Monday, August 31, 2015

Requiem for a garden

With the gradual loss of daylight minutes during August, the garden usually slows down, and we heed the signs that fall is approaching. This year has been a bit different than usual. It's been hot; we've had temperatures in the 90s for the past three days, and the forecast is for 90-95 for the entire prediction period through Sept. 9. To add insult to injury, we haven't had measurable rain for almost six weeks. The rain barrels are dry, we have watering restrictions, and I think it's time for me to accept that the garden is mostly a lost cause at this point.

The tomatoes look very sad and have given up the struggle. We've had to pull out all the dead zucchini plants (what kind of gardener can't grow zucchini?!), and the stunted cucumbers are small and bitter. Withered and dehydrated Napa cabbages and beans are just waiting to be pulled out. We'll leave the Brussels sprouts and see what they eventually do, and since the carrots and turnips are underground away from the parching heat, they are at least holding their own. We are still able to water two rows of late snow peas that we put in, in hopes that they may still grow and produce something.

I am thankful that I don't absolutely depend on the garden for my food for the winter. I'm also not battling huge wildfires, spurred on by drought, like many areas in the west. Put in that kind of perspective, my garden is just a bit sad, and certainly not a tragedy. I just wanted to say goodbye and hope that it fares better next year.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

True Confessions

The end of Summer Book Bingo is approaching in less than two weeks and I have a confession to make...I've been cheating.

I spent some planning time in the beginning of Book Bingo, matching squares on my bingo card with books that I actually wanted to read. I did fairly well working through my TBR list, getting books from the library, and enjoyed browsing through a new-to-me used book store that is only a few blocks away to fill one of my squares. In my planning, I had chosen Centennial by James Michener for my "At least 800 pages" square. I have it on my Kindle, had started reading it before, and was really looking forward to some concentrated and devoted reading time to immerse myself in the story.

Which I did. I was especially thrilled to see that it was available as an audiobook on August 4th, so I used an Audible credit and started listening. James was my constant companion, driving, walking, weeding, even sleeping. That became the biggest problem; I was sleeping with James. While it's an interesting story with an incredibly detailed plot (all the way back to the geologic formation of Colorado and dinosaurs!), it just wasn't holding my attention. I found myself nodding off almost every evening when James was next to me.

Then I read about Mary's obsession with Stephen. I had 11/22/63 in my Audible library, purchased in a previous sale, and decided I should at least give it a try. I spent much of last week looking for ways to spend more time with Stephen, taking long walks with him, happily picking string beans in heat and humidity as long as I had Stephen by my side, doing everything but sleeping with him because 11/22/63 is so good that I stayed awake several evenings, listening far too long into the night.

I realized that I needed to break up with James so I could carry on with Stephen without feeling guilty. James was happy with the "it's not you, it's me" excuse, and it really isn't him. I will try Centennial again later, but first I need to finish my summer fling with Stephen. Tall, dark, maybe not so handsome, but he sure can write an engrossing and compelling novel, and I can't wait to spend more time with him.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to School

I've always loved the beginning of a new school year, from my own back-to-school days with a new book bag, yellow Goldenrod tablets, and freshly sharpened pencils, through all the years of guiding and reassuring my own sons as they headed back to school. I looked forward to the approaching crisp fall weather, and especially the lovely feeling of a Brand New Year with a blank slate. I always hoped I would have a great teacher, be a star pupil, and have the best year ever.

Bonny First Grade

This year is a bit different. For the first time in 16 years, Justin is not going back to school today. He is perfectly happy with that, and so am I, especially because he has some new, exciting things on the horizon now that he's graduated from college. He is probably very glad that I won't make him stand still for yet another picture as he and Ryan head for the bus.

Ryan 11th grade, Justin 9th grade

Ryan 12th grade, Justin 10th grade

Ryan is beginning another school year today, in fact, he's headed off to 19th grade. He's starting his third year of graduate school, and while my time of buying new pencils, paper, and backpacks is done, this is still a special time of year for me and I wish him well. Things have changed over the years; he's taking some courses, but heading back to school now also means that he is teaching courses. He has the added fun of adopting dual personas this first week of classes since he is filling in as a substitute professor for his advisor while he is off at a conference. That means that Ryan gets to be the professor for a class he is also taking as a student. Interesting things happen when you're in 19th grade!

Ryan starting 17th grade

So to Ryan, I'm wishing you a wonderful day today as you begin 19th grade, and a very successful, happy, productive, and all-around excellent year. I'm sure you'll have great teachers, be a great teacher, be a star pupil, and have the best year ever. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

F is for...

Fear, Family, Fitness, and Fitbit Flex.

The Fear came about this summer as the result of spending time in hospital, orthopedist, and cardiology waiting rooms. It really culminated during my recent observations and conversations in a cardiac stress test waiting room. There were 11 patients there, 10 were noticeably overweight, and at least four shared that they were diabetic and had high blood pressure. While I sat there and watched patients enter and leave the waiting room to undergo testing, there was only one man who could walk easily and without help. He was also the only patient physically able to walk on the treadmill for the "stress" part of the test; all of the the others were there for the "nuclear/chemical" option. The nuclear part involves the injection of a radioactive substance into the patients' bloodstream to measure blood flow into the heart muscle at rest and during activity. These 10 patients were not able to exercise on the treadmill, so their hearts had to be chemically stimulated to dilate the arteries and speed up their heart rates. I was not one of the patients, but I felt as if I easily could be in the not-too-distant future, thus my Fear.

I'm 58, probably 30 pounds overweight, and will never be called athletic. John and I make a real effort to do our 3-mile walk, but I can also be the queen of excuses. I'm too tired, it's too hot, too humid, too rainy. I don't like to walk alone, so I rarely go when John is traveling (which is often). I'm physically active, but gardening, weeding, and mowing are not daily habits. Reading and knitting don't provide many aerobic and cardiac benefits. Ryan will hopefully be getting his PhD in the next three or four years, and I'd like to be there to see it and be able to attend graduation without using a walker. Justin doesn't yet know what he'll be doing in the future, but I want to be around to see what it might be and offer help packing and lifting boxes as he'll probably be moving out west to do whatever it is. I love my Family and want to be here to enjoy them for a long time. After I thought long and hard about the Fear, it was quite clear to me that I needed to do something to improve my Fitness.

So I decided on a Fitbit Flex. I've dismissed this in the past because I'm not a gadgety-type person, but after looking into it further, I decided that this might be just the thing to really see exactly how active I am, improve my fitness, health, and keep myself honest. Excuses are futile when you can see precisely how many steps you've walked and how many active minutes you've had. I think it's working so far. I don't achieve my goals of 10,000 steps and 45 active minutes every day, but now that I'm starting my fourth week, I think I am making fewer excuses, making exercise a habit, reaching my goals more often, and holding myself responsible.

It's amazing how excited I am when my Fitbit buzzes and flashes! And then there are the silly Fitbit badges I've earned that I'm inordinately proud of. None of this is a guarantee that I won't eventually be in the orthopedic or cardiac doctors' waiting rooms as a patient, but it is improving my fitness and health now, hopefully staving off the dreaded chronic disease difficulties (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, lack of mobility...) and maybe compressing my morbidity in the future.

If you've read this far, I thank you. I wrote this mainly to document, remind myself, and keep holding myself accountable. Feel free to ask me if I'm keeping up with my 10,000 steps and active minutes in the future!

Monday, August 17, 2015


We had a lovely weekend visiting with younger son Justin.

"Good fences make good neighbors." Mending Wall, Robert Frost

"I wonder about the trees." The Sound of Trees, Robert Frost

         "I don't know where she thought she was headed as she ascended the little tower
with such confidence." Ladybug, Billy Collins

"Two roads diverged in a wood..." The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

"Looking out of a wreath of fern..." For Once, Then, Something, Robert Frost

"Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars of light..."  
In Blackwater Woods, Mary Oliver

I hope your weekend was poetically lovely!
Joining Karen

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Letter

I've only written one Friday Letter this week, but it's about something huge that has taken over the area news and provided both a source of amusement and wonder (as in "I wonder how many ways this can go wrong.") Let's open the mail...

Dear His Holiness Pope Francis,

While I'm not Catholic myself, I like to think of myself as an accepting, live and let live type of person. So I'm glad you're coming to visit, but I'm wondering if you understand the increasingly crazy chaos surrounding your September visit to Philadelphia (We're now calling it Popepocalypse). Mayor Nutter (hmm...interesting name) and his traffic box and pope fence plans; the closing of bridges, major roads, city offices, businesses, colleges and schools from Sept. 25-28; NJDOTs helpful map* showing people their expected 3-7 hour hike times from New Jersey; pregnant women being told to make alternate plans for delivery since many of the city hospitals are within the no-vehicles-allowed "traffic box", and we're still six weeks away from your arrival. I do hope that you have some free time and can escape the pope fence to pick up your own plush Pope Francis doll and maybe even bless the Eagles' quarterback's knees. Wishing you a wonderful visit!


P.S. It might be a good idea to return to Rome promptly after your visit, just in case you accidentally left the stove on or the water running. Also, I have to be in Philadelphia on Sept. 29.

*This map is making the rounds on Facebook. It's too good to not share.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Knitting, Wondering, and Wondering about Knitting

I knew this already, but after giving some careful consideration to my ravelry project page, I may be one of the world's slowest knitters. I don't knit anything especially large or complicated, so lately I've been wondering exactly why it takes me so long to complete projects. After looking at when I knit, how much I knit, and what happens when I knit, I think the answer is simply that I don't make it a priority. For me, knitting has turned into mainly a fill-in activity that I've relegated to when I have to spend time in hospital and doctor's office waiting rooms and maybe an hour at the end of the day. I counted and gathered data, and over the last week, I've only knit an average of ~500 stitches/evening because I've nodded off or paid too much attention to whatever I was watching on Netflix. There's not really anything wrong with this, but I really would like to knit and finish more. I love the process but product also matters.

I've identified the problem, and know that the solution lies in simply making knitting more important, but I haven't figured out the concrete answers yet. I'm busy working during the day, then there's grossery shopping, cooking, cleaning (not much, but still some!), laundry, mowing, weeding, gardening, walking, reading, weekends traveling and visiting with family, the above mentioned time spent in waiting rooms, etc... Every other knitter has these same responsibilities and commitments, and some people have many more, so I've begun to look at ways that I might be able to change. This may be simply a seasonal change; once the garden is done producing I anticipate having much more free time when I'm not weeding, harvesting, and preserving produce. I think I'll be reading less when I'm done with Book Bingo (one or two books at a time instead of three or four). I'm fairly sure that I'll feel more like knitting when the temperature and humidity wane with the approach of fall.

I don't want to make excuses, and certainly know that if I say I want to knit more and finish more, I have to make knitting a real priority and just do it. I'm going to try and make some changes over the next month, and would welcome any and all suggestions!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Anatomically Correct ...


Definitely odd, but too amusing not to share.
(I hope he wasn't ravishing the radishes.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

They're Back!

I've been spending a lot of time outside recently, and it's dawned on me over the past several days that I've had to yell over a noisy intruder - yes, it's cicada time. I expect cicadas in August, and while I haven't actually spotted a great number of them, those that are around seem especially noisy to me this year. It's probably a good thing that I don't have a decibel meter to measure the males' screeching, fingernails-on-blackboard mating calls so I don't have to call OSHA about my noisy workplace.

The cicadas don't really hurt anything (except my ears), but their incessant noise reminds me too much of a dentist drill, buzzing loudly and constantly in my brain. I wish they could advertise their availability in a quieter way, like lightning bugs!

In the meantime, I'll just wait several weeks, when this year's hatch dies off, and hope that I spot more of these other impressive insects, cicada killer wasps.