Thursday, May 17, 2018

May 9, a story in two parts. Part 2: And then this happened.

No sooner had we started driving away from the graduation lunch, my cellphone rang. Anyone who knows me knows that, in true introvert style, I never answer my phone. I figure that's what voicemail is for. But this call I took, because I knew I needed to. It was the radiologist who'd performed the stereotactic needle biopsy the morning before, to say he was very sorry, they weren't expecting the results they got, but I have invasive breast cancer.
I won't lie, I was gobsmacked. I'd been told that the mammogram showed new calcifications that had a 20% chance of indicating the relatively safe and contained DCIS, and that small possibility I was prepared for. Not the invasive ductal carcinoma even the radiologist was surprised by. And yes, I admit I ran through the "how is this possible?" questions in my head. I'm thin, I eat a healthy diet, I avoid processed foods, I exercise, I don't drink heavily, I don't use drugs, I don't smoke. But you know what? If I've learned anything in my life, it's that fair's got nothing to do with it. Asking "why me?" is nonsensical. After all, why not me? My husband and sister and I came home and cried, and then wiped away our tears before my younger son and his fiancée stopped by to pick up his gift and have a celebratory drink with us. It was his day, and I wasn't going to spoil it.
On Mother's Day, my son and his partner invited us over for brunch and afterwards I told them what I knew so far. And then came home to call my older son and tell him. Those were hard conversations and it pains me to make my kids sad and scared. But they needed to know and also to be reassured that I plan to do everything I can to get well. So that's where it stands. I had an MRI Monday morning and have made myself a little crazy reading the path reports and learning how extensive it is. The oncology team will review my case tomorrow and then we meet with my surgeon next Tuesday to talk about what options I might have.
In the meantime, please send some good thoughts my way.
"Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything's okay and everything's going right.
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything's gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face." 

(Alanis Morrisette)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 9, a story in two parts. Part 1: Graduation.

Let's face it - graduations are a little dreadful. Long and boring, with an often mind-numbing speaker. This particular graduation had the added irritant of some rich guy getting an honorary (aka fake) doctorate, which I consider an insult to everyone who has worked their tails off to earn an advanced degree. But I still cry when someone I love is graduating. This time it was my younger son, wrapping up his four years at the University.
I teared up when they played Pomp and Circumstance and the graduates filed in, and again when they turned the tassels on their caps to show they'd graduated, and yet again when his name was called to cross the stage. Afterwards all of us who were there to watch his graduation drove to the restaurant he'd chosen for a late lunch and a round of margaritas - his fiancée, both sets of his parents, our older son and my sister.  I sat directly across from my ex-husband's wife and we chatted about the possums who've been visiting our yard and about graduation traditions, while next to me I could hear my husband talking with my ex about their shared love of old sports cars. I was hit by the loveliness of having the sort of pleasant blended family that allowed us to all celebrate this son's milestone together, without a hint of awkwardness. I was thankful that my sister had made the seven-hour drive for the occasion. And also thankful that my older son, who is on summer break after his first year of optometry school, put his research project on hold to make the equally long drive to be there.
After photos outside, we all parted ways. My sons and their father had to go retrieve my older son's truck which had gotten stuck in the mud the night before. My husband and I had done our bit the night before, when I received a 1 am phone call from the boys asking if we could come pick them up as they'd been unable to get a tow truck to agree to make a middle-of-the-night run to the wildlife management area where they were stranded. It was 2:30 in the morning before we crawled back into bed. In spite of the fact that both my sons are in their 20's, Mom is who they call for help. And I love that. As we pulled out of the restaurant parking lot, I thought about how I'd seen both kids through college and felt a wave of pride, gratitude, and relief.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Another month down.

I'm running a little behind....

But here we are, now four months in, and still a complete success:

   April         Year to Date      Category                              
      $0                       $0                   Clothing                                                   
      $0                       $0                   Shoes                             
      $0                       $0                   Accessories                                       
      $0                       $0                   Cosmetics         
      $0                       $0                   Kitchen items                 
      $0                       $0                   Gadgets/electronics 
      $0                       $0                   Furnishings
      $0                       $0                   Books 
      $0                       $0                   Shrubs/trees
      $0                       $0                   Non-necessary household goods 

As you can see, I originally only excluded shrubs and trees because I had three pots out front that needed flowers and I usually fill them with annuals. And I wanted to put in an herb garden. The herbs count as food, so that's easy. I use them regularly in cooking and growing my own is cheaper than buying them fresh through the long warm season. So I did that this weekend - put in basil, parsley and dill in the raised bed, and rosemary and oregano in pots on the deck. But I scouted around my yard and found some thriving perennials to divide and transplanted them into the pots. It was a major victory for me to enter a garden center - my personal kryptonite - and walk right by all the colorful flowers for sale without buying anything but the herbs.
I've been watching a few videos on minimalism and found one interesting idea about shopping. In addition to the usual questions about "Do I have a place for this?", "How long will this last?," "How does this purchase align with my goals?" and so on, the guy suggested asking "How will this new thing serve me in a way that nothing I already have does?" Well. That changes everything. Interestingly, I had been thinking that maybe after the year was up, we might start buying, one plate or bowl at a time, interesting pottery to replace our dishes. But when I ask myself that question, the answer is clearly, "It won't." I may have a place for new dishes, a new pottery dish may last, it may even align with my goal of having fewer but lovely household items, but it definitely does not serve me in a way the perfectly fine dishes I already own do not. And when I think about it that way, it also doesn't align with my goals of allocating money toward larger goals like travel and retirement.

I tell you, this whole no-shopping challenge is making me think deeply about spending and goals and values in a way that all the decluttering I've done over the years has not. And I'm only a third of the way in!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Little Too Minimal

In my zeal to really explore minimalism, I joined a bunch of facebook groups related to the topics of minimalism, simplicity and anti-consumerism. At first, I found it very helpful and motivating. And then, something shifted. I am still committed to being frugal, and less consumeristic, and trying to tread more lightly on the earth. But good grief! My feed became absolutely clogged with photos of houses purged to the point of barrenness, with people asking if it was still too cluttered with one chair and a side table. Others would weigh in - yes! get rid of the side table and use the window sill instead! I knew without even posting a photo of my bedroom that they'd object to my having dressers and that having a few things on them would be an additional sin. We won't even talk about that small stack of books waiting to be read. And it wasn't just about furnishings. There were frequent photos by people proudly showing off their empty refrigerators. Well, honestly, what is the point of having a refrigerator if not to hold food? And tips on how to feed a family of five for a month on soup beans and leftover vegetables or lauding the benefits of family cloth. What's family cloth, you ask? I'm not sure you really want to know but since I had to read about it, so do you: it's the practice of replacing toilet paper with bits of cloth you can wash and re-use. You read that correctly. Sorry you asked, aren't you? And when you're done gagging, we can resume....

Post after post about aspects of your life that could be minimalized (a word I have come to loathe): Hair - shave it off! Flatware - only have sporks! Color - paint everything white! Beds - put a mattress on the floor! Shoes - flip flops every day! Wedding rings - get a tattoo instead! Coffee - give it up! And for each of those, the chorus of folks countering that even those suggestions weren't minimal enough. It all just started making me twitchy. Listen, I am keeping my hair, I'm not eating soup with a freaking spork, I like having my mattress on a bed frame, I can't wear flip flops to work, I adore my Celtic wedding ring, and I want my damn coffee every morning!

There were rants about using dryers. Rants about television. Rants about wasting money on wine. Rants about the evils of having children. And oh, the challenges:  How few dishes can you get by with? Who has the fewest books? What is the least amount of money you can spend on travel? Is there a single product you can get away with for washing hair, body and dishes? Or better yet, can you eliminate soap entirely from your life? But I knew I had met the limits of my tolerance when I read a post asking people to list the number of clothing items they owned and then the comments of people bragging about how they were able to get by with 22 or 10 or 7 items of clothing. I could no longer rein in the snark. I commented, "One. A single pair of footie pajamas that I wash in rainwater I collect from the downspout and then hang to dry overnight while I sleep naked on the bare wood floor."

Clearly, it was time for me to get out. So I "minimalized" my facebook groups. I stayed in some that are more about simplicity and left the others. It helps me to have some contact with like-minded people who lean toward mindfulness and "cozy minimalism." But I am just not made for the spartan life. Hygge, anyone?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The yard over the last week or so.

The end of March ushers in spring in these parts, and I'm more than a little giddy with it. I have more tulip varieties than I can count.
The clover lawn is filling in and the wild violets are fully in bloom. It looks like a rabbit paradise in the front yard. I love walking in it barefoot.
I take almost as much joy in the things not-quite here - like the beautiful curls of the fern fronds before they unfurl under the dogwood trees. Behind them, hostas are opening.
The stone crop (Autumn joy sedum) has just emerged and will become enormous and covered in rusty pink flowers by late summer.
Lamiums and hellebores, some of my favorite late winter shade plants that bring life to the garden early.
Out back, the trillium I planted last year are coming up. I hope they flower!
This purple leafed sand cherry is a favorite of mine, from its pretty pink blossoms to its burgundy leaves. The more upright main trunk died off early, but I like how the other trunk leans into the mulched bed.
I love daffodils of every variety, but these with the apricot centers are especially pretty.
I have three or four different heucheras (so far!) in the back bed under the dry shade of the old hemlocks. They add some really nice color.
More daffodils and tulips out back, keeping one of my stone frogs company.
I have grape hyacinths scattered everywhere and they echo the color of the wild violets.
These bleeding hearts were added last year and I love their old fashioned look.
Next to them are blue asters, a beautiful contrast.
So, yeah - warm weather and lots of flowers? Now you're talking.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

March No-Shop Summary

Another month completed, putting us a quarter of the way through the no-shopping year.

 March       Year to Date      Category                              
      $0                       $0                   Clothing                                                   
      $0                       $0                   Shoes                             
      $0                       $0                   Accessories                                       
      $0                       $0                   Cosmetics         
      $0                       $0                   Kitchen items                 
      $0                       $0                   Gadgets/electronics 
      $0                       $0                   Furnishings
      $0                       $0                   Books 
      $0                       $0                   Shrubs/trees
      $0                       $0                   Non-necessary household goods 

Honestly, it seems to just get easier with time. Some of the folks in the no-shopping challenge facebook group I'm in talk about their struggles and giving in to temptations and I think, "Eh, I'm fine." Turns out, there just isn't that much I really need that I don't already have.
Hodr, however, is singularly unimpressed with our progress and cares only that we keep feeding her.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

I'm going to be a Mother-in-Law!

So much going on lately, but I'll start with my younger son's engagement. He and his partner revisited Cumberland Island, Georgia, on a spring break camping trip and on their last day, my son "found" a shell on the beach in which he'd hidden this ring.

(A note on the following use of plural pronouns instead of singular: My son's partner identifies as "nonbinary," a word that this older woman has struggled to understand. If I'm getting it correctly, it's about not identifying either as male or female particularly, but there is no real accepted gender-neutral singular pronoun. So we say "they" and "their" and instead of "she" and "her." Grammatically, this is tough for my old-school self, but philosophically I'm fine with it. I'm trying to use those terms even when not in my future kid-in-law's presence so that I don't flub up when I am. And I do adore them, so I want to be sensitive.)

Anyway, opals are their favorite stone and my son found an Israeli jeweler on Etsy who had this beautiful ring that so suits his partner's style. My son graduates in May and his partner the following May, and the plan is for a wedding right after that in 2019.
As soon as they got back in town, we made plans for a celebration dinner. I cut flowers from the yard and the four of us sat well into the evening hearing about the proposal (a very traditional, down on one knee sort of proposal) and plans for the wedding. They talked about the possibility of having the wedding here, in our back yard, an idea I find both exciting and a little unnerving. But yes, absolutely. The two of them had only been dating a month when my husband and I got married and we all remembered their startled reaction to being invited to our wedding. My absolute favorite photo from the wedding hangs on our living room wall and includes my son's now-fiancée, in a mini-skirt with Barbie doll-long legs, smiling shyly at the camera.
I made this silly heart-shaped cake for dessert and we opened a bottle of champagne to toast the newly engaged couple. I could not be happier with my son's choice of life partner and I look forward to making a spectacle of myself, crying like a baby at their wedding.