Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review

At the End of Magic, by Mary Petrie (aka Minnesota Matron)

This book hooked me immediately. I found both Delphi and Leilani fascinating, and the writing pulled me right in. All of the characters had a warmth and depth that left me loving them.

This is the second book I’ve read that deals directly with a parent wishing for more alone time, and then getting what she wished for. The first book was Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One, and I cried through that book. This book is different –while the loss is sad, Leilani’s behavior is so self-destructive that you feel a stronger connection to her survival of the loss than the loss itself.

When Emma was a toddler, my life-long, low-level, anxiety ratcheted up to panic attacks. They were very specific –any time Emma so much as coughed, my gut was sure she was going to die. I couldn’t do anything about that stomach clenching, it didn’t matter how much self-soothing I did, or how many rational statements Rob made concerning her health. Eventually the panic attacks leaked over to Rob –he forgot to pick Emma up from pre-school one time? I was sure he was dead on the side of the road. He was at a meeting a half-hour longer than he’d said? Again, dead on the side of the road. A very good friend finally intervened and got me to see someone, and eventually a low dose of meds made a huge difference.

What I only just recently admitted to Rob was that during those panic attacks about Emma, I would sometimes tell myself “Well, if she dies from this you won’t ever have to experience this panic again. The problem will be over.” I could never admit I thought that back then because it is so incredibly horrible. But I did.

Mary Petrie’s book is a good reminder that I’m not the only mother who sometimes wishes that having a child wasn’t so hard. That it didn’t require me to give up so much of myself during those early years, in order to feel that I was doing an okay job. Like Leilani, I left my baby crying with her dad sometimes as I went to work, and I longed for Mondays, when I could drop her off at daycare and enjoy the peace of adult colleagues and work I love.

Once I had Emma, of course, it never occurred to me to do less than the best I could --for me, having a child was a commitment. And I’m happy to say that parenting Emma has become more and more rewarding as she has gotten older. I love the adolescent she has become, and I love spending time with her now. I love our family of three --we have a wonderful time, and she has brought so much into my life. Plus, of course, she has developed her own life and often gives me long spans of uninterrupted time :-)

Reading Mary Petrie’s book was not only a wonderful experience because of the excellent writing and story, but also reassuring. I know there are plenty of women in the world who love being a mother, but for me it was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I feel really lucky to have made it through those early years, and my reward is the pleasure of knowing the person my daughter is becoming. But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make the same decision again if I had to start over (hence the name of my blog --I don't think I'm a bad mom, but I am pretty bad at being a mom). It's nice to encounter stories that make me feel like I'm not the only woman who has felt this way. 

This was a wonderful reading experience and I would highly recommend this book. I'm so glad that this book came out of a closet and saw the light of day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


So, guess what I did? I ripped that bandage off myself! Yes I did. Then I made Emma come in to the bathroom with a new bandage and put it on. Neither of us fainted.
Actually, the incision looks great (although he used stitches instead of staples this time --does it hurt to get stitches pulled out? The last time I had stitches I was at Field Camp (a geology graduation requirement) and I cut my foot by walking in a numbingly cold mountain stream, not realizing it until my fellow students saw the blood flowing downstream. Any physical sensations are lost to the mists of time. And I just have to add that this is parenthetical enough to challenge Kristy's writing style.)

I've been out and about, and I can put weight on my right hip, and I only need the cane now. Progress! 

In other news, I'm reading a book most of my readers will know about: At the End of Magic, by Mary Petrie, otherwise known as the Minnesota Matron, and it is really fantastic. If it's not already on your list to read, download it! I am about 3/4 of the way through, and had to force myself to put it down last night to go to sleep. 

Also, I'm a teensy bit jealous of Emma and Rob as they play in the pool. I'm thinking if I get my stitches out tomorrow, I should be able to go swimming by the end of the week?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Goings On

Well, I'm almost two weeks out from surgery. Yesterday I left the house for the first time since coming home from the hospital, to go to out-patient physical therapy. I walked very carefully with my cane to the car, then from the car to the PT office. This is the same physical therapist I saw last time --I really like him. I've had some experience with physical therapists that I did not care for, so I made this appointment a while ago, to be sure I could get in with him again.

Today Emma had her Kempo class, and Rob and I will often take advantage of that to have lunch or dinner (depending on the time of the class). I decided that since I'd gone to the out-patient appointment, it wouldn't be any more walking to go with him and have lunch somewhere. Unfortunately I slipped a little bit coming down the back stairs --my cane landed too close to the edge of the step and slipped. I came down hard on my hip, but didn't fall. I still went to lunch, but my hip feels more bruised, so I've been icing it since we came home. It makes me a little sad because it feels like I set myself back some, but hopefully it will recover in a day or two. I'm telling you, I'm not good at convalescing. 

I have, however, taken three showers since surgery! That's three more than I was allowed last time, and it's really nice to be able to feel clean. I would definitely recommend this new type of bandage, although it is causing me a bit of a problem: because I went to out-patient PT, the home-health nurse can't come anymore. The insurance basically says they can't come once you can leave the house. I could have lied by omission, but I didn't really realize it was a problem until after we'd talked. Not her fault, but I'm supposed to have the bandage changed on Monday --the instructions say that the bandage should be replaced with a dry bandage at two weeks. Since I don't go back to the Ortho Clinic until Weds, I'm going to have to do something on Monday. Choices: I can change it myself (with Emma's help), I can call around to see if the clinic where the PT is located could change it via a walk-in appointment, or I can ask a friend who's certainly dealt with her share of bandages. First I'm going to call the ortho clinic, to be sure it must be changed before Weds. After that, I'm not sure yet. Pity I don't have a friend who is also a nurse :-)

In other news, I caught Emma and Rob out watching Friday morning:
Here is what they were watching:
A very exciting day, as our almost-falling-down-by-itself garage was torn down. A new one should go up in a couple of weeks. This was accompanied by hundreds of displaced wasps, yellow-jackets, and bumble bees. They were not happy. Even though he and Emma stayed pretty far away while documenting the process, Rob was stung by a bumble bee. 

For other entertainment, I've been reading. I finished the latest Richard Jury mystery (Martha Grimes), and I've begun reading the Minnesota Matron's book, At The End of Magic (Mary Petrie). At The End of Magic is pretty amazing so far.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Think I'm Back

(If you are here for the Virtual Garden Tour, click here!) 

I just made myself a baked potato in the microwave, cut it in half and put a slice of cheese on it, put it in a bowl and carried it to my chair, in the living room. Isn't that amazing?! I swear, yesterday I thought it might be weeks before I could do that.

So, I've had my week of feeling weird, dislocated, scared, and wondering why I did this, and I got through it. The best comfort and healing is having your daughter or husband snuggling next to you --just that body contact is such a healing force. I've also spent the last two nights sending appreciative and healing thoughts to my leg, trying to remind myself that it's not like they just beamed that joint in there --there was some major trauma involved to the leg, and it needs time for the cells to regrow. I'm not generally new-agey, but I think there's some very good science behind the power of thought on healing, and I really do appreciate how much my body can go through and yet come out mostly willing to deal with more.

There were some large and some small differences between this surgery and the one just a little over a year ago. A big one was that I was not knocked out for nearly as long. Last time I had no memories after they started the spinal block, and until I woke up in my regular hospital room. This time there was a time lag between the block and surgery, and I got to overhear the doctors and nurses in the "block room" talking --it seems an emergency had come in. (People, really, think before you ride a motorcycle. You don't want to be doing this surgery when you started out with working hips. Totally not worth that ride.) When they wheeled me into the operating room, I finally asked the nurse "I'm going to be more asleep than this, right?" Then I woke when they were finished but still in the operating room, and was awake the whole time in the recovery room. Weird (men and women manhandling you to get you from the surgical table to the bed while you're completely naked and the bottom half of you feels like a wooden board) but not scary or painful.

Small difference: the bandage. This time it stays on the whole two weeks, and has some sort of silver in it that is a natural antibiotic. No changing the dressing until I go back to the Ortho Clinic. I could even shower with it on, right away, but showering seems like it would take an enormous amount of energy, and I'm not there yet. I did wash my hair today --baby steps :-)

Another small difference, that I think ended up making a more significant difference, was the nursing care. I never seemed to see the same nurse for more than one shift, and they seemed overworked. When I got home, I found that I was supposed to have restarted the Celebrex I'd been on before --for two reasons. First, it's an anti-inflammatory, but second, apparently it's important in keeping the bone growth from going wonky. I think because I didn't start that until Friday night, my swelling was a lot worse, which meant the hip was more painful. So I iced it most of yesterday and that helped a lot. 

I'm going to consider myself lucky that I'm one of those people who could never get addicted to narcotics --I started off with only half the allowed dose of Oxy, mostly used a quarter dose, and only through the actual hospital stay. The side effects (and the actual effects) are definitely not good for me.

(In a weird coincidence, the book I decided to read was about a suburban mom who becomes addicted to Oxy --All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner. My experience of her writing has been uneven, but this was a very good book.)

So, here I am, able to wander around the house with my walker, and at least feel like an almost-normal person.

Virtual Garden Tour

This is a garden post --and it's been posted to participate in the Common Household Mom's virtual garden tour!

This will not actually be a tour of my gardens --I'm not sure I have gardens that can be toured. But I do have flowers in various places, and I've taken some photos of them to share. I actually took these before my surgery, since I can't walk around the gardens yet.

Daylilies are one of my favorite flowers to grow --probably because they actually work for me.

Only these three were blooming at the time I took photos. I have many different kinds --I tend to purchase just one corm, and then let them multiply, something they are very good at.

This is our patch of milkweed --trying to help the Monarch butterflies. This stuff comes up all over in spring, but it's easy to pull and keep it contained to one area. And while I usually try to remove (and play with) the seed pods, I've never been able to get this stuff to start from seed.
Balloon flower --this is a short hybrid, and I really need to move it out of this bed next year.
Bee Balm (Monarda). I had a large patch in this garden and most of it died during our summer of drought. Those are all weeds around it --this is the flower bed I'm not keeping.
Also from the same flower bed, some lilies that I've always liked. I planted these in a different bed one of the first years we lived here, and I've transferred them around since then. 
A small clump of volunteer Spiderwort (near its end --it's mostly seeds now) along with some drumstick aliums.
The Spiderwort in the above photo seems to have volunteered from here --a bed that is halfway across the property. I started with the pink Spiderwort in this photo. One year I decided to leave all the cut stems in the fall, because the ground here is really sandy. I figured it could use the organic material (and I was lazy). It never occurred to me that it would seed itself into multiple colors. I like it, although it's crowding out some daylilies. Once I'm fully operational again, I'll have to get in here and tame the chaos.

This is one of my shade gardens --it's really just a strip along the north side of the house. Hostas, geraniums, coral bells, and foxglove. And a tree seedling growing up there in the background that I haven't been able to reach and pull yet. We have a lot of mature trees, and I think most of the weeds I pull are tree seedlings.

My one blooming astilbe. The other one's flower was eaten. Honestly, though, I'm amazed that these plants are even here. I planted them the summer of the drought, before we were actually in the drought. I did water that summer, but there was no way to water enough. And then they came back last year, but I couldn't really garden last summer because of my surgery. They didn't bloom last year though, and after this winter I thought sure they were gonners. But, here they are :-) Well, here this one is, anyway.
I do so love to garden, and doing these garden posts reminds me of that --I'm so glad the CHM suggested it! Please visit her blog to see links to all the participants!

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Creative Blog Hop

A creative blogging friend of mine (Becky of Chicken Wire and Paper Flowers) was tagged in a Creative Blog Hop and asked if she could tag me in her post. Of course I'm happy to participate! 

What am I working on?

Because of some upcoming surgery, I have finished up the one bigger project I was working on: jewelry for a gemstone-and-metal blog hop. The reveal for the hop isn’t until July 19th, (so I can't share photos of those pieces) but I’ve finished the jewelry, taken my photos, written the post and it’s scheduled to post on that day. The reveal will be on my other blog, Beads: Rolling Downhill. I started that blog because I was posting a lot about jewelry here for awhile. Now that I've slowed down, I've been considering merging them again. The most recent post there shows the gemstone and metal components I was sent to work with.

However, most of my projects are small. I have lots of beads, and while I try not to, I still find components that other artists have created and buy them. It’s so hard to pass up some of the amazing handmade glass and ceramic beads that are made by the community of jewelry artists. However, with a full-time job, house, garden, husband, and teenager, there isn’t a lot of time to put into making jewelry. That’s okay, though, because sometimes I think I enjoy things more when I can’t do them all the time.
Some other ways in which I indulge my creativity include drawing (zentangles, recently), playing with polymer clay, and some hand-sewing. I make beads and other components out of polymer clay, and I sew gift bags. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Perhaps in being so amateur? I do these things because I enjoy them, but it’s definitely a case of “don’t quit your day-job”. While I enjoy the jewelry I make, and have found that friends and family also admire it enough to wear some pieces, I know that compared to the work of many of the jewelry artists I’ve been introduced to, it is very simple. I am familiar with jewelry artists whose designs never fail to amaze me, and that’s not me. Drawing, clay –all the same way. I definitely create because I enjoy it. I share the jewelry because one can only wear so much jewelry –you really have to give some away eventually! I think I feel especially lucky that I’m in the position of having a career I love which supports me economically, so that I can afford to just dabble and enjoy my creative side. 

How does your creating process work?
Definitely unplanned. I never sketch out designs, I just pick up pieces and start. With beads there is usually a period of time where the beads I want to work with will sit out on my beading table, and I’ll circulate other beads around them and see how they look. Then I leave them for a day or two and see how they look after that.

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed learning about Zentangles is that it’s such a free-form creative process. You just pick up a pen and go. I also like to color, and have multiple coloring books. (I just picked up some by Zolorcolor.)

Oh, and also, I prefer to work alone, with music playing --I love to sing while I work. Another case of not quitting your day job! It's best if I sing alone :-) 

My creative friends:
I am tagging two friends here, neither of which I've ever met in real life! First is my friend Karen, who blogs at Spokalulu, and also makes beaded jewelry. In addition to that she takes amazing photographs.

The second person I wanted to tag, Jen of Glass Addictions, just broke her arm, so she can't participate in the hop itself. However, I still wanted to post her blog --she's one of the lampwork artists whose work I admire (and I have two focal beads made by her that are just waiting to be made into jewelry). If you've never seen lampwork beads being created, you should search around on YouTube. It's amazing how these artists can create such beautiful components with just a blowtorch and glass rods!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cloud Appreciation

One of the classes I teach each semester is Geology of the Solar System. It's my favorite class (I wanted to be an astronaut until I realized I'd never live through the training), and I spend a lot of time looking around for new information to share with my class. I only teach the class online, which works wonderfully because most of the newest information is only available online. Textbooks take a long time to get written/edited/published, so they are never up to date in this particular subject.

Last year some time, I found this incredibly cool Planetary Society blog post where they share some art work by Ron Miller. These are photographs of places on Earth, altered to show what the sky would look like if Earth had rings like Saturn. You really should click through. This one I've posted below is really the least spectacular. The rings look different, depending on the latitude of the landmark in the photo. They are amazing!
By Ron Miller
Then this summer I found a fun video that shows you what it would look like if the Moon were replaced by the various planets in the solar system. Just imagine Jupiter or Saturn rising and setting in the sky!

Thinking about making these differences in Earth's sky got me thinking about how easy it is to take Earth's natural beauty for granted --and I don't mean the spectacular stuff that most of us only get to see every once in a while (or never). I mean the everyday stuff that's around us all the time. For instance, the newest Star Trek movie has an intro scene that features a planet with a red forest:
After last winter, I've been SO enjoying the green everywhere --sure, the flowers are pretty, but it's the green I want to just breath in. A red forest? No thank you!

One of the things I love to do in summer is lie in the pool and look up at the sky. Earth's clouds are really a spectacular feature of our planet. From the puffy white cotton balls, to the intense dark, swirling storm clouds --they are all beautiful. One of my favorite skies is when there are different layers of clouds --it looks like you could reach out and touch the lowest ones when you look up through breaks in them to the higher clouds. Sometimes the highest layer has tiny little puffs --and you know they aren't really tiny. They're just REALLY high up. I also love to stare long enough to actually see the cumulus clouds grow --you're watching water vapor turn into hundreds of water droplets. And when clouds begin to look soft and vague around the edge, that's when the water droplets are evaporating away again.

We live on such a cool planet. It's a good thing to have a pre-global-warming winter every once in a while to make me appreciate it!