Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, critters, depression/anxiety, Reading

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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^Statue on the corner of Walker and Elam Avenues, Greensboro, NC

It’s still comfortably cool on the front porch, but according to the weather forecast it will be turning to summer temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s soon. Dry, too, with some drought concerns beginning to pop up. When I was at the lake last time, the water was already pretty low.

Both of us have been in better spirits this week. Sandy is going to the Aquatic Center for water exercise classes and swimming laps, and he started the steroids on Thursday. He will be on them for a month and then the doctor switches him to something else.

I’m kind of craving a steroid shot in my wrist again since of course I have overdone it with the yard work and otherwise usually holding a book, Kindle, or phone in my hand until my Dequervain’s tendinitis in my left wrist has flared up and my carpal tunnel has flared up in my right wrist. So I’m typing this with two different kinds of wrist braces on, and will try to hold back on the gardening and weeding this weekend. However, this pain is old news to me and even though it is distressing (I had surgery on the left wrist 8 years ago) I don’t struggle with it as much mentally as I used to.

I bought some more tomato and pepper plants at Deep Roots Market on Sunday afternoon and planted them into the pots: Pink Brandywine tomatoes, hot banana peppers, and jalapenos. Then when we popped into the Bestway for a couple of things I noticed that they had a small pot of sweet basil with lots of seedlings crammed into it for $2.99. They are not particularly happy now that I’ve pulled them apart and planted them, but I didn’t really expect them to be. If I get two healthy ones out of the dozen or so that are in there, I win.

We both had massages Monday night and the therapist, who teaches it at the local community college so knows her stuff, basically said that I needed more work that one hour could handle. Ha.

Late Tuesday afternoon I saw my therapist for the first time since November, 2018, when the election results helped calm me down for a while. I told her that I was seeing her on my best day in at least two years and I couldn’t make the appointment to get help earlier because I was too depressed to do it. Such a vicious cycle, depression and agoraphobia. I really like her and was happy that I started it up again. There was also a nice surprise – my insurance doesn’t even charge a co-pay now. I don’t know how long that lasts, but yay.

Anyway, the point is that Sandy and I are both busy getting our shit together and back to living the best life possible. I have a podiatrist appointment on Monday, too, so new shoes will probably be in my future. We both need to do a bit of clothes shopping.

We are planning our summer – in two weeks we go up the road to Elkin, NC, for my Tapestry Weavers South retreat. I’ll be taking a tapestry design course from Tommye Scanlin on that Monday and Tuesday.

Speaking of Tommye, I set up a Bookshop of my own and right now I am featuring tapestry design books. I get a small commission, and a book wholesaler, Ingram, hosts the sites. It’s a way to support local bookstores and publishers online without going through Amazon. You can buy Tommye’s book “The Nature of Things: Essays by a Tapestry Weaver” or pre-order her upcoming book “Tapestry Design Basics and Beyond” there. The link is on my sidebar and also here: Slow Turn Books. I ordered “The Nature of Things” from my shop and it arrived within a week – what a lovely book! I have ordered from Boomerang Bookshop as well, and the entire Bookshop website is fun to search.  You can order from many independent bookstores there.

I will be adding more book lists as the summer goes on – probably focused on the fiber art/mixed media/collage artists who I’ve taken courses from and love the most. I’m not trying to compete with any bookstores or make any money off this – just promote the books and art that I love and have some fun. I miss my bookstore days, but I don’t miss the poverty wages.

Here’s a wildlife shot: The mighty cougar stalks his prey.

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Back Forty, Coronavirus Chronicles

Monday morning

20210506_184420Writing on the front porch, working from home still. Soon, that too will be a memory. This is the climbing rose that is technically on my neighbor’s property. I saved it from the landscapers that plowed up everything else because they think that two foot strip is on our side of the property line. We are going to see if we can root some of it and plant some in the back forty. It has a lovely smell. And of course, there’s the daisy fleabane that I let grow each year as a backdrop.

Like most people, I have mixed feelings about the new CDC guidance on wearing masks. On the one hand, I am happy about it and tend to trust the scientists. On the other hand, there is no way to tell if an unmasked person is vaccinated or is being a maskhole, so I’ll continue to be cautious and wear a mask in inside spaces and in crowded situations, but mainly, I’ll avoid crowds and inside spaces the same way that I did before. Plus, I am not yet sure what we will need to do about masks with Sandy’s medical situation, although the doctor did say it should be fine to go to Europe in September.

However, Sandy and I did eat dinner inside the Green Valley Grill at the bar last night for our anniversary. I knew that they were a safe space, and they had spaced out their tables and put clear plastic dividers every 2-3 seats at the bar. I had the pecan crusted trout – I always have the pecan crusted trout, I should try something else but it is so good – and Sandy had the Athens pasta.

We toasted my friend and colleague, Karl Schleunes, a retired historian of the Holocaust who passed away yesterday. I already miss Karl. He was a kind and funny man, a good friend. When I first began at UNCG, he was the associate head and I was his admin, then he was interim head the next year and his admin was on maternity leave, so I had a great working relationship with him as well. I never, ever was made to feel that I was anything but his equal, and that was rare in professors of his generation. Since his retirement, he stopped by our offices to visit often, and took “the history girls” out to lunch once or twice a year. I miss his smile and deep soft voice and chuckle.

Yesterday I mainly rested my feet, but we went to Deep Roots for groceries and Sandy rearranged the “living room” to a cozier, less cluttered space. Well, it will be less cluttered. We are still working on that part. It is embarrassing for us to have anybody come inside.

Sandy is starting to sound enthusiastic about going to Europe so I think that our situation will turn out okay as long as Europe lets us in by September. If not, I’ll cancel everything and we’ll figure out something else.

On Saturday afternoon I did a lot of weeding and filling containers with potting soil and adding a big bag of raised bed soil that Sandy had bought last year to the new hugelkultur bed. I’m still not sure what I will plant there, considering I watched four little groundhogs playing in and out of the holes in that cement block wall in the background this morning. One climbed a tree. Maybe basil. I planted pink Brandywine tomatoes, hot banana peppers, and jalapeno peppers in the remaining containers. There is still a whole lot to do, including killing a healthy stand of poison ivy growing around the maple stump.

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coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety

Sunday Sweep

Preface: this is a Sunday Sweep post, in which I am clearing out a lot of anxious and depressed and just plain neurotic thoughts, so you might want to skip this one. I will be doing a couple of more posts with photos about more cheerful subjects.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but everything is fine. Not great, because we are still wondering about the results of Sandy’s muscle biopsy, but he is able to walk and lift his feet much higher, so he is improving quite a bit. His back and neck hurts a lot, so he saw my chiropractor and will see him again. A lot of the problem is that he was so sick for so long and could not walk for more than a very short distance, so he is trying to exercise more each day and strengthen his muscles.

I am quite pissed off at the surgeon and the rheumatologist for not getting back to us with the biopsy results. He has appointments with each of them later this month, but considering that it has now been a full month, I think this is inexcusable. If it was me, I would be raising hell and I have considered doing so anyway, but I try very hard to stay out of my husband’s personal decisions about his body, just as I expect him to do for me.

Anyway, last week I spent most of the week at Lake Waccamaw with my sister. I would have posted from there, but I didn’t bring a USB cord that would connect my phone to my laptop. That will be the next post, and then a garden post.

My spirits are much better, although I still have some deep dips into depression and part of my frustration is that I don’t understand why I get so weepy. Why am I having such a hard time? My life is pretty sweet compared to most people – we live modestly but with very little debt, we are financially stable, my job is pretty awesome, and we live on a wonderful street and our city is a great place to live. I am physically healthier than I have been in some time, except for being a bit fatter and some foot pain…I am not nearly experiencing the kind of back, neck, and hip pain that drove me to get monthly massages and lose sleep at night. Working from home has been a huge improvement for my body. Now that Sandy and I are fully vaccinated, I feel a huge weight lifted and we have been going out more, although I still draw the line at eating or drinking indoors.

Thursday I received a staff excellence award from the College of Arts and Sciences, which will bring me a little extra cash to spend in Ireland. I was honored in a Zoom ceremony, but unfortunately I was so appalled at the photo that was shown of me that I don’t remember much of what was said – basically it was brief and vaguely worded. I am going to ask K to let me read some of the nomination letters to make me feel better about it.

In the past at in person ceremonies the recipients of these awards went up on stage so I figured that they would show me in person. I fretted over this, but I found my makeup, set up a background in Zoom that didn’t show my mess behind me, and I made up my face to look pretty attractive, going back and forth to the mirror repeatedly to touch it up since I was in Zoom meetings all day. Then I didn’t appear at all – it was a PowerPoint presentation, and after a couple of professional head shots of the first two recipients, somebody had pulled a photo from one of our department newsletters five years ago of me in a staff uniform after a department graduation ceremony and cropped my other two co-workers out of the photo. I was so embarrassed, then I felt embarrassed about feeling so bad about something that was a good thing, and then I washed off my makeup and I cried for an hour. I wish that the college had asked me for a photo instead of mining our website for one. I wore a uniform for a couple of literal blue collar jobs in the past and I’ve always resented when I have to wear one in what I consider to be a step up in the world for me. I guess that’s hard to understand for someone who hasn’t lived my life. Generally I am not vain about my looks at all. I rarely wear makeup and wear the same clothes for years, often clothes that I’ve bought at a thrift shop, and I couldn’t care less about fashion. Why this bothered me so badly, I can’t say. I guess that I didn’t feel respected. This is nothing new about how I feel about the administration where I work. I know for certain that my department values and respects me greatly, and they nominated me, so I have come back to that, and I feel better. Really, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.

Sandy tried to make me feel better by saying that the photo was not so bad (it wasn’t – it just made me look like a janitor) and then took me out for a couple of Rogue Nut Brown ales on the patio of a local rib place. Friday I worked in the office, then on Saturday, we went to the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market and I bought some plants from Weatherhand Farm, pink grapefruit soap from Mimi’s Soaps, and a couple of seasoning packets from Cornerstone Farms. It was really good to get out there. We then stopped at a big yard sale on the way home that benefited Unity in Greensboro, where we got some great deals. We got a pair of hand weights, a cat carrier (one of ours was held together with bungie cords and is now in the garbage), a couple of nice curtain rods, and an almost new Pictionary game all for less than $10. I am looking forward to playing Pictionary on the front porch.

We came home and I worked in the yard a while, then we went to a local hardware/garden supply store to buy potting soil. We walked in and Sandy forgot to pull his mask up so I reminded him. One of the employees walked out without a mask and told me that he did not have to put a mask on, and I sharply said, “Yes he does, he has an auto-immune disease.” I was really not so worried, but it annoyed me that somebody would stick his nose in our business that way. The other employees were masked and polite.

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On the way home, we stopped downtown and went to a small outdoor festival with music and food trucks and some craft vendors at South End Brewing. We got a late lunch from the trucks and found a place to sit in the shade on the patio of South End. Both of us drank a blackberry wit which was pretty good.

I potted up and planted most of the plants I bought at the farmers’ market and I was pooped for the rest of the day. That was a lot of activity in one day for me, and I need more days like this.

Sandy has been pretty snappy with me since I’ve came home on Wednesday and right now he is gone to the used bookstore and I guess to lunch with his brother. I was invited but I declined. My guess is that it is the chronic pain that is loosening his will power to behave as loving and polite as he has been, and I don’t think that he is aware of how hurtful it is, but then again, it could be that I am truly annoying instead of trying to be helpful. I can be a bit of a bossypants. I can also be quite snappy myself. I have definitely been neurotic. Anyway, I wouldn’t mind having a few days alone right now. My emotions have been swinging so widely.

Bernie and Miss Freda have been singing to each other every day and we are going to put Miss Freda in the big cage with Bernie soon. I’m beginning to think that I was wrong about Bernie being male and now I think Bernie might be Bernice or Bernadette, which would actually be good. No mating.

The weather is perfect and I am happy on the front porch right now. Once I finish blogging, I will get back to weaving the tapestry I was working on at the lake. You can see this photo in the upcoming lake blog post. I need to do some photo editing first.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, Reading

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Ooh yuk, the pollen is kickin’ ass in North Carolina. We just had another line of heavy storms come through so I hope that will clean the air some more today. My neighbors downhill and across the street are struggling with flooded basements. We used to have a lot of problems with that too, but sandbagging a couple of places and the swales that Justin dug into the back garden helped a lot with that. I checked on ours briefly yesterday and saw some water on the steps and a little at the bottom but otherwise the cement was dry down there. We keep a box fan and a sump pump going all the time.

I’m not going to type a long post. My hands are not up to it. Too much reading and holding the phone and computer mouse, I guess.

We haven’t gotten the results from Sandy’s muscle biopsy yet, but he is feeling better this week and can lift his feet higher without using his hands to lift his legs. He has been running errands and we walked around the block yesterday. Yesterday he got his second Pfizer vaccination. Last night he was afraid that his shingles was coming back but my bet is that it was a side effect from the vaccine or general achiness from doing too much too soon.

He has lost a lot of weight and I have gained weight and if I don’t start getting some more exercise and eating better it won’t be long before we weigh the same.

My next door neighbor is eager for us to get rid of the jet ski so I cleaned it up and he was going to get a couple of guys and move it out next to our driveway for us. I would be extremely happy to get rid of this mosquito incubator that hasn’t been used since at least 2008, when we last had a car with a trailer hitch, but now is not a good time to push us on this issue. Not only because of our health, but because Sandy’s renter in his condo gave notice, so Sandy is trying to sell it. We haven’t seen the inside yet, but from the one time I was over there, I suspect that it will be a mess. He won’t get a whole lot for this place. The tax value isn’t much but the location isn’t too bad. He has talked to someone with a real estate license who is interested in either buying it for himself to rent out or to sell it for him, and they will look at it this week. It is a seller’s market right now, so I hope that we will get this albatross off our back now that Sandy isn’t able to deal with it physically. I announced my departure from this situation about ten years ago. No more landlady Laurie.

This week I read “Lost Nation” by Jeffrey Lent. Part of the reason I didn’t post yesterday was because I couldn’t put it down. At first, I thought, ugh, this is extremely brutal and gory and I don’t think that my sensitive nature can handle it, but when the writing is this good, I can, and I did. The plot moved quickly, but I am a fan of character development, and boy, did this novel have it. The choices that they made based on their assumptions were at the crux of the plot, and sometimes those assumptions were way off. Sometimes they were more subtle. Trust was a major motivator in the plot too – trust or the lack of it. His descriptive language left me with full vision of the world he created. Books like these are why I would much rather read a book before seeing a movie based on it. I’m not sure who would do a movie based on this plot these days though – it would be a tough one to maneuver through the ugliness to deliver the watcher to the end.

Okay, my hands have had it. My spirits are better though.

agoraphobia, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, old couple, Reading

Saturday morning coffee pot post

Well, this week could have gone better, but I’ll take it. I stood up for myself concerning a particularly awful process I was expected to use at work that was inaccurate and basically unusable, and I feel like I was heard at least one step up the pecking order. Then I concentrated on what I could do. I got a lot done.

The weather is absolutely lovely and we spent a lot of time on the front porch yesterday evening. I cleaned out most of the junk in the Honda in preparation to clean the inside and shampoo the carpets. I took out at least 20 books. I also did some front garden clean up – pulled the “weeds” that the bees no longer need but left the dandelions, which I love. My favorite flowers are in bloom right now, and the yoshina cherry trees are bursting with light pink flowers. The peppermint that I shouldn’t have planted is spreading through the fieldstone path across to the other section of the garden, but it smells so good that I don’t mind (now). I planted it in several places in the hope that it would deter both mosquitoes and groundhogs.

Reading: Almost finished with “Good Harbor” by Anita Diamant, which I have mixed feelings about. At first I thought that I could relate to the characters, but instead I have found it pretty depressing. I liked her other novels much better, especially “The Last Days of Dogtown,” which was a recent read. Part of my problem with novels about women who struggle with children or fertility is that I feel no connection to motherhood. I have never felt the urge. The other character is having serious mental health issues revolving around cancer and death, maybe not the best reading choice for me right now. I’ll finish it, because I don’t have much farther to go and it is a short book.

It seems like I’m breaking out of the agoraphobic tendencies, although I am typing this in my bedroom, where I spend way too much time. On Thursday morning I drove Sandy to what we thought was going to be his muscle biopsy under local anesthesia at an outpatient surgical center in Burlington. Instead, it was a consultation with the surgeon and pretty much a waste of time other than him telling us that the biopsy would be done under real anesthesia in Greensboro, maybe at Wesley Long Hospital. He didn’t have Sandy’s lab work or records, and he was quizzing him to see if he really needed the biopsy. Once I told him about Sandy’s CK test results, those kind of questions stopped and he moved on.

It was frustrating, not only because we expected this to be behind us by now, but that the communication has been so bad. These days I know to be wary of any anesthesia that puts you all the way under – it can trip an older person into dementia and Sandy had a difficult time maintaining his oxygen levels under anesthesia during his oral surgery a couple of years ago. It definitely has cognitive effects. And the surgeon was not encouraging about it being scheduled right away, although he said that he was on duty at Wesley Long next week and would try to get it on his schedule.

This biopsy really has to be done soon. Sandy dreads it so much that I worry that he is going to back out. Yesterday he was feeling much better and started working on getting the Honda battery charged and the car aired out. He brought me lunch at work. I am very happy that he feels better and is trying to do more. However, he has a denial problem and I have my hands full trying to stop him from health self-destruction since he wants so badly to believe that all he needs to do is get back into shape. This has been the case for years, not just with this issue. I do not want to play the role of his mother or nurse and I want to treat his medical decisions with respect, but I also don’t want to be a widow in my early 60s. I love him and I want to grow old with him. He will be absolutely miserable if he doesn’t get better. His family history is full of disability, including his father who was quadriplegic and his brother and mother who had strokes affecting their ability to move. He also has a serious aversion to asking for the simplest help.

Anyway, the good aspect of this trip was that I drove to Burlington to an unknown location in heavy traffic and even drove around the area a bit without any anxiety or panic. So I haven’t descended into that agoraphobia hole. I feel better, knowing that.

And I feel better that I am officially fully vaccinated, having passed the two week mark yesterday. I haven’t heard from Lora about the residency in Ireland yet, but considering the problems that the EU is having with a third wave and getting the vaccinations out, it looks more and more unlikely. If I can’t go to Europe this year, we will pick a national park to visit. I wouldn’t mind a train trip, or going to Maine to Acadia NP. I’ve never been farther north than Connecticut.

We got a small tax refund back from the state but not either federal tax refund yet. That will be welcome money that we will probably use to hire local people to work on our house. I also try to donate to a lot of individual causes and charities that I see people advocate on Facebook. We are very lucky, despite what we are dealing with at the present time.

Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, Rants, Reading

Sunday afternoon

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I need to put a title on each post and I seldom try to come up with something witty or appropriate to what I have written any more. What I noticed when I went through almost every one of my posts last year was that sometimes I wondered what day of the week it was when I wrote it. So instead of leaving the title blank, I usually name it with the day of the week.

Yesterday I got some stuff done. Getting anything done is significant progress. I picked up popcorn shrimp burritos from Fishbones – so delicious – and did a bit of grocery shopping at Bestway. Normally I shop at my coop, but Bestway has Smithwick’s ale and some frozen dinners that Sandy likes for when I just can’t cook or even eat. They have some organic and local foods too and it’s right beside Fishbones. I cooked a good simple dinner with marinated baked chicken, brown rice, peas and corn.

I haven’t been to the farmers’ market in ages. I just can’t make myself leave the house that early on Saturday morning. It’s very important that I have the weekends to sleep in and catch up since even melatonin and Xanax can’t get me to sleep some nights before 2 or 3 a.m. Once they start staying open after 11 a.m. I might be able to manage it.

It was cold after that storm front came through but the plants that I moved outside seemed to survive without damage. Today it will go back up to the 60s for the highs this week so I hope to stir up some enthusiasm for gardening.

Early yesterday evening, we went through the FEMA drive through vaccination clinic in the Four Seasons Mall parking lot. We found out that they were doing the Pfizer vaccine, but it would still be quicker to do that one and have to come back for the second shot than to wait for the one dose Johnson & Johnson. This has repercussions for Sandy, who most likely needs to get on immune-suppressive meds ASAP, but can’t do that until after he is fully vaccinated. He is not feeling well at all, but no side effects from the vaccine. His second shot is scheduled on April 10, so I’m not sure if we will go to the lake Easter weekend.

I spent some time weaving on “Cathedral,” so that is a very good thing. Today we will both try to pitch in and get laundry and vacuuming done. Laundry is harder than you might think since we have to catch a lot of the rinse water in buckets and dump it out side. The cat hair is at disaster level. I combed several handfuls of Diego’s undercoat fur out this morning. Pablocito doesn’t have that much.

My mood is also lifted because I am considering going alone to Ireland in September for an artist residency if my family can’t manage the trip to Portugal. I have the plane ticket from Boston to Dublin. They have waited to buy tickets until they see how things pan out. This would be at the same place where I had planned to go this past summer, on the Wild Atlantic Coast on the western edge of Ireland.

I have to be careful not to get my hopes up too high for this trip, though. The ride down that emotional hill was pretty rough last year, plus having all this worries on top of that.

I’m reading “Enduring Love” by Ian McEwan right now. A very disturbing book, and although I can’t put it down, I am ready for it to be over with. This was a freebie, and I suspect that I picked it up out of a free bin to use the cover in collage. I always try to read these books first. This is the first novel that I have read of his.

One thing I accomplished this past week was filing our 2020 taxes online. We STILL have not received our 2019 refund. I finally called our Congressperson’s office and the staff person put me in touch with the local taxpayer advocate volunteer service. However, they can’t do anything about it either until somebody puts the information in the IRS database. The staff person said that a lot of people who mailed in their returns are experiencing the same thing.

It also means that we didn’t get the last round of stimulus payments. I was able to roll that into the 2020 tax refund. Hopefully we will get the next round. I am going to use it to make some repairs to the house – mainly the front steps to make them safer. Because we live in a historic district, we have to get a certificate of appropriateness and use a special kind of brick if we go with that option.

Doing the taxes is frustrating because there is one tiny thing on our return that requires us to choose an answer to a question, and neither answer is correct. That’s why we mailed it in last year. Then this year there was that AND at the end a series of required responses about last year’s return that were not applicable. The Turbo Tax person told me to check them all and e-file it. No freaking way I am mailing that sucker in this year.

In the meantime, I read that the IRS chooses to audit a much higher percentage of lower and middle class tax returns instead of the tax returns of the rich because they are more complicated, so the rich get away with paying billions of dollars less than they are supposed to pay.

I am so disgusted with this government and the voters who can’t see how they are being abused by income inequality. They are so worried about somebody getting some government money to feed themselves or get health care who might not deserve it in their eyes, but it’s okay to cut taxes for the people and corporations who make so much money that they would not miss millions of dollars in taxes paid.

Okay, political rant over. Time to do some house cleaning and tapestry weaving.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles

Saturday morning coffee pot post: Vaccination Day

Sandy gets vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine tonight! Since we are not really vaccinated until both of us are vaccinated, I call this a holiday. I never had the side effects that some had, and I hope that Sandy’s currently overactive immune system will not cause him grief from this shot.

So, two weeks from now is Easter weekend, which we usually spend at Lake Waccamaw with my sister and brother-in-law, the only close family that either of us have now. I hope that we will be able to make the trip down there. They have always been precious to both of us, but that feeling has grown with their absence from our lives. It’s like my sister and I are each other’s mother now.

We have other family that we love dearly, but three of them are far away across the country. One of them I have never met – Sandy’s niece, Lena. We have an online relationship that is good. My niece Brooke is in Chapel Hill and is currently working hard to get her life back on track, and we have always been close. My nephew in North Carolina seems to have distanced himself from our side of his family, which, to be honest, I can hardly blame him. We found out through his brother’s post on Facebook that he got married. It hurts because I often have said that if I could have a son, I would want him to be just like my nephew. I love him very much too, although I never got to know him in the depth that I wanted. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I even offered to buy him a plane ticket to travel with us several years ago when we went to Oregon. Anyway, it has taken me several months of grief but I have come to accept it. I can’t do anything about it, so…I am taking this very big hint and letting him go.

I can understand wanting to divorce your family in certain circumstances. I was lucky to be raised by my parents, who, although they definitely had their problems, were so far and away more normal than my husband’s family. Last weekend we visited with friends outside and he started telling some stories from his childhood and teenage years that reminded me just how appalling his home life was. Then he talked about how that when he met my family, he felt so lucky to be able to become a part of it. It made me much more appreciative of what I had growing up. My husband and his brother were abused and neglected.

One story he told, which I don’t think that I’d ever heard before, was that when he was a teenager, his stepfather stole his mother’s car and ran off to Florida. The police wouldn’t help her, even though it was in her name. So they flew to Florida, she distracted him while Sandy hot-wired the car, and then they stole her car back.

Is that badass or what?

It also is a good example of the hurdles women faced in the 60s. Women still had very few rights when it came to employment, money, credit, and possessions. She was a social worker with a graduate degree. I think that Sandy’s experience growing up informed much of his feminism. He got to see firsthand the damage that misogyny and poverty creates.

Whew, I didn’t expect to go off in that direction.

Sandy finally got an appointment for the muscle biopsy. We will be heading to Burlington this coming Thursday morning, since that was the earliest appointment we could get. Both of us will be relieved to get a firm diagnosis so that he can begin getting treatment. He is very, very frustrated at his condition and talks a lot about going back to either the Y or the aquatic center to begin swimming again.

We both need haircuts in the worst way. Sandy started cutting his hair at the front and now he has an old man mullet. He says that he is going to shave his beard and mustache. Mine is long and getting very gray and falling out a lot. Between that and the cats everything in the house is covered in hair. When I find long silver strands, there is little doubt that I am the culprit.

We had a couple of small tornadoes in our county on Thursday night. It is not unusual for North Carolina to get winter and spring tornadoes, but it is always scary to get that tornado warning. Sandy barely looked away from his computer screen while I was piling up pillows in the center of the house away from the windows. He is never concerned about the weather. I focus on it a lot – I guess partly because of being a farmer’s daughter and we were expected to tell my father the weather report when he got home. Pre-internet and cable/satellite TV, you had to rely on local TV and radio stations, and we didn’t have many. When you grow up in a farming family, and you are a gardener, the weather forecast is very important.

Speaking of, the next post will have PHOTOS!

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, critters

Saturday morning coffee pot post

It has been a real roller coaster week.

Last Sunday, Porfirio and his work partner began clearing out the back yard of the wood chunks and the vines invading from everywhere. They took down small trees that had popped up and were covered in English ivy and grapevines and wisteria. The vines were crawling over the roof of the building in the back. They worked their way around the border of the lot without needing reminders of what to do or asking a lot of unnecessary questions or proposing to do something else rather than the task I had laid out for them. Only cost me $400 and Porforio is going to do the maintenance on the back and side yards.

I cannot tell you how much this relieves me. And because Porfirio has worked for my friends for years, I know that he is really this great and it is not going to change on a whim.

Workwise, it was, and has been, very stressful because of egregious communication and decision making at higher levels. At one point I took off my headphones during a Zoom “training” meeting and stormed into another room and vented about the person leading to meeting to Sandy. I came back and noticed that I had not muted myself, and then I hit mute (my video was already off) and cried like a baby. I had such a panic attack that I didn’t get much of the rest of the meeting, but the little that got through was obviously not useful. Anyway, I doubt that anybody heard me, and like a co-worker told me, if they did, they probably all agreed with me.

I constantly try to remind myself of how great my job is, but meetings like that are so incredibly frustrating that I can’t wait to retire. I just wonder sometimes if I am going to last another two years before I either get fired for going off on someone or get carried away in a straitjacket.

Sandy’s rheumatologist appointment was on Thursday afternoon. We like the doctor very much – I had to participate by speaker phone, though. He looked at Sandy’s lab work, did some more tests and a chest x-ray, and is going to arrange for Sandy to have a muscle biopsy, which has to be done by a surgeon in the outpatient surgery center. He is pretty sure of a diagnosis but the muscle biopsy will confirm if Sandy has polymyositis. It can be treated but it is a chronic disease. He said that Sandy needs to get vaccinated ASAP because the treatment will include immune system suppressing medications, since polymyositis is an auto-immune disease.

So even though this isn’t exactly good news, at least we have a plan moving forward and that is somewhat of a relief.

You can feel the hope rising in the air as more people are getting vaccinated. Of course we will still have to do all the pandemic things until most of us are there, since the vaccinated can get catch and transmit the virus, but we’ll no longer have to worry about getting so sick that we will have to be hospitalized or die.

I was vaccinated with the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine yesterday afternoon. So far I have a bit of a headache, but I normally have a headache this time of year anyway. My arm is only a tad sore, which is a bit surprising since that guy jabbed me hard and seemed to wiggle it a bit. I jumped and yelped a little and only gasped once. It’s important for me to keep my breathing steady because I get vasovagal syncope and I hate fainting in public much worse that I hate needles. Because of that I had to sit for thirty minutes afterwards, but I was fine. The shingles shot was much, much worse, and I still have the second shot of that to look forward to in late April.

Sandy tried to get a vaccination appointment all day yesterday, even driving to the Coliseum to talk to the people out there about what to do. He was not successful, but last night as I was going through my email, there was an article from WFDD (our local public radio station) about how to get an appointment, and I followed a link and HALLELUJAH, Sandy now has an appointment next Saturday evening for the one dose J&J in the drive through FEMA clinic that is being set up next week in Greensboro.

The weather was beautiful this week and we have enjoyed being out on the front porch. Today is the beginning of cooler weather, and we may go to a friend’s house and sit on their back deck for brunch.

Yesterday, this guy sat on a neighbor’s fence for most of the afternoon. I think that it is a juvenile red shouldered hawk. I just hope that he doesn’t kill my favorite bunny who hangs out between our house and the house next door.

I hope to be able to go to the lake for Easter weekend and hug my sister and brother-in-law.

Coronavirus Chronicles, old couple

Wait, wait, wait

People who don’t know any better or don’t have friends who live in other countries often cite long waits for health care as a reason that they don’t want government sponsored health care for all. Yet, we have long waits for specialists in this country even with expensive insurance, so there’s yet another bullshit reason against socialized health care.

Really, as we wait for this rheumatology appointment, we are both feeling a bit desperate. Sandy tried to get a vaccination appointment at Walgreens and they turned him down because he filled out the form stating the he had health issues. Aren’t those the very people who need the vaccine the worst? So he called his GP office to ask their guidance and they said to wait until after he sees the rheumatologist on March 11. Still a week away.

In the meantime, his condition gets worse and we are worried, very, very worried. He wants to start swimming at the Y again because he thinks that would be good exercise for him right now. He does a couple of minutes of the video exercise, when before he got shingles he had gotten where he could do 15 minutes twice a day. We worry about the rapid acceleration of his muscle loss. He needs to be able to get out and about for his mental health. I think that he will need physical therapy.

I should be able to sign up for a vaccination early next week, according to an email I received from my workplace. A clinic is being set up for all the higher education workers in the area. Plus, FEMA is setting up a mega-site here in Greensboro at a closed Dillard’s store in Four Seasons Mall, with a drive-through lane.

We are treating each other with loving care these days – each of us trying to do our best under these circumstances.

But we have things that need to be attended to – like the plumbing problem. Like the Honda Fit that has been sitting with a dead battery for several months now. Like rebuilding the front steps, which involves getting permission from the Historic Commission. The possibility of having to put in a ramp. Like the pile of big chunks of dead silver maple that I had hired two different people to split for firewood for me last year. One stopped answering my texts. The other gave it a valiant try before he smashed his thumb and now he has a back injury. Since then, it’s become a termite incubator. So I’m calling a couple of landscapers today to see if I can get estimates on cleaning up the yard, then bi-monthly maintenance. That will be a start, and it would be good to get it done now before mosquito season begins.

That is likely where the Ireland/Portugal trip money is going to go.

However, the good thing is that we do have the lake retreat. I went for a walk with some of our friends on Sunday morning and we sat on an outside deck and chatted over coffee for a couple of hours. Hopefully by this summer we will all be vaccinated and go down to the lake for a weekend or so. One couple just sold their big truck rig and bought a huge RV. Maybe we will buy a small RV instead of moving to Portugal.

The biggest challenge for me in all of this is the possibility of a giant change in our lives. I have spent most of the pandemic, and really the last 15 years, relying on travel planning as my therapy. Finding the cheapest flights. The quirkiest old motels. The AirBNB rooms. Recently, planning to emigrate to Portugal. In a way, the emigration plans are the easiest to give up, since thinking about transporting the cats and what possessions we would ship over was sometimes overwhelming.

I have to find a new way to cope. I hope that my instincts are wrong about this, and Sandy will bounce back and we will still be able to travel to national and state parks and museums and walk on trails. But, if not, we’ve had a good run, and we are luckier than most people to have the memories. I am thankful that I documented our trips so well on this blog, and hopefully there will be many more. We haven’t checked off our bucket list yet, but we’ve knocked off a few major items like Cahokia, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Newgrange, Giant’s Causeway, Yellowstone, Glacier NP, an Alaskan cruise, Tuscany, Cornwall…pretty amazing when you list them all. There is a lot in this country we’ve yet to see.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, critters, depression/anxiety, Reading

Saturday noon coffee pot post


^^^In a front yard on this street.

Well, it’s been a week, all right. Many, many thoughts are tumbling around in my head. I am an INTJ personality type, so my thing is contingency planning. There are so many unknowns right now that it has put my brain into hyperdrive.

Sandy got his lab work done on Monday, and he was asked to go back and give more blood and urine for additional tests on Wednesday. He can’t drive on the pain meds that he is on, and so I drove and sat in the car. When the N.P. called about his results, it was scary. There were some good things, like his A1C is way down to 6.1, which put him at pre-diabetic level. That’s great. His kidney functions are fine. But his CK reading, which measures muscle deterioration and weakness, was extreme, and he tested positive for RA. That indicates an auto-immune disease. So, now he has an appointment with a rheumatologist in two weeks. I wish that it could be immediate because although his shingles are much better, his muscle weakness and inflammation markers got worse even between Monday and Wednesday.

I made the mistake of looking up what his CK scores might mean on a couple of reputable medical websites. Hoo boy.

So all kinds of possibilities are going through my frenzied mind. I am not the nurturing type, and of course I have my own problems. I honestly thought I was going to have a – what? what do you call it now? – nervous breakdown? intense depressive episode? nervous exhaustion? There was a day when I thought that I would quit, and I called my sister and she talked sense into me. Last week I had a lot to do. Some of it got done, some of it didn’t. What did had mistakes, which I opened a work email about this morning. But I am being kind to myself and reassuring myself that I can’t do my best at the moment, but I’m doing the best I can.

Some of what is going through my head is that I need to go ahead and hire someone now to help with the yard clean-up, and to install a handrail on the front steps. Then I need to get estimates on rebuilding those steps so that they are not dangerous, and we may possibly need to build a ramp. There is room if I move my herb garden to the back yard.

This also means that our trip to Portugal in September may not happen.

When I was at work yesterday, Sandy did not take pain meds and drove about 15 miles away to get take-out from one of his favorite restaurants. He managed to do it, but he was exhausted afterwards. He should not be driving, but I can’t stop him. I don’t think that he will do it again, but he can be stubborn about what he can and can’t do.

I did get my shingles vaccine last Sunday afternoon at Walgreens and my arm just stopped hurting almost a week later! The first two days were really bad. An ice pack helped a lot. It makes me dread the second dose, though. Some people say that they had worse side effects with the second one.

Pablocito and Diego caught a mouse last night. Well, Pablocito did and Diego crouched a few feet away, clearly fascinated. I saw what was happening but realized that there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I went back to bed. I found the mouse wrapped in a throw rug this morning. It probably died of the stress. The last time this happened I tried to rescue the mouse and I put it outside on the back steps, but it died out there. Oh well, the wheel of life. It is good to have a mouser. I just wish he would go after the palmetto bugs that sometimes invade the house.

Now that my arm doesn’t hurt so much, I’m going to weave some tapestry. Really. The weather is getting better, thank God, so as it gets warmer we’ll be spending more time on the front porch. Getting out and puttering in the yard during the two nice days we had last week did me a lot of good. I walked around the block, and talked to my neighbors in person and my friends and sister on the phone.

Reading: finished “The Silver Swan” by Benjamin Black (aka John Banville). He is a rather bleak writer because his characters tend to be lonely or twisted, but he writes masterful descriptive prose – almost at the level of Annie Proulx. So many descriptions of smoking. I guessed the ending of this “mystery” from the beginning, and there were parts of the book that I wondered why they were in there at all. I enjoyed the setting of 50s Dublin, though. He mentioned my favorite pub that we visited on our last trip there: The Cock Tavern in Howth.

On Kindle I am reading Rebecca Solnit’s “Men Explain Things to Me.” It has made me remember all the sexism I endured in my younger days, especially at work. These days, I feel pretty good about that area of my life, but what astonishes me is how much I put up with because I felt like either no one who could do anything about it cared, or that I was somehow responsible for it.

As for fiction, I’m not sure what is next, yet. Maybe “Gentleman and Players” by Joanne Harris. I have so much to choose from! Almost every book I read gets put into a box to donate or sell, and I am beginning to see some spaces on my bookshelves for the first time in years. Whether we end up moving from this house or not, I want to clear out some clutter.