Friday, December 14, 2012

Good Bye

When I checked my Blog just now, I found it ironic that the last entry was written on September 1st.  I had forgotten when I last wrote.

You see on September 2nd, we found my mom laying on the floor of her farmhouse.  She was conscious but very weak, and laying in some kind of foul smelling discharge.  From that moment on, our world, that of my family and brother's and sister was turned upside down.  And I haven't written on my blog since.

Its been over three months since that morning and a friend last night mentioned that she still checked my blog to see if anything had been added, and it struck a chord how many times in these last three months I have wanted to write or put some kind of an ending to this blog, but just couldn't.  Words tumbled around in my brain, so many thoughts I wanted to relay, but I was almost physically incapable of writing.  Not a case of writer's block but of incredible sadness and guilt.  I could barely keep up with my life on a day to day basis and there seemed no past and no future ahead....

Mom spent nearly a week in the hospital.  I endured the incredible and horrible shock of having a breast cancer tumor revealed that Mom had hidden from all of us for at least 4 years.  By this time it had grown and seemed some enlarged, grotesque part of human flesh, that wasn't part of my mom at all.  I had to get past having this revealed to me in an emergency room, and then deal with the fact she had hidden something like this, and finally come to grips with where we go from there.  I did not have kind memories of my dad's treatment in the hospital after his initial emergency room visit.  The same was true of Mom after she was moved from intensive care into the oncology floor and the tests began to see if the obvious breast cancer had metastasized.  Mom had not been to a doctor for over 40 years.  In this case you are assigned an "in house" internist.  Doctors come and go and it would seem we were never there when this doctor or that was in. 

Mom was in good spirits after they gave her 6 units of blood.  Her color improved and she ate well.  And we waited through the holiday weekend for tests and a decision, finding out very quickly how the Medicare system works.  Its not pretty.  On the fifth day, the P.A. to Mom's internist came in and while Mom was eating her breakfast, gave her the news the cancer had spread to her lungs and her bones.  It was not a surprise, and Mom kept right on eating not saying anything.  I was alone with her and tried to question her as to where we go from here.  It was my first sign of many; of her turning inward and deciding things in a place within herself.  A place I wasn't invited into, and a place that would continue on for the next months.

We met with a team of doctors the next morning, and her oncologist, who I also had never met, told us that the cancer was also in her liver and pancreas.  Hospice was recommended.  No timeline was given.  Another new journey into the world of Hospice care.  After a nightmarish couple of days of getting Mom transitioned back home and into Hospice care, of learning to change her breast dressing every day, and nearly choking on the smell, and of alternating between complete despair, guilt and wondering if she would last the month, my sister came home from Colorado to stay with Mom for as long as it took. 

That was 3 months ago and there have been peaks and valleys in this time.  My sister, came and stayed,.  Mom rebounded surprisingly and when Kerri had to return to Colorado for a time, Mom was able to stay by herself with help from Hospice and my brother and I.  Kerri had to return in November when Mom seemed to be failing mentally and could no longer stay in the house alone.  She had a setback that we thought was inevitable and that she was heading down that final road.  She was in a wheelchair now all the time and needed help getting in and our of her chair and in the bathroom.  She was living inside her head, more and more and would fixate on things.  But after hitting that low, she has come back and is again walking with a cane and while she tires very easily now, is maintaining.  She says, "she's doin'" and she is. 

It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions these last months.  I have laughed harder than I had in the whole of the last year, and enjoyed a whole new relationship with my sister who has lived in Colorado for nearly 30 years.  We have made nearly every weekend a family time with our other brother who lives in Saginaw.  We have shared memories and laughed until we cried.  We have found Mom was quite the pack rat, something we had always kind of known, but in cleaning up rooms that will never likely see her touch again, we have found collections she had accumulated of a breadth and variety that totally escapes me.  In many ways I don't know this woman who was my mom and this new one who is facing death but not acknowledging it, is a total enigma to me.  I don't get it and in trying to get it I have run the gamut of emotions.  To ride this wild ride is exhausting and the hardest thing I have ever done.  And in a world where we have become accustomed to "immediately" there is no immediate about any of this.  There is no ending point, and though we know this will not last forever, we want to get the awfulness done.  We know it will be awful, and that dying is not a pretty thing to watch or to contemplate.  I so often feel like a vulture watching her and trying to figure out what she is thinking as she talks little now. 

She eats like her last meal is being delivered every day.  She is demanding on what she wants to eat and it seems that is where her mind has chosen to focus.  She becomes so keyed into internal thoughts that I can almost see the curtain dropping in her eyes and know that she will now be quiet and we are not invited in.  It has perhaps been the most heartbreaking aspect, we feel no longer like her children but like the people hired to take care of her. 

It is a learning experience of the category of "BIG LIFE" experiences, and I feel most days like I fail miserably.  But when I stop and feel God's arms wrap around me, I know that he has put things in place to not overwhelm me but to teach me.  I had a job offer fall into my lap before any of this.  It seemed the perfect thing to transition me into the autumn months and when Kurt would be home more.  I liked the hours and the days.  I liked the idea of being back in a school setting, but I was nervous as to how watching kids after school would work for me.  When Mom went down, I thought this might all have to be given up before I even started it.  I wondered why God gave me this opportunity only to snatch it away.  But He provided a way to make it work.  It has been a blessing of this time, but one of many I have experienced.  So, while this blog has come to its natural end, I think there will be a new one coming as I walk this very crooked road.  I alternate between gratitude of a magnitude I did not think possible, to despair in wondering if this is life and what I have to look forward to.  I will be back and forth like a ping pong ball and I will write again when I can write with humor and not despair, when I can either chronicle my mother's final journey or write of it in gentle reflection....

Goodbye to becoming nearly a Grandma, as I am now there and delighting in two grand children who now scamper around and laugh delightedly, and have become just FUN.  I am still in the country but with a new perspective on what all this means.  A two year journey, and the greatest lesson is in knowing I still have much to learn.... 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Quiet Whisper

Here I am watching the U of M/Alabama football game changing between it and the Detroit Tigers hosting the Chicago White Sox.  I had planned all along to watch both of these games tonight, I just hadn't planned on being home since 3:30 this afternoon to prepare for it.

This weekend, Labor Day weekend, the natural ending of summer in Michigan, as schools prepare to go back was to be the weekend of the hunt trial test that would give our Gauge his final pass and his Master title.  Well, that plan was screwed over last weekend when Gauge failed on his last series of 3, acing the first two and really not looking awful on the third, but enough that he was failed.  Disappointment reigned as we were so close, but many good dogs failed so Kurt immediately signed up for a hunt test in Indiana, the weekend after Labor Day, to hopefully pick up that title.  Training went great this kind of, last week.  Many of the young trainers had titled in junior last week and were done for the season.  It was a smaller crowd at our Thursday tailgate, but our southern pro's brought shrimp and we grilled them along with some Michigan vegetables and had a feast.  A final training drill to stop some dogs with breaking tendencies was great fun and Gauge remained calm among a sea of barking dogs, lunging for the decoy bird. 

The day even seemed to cooperate as the heat of last weekend was tempered by a cooling breeze this time and even though we had a late draw,  the heat wasn't a factor this time.  I am a mess watching Gauge run these things.  I would be fine if I were the one handling him, but to watch takes me back to all those Little League games and watching Korey pitch and Annie's high school softball pitching duels.  I was often told to go "walk" while she was pitching as I was so nervous I would be pacing behind the backstop.  When she batted I was fine, but her pitching about did me in.  I was tempted to go to the back when Gauge ran.  I hadn't watched him run at all this year until the last series, last week which he failed. I wanted to label me jinx, and just disappear until he was done, but I sat there.  He hunted the flyer longer than most of the other dogs, but ran both blinds beautifully.  In fact, the second long blind, which had required several handles by most dogs, he got with out a one, eliciting applause from all of us watching.  I thought the last two marks would be a piece of cake for him.  I noticed he wasn't heeling to Kurt behind the blind as normal before the marks were shot, but seemed all right on the first short mark, but the second long one, he broke.  When a dog breaks, there is no judge's discretion, the dog is done.  Gauge never breaks, I was just stunned.  He never breaks.  But as we all say when our dogs do something unexplainable, they're dogs.  And that's it.  It doesn't make us feel a whole lot better, but it is the most succinct explanation we can come up with.

We went over to the other Master to tell our good friends Gauge was out already.  I wanted to stay and watch some of our friends in senior division but they were just setting it up and it would be another hour before any of our friends were up.  Kurt just wanted to go home, so we went.  It was a quiet ride home. 
Kurt was disappointed and I felt like a grand ending to a very good summer had been replaced by a dull thud.  A quiet whisper.  This summer which had started with such trepidation had blossomed into something rich and rewarding as Kurt and I took baby steps on the path to retirement and found we could do it.  Summer training became our "cottage on the lake", as we relaxed with our good friends and enjoyed all the new trainers we met, and some new friends in the making.  I, once again, found the things I had always loved, my garden, my quilting, and my home.  We took long bike rides together and found a summer rhythm. I loved, as I always have getting up with the sun and long, summer sunsets.

But the summer marched on and the days were noticeably shorter.  There was a cooling of the night air, (gratefully after the long hot summer we endured).  Tinges of fall color on trees and bushes was showing itself and school ready to begin.  I took a part time job at my church's school, something I was excited about, but would remain an unknown for the first few weeks until we figured out how it would roll.  I start on Tuesday so I knew this would be last week of training.  I would be saying goodbye for all intents and purposes to the pro trainers from the South.  Angie, Kevin, Kim and Lynn would head back to the South in a couple of weeks.  The magical days at Omega would be drawing to a close.  I knew this was the last hunt test we would do this year and as I found in everything now, you have to treasure what you have RIGHT now.  There may be no "next year".  So, it was with great loss that I headed home today. The page on the summer needed to be turned, even if I wanted it to stay golden and green for a while longer. 

I walked outside after everything was unloaded and noted that my potted plants looked sorry indeed and hauled out the hose to water.  We had been in another dry spell so I watered some of my hydrangeas and as I walked around I noted the things I wanted to do this fall with the flower garden.  Without even thinking on it, I felt better.  Back in the house,  after an excellent pasta dish, I threw together, I realized I had the evening unexpectedly to do what I wanted.  In many ways it was a gift.  I could read, ....I could get the number template done for the baby quilt.  And I could write, an unexpected prize tonight.  Tomorrow would also be a gift of time, I may not have later on.  May the Good Lord grant me the wisdom to use it wisely...

Good bye summer, but perhaps you can linger a few days longer....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bristol Baby

I was a Nascar Nerd.  Notice I said, was, as it is sadly almost totally past tense.  A decade ago, I awaited the two Michigan races with salivating anticipation.  I could honestly, not wait to hear the engines roar and smell the gasoline.  I had never encountered an atmosphere so testosterone charged and so manic.  Nascar fans were nuts long before the Cheeseheads started wearing milk curds on their heads, or Redwings followers were tossing Octopus on the ice.  They were fanatic when fanatic wasn't even thought of, let alone cool. 

Now it seems everyone has jumped on the overboard bandwagon, in nearly every sport.  Nascar purported to be different and it was for a long time.  I started watching finally because Kurt went to a race in Dover with my brother and other family members.  He was excited by it and the very next race he watched with renewed enthusiasm, though to be honest the man would watch underwater synchronized swimming if it were on a sports channel and his favorites could not be found.  We now possess about 20 channels of nothing but sports all the time, and if he had his way there would be twenty more.

The first race I watched was pretty much cars going in circles and turning left.  Kurt told me to find one car I liked and to follow that car through the entire race.  I picked a bright orange and white car, I have no idea why as I don't like orange normally, but I consider it now karma, and so I followed that car the entire race.  While Tony Stewart didn't win the race, he did finish well and since I had picked a car, I was officially hooked.  Thereafter I read everything I could find on my chosen car and driver.  Everything I read made me like this driver even better, as he was so anti-everything, I normally considered right about the world.  He was an aggressive, but born to race driver.  He got into vulgar shouting matches and fights with everyone from other drivers to Nascar officials, but had a heart of gold for charity and for keeping the sport of racing alive at the grass roots level.  He was a racer through and through.  If I was going to immerse myself in racing, what was not to like?

It wasn't enough to now have a driver to follow and watch races every summer and fall weekend and attend the ones I could, which meant MIS, twice a year, I also had to read and find out more and more about my new passion.  Luckily the wonderful world of the internet had opened up and along with that racing forums, fan clubs and racing boards.  Always one to express an opinion, and not shy about it, I at first just lurked at the Speed Board, honing my base of Nascar knowledge and bowing to those who obviously knew their rpm's from their torque levels.  But as I soon noticed, there were a great many females on this board and it was more about the fun of expressing opinions on all the aspects of racing.  I soon became a regular on the board and an avid commentator.  Through cyberspace I met several people that remain friends on other mediums.  I have never met any of them, save one, but they remain dear friends as our love of Nascar forged deep friendships.  I know, I know, I went overboard on it all not being able to get enough of the discussion or following Tony every weekend.  I was as big a Nascar Redneck as if I had been born and raised in a salvage yard in Alpharetta, GA.  I think I even began to write with a southern twang. 

But somehow, life got in the way and after a couple of years things changed.  I could blame it on Nascar introducing the hated Chase.  In an effort to make Nascar the number 1 sport, (it previously had been number 2), kind of amazing when you think how regional it always seemed, Nascar instituted a playoff system, where 10 drivers were awarded enough points ahead of every other driver that the rest of the field could not catch up.  These 10 drivers raced each other for the Championship in November, but with all 33 other cars still racing as well.  It lasted 10 races.  The glitches and kinks in the Chase showed up fairly early and while the first year was exciting with a down-to-the-finish, dramatic win, the next year's were not so much.  Jimmie Johnson won 5 straight Championships, a feat that had never been done and will likely never be repeated.  The problem was, no one cared except for the Johnson fans.  The rest of us thought this was just dull.  A new car was introduced by Nascar taking virtually all of the control of how these cars would race out of the hands of the team engineers.  These cars are not somebody's brainchild in a dark and dirty garage over the winter months.  They cost hundred's of thousands of dollars and sponsors who once lined up to have their names on a winner's car, started fleeing Nascar in droves.  The economy faltered, and while all sports were hurt, Nascar especially took a beating when race tracks became unaffordable for the average family who used to make the trek to their favorite race every year. 

So many things happened, but mostly I think passion just can't stay at that peak forever.  We are doomed to lose interest at some point.  I was struck how little Nascar now means to me, (we quit going to both MIS races a few years ago), when I didn't even care to watch the Michigan race last Sunday.  You see, I found out in church that morning that an old schoolmate of mine had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer.  I had no idea when we prayed for him in church and when I stopped to kid him about going to the hospital, he whispered it was cancer and it was bad.  This was my childhood friend, born exactly 3 days after me.  Our parents had all went to school together.  Jon was my first car date.  We both had gotten our driver's licenses and Jon's mom would only let him take me to a Disney cartoon movie, 101 Dalmatians.  He drove his parent's big old red station wagon, which had the aroma of the dairy herd, his family ran. 

Jon and I grew up, went to college and settled into marriages and now grand kids.  It was funny that he got his first two grandchildren right around the same time, I got mine.  Others in my graduating class have fought illness, even cancer.  A couple have fought the battle and died.  But somehow Jon is tied up with all those sweet, fuzzy memories that seem so innocent looking back.  He is the sweet boy, I always knew. Never as nice as his older brother, or as smart as the next younger, or as social as the youngest brother.  He had his dad's wit more than any of his siblings, and grew to look much like him.  Jon left for Houston the next day, and my prayers went with him.  Just when I think I may have life figured out, it trips me up. 

Our passions for everything become but muted memories if we live long enough.  The relationships we took for granted become diluted but precious.  I will look back on those early years of my Nascar fix as fun and adventurous, but as we like to say now, that ship has sailed, and what once was fun is now just something I remember enjoying.

Godspeed Jon, and I hope Houston holds some miracles for you.  Its Bristol Baby, a phrase every Nascar fan knows down to their core and one of the race tracks on everyone's Bucket List.  But much like everything else it has been compromised to be just another race before the Chase begins.  I think I'll take a break from the few ties that still bind me to Nascar and just do some heavy remembering and praying....

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grandparenting---21st Century

This grand parenting thing isn't easy.  I guess I should have known, but somehow, I believed, and this seems to be my philosophy of life, I would just fall into it.  Not so much....

Most things in life, at least my life, we learn by observing and then just doing.  Aside from the book learning that may get us a job in life that pays money, or teaches us, (sometimes), how to learn a new skill, I am of the "wisdom is experience" bunch.  So, I naively thought being a grandma would somehow just happen over the course of about a week.  But no, couldn't be that easy. 

My teachers of grand parenting are, well duh, my grandparents. I remember what they did and how they did it and what I felt like as the grand child.  I had two distinctly different sets of grandparents.  My dad's parents were old and had been around the grand parenting block for 20 years when I came along.  Even in their early years of this title, they were hard nosed German-American stock, where surviving and making a living were their chief concerns.  I don't remember ever, really cuddling with either of them, heck, I don't  remember even sitting on Grandpa Walter's lap.  My mom's parents, on the other hand, were the exact opposites.  Mom was the eldest child and I was the first grandchild for Grandma and Grandpa Laurenz.  They were thrilled.  My brother and I had them all to ourselves for almost 5 years before my sister and then my cousin came along.  I believe they treated all their grandchildren well, because they just delighted in being grandparents, but I hold true, in my heart of hearts that I was their favorite.  I am told, though my memory is a bit blurry before my sister came along, that I would climb into my Grandpa's lap on every occasion to explore his bib overalls for the piece of Juicy Fruit gum that resided in his top, front pocket.  He told me that there was a time in his life, (I later learned it was a cancer scare), that he didn't care about much, but that he and I would sit under a tree and while away many a summer afternoon.  These non memories always bring me great comfort, and I can honestly say, when my grandpa passed it was one of the most wrenching experiences of my life.

I can't remember a time when Grandma and Grandpa L. were not a part of my life.  We spent countless hours with them, (even more the first years of my life that I have no real recollection of), and I would guess they were the Norman Rockwell ideal of grandparents or the television epitome of  Grandma and Grandpa Walton.  They came to every birthday and always brought a small toy for my brother if it were my birthday and the same for me when it was his, so no one felt left out.  Birthdays then consisted of the immediate family and Grandma and Grandpa L.  Occasionally, because my birthday was so close to Christmas, we would combine a party and a few more aunts and uncles and cousins would be in attendance, but for the first decade of my life, Grandma and Grandpa were it.  I never lacked for a big party, no one I knew had big birthday parties.  I had lots of love all around me and that's what mattered.

When my own children came along birthday parties had evolved into our nuclear family which included brothers, sisters and the grandparents.  My kid's cousins were always in attendance.  And my grandparents still came to every one of the great grand kid's birthdays. But we still pretty much stuck to immediate family and get together s were always a chance to see one another for the adults as much as the kids.  We lived farther away from each other and these times were our excuses. 

There were kind of unwritten rules for watching the grandchildren.  Neither grandmother was ever asked to watch the kids for a night out at our house.  That was when we hired a teenage girl.  It is how I made money in high school before I could drive and how the neighborhood girls of my baby's time made their money.  Grandparents took our kids on the overnight stay when WE, (Kurt and I), needed a vacation.  It wasn't often as we were more home bound parents back then.  Once the kids were old enough to be involved in youth and summer sports our world narrowed down to that time frame.  We went out less if that is possible, because most of our recreational activities centered around their sports activities.  We took family vacations.

Now I am a grandma and Boy, have the rules changed.  We spent months before the grandchildren were even born deciding what should be our monikers.  Grandma and Grandpa were too old fashioned. MeeMaw, MiMi, MeMe, Nana, Nanny were also discarded.  (If you notice, apparently what I would be called was much more important than Grandpa).  Now a year later, I have decided that whatever they call me as long as they call me, (a bad joke, I know), is fine.  I am leaning toward Minga with Vittoria as that seems to be her favorite word right now and since her time with me is short and my affection rating with her is kind of low it might be the "in" I need.  Luca, on the other hand, is pretty willing to go to everyone when he doesn't want something specific, like climbing my stairway.  He'll likely call me Grandma and that's OK. 

One of the unforeseen complications is being the mom of the sons when grandbaby's come along.  Naturally, as I did and as I now realize my mother did, we as the mothers gravitate to our mom's. Its as it has always been, but still doesn't make it always easier to swallow.  With Vittoria living out of state, my time with her is always short.  I seem to be trying, perhaps too desperately, to get her to like me.  I understand that now she is used to mostly 3 people in her life, her parents and her wonderful nanny, Diana.  She recognizes those people and can now make distinctions of who she wants to go to.  I understand all of this, still it doesn't assuage that deep pang when the other grandma walks in carrying her, and I can't even get her to hold my hand.  Understanding is one thing, but the heart always feels that tug. 

I can choose to wallow in some self pity or decide its the new way of being a grand parent.  I can't be there with Vittoria, and no amount of books with my picture and voice, or "Face Time" is going to make up for her knowing me every day.  It just won't.  But I also am not defined by being a grandma.  It is not my life, and wouldn't be if they lived next door.  I can't go to NYC once a month and just visit.  Its not the same and won't make a grandparent out of me.  This too, I shall have to learn as I go along.  I am willing to try and I just hope everyone has patience with me as I stumble and fall and cry crocodile tears of self pity.  Its a new world and being a grandparent is becoming new also.  I guess I'll just rely on some of the old for a while longer....

Monday, August 6, 2012

Saturday in August

Funny how half of the week now seems like weekends.  When you retire, or at least your other half retires, (I seem to be more busy now than ever, ironic isn't it?), there is no longer the weekday routine that establishes your day patterns.  Friday was always marked as the end of the work week and the "out of work" early day.  Saturday and Sunday were the weekend.  If nothing was scheduled as plans, it always meant trying to cram in as much that needed doing as possible.  And that was generally a miserable failure.  After a hard week at work, (and by that I mean mentally hard, as it sure as heck wasn't physical), Kurt wanted nothing so much as to relax and do only what he wanted to do, which if it wasn't summer and dog time, or fall and hunting time, it was sit around and watch television shows about dogs, fishing and hunting, not necessarily in that order.  The fact that we live on a farm and be it only a hobby farm in the broadest sense, it still has fruit trees and out buildings and an old farmhouse that need maintaining, much of it routine and yearly maintenance.  We are finding out now that things pushed away until we had the time, are now more than yearly maintenance and are demanding of attention before a few things crash down around our graying heads, (at least Kurt's graying head).

So we do things when we feel like them now.  Kurt's started to establish a new routine, at least one that works for summer, including sunrise walks of three miles or more every day. It gives me a brief respite from the togetherness that is our lives now and gives him time to just think and I hope just be.  He tries to work the dogs most mornings before the summer heat kicks in.  That one will be adjusted as the summer falls to its close, but for now those two things and inevitably meal times with him are his only routine in retirement.  We're working out the kinks but sometimes its slow going, almost like being in mud.  I have always run the farm end of this deal, and decided what repairs and things need to be done on a year to year basis.  I repaired what I could and kept the place up and running for the most part.  I was in charge of gardens, fruit trees, simple repairs and all of the painting.  In winter I shoveled the deck and walks clean.  Kurt was in charge of lawn mowing and running the tractor in winter if the driveway was snowed in.  That always came after work though and I was crap outta luck if I needed to get out before he got home.  His 4-wheeel drive truck always got out.  But that has all changed now, and I become impatient when he seems to be settling into retirement as every day is now a weekend kind of deal, and he does only what he did in the past with more sitting and more playing on the laptop he has taken over.  Yesterday was one of those smack him upside the head kind of days.  I had put the second coat of paint over two coats of primer on the railings and spindles of what will be new front porch railings.  After 22 years and snow and water damage, some of the railings had simply rotted away.  It seemed better to replace them all and get another 20 years, and hope we're no longer doing this kind of philosophy, than to just leave them another year.  Of course, this brought up porch flooring that has rotted in spots on one end and should we replace that while the railing is being replaced, but that's a whole 'nother story for another time, as they say.

After painting, Kurt wandered out looking for something to do I presume, but more or less watching me paint.  After shooing him off to pick blueberries, something he had promised to do and apparently needed a not so subtle reminder, I hauled out the stepladder and began cleaning gutters over the back deck, another thing I had asked him to do but knew would be forgotten.  I had cleaned two sections when he got home and graciously, since I had the ladder out, decided to help me finish.

In the afternoon we went to Home Depot and bought a new screen door for the back deck.  The one we had now featured broken hardware and some broken stiles in the ribbing.  Rather than replace the hardware, I decided it was time for a new door.  We only had two choices in styles in our size, but even that Kurt wanted to debate upon.  Since I had looked at all of this before I was in no mood.  Decision made, and door somehow loaded.  Pop cans collected from home and returned to Meijer.  Gas has taken a 30 cent jump yet again, and is just wearying to a public made numb by the constant fluctuations of this market.  Another thing to worry about or just put behind us and try to live as best we can. 

By the time we finished dinner it was a quiet, very muggy sunset.  Weather predictions were for storms later around midnight.  While I wasn't excited about more thunderstorms, we are to the point we will take all the rain we can get.  We went for a sunset bike ride and the tension of the day slowly melted away.  Another day of learning to adjust to our new life and another lesson in patience.  I will be making up a Kurt's weekly list, of things he can do every day now that he is home every day.  It will free me up to do some other things and help, (I hope), get him into some kind of a year round routine.

A Saturday in August and summer's leaving us more swiftly now.  We still have over six weeks of summer officially with us but I feel the shortening of the days and know that it is going.  I am trying to look for the season's change as a welcome thing as I used to do, and get back that spirit of the child who loved autumn and then winter for the quiet times it brought.  Perhaps if I just shut off the television more and ignore the electronic world I live in and just be.  Its worth a try.....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Out of the Drought

I have a gigantic sunflower growing along side of my fence.  The stalk measures a good 2 inches in diameter and the flower is already ten foot tall and the sunflower head is still forming. 

I didn't plant the seed for this plant, in fact I haven't planted sunflower seeds in years.  I have black oiled sunflower seeds for the birds and while it is stated to be sterile, little sunflowers pop up all over under the bird feeder.  They never reach a height much past a foot tall.  This gigantic sunflower, the way sunflowers are supposed to look could be a mutant black seed from my bird feeder, dropped 20 yards from the feeder and finding fertile soil and growing.  If it didn't come from my bird feeders, it more than likely still hitched its ride to its growing spot via some flying and feathered aviator. 

The fact that this is the largest sunflower I have ever grown is one thing.  With most of my sunflowers I have practiced benign neglect, pretty much putting the seed in the ground and then hoping for the best.  These flowers get watered only when I run the sprinkler in dry conditions and only if they are in line with an area I actually care about watering.  This guy ended up in my vegetable garden area.  Its the sandiest portion of my garden but isn't really good for growing flowers and is roomy and allows for rototilling. That the flower wasn't worked up with the many "go-overs" the garden endured to get the veggies the best growing conditions and the least competition from weeds, is something of a small miracle.   The sunflower wasn't recognizable as such until the last month when it took off in height.  Before that when I took the time to think on it at all, I believed it was some kind of weed that would need to be dug out later.  It got away from me, well I got away from it, preferring to ignore the vegetable garden in the early going, only to note what came up and what didn't. 

But the drought struck and I halfheartedly watched as my lettuce wilted, and my peas were spotty at best.  I thought of watering but realized it was too little, too late.  When the rains didn't come into July, I watered the sweet corn and the zucchini hoping to salvage at least those two.  But the raccoons played in the sweet corn and took the very good cobs of corn and left nothing but the husks.   I thought nothing could kill zucchini but apparently there is a wilt that can and did. 

The sunflower was ignored in my sad garden, until it was the only thing of note in that sandy, dusty barren area.  It just grew until it shouted to me to look.  It was a small tree, and it commanded attention, at least it commanded my attention.  It was growing out of sandy ground that hadn't seen a good rain in 6 weeks.  It grew tall in spite of all this.  It hasn't wilted in the intense heat of an unusual summer.  We will likely set records this summer for triple digits not seen every week ever in recorded meteorology.  We have become cranky and tired of the heat, and the burned, straw grass and the plants that have just dried up and disappeared.  But the sunflower not only grows, it will soon flower.  I now look forward to the huge yellow head and will watch it as it follows the sun across the sky.  Its not every day you grow a sunflower like this.  Its not every day you appreciate that flower.  Its not every day you know you are seeing one small miracle and one of God's best. 

Its not every day but today it is...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Another morning to get up and drag around the hose and hook up the sprinkler.  The new oscillating sprinkler I purchased at Home Depot a few days ago.  On a summer of moderate watering I go through a $20 sprinkler in a year.  They always do the same thing.  They quit oscillating. This has been anything but a moderate watering year, this has been the decade's drought summer, so I knew from the get go I was on borrowed time with the sprinkler. 

And its hot.  Another 4 day spurt of mid 90 to a finale of a 100 degree temperatures.  With the 100 degree day came high humidity and the promise of thunderstorms that would at the least dump some much needed rain on our parched throats.  The summer of promise has become a summer of just getting through.  We kind of know, just as a rush of January snow and cold, signals a long, cold winter, oppressive heat in June means a long, hot summer, and we just know to endure.  But just as cold and snow makes cabin fever a very real and cantankerous malady, heat alleviated only by sitting in the AC all day, gives rise to some very cranky adults who suddenly turn into petulant children, sniping at every thing is sight. 

So I mindlessly rise up after a night's sleep that is already pushing 75 degrees at day break, feeling anything but refreshed, only thinking I needed to get as much done outside as possible before it became unbearable to be outside.  The fact that generations of people, my ancestors included, had lived through heat spells and survived without murdering their spouse, and did it without AC, hasn't helped much.  I look at a picture from a 4th of July celebration in beautiful, downtown Brant and notice immediately that everyone is wearing long sleeves and the men are even wearing jackets.  Yes, they did dress up for events back then.  There was no Friday casual and certainly no holiday leisure.  Despite having the convenience of electricity and the wonder of air conditioning, we still manage to be cranky, short tempered and impatient when the weather doesn't bow to us.  I have news for all of you, WE are not in control. 

The ending to the present mini heat wave came on Tuesday, the annual local ice cream social put on by the Historical Society of Hemlock.  This bunch has kind of dwindled to three old ladies and a "just slightly younger lady", ME, scooping and being the committee of ice cream presenters.  I was not looking forward to standing in 100 degree heat scooping ice cream that would be the consistency of custard before I got a third of the way down the four gallon buckets.  I imagined the crowd would be down as most would prefer to sit in their AC or at the least in front of a fan than all the ice cream sundaes and free music on the museum grounds could afford.  I was right, as the crowd was down, and in a way our stab at nostalgia was as bygone as the fact that people don't go to summer celebrations dressed in long sleeves or summer jackets, the ladies in hats of some kind,any longer.  100 years ago, they would have loved this annual picnic.  It would have been a cause for celebration, to socialize, to beat the heat with good ice cream and summer toppings.  They would have sat under huge shade trees or in the bandstand, Hemlock once provided.  The bandstand has been gone more years than anyone living can remember and the shade trees are now ash trees, dead from the emerald ash borer.  As we are so fond of saying, "It is what it is", and we go ahead and do the ice cream social.  I scooped ice cream that all too soon turned pudding consistency, but for the small crowd of older folks who showed up they were happy and grateful to just come.  The weather was something to talk about and something to remember along with other summer's of great heat.  And they came because it was the chance to get out and talk to people.  It is the very human need that fosters all celebrations and gatherings.

I could choose to be grumpy as I scooped mushy ice cream, or I could choose to enjoy the company of people who perhaps wouldn't be here next year.  I could smile on the young politician trying to garner votes among the people who still vote, religiously, for the office he was seeking.  He seemed to genuinely enjoy being out and among these people and that's a good thing.  We choose to endure and we choose to get through the rough spots.  How we do those things makes all the difference.

I listened to a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace the other day, forwarded to me by an Army buddy of Kurt's.  I always love Amazing Grace, but when its done with a full complement of Scots bagpipers and drums, it sets my soul to soaring.  There just are musical pieces that do this to me.  Music can instantly transport me to a great memory or just cause my heart to swell in some way I can only say is awesome.  I thought of the extremes the Scots endure in land and weather and how they endure.  They appreciate the good because the bad is so often a part of their lives.  They are stronger for having endured and their music speaks of endurance.

We didn't get the rain though thunder boomed and lightning popped later that night.  Some areas did get a good soaking, but not us.  So, I drag around a hose, and say a small prayer that I am not being foolish to water some daylilies and pray that the well holds up.  Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound....rain would be a sweet sound right now also.....