Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring Fever

I don't know if it's spring fever or what but I'm increasingly restless. Not quite ready to run off with the circus but sometimes I feel like I want a major change. I don't mean a vacation or a big trip but a totally life altering change. I want to be careful what I wish for. Changes aren't always good. I could do without changes like finding out I had melanoma. I don't want to lose my job or house or any number of things on the list of changes which wouldn't be great. Above all I want my daughter and other loved ones to be safe and out of harms way. I don't want a lot do I? Yep I guess I do want a lot or rather I recognize that I already have a great deal. My restless feeling is that I like the idea that if I wanted to I could decide to move to Alaska, or Maine, or somewhere else. Kind of silly in a way that I would feel the need for a change. I have pleasant surroundings and plenty to do. We have a decent art museum and plenty of good productions come here as well as local ones that I never manage to go to as it is. I could change my surroundings without a huge move based on a fantasy. It's funny how for years I used to say when my daughter went to college, I might try to move to Alaska. The odd part was how it hit me that there would be times of the year with no light and times where it was light at night. I could never handle that. Besides, I've never even been to Alaska. It would make a lot more sense to think about moving somewhere I've visited and liked but I guess that's the point. It's not about being sensible. It's along the lines of a child's fantasy of joining the circus as opposed to the reality of the circus job likely being shoveling dung. I was diagnosed with melanoma my daughter's sophomore year of college and thank goodness I didn't make some big move before that happened. I am definitely in the perfect situation for what I've been dealing with. I have a job I can do from my home, great health insurance, I've been with the same company almost 10 years and have good benefits. I have trails close by for walks and I have friends and people I've know for most of my adult life close by. I live in the middle of the state with the mountains and beach almost equal distances. There are so many reasons I like where I live but it is strange how now that my daughter is making another big move to go to law school, I'm getting that feeling back. The feeling that I am fancy free and could make a huge change, move to a far off land and start fresh. Not sure why I would want a fresh start. I guess if I stop and think about it logically, I am quite happy with where I am. That's a strange thought. Perhaps I am getting old if I'm satisfied with where I am and even the idea of growing old is rather appealing. That said, I still have spring fever or something which is making me want to fly off to a far off port and try my hand at something new.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Beginnings

I love the changing seasons. I don't think I could thrive somewhere that didn't have distinct seasons. Sometimes our seasons get mixed up but that's okay too since it's change. If it weren't for the farmers and the losses they suffer when a blast of cold wipes out a crop, I would even like the way we had an early spring, briefly back to winter and now back to spring. I feel terrible for the farmers in NC and SC whose crops were damaged this year. If I could take that out of the equation I would love the way we've flipped back and forth between seasons because I like change. At this point spring is here to stay and then summer. I wouldn't mind a shorter summer but you never know. Sometimes we do get some breaks even in the hottest months. One of my favorite aspects of this time of year is the chatter which ebbs and flows depending on the time of day. I like to pretend that certain sounds are the babies screaming for their early breakfast and the parents replying, just a minute. I wish I was better at recognizing the birds different calls. To confuse matters, there are the mockingbirds who mix it up so much, sometimes I think they are a cat in distress. When I'm at the nearby lake, I try to play the same game with the waterfowl. I hear parents screaming, come back, you're not ready to go out on your own. It's no wonder that children's literature often gives animal human characteristics. There is this whole world of instinct, survival, loss that we can often see played out without knowing that much about it unless we are scientists who study animal behavior. I guess it's always easy to romanticize what we don't experience ourselves. Even the weather changes which I enjoy often have a rough impact on wildlife. The birds get into nesting mode and early spring makes their lives easy then bam, a hard freeze makes it all a bit harder.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Perfect day for a walk

Saturday morning was one of those times my mother used to refer to as days made in heaven. It was beautiful as well as not too hot and not too cold. My daughter even joined me for a walk. We've come full cycle. When she was a teenager, I could only rarely get her to walk with me and if I did she wanted to make sure we weren't walking too far. Yesterday morning she woke up about the time I was getting ready to go to the Lake up the street from me for a walk. She said if I could give her a few minutes she wanted to go with me. When we used to walk together when she was growing up, she was always telling me to slow down. Now she has to slow down for me which is as it should be since I'm 28 years older than she is. I am so incredibly lucky. Thinking about my daughter makes me feel a waive of how fortunate I am. Granted I'm getting more and more like that now that her few months at home with me, in between college and law school are ending. It's not only that though. Even if she wasn't moving far away, I think I would be aware of how fortunate I am to have a healthy, kind, interesting daughter. Although I may not be quite up to climbing a tree, she is and I had my camera with me to record a pleasant Saturday morning in May with her.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

120 days, birds fuzzy with personality

I've hit the 120 day mark of my latest effort to become as active and healthy as possible. In those 120 days I have walked, on average, two miles every other day. May not sound like that much but for me it involved talking myself into doing what I didn't always feel like doing. Quite a few weeks I was able to walk 4 or 5 days so that took care of the weeks when I wasn't able to walk. Some days I've managed a 3 mile walk which takes care of the days when I can't quite handle 2 miles. I still occasionaly have a jogging interval although I'm not pushing that as it's counter productive. I wasn't always able to make my walk aerobic but I decided that it was more important to do what I could rather than do nothing. There have been a lot of perks along the way. I've literally watched my neighborhood and the near by trails spring to life. I've also managed to lose quite a bit of weight. Still have a ways to go but in addition to the story on the scales, I've dropped a clothing size or two. I am back to thinking I may hit 50 in fighting form. I have almost 6 more months to do it. Having dramatic improvement in my shoulder helps everything. I thought the early spring, with flowers and trees alike ahead of schedule, was going to be it until summer, after record breaking lows zapped so much of the new life and buds. I didn't mind, except for the farmers, because so many of the large azaleas and trees had already bloomed. However, spring is back in spite of being chilly. Although some buds turned brown and dropped off the side of my azaleas that faces my back garden, it is blooming after all. The early roses are happier than I've ever seen them. I'm still after the elusive good photograph of the birds that hang out in my bushes and trees. In spite of being fuzzy these two shots capture so much personality, I'm going to post them anyway. The first bird was photographed this morning. The second one was taken through my bedroom window in the middle of a strong storm a few days ago. It was pouring down raining and a little bird was singing it's heart out, right outside my window or rather a few feet away in the ligustrum which afforded it at least some shelter. There are so many birds that have nested in the overgrown bushes around my house and garden that I have to be careful when I cut out dead branches. They start screaming at me if I get too close. I've pretty much decided not to do any pruning to speak of until I'm sure the babies have all hatched and left their nests. I've already seen some robins with their babies and hopefully we are done with hard freezes for their sake, as well as for the sake of the revived burst of blossoms.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weeds, monkey bars, upbeat for a change

I could almost announce it from the roof tops that I weeded two days in a row and both mornings awakened feeling better not worse. I can't believe what a huge difference getting a shot in my shoulder has made. Having that one issue vastly improved has helped me in general. It's so odd too since my right shoulder is so removed from the other chronic issues I've had since my groin dissection that it wasn't until recently that I was aware that it was becoming the most acute problem. I think in part because the neuropathic pain is controlled by the neurontin but that hasn't helped the shoulder at all. The shoulder is why the pain has barely been controlled even with the many prescribed meds I've been on now for close to two years. The injection in my shoulder has opened up this whole range of activities. For one thing I can garden without paying for it which is practically a miracle within the context of my life. I find myself thinking monkey bars again. Just kidding but monkey bars was my favorite childhood play apparatus. We didn't have them at home but I'd hang from the top bar of our old swingset and the monkey bars were the first thing I'd head for at pullen park. The monkey bars in this post are on a grassy slope to one side of the trail I walk along frequently and since there are seldom any children hanging from them, I used to be tempted to see if I could go across them hand by hand. I haven't even been tempted in years and I'd have to lose a ton of weight before I tried it but who knows. Maybe there are monkey bars in my future. My daughter had monkey bars in my back yard but her playground equipment has been incorporated into the garden and has garden boxes built around it with vines growing upward so the monkey bar temptation is only when I walk past the greenway trail playspace. There is also a high school track and football field I can see through the trees on the first part of the trail and baseball fields which are part of the parks and recreation's facilities. Then there are the kiddy football fields and the young children I see practicing with their teams. If I take another route the trail loops around tennis courts and the public Olympic size swimming pool. All of this is within less than a mile from my house and if I make it to the next trail I can see the lake that used to be part of my long route. What I like the most about my walking routes is the diversity. Parents pushing strollers or jogging with those strollers that look like race cars. The ones attached to bikes make me nervous, there are bikers with little tents on wheels for their babies. Then there are the serious runners and bikers who look like they may actually do the full 26 miles of connected greenway trails across the city. The toddlers and young children running around are a frequent site. People walking past speaking languages I not only am unable to understand but are so foreign I'm not sure what the language is but smiling at each other is a pretty universal language as in, it's a gorgeous day isn't it. Then there are the little league teams that practice on the park facility side, and the high schoolers that practice on the part that goes with their school on the other side. The ages all the way up to people that are surely closer to 90 than 80. I also have the luxury, since I work from home, of timing my walks so that I barely see anyone at all which is sometimes what I want. Then again sometimes it's fun to be one of many out there enjoying a pleasant day. In terms of activity others do, what impressed me the most is a woman I saw frequently who walked and swam in spite of handicaps that would probably send me to my bed for good. Not sure what she was rehabilitating from. I'm guessing a stroke. Over a period of about 3 years, I would see her walking when I wasn't sure she'd make it around the parking lot and within a few years, I'd see her walking on the trails without any aids. At first, I noticed her in the parking lot for the swimming pool which is a 5 minute walk from my house and where I get on the first trail. She used two canes to begin with. Later when I was swimming, this was several years ago, I realized she was also swimming regularly. She would swim and then walk around the parking lot in circles using the canes for balance. It was probably a full year after I first saw her before she started walking with only one cane. She got better and better and the perseverance that must have taken has always stuck in my head when I feel sorry for myself. She was probably about ten years younger than I am. We never talked beyond smiling and saying hello and I don't think she lives in my neighborhood because I saw her riding in a car leaving the pool parking lot on many occasions. There was always someone driving her. I haven't seen her in a long time and I hope that means she recovered fully. I'm not sure what made me think of that. I guess it's thinking about how I'll see the young people scampering about and get a pang but then I think of that relatively young woman and how hard she was fighting to even walk the way I do when I'm limping. There are a lot of truly inspirational people out there. There is almost always someone worse off and better off no matter where we find ourselves. I think the trick for me is to find inspiration without feeling guilty about experiencing my own situation for what it is. It's never fun when we find that our lives are dramatically altered in ways we didn't expect, if that alteration seems limiting. I am starting to feel hopeful that my life is changing in good ways and I like that feeling.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Blogging, pain specialist, etc., etc., etc. . .

I'm not sure why it's so much easier for me to blog than to write in my journal like I used to do. From the mid 1990s until my melanoma dx in early 2005, I wrote in spiral notebooks almost every day. Since my melanoma dx, I've found it doesn't work for me to prop up with a spiral notebook and pen, writing out my thoughts in long hand. Even my idea of writing a draft blog yesterday and adding to it until I was ready to post didn't work, or perhaps it did. I deleted everything I wrote yesterday. It's Tuesday now and I leave shortly for my pain doc appointment. Perhaps I'll return here afterwards and wrap up this post. I have returned here after my appointment and I thought I'd jump in the middle of my rambling entry to say that I am optimistic after seeing the pain specialist. He gave me an injection in my shoulder which he thinks may help that particular issue a lot and if it does I can get another one in 6 months. Even if I still have some of the other "issues", if my shoulder isn't such a problem, I could add swimming to my routine which would be great. He said "moderate degenerative changes" which were noted on my x-ray means that I have arthritis in my shoulder and that's what the shot will help with. Especially with warmer weather, it will be nice to be able to swim laps. Even when I swim indoors at my YMCA, it's hard to get motivated in the winter. My pain doc was also very nice about how I'm doing in general and said I've done well not to need any more increases in the level of pain meds over the past 6 months. It's bothered me that I continue to need them at all but he seemed to be mostly concerned that I not need frequent increases. The top photo was taken last week and it's amazing to me how my neighbor's Japanese Maple looks like fall this time of year. It will tone down in the summer with more green in the leaves and then in the fall is a different wine shade than it is now. Still, it has a fall look to me in the spring. The cold snap has completely killed the leaves on my pecan tree and mulberry tree. The early bloomers have lost a lot of their blossoms and some buds have turned brown without opening but we had such a gorgeous March that I can't complain if April isn't all that it might have been. I've almost been afraid to see what's happened with the self seeders that were popping up all over the place. I suspect some of them will be fine and others won't. Kind of nature's way of weeding. If nature would weed some of the thistle and milk weed as it pops up that would be okay with me. I could also do without the sprouting acorns that are all over the place. Then again, perhaps now that I have received a shot in my shoulder I'll feel like doing a lot of weeding this spring. Sounds fun at the moment. I'm going to plant some lettuce as soon as it rains. The weather this week is perfect for that. I think after tonight we're safe from any more hard freezes. Famous last words but April 14 is our last freeze date and even if it's occasionally later than that, I think the fact that the rest of the week will be much milder is a good sign. These 50 degree changes in temperature within 48 hours are a bit much even for me and I like change. I decided to go snap a few photos before I wrapped up this rambling post and in spite of the fact that there is a lot of freeze damage, there were suprises too. My storage building roses have started to bloom which I didn't realize. I may never live in a rose covered cottage but I'm well on my way to having a rose covered storage building.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

In her Easter Azaleas

I am pretty sure that this is the first Easter my azaleas were in full bloom. Hopefully they will hold on through the next few nights. We even had a few snow flakes this morning but it's clear now. Tonight is supposed to get down into the twenties so I'll have to be sure to pick a bunch of flowers today in case they are hit hard. Tomorrow is Easter and it's not unusual for it to be cold on Easter but what is unusual is to have so much in bloom. We always have early bloomers in March and early April but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, even later bloomers have unfurled way ahead of schedule this year. I took some photographs of my daughter in the Azalea bushes a few days ago which show just how enormous they are. My daughter and I have hit our groove living together as adults, now that she'll be off to school again. Isn't it always like that. Once a period of time is close to ending, it's easy to begin to appreciate it. Don't get me wrong. I was happy my daughter decided to come home for the gap semester in between graduating for college in December and as it's turning out, beginning Law School in May. I was glad we had some time together, but it's bound to be an adjustment when an adult child and parent live together. I think we've both started to appreciate each other more as well as to appreciate our time together more, now that it's nearing an end. I am so proud of her, not only because of her academic acomplishments but also because of the kind hearted part of who she is. It's also fun to see her embark on the beginning of her life as an adult with so many interests and goals. I am truly blessed. I do find myself increasingly aware of that and able to let go more and more of what's beyond my control. I find the more I let go the happier I am. I don't mean that I don't want to control what I can. There are some things we have to fight for and work towards and research. There are times when it's important to understand what's happening but there are other times when letting go and simply being . . . is the best feeling of all.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, OH MY

The tree on a street which runs parallel to where I live gets me every time. I turn the corner and start merrily up the sidewalk to gasp under my breath when I catch the ominous presence to my left, out of the corner of my eye. For a moment I'm in the Wizard of Oz with trees that smack children for eating apples they hold close. As long as it doesn't hurt the tree or scare small children, it's at least remotely amusing that one of my neighbors has turned the harmless tree into a character from a children's movie. I have enjoyed snapping photographs of the various gardens in my subdivision. At first I was a little shy about it. I know most of the people who live on my street which is a short one which dead ends. I know a few of my neighbors that live perpendicular to where I live and around the corner but not very many beyond that. However, people haven't seemed to mind me taking pictures of their flowers and trees. As a matter of fact, since I started snapping shots around my neighborhood, I've met quite a few people in my extended neighborhood. It's interesting to me to see how much variety there is, in terms of gardening styles and landscaping. I used to think my neighborhood was relatively boring and I was eager to dodge off into the woods via the greenway trails, particularly liking the parts where I couldn't see any houses. I'm surprised by how beautiful everything looks to me of late. Not sure if it's because there are more gardeners or if it's because I am able to look in a different way. There have always been individual gardens I've enjoyed at certain times of the year but over the past year, I've enjoyed all of the seasons. Even last summer when I was so ready for the heat to end, I was able to appreciate the green umbrella that softened the major artery out of my neighborhood. I don't know whether I'm getting older and have a new perspective or if it's actually more pleasant than it used to be. I've never thought of myself as someone who has a life altering event and all of the sudden stops to smell the roses. I've always smelled the roses. I've always been drawn to sights, sounds, scents and impressions. For some reason though, I am noticing that I am increasingly satisfied with where I am. I hope I will become slightly more adventurous but even if I don't, where I am right this minute isn't half bad. Right this minute as I tap, tap, tap on my key board there is a major orchestra playing. The birds are singing their mixtures of songs and screeching out calls to liven up my environment. I hope they aren't bothered too much by the change in weather. We've been having a warm week but it's changing again. Besides a hard freeze in a day or so, it's going to be quite cold every night for a week and very mild during the day. It's odd to go from a very warm March to a much colder April. If it seems odd to me I can imagine what it must be like for the birds and early butterfly I spotted this week. I guess the baby birds will be particularly vulnerable, if any of them have hatched yet. I may be wrong but I think I've heard some little babies calling out for their breakfast amidst the morning uproar of many different bird calls in the early morning.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hard to believe that I'm old enough

I find it hard to believe that I'm old enough for all these degenerative changes that keep getting noted on scans. I'm not sure if my shoulder x-ray helped to explain the pain I have that radiates from my shoulder or not. I guess I'll have to talk to the docs about it. I picked up the report today and it said, "moderate degenerative change noted in the acromioclavicular joint which likely explains the findings on recent bone scan." Say what. I am of course happy that no fractures or lesions were noted. I guess I'll keep plugging along. So far degenerative changes have been noted in my spine, feet and now my shoulder. I guess that's par for the course and I am of course grateful to be getting old enough to have degenerative changes. I am surprised that process would start when I'm this young. I was 47 when my first PET scan mentioned "likely degenerative changes" and now at 49 that phrase is cropping up more. Would be nice to get answers which might move me towards fixing a few things but I can still hold out hope that getting my vitamin D levels up will help more. I am still enjoying the beautiful spring we are having. The changes are accelerating to the point where every day it's a change of scenery. Browns give way to green and tiny buds furl out full blown blossoms. Is that cool or what.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Butterfly Posing

Even the butterflies seem ahead of schedule this year. This butterfly in particular posed on my leaves and let me snap photo after photo. It was funny because it landed in an area where it was hard to get a good shot and then obliged me by moving to a more exposed spot and showed me its good side. I'm even enjoying the warm days and not overly concerned about the heat to come. I think it's been nice to have the back and forth weather kind of easing into the warmth. Also, I felt like I got enough of a winter this year not to feel as cheated as I did last year when we barely had any extended cold periods at all. I went to get my shoulder x-ray today and hopefully that will give me some answers about that particular issue. It's nice to have a test where I know going in that cancer isn't the issue so I can hope for an answer. It's always a little conflicting when I get a scan and want an answer but not the wrong answer. In this case, it could be something which might improve with an answer. I can't believe how colorful my front yard is. I always think of my secret garden in the back as being where I have more going on but during the time period when the azaleas and camellias are in bloom in the front it's quite lovely. The periwinkle, star flowers, and a few crocuses have also been blooming in the front and even the rosemary with it's tiny purple blooms near the street curb is lovely. My driveway dogwood is almost in full bloom. The hostas are poking out of the dirt, just barely, but enough to remind me of where they are. I'm hoping my tree peonies will bloom this year. I planted them from root stock quite a few years ago and I've yet to get my first blooms off those plants although they've been very healthy looking from a vegetative stand point. Perhaps this will be the year of the peonies. That would be fun.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Out of curiosity I looked up the origin of April Fool's Day. There is some debate about the true origins of this day but I'm going to adopt today as New Year's Day. In 1582, when France adopted the reformed (Gregorian) calendar, some people didn't accept the shift from April 1 to January 1 and some people didn't hear about the change. These traditionalist were made fun of and sent on fool's errands. Over time this practice spread across Europe. Historians who argue with this theory point to England where the new calendar wasn't adopted until much later and the celebration of All Fool's Day preceded the shift. Be that as it may, at least for this year I am adopting April 1 as my New Year's Day. Call me a fool if you must. On New Year's Eve (yesterday, March 31) I took my camera with me on my walk through my neighborhood as well as on the greenway trail which is closest to my house. I planned to walk briskly through my neighborhood and concentrate on photographs on part of the greenway trail. As it turned out I ended up taking a lot more pictures of my neighbors' trees and gardens than I did on the trail. So much more going on out in the sunnier neighborhood. We continue to be weeks and perhaps a full month ahead of schedule in terms of what's blooming and what's peaking up out of the dirt. The woods are a bit slower but the birds were on parade all along the trail. Robins posed for me as I snapped their picture. I heard them full force this morning singing out Happy New Year! We're still behind on rain so I know they'll be dancing in the rain soon if the forecast holds. I am starting to get spring fever although I suspect my big flurry of activity inside my house will start in mid May when my daughter leaves for law school. She graduated from college in December and has been living with me for the first time since she went to Baltimore where she started college in 2003. This time she's moving to the Midwest and will begin during the summer session her school will hold for first year law students who want to get a jump on the year. She will probably take advantage next summer of one of their summer abroad study opportunities which include Geneva, the Hauge, and Istanbul. Since international law is one of her particular areas of interest, I'm sure it will be good for her to do one of their summer study abroad programs. She earned an academic scholarship to Law School which gives her the flexibility to take advantage of some of the summer programs abroad. This will be the biggest move she's made thus far since her undergraduate years were only a few states north of where I live. She went to college on an academic scholarship which included a semester of study abroad and she also took advantage of a winter course, during winter break, in France. Her full semester of study abroad her junior year of college was in Ireland. She also did a short exchange trip during high school which was in Germany and they had a short side trip to the Czech Republic. During that trip I went for a long weekend to take her to Paris on the train from Ulm. Now that I think about it the summer of her freshman year of high school she went on a People to People trip which included, England, Ireland and Wales. It's funny how much more traveled my daughter is than I am. I went to Europe the summer of 1974 and then joined my daughter briefly in Europe in 2001 but those are the only times I've been outside the United States. I'm glad my daughter is so adventurous and independent although I'll admit to a few security issues. I want her to be safe and adventurous. I want it all. Yep, that's about the size of it.