Saturday, August 30, 2014

Small Surprises

 I had no idea how much I had been emotionally and energetically paralyzed for at least two weeks prior to the commencement of my radiation treatments.  I thought I was fine.  Coping.  Stoic. Strong. Un-fazed. Calm.  Ha!  What denial to be thinking all that when I was sleeping more than 12 hours a day, eating or not eating, feeling crabby and ignoring daily routines: what is known professionally as dysthymia.
My DH, however, was a trouper:  patient, kind and valiant in his attempts to cheer me up and keep me entertained.  One of his first efforts was lunch at THE DECK in Salisbury, MA., across from Newbury port.  I didn't think all that much of the meal, but I loved when the sea gulls came, sat on the umbrellas and flustered several other guests.
Last weekend we ventured toward Ipswich and Essex; touted as the North Shore's best area for antiquing and browsing. The weather was even better than a New England promotional firm could advertise.  Cool, sunny and clear.  Our GPS valiantly led us down less-than-familiar roads.  As we sailed through a Y intersection, I spied a used book store and announced it to DH, who was uncharacteristically flexible, turned around and pulled in.  Broken-In Books in Rowley (Hwy 1 at 133)  is a little gem.  The manager, Victoria Roberts (whose name I remember because it duplicates the name of a fabulous artist and illustrator), admitted that she does the book selection.  I bet she knows her regular customers well.
There was an eclectic smattering of current best sellers (and not just the big publishers big promotional items like B&N).  There was a smart selection of back list titles:  Not just fiction, but cooking, politics, science, and biography.  DH found a pristine doorstop edition of Stephen King's Insomnia.  I got new copy of Ransom Riggs' Hollow City, the apparent sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
There used to be a consignment/junk store in the lower level of the same building.  In spite of the closed sign, I rather liked the complimentary colors of lilies, ferns and ivy against the salmon-red of the siding.

 Down the road (and not quite to the "center" of the market district) we stopped at the White Elephant Outlet.  On weekends apparently everything is half off.  What I liked best was the elephant itself... but it's not for sale.
In Dallas the "antique" shops are definitely for a retail market:  pots of pot pourri everywhere and real or faux Persian Carpets and dusted or dusty artificial flower arrangements on every side table.
The White Elephant was a glorious mess in comparison.  I felt like a little kid trying to find the prize in a big box of Cracker Jacks. Plenty that was corny.  Plenty that was nutty.  And every once in a while something different that was just fun.
There were appliances from the '50's and '60's.  An accordion... which no one could say whether it worked or not. 
Pressed glass.  Tea cups from China and faux Italian pottery, also made in China.
A huge abstract brown and yellow painting almost didn't register as being of a cat-- and I'm a cat fancier.  I did form an instant (but insufficient) bond with a heavy iron cat... which would make a better doorstop than even the Stephen King tomb.
And then there was a second painting of a lounging fellow with a newspaper.  I think it was probably by the same artist as the cat.  I didn't see a signature or date on either painting.  I wonder whether the artist was a hobbyist whose attic was cleared after his/her death... and what he would think of the prices. I'd rather sell my paintings while alive... but developing a recognizable style and commanding more than the canvas would cost would be an achievement!

And then last week I had the first 3 of my 30 required radiation doses.
I can't believe how much livelier, active and relieved I feel. (Although they tell me I may experience fatigue in a week or two.)
I'm sleeping a more reasonable amount, eating regular and sensibly (for me), less crabby and more ambitious.
First I pulled weeds in the road side planting area and persuaded DH to bag them for the transfer center.  On his own he tamed the weeds which had taken over our raised bed. We bought landscape cloth and a half dozen bags of bulbs to plant for next Spring. And mulch to keep them hidden from squirrels and happy under the snow which will come sooner than seems possible.
After a late sleep and heavenly time rocking on the porch we headed to one of the upscale Boston suburbs where we had heard there was a high-end wine, liquor and imported food store that happens to have the same name as one we liked in Dallas:  Marty's.  Turns out that they are not related (and Marty's Fine Food and Wine in Dallas has gone out of business.  They could have been twins based on the merchandise, helpful employees and display aesthetics.  
DH found a couple of wines he thought were worth trying.  I am stilll surprised that I didn'g succomb to any of the exotic imports.  Fat Toad Farm?!! And dreamy sounding flavors:  Cinnamon! Salted Bourbon! Cold Brew Coffee! Vanilla Bean! and Spicy Dark Chocolate!!

 Taza Chocolate is a local importer with it's own store... It's made in Somerville, MA.  But look at those flavors! (And you can tour their factory for only $6.00)  Hmmm.   (There were also dozens of Swiss, Italian and domestic "name brands" of chocolate as well as South American ones that were new to me.

 You couldn't pay me enough to buy picled okra... but I do like tomolives and watermelon Rind.
What I found out about Haddon House is that it a privately owned distributor based in New Jersey of "major specialty brands within the ethnic, natural and organic, gourmet, kosher, frozen, and the dairy and deli categories."  AND, they're having their annual "food show" in nearby Connecticut the week after next. So if your local market doesn't carry Tomolives or Tahini, they could call Haddon House.
I was surprised to discover how many New England diners and restaurants stock hot sauce on their tables.  Texas seems to prefer Tobasco (made in Louisiana)  or the Green Pepper Cholula, made in Chapala, Guadalajara, Mexico. They must have amazing salespeople because they are the "official" hot sauce of Denny's, On the Border, California Pizza Kitchen, Boston Market and Qdoba.  Up here it's the "original" red or Frank's.  Frank's has as loyal a following as the Bruins and Red Sox. This may be due to the fact that it is a key ingredient in the official sauce for "Buffalo Wings." Even though Frank's sounds like the "homiest" brand, it is now owned by Durkee, a subsidiary of Reckitt Benckiser, a "multinational consumer goods company" headquartered in Slough, Berkshire, England!!  The sauce itself is made in Springfield, Missouri.

Bottled olive oil with "stuff" in it doesn't always appeal to me, but I thought these were beautiful.  Maybe on homemade artisan bread with a little red pepper and fresh grated Parmesan mixed in? Benissimo is another product with strange "parentage."  It is manufactured in Georgia by Honger Farms, a 400+ year old company that began in Austria, although it seems to be 100% American now.

 Remember Virginia Dare?  (Alleged first child born to English settlers in a colony on the island of Roanoke, off the  South Carolina coast.  The colony later became more famous for disappearing before it's Governor could return from a mandatory voyage to London.   -- Beginning in 1835,  Garret and Company used her name to represent purity and wholesomeness. When the prohibition era began they had to quit making the wine they were most famous for and switched to making flavorings and extracts. That business outpaced the wine business and was incorporated under the Virginia Dare name. Obviously they Anise Oil and Anise Extract special enough to be stocked in this store.  Might have to go there before my Holiday Baking Bonanza!

 Might also have to see if I can find clear plastic clam shell containers to box up my own pizzelles.  Oh, and make some with almond or lemon flavoring! The Biscotti Brothers are based in Western Pennsylvania.

 Finally, just to prove to myself that I had rescued myself from near anhedonia (the inability to take pleasure in pleasurable things) and CAN enjoy things, I stopped in the middle of the road to take this photograph of a riotous garden full of blooming perennials.  Actually, I took several dozen photographs, but either my phone or computer gobbled them up.  You'd have loved the line of sentry sunflowers just to the left of these galliardas and petunias! If it is sunny tomorrow, I'll take my REAL camera there tomorrow and share some other beauty I found on my way home from radiologist!
Wishing you good health, good moods, good sleep and happiness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dream Work (of a Different Kind): Part I

          My husband had a fairly substantial outbuilding when we were in Texas.  There was room for his power tools and lumber stash.  We had hoped that he could down-size to just the 3rd bay of our three-car garage. 
          He couldn't:  No room for him AND a project and a table saw and router.  Plus garages are impossible to heat and get too @#$%d cold for any non-Eskimo do any wood working from October to May.  That's a lot of months to not know what to do.  A lot of months to try to entertain a bored husband. 
So we chose to fore go a vacation, cruise and shopping binge or two or three and build him a REAL woodworking shop.  He spent hours dreaming in front of his computer using 3D construction programs and thinking about what we wanted/needed. Then we spent hours getting a home improvement loan.  (If you have a choice between your local bank where they KNOW you and a big national one that is still freaked out by Federal punishment for credit default swaps, use the local one!  It'll be easier.
 Anyway, we broke ground a couple of weeks ago.  Literally.

It was pretty amazing what the construction crew leader could do with the back hoe.  Sometimes it seemed as big and out of control as a giant dinosaur. 
 But eventually a rectangular sub-floor began to appear.  They have to dig deep here in New Hampshire to make sure they are below the frost line.  (I think the dirt freezes down to a four foot depth. Makes me glad that flower bulbs only have to go down 6 inches!)

 They brought in framing boards in preparation for pouring the foundation.
At the end of the day they had to get the back hoe on the trailer.  Again there were times when it was about as graceful as a hippo out of water.  Its treads didn't look guaranteed to keep the machine balanced as it lumbered up the ramp.
 The operator got some help from the trailer driver so that he didn't drive off the trailer bed!

 The operator turned the top part of the back hoe 180 degrees and used the scoop to gently, VERY gently lift up the tread extensions.  The scoop that had been pounding into stoney soil was as gentle as a child stroking a kitten.

 Then he used the scoop to fold up the tread AND the extension.  (Think of Transformers doing origami...)

 I think it was the next day that they poured the cement.  (Cement trucks in New England look backwards to me! But for the operator to face the same direction as the cement is going makes a lot of sense!)

 In short order the foundation and footing was poured.  I've heard it takes 20 years for cement to harden completely.  But it got hard enough just sitting there over night.

I had that medical stuff going on while they were framing the walls.  And I slept too late to get pictures of them putting up the gable and framing the rafters.  The crew was only three people.  Two guys and a gal.  All were hard workers, strong and full of stamina. One of them brought his American Pit Bull with him.  That was on a hot day and the dog napped in the shade by the flower bed all day.  The dog was happy to let me scratch his ears though.  At one point the crew had used all the water they brought in their cooler.  We invited them to come in and get cold water from the refrigerator.  I got to see (most of) their tattoos up close.

 When it was time to put the shingles on, it was the sane two guys and a new fellow.  I guess the gal doesn't do shingles.
They were good to watch.
It wasn't just their expertise that made them good to watch. If they hadn't been playing top 40 on their radio, and if it had been Tchaikovsky, and they were wearing tights... it would have been like a ballet.
                 They put all the shingles on in just one day.
                 I think the next step is for the Newton Fire Department to come and flood the sub-floor so that the dirt settles before the Sheetrock and siding go up.
 Besides Siding, windows and a door, I'm not sure what all is left for them to do.  When they are done, DH will do the wiring, get the electrical inspection, install the heater and start MAKING STUFF.

I told him that if he doesn't use it more than once a week, I might just move all my painting and craft supplies into it.  I bet it would be better motivation if I bought him a coffee pot and a little refrigerator of his very own. He's already said he'll move our small love seat out there so he has a comfy place to read..  Talk about a man cave!
Ain't Nobody Happy if Daddy Ain't Happy!'

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Over the river and through the woods... Grandma was on the go!

I couldn't wait to give my granddaughter the Chinese Pajamas I bought when I went to the Peabody Essex Museum last month.  She couldn't wait to wear them, either.  Even though most of our visiting time was spent eating lunch at a diner, we had a fun time teasing each other while she flirted with the camera.

 Isn't she pretty?

 She can be silly.

 I know she feels safe and protected by her dad.
 I wonder what she was seeing in the camera....

 Eventually, she realized she was hungry!  Yay for grilled cheese!

Friday, August 15, 2014

There's a difference!

I'm wondering how often I think I know what I'm saying or feeling when I don't.  And it can cause problems.

As I have been anticipating and worrying about upcoming radiation therapy, I realized that I wasn't sure if I knew the difference between depression and tiredness.  I know that tiredness is sometimes a symptom of depression, but what if one is "just" tired and need sleep?  It doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to think that depression might also be a side effect of fatigue.

I took a linguistic side trip and discovered:
discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives or appreciating art) discernment
to know true friends>. discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent discrimination that develops through listening to a lot of great music>.  So apparently I need to improve both!  What is true?  What is accurate?
And being such a visual creature, I sketched 4 little drawings in which I tried to depict both experiences.
Later I scanned and elaborated on each one.

 Depression, for me, is like a horrendous dark cloud that prevents me from seeing hope, choice, or even any changes in the future.  Fatigue is more a sense of being run down, wrung out and maybe not caring what choices and changes might be in store for me.  I think fatigue might need to be taken care of more immediately than depression.  Take a nap!  Or, paradoxically; the opposite -- get some exercise and THEN take a nap.
 The red flare represents the anger that can hide under depression's cloak.  It's there... AND it seems to come as a result of outside influences or obstacles.  The blue pool represents the deep tiredness... and it seems to come from within.  Where they overlap, there can be emotional riptides, eddies and shoals.  But beyond them, there is brightness, and a new day.
 This is a side by side comparison.  Depression on the left; descending from above and pushing one down... like a great burden on ones shoulders, or a huge hat made of lead that keeps you down.  On the right, that little black dot is a swimmer-- too far out to sea.  Possibly too tired to get to shore.  Not trusting the natural ebb and flow of tides, time or even a possible rescuer.
And a more graphic interpretation.  The oppressive red arrow pushing DOWN in comparison to the dark arrow trying to rise UP.  With so many little bumps, seeds, bubbles (or something) needing to be present, noticed and contended with.

How would YOU draw fatigue?  Depression?
One thing  I noticed is that doing the drawings helped me disengage from the grip of both emotions;  writing about them helped me figure out a lot about how I let them get the upper hand.