Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rocky Raccoon has a sweet tooth

flamingo willow
azalea and holly
dahlia, dahling
the first of many sweet Williams. Planted seeds last year. Lots of blossoms forming

Lots of gardening accomplished this week along with 2 more trips to nurseries and the farmer's market. I planted seeds in pots a month ago. Hopefully I can fill out some beds with those. And I scrubbed out my pond, a disgusting job but now it is clean though I can't get the waterfall feature to work, at least I have a pond aerator.

I have 3 hummingbird feeders and one oriole feeder (my lone oriole is still visiting) For the past two weeks, I've found them on the ground most of the time the next morning. At first I thought maybe the wind though the bird feeders were always OK. One of the hummingbird feeder is right next to my bedroom window so I can see them while lounging around. Last night at one am, I heard the feeder clanging against my window. I quickly opened the blind. There was Rocky Raccoon on the ledge. Did he jump off? not until Steve pounded on the window. My hostas have been trampled so I knew it was something big. I suppose I should take the feeders in at night to fix his wagon but the hummingbirds are early and late feeders. We now have lights on in back. Hopefully that will scare him off.

I spent more time with my friendly dentist yesterday. I thought I would get a 6 month break from him but no such luck. A piece of a bicuspid broke off as I was eating my granola last week. And extra bonus, I used up too much of my insurance already this year to have much of a crown covered. So I have a temporary on that will hopefully last until January. Steve has a much worst tooth that will cost mega bucks as he probably needs an implant. He had crowns put on most of his teeth in his early twenties, the result of his parents thinking soda was a suitable beverage for kids. Evil stuff. I didn't get much soda as a kid mainly because my father thought it too expensive.
Now I see that pediatricians are recommending severely limiting juice consumption for young children.

And my big bike ride from Pittsburgh to DC has been postponed a year. A woman who was going to go with us has an injury. We were depending on her husband to use his van as a support vehicle. So I was given a choice the other night, do it without support or wait a year. I will try to have some fun doing something else I still have the ride in Northern Michigan in 2 months.

Maya's pediatrician had recommended behavioral therapy along with drugs for her ADHD. There is a long waiting list for the former. MY friend Soulmate, a child psychiatrist, was angry that we didn't try behavioral therapy first (again waiting list)  though I have my doubts. How can one talk out a chemical imbalance? Tonight we had the initial interview with a social worker to assess Maya. Still have to wait for a therapist. By that time, Maya's insurance may be canceled.

6 pounds to go though some think I should be done. BMI is now 23. Capris I had bought for my Arizona trip are ridiculously  large now.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hyperthyroid cats

We went to an art fair down the street . One of the artists makes large animal mosaics. In front of his studio is a life size mosaic tiger that I go by frequently. His wife, who I knew in another life, makes ceramics and soaps

My niece with new glasses. I would never have guessed that these frames would be popular for women
the youngest grandchildren who will come here later today
Josh and Allie at the nearby park this morning
riding her new bike

Recently there was an article in the NYT about the spate of hyperthyroid cats, a not seen condition prior to the 70s. What is to blame?  Possibly PBBs, which are flame retardants. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism; weight loss despite insatiable appetite and thirst; irritability. Best treatment: radioactive iodine followed by life time replacement hormones. However, this is extremely expensive and the cats might not take the follow up pills. One can surgically remove the thyroid but again, expensive and you need the pills. One of the moms has one of those cats. She tried to give daily antithyroid pills but her cat, otherwise quite meek, will fight to the death rather than swallow a pill. She is instead feeding the cat very expensive food that contains absolutely no iodine.

So if it is doing this to cats, what is happening to us? Has the prevalence of thyroid disorders gone up during the same time? I don't know but I do know that I know many more women over forty who have a thyroid disorder than not, most of them having Hashimoto's thyroiditis which causes the thyroid to die. I had the somewhat rarer condition Graves Disease whose principal symptom is hyperthyroidism. Radioactive iodine destroyed my thyroid and I need replacement hormone daily.

It is raining on my preferred bicycling day. Fortunately I had a small break between storms to ride 25 miles. I didn't do my big loop as I would be far from home if the weather maps were incorrect plus it includes dirt roads which really are a pain when wet. I instead biked past huge mountains of trash. The nearby township seems to handle most of the trash in SE Michigan. The road near the ginormous landfill was recently paved. I thought I wouldn't have to worry about the many garbage trucks going to and fro. Early, there were none but on my way back, a whole convoy of them. They don't rest for Sunday I guess. And that smooth road won't last long under their huge loads.

But all this rain is good for my gardens. I planted lots of seeds last year and had very little to show for it except some weedy looking things. I was tempted to pull them out but now they are starting to be in bloom, sweet Williams of all colors. They will need more sun to fully blossom.

We don't have the variety of birds this year as last. No grosbeaks and only the one oriole, who flew away in disgust today as all the grape jelly was washed away in the rain. Instead of having a whole flock of wax wings, a lone pair has shown up only twice. The female hummingbird finally made her way across the Gulf of Mexico to my feeders so I at least have a pair.

A pair of barn swallows are nesting on  our porch. They have not dive bombed my face as other pairs have done. I was sitting on the porch on the phone (brick walls make for bad reception) the other day and the male perched on the chair beside me staring me down just a few feet away. He was there a long time. Usually they perch high on the ceiling and chatter away when we are out there. They are quite pretty.

What have I been up to? I did buy a tile at the art fair yesterday along with s small bicycle sculpture at a yard sale. Two days ago, I went to a cake tasting party (just what I need, right?). I thought I would prefer the chocolate flourless torte as I am a chocoholic but a pineapple upside down cake make with real cherries and fresh pineapple and a very buttery cake base was surprisingly more tasty. The 'diet' choice would be an angel food cake. So homemade angel food cake is much superior to store bought but still it is just sweet fluff. I went instead of to a concert in Detroit (thank-you in-laws) because I was going to see a friend I hadn't seen in years (very nice seeing you KP, we needed more time). Shanna took my place as Steve's date. Bonus for him, she didn't whine when he insisted on eating at the Outback Steakhouse before hand.

I hear those pesky grackles making their ugly screech before greedily gobbling up my suet cake. Must go scare them away
Below is the tiger down the street

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tasty gaslines

I bought a simple black dress to put my beaded moth top over
After much debating over the past few weeks, I bought this crane print. The Taiwanese artist, Hua Yao Tung, has painted some very cool stuff. As you can see from the previous photo, I have this next to my crane screen in  my orange, blue and gold living room
Maya came over the other night but spent most of the time sleeping
Another primitive doll to add to my doll wall. Its body sort of reminds me of my own. Finally a reasonably thin body ( 8 pounds to go and I stop) but upper arms still are mysteriously outsized

Where have I been? Busy.
Yesterday I spent the entire day in a hospital. Not what I had planned on doing. What I planned to do was to finish planting my vegetables and maybe set up my pond. A friend had surgery  2 months ago. Unfortunately the wound never healed and was opening even larger exposing her to all kinds of peril. Her daughter and grandchildren live with her but her daughter was inconveniently out of the country. I had offered to keep her company while she recovered but the person who was to take her to the hospital ended up in the hospital herself. She said all I had to do is drop her off but I knew they wouldn't do surgery without a person present responsible for her afterwards.

I was told the surgery would take an hour and the recovery another hour so I had brought my running stuff to get some sort of workout instead of just hanging out in a waiting room. Already it was 80 and humid (now after the arctic blast came in, it hasn't got past 55). I found a path next to the river and run in the steamy air redolent of honeysuckle and wild phlox. There was some kind of pollen burning my eyes. The hospital gives you a patient number which shows up on a lit board telling you what phase of the surgery they are in. I had timed my run such that she'd be almost out of recovery when I returned. Nope still in surgery. An hour later, still in surgery. Recovery took much, much longer too. They wanted to admit her but she had those grandkids to take care of. Don't they have friends to stay with? Not any her daughter would approve of. Turns out her wound was very deep and they had to keep cutting and cutting. Whether she got to go home or not depended on a physical therapist finding her capable of walking a bit. This hospital doesn't have a physical therapist so we had to wait a few hours for them to find one to come over. She could walk gingerly and in pain. How much pain? 5 out of 10. Then they wouldn't release her until additional meds got the pain down to a 4. So a very long day that I got to drive in 2 separate rush hours. The grandkids are 13 and 15 so they should be capable of being helpful. Sadly they a used to grandma stepping and fetching for them, not vice versa though today's report was they did step  in for some of the work.

So who would eat a gas line? Rodents. One of the Moms recently got a new car and already the Check Engine light started flashing. She took it in to find the chewed gas line which the warranty doesn't cover. This has happened before to another car of hers. Never heard of this before. I looked it up. Happens a lot and especially to one brand, not hers, which used a soy based (yum, yum) housing.

All the Moms have many plans to go on their fancy vacations so we got together the other night as we had 4/5 of us around (the fifth is on a dream vacation in Scotland and Ireland). It had been a very hot day but it was quite pleasant in early evening to sit outside next to the railroad tracks drinking our enormous Happy Hour beers ( I had been minus 60 pounds; too afraid to weight myself now). The train comes quite close to us shaking the ground. Right after the crossing gates went down meaning the train will come thundering through in the next 30 seconds, a young woman's  bike tires get stuck in the tracks and she falls down sprawled on the path of the soon to be here train. Her helmet was on the ground. She didn't seem too much in a hurry to move herself out of peril. All of us diners behind a fence were yelling in unison for her to get up. A runner who could have pushed her to safety just keeps on running by. We all thought we'd see a very gruesome death but she got up with seconds to spare...smiling. Did she stage this?

So after my bike ride today(in the cold but at least it was dry), back to gardening. All the vegetables are in. Hopefully they survived being dried out in their peat pots yesterday while I was gone. I didn't have to buy chard as little plants are popping up. They reseeded as some of the plants were out of the rabbit proof zone. Of course that nasty kale didn't die. It has roots to China. Still much work needs to be done.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Boy do I wish I combed my hair! Josh and his girls
Maya at a Hands-on Museum birthday party practicing pole climbing. It is in a fire station. Who has a birthday party on Mother's Day?
Daniel's portrait of Shanna. She is as special as his tablet
all my Mother's Day flowers
cool hand made tile
hand blown glass

Well I didn't get fatter on Mother's Day so I suppose that was a plus. I did get a call wondering what time I was going to make a meal for everyone. Hmmm... twenty to never!

As soon as it was light enough, off I went on my 32.5 mile loop. A Mother's Day Miracle! On a particularly bumpy stretch on my path that just last week was flanked by orange barrels, which I assumed would be there all summer, I was met with smooth as glass pavement. Yay! And another severely rutted short cut I take to avoid going through Ann Arbor was smoothed over so I could zip over that without feeling my ribs shake. Also the weak head winds early on turned into strong tail winds so I was quite speedy. As soon as I got home, Josh and his little girls were there. He gave me some extra padded bicycle shorts which will be handy as most  of mine are too big and the padding shifts to inconvenient places. Hannah still won't let me or anyone else hold her without screaming. In 2 months, she will have to adjust to 'not-the momma'.
About an hour after he left, Shanna's family came over with lots of flowers. All the kids helped Steve buy me an Applewatch, which I am trying to figure out how it works. Need to do some reading.

It was a beautiful day. Later a friend shared some wine with me on my porch.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sparkly butterfly

Shanna and Tessa at a Mother's Day tea
me trying to take a selfie to show my top. Arms are blocking the design. Notice all the plants still inside
Isn't this cool? Actually it looks more like a moth. The base is silk but it is covered with thousands of beads. My cost: $10.
glass bottle wind chime from up north and a begonia basket Really should take down snowflake lights

I have been busy today. As soon as I got up, fueled by one cup of coffee, I was out on the bike at dawn. Sundays are a better day to ride but if the weather is good, I will ride both days on the weekend. Need to catch up for my two long bike rides. I noticed that the nearby church had its big sale already but they were going to do deep discounts on the last day. I quickly showed up to find that top and some picture frames.

I had gone to a huge nursery yesterday with some friends. Today I spent 3 hours planting stuff. Still have much work to do in the yard. Each day I do a bit (today a whole lot). Still have to set up my pond.

And this afternoon I am processing rhubarb. Some of it I turned into jam. What did I thicken it with? Orange peel. I didn't realize until today that orange rind contains a lot of pectin. I also made 'roasted rhubarb' that can easily be added to things that one adds raisins to. One thing I might make with it is rhubarb scones, which I found on Mennonite Girls Can Cook which has many rhubarb recipes. I still have a lot that I can harvest.

Now that it isn't raining, I can keep my oriole happy with grape jelly. He has been ignoring the clementines. He has been trying to tip one of my hummingbird feeders over and lap up the spillage. Orioles are so pretty. Still no grosbeaks. I found a missing wren house hidden in some day lilies. Within a day of me hanging it, a wren began building its nest in there. Wrens are so plain looking but they sing so prettily and pick off bugs in the garden. I think I have 3 houses full of them.

Happy Mother's Day to you all! What am I doing for it? Who knows?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Searching for cherry blossoms

Miss Hannah
We rushed to catch the one ferry that detours under the Big Mac
The famous Mackinac Island arch
me feeding clover to a draught horse
The great room of our inn had huge Norway pine beams
At dawn
The perimeter road at dawn during my run. I didn't see anyone until the very end. No cars or trucks are allowed on the island. Everything is transported by horses or golf carts. The road is 8,2 miles long. Long ago during a race, I ran it in an hour flat. Yes I was fast. Sadly I didn't get nearly as far in the same time
The arch from below made gold by dawn
Usually Mackinac Island has spectacular gardens. However, due to very late spring and how far north it is all they had to prettify were hyacinths and daffodils
our taxi to town. We were about a mile from the docks. Our luggage got a ride both ways but we opted to take it  ourselves just one way
Pretty Victorian where we stopped in Bellaire for lunch the next day
cute art gallery in Elk Rapids where we  stopped to get coffee. Favorite coffee shop closed but I bought a beautiful wind chime here. Found coffee at Thanks a Latte in Grayling. Note cherry blossoms We saw zero cherry blossoms on the most northern cherry blossom route. Too early though some towns had them lining the streets. Must be a bit warmer in town
Finally some cherry blossoms south of Elk Rapids. There would have been some for sure in the Leelanau Peninsula even further south but I was guessing Steve was tired of driving in circles

We are back from our mini vacation up north staying overnight at Mackinac Island, usually very expensive, but since it is very early in the season, we got a good discount. We rushed to get to the 10:30 ferry, the last one of the day that would go out of the way under the bridge so we could be in two Great Lakes (4 out of 5 Great Lakes prefer Michigan)and see the bridge close-up. Things in our favor: speed limit increased to 75 in Northern Michigan. Downsides: texts from Josh pleading for us to drop off Hannah's diaper bag. No can do. Construction dropping the speed to 40 mph for 10 miles, a rest stop that  4 buses at once unloaded a bunch of middle schoolers causing lines, and needing gas.

We pulled up at the ferry dock at 10:28. Information person said she'd try to get us on the 10:30. While I got the tickets, Steve got rid of the luggage and parked the car. They left a few minutes late for us. Rush, rush, rush. Once aboard, I realized I left my coat in the car and it was very, very cold. Steve left his phone in the car so he missed a text about a family medical scare (still being investigated). My luggage was' checked' and would be delivered by horse directly to the resort. Fortunately I found it sitting on the dock and took out a fleece I was going to run in. Not as warm as my coat but much better than nothing. It was about 38 and windy. Later in the day, the wind died down and it went up to 48, still cool to be just sitting but I did anyway. The island is so pretty. Steve was the only one on the outdoor deck of the boat as we passed under the bridge. At some point I will post his photos.

We walked a lot. There are numerous paths throughout the island.  Although the perimeter road is flat, the island is quite hilly. Those poor horses that have to drag stuff to the Grand Hotel! To get to the top of the Arch Rock, we climbed 107 steps. Once wee got out of town, we would not see anyone else.

There were clouds of black bugs called midges, roughly the size of a mosquito. Although they don't bite or even try to land, some areas were so thick with them, one had to keep ones mouth closed. They hatch en masse when the ice first melts. I never had seen them before. The 3 times I had been there before was in the summer. When I got up at dawn to run, it was too cold initially for them but on my way back, I ran through clouds.

We also did not bicycle. years ago, we rented a tandem but the second person had to have short legs. I pedaled with my legs splayed. Not so fun. I brought my own bike over during the Michigander 4 years ago but we got caught in a storm on the unpopulated side of the island. and once the storm passed, the road was still wet. We ended up with a lovely stripe of horse poop up our backs.

The main lodge was nice built with enormous pine logs. We ate dinner overlooking the Straits. Very pretty.

Sometime it pays to be stupid. When I got back from my early morning run, Steve was annoyed. great room you selected, the shower is broken. I looked at it for a minute and couldn't figure how to get the water to come out the top spigot. I called the desk to see if there was some special trick. Instead the lady said that she'd send an engineer to look at it. A high school aged boy shows up. I asked him if he could get it to work. No. The engineer would have to fix it. We didn't feel like waiting around all day for this 'engineer' (we had called about turning the heat down and the promised engineer never came so we slept with the heat and air conditioner blasting at the same time)I went to the desk in person to complain and asked if they would comp our breakfast buffet. They would but she said that the engineer had just called to say our shower was working. After breakfast, I went back for the long awaited shower. It didn't work until I pulled some hidden ring on the tub faucet. Perhaps it was never broken but it certainly was not obvious. The front desk person could have told me this. I can't believe we were the first people ever to complain about this. Part of the problem was language. Most of the island's work staff comes from Jamaica. Yes they speak English but sometimes they are hard to understand. The staff was very friendly. An American born manager called me later in the day to apologize

It was so nice to run early in the morning listening to various waterbirds and just the sound of the water lapping the shore. Until the midges woke up..

Cherries from NW Michigan are one of Michigan's main crops. Shouldn't the trees be in blossom now? I couldn't find any current cherry blossom hotline though from reading, I knew they were in bloom about this time last year. We went on two cherry blossom routes. The blooms only came out 1-2% on the most northern route trees but we found some further south that were about 50% in bloom. Probably today (2 days later) they all are in bloom. The special cherry liquor place was closed but we did go to Short's Brewery which now seems to be a destination place. Good food and good beer. Who can ask for more?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Informed consent

She's now 4 months old looking very much like her father at this age except he had no chin dimple

my Christmas cactus is in bloom again
A welcome sight during these 2 days of cold, unrelenting rain and wind
I have provided him with his own feeder with orange slices and grape jelly, which keeps dissolving in this nasty weather. He prefers the hummingbird feeder

Since the weather has been so bad, I have started to watch TV. I watched the Oprah produced and acted story of Henrietta Lacks. She had died of a virulent strain of cervical cancer in the early 50s leaving 5 children to suffer an incompetent father and cruel step-mothers. Oprah played one of the surviving children.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins had been trying to grow cell cultures of human cancers unsuccessfully until they had a sample of Henrietta's cells. These grew and grew and still are used to develop anticancer drugs and vaccines, the so-called HeLa cells. She lives on through her cells. These cells are so virulent that they commonly cross contaminate other cultures grown any where near them. Back in the stone age of cancer research, the drugs we made were tested against a strain of leukemia cells, L1210, named after Linda, the leukemia patient. This puzzled me as our targets were solid tumors and leukemia is not a solid tumor. I don't think we used HeLa cells. Our drugs were not specific; they interfered with DNA replication of both the normal cells and the tumor cells. Today's cancer drugs are more finely targeted though the ones used on me were not.

Anyway, a huge point of the drama was that these cells were being sold and the Lacks family had not received one dime. Furthermore, no one had asked Henrietta for the use of her cells. Callous researchers would show up at the daughter's door demanding blood to test for markers without ever explaining their purpose. Only one modern day scientist was shown as anything but a cruel, calculating robot with disdain for the suffering of their patients. This irritated me.

So there was no informed consent but these days, this is how things would have been. Henrietta would have been asked to sign off on using her tissues as experimental material. I was asked to donate my tumor for science. When I asked if there was any benefit to me, I was told coldly that it may benefit future patients but not me specifically making me feel like a shit for asking. Henrietta still will have died a hideous death; her children still would have had miserable lives and they still would not have gotten one dime from Johns Hopkins. The acting was excellent and the story engaging.

Although informed consent would not have helped the Lacks family, it certainly would have helped the Tuskegee airmen who were studied long term for the effects of syphilis. They could have been treated but then the study would have been ruined. That was reprehensible.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The return of the hummingbird

This is him from last year. I assume the same ones return to the same spot. He came back about 4 days later than last year. The females will come in a couple of weeks
tulips in a raised bed where the rabbits don't go. They love to nibble on my other tulips
bleeding hearts at sunrise

What a miserable day! Cold and non-stop rain. I went out early this morning when the radar showed our area as light green as opposed to the dark green it will be the rest of the day. Yesterday I was able to bike on the only warm, dry windless day. It is like early March outside except now the humming birds  are back, or at least one is. I have 3 feeders out with one next to my bedroom window so I can see them up close.

It has been 7 months now since I began my program, 56 pounds as of last week but then some came back. Very frustrating! I was running down through the woods yesterday when it looked like a van was going to run into me. No, she just wanted to say how much better I look. She has been watching my progress. Never saw her before. How much longer can I keep this up? Maybe another month?

I finally had a talk with the neighbor whose discards I have been picking up including the 7 foot sailfish, walnut mirror, French provincial chair in perfect condition, and many other assorted items. She has been trying to sell her house. She gives each realtor a few months to do it and then fires them. She is on her fourth realtor. I wish I had fired our realtor when it was obvious she wasn't going to do anything. Why is she moving? Her house is too big for one person. Where's her husband? He died last year, don't I know that? He was only 60. No I didn't know that. I know very little what is going on here.

Next week Steve and I go up north for a mini-vacation. So far, it looks like it will be dry though cold. As long as it is dry.

I still spend much of the night listening to podcasts, many trying to figure out how the country has suddenly turned for the worst just like that. Why didn't we see this coming? And how divided we are.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day

gila woodpecker on ocotillo blossom, one of the reprints I ordered for my wall

Maypole dance 1958 Corning High. I am a 5 year old speck in the crowd. My house, not shown, would be to the far right

Back in New York, May Day was always celebrated. At school, we danced
around a tether ball pole holding crepe paper ribbons to music. In the afternoon,
we'd go watch the much more elaborate high schoolers with their satin ribbons
and pastel dresses. None of this in Michigan.

May Day is also my step-grandmother's birthday. She has been dead more than
7 years. Is her estate settled? Nope. Just lots of promises. Unfortunately
everything is in Quebec, which has much different laws than in the US
and in a different language.

Another gray, drizzly day. I did spend some time weeding especially
targeting weed trees.
I have an oriole and 2 humming bird feeders out. No takers so far though
both species have been spotted in Michigan. The barn swallows came back
early and are determined to run me off of 'their' property swooping in my
face if I go on the porch or near the garage.

With rhubarb juice oozing out of the tart, I made the long drive to the opposite
end of the county deep into the woods for Mom's group the other night. The tart,
though messy, was tasty as was the rest of the food made by the Moms. Featured
drink: bloody Marys.

And Josh was finally able to take me out for my birthday. I really enjoy our talks.
He was glad to have grown up in Ann Arbor even though it is an island surrounded
by reality. And my Blood orange margarita was nice too. Lots of 'blood' drinks this
weekend. Back to being 'good'.


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