Saturday, June 3, 2023

What no one wants to hear...

I've been weighing for weeks if I even want to write about what's been going on with me for the last month or so.  Part of me has wanted to keep it more or less quiet, but it's so significant it seems ridiculous to not share about it.

I'm more and more looking at this blog as a way to document some important things in life.  Sometimes just normal events, but also lessons learned, opportunities experienced, challenges faced.  

Well, a new challenge is being faced. And there is much too much to put into one post, so consider this an introduction to a topic I may write more on as time passes.   And let me just say up front... I'm writing about this for me more than for you.  I won't be the least bit offended if you don't read along, though I do hope something I write can benefit someone else.  Even if it's just that someone appreciates reading another person's experience.  I have certainly benefitted from many women sharing  via blogs and youtube videos.  

So it's with all the above in mind that I've decided to share.

In late April I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Every time I've had to tell someone this they gasp - and then I can't say fast enough, "It's okay, it's been caught early, it's highly treatable".  And that's all true, but it has meant the world to me when friends and family have offered their gentle expressions of "I'm sorry" for what even a good cancer diagnosis means.   Even if they don't know exactly what it means.  

What I now know it means, at a minimum, is an exhausting, somewhat soul numbing and sometimes traumatizing series of tests and doctor's visits.  New information seems to lurk around every corner.  In the best case scenario, it may mean (relatively) minor surgery and taking medicine for many years.  That last thing is seriously hard for me to swallow (figuratively and literally) since I'm such a terrible medicine taker, and one of the things I've feared most in growing older is the possibility of finding myself in a terrible whackamole game of managing side effects of certain medicines by taking more medicines.  This aspect of ongoing cancer treatment tests my spirit more than anything else - so far.   I've also learned through the process of refining a diagnosis, which includes searching to see if there is more cancer, plans can change and you adapt.  

But back the plus side - in addition to having an early-caught cancer.  For this lady who has in the past avoided doctors like the plague, I have to say the medical staff at the cancer center I've found myself at are among the most amazing and kind people.  They show no judgement or criticism.  For the most part they are encouraging and good spirited during challenging procedures, and by and large the system seems to run with an efficiency I've never experienced before.  Even when there are hiccups, they have dealt calmly with them.

So after all the tests so far, I have what appears to be a very good diagnosis and prognosis, and I am so very thankful for it.   Though, while I've met with a whole team of doctors - each with their offerings of after surgery cancer treatment - I (and they) won't know for sure what treatments will be suggested until the final biopsy is completed about two weeks after my surgery.

Through the last month and a half I have processed so much information.  I have researched treatments I've been told about during meetings with the different doctors on "my team".  I've tried valiantly to analyze the risk/benefit ratio of each as I consider the potential (some frighteningly long term) side effects as well as benefits.  It's been a roller coaster ride for sure, but somehow I've managed to stay buckled in when I've wanted to crawl right out.  Even when two weeks ago a second, smaller tumor was found which changed my surgery options.   The change in surgery options meant what was originally proposed as after surgery treatment has been scrubbed until the final biopsy.  I've gleaned from friends and online articles and youtubers what I need to be prepared to recover from a bilateral mastectomy - the worst part appears to be post surgical drains.  I am dreading the drains.

I will, perhaps in some future posts, touch on some of the tests leading up to a diagnosis.  I had no idea what all was involved in diagnosing breast cancer and how long it could all take - for early caught tumors.  I've heard from friends how they were rushed into surgery within a week of their first tests that showed aggressive tumors.  While my drawn out testing has mentally exhausted me at times, I cannot imagine the whirlwind of emotions and energies that must go into a rapid diagnosis and quickly scheduled surgery.  As hard as this long drawn out diagnostic period has been, I guess I'm thankful for it because it has allowed me to research, ask questions, and just generally get ready!

It has been a welcome distraction during all of this that we've also been busy doing work outside while the weather was beautiful during April and most of May, and I have some pictures of our progress for a future post.  Now that we're having temps in the 90's we are so glad to have the hardest work behind us.  I've been enjoying harvesting and freezing and sharing strawberries this spring.  Something of a garden has been put in, and lots of flower seeds have been sown there and in planters.  Now we wait and see what the work produces.

And that's a wrap for today.  

Thank you for stopping by!   

Irises from our back yard, June 2022.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

In the garden...

We've had lots of rain this spring, as well as some beautiful days to get the garden ready, and as of today I've gotten about a third of it planted.  Planting is happening this month between doctors' appointments and tests, as well as rainy days, so it's a bit slow going.  Slowly, but surely it is coming along.  

Rogue walking onions I dug up and are now in the fridge being used up as quickly as I can

I'm growing far fewer veggies this year, and planning to dedicate at least half the garden space to flowers.  In fact, I enlarged the garden space by about a foot on three sides, so it can accommodate more growing things.  To be clear...  I mean more flowers.  

So far I've planted coneflower, gazania, several varieties of zinnia, poppies and sunflowers.  Vegetables I've planted are cucumbers, radishes, some pole beans, and a couple types of sweet peppers.  By this time next week I hope to have planted zucchini, yellow squash, maybe some miniature pumpkins and some more varieties of flowers I have yet to pick out.

I don't have a grand plan, but I am keeping enough track of what I'm planting in order to remember what is what 'till things are abloom.  I'm planting for as long as I feel like it in the upcoming few weeks, and come summer and early fall I hope to be able to enjoy visiting the garden to explore and pick a variety of glorious blooms.

The asparagus bed is fast turning into a bed of ferns, and today I noticed the strawberries are starting to turn pink.  It takes so little to excite me...  

What are you up to this spring?

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Nature doing its thing...

Giving my back a break from weeding the strawberry patch I pulled up a chair and contemplated the nearby woodpile.

Nature's decomposers make interesting designs.

Friday, May 5, 2023


 At Ruth's Photo Blog I recently read this quote:

Do not look back on happiness, or dream of it in the future.
You are only sure of today, do not let yourself be cheated out of it.

~ Henry Ward Beecher

When I first read the quote above I was profoundly struck that for weeks now I have been trying to put into practice this idea of living in the moment, without being completely conscious I was doing it.  And then today - after a week that contained a challenging-to-me procedure and phone calls yesterday and another this morning that contained stressful conversations - I opened this post to finish it up and I was profoundly struck by the need to keep my focus on the right things.  On good things.  To not let the bad things spoil the good things.  

See... I'm in a time of waiting.  When we're waiting for something it can be hard to stay in the present, and it is easy to be robbed of the happiness that is found in what may seem like small moments of today.

Soon enough I'll likely share what it is I'm waiting for, but today I want to address this idea of staying in the present.  

Last weekend, a road trip 3 hours north to see our son and his girlfriend, somehow turned into a drive of 4 hours up and 5 hours back.  We spent two days dodging chilly rain showers, but we were not grumpy.  We were actually pretty well behaved - in spite of the weather, and in spite of my still tricky knee.  We enjoyed both the visit and the drive.  The destination and the journey.

This week has turned beautiful and yesterday we tilled a place in the front yard under a tree and spread grass seed and straw in an attempt to get grass to grow in this unlikely place.  We're a few weeks late doing this, but it felt good to get it done, and we look forward to seeing if our labor (and expense) pays off.  Regardless of the outcome, today we're enjoying the satisfaction of a job done and a hope for what it will bring.

This week I have been visiting my friend Ruth (not to be confused with Ruth at Ruth's Photoblog linked above) every day that I can while her husband and daughters are on a trip.   Ruth is in the nursing home now, deep in her dementia, but she is still the sweetest, most content person I've ever met.   Yesterday we read for a bit from a book she wrote years ago about her life.   

Since discovering Ruth's story of her life, I have encouraged my friends that we need to record stories from our lives like this.   I haven't yet put mine down on paper, but it's on my bucket list.   Ruth's book is not only a gift for her grandchildren (the people for whom the book was originally written), but it is a gift to Ruth now that her memories are mostly gone.  She takes so much pleasure in her own stories being read to her.

It has been good spending some concentrated time with Ruth this week.  For an hour or so each day in the late afternoon, it has help to ground me during this week of upending things.  Spending time with Ruth teaches me lessons about living in the moment because, for Ruth, the present moment is all that exists.  While dementia erases a lifetime of yesterdays, it also renders the concept of tomorrow meaningless. 

Time spent with Ruth also emphasizes to me how important it is to be the person I want to be while I still have the ability to shape myself.  At the point she is in her dementia, Ruth appears to embody her true essence.  I feel like I am witnessing the results of a life well lived.  A life where Christian faith and love were the bedrocks upon which it was constructed.  Ruth appears at peace, even when words don't string together in a way that make sense.  When a song from her past is played or sung, she is instantly and completely attentive.  It's as if the words and music that at one time resided in her mind and flowed out from the tips of her fingers onto the keyboard have become imprinted on her soul, and she is captivated. 

I learn so much being in the company of this Godly woman.  I always leave Ruth's company wanting to be more like her.  I met Ruth after her diagnosis of dementia.  I have not experienced the loss of all that she was before this cruel disease began to slash away at her memories.  But throughout her decline she has taught me so many lessons about life, about being a disciple of Christ.  Not so much with her words, but with her being

Which brings me back to my waiting...  I'm not sure how long this period of waiting I am in is going to last.  While at the moment, it seems interminable, I know it's probably only a matter of a few more weeks.  Or maybe a month - surely not two.  Hopefully, it will last long enough for us to get a garden in, and maybe a little more landscaping.  I really want to pick strawberries this spring.  And I'm contemplating planting a flower garden instead of a vegetable garden this year.  Priorities have changed.  

I know this post is vague and may sound mysterious.  I apologize for that.  Maybe I should have waited 'till I could say more to say anything at all.  On the other hand this lesson of living in the moment and waiting seems important to share.  It's what I'm living right now.

Let me say this... while my thing is not pleasant, it does not appear to be a terrible thing, and I am very thankful for that.  But it is a thing, nonetheless.  And the path toward the thing being resolved is paved with challenging and unpleasant and sometimes stressful things that require a certain amount of fortitude and waiting. 

Life, in general can be like that.  There are many reasons why waiting is required in life, and it is important to acknowledge and accept that.  The days of waiting can be purposeful.  Sometimes the purpose is to get oneself prepared for something.  And sometimes the opportunity is there to just concentrate on being.

We don't give enough credit to the importance of being.

And yet, in many ways, being is of utmost importance.

I want to be happy.

To be content.

To be prepared.

To be wise.

To be confident.

To be kind.

To be full of faith.. 
This is not an exhaustive list.  And your list may be be vastly different from my list of what I want to be.

If we go through our days so busily doing that we pay little attention to how and what we are being and becoming, we can miss a lot.  

We miss lessons.  

We miss blessings.

We miss opportunities.

We can miss relationships that might have made us better.

We can entirely miss what we are becoming until we've become it and wonder how it happened that we are who we are.

We may miss God in our midst.

The next two weeks on my calendar are filled with more things I need to do.  I'm clinging to the thought that while I am doing stuff that needs to be done, I must not forget what I am, and who I want to be:  a child of God who is continually growing in knowing her true purpose. 

Right this moment, I'm being thoughtful, thankful, and patient (more or less).  I'm being flexible (as if I have a choice).  I'm trying to be ready for what's ahead, while at the same time stay in the present as best as I can.

So I'm curious...  what are you being right now?  Or what is on your list of things you want to be?


Friday, April 28, 2023

This is berry good news...

Recently I came upon an idea that got me very excited.  After doing my own experiment, I'm happy to share this new-to-me food storage tip.

Did you know you can store fruits like berries in the fridge, in glass jars, sealed up tight for a longer period of time than if you leave them in the containers they were sold in?   

For how long?  

I don't know for sure, but for quite a bit longer than not storing them this way.

I placed unwashed blueberries in a glass canning jar sealed with a canning lid and canning ring on March 19th.    I didn't remove any air from the jar, and it was only finger tightened.  On April 26th (over a month later) I opened the jar to use the blueberries to make some muffins.  

There was one small little puddle of blueberry juice on the bottom of the jar, but otherwise the blueberries looked perfect.  Not a single one was moldy, or had skin that was compromised.

At this point, I washed them off (for the first time since purchasing them) and let the blueberries dry on a paper towel:

Nothing appears to be wrong with these blueberries.  No smell, no mold growing, and they taste fine.

Now, do I recommend storing berries for over a month in the fridge just because you can?  Well, no...  mostly because I imagine they may have deteriorated in their nutritional content.  And I think these must have been incredibly fresh berries to begin with to have lasted this long.

I would not normally buy blueberries with the intention of storing them this long, but the point is... storing them this way will probably keep them intact and usable for far longer than just popping them in the fridge in their original containers - which for me, almost inevitably means I'm going to end up throwing out at least a few (if not many) berries before I get around to using them.    

I also tried this with strawberries and blackberries.  The strawberries lasted at least a week - maybe longer - before one started getting soft, and I stopped the experiment at that point.  I don't know about you, but before this I had never found a way to store strawberries so that they stayed edible for more than a day or two, max.  

I think I broke into the blackberries about two weeks after storing them, and they were fine. 

When I buy large quantities of berries on sale, my plan is always to wash and freeze quickly what I don't think we'll eat right away.  I will continue to do that, but from now on, I will be taking the fresh berries I expect we'll eat soon out of their plastic containers and storing them in glass jars that I can seal tightly with a lid. That way, if they don't get eaten right away I will have bought myself at least some extra days, maybe more than a week, before they go bad because I lost track of them.

Of course, your mileage may vary with this.  So many things can affect how long fresh fruit will stay edible once we've gotten it home.  How long ago was it picked?  How far did it have to travel?  What conditions was it subjected to before I bought it?  How did I treat it once I got it home?  The number of things that affect fresh produce is kind of endless, and most things are out of our control.  The only thing really in my control is how I store it once I get it home.

So tell me... did you know about this way of storing berries?   It's so incredibly easy, I don't understand why this isn't common knowledge?  Or am I just the last person in the world to know about this?