Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oh, my aching shoulder

Apparently I have another gardening injury. For the last nine days I've had a muscle or some other tissue in my right shoulder that's painful - either achy or a sharp pain, either beneath my shoulder blade near my spine or on the outside of my shoulder. I've had three massages and appointments with my chiropractor and my acupuncturist. They all say, "have you been gardening?" or "yes, you've got an injury". And I have full range of motion so it's not a rotator cuff tear.

This pain is especially bad when (1) I'm trying to go to sleep at night or (2) I work on the desktop computer). I've tried heat and ice and exercises and they're of limited use. The best solutions are to stay awake, to stay off the computer, or to be 20 years younger.

I've limited myself to absolute necessities on the computer: finding the number of a Honda repair place to get a quote on a timing belt replacement; getting the route between my house and a drumming circle meeting; checking multiple times to see if my friend and housekeeper has responded to my question about whether she'll be cleaning next week before my granddaughters arrive for a visit; checking my online calendar for times of meetings. Once in a while I sneak a game or three of Candy Crush (I'm mortified to say I'm on level 461).

I always regret spending more than five minutes on the desktop. My shoulder starts to ache, or aches worse. If I've gone all day in reasonable comfort, and then I spend half an hour working on a genealogy project, and the shoulder aches. Then I lie in bed for an hour or more trying to get into a comfortable position and then I wake up every hour to replace the ice pack.

I decided recently to wean myself from computer dependence. It's not friendly when I spend a few hours a day with my back to my husband. He has said he feels left out. So the timing is not really that bad for me to have this gardening injury.

What about balancing the bank statements, though, or reconciling the credit card? I like to get right on those when they come out. Being up to date with finances gives me the illusion of control.

Give it time, I'm told. And then those ugly, ugly words: "As we age, our bodies take longer to heal." I hate that!

Instead of spending a lot of time on the computer this week, I've sat in my garden, torn out the spent peas and spinach, picked some green beans and beets and carrots and zucchini and eaten a lot of blueberries directly from the bushes. I've spent more time with my cat Larisa (she's currently sharing her yard with my sister's four cats and one morning she got chased by one of them; now we put a baby gate on the stairs to the deck to keep the various cats in their places). I've gone to bed early with my husband and read to him until he fell asleep. I've read more than usual. It's actually quite like the days BC (Before Computers).

Maybe the Universe is helping me spend less time on the computer by making it painful. I'd like to think I could have done it on my own.

By the way, this blog was created on my laptop, on my back deck. Different position, not so painful.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nature Ain't Disney

Our suburban yard - just a third of an acre including the house - is a certified wildlife habitat. To get that designation you need places for plants to grow, for animals to feed and hide and raise their young, for a source of water (a fountain on the front porch) and food (bird feeders and a garden). We love the summer when we can watch the inhabitants of our place.

On Monday I went out to the nest we'd been watching. It had been about 12 days since we'd first seen the mama bird on her nest, so we knew it was about time for the eggs to hatch. Here's what we saw.

So exciting! The babies were all open mouths. There were at least two of them. As we watched, the mama returned to the nest to tend her young. For the next several days, when we'd stand under the grape arbor, we'd see either the babies gaping skyward, or the mother and father bird feeding or standing watch over the babies.

Our two families have five cats, so we figured by the following Monday we'd need to keep the animals in for several days while the young fledglings hopped around on the ground under their parents' watchful eyes. No cat of ours would cut the lives of these babies short.

Early Friday morning my sister Alyx visited the birds. For the first time she could hear peeping coming from the nest. But in the afternoon, when I went out, the nest was silent, and no adult bird was in sight. I visited several more times that day, but all was still in the nest above me.

On Saturday morning it was still quiet. My husband Art set up a ladder by the grapes, and Alyx climbed it. "The nest is empty," she told me. "I saw two big orange and brown birds flying around yesterday - they almost looked like parrots. I'd never seen them before and I haven't seen them since. They looked pretty interested in the grape arbor." Then she added, "I should have stayed out there to keep them from the nest."

I went on the internet to learn more. One writer said that birds who build open-cupped nests have only a 7-to-40 percent success rate with their babies, and some breeds  produce three clutches each year to compensate for this.

It was that writer who also commented, "Nature Ain't Disney".

Alyx and I grieved for the babies and the parents as though we had known them personally. I know this is part of the cycle of life, but still.  I remember reading somewhere that, in the "olden days", women were discouraged from developing an attachment to their infants until the child successfully reached its first birthday, as the infant mortality rate was quite high. One of those sad things.

I don't have the same sentiment about pulling beets or carrots out of the ground. Fortunately.

On the human front, my church community had an organizational meeting on Monday for a project to create a community of "tiny houses" for the homeless. Other groups in the country have had success with this concept - the closest one in Olympia, Washington - and we're interested in partnering with other groups to develop a similar plan. When I think about the homeless, I know there's not much difference between them and me. A few years of education, maybe, or a couple of different choices, and some luck. I do believe we're all in this together. Hopefully, this project is something I can do even if I'm in Tucson for the winter. In the initial assignments, I'm responsible for researching the relevant laws in the community and county, and will be doing some marketing presentations. I'm not a marketer, but I have a good amount of experience as a presenter.

Tonight we ate the first green beans from our garden. Tomorrow I pull out the rest of the dying pea plants. The cycle of life, I guess.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sweet summer

I know, I know. We're all of us doing summer together in the northern hemisphere. We're all coping with heat and enjoying gardens and the longer days. Still, it seems unique just to me, and especially sweet this year. Here's why, from just this week.

1. My sister Alyx and her husband Virgil are living in their motorhome in our back yard. They moved here in May from Alaska and will be our "neighbors sharing a plot of land" for several more months. It's been two months now and we're all enjoying the experience. They work nights, so we don't see too much of each other. It may be that when we leave for Arizona for the winter, they'll stay on as caretakers of our place.

Alyx and I sit out together most mornings on "the porch", a couple of folding chairs we've rigged up on our lower deck. She lets out her four cats - they're all old, and they've been indoor cats their entire lives until now - and we chat about her night at work, my plans for the day, and whatever comes up. Both of us are talkers, and I suspect our husbands are relieved the listening doesn't have to come from them so much as usual.

Alyx was 11 when I went off to college, and we were never close until our mother died in 2008. Now we are enjoying each other, and the relationship. It's never too late -- at 58 and 65 we have plenty to say

2. A mother bird has built her nest in our grapes!

We have a couple of Adirondack chairs just under the grapes, and Alyx and I sit out there and watch the bird as she comes and goes. We think she's a little restless today. Her babies should be hatching in the next couple of days. Our yard is a certified wildlife habitat, but this bird and her nest and her babies are an unexpected delight. I have read that the babies will hop around on the ground for three days before they finally fly. On those days, Alyx will keep her four cats inside the RV and our Larisa will be  confined to the house as well.

3. We have a spectacular garden this year. Art usually tends it, but this year I am doing the watering and watching. And Alyx has never had a garden, so it's all new and thrilling to her.

We added a Three Sisters garden this year - corn, beans, and squash. When we're sitting out there it's like we're in another world. These days, we're trying to keep up with eating the lettuce, though some of it has gone to the food bank. The strawberries are all eaten or frozen, the raspberries are finished, and we're working on the blueberries. Green beans will be ready in a few days. Such a treat! It still seems like a miracle to me that we plant seeds and then these plants grow, knowing how to make their own leaves and stems and fruit.

4. I developed a "gardening injury" - a cranky piriformus muscle. It has begun to settle down. I'm grateful that I can walk again without limping. The body's ability to heal itself is a miracle.

5. I have several friends I meet one on one for coffee once a month or so. We sit in Starbucks or a local restaurant and talk for a couple of hours. I love these times with friends. This week I got to see four of them: Carol, Vicki, Colleen, and Sandy. I'm full up by the end of a week like this.

6.  I got some wisdom from my friend Beth. She gave me a great acronym: Don't Even Think About Changing Him! Such a good reminder as I live with a fellow who isn't as compliant as I am about health issues. Humor is a very good thing.

7.  My neighbor Jennie's baby Elsa is nearly eight months old. This week Jen called and asked me to come over and keep Elsa occupied while she packed up some homeschooling materials. I haven't forgotten how to play with a baby. Wonderful! I'm especially honored that Jen trusts me with her friendship and her baby.

8. I bought a 32-ounce decaf iced latte twice this week. Even Jason, my barista, said "You're kidding" when I ordered it from him. I figure it's a great way to stay hydrated! I'll probably go back to my regular size this week. It does seem a little decadent.

9. We're having a heat wave. It was 90 in Seattle today. We're sleeping with the doors and windows open. As I lie beneath a light sheet, I can hear the night sounds of the neighborhood, and the full moon lights the bedroom. I'm aware of all the other sleeping people in all the other houses. It feels good to be part of the community where I live.

10. On my way home from a gathering yesterday (30 women, most of whom I don't know), I was wishing I was better at mingling. Then I saw an older woman walking slowly on a sidewalk, stopping twice. It was hot. She had no water. I turned the car around and went back to her. Alyx was with me, and we stopped the car and gave her a ride to the nearby store. Alyx walked with her until she was sure the woman was okay. I brought up my feeling about wishing I liked mingling. Alyx said, "Linda, none of those women was alone, and none of them needed you. The woman we took to the store was another story. And you were right there."

That's true. I watch out for people around me. I hope I'll remember that the next time I'm feeling awkward at a larger gathering.

Sweet summer!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Reflections on a family gathering in Idaho

My stepdaughter Melissa and her husband Scott put the gathering together. They decided on Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho, because of the variety of activities available and the proximity to Seattle, where a number of the family members live. It took several months for attendees to sign up. The final list was Scott and his mother Marcia and her husband Jack; Melissa and her mother Nancy, Nancy's husband Clete and their son CJ (18); Melissa's brother Jason, his wife Kalei and sons Kyle (14) and Kaleb (5); Melissa's brothers Pete and Greg; and Melissa's dad (my husband Art) and me. A blend of blended families! 

In four days various members of this gathering went on a bicycle ride on Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, wakeboarded and innertubed behind a ski boat (or watched from the boat), played disc golf, hiked, zip lined, and experienced a climbing wall. Plus shared dinners. And talked and laughed and reminisced.

My reflections:
  • I like how divorced parents (Art and Nancy) can spend four days at a gathering with their children and their current spouses and have everyone get along. I do that sometimes with my ex-husband and my children and my husband Art. I know our grown offspring really like it.
  • I have been afraid of heights for as long as I can remember. I have asked the Universe to remove that fear for years. For some reason, I was unafraid of trying the zip line this weekend. I suited up, got strapped in, and zipped. I also hiked 2.5 miles from the top of the mountain to the village, in a series of switchbacks with steep sides overlooking the village, without freezing with fear. I am very grateful. I want to try another zip line.
  • If you do a hike down a mountain, your quads and your calves will be very angry and you will hurt for two days. You may even wobble a little - especially if you have a gardening injury and your piriformus muscle is cranky even before the hike.
  • I was the oldest female in the group. How did that happen?
  • It's about a seven-hour drive from where I live to Sandpoint. We drove clear across Washington. It is a beautiful state.
  • If you have eliminated refined sugar from your diet, you can choose to have pie and cookies and ice cream anyway, just because you're on vacation. I chose pie and said no to the other sweets. I'm glad I'm home where pie and cookies and ice cream are not on the shopping list.
  • Fresh cherries bought at the roadside stand taste way better, and are much cheaper, than what you get at the grocery store.