Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring!

I love spring even though it's generally short here in central Texas.  The year we've had warm days followed by a two day cold freeze, followed by two lovely days in the '80's followed by sleet and ice.  So you never know what to expect.  But today I saw my first bluebonnet blooming by the highway and it is the first day of spring which I am taking as a lucky sign.

I haven't had a chance to take a photo of this years bluebonnets but have some from last year almost on the same date.  It's paired with antelope horn milkweed, one of my favorite wildflowers.   I will pot some of this years when I get them.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cancer

It took me awhile to write this.  Not necessarily because I think people will read it.  I have a small following but it was the act of admitting it in public. In November, my oncologist had decided I had cancer - advanced endometrial cancer and we began a series of explorations into how severe it was.  I went through the gambit of CT-scans, MRI's and a biopsy.  It was a terrible learning situation.  I came out with a healthy respect for the medical practitioners who work with people in the cancer field.  They are to a letter (for me) kind, sympathetic, compassionate people who chose this field because they love people.  I have never met anyone yet who is in Cancer work for the money. It was a worrisome time.  I felt fairly bad since I had extremely large fibroids that were preventing several of my organs from functioning well.  Originally I was going to start with a hysterectomy but it appears now that that will occur later.  For now I started Chemo therapy.

My best friend had had cancer and I helped him through chemo.... driving up from Austin to Dallas once a month to spend 4 or 5 days with him.  I'd clean his house, make him  meals to reheat, take him to chemo or the store.  It taught me to respect how brave he was - and how much he went through to hopefully become healthy.  He is and is over 4 years in remission (it might be five).  I love him to pieces and now it's his turn to help me.  I have my wonderful fellow who has cheerfully done as much as could for me - sometimes more than I want him to but there you go.  You learn to rely on others in order to help yourself and I've been an independent proud person who has been reluctant to accept help.

Cancer is hard.  There are days when I am sick and cannot feel positive about getting through this.  I am poisoning my body to kill cells gone wacky.  I am purposely making myself die to live.  What a strange thought.  Cancer is hard because it spreads, it's not picky what it attacks or attaches itself to any organ or body part.  You wake up one morning fine and twenty minutes later feel like you cannot move and inch because you are so tired. Your hair falls out and you feel ugly or you get a red scratchy rash over your entire body.  And the nausea is always lurking in the background somewhere

And yet through this time, I am also getting rewards.  I am touched by the people who care enough to keep track of me, to say hi and send me hellos.  The neighbor down the street who caters and brings me leftover food from his catering jobs.  The friend in Oklahoma who sends me hellos and hugs over the Internet to cheer me up.  The friend I hadn't seen in over 2 years who now comes by and sits with me to watch television and be normal.  I get rewards in seeing the sun light outside or enjoying the winter air and how crisp it is or how a total stranger will smile and say hi or hold the door open for me. 

I also have come to appreciate the fact that I love myself enough to put myself through this... to make myself so sick that I can get better.  That I try to make all the health professionals happy to see me and give them sometime to smile about even if it's just me being silly.  That I appreciate the people in my life even the ones I'm not so crazy about because they encourage me to grow. That to be healthy is to be strong and to be strong is to cherish yourself.  Sounds trivial but it's important. 

I guess this has made me realize that my resolution for the New Year is just one wish.  To be more mindful of my life and to see something positive out of every situation.  I think I'm up to the challenge. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Health

It's funny -- since I retired I decided to work on my health matters - like avoiding the doctor and the dentist.  It's been a way of life for me.  When I was young I didn't go to the doctor.  I think I went once or twice...I remember going and getting my temperature checked and having been told I had chicken pox.  At five, I had my tonsils out at the City of Angels Hospital but not much else.  I think the medical stuff went to deal with my mom's cancer.  I certainly remember going and getting polio vaccinations by going to the school and getting a sugar cube with the vaccine on it.  When I moved to Texas I remember going once to the doctor's for my first and only physical.  So I didn't have a large background in going to see the doctor. 

As an adult I never had health insurance nor enough money to warrant going to the doctor regularly.  I did go to the free clinic for birth control pills in the '70's but even that was erratic because of money.  With very few problems I was healthy and never really missed going.  We had a friend who had been a surgeon until she had a stroke who saw to our limited needs.  She and her best friend, and EMS tech managed to solve any problem when they occurred.

 once I had insurance and after a few bad doctors (one yelled at me and told me I was going to die because I had an infection I had come in for treatment) I just stayed away from them.  Everyone tried kindly to encourage me but things would happen.  A friend would develop cancer and I helped with his chemo; my boyfriend developed a heart condition and I spent a lot of time being in the hospital with him and them helping him drive.  I did fix my bad leg but in doing so drove a few close friends absolutely nuts because of my high level anxiety.

So retiring meant it was time to deal with it all.   I found a regular GP who I really like and she sent me to the gynecologist.  It was this doctor who started me thinking when she asked me why I hadn't been doing things for my health.  Of course I said I didn't grow up with it, didn't have the money, etc.  Later that night though I realized it's not quite the truth.  The truth is somewhere in growing up, I had been taught that I just wasn't worth it - keeping track of my health.  Other people were more important. I wasn't of value so therefore it didn't matter.  It was more important to take care of others than me. 

It was an upsetting thought and one I'm still dealing with... I mean how did I learn this pattern of thinking about myself?  Do other women think the same way?  In talking to several female friends about their health several of them said the same thing or similar things that make me think somehow they got that message....you aren't good enough. 

Women are put in caring roles often to care about others until they are too sick to take care of themselves.  I remember movies and stories about the mother who sacrifices herself through some great sickness to nurse her family.  Of midwives who went out in the cold and rain to care for others only to fall sick themselves.  Put this tradition of the caring mother with low self esteem or low self worth and it seems to be a natural condition.  It definitely is something I am thinking more about as I deal with my health issues.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring along the roads.

I haven't been posting much - mainly because I have reached a dreadfully dry period where I want to do nothing but sit in my house dress and play video games.  Horrible.  this past weekend we did drive to San Antonio and we take back roads to escape the I-35 corridor which is pretty dreadful. 

To stretch my leg we take tiny breaks, here and there - often parked in some ranchers drive way or a small dirt road that gets little traffic.  We see lots of things.  This trip we saw a pair of Mexican eagles wheeling in the sky, deer feeding in some of the rocky fields and construction to widen a road. We also found some antelope horn milkweed or Asclepias aserula .  You can read about it here... http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ASAS   It's also called spider milkweed but I prefer the name Antelope Horn

 
 
Texas has an amazing assortment of milkweeds and other wildflowers.  Our bluebonnets are doing okay this year despite the shortage of rain and cool weather.

 
 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Views from the Back Yard

As shaggy and overgrown as it is I truly love my back yard.  This autumn I sat out with my camera and snapped photos of various things you can find around it. 
There is always a lot to see in the yard, A lot of plants that seem to have taken over the area with no regard to our wishes.  The chinese tallow tree was a kind addition - seeds dropped by the birds.  We now have several.
Bottles left from an infinished garden product that I haven't been able to work on since my leg got so bad.   The bottles seem to have multiplied on their own.
 
And I was blessed with an image of two woodpeckers sharing the same tree.
 
 
 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Neighbors

Our neighborhood is near Central Austin which is filled with various little communities.  The biggest and probably the nicest is Hyde Park where there are really nice little cottages, bungalows and Arts and Crafts homes... the kind that came in a kit you could order.  Sounds somewhat like it would be ugly but to my mind they are the nicest houses.  My landlady lives in one of the Victorian homes in that neighborhood. 

Our little area is not so posh but we really like it, mainly because it's a great old house despite the fact that it needs a lot done to it.  We also like our neighbors who more than make up for any problems.  Our next door neighbor is probably the nicest person I have ever met.  Her name is Kay and her house is so cute.  She really takes care of it.  We keep tabs on her mainly because she lives alone and until recently had no computer or phone at home.  She doesn't own a car and gets around walking and riding her bike.  Yet she's pretty intrepid.  She retired last year and this summer she rode her bike from Vermont to Canada by herself. She went to India for a friends wedding then joined a church group who explored parts of India.  She went on a cruise that stopped at little islands for their guests to bike all over.  I find her amazing. 

Down the street lives Eddie, the neighborhood watch (all by himself)  Eddie is at least 60-65 and was born in the same house he lives in.  He no longer owns it but the three guys who bought his house ran out of money and can't build their new houses on the lot so they are letting him live there until they get more money.  Eddie  knows everything about the neighborhood and keeps tabs on the comings and goings.  He has no qualms at yelling at fast cars or big trucks and knows the policeman who patrols our area so can get him to pay more attention to our block.  He delivers flowers for a wholesaler and sometimes if they throw slightly old flowers he gets them and gives them to Kay or me.  He has all our phone numbers and uses them to let us know if something important breaks in our part of the block.

 Fran is our other neighbor who lives at the corner.  He's pretty quiet but has lived here for quite awhile.  He's a caterer and a chef at one of the local restaurants.  When we first moved into the house, Fran had a dog named Maisie who was the friendliest old dog in the world.  She went from house to house looking for her friends (or cats- she hated cats.)  When she died, Eddie called to tell about it and how Fran was really upset.  Maisie was the only dog I knew who would get a pre-breakfast car ride and a walk, have breakfast then go for an after breakfast walk.  She had a special ledge in the van so she could lay and look out without strain.

We know some about other neighbors.  Like the girl who used to live across the street who called the fire department when our house caught on fire.  The man behind us who got in trouble with the Health Department for having a nest of cotton rats in his compost.  He told us he and his wife love to watch the squirrels and birds in our back yard who use the fallen tree for social gatherings.  And yesterday the other man in the yard next to him kindly offered to come help cut some branches with his chain saw when he saw me hand sawing. 

It takes so little to be a neighbor.  Just say hi or smile and wave.  Remark on the morning or the rain.  Try to be friendly.  Our next door neighbors on the non-Kay side have managed to not pick this up so our little cluster of neighbors really don't like them  nor do we, mainly because they throw outdoor parties until 3 in the morning on a week night outside our bedroom window. 

I often think about the old black and white movies where people know their neighbors and help out when someone is in trouble.  I saw that this week after Hurricane Sandy plowed through the Eastern Seaboard.  Some of the ones that stick in my mind are the people who would rig up generators for people to charge their phones and laptops.  People sharing heat to cook and people who just tried to help in as many different ways as they can.  I have been lucky in not being involved with a huge disaster but I know Gene and I would be there trying to help - trying to be a good neighbor.  One of my friends joined the Occupy Sandy movement and I was able to contribute through their link with Amazon. 

Robert Frost once wrote a poem where he stated something like "good fences make good neighbors.." This morning I realised I like the opposite much better.  "Good neighbors make good fences."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Visiting the beach

 
Since forever, Gene has been wanting to go to the beach.  Just go dip his feet into the water, get some sun and generally go on a tiny vacation. We finally made our reservations and went hopping, skipping and traveling down the back roads to Port Aransas - someplace I hadn't been to in like forever.  One of my favorite parts was going over to the Island on the public ferry - I just love ferries.  Port Aransas is a smaller laid back sort of town a little north-east from Corpus Christi.  You reach it by going over bay to where is sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay. 

We stayed at a funky little cottage style motel called A Laughing Horse Lodge, all painted in bright coast colors of hot pink, turquoise blue and lime green.   http://www.alaughinghorselodge.com/   it was enjoyable in an old fashioned Texas beach town sort of way.  http://rtvpix.com/slideshow/20193  is the slide show of our room.  Since we had a kitchenette we cooked a bit... we're being careful with our money these days and even that was pretty fun.  I think the room was half the fun, it was so close to the beach and really nice.  We found a very simple homey restaurant that the locals eat at when they grow tired of fish (although we had some really tasty fried grouper for lunch). 



We hit the beach in the early evening and I carefully waded in the shallow part while Gene ventured out further.  It was somewhat windy but we managed to stay out for over an hour before it grew to dark and misty for us to stay out.  Our next day we ventured out  for more but before going to the actual beach we had managed to visit the Leonabelle Turnball Birding Center in Port Aransas and identified a great many birds, including hummingbirds, spoonbills, grebes, cormorants and such. It's part of the Port Aransas Wetlands Park and we did walk around the rushes and the rest of the marsh plants. Lots of both white and brown pelicans.   Gene found a friendly nature photographer who told him we needed to come out early to see the gators.  After the view from the observation piers we headed out to a glorious day of sun, sand and water. I finally thought of how to sit on the sand and let the water roll over me.  Port Aransas sand is extremely fine so it had a tendency to pull us down.  We looked for shells but saw very little although the little butterfly shells could still be found.   Later we realised in our enthusiasm we hadn't covered all of us with the proper sun screen so we both had some sunburn.  But isn't that part of the beach as well. 

Friday saw us heading out going up the coast to the Rockport-Fulton area which is a lovely town on the bay side of the Gulf.  we really loved it and have decided we need to come back and look at it slower.  It's a nice quiet fishing tourist town with some lovely vacation homes, sculptures and mounds of windswept trees rushing and mounding over the area. It's decidedly a more posh sort of area than Port A, filled with large expensive boats and huge vacation homes right on the bay itself.




 I really loved the Big Blue Crab which perches on its pedestal near the water.  This area is noted for it's Blue Crab and Stone Crab.  We decided to try to go crabbing next time on the coast. You can get a day license to fish for them and that's about all we'd need. 







 We also found places where they have tried to reuse the remains of hurricane destroyed houses to build up the shoreline.  Very practical and very sad at the same time.  I found a bit of lovely blue tile that seems to fit right in along the shore as well as a random house number.  There were a free vacant lots and open areas from previous hurricanes as well.