Friday, May 10, 2019

A Blooming Slow Start To Spring

The days have been (mostly) beautiful this week.   Sunny and almost warm.   I had to laugh as I was taking my walk this evening -- there were people jogging in shorts and tank tops, while I had on my mid-winter coats, hands deep in my pockets for warmth, with a short neck gaiter and wishing I'd brought another to cover my ears!  I thought the joggers were crazy and no doubt they thought the same of me but in my defense, there IS a frost warning for tonight.

Still, despite the too-chilly weather, my grandkids' Youth Orchestra had their Spring concert last weekend,   I am so very proud of those kids; the orchestra is pretty amazing.

I drove north to visit my brother again this week, he is always so glad to see me, although he tires of it pretty quickly.   My sweet husband made him a shirt -- Jack sews everything, so far, out of fleece, and he saw this fabric covered with lake fish and thought of my brother, who has always been an avid fisherman.   These days my brother is always cold, so he appreciated the fleece and put it right on.  My brother is coming to the end of re-habbing yet another house, and he hopes to have this one done before he dies.   He has done the hard work -- even curing his own wood to reside it the same way as was done when it was originally built -- so now it's just finish work.   The carpet was being put in today but I probably won't get to see it until afterour Illinois trip.

We saw 3 houses today, none made us fall in love.   It is almost a game now, although not all that much fun.

In the sewing world, not a lot has gotten done, but I did finish another celtic heart -- I am hoping to make several of these for my sisters in law.    Lots to do, new things on my list all the time.   Taking one step at a time!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Needle and Thread and a Bandage

I finally did it, I sewed through my finger.   I have nipped myself a time or two over the years, but this time I did an actual through-and-through.   Thank goodness I didn't break the needle; thank goodness I didn't hit the bone.   When I saw the point of blood on the other side,  I wanted to take a photo for your enjoyment, but I was unexpectedly queasy for a bit.   It did hurt like billy-o, but not for long, and I am only somewhat sore now, two days later.

In the meantime, though, I sewed a little.  I have a couple of friends, I met them when our Search and Rescue group was looking for their missing father.  They were grateful for our support and have done a lot to support us in the three years since his body was recovered.   They love the legend that the sighting of a cardinal is a visit from the soul of a loved one, so I am working on cardinal towels to take them as a small gift.   

And I made this cute little fox pouch for my granddaughter, whose favorite animal (aside from a pangolin) is the fox.  Pangolin patterns are hard to find, but I thought this little fox was cute.

It is still cold, or at least too cold for me, but we continue to have hopeful little signs of spring.  Just a few more weeks and I should be able to complain about it being too hot again!

I talked to my oldest brother today.  I make up every dopey excuse I can think of to call him lately.   He talked about wrapping his mind around the concept of hospice, about the idea that they won't treat his infections or do anything to prolong his life.  That is not an easy pill to swallow, so he decided to focus on the silver linings of it all.   And he said that becoming so close to me is the silver-est lining of them all.   Tears in my eyes, that come so easily these days, all over again.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Sewing and Stuff

My husband and I expected to break in the newest embroidery machine right away when he bought it in January, but life got out of hand, as it tends to do lately.   We did not set it up and turn it on until March 31, and 2 1/2 weeks later it is already in the repair shop with a long list of troubles.   This is never what you hope for, especially when you are buying the top of the line in anything.    I will be using the machine at an Anita Goodesign seminar this weekend and, if there are any problems then, I will be leaving it at the same shop for another week.   Bummer, I have a long list of projects in the line-up that I am eager to keep going, mostly from Sweet Pea designs.  They are well written and quite inexpensive for machine embroidery designs.  Although it's been hard to find time at the machine, I did manage to get a few projects and one pillow finished before I "lost" the machine, but I have several more that I'd like to get finished soon!

Meanwhile, my husband is going nuts with his serger, and has made nearly a dozen t-shirts out of fleece.  He didn't know that we don't make t-shirts out of fleece, so he did, just like he made countless pairs of socks out of fleece.   I wear the socks all the time because they are comfortable and have such fun patterns, and the t-shirts are also amazingly comfortable, and they wick moisture away; he's made a few a little longer so that I can wear them as nighties as the air is still very chilly at night and he prefers to sleep with the windows open.  

I like open windows, too, but a little later in the season.   It is supposed to go up to 70-F today, but snow is in the forecast for the weekend. 

Despite the forecast, the trees are starting to wake up, and it's a lovely time of year.  

Last weekend my three siblings and I (and my husband) spent an overnight in our childhood small town, where both brothers graduated from high school.  Our lodging, the Inn on Water Street, overlooks the St. Clair River, and it was fun to watch the local ducks and freighters again.  We lived on the river as kids, and used to be able to identify every smoke stack.  My oldest brother always loved the ducks, and has been making decoys since he was just a kid in high school.  I treasure the ones he's given me.

Off to do the day's errands.   We are going to look at an unlikely house that's for sale, and pick up ice cream for my step son's birthday tomorrow.   It is sunny for a change, so it will be a nice day to get out!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Always Winter and Never Christmas

The inhabitants of Narnia complained that it was always winter and never Christmas when the white witch was in charge, and that's pretty much what this winter  has felt like to me.   Because of sibling medical needs, we didn't celebrate Christmas or even live together last year, despite our December 8 marriage.   We've woken up a few times in the last week to snow, again.    But I have seen a few crocuses in bloom and the red-winged blackbirds and robins are back, so surely surely surely Spring must be planning to arrive soon.

On the other hand, my Christmas cactus is blooming for the third time since Christmas, so anything is possible.

On one of the nice days in between falling snow and painful cold, we took my brother for lunch and a long drive and, mid way, we visited an Elk Park in Gaylord.    I very much want to go exploring the area of the State where wild elk still roam, but this had to do for now since no one was up to more time in the car.   I would like to go elk-seeking in the autumn when they begin their mating behaviors and are supposedly very vocal.

I have finally started to use the ridiculously expensive embroidery machine my husband thought we absolutely had to have, and I am enjoying it.   I have the benefit of the machine without any of the angst . . . although its purchase was not a shared decision, it wasn't bought out of shared funds, either, so I have guilt free use of the machine.  Meanwhile, he has taken over the serger he also bought and has already made himself two t-shirts in addition to countless pairs of socks.  With all the family stuff going on, we are enjoying the distraction.

Today is my 12-year Blog-iversary.   So much has changed in my life, my family, and our world since I first started writing.   Thanks to you for sticking with me for however much time you've been visiting!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Off Target

My brother is ten years older than I am,  just turning 79.   He is something of a character, but good as gold.   He has never knowingly cheated anyone and, although he can be as bullheaded as the best of them, and quick to judgment, he is always open to reason and quick to take responsibility when he decides he is wrong.   We were not close when we were young; the age difference was too great, and just about the time my daughter started to show signs of mental illness, he took on the too-common ideology of those who do not live with that kind of illness.  He was sure that my lax parenting was to blame, and I disliked what I considered his ill-informed conservative views.   At about the same time, he was going through difficulties of his own, and I was as sure that he was the cause of his troubles as he was sure that I was the cause of mine.   So neither of us were good listeners, and both of us were too full of certainty to let the other one topple our world view.   

Despite ourselves, we got older.

About ten years ago, actually almost exactly ten years ago, my daughter underwent a crisis and to my surprise, my brother called and said he had been an idiot to think that any kind of parenting issues could have caused her problems and that he was sorry he hadn't been there for me.   It turns out that he always has been the bigger person, genuinely wanting, even if sometimes failing, to do the right thing.   

We have become very close since then, and for years we have been the first person to hear the other's news, good or bad.   He still sees the world with fewer shades of gray than I do, but we respect and love each other in a way that both of us treasure.  And so, over time, I have become his patient advocate and the person who gets the call when things go awry.   As a result, I have been close at his side during his treatment for bladder cancer, and then for treatment of the very rare side effect that the cancer treatment caused.   Lately, things have gone from bad to worse, more quickly than we could have imagined, and now he has been diagnosed with an inoperable aneurysm that is steadily growing, untreatable because it is part of that rare side effect.   The doctors were candid:  it will kill him.   They do not know and will not predict when.   It could have been last week, but it wasn't.   So now it could be today, or next week, or next month, or even next year.  There is nothing they can do to treat it or to stop it.

And so we wait.

Meanwhile, he and I are scrambling to get his affairs in order.   Things we meant to do years ago have suddenly become as urgent as they should have been all along.   He and I disagree, a lot, about where his estate priorities should be, but I have spoken my piece more than once and am trying to step back and let him do whatever he has to do, no matter how foolish some of it looks to me.   I am afraid he will insist on continuing to support someone, a woman to whom he is not married, who has brought him nothing but pain for the last 20 years, at the expense of grandchildren who have brought him nothing but joy.   Whenever he asks, I state my mind, but he did not invite me to join him at the meeting with the estate lawyer, and so it is time for me to let it go.   

But honestly, we most likely would never have had the kind of talks we have had lately without this diagnosis.  I would never have been as candid about his relationship if the stakes weren't so high.  And we are not, by tradition, a demonstrative family.  He is uncomfortable talking about feelings and I have always gone easy on him, but no more.   Now he has to suffer my telling him I love him whenever we talk.   It's been a silver lining that I have had the opportunity to tell him that I will miss him terribly and cannot imagine a world or a life without him, and he has managed to tell me how much he values me in his life.

This morning I got a call from  hospice saying they couldn't reach my brother.   It didn't help that I had already awakened from a nightmare about missing an emergency call about him.     I told myself not to panic,  but he is so good about answering his phone, and even better about calling me back.  Both the hospice and I tried for well over two hours with no answer before I couldn't take it anymore.     Certainly, the hospice lady didn't help by telling me he could be lying there in pain.  I finally got into my car and drove the 2 1/2 hours to the house where he lives alone, calling him every half hour, and trying all the way there to ready myself for the worst.   When I arrived, he opened the door with a happy smile, delighted to see me.   Where was his phone?   Shut in a closet, on the charger.   He said he was sorry I had to make the drive, but really, really happy that I cared enough to do it.   We are both new to this threat of eminent death, obviously we still need to work on some of these little details.   We decided that my panicked drive north was a dry run, and went out to dinner.

I had a lot of nervous energy when I got back home, but now I'm ready for bed.  It's been a long and stressful day but, against all odds, it turned out to be a good one.   Because in the end, at least for now, we've dodged the bullet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

It is 25 degrees this morning, still chilly enough to enjoy our matching fleece socks!    Making socks has been my husband's favorite project these past few months, and everyone in the family has a variety of patterns.  Most of our days are very casual and I am still living and dressing out of an overnight bag that I refresh at home every few days, so it is always a happy accident when we find that we have dressed to match.

Although it is chilly again today, the sun is already shining and it should be a lovely day, filled with the promise of eventual Spring.  Yesterday was nice enough -- about 40 degrees -- to take a short walk in the local Dow Gardens and visit the annual Butterfly Exhibit.  It was good to shed our coats and spend a little time in a sunny, lush little building, surrounded by a variety of colorful butterflies.   I had forgotten that this week is Spring Break from the local schools, so there were lots of children there, too.  Perhaps we will try to go back next week when it will be a tad more quiet and with fewer small obstacles so that we can spend more time looking up than watching out for little ones!

We are more than ready for Spring, so the fresh flowers at the local grocery store seem to call my  name whenever I shop lately.

I am also just on the verge of being ready to start a sewing project, but first I need to take another unexpected trip to the Ann Arbor Hospital, where my brother was taken to the Emergency Room this morning after his routine doctor's appointment turned up some wonky test results.   I hope we get some answers this time . . .

Sunday, March 17, 2019

March On

I had a bit of my wedding bouquet made into a bead that I can wear as a necklace.  I have no idea why I did it, it was expensive and I am usually not so frivolous, but there it is.  A local shop dried petals from a few of my flowers and somehow turned them into jewelry.  It was an impulse purchase, but I am determined not to regret it.

I am not much of a jewelry person, so I always have second thoughts when I do buy something.  Years ago, I bought a pair of blue diamond earrings that were REALLY expensive and I felt so foolish and guilty, but my sister finally advised that I should wear them every day until I had worn them SO much that I could say they had only cost me pennies a day.   It's been quite awhile since she told me I had definitely gotten my moneys worth, and I doubt I've worn them since.   My bouquet necklace will be the same, I expect; I will wear it a lot to justify the cost, and then pack it away.   But I want my granddaughter to know what it is, since it will eventually go into her hands.  Since she was a musician at our wedding, I am hoping it will be a fun keepsake for her some day.

I have had fun lately with the Grands.  I took them to a fiddle concert last week, which was also, coincidentally, the night of our latest ice storm.  My granddaughter, who plays violin and flute, wants to learn to fiddle, and my grandson (who plays cello, baritone and tuba) enjoys hearing different techniques and styles.  Besides, they perform regularly and know what it is like to be on stage, so they are always a respectful and attentive audience.  Unfortunately the octogenarians in the row in front of us were decidedly not good listeners.   They had imbibed to excess of the wine sold at the concession stand, served in sippy cups like the kind they give to toddlers, and their group was loud and foul mouthed.  The old lady in front of my granddaughter held her phone up high, encased in a large leather folder that also contained her checkbook and cards, to video the concert, blocking out view for much of the concert.     At one point, a group of them stood up to cheer and yell at the stage and then one of them sat down, missing her chair, and landing right on the floor.  After hearing their  verbal reactions, my granddaughter whispered to me that she had heard the same language from middle schoolers, but it seemed even worse from someone as old as a grandmother.   I had to agree so it was a good reminder to me to mind my p's and q's.  We enjoyed the concert, but not as much as we could have, and that was a shame.

Dominoes Day is today on St. Patrick's Day so I made the American-Irish traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and carrots.   I made (not much of) an effort at green cupcakes, using a box mix and a packet of green jello -- they were very soft and crumbly; they overflowed the cupcake tins and had to be cut out, leaving a craggy mess that I covered as best I could with frosting.  But we are not a fussy crowd - they will no doubt get eaten even though they are not fabulous.   

My husband and I (yes, I do enjoy saying it)  are starting to work in earnest on the wedding celebration we promised to have with his family in Illinois in May.   Some of them live much further south and it would have been difficult, impossible, for most of them to travel to Michigan in December.  We have booked the hall and the hotel rooms and have placed inquiry calls out to a caterer and bakery.  Since we are traveling there I will need to think of simple decorations that I can pick up when we arrive -- balloons maybe?   I am starting to play with the wall hanging/quilted throw that I will eventually make as our wedding registry -- Jack and I signed the moon, my family in Michigan signed stars in blue, and Jack's family south of us will sign on yellow.   I won't tack the blue stars down yet for fear of running out of room, but I am excited to see it all come together after all the stars are in.

I am almost in the mood to sew again . . . It has been a long time.

Meanwhile, we are no closer to finding a house.  As I've said before, there is surely no hurry since we currently have two, but I will be glad when we are able to really settle down.  I have started just a little bit of organizing in my own house, hoping that Spring Fever will motivate me once the weather starts to warm a bit.   This week, in the course of decluttering,  I found an old chart that I had on my refrigerator when my Grandson was very little and kept there because he loved it so much.   His math brain enjoys charts, and we both thought this was a good one.   A good reminder for me, and hopefully to you, too.  Be happy.  :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snow Moon and Snow

It is snowing again today, which makes sense, I guess, since this week was the rise of the Snow Moon, another gorgeous super moon.   My new little camera -- a gift to myself, surprise! oh you shouldn't have -- takes better photos than my cell phone did, but so far I haven't figured out the right settings to pick up the moon's features, which were striking in real life.      But what all of this means to me is that we will put off our trip further north to visit my brother for at least another week, which is a disappointment to all of us.   Cabin fever is starting to itch a bit.

The local deer are feeling it, too, and they are grazing closer and closer to the edge of the road.  Last week I saw several lying down underneath trees, no more than 20 feet off the highway.   Soon they will lose all sense of caution -- again -- which can make driving a bit more nerve-wracking than usual.    I have never hit a deer, knock wood, which is a pretty good track record for a life-long Michigander.

Not a lot is new since we are not venturing far from home these days.   I am making long lists of the things I should be doing, but not doing many of them.  I have gotten a couple of test recipes lately for cocktails, which makes me thing that the America's Test Kitchen people are finally starting to understand me, so that has been fun.    We are not really big cocktail drinkers, so I have been making a single serving for 3 or 4 of us to share, but it's been an enjoyable experiment.   And I've been  baking more than usual, yogurt cakes and banana bread and such -- comfort foods.    All in all I  have no complaints.   Life is slow right now, but it's all good.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ice Ice Baby

Weather is the main topic of news hereabouts lately.  Every time it clears up enough to go out on errands I see the deer herds clustered around patches of scrubby grass, gorging themselves in anticipation of the next wave of cold or snow.  My grandkids have no school again today for the 8th school day in a row because of extreme cold, or snow, or ice.   Today the culprit is ice, making the roads too slick for school buses -- or me -- to be out.    Local people are posting clips on Facebook of their kids skating on the streets outside their houses, or rolling down car windows to punch through a full pane of ice that remains in the window opening.  Winds are going to pick up tonight to about 45 miles per  hour, which could cause wires to snap since they are coated in ice.   Outages are already being reported.    We hope it won't happen to us -- of course, everyone hopes it won't happen to them.   Theoretically we are luckier than some: Hubby has a generator, but we would have to go out for gasoline to run it.   Since I am the only driver here, that would mean me.   Can you hear me whining in anticipation?   I have gotten so soft in my old age.

We hope things get back to normal, just ordinary cold and snow, soon, just so we can get out of the house again.   We are scheduled to get a photo taken tomorrow, and we have volunteered to be judges at my grandson's middle school on Saturday.  Both things can be postponed if necessary, but I am hoping it won't be necessary.

Meanwhile, I am using the bad weather as an excuse to bake and cook.   Applesauce muffins, orange chicken, whatever nonsense I can get into without going to the store.  

Jack, unexpected as always, is using the time to figure out how to use a serger, something neither of us have ever used or wanted and which he inexplicably decided to purchase last week.     He has taken to making socks. so that we often match, and it is fun for him to have a new hobby since so many things became less fun when his vision was impaired by the stroke.    In the beginning I only wore his creations in the spirit of supporting the Team, but I have grown to like them.   They make me smile.

Speaking of  socks, my son's family gave us a few month's membership to the Sock Club, and that has been fun, too.  

And speaking of fun (notice my smooth segues), I received a sweet note in the mail from a former sister-in-law, congratulating us on our wedding.  She is someone I have not had contact with in the 30-some years since my divorce.  It was a nice surprise.  One of the saddest things about divorce is that  you generally lose a whole bunch of people you care about, just because you decide (or are forced to) to go on without the one person.   Her note brought back so many memories of times with her family and it has been long enough that I was able to entertain those memories without the sadness or bitterness that might have been there before.  She was just a child when I first met her, and all my memories of her are pleasant ones, so it was nice.

I hope you are keeping safe and warm, wherever you are.   I am deep in hibernation here, getting lazier by the day, and honestly not minding it a bit.   

Saturday, February 2, 2019

One Last Day

My brother is being released from the hospital this morning and I will finally be heading home.   He has been diagnosed with a rare side effect of another treatment he underwent, but they think they have a treatment regimen in place.  It will be months before they know for sure whether it works, but in the meantime he can go home.   And so can I!!  We are both ready.    There will likely be another hospitalization, probably surgery, ahead, but for now things are looking good, thank goodness.

I walked to the main hospital pharmacy yesterday to pick up the medications he will be taking home, which was a pleasant little walk since the halls of the hospital are lined with art work.   I have been here before, with him and other loved ones, and the artwork is always different.   Today I found a little gallery of hand-colored quilts, which I thought created a cozy and comforting space for patients and visitors, even though we are not allowed to touch them.  I was sorry that there was no information posted about how they were made, just that they were created by textile students.
When I left the hospital yesterday evening I asked, as I was paying my daily parking fee, whether my brother would have to pay the full amount, since he came in for an out-patient test and will be leaving after six days.   Well, come to find out that neither patients nor their visitors are supposed to have to pay the $20 a day.  Bummer for me that no one thought to mention it before, but good news that I found out in time for my brother!  
Another surprise was that it was a balmy 15 degrees yesterday afternoon, so warm that I didn't even need to wear my gloves!   It is supposed to be warm again tomorrow, and springy-warm by Monday, in the upper 40s, which means that I missed out on my chance to throw a cup of hot water or blow bubbles outside in the sub-zero temperatures.   Both are supposed to be pretty cool experiments, and I'm sorry to have missed the opportunity.   My grandson told me he tried tossing water into the air but said it disappeared so quickly that he couldn't get a good video of it for me.   I would have liked to see that!  I am grateful that my brother doesn't have to go out in the bitter cold, though, because I suspect he is feeling a bit more fragile than usual.

It will be so good to get home.  Not that it's been all bad.   Although dinner alone is not much fun, I have treated myself with the occasional glass of wine or dessert!
And it is always good to have time with my brother.   This time, the concern about his health led to several fairly deep discussions, the kind that we too often put off, and that was a good thing.    We are both getting (a lot) older, and our time together is increasingly precious.

One more cup of coffee and I will head over to the hospital.   My brother grumbled to me on the phone that he had hoped he would have been released by now, but he has to wait for one final doctor to sign his discharge papers so it's hurry up and wait.  He is eager to get out of here and I have a million make-up errands to do.  But I know we are so fortunate to have these minor frustrations instead of a major life disaster, and I am not going to let either of us forget it.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Change of Plans

Any anticipation about being homebound with my shiny new husband during our area's "polar vortex" didn't work out quite the way I expected.   The weather forecasters were certainly right this time and it got colder than heck; even the mail service was suspended for most of the week, to protect the mail carriers who walk for miles delivering our letters and bills.  With temperatures below zero and windchill's that were 35-40 below, schools, businesses, and government offices were all closed, while I was safe and cozy and thinking about what to bake.   

My husband and I were just settling into the enjoyment of Tuesday's sub zero temperatures when I became concerned because I wasn't able to reach my older brother, who lives further north than we do.   Just about the time I was ready to call the police for a welfare check or even drive up there myself, my brother phoned to tell me that he had been admitted to the hospital and they expected to do emergency surgery as soon as they could.   I drove through whiteout conditions down to the University Hospital where he had gone in for a routine out-patient test the day before.

Thank goodness, it was only a day before the medical team concluded that my brother does not, or probably does not have a rapidly ballooning aneurism that could kill him.  Instead, they think, he has a growth on his aorta that can be treated, at least temporarily, without surgery.  We should know for sure in the next day or so but, although he is still in the ICU,  they have cleared him to get out of bed by himself, which is a very good sign.   Meanwhile, I am spending my nights alone in a hotel nearby,  hanging out in the ICU during the day, and driving back and forth in horrific temperatures.  No kidding, the tips of fingers and nose start to burn within minutes, but things are good.  For one thing, so far, the car is starting after only a few seconds of complaint.      Better yet, while we still expect there will be some surgery in his future, and probably a few more days stuck in one of those back-flap hospital robes, it looks like my brother will be able to go home again early next week.     Meanwhile, I've explored the local community to buy him the underwear and socks that he didn't know he should pack because he didn't think he was going to stay.    And Jack is home alone, again, teasing me about my high maintenance family while we look forward to being together again.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Hunkering Down

Last I checked, there were 193 schools, businesses and community/government offices closed today in our area.    Cold and snow, snow and cold, with high winds to complicate it all.   We are likely to all be back out on the roads a few days before we really want to be, but it doesn't look like it will be today.     I sent my snow guy a message telling him I'd rather pay him twice than have him outside for as long as it would take to shovel my whole driveway.   It is brutal out there; the cold wind, especially,  is terrible.  Jack has gone out to shovel twice already, but can't stay out more than a few minutes because of the wind. 

There was a single junco at the feeder this morning, braving the wind and trying to dig out the sunflower seeds and eat them before they blew away.  Inside, though, we are cozy warm and breakfasted on french toast, bacon and coffee.     

Winter in mid and northern Michigan is beautiful, at  least from the inside out.  But it can be dangerous; we've seen reports in the past week of two people, one young and one older, who died of exposure after wandering from their vehicles and not finding their way back in time, despite short distances of less than a quarter mile.   We have a lot of woods and wilderness here, and too many people who don't know how to use a map and compass or dress for the weather.

This old fool is content to snuggle up next to my husband as we sit by a roaring fire and watch the blowing snow through the window while I house-hunt on the internet.  I feel fortunate, indeed.