me in an apertif. Matthew's little voice piped in and he asked in a hopeful tone, "Is an aperitif good for little children?" What a funny little guy he is.
     Finally, the last day of their visit arrived and it all seemed to come to an abrupt end. The house is once again silent, Steve and I are dining alone, and I have time to blog. We'll probably come back around to that downsizing conversation one of these days.

Jack is gentle and loving with babies and animals.

The engines at the Transportation Museum are massive!

I was excited to see the 611 steam engine up close.

Note: Super hero Matthew holds his lovey : )

Serious explorations of bologna.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Snow Days and On The Frame

     We have had multiple snow days off from school since Christmas break ended. This week we were off Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. I really do love snow days. Tess and Ian were visiting here on Monday and Tuesday so that made those days off from school even better. When the announcement was made Monday night that we would be closed on Tuesday I jumped up and down and shouted with joy. Ian said he thought I had won the lottery by the sound of it. It felt that way to me!
     We used our days off to do many things, one of which was to go sledding. There was a thick sheet of ice over the snow and it made for some very fast runs. The sled that Steve built out of old skis and wood really flew over the ice. We discovered that we had to bail out at the bottom of the hill or we would either run into the ditch at the side of the road (which I did) or run into the telephone pole. After my last bail ended with a scraped and bruised arm, I called it quits. It was well worth it though as you can see by he expression on my face.

     In between snow and ice storms, I started a new rug. The pattern is, "Art Deco" by Joanne Gerwig. I like the look of the dark blue wool for the background. I was able to use a couple of thrifted and over-dyed garments in the medallions because those portions didn't require too much yardage. Everyone asks where I will use this rug. Sometimes I have a placement in mind but, often times I need to finish the rug and let it tell me where it should go based on its color and pattern. We'll see!

     Today's small amount of snow was enough to cancel school again. The sunrise was pretty in pink so I dressed and took a walk around the property. I love the wide landscapes of snow and the sunrise over the mountains. I am equally entertained by the animal prints and cozy places the snow reveals. The rabbit prints are the most fun to follow. You can see where they lead to patches of forage.

Facing the sunrise

Peaks of Otter and Sharp Top ensconced in clouds.

These roads are why school often closes. 
Bunny breakfast

Lone deer

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Homemade Christmas

     I love handmade and homemade goods. I enjoy giving and receiving them. Aside from Advent, my favorite Christmas preparations are making gifts and admiring the beautiful things that have been given to me over the years. Here are a few photos of this year's handmade Christmas.
     When our girls were little I made each of them a simple Christmas stocking. Claire's was sewn with quilt squares because I was into quilting back then but the rest have been applique. This year I finally got around to making the youngest two grandchildren their stockings. Now I am finally all caught up!

This dear little snowgirl with adorable hat and tiny pompom was made by a hooking friend who is ninety four years old. Louise is prolific in her handiwork and everything she makes is creative and beautifully done. Each month, everyone looks forward to seeing what Louise has made.

Daughter, Chelsea hand stitched this sweet little scene for me this year. The colors remind me of a snowy day.

Handmade items include yummy food creations, too! I love to make and receive goodies from the kitchen. Each year I make gingerbread for our family and some extra to give away. In years past I've given and received breads, cookies, apple butter, canned fruits, relishes, jellies, and delicious liqueurs.

I'm still sewing and hooking Christmas gifts that I can't show yet : ) Today is the last day of school before Christmas break so I need to go eat my Wheaties to prepare for how this day is going to be!
One last thing I wanted to share... We get all kinds of notes from parents each day. Some are on pretty stationary, others are on food stained worksheets. I guess you could call this "handmade stationary". This one came across my desk the Friday before our big snowstorm. When I first saw the front I thought, "This parent was in a real hurry!" Then I turned it over and smiled. I'm not sure if it was a coincidence or intentional but, it's one of my favorites.