Monday, August 31, 2020

The End of August

The Cana are still putting on a show

 It's the last day of the month, pay day and bill paying day.

As teachers we always got paid on the last working day of the month. It's the same with our pensions. So with the Social Security payments in the account, plus the pension payments, it's time to write out the checks. 

Actually there are very few checks anymore. Most everything is paid by auto-pay from credit cards or our bank account, and the rest I do electronically by Bill Pay. I just have to push the right buttons and keep track of it all.

And believe me, I know how blessed we are to have Social Security and pensions. 

It's still green and lush in the shade

We had a few days of cooler weather, and a bit of rain over night, but now it will be warming up again, into the 80's and possibly even 90 by next week. That's not typical back-to-school weather here. With Labor Day late this year, school is starting before Labor Day, but most kids and teachers are still figuring out how on-line learning will work. Tom and I are very glad we don't have to figure that complicated problem out. 

The garden is looking tired, but the sunflowers are bright and shiny. 
Orange seems to be the color of the season now. The marigolds are glowing. 

As the sunflowers go to seed, the chickadees move in to feast, and flutter. 

We had a good crop of Basil in the garden this year, so this week we harvested most of it and made pesto, which we froze in individual servings. We use it on pasta. We saved this much to eat fresh. There was chiffonaded basil on our pizza last night. We have fresh mozzarella and tomatoes to make caprese salad with basil and a drizzle of olive oil 

We are walking each day. I am still doing just a little over 1.5 miles, and it's not easy, but that is my assignment from my surgeon, so I am determined. Right now I think my back isn't so much the issue as my hips. Physical Therapy exercises have introduced me to some muscles that have not been carrying their weight, so there are a few sore spots. I am trying to be gentle and not hurt myself further. 

And now it is almost September. It always makes me a bit melancholy, even though I have not gone "back to school" for 15 years. I am a summer person.

But the Sounders are playing! We watched them defeat another rival last night, on TV, of course. Since I couldn't handle going to the stadium right now anyway, I guess it's OK that the stadiums are empty of fans. It's all weird though. 

Pandemics, politics, protests, athletes as activists, it's all so not normal. But there is no doubt that this awakening is needed. We need a new normal, where everyone is treated with respect, and people don't have to fear for their lives because of the color of their skin. 

Yes, the sky really is that blue, and no, Seattle is not burning down. It's pretty darn peaceful around here. But I am white. Peace comes easier for me. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Checking in, and checking in, and checking in.

 This week has felt like it was all about me. Not being a narcissist, I'm not so cool with that, but so it is. 

I last posted on Tuesday, after we had checked in to the medical center for my 6 week post op appointment with Dr. Gala, my spine surgeon. While there I asked him when I could consider the next fix it job, hip replacement. We decided on six months. 

On Wednesday I made phone calls to Orthopedics and got an appointment immediately for the next day with my hip surgeon, Dr. Chen. I also arranged to start physical therapy on Friday, and finally got brave enough to call for a hair cut appointment, which will be next week. 

We stuck it out and watched all of the Republican Convention. We did watch it on MSNBC, where where Rachel, Joy, and Nicole kept us grounded on the truth, since not much truth was coming from the speakers. Now that it's over, we feel like we need a purge.

We were planning to watch Sounders soccer again on Wednesday evening, but you may be aware that no professional sports teams are playing, electing to cancel or postpone games in support of Black Lives Matter and the response to the latest police shooting in Kenosha, WI. Will it never stop?

On Thursday we were back at the medical center checking in with Dr, Chen. There were lots of x-rays, a consultation with Dr. Chen, and I am now on the wait list for surgery, hopefully in January. I have new reading material. 

It kinda sounds like a marijuana trip, but no, it's not. I haven't opened it to study it yet. It seems too soon. I think I need a few more weeks to recover from the last "journey".

This morning, Friday, I cut my Zoom meeting with friends short to check in for my Physical Therapy appointment. It went very well, Erica is a good listener, and I have five easy exercises to start with, as well as more appointments lined up. She even gave me a shoulder massage, much needed, and we agreed that I should contact my primary care physician for a referral for massage therapy. I sent that email this morning, after getting all of my new appointments on my calendar. 

Since then I spent some time in the garden picking and arranging a new bouquet of flowers for the kitchen table. My spine Dr. wants me to walk an hour a day. I spent 30 minutes on my feet. I hope that counts. We'll do more walking this evening. It's 79.8 degrees outside right now, too warm for me to walk in full sun.

We had lunch on the patio. Tomatoes were on the menu. It's tomato time.

I use a basket to carry all my stuff out to the patio. Betsy Brown Cat decided it was a great place to curl up. I attached a note on a piece of twine and tied it around her neck three days ago. I haven't heard from anyone. I am suspecting that she does not have a real home, but someone else is feeding her. She begs so much, for attention and food, that I have now started feeding her in the mornings. She is asleep on one of the patio chairs each morning when I get up, and is here late into the evening. She has clearly adopted us. I don't want to own a cat and we are not letting her into the house. Not sure how this will turn out, but she is a sweet heart. 

Thanks if you made it through this long post. I guess I should post catch ups more often, so they aren't so long. I'll work on it. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Gradually Returning to "Normal"

Bouquet of hydrangeas from our garden. with still life added by Tom 

Today it has been six weeks since my spine surgery. We marked that milestone by making a trip into the medical center to see my surgeon, who gave me a passing grade. We celebrated by making a stop at Starbucks for a latte and chocolate. It has been a long haul, but I have the go ahead to lead a bit more of a normal life. My one big restriction is no lifting of more than ten pounds. I will gradually increase my range of motion, based on what is comfortable. I might even be able to tie my shoes before too long.

Those tools I bought a while back have been handy. I still use the sock slider, the long handled shoe horn, and the grabber. My slip on sneakers have been great for wearing in the house. I only need help tying my walking shoes.

Walking is coming along. I started last week with walking up to Safeway, to the blue mail box, which was still there. I had to laugh at this Map My Walk report. The wobbly line was kind of how I felt.

Yesterday I was up to over a mile and a half. My surgeon is encouraging me to press on, for a goal of an hour of walking a day. 

Last week we watched all of the Democratic National Convention. It left me feeling hopeful. Yesterday, because we like to get our news first hand, we watched the opening night of the Republican Convention. It left me feeling a bit fearful. There is still a chance that Trump could be reelected. I guess it depends somewhat on who actually believes the stuff being claimed and proclaimed. I'm sure the fact checkers were kept busy. We'll watch more tonight, but maybe not the complete coverage. It's hard to take. 

Dahlias from the garden

Sunday we went into the city to see Jake. We spent several hours in his yard, with a take out lunch, enjoying conversation. It was good to get away from home and see our son, who continues to do well. He has some time off from his "essential job" as a surveyor and is on his way to Whidbey Island to spend some down time at the cabin. The weather is mild and lovely right now. 

Jill started school this week, with two days of teacher's meetings via zoom. Students will have several days for orientation next week and then on line classes start Sept. 8th. It looks like there will be much more direct instruction this fall, as opposed to the looser structure last spring. 
The Major League Soccer season has restarted, with games announced a few at a time, played in empty stadiums. We geared up to watch our Sounders on TV on Sunday night defeat our Portland rivals, 3-0. It felt great to cheer them on again. 

So, yes, I am working on returning to normal, as normal as that can be in this time of COVID. Tom has been working in the raspberry patch, cutting out old canes. I'll go check on him and then settle down to do some reading for the rest of the afternoon. Since we were busy this morning, we'll go for my walk this evening. We can record some of the RNC and then zoom through it when we get back. There might be "highlights".

Friday, August 21, 2020

Late Summer Bounty

 Earlier this week we had a hankerin' for some good, fresh corn on the cob. We decided to make a "field" trip to Carpinito's Produce Stand in the Kent Valley. Yay. Escape from the house!

We found corn.

A mountain of it!  We just bought four ears, two we had that night, and two we'll have today. It was so fresh and so good that first night.

Then of course we had to see what else was there.

We bought one of these big, beautiful heads of cauliflower. 

We bought the smallest watermelon we could find. At home we cut up half of it into chunks and have a big bowl on it in the refrigerator, ready to just grab a few chunks for a snack, or to add to a meal. 
We bought a bunch of beets and beet greens. We had them for dinner last night. We both love the beet greens and the beets, a real treat. 
I bought one cup of blackberries, and made them last a few days, adding some to  breakfast cereal and my lunch yogurt. 
We bought a couple of nectarines too. They are easy to get from the grocery store and we usually have a couple ripening on the kitchen counter during August. They are also really good with yogurt. 
I just got back from my first real walk, other than just walking around the house and yard. I walked up to the Safeway store to deposit a card in the blue USPS mail box. Yes, it's still there. It was only about eight blocks round trip, and I'm still walking like an old person, but it felt like an accomplishment. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

100 Years and Still Not Done

 It was 100 years ago today that the 19th Amendment, granting the right of women in this country to vote in national elections, was ratified. For seven decades, women had struggled and fought and suffered and a few even died for the right to be complete citizens. Only in 1920 were women finally granted this equal right. 

Of course the right to vote still didn't guarantee equal rights. We never did ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. We are still fighting for those rights on many fronts, and most Black women had a much longer road to full enfranchisement. 

In 1920, when ratification was finely reached, there were many men and women who opposed the amendment, saying a women's place was in the home. It is, and in the board room, and the assembly line, and driving a tractor, and caring for our sick, and serving in the military and manning the checkout counter, and sitting behind the judge's bench, and serving in Congress. Maybe, some day, a woman will even finally be President. 

The right to vote was no easy accomplishment. It was earned, not won, by thousands of women who came before us. If for no other reason than their struggles, the price they paid, we must cherish our right. We must be informed, do our own thinking, not be unduly influenced by a husband or a boyfriend or a father, or even a pastor. 

With voter suppression now again a real threat to our democracy, we need to fight on to ensure that all eligible women, and men, have the opportunity to cast their vote freely and without undue difficulty or hardship. 

Be aware. The work is not done. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Reading the Newspaper

 With a lot of time on my hands, and still restricted from much physical activity, I have been reading our daily newspaper much more thoroughly these days. I can't tell you that is a good thing, necessarily, since the news these days is not very uplifting, but I do feel much more informed, and that's a good thing. 

This was Friday's headline. The attack on our national postal service is very worrisome to me. The right to vote, and reversely, voter suppression, are top issues for me. I support with a monthly donation an organization called Let America Vote. 

That our president would actively work to undercut our constitutionally guaranteed Postal Service, a service that is vital to many,  as a means to suppress votes and gain re-election is abhorrent to me. It smacks of authoritarian government tactics that we see in non-democratic nations around the world. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is an authoritarian by nature and would love to be President for life. Authoritarians use whatever means they can to stay in power.

A current example, also in the news now, is Belarus, where the dictator Lukashenko has just "won" another term. Of course these are rigged elections, and this time it looks like the Belorussians have had enough. The protests are growing despite the police brutality to suppress them, and in today's paper, the oppressive tactics seem to be easing as the protests grow. There may be hope there. 

I have read quite a bit about Kamala Harris, our new Vice Presidential candidate, and I find her well qualified and impressive. Of course, impressive women become instant targets so the racist, misogynistic slurs, disrespect, and fear mongering are already in full force. The latest is the new "birther" movement. Since her parents were not citizens, the claim is that she in not an American and therefore not qualified to hold office. But the law is clear. She was born in the United States, and therefore she is a citizen. 

You may have heard about the new Georgia candidate for the US House of Representatives, Marjorie Taylor Greene. She is a construction company executive who spouts anti-Semitic, racist, and xenophobic views. She ascribes to the conspiracy theories of QAnon. Now QAnon is hard to define, but it appears to be one source who posts on social media and has a huge following. The gist of the message is that Trump is battling a cabal of deepstate saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Remember Pizza Gate? There's more, but that's about as deep as I need to dig to wonder at the mind that can embrace such thinking. Yet millions do. And candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene appears to be unstoppable to be elected in November. 

And there you have a smattering of the news I have been reading about. It all sounds so dismal, but there are a few things we can do. First, when you get your ballot for the November election, treat it like the precious document it is, vote early, and send it off safely. Then, and more urgent, consider contacting your own US Representative and Senators about your concern for the USPS and our upcoming election. There are things Congress can do, but time is running out, and they need to act now. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

July In August

 While the Sweet Peas were planted as usual in April, they took forever to climb the wire trellis in the raised beds. As I explained earlier, tree growth has further limited the amount of direct sun our vegetable garden gets.

Sweet peas usually bloom in July and are getting tired by August. But not this year. We finally have enough for a lovely, fragrant bouquet. 

Some years ago my sister Laurie, who shares our July birthday month, gave me this little Josef July Birthstone doll. The July birthstone is the ruby. It was an antique store find, and I love it. 

I don't know the vintage of this doll and I'm sure it is not quite as old as I am, since I was born in 1944 and they started making them in 1945, but it's probably at least half as old as I am. 

She stayed in the cabinet during July, since I was out of it and there were no sweet peas. So now she has come out in August to stand on my kitchen counter with her July bouquets. 

Life goes on at a slow pace here. Afternoons usually find me spending some time on the patio, reading or nodding off. Betsy Brown Cat has become a needy pest, here almost all day, meowing for attention. We don't know who she belongs to, but she loves us. After sufficient petting she will curl up on my lap for a nap. 

She really is a very sweet cat.

Monday, August 10, 2020

It's Monday, Isn't It?

 It's another beautiful summer day. There's a light breeze blowing, and the temperature has just reached 80 degrees at 3:00 here on this Monday afternoon. I know it's Monday because Monday is house keeping and laundry day.

I was able to help with those jobs a bit more this week, doing the dusting, the dust mopping, and the laundry folding. I still have to be very careful about bending over or twisting, but my back is getting a little stronger as the weeks go by. When I'm up and about I wear a back brace that helps. 

I had Tom take my photo just now so you can see I am alive and , if not kicking, at least mobile. The brace is the one I saved from my last back surgery six years ago, and since they did not offer me a new one, I am grateful that I saved this one. I wrap it around, fasten the Velcro, and then pull the tabs to cinch it up. It feels like a hug. 

Tom is out in the garden, snipping and clipping. After a bout of lethargy that left him feeling low, I have been encouraging him to be more active, take less care of me, and more care of himself. It is working.

We still pick flowers together. He gathers them and I arrange them for the house. Here are the flowers I put in the powder room. I loved the colors. 

Yesterday we got away from home to visit a friend. She had just had some major re-landscaping done and we went to check that out and then we sat on her shady deck in a gentle breeze with a view of the sound and just had a good, relaxed visit. It felt great to be somewhere else for while.

I'm still working on digestive system issues, but at least I am no longer tied to the bathroom. I actually spent almost all night in my bed last night. These are my milestones. Tomorrow it will be four weeks post surgery.

Tom and I are still cooking evening meals together, but I am doing more. I do need him on standby to fetch things out of lower cupboards that I can't bend over to get. He is happy to be my assistant and he says he is eating too well these days. Today we'll have shrimp and grits and green salad, my own recipe. He can prep the shrimp.

My planning calendar is empty this week. The one thing I can plan is our evening meals each day, so I do that each evening before we retire. It's good to be able to plan something. Oh, and I have asked Jill and the kids to visit us one afternoon later in the week. I have promised them ice cream sundaes. They are home from the ocean and have a week before the kids fly to North Carolina to visit their father. We will have to distance ourselves for a while after they return. 

And so the work is done for today. I fell asleep while reading in my chair at the patio table, and ungrogged myself by blogging. Now I'll go back to my reading, perhaps to stay awake this time. 

Tomorrow is Tuesday, right?

Thursday, August 6, 2020

August Brings It's Own Beauty

The Oriental lilies are blooming!

The Cana in the patio pots have been sending up bloom stalks and now the first ones are opening. There will be orange, yellow, and red ones. Very August color. 

When Tom picked flowers for me to arrange last week, he also filled the blue bottle vases I put out each summer on a patio table. I was so pleased that he did that, as they had been sitting empty all this time. Now I will make an effort to keep them fresh. 
Everything still is an effort these days - I was back at urgent care for more digestive tract issues on Wednesday - but I am hopeful for smoother days ahead. I want to be able to enjoy the rest of my summer.

In one of my walk abouts in the yard - that's where I get my exercise these days - I carried my phone to see what was looking new or good. 

There is a very tall sunflower growing over the top of the dahlias, 
And another with multiple faces. 
Finally, the first few blooms on the sweet peas. They have been poking along since spring. Because tall trees now shade the vegetable garden much of the day, especially in spring when the sun isn't as high, our garden doesn't produce very well, and most things grow tall reaching for the sun.

Down at the bottom of the garden the butterfly bushes are blooming but I hadn't seen many butterflies. 
Just then a Western Swallowtail landed. Sorry for the unclear photos. My phone camera was pressing it's limits. 

More lilies are blooming down in the island bed in the lower garden. 
Clematis and roses.

From these photos you can see that the exuberant growth of summer had produced a bit of a ramble. It will just have to stay a bit unkempt this year until fall clean up. The chief snipper/groomer is on recovery leave. 
Japanese Anemones are invasive, so we have tried to eliminate them, but they are also pretty, so we tolerate them when they do show up. They bring freshness in tired August.  
After days of bright sunny weather and temps in the low to mid eighties, we are having a cool, cloudy, lightly rainy morning. It's refreshing. We are assured that blue skies will return.